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Foods that, upon eating, surprised you most?

So I just came back from Brazil, and try to make it a point to sample the local cuisine and what that particular area is known for when I travel. When I travel, I just want the best of whats out there. That said, Brazil is pretty carnivorous-- all about the meat and fruit. Being that I don't eat pork and very rarely eat beef and like to eat lighter, I was a little skeptical. Since Brazil is all about the Rodizio and Churrascaria's, I decided to go anyway, even though they generally just bring around huge slabs of different beef cuts.

I tended to pass up most various cuts of beef-- I thought that though the quality of the beef was probably better, it was probably nothing so different that I couldn't obtain in the U.S. I also wanted to leave room for other food because they bring it around fast, and they bring around a LOT. Then they came around with the chicken hearts. This was something I wasn't sure I would try again, and so couldn't pass up the opportunity. I said yes to the chicken hearts, tried it, and was surprised at how much I really, thoroughly enjoyed them. A little burst of intense chicken flavor, the texture was not at all what I thought (only a tad bit chewier), and perfectly seasoned.

Next up for me to try: cow eyeball tacos. I live in Chicago, famous for it's Mexican food. On Maxwell Street is a place that serves cow eyeball tacos. I've had tongue before (which is not so unusual, and liked it), but never the eyeball. Skeptical, but I'm willing :)

Any other experiences where you were surprised by a specific food item? Either it was strange, not what you expected, or any other variation that comes to mind?

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  1. Susan Spicer's sweetbreads, Bayona, N.O.. Made the mistake of telling my wife what they were and enjoyed her amazement when she tasted them.

    2 Replies
    1. re: SonyBob

      Close, for me anyway. Chef John Besh's sweetbreads (Restaurant August). Now, with the exception of foie gras, I am not a fan of most internal organs - the gizzard, liver (excluding seared foie gras), heart, brain, pancreas, kidney, etc. One night, these were on the tasting menu, so I just went with it. Big surprise. These were so crisp on the outside, just pudding-like on the inside, and did not have that “organ” taste. I will possibly never find any others, that were up to these, and will probably not seek them out (though one of our dining buddies has sampled them in almost every restaurant that we’ve been in together), except when they are part of a larger prix-fix menu.

      I guess that the next frontier will have to be blood pudding, or haggis, next time I’m in the UK.


      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Yo Hunt... you need to get down to my DF... to sample some "Machito" tacos (not to be confused with Monterrey style Machitos which are goat testicles) these are "threaded" sheep intestines... deep fried until crispy on the outside and supremely tender, meaty & juicy on the inside. Very few bites of flesh surpass this:


    2. Marrow. I've heard foodies and TV chefs proclaim repeatedly how wonderful it is, so I expected to love it. I found it disgusting and I was unable to eat much of it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rockandroller1

        thank you RR1. Jfood thought he was theonly foodie who found marrow overrated. never got it.

      2. headcheese. even though i love offal and weird cuts of meat, i was always a bit scared of it. then i tried it at lupa, and wow. i totally fell in love.

        4 Replies
        1. re: wleatherette

          Ditto on sweetbreads, had them in SF and enjoyed them a lot. I'm not sure if I could bring myself to try headcheese, though... Next time I'm in NY and dining in Lupa, I'll contemplate it...

          1. re: wleatherette

            I had to google headcheese. And what an answer I found.

            "a jellied loaf made from chopped and boiled parts of the feet, head, and sometimes the tongue and heart of a calf or pig and molded in the natural aspic of the head"

            1. re: yamalam

              And headcheese is absolutely delicious from where I sit. I was just a kid when I was introduced to it. Was decidedly against, but my dad gave the ol' shrug and said "well, more for me." I thought it would be awful, but one bite and I have never looked back. So surprising it was in the mix of textures and flavors. I'd honestly take it over any other charcuterie than, perhaps, perfect proscuitto. Next, I have to muster the courage to try making my own.

          2. Believe it or not, just a few years ago I had my first taste of that holiday favorite, yams with marshmallow topping. I found it overbearingly sweet and inedible. Frankly, I don't understand the fascination with this dish.

            6 Replies
            1. re: sandrina

              Me neither! The marshmellow/yam combo always befuddled me. As if sweet potatoes aren't good enough on their own?

              1. re: ShikaSfrn

                OMG this is how I feel about the green bean casserole! Disgusting!

                1. re: rockandroller1

                  This past year I tried grasshoppers at a Mexican place in my neighborhood. They were crunchy and took on the flavor of the spices. I just couldn't get past the fact that the dish looked like the critters. I would have been better off if they were chopped up or something.

                  1. re: rockandroller1

                    I am about to try my very first green bean casserole tonight - the kind with the canned mushroom soup and the fried onions. I'm bracing myself.

                    1. re: mordacity

                      make sure to drink lots of water. the sodium content of the soup/onion combo is off the charts, not for the low-Na diets.

                    2. re: rockandroller1

                      I actually love GB casserole, I think it was such a staple growing up and a Thanksgiving tradition that it's very nostalgic for me. First time I went for Thanksgiving at my husband's family they did not have it. I felt as if it really wasn't Thanksgiving!

                      As for surprised foods, I did have battered and deep fried dandelions and thought they were wonderful!

                2. I had my first falafel when i was about 20 in college. I expected to take a polite taste and gag, but I loved it. I usually prefer them over fast food burgers now.

                  There are many exotic Asian dishes and ingredient that i didn't expect to like, but I now love.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Kelli2006

                    I've always liked but never loved falafel, until I tasted it at a little stand in Jordan. I was amazed at how much better it tasted than any falafel I had ever had in the states! It didn't think preparation variance could make that much difference, but I was wrong.....

