In the six seasons that Bizarre Foods has aired on the Travel Channel, host Andrew Zimmern has eaten enough unusual, unique, and straight-up weird food to fill 100 episodes in 32 countries. Here are some of the most bizarre things he’s ever ingested and/or witnessed— on and off air.
1. Palolo worms.
Palolo are coral worms that are pinkish-brownish and/or blueish-greenish. A delicacy for Samoans and other Southern Pacific Islanders, they swim up out of their reefs just a couple of times a year when atmospheric conditions are right.
“They’re usually served as a spread on bread,” Zimmern says. “I didn’t even know that stuff existed before.”
2. Hákarl, a.k.a. rotted ice sharks.
Hákarl or kæstur hákarl (Icelandic for “sharks”) is the term for putrefied sharks that undergo special fermentation and are hung and dried for 4 to 5 months. The smell and taste, as you can imagine, are pretty potent; Zimmern described it in an episode as a “hardcore food” that’s “not for beginners.”
Anthony Bourdain once said that hákarl is “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he’s ever eaten.
…especially field rats.
Although Zimmern has had critters from all walks of life, he especially loves “ones in the rat and mole family.”
“In northern China, they take field rats, dust them off and sauté them in chiles,” he explains. “It’s done in villages away from mainstream bigger towns, but it’s still very popular.”
4. Blood dishes.
Zimmern recalls his most memorable bloody meal: “My time with the Maasai in Tanzania was pretty extraordinary. They start every morning by drinking a tribal power shake of fresh cow’s blood (that they bleed) with fermented milk. It’s sort of like their own yogurt. It’s sorta nutritious!”
6. “Damamian,” AKA rotten pork.
Damamian is a rare dish prepared by Taiwanese aborigines. It’s made of raw pork, rice, and salt that’s been fermented and left to rot in a jar or pot for 30 days.
“We’re so conditioned in America to avoid this type of product. I was shaking putting it in my mouth; it was like playing Russian roulette,” Zimmern said. “Part of my brain was telling me I could get horrifically sick…but I ate it. I cleaned the plate.”
7. Animal penises (particularly ox penis).
Zimmern has chowed down on almost 50 penises from various animals, but the most notable has been ox penis — particularly prepared in a Vietnamese pho-like dish in “spicy broth with noodles and vegetables with a lot of different meat, like kidney and spleen.”
If you have a yearning to make your own dick soup, check out this recipe from Lucky Peach.
8. And human penis…or at least foreskin.
While spending time with a remote village in Madagascar, Zimmern witnessed (and participated) in a ritual where 5-year-olds are circumcised and the paternal grandfather eats the foreskin.
9. And of all of his (mis)adventures, the one thing Zimmern was unable to stomach was 14-day-old stinky tofu.
“I am not fond of stinky tofu — the 14-day-old stinky tofu [especially] from Dai’s House of Unique Stink in Taipei,” he says. “She has an organic sludge that’s about 10 years old.” The tofu is immersed in the bacteria-rich “sludge” for 2 weeks, which emits an odor so foul Zimmern equates it to the smell of “the bottom of a dumpster at the end of summer.”
“It’s just….it’s just horrific,” he says. “The 14-year-old tofu has such profound, active bacteria that it penetrates the tofu and changes it into like a blue cheese. It’s pretty hard to deal with for someone like me, with a Western palate.”
The new season of Bizarre Foods America airs on the Travel Channel March 24.
CORRECTION: Zimmern did not actually eat the toddler’s foreskin. An earlier version of this article stated otherwise.