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Gross or great? Unexpected delicacies from around the world

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Grasshoppers (chapulines) are eaten predominantly in Mexico's Oaxaca region.iStock

In the field of adventurous eating, those seeking flavor-packed thrills are often ready and willing to sample the world's most exotic cultural delicacies and outrageous ingredients.

However, there are some foods out there that push those with even the most fearless palates to the outer limits of their culinary comfort zones. Considered delicacies in some parts of the world, these dishes prey on the phobias of the squeamish and even make some courageous eaters cringe.

The Daily Meal's list of the world's most out-there foods, which includes insects, rotten fish, rodents, genitals, venom, placenta, and semen, will leave both apprehensive and audacious eaters alike chewing over the same question: you eat what?

"Some of the craziest food in the world is so arcane or so seldom seen that it's almost like a cult of people who have eaten them," said Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel series Bizarre Foods America, in an interview with The Daily Meal.

With a dose of culinary courage, however, many of these disturbing delights can be appreciated by anyone with a preference for acquired tastes.

Those prepared to shatter the boundary between savory and sickening have been warned. Dine only if you dare.

Whole Sheep's Head
For all those lamb lovers out there, this dish allows diners to come, literally, face-to-face with their meat. Whole sheep's head is presented intact and attached to the skull, sometimes even with the brain still inside.

Though seemingly gruesome, the eyeballs, tongue, cheeks, ears, and skin are surprisingly tender and succulent. Whole sheep's head is a culinary tradition in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. When they're finished eating, chefs often use the remaining bones for soup stock.

To eat sheep's head, check out the Smalahovesleppet Festival on September 28 and 29 in Voss, Norway.

Human Placenta
Traditionally, placentophagy is the practice of mammals eating the placenta of their young after childbirth. The reason, presumably, is that the placenta retains a significant amount of vitamins and antibodies, providing a significant amount of nutrition for the animals that consume it.

In some cultures, however, placenta is also consumed by humans. In China, placenta is an ingredient used in traditional holistic medicines, such as zihéche, which includes dried human placenta and is prescribed to treat diseases like infertility and impotence.

There is controversy over whether eating placenta actually has any nutritional or medicinal benefit for humans. One theory holds that human placentophagy helps thwart post-partum depression, increases the production of breast milk, and decreases the onset of insomnia in new mothers. But some doctors insist that since humans are already well-nourished mammals, there is no medical reason for humans to consume placenta.

Teriyaki Cockroaches
Hissing cockroaches are one of the the largest species of cockroach, and sometimes can grow as large as 7.5 centimeters. At the Gene Rurka Farm in New Jersey, these crawling critters are injected with honey and soy sauce, fried, and served as a crunchy treat.

To learn more about bug eating with Gene Rurka, click here.

Balut
Balut, or soft-boiled fetal duck, is a street food delicacy found in areas of the Philippines and Vietnam. The duck fetus remains inside its egg-shell incubator, which contains the bones, feathers, and beak of the partially developed bird.

Most fetuses are incubated for two to three weeks before being consumed. Servings of balut are slurped from the shell with a pinch of salt and a pint of beer.

Find balut on the menu at Maharlika in New York City.

Haggis
Haggis is a dish native to Scotland and made of the heart, liver, and lung meat of a sheep or calf. Though the description may not initially appeal to the appetite, haggis actually has a nutty, savory taste and is considered a staple of customary Scottish cuisine.

Traditionally, haggis is prepared with minced onion, oatmeal, and spices and then left to simmer for several hours. Variations include vegetarian haggis and haggis pakora, a delicacy served at many Indian restaurants throughout Scotland. If ever in Edinburgh, give haggis a shot at Findlay's of Portobello.

Salo
The word salo is referred to in English as lard. Salo is a Slavic dish consisting of cured pork fat slabs, often added to sausage but also available for consuming raw or smoked.

