17 Foods That Are Considered a Delicacy

Pack your bags and put on your stretchiest pants because we’re about to embark on an adventurous quest to discover the most mouthwatering food delicacies from around the world. 

Fried tarantulas for sale by the road

You’ll find yourself drooling over our ranking of culinary curiosities as we globetrot across a selection of exotic locales, starting with Cambodian street vendors serving up an arachnophobe’s biggest fears before finishing our gastronomic excursion in the Great White North, where the nose of one of the land’s most enormous creatures gets jellified. 

While some of these examples of cultural cuisine might make you shudder, remember that taste is all a matter of perspective. What one region considers a dinner disaster could be luxurious fare in another. 

Let’s get started!

Fried Tarantulas, Cambodia

The first stop on our tantalizing tour is Cambodia, where fried tarantulas reign supreme.

Wild spider fried on a white plate in Cambodia

These crispy critters are more than just eight-legged freaks – they’re a taste sensation! 

Locals and tourists alike eat this surprising street food by the handful, with vendors serving them fresh after they’re marinated in a mix of garlic, salt, and sugar, then deep-fried to golden perfection.

As you bite into the crunchy exterior, you’ll experience an explosion of flavors, with just a hint of chicken and fish.

These nibbles of hairy haute cuisine come served with a side of tangy lime and pepper sauce. 

Birds’ Nest Soup, China

Next, we’re winging our way to a cross-cultural delight sure to ruffle some feathers: birds’ nest soup.

Edible Birdnest soup with brown rock sugar

The star ingredient of this unique soup is the edible bird’s nest, made from the saliva of the swiftlet bird. 

This eyebrow-raising avian ingredient transforms the broth gelatinous base rich in nutrients like calcium, zinc, and iron.

Often simmered with rock sugar and a touch of red dates, then served garnished with fresh, ruby-red goji berries, the soup boasts a subtle sweetness with a mild, earthy undertone. 

Haggis, Scotland

Grab your kilts and hold on to your bagpipes because we’re heading to the land of the lochs for our next delectable stop: Scotland’s famous Haggis.

Carved haggis showing the internal texture

This unusual food treasure is a hearty and flavorsome treat that has been warming bellies for centuries.

Traditionally made with minced sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, combined with onions, oatmeal, and a blend of spices, the Haggis is encased in a sheep’s stomach and boiled to savory perfection.

The result is a rich, crumbly, and earthy delight bursting with flavor.

Served alongside buttery “tatties” (potatoes) and “neeps” (turnips), haggis is best enjoyed with a generous drizzle of whisky sauce. 

Snake Wine, Vietnam

Slithering our way to Vietnam, we’re detouring from food to the wild world of drinkable delicacies.

Alcoholic drink, tincture using a snake

Enter snake wine, a potent libation consisting of an entire venomous snake, often a cobra or viper, submerged in rice wine or grain alcohol. 

Though it might send shivers down your spine, locals believe this reptilian brew possesses medicinal properties, such as boosting vitality and treating rheumatism.

The high ethanol content dissolves the secret sauce– venom– typically rendering it safe to drink in minimal quantities. 

Should you find yourself in Vietnam, muster up the courage to raise a shot glass and toast to adventure with a swig of this slithery elixir. 

Balut, Philippines

In the Philippines, you can feast on a dish that’s equal parts fascinating and polarizing: balut.

Balut boiled developing duck embryo

This unique delicacy is a fertilized duck egg, incubated for 14 to 21 days before being boiled. 

If you’re willing to brave the balut, you’ll eat a partially developed embryo – feathers, beak, and all.

Cracking open the shell reveals a savory broth surrounding the gamey yolk and chewy embryo. 

Often sprinkled with a pinch of salt and a dash of vinegar or chili sauce, this Filipino favorite is best enjoyed with a cold beer and an open mind.

Casu Marzu, Italy

Next, we’ll sample a pungent and potent cheese that will make you say, “mamma mia!”

Traditional Casu Marzu cheese

Casu marzu, also known as “rotten cheese,” hails from the island of Sardinia and is not for the faint-hearted.

