Unusual seafood you can’t get in the US

Whether it’s caught by a local fisherman in a nearby bay and sold fresh at your neighborhood seafood market or it’s caught thousands of miles away in another ocean and is only consumable on another continent — near of far, seafood is one of the most universally enjoyed cuisines in the world.

Seafood connoisseurs are eager to travel the distance in order to taste the many exotic water species of the world, from fish to sea slugs and snails to seahorses, in Australia, Spain, Iceland, and beyond. Each delicacy has a unique preparation and pairing.

With two poisonous spines, the Australian flathead can be dangerous to catch and prepare. But eating the sweet fish is harmless. It’s great for battering and deep-frying and is ideal for fish ‘n chips. When whole, it can also be roasted or barbecued, and fillets can be poached, steamed, grilled, or eaten raw when fresh.

Espardenyes, sea slugs, found only on the Catalan Coast of Spain, taste better than they look. Considered a delicacy, they have an earthy flavor unlike any other, tasting somewhere between monkfish and scallops, and are very expensive. They’re commonly fried or prepared in tomato sauce.

Considered the national dish of Iceland as well as one of the world's deadliest delicacies, Hakarl translates to “fermented shark,” which is exactly what it is. Made with either Greenland shark or basking shark of the North Atlantic Ocean, the dish is foul-smelling with a very fishy and acquired taste. The shark is traditionally served in cubes on toothpicks and paired with brennivin, an Icelandic alcoholic drink.

These exotic dishes are worth trying, but some of them aren’t necessarily liked by everyone. Hakarl, for one, is generally un-liked by many of the world’s renowned chefs like Anthony Bourdain, who called the dish “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing" he had ever eaten. But don’t let that keep you from tasting this traditional Icelandic dish. Read on for more exotic seafood you have to travel to try.

1. Barramundi — Australia

 (iStock)

Caught off the coast of Australia, barramundi is a fish popular in Australian dishes as well as in Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Malaysian cuisines. It has a sweet flavor, a white, buttery flesh, and a crispy skin. Recipes for barramundi are commonly prepared with garlic, lemon, shallots, or parsley, and the fish can be baked, broiled, steamed, poached, grilled, or deep-fried.

2. Espardenyes — Barcelona

 (Flickr/ALifeWorthEating)

These sea slugs, found only on the Catalan Coast, taste better than they look. Considered a delicacy in Spain, espardenyes have an earthy flavor unlike any other, tasting somewhere between monkfish and scallops, and are very expensive. They’re commonly fried or prepared in tomato sauce. It’s said that the slug is named after Espardenyes sandals because its striations resemble the pattern on the soles of the sandals and because it lies flat and shoe-like on the seafloor.

3. Flathead — Australia

Close up fresh flathead fish on white wet cloth in market with morning sunlight

 (iStock)

Having two poisonous spines, flathead can be dangerous to catch and prepare. But eating the sweet fish is harmless. It’s great for battering and deep-frying and is ideal for fish ‘n chips. When whole, it can also be roasted or barbecued, and fillets can be poached, steamed, grilled, or eaten raw when fresh.

4. Gong-Gong — Southeast Asia

Uncooked fresh common whelks or sea snails isolated on a white studio background. Traditionally  pickled and eaten at the seaside.

 (iStock)

This type of sea snail is the most popularly eaten conch in Singapore and is also eaten in other areas of Southeast Asia like Batam. Gong-Gong is typically fried or steamed and dipped in chili sauce. After it’s cooked, the meat is removed from the shell using a toothpick or by pulling it out by the tail.

Check out more special seafood you won't find in the U.S.

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