The Least Appealing Foods I’ve Eaten in Eight Years of Travel Writing

by Emily Matchar

10. Snake soup (Hong Kong)

The only thing less appetizing than chewing long, stringy strips of snake meat is flossing your teeth 12 hours later and realizing you have it stuck in your molars.

9. Poutine râpée (New Brunswick, Canada)

No, not that kind of poutine. I WISH it was that kind of poutine. This kind is a giant, spitball-like wad of mashed potato dripping with gelatinous slime. You cut it open like a geode to reveal a vagina-pink bolus of pork. Enjoy with lashings of blackstrap molasses. A traditional Acadian specialty.

8. Ants (Cambodia)

Delicious. Really. Crunchy and lemony, a perfect bar snack. Plus, adorable little legs. Problem is, when you barf them up three hours later, the legs look less cute.

7. “The Beverly” (World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta)

“When you get to the tasting area, don’t forget to try the Beverly … our most talked about beverage!” chortle the tour guides at the beginning of the World of Coca-Cola propaganda tour dynamic multi-media attraction. So I tried it, figuring I’d be all worldly and impressive by loving it. Alas, like every other tourist with a plastic tasting cup, I gagged and rushed to wash out my mouth with Holiday Gingerbread Coke. Think 19th-century cough syrup — the kind made out of, like, tree bark and turpentine, dyed pink and carbonated.

6. Communist Dinner (Cuba)

I’m pretty sure this was actually picadillo, a spiced ground beef dish that’s normally delicious. But under the fluorescent lights of this government-run Havana restaurant, it looked what happened when my brother rode the Gravitron after eating chili cheese fries.

5. Souse (North Carolina)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against meat in loaf form. Spam on white bread with mayo and lettuce? Livermush and eggs? Stodgy bricks of blood pudding? Bring it on. It’s the rubbery chunks of gelatinized fat I can’t abide. Do I lose my Tarheel status?

4. Balut/khai luk (Laos)

Different connoisseurs prefer their fertilized duck eggs at different points in gestation. Mine was … well-gestated. As in, bones and feathers and a beak, curled up in an embryonic membrane with a bloody, livery yolk. “Don’t look! Just eat!” cried the old lady who sold it to me. Should have listened.

3. Natto (Japan)

The consistency and chemical burn of rubber cement combined with the meaty rotten fish stench of dead frog. And yet it’s made out of soybeans! Suitable for vegetarians.

2. Durian (Singapore)

Anthony Bourdain likens eating this tropical fruit to “French-kissing your dead grandmother.” I’d say it’s more like digging up your dead grandmother and munching on her decaying spleen. Tomato, to-mah-to.

1. Snake heart (Vietnam)

Like a bloody, pulsating oyster. Or swallowing a big clot of phlegm after you’ve had a bloody nose. If that clot of phlegm were pulsating.

Previously: A Brief History of Domestic Goddesses

Emily Matchar lives in Hong Kong, where the pizza at Pizza Hut has corn and scallops and Thousand Island dressing on it. She’s the author of ‘Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity.’ More at New Domesticity.