In keeping with the Halloween tradition of haunted houses, bonfires, carving jack-o-lanterns, trick-or-treating, and instilling within you abject fear for the sake of cheap sensationalism, we’ve listed 10 of the most horrifying foods we could find, most of which are courtesy of Cracked.
#10. The Octopus That Squirms While You Eat It
Well, it’s not alive in the strictest sense, because they remove the thing’s brain before they slap it onto the plate. They’re not monsters. But by the time it hits your table, it was alive so recently that it still flaps its tentacles around and tries to escape when you pour soy sauce over it.
What’s happening here, besides your own nightmares being harvested and served to you on a platter, is that the octopus’ nerves and muscles are still active and spring to life when they come into contact with salt, like the salt in soy sauce.
Evidently, those who partake of this and other types of sannakji say that it’s the sensation of the tentacles writhing about inside your mouth that creates the appeal, rather than the fairly bland taste. Because you really know that your seafood is fresh when it’s trying to fight its way out of your mouth.
Of course, if you care to try it, you should probably be aware that sannakji carries a not insignificant risk of death. Being that an octopus’ tentacles are covered in powerful suction cups, this thing can and will grab onto the inside of your throat and lodge itself there, choking you. The danger posed by the still-squirming cephalopods means that it’s banned in some countries, like Australia.
#9. Deep-Fried Tarantulas
Sold at Cambodian street markets, for mid-afternoon snack the top choice is fried tarantulas — head, legs, fangs, and all.
#8. The Severed Human Toe Cocktail
The Canadian bar that serves the toes doesn’t want anyone getting anything more than psychologically ill from their delightful beverage, so the digits are first drained of all bodily fluids and pickled. Yes, this means you won’t die unless you choke on it, but it also changes its appearance from “severed human toe” to “gangrenous severed human toe.”
“But … why?!” we hear you say. Basically, in 1973, Captain Dick Stevenson found some guy’s frostbitten toe floating in a jar of moonshine in some cabin somewhere. After concluding that it probably belonged to a Yukon moonshine runner and dated back to the 1920s, he said to himself, “That needs to be in a drink,” and the sourtoe cocktail was born.
The best part? There’s a rule if you drink it: “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but the lips have gotta touch the toe.” No swallowing, though, because severed toes are hard to find.
#7. Shrimp That Twitch on Your Plate
“Drunken shrimp” is a dish that slaps subtlety right in the face and provides exactly what it promises. The live shrimp twitching listlessly on your plate have been soaked in either sake or a Chinese spirit called baijiu, which is upwards of 100 proof and tastes a little worse than rocket fuel.
This results in shrimp that are drunker than a German frat party. The alcohol is probably well appreciated, because eating the shrimp requires stripping off its shell and biting off its still twitching body, which is not something you want to happen to you when you’re stone sober.
Apparently, in addition to making the shrimp pleasantly amenable to death, the liquor makes them super thirsty, so they eagerly suck up whatever marinade your chef chooses to soak them in. Plus you imbibe a few shots of powerful booze right along with your meal, transferring the shrimp’s intoxication to yourself in the most terrifyingly roundabout way possible.
#6. Fruit Bat Soup
The entire process for preparing fruit bat soup, as it’s enjoyed in Guam, is as follows: rinse off the bat, boil it, chop some vegetables (sometimes), douse everything in coconut milk, serve. Notice how “shave the bat” is conspicuously absent from that list. Fur is eaten along with eyes, wings, and just about everything else that’s not bone.
It’s not a bad idea because it offends our delicate sensibilities; it’s a bad idea because eating this is a marvelous way to punch holes in your brain. When they’re alive, these bats eat plants that are known to cause neurological diseases in humans, so when you take a bat with a belly full of poison seeds and toss it right into your stew, it doesn’t take a doctor to figure out what’s going to happen next.
