Your guide to the food and culture of the tropics


5 “Weird” Foods that Are Totally Delicious

When you’re tucking into dinner, do you ever wonder what someone halfway across the world is eating? While for some it might be a case of changing fries for baked potatoes, in some cases the difference in a dinner menu can be huge. A dish we might never dream of serving up can be a luxury somewhere else, and vice versa. Never has the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” been so apt when it comes to food.

The tropics in particular play host to an eclectic selection of dishes that might raise an eyebrow or two, but even the strangest of ingredients and flavors are considered delicacies in their country of origin (and are often very tasty). Here are some of the weirdest dishes that are actually surprisingly tasty.

Mexico – Jumiles

While in the western world bugs are pretty much a no-go when it comes to food, in many parts of the world they’re a must-have for that little extra crunch. This is the case in Mexico, where Jumiles (or live bugs) are a firm favorite in Taxco, a town just south of Mexico City.

Though Jumiles are often served up around the Day of the Dead, when families gather to hunt these creepy crawlies to commemorate the pilgrimage taken by The Aztecs to a temple dedicated to the jumil. The creatures are regularly cooked up in tacos with a heavy squeeze of lime. When bitten into, the Jumiles can continue to move around, and you’ll notice they have a strong flavor that’s a cross between mint and cinnamon.

Jumiles (Photo: Flickr Lon&Queta)

Jumiles (Photo: Flickr Lon&Queta)


Southeast Asia – Bird’s Nest Soup

You might be fooled into thinking bird’s nest soup is a fancy name for chicken noodle soup – after all, that’s what it looks like. But this luxurious dish is actually made from dried bird saliva taken from swiflets – cave dwelling birds indigenous to Southeast Asia. The spittle of these creatures is thought to contain medicinal properties that helps boost the libido.

Though there are some conservation issues surrounding the soup (taking the swiflets’ nests harms the species’ livelihoods), it’s still a coveted delicacy, particularly in the province of Palawan in the Philippines. Here, the town of El Nido (translated as “The Nest”) is surrounded by jutting limestone rocks that locals clamber up and harvest the nests from.

When the nests are collected, they’re soaked in cold water before they’re cooked with stock and cornstarch. The finished product is a hearty soup that tastes very much like a normal bowl of chicken soup with soft bits of nest that resembles egg.

Thai Hatyai Swiftlets Bird Nest Soup (Photo jojotawok)

Thai Hatyai Swiftlets Bird Nest Soup (Photo jojotawok)


South America – Cui (or Guinea Pig)

In the western world, guinea pigs are cute family pets. In South America, they’re coveted for a different reason – their meat. For centuries, guinea pigs or cui have been farmed in the Andes for indigenous meals and local ceremonies. But in the 1960s, when the boom of tourism hit the continent, it became much more socially acceptable for guinea pigs to be eaten by everyone – indigenous or not – thanks to the dish’s cultural history.

Today, it’s easy to find a restaurant that serves up deep fried guinea pig, cooked whole – complete with feet and head. Those that can get past eating what , in many parts of the world, is a pet, report cuitastes a lot like rich rabbit meat.  

Cui (Photo Flicker David Berkowitz)

Cui (Photo Flicker David Berkowitz)


Dominican Republic – Concon

Have you ever lost track of time and accidentally burnt your dinner to the bottom of the dish? We’ve all been there, and it usually ends up being scraped into the bin. But in the Dominican Republic, the crispy remains of the pan are a sought after part of dinner (people actually fight each other for it).

This is because all the good stuff that’s in the pot with the rice —  like the spices, milk, crabs, meat, and fish —  all converge at the bottom to create a layer of food that is packed full of flavor. It’s so coveted, in fact, that the Dominican Republic has given it a name – concon.

Concon (By Ll1324 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Concon (By Ll1324 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Laos – 

Soup is a dish that crops up a lot in Southeast Asia, partly because it’s a cooling treat in the intense heat, and partly because you can pack it full of delicious ingredients to make a different dish for every day of the week.

Pork, chicken, and vegetables are firm favorites in soup, but did you know that ants’ eggs are also a popular (and tasty) option? You might balk at the thought, but ants’ eggs have the same texture as overcooked rice, and there are no crispy legs or heads to contend with.

The eggs themselves are separated from the ants with a bucket of water, which makes the adult ants clump together to save energy while the eggs are free to pick out. Sometimes, there are a few rogue ants that get stuck among the eggs, which adds a slight sour kick to the soup. The common addition of hot pepper, tomatoes, onions, and tamarind usually overrides this, though, and gives it a fresh, spicy flavor.

Ant Egg Soup (Photo: Dudaonline)

Ant Egg Soup (Photo: Dudaonline)

Written by

Lizzie is a freelance travel writer who spends her time between sunny Spain and not-so-sunny England. When she’s not exploring new cities or wandering through art galleries you can find her chatting about the freelancing life on Twitter (, Facebook (, and on her blog, Wanderful World ( Give her a cup of tea and a good view and she’ll be happy for hours.