This sheep milk pecorino ferments until it’s colonized by live cheese fly larvae, which break down the cheese’s fats and give it a creamy texture and bold, almost spicy flavor. 

Usually spread on a slice of freshly-baked pane carasau, casu marzu is best paired with a robust red wine to balance its intensity.

Century Egg, China

Our next stop is China, where the century egg has delighted palates since the Ming Dynasty.

preserved egg

Despite its name, this intriguing delicacy doesn’t take 100 years to make– just a few weeks. 

The process involves preserving a duck, chicken, or quail egg in a mixture of clay, ash, alkaline salt, quicklime, and rice straw.

The result is a translucent, dark-brown jelly-like egg white and a rich, creamy, dark-green yolk.

It’s deliciously salty and packed with rich umami flavor.  

The century egg is a versatile treat that locals savor on its own or add to congee or tofu dishes.

Surstromming, Sweden

Pack your parka and prepare your nostrils because we’re venturing to Sweden for a whiff of surströmming, one of the world’s smelliest delicacies. 

Swedish fermented herring called surstromming.

This notorious fermented herring is famous for its intense aroma, which has been compared to something akin to gym socks and rotten eggs.

But don’t let the smell scare you away – the taste is far more palatable than the odor would have you think. 

To prepare this fishy fare, the herring ferments in barrels for several months before it’s canned and left to continue “brewing.”

When the can bulges, it’s time to dive in! The flavor is tangy and salty, similar to blue cheese that’s gone for a swim in the Baltic Sea.

Tuna Eyeballs, Japan

If you ever find yourself on a culinary tour of Japan, keep your eyes peeled for tuna eyeballs plucked straight from the head of the fish.

Tuna eyes on Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo

While these ocular orbs might seem slightly off-putting at first glance, tuna eyeballs boast a tender, almost gelatinous texture packed with delicate, briny flavors reminiscent of squid or octopus.

The eye’s fatty tissues add a velvety richness that melts in your mouth like butter.

Typically eaten as a bar snack or appetizer, these peepers are best enjoyed with crisp, cold sake to balance their oceanic taste. 

Caviar Blini, Russia

We’re jaunting off to Russia for a taste of royalty with caviar blini.

Pancakes with caviar in Russian style

This opulent delicacy features a generous dollop of glistening, jewel-like sturgeon caviar nestled atop a pillowy, bite-sized pancake called a blini.

The caviar’s delicate brininess gets unleashed when the tiny eggs pop between your teeth, while the blini, made with buckwheat flour and sour cream, provides a tangy contrast to the caviar’s rich oceanic essence.

Caviar blini makes for a chic hors d’oeuvre or a sophisticated snack, especially when paired with a dollop of creme fraiche or a sprig of dill. It’s a tsar-worthy treat that’s the epitome of extravagance.

Kopi Luwak, Indonesia

This one’s for all you folks who can’t start your day without a steaming cup of joe because we’re heading to Indonesia for a taste of kopi luwak – the world’s most expensive and intriguing coffee. 

musk coffee kopi luwak

This luxurious brew owes its distinctive flavor to an unlikely source: the civet cat.

They feast on the choicest coffee cherries, fermenting the beans as they pass through their digestive systems.

Once the beans are “naturally processed,” they are collected, cleaned, and roasted to produce a coffee that boasts a smooth, earthy, and slightly sweet flavor with a hint of caramel and chocolate undertones.

Fried Brain Sandwiches, United States

Want to get your gastronomic synapses firing? Once a popular delicacy in the American Midwest, fried brain sandwiches feature slices of tender, creamy pork or calf brain coated in a golden batter.

Fried brains beef sandwich

These mind-boggling sandwiches come standard on toast or pillowy buns, often garnished with lettuce, tomato, and a slather of mayonnaise or mustard, then paired with a side of fries.

If you’re not a fan of organ meats, worry not. Brains have a buttery flavor, especially once seasoned with salt, pepper, and cayenne and crisped up in the deep fryer. 

