The idea for this post came to me as I nursed a burnt tongue with a glass of cold yogurt drink. I was the author of my own predicament, as usual, by overdosing on a local condiment called pinakurat.
Pinakurat is a spicy vinegar dip that derives its name from the Cebuano kurat, ‘to surprise,’ or ‘to shock.’ Which got me thinking – one way to make locations in your world feel more unique is to give them signature, ‘shocker’ foods. Something that is so strongly and uniquely flavored, or so unusual in description, that it tends to shock visitors.
There are a lot of real-world inspirations you can draw from (and if you can’t think of any, see an episode or two of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern). From the balut – duck egg embryos – from my own country to the rotting shark meat of Iceland’s hakarl to crispy crickets in Cambodia, there’s a lot of stuff people eat that many of us will find unusual enough to make a lasting impression.
Ideas for ‘shocker’ foods:
- Unusual animals
- Insects, worms, arachnids, etc.
- Poisonous animals, e.g. puffer fish
- Animals considered vermin, e.g. rats
- Animals considered pets
- Extremely rare animals
- Internal organs
- Brains, guts, gonads, eyeballs, etc. etc.*
- Unusual flavors
- Extremely spicy, sour, salty foods, etc.
- The most extreme flavor of its kind in the known world, e.g. Thailand’s chili peppers
- Flavors that may be disgusting to some
- e.g., fish sauce, shrimp paste**
- Foods that break common taboos
*Another funny local tradition we have here is an obsession with barbecued chicken extremities, to which we’ve given funny street names. ‘Adidas’ refers to grilled chicken feet. ‘Isol’ is chicken butts, or rather, the chicken’s tail; the name’s likely a joke on a local’s pronunciation of ‘a** hole.’
**Because these are made from rotting fish/shrimp, and the odors can get really … ripe.