Remember that trip to Cambodia when you ate a crispy tarantula with lime and pepper sauce on the side? Exactly. No you don't.

Even adventurous eaters like me - over the years I've tried delicacies like fried grasshoppers, Sichuan-style chicken feet, the stinky fruit Durian, raw sea urchin and sea slug - baulk at chomping up a venomous arachnid.

The truth about food though, is that one man's tarantula is another man's Wagyu beef.

New Zealand travel writer and Photographer Dean Starnes prides himself on putting all kinds of so-called extreme food in his gob.

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"Travel is about trying new things, experiencing new cultures and participating in new activities. With that fundamental ethos in mind ... it was only a matter of time before I started trying some of the more extreme foods I was offered," he says.

Even though Dean has been sampling unfamiliar foods for more than two decades, some flavours and textures remain "particularly unpleasant."

"I remember the first time I ate an eye - a fish eye I believe - was as an exchange student in Japan," Dean recalls.

"Fish eyes are considered the tastiest part of the fish and they had given the eyes to me in the spirit of generosity.

Travel writer and Photographer Dean Starnes. Photo / Facebook
Travel writer and Photographer Dean Starnes. Photo / Facebook

"It was bad enough having it roll around in my mouth, but when it burst I was unprepared for the sudden change in texture. I squealed like a schoolgirl at a Justin Bieber concert and involuntarily sneezed it out all over my host family, their guests and the school principal.

"As you may know, Japan is a particular polite culture, and the Japanese are a very respectable bunch. I will never forget their startled looks of horror on their faces as they picked little bits of eye off themselves," he says.

But a fish eye isn't the worst thing he's tried. Here are Dean's five most edgy dining experiences:

1. Insects

I hate to sound picky but it's fair to say that I've never eaten an insect that I've really enjoyed. My advice - if you are a first-time insect eater - go for the deep-fried, crunchy ones.

For instance, Mexicans do a tasty, deep-fried grasshopper drizzled in lime-juice (chapulines). Taste-wise, they've got a salty, sour zing to them, which, as far as insects go, I found quite refreshing.

After that, it's all down hill. The worst are the pulpy, squishy kind that explode in your mouth (in much the same way a grape might). Huhu grubs from New Zealand are pretty foul when eaten raw, but the globular, grass green grubs I ate in northern Laos were even worse.

I never found out their name but you had to bite through their leathery skins before sucking their snot-like innards out. The whole ordeal required a certain degree of commitment that I found difficult to muster.

Huhu grubs from New Zealand are pretty foul when eaten raw. Photo / File
Huhu grubs from New Zealand are pretty foul when eaten raw. Photo / File

2. Mammals

I'm way better at eating mammals than I am at eating other things. Dogs are relatively popular in Korea as both pets and when served as a stew called bosintang.

Another pet/main course are the guinea pigs (cuy) served in Peru. I have nothing bad to say about a nicely grilled rodent except they tend to look like they've been tortured which is rather off-putting.

Guinea pigs are served spread-eagled, head and paws intact and a hungry Peruvian will eat all of it. I preferred to just nibble around the edges but, like dogs, they are quite tasty once you get past the whole "it's wrong to eat your pets" thing.

3. Fruit

You may think it's hard to find a disgusting fruit. Think again. Nicknamed "The King of all Fruits," durians look harmless enough but smell so bad that people often throw up from just being in their presence.

Banned from many hotels throughout South East Asia and illegal to carry on trains in Singapore, durians have a fearsome reputation. Some people love them, but then again, some people are masochistic weirdos, so go figure. I've only eaten durian once and once was enough. They taste like custard and vomit mixed together and I spent the whole time attempting to control my gag reflex.

Durian: The world's most disgusting fruit. Photo / 123rf
Durian: The world's most disgusting fruit. Photo / 123rf

4. Reptiles

The best thing about eating reptiles is that most of them do actually taste like chicken. If you don't like chicken then you probably won't like frogs and lizards either. The trick of course is to make sure the frogs are peeled. After that, it all comes down to the dipping sauce.

(Ginger's note: Having sampled crocodile burger in Cairns, I can testify it did taste like chicken albeit oily, slightly suspect chicken.)

5. Seafood

Lots of seafood is disgusting but rotten seafood is the worse. That quintessential Asian ingredient - fish sauce - is essentially fermented fish. To make fish sauce all you have to do is leave a bucket of dead fish out in the midday sun, add some salt and wait until the whole mess can make your eyes water at 20 feet and has attracted flies in biblical, plague-like numbers.
Then, using some boards - just press down on the fish, squeezing out it's juices. As you can imagine, it tastes like rotten fish.

(Ginger's note: No it doesn't, Dean. Fish sauce is actually god's gift to tastebuds. When I lived in Thailand, I'd even eat it on pizza.)

Do you know how fish sauce is made? Photo / 123rf
Do you know how fish sauce is made? Photo / 123rf