Hakarl, Iceland

Next, we’ll stop on the frosty shores of Iceland to sample Hákarl, a notorious Nordic delicacy made from the Greenland shark.

Shark meat drying and fermenting, traditional food in Iceland

It comes in two varieties– “gierhákarl,” or belly meat, and “skyrkáharl,” or body meat.

Regardless of which prime cut you sample, it undergoes an intensive fermentation process due to its high levels of urea and trimethylamine, which are poisonous when fresh.

So, the shark gets buried underground, pressed with stones, and left to ferment for several months before being hung out to dry.

Hákarl is a popular midwinter festival food, accompanied by a shot of brennivín – an 80-proof schnapps that means “burning wine.”

Mixiotes De Escamol, Mexico

Mixiotes de escamol is a Mexican delicacy that combines the earthy flavors of mixiotes – a traditional preparation of slow-cooked meat wrapped in maguey leaves – with nutty escamoles or ant larvae.

Mixiote traditional mexican food made with beef or lamb

Harvested from the roots of agave plants, these “insect caviar” are sautéed with onions, garlic, and chilies before being wrapped in the maguey leaves alongside the tender, marinated meat.

The bundles then get steamed to perfection.

When ready to eat, diners unwrap the mixiote de escamol and prepare corn tortilla tacos topped with salsa, queso fresco, and fresh veg. 

Sannakji, Korea

Our next culinary adventure takes us to Korea for sannakji, a dish that’s as lively as it is delicious.

Sannakji octopus korean food

This daring delicacy features freshly chopped octopus tentacles served raw and still squirming.

Despite the octopus being dead, posthumous nerve activity is to thank for this interactive eating experience.

Another dish version is a bit more questionable, as it involves ingesting a living baby octopus dressed in sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds. 

Either way, sannakji might best be enjoyed by adrenaline junkies, as there’s always a chance that the still-active suckers can latch on to the throat, presenting a severe choking hazard if you’re unable to get it all down in one gulp. 

Escargot, France

We’re off to L’Hexagone for a taste of the quintessential French delicacy, escargot.

Snails with parsley butter, Bourgogne Escargot Snails

Despite its history as a food for peasants, it’s been elevated to star status thanks to adventurous chefs willing that take a chance on the humble gastronomic gastropod. 

Perhaps the most well-known regional delicacy, escargot consists of snails– particularly Helix lucorum–  plucked from their shells and drenched in luxurious garlic and herb-infused butter. 

Served piping hot in a particular dish complete with snail-shaped indentations, escargot is traditionally enjoyed with a side of crusty, warm baguette – the perfect vessel for sopping up every last drop of that divine sauce.

Jellied Moose Nose, Canada

Jellied moose nose is a Canadian culinary curiosity widespread in indigenous and rural communities.

To prepare the savory snout, the nose plunges into boiling water alongside a mirepoix of onions, garlic, and spices until tender.

Then, the meat is stripped from the bones and placed in an aspic mold with the flavorsome broth.

As the natural collagen cools, it sets into a gelatinous treat.  

Often served chilled, jellied moose nose is typically accompanied by a hearty slice of rustic bread and a cold Canadian lager for a genuinely authentic northern feast.

What Makes Food a Delicacy?

Food becomes a delicacy when it possesses unique characteristics that elevate it above the ordinary, often due to its rarity, cultural significance, or exceptional taste and presentation. 

Delicacies get typically made from rare or hard-to-source ingredients, such as truffles or caviar, which command a premium price due to scarcity. Kopi luwak, for example, costs up to $600 per pound

The preparation and skill of creating a delicacy can also contribute to its status. Some dishes require time-honored techniques, expert craftsmanship, or even an element of danger in their creation, like the octopus mentioned above.

Additionally, a dish’s cultural history and symbolism can transform a meal into a celebration of a region’s culinary heritage.

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin is an editor and food writer who loves traveling and trying new foods and fun cocktails. Erin has been writing and editing professionally for 5 years since graduating from Temple University, and has been on the Restaurant Clicks team for 3 years. She has a long background working in the restaurant industry, and is an avid home chef and baker. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.