Parkinson’s isn’t even the worst part; it’s actually only a third of the neurological disorder you’re likely to get from this. The other two-thirds are Lou Gehrig’s disease and Alzheimer’s, resulting in a cocktail of cerebral malfunctions known scientifically as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-Parkinson’s dementia complex, or ALS-PDC for short.
#5. A Sea Urchin’s Pulsating Gonads
The sea urchin, or uni, is mostly about as inedible as it looks. It’s already probably the least appetizing thing that you can imagine, being that it’s not much more than a tennis-ball-size tangle of thorns.
But it’s full of fleshy and reportedly delicious chunks that are, for all intents and purposes, its gonads. And if you’re in the mood for some sweet, tasty urchin nuts, then you don’t have to wait for the thing to die; you can just crack its shell open in a vice and tuck in as it squirms.
Restaurants are eager to insist that the urchins don’t have brains or nervous systems, so they don’t feel a thing while you’re gorging yourself on their most intimate parts.
#4. Raw, 4-Inch-Long Worms
Food is scarce in the desert, and for thousands of years the Australian Aborigines have relied partly on protein-rich witchetty grubs, which are the larvae of cossid moths. They’re not prudes when it comes to preparing the grub, by which we mean they don’t prepare it at all — they just pull it out of the ground and chew on it until it stops moving.
Apparently, when Australia discovered real food, nobody told them that they could stop eating worms now, because the witchetty grub has grown to be regarded as kind of a national signature dish.
As a bizarre turn for a critter once eaten only out of sheer desperation, witchetty grubs now turn up in fancy restaurants. And yes, eating them alive is part of the experience, like at La Cafetiere in Alice Springs, where you can order a live grub floating in a bowl of soup. It seems classier when you say it in French.
#3. Blood Clams
Blood clams are clams that produce an excessive amount of hemoglobin (the stuff that helps make blood red), and there’s really no way to crack one of these things open without copious amounts of crimson fluid doing a Tarantino on your plate:
The traditional preparation method of this Chinese delicacy is to boil them for a ridiculously short time (about 20 seconds) so all the blood is as just fresh as can be. Consumers of this dish insist that “damn near raw” is the best way to eat them; it’s supposedly essential to the flavor.
And a hell of a flavor it must be, because those who eat blood clams have decided it’s worth all the hepatitis … and when we say “all the hepatitis,” we mean “ALL the hepatitis.”
Anyone who eats these has a 14 to 16 percent chance of contracting the disease because, surprise surprise, barely boiling things barely kills any germs! Blood clams are actually illegal in China because of it, so much so that anyone who gets caught selling them is fined 10 times what they make.
#2. A Whole Cobra With Its Still-Beating Heart
The “chefs” who offer live cobra dishes in Le Mat prepare the meal in a number of separate courses. If you’re brave enough to order it from the menu, the chef will pull out a juicy snake, slaughter it in front of you, and drain its blood into a glass for you to drink, probably staring unblinking into your eyes the entire time.
The next course is a shot glass full of the cobra’s bile and venom. No, seriously. The thing about most snake venom is that it has to be injected into your veins to do any damage — the stomach breaks it down just fine, so it’s merely a refreshing drink. Unless you have any cuts or ulcers in your mouth, in which case you will die horribly.
In time, the chef will prepare a full meal from the snake — snake spring rolls, ribs, fried skin, snake scales over rice, and spinal soup. But at some point, which is what you really came here for, you get to swallow the cobra’s raw heart while it’s still beating.
#1. A Bunch of Dead Birds Left to Rot in a Seal Carcass
This one comes from Greenland, and it is the result of 18 months of preparation, preservation, and fermentation, all of which are euphemisms for leaving it to rot under a pile of rocks.
Kiviaq is death stuffed into yet more death, left to decay into the world’s most macabre pinata: a sack of seal skin stuffed with the slowly liquefying bodies of hundreds of birds (yes, hundreds).
The fermentation process is intended to tenderize every part of the bird, bones and all, so dig in! No, you don’t cook it.