Originating from Ukraine, salo is often seasoned with garlic, pepper, or salt and accompanied by a shot of vodka. Purchase salo at the Salo Modern Art Museum in Lviv, Ukraine.

Surströmming
Surströmming is canned and fermented Baltic herring from northern Sweden, and its pungent aroma is known to be vomit-inducing for first-timers.

When the cans are opened, surströmming gives off an odor so putrid that purveyors strongly recommend only consuming the fish outdoors to prevent the smell from seeping into clothes and furniture.

"I recommend anybody going into any department store in any Scandinavian country to buy themselves a tin of…surströmming," said Andrew Zimmern, host of Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods America. "[It's] one of the all-time most heinous foods in the world. Easy to get; not fun to eat it. It's pretty foul."

Surströmming is traditionally consumed as an ingredient in sandwiches and is often served with condiments such as gräddfil (sour cream) in southern Sweden. Buy a can of surströmming at ICA supermarkets throughout Scandinavia.

Rocky Mountain Oysters
Bull-calf testicles are considered a delectable dish in many ranching regions of North America, where the testicles of young bulls are removed to prevent aggressive behavior.

This delicacy is heralded in cowboy culinary culture as the ultimate tasting test of manhood and can be prepared deep-fried, marinated, or served with cocktail sauce for dipping. In Canada, the dish is called prairie oysters and is smothered in a savory demi-glace.

For those ready and willing, restaurants like Buckhorn Exchange in Denver have Rocky Mountain oysters on the menu.

Cuy
Though some people may consider guinea pigs a cuddly, domesticated pet, these rodents are a tasty source of meat in Ecuador, Bolivia, and the Andean regions of Peru.

Cuy meat is low-fat, extremely tender, and the animal is sometimes served whole with the head still attached. Cuy tastes most succulent when skewered, slow-cooked rotisserie style, and coated with tangy hot sauce. If traveling through Peru, try cuy at Papa Pacha in Cusco.

Shirako
Shirako refers to the milt, or seminal fluid, of fish and mollusks. The milt of water creatures, such as cod, anglerfish, and puffer fish, has a custard-like texture when cooked and is eaten as a delicacy in Japan.

Try shirako at Sushisho Saito in Japan or Zenkichi in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Chapulines
Chapulines, or grasshoppers, elevate bug-eating to a gourmet delicacy. Eaten predominantly in the Oaxaca region of Mexico, chapulines are high in nutrients and provide a cheap source of protein. Classic chapuline recipes incorporate tortillas, chile, garlic, and lime juice.

Chapulines must be thoroughly cooked before consumption, as they sometimes carry nematodes that can infest the human body. Buy these crunchy critters at the Benito Juarez Market http://www.tomzap.com/BJmarket.html in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Snake Wine
Shots of snake blood are an adventurous drinking pastime of Southeast Asia and can be experienced at locations like the Huaxi Market in Taipei. To prepare, hawkers slice a snake along its underbelly and drain its blood into a glass filled with rice wine or grain alcohol. Snake bile can also be extracted from the gallbladder and consumed as a shot.

Other forms of snake wine, known as steeped snake wine, are found in large glass jars of rice wine containing the body of a poisonous snake. Don't worry; the venom won't harm you because of the wine's high alcohol content.

Fried Tarantula
A delicacy of Cambodia, fried tarantulas are consumed primarily in towns such as Skuon, where they are sold in stalls at food markets. Crispy tarantulas with lime and kampot black pepper dip is served at Friends in Phnom Penh.

Locals began eating the eight-legged creatures in order to stave off famine during the reign of Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. These edible spiders are fried in oil and contain gooey insides with a crunchy exterior.

Squirrel Brains
Squirrel brains are a regional delicacy in Appalachian regions in Kentucky. Popular recipes include scrambling squirrel brains with eggs or including the meat in a stew known as burgoo.

In recent years, however, doctors have warned against squirrel consumption because of the possibility that squirrels carry a variant of fatal mad cow disease.

To see more unexpected delicacies, click here

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