Kopi LuwakWhat it is: The world's most expensive coffee. Main ingredient: weasel poop
Where it's served: Japan, the United States, and southeast Asia
Want a bite? Americans and Japanese seem to be particularly enamored of anything difficult or expensive to produce. And both cultures love big-eyed furry critters with little button noses. No surprise, then, that Kopi Luwak is prized in both countries: It's made from coffee berries eaten, partially digested, and then pooped out by adorable Asian palm civetsand priced at hundreds of dollars per pound. Where do we line up? (You can purchase your very own pooped-out coffee beans on Amazon.com, in fact.) To be fair, the coffee beans do not go directly from civet butt to your coffee grinder: After having been defecated by the cute little mammals, the beans are cleaned and lightly roasted.
Scorpion PopsWhat it is: Scorpion on a stick, here to rock you like a hurricane
Where it's served: China
Want a bite? Crispy scorpion on a stick is a common sight in Chinaby some standards, scorpion pops may be among the tamer items on offer at your average Beijing street-food market. The texture, as you might imagine, is horrible: brittle on the outside and mealy and gelatinous on the inside. But at least it isn't poisonous: Once the scorpion is deep-fried, its venom becomes less hazardous to humans, and of course, the smaller the scorpion, the less venom there is to worry about. If you're really craving a crispy crawling taste sensation, however, there's no need to go as far as Beijing: Hotlix.com, a California-based company that bills itself as "the original edible insect candy creator," will sell you a lollipop with a tiny, real scorpion inside for three bucks apiece.
Fried RattlesnakeWhat it is: Battered, deep-fried, and sauced…but still a snake
Where it's served: Texas. Where else?
Want a bite? Every March, the humble burg of Sweetwater, Texas, hosts its famous Rattlesnake Round-Up festival, where one of the many attractions is the Cook Shack, offering "Deep-Fried Western Diamondback Rattlesnake" with hot sauce for dipping. The Sweetwater Jaycees' recipe calls for decapitating the snake (the head contains the venom); hanging the headless snake to drain for at least an hour; then marinating chunks of gutted, skinned snake in sweet milk for a couple of hours before coating them in cornmeal and deep-frying. Any brave cooks who feel they can do better are encouraged to register for the festival's cook-off, in which the best rattlesnake recipes have a competitive edge over those made with animals sans fangs. And for reptile gourmands, the rattlesnake-eating contest is the ultimate challenge.
HaggisWhat it is: Sheep heart, lungs, and liver, seasoned and encased in sheep stomach, then boiled
Where it's served: Scotland…and at annual Robert Burns parties everywhere on January 25, once everybody's had enough Scotch
Want a bite? As Burns wrote in his 1786 poem "Address to a Haggis," "Old Scotland wants no watery ware that slops in bowls… Give us a haggis!" One wonders, however, whether the venerable bard ever actually consumed haggis while not ragingly drunk. When sliced open after a good three hours of boiling, a cooked haggis spills forth its (literal) guts in what can be an alarmingly gloppy fashionan effect Burns himself describes memorably in the same poem: "His knife sees rustic Labour sharpen, and cut you up with practiced skill, trenching your gushing entrails bright." If gushing entrails in a bowl are your pleasure, you're in good company, at least as far as Mr. Burns and his fellow Scotsmen are concerned.
TarantulaWhat it is: Whole, palm-size spiders, stir-fried with spice
Where it's served: Cambodia
Want a bite? When something is described as crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside, generally speaking, you really, really want cheese to be involved. But tarantula aficionados, of which there are many, swear that the texture of a deep-fried tarantula is its most mouthwatering characteristic. The legs, like furry potato chips, are pleasingly crisp and tend to absorb whatever seasonings go into the pan with the spider. Bite into the body, and your succulent reward is a mouthful of something not unlike a hot fish eyeball. While the tarantula started its culinary history as survival food (each spider contains a fair amount of protein), tarantulas are now sold as much for shock value as for nutritional value, offered up by the heap on platters to tourists to eat on a dare.