They represent the ultimate in convenience and quick snacking and are most commonly associated with office kitchens and waiting rooms the world over.
But in certain parts of the world, the humble vending machine has taken on a whole other persona, spitting out delicacies (I use that term loosely) the likes of which you’ve never dreamed come out an automated metal contraption.
This is convenience food on a whole other level—and here’s where you can go to find it.
Hairy Crabs, China
The season for consumption of hairy crabs in China is from August to October and, during this time, don’t be surprised if you see a vending machine selling live crabs at selected subway stations across the country.
Yes, that’s right—I said live.
The machine’s cool temperatures apparently keep the crabs in a dormant, sleep-like state, ready for consumption. Along with the spiny delicacy, you also get some crab vinegar and ginger tea thrown into the “crustacean combo meal” too.
Mashed Potato, Singapore
If you’ve ever had a hankering for some late-night mashed potato (on a day other than Thanksgiving), then get yourself down to the nearest Singaporean 7-11 store, pronto.
The “mashed potato” machines, (which are often sitting alongside the soda and Slurpee dispensers), actually spit out a squirt of powdered potato that is mixed with water and then topped with a gravy-like substance.
Mmm...just like Momma used to make.
Eschewing the usual trend of unhealthy snacks, a certain vending machine company has introduced a range of freshly-made salads and fruit cups.
The machines are currently only available across the greater Chicago area, in markets, hospitals and the airport, but have plans to expand across the country.
The salads, which come in jars, include flavors like cauliflower fried rice, veggies with hummus and huevos rancheros.
Canned Bread, Japan
As odd as this sounds, this is actually one of the least wacky snacks that are available in Japan.
The sweet bread, which has been cooked in the can, comes in several different flavors such as strawberry, blueberry, chocolate and green tea and will often feature popular Japanese cartoon or anime figures on the packaging.
French Fries, Australia
Dispensing chipped potatoes in paper cups, these “Hot Chip” machines can be found in gas stations, food courts and hotel lobbies across Australia.
The fries are apparently cooked fresh in around two minutes, after being deep-fried in a “healthier” bran oil. But let’s be honest, if you’re ordering fries from a vending machine, health is probably the last thing on your mind.
Sausages and Smoked Meats, Germany
Picture the scene: You’re driving home from work and suddenly get hit with a craving for some sliced ham. Never fear, for in Germany, you can simply pull over, insert a few coins into a vending machine and drive home with some ham and sausages within minutes.
I guess it really says something about the German love of wurst that, in some states, locals need to be able to get their fix at any time of the day or night.