                  2. Jellyfish. I expected it to be ... jelly-like ... but in fact, it's almost crunchy. It's also not very fishy. So, it's not like either jelly or fish!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      That was going to be my post. For something supposedly jelly-like, I was surprised that it came in strips.

                      Salted fish preserved in oil (daing) is another Asian food that caught me off guard. The mouth-filling saltiness and greasiness of the fish renders it nearly inedible to me.

                      Goat's blood tacos are surprisingly solid and delicious with none of the metallic taste typical of blood. So is bacon chocolate which is a surprising match given that I dislike salt.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        I found it to be firm, but not crunchy. A little like al dente pasta, or maybe tripe. Very mild, with almost no flavor. Not bad, but nothing I'd really look for on a menu.

                      2. I had my first durian fruit in Indonesia earlier this year. I bought it at a local market just because I had to try it and took it back to my hotel. After all I'd read about it, after the staff at the hotel laughing at me and taking me back outside as they took the fruit to an outdoor kitchen to prepare it for me, I really, really liked it. Quite an extraordinary texture for a fruit. And a lovely flavor. I didn't find the aroma at all offensive once I knew what it tasted like.

                        1. haggis. it slightly shames me, given that I've recently picked up a vegetarian habit, and because I never did well with the unidentifiable bits of animals but....well done, it's actually tasty.

                          1. Real Texas-style chili, of course...more than 3 decades ago!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: ChiliDude


                              why "style'? with your handle jfood would have thought only the real things need apply.

                              jfood used to bring back to NJ 30 pounds of brisket/ribs from Sonny Bryans every time in Dallas. Haven;t had good chile in CT in more years than he can think of.

                              1. re: jfood

                                OMG i used to bring sonny's back to my family in new york when i lived in dalls...we called my carry on the body bag cos it was so full of BBQ.

                            2. I instantly liked the deep fried shrimp head that accompanies an order of sweet shrimp at a sushi bar, spanish angulas (unborn eel), sucking out the contents of Louisiana crawdad heads in a good cajun boil, eating the crunchy tails of small fried catfish, and the marrow in osso bucco.
                              All involved encouragement from trusted friends who had been there first ,and often it's just letting your mind give it a fair chance.

                              1. We have an insect museum in Montreal and every few years they do an insect tasting. One year they had tiny curried scorpions. To this day I'm amazed that I ate both of them but they were actually really good!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: mellybean

                                  Yes, had the crickets sauteed with ginger at the Insectarium in Montreal many years ago, and was very pleasantly surprised by the delicate flavour and wonderful mouthfeel of the fried crickets. I could have eaten a whole plateful. Not at all what I expected while trying to get the courage to put the first ne in my mouth! On the other hand, the dried caterpillar was everything I expected and more. It was really disgusting.... had to spit it out in the end.

                                2. Raw oysters. The sound of something slimy, mushy, and fishy may have sounded repulsive at the time but my first experience was when I was very young on an old wooden boat dock in Pearl Harbor. I remember breaking a few off the pilings and popping them open with a screwdriver and squirting some ketchup from a bottle in someone's back pocket. Sure looked tempting when other people were slurping them down one after another. I got the nerve to do it and never regretted it after. Nowadays, I salivate at the thought of going to an oyster bar and downing a dozen or so. Man, now I gotta go get some!

                                  1. We had a friend in St. Louis that was an avid hunter. So, one year he gave us a smoked goose for Christmas. My husband, not a fan of anything game, was completely underwhelmed by the generous gift. I like some game, but goose smoked by a "brother in law" from southern Illinois wasn't something I was really looking forward to. Finally, on Christmas day, while overloading on movies, I thought I'd put a snack together. I took thin slices of the goose, some nice artisan cheese, and peppered water crackers - threw some fruit on the platter and took it into the living room along with champagne and waited for my husband to cry foul (pun intended).
                                    Even I had to admit how stunned I was at the wonderfully savory and rich the slices of goose. My husband couldn't believe it either and he was so thrilled with it that we snacked on it most of the day. The bird was such a pleasant surprise that we thanked our friend endlessly, and told him we wanted that to be our new Christmas tradition. Sadly, we all moved to different states the following year and that was the only goose we ever had. But every single year, on Christmas, we remember that smoked goose and sure wish we had some.

                                    1. Wasabi, for reasons you can probably imagine. I'd like to think I was young and foolish at the time, but I'm pretty sure I don't have that excuse to use.

                                      1. In a happy way, I was surprised by horse. It was delicious.

                                        Sadly, though, the fresh tiny baby okra jackp served one evening for dinner made me gag for days, and I was so sure I'd love it. Yikes, even thinking about that taste makes me flinch. There was nothing slimy about it; the flavor was just extraordinarily bad.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: jillp

                                          I'll try just about anything in its proper context (when in Rome...). So it's not the spleens, testicles, worms or other protein-filled oddities from different countries visited that surprised me - it was a pizza in Sofia. I was there for a lengthy assignment and the day I arrived I got to the client's office just in time for lunch. They had ordered a pizza - corn, pickles and ham. There was no context for this. But I was really hungry. It was suprisingly good... most of the pizza in Sofia had good crust, which helped a lot. Had brains on a pizza over there too.

                                          Btw, a good haggis is deeeelicious. Especially with hot creamy tatters and a pint of ale. You can keep the neeps.

                                          1. re: Panini Guy

                                            Sorry, I couldn't help it, but it's haggis, neeps (I like them, myself) and tatties-- and with a nice whisky sauce, yea.

                                            1. re: Lizard

                                              you are correct. it's been 11 years since last in scotland and I was too lazy to look it up. and I still don't care for neeps.

                                        2. Pizza with Canadian bacon and pineapple. I couldn't imagine that I could bear to eat pizza with pineapple on it. The proprietor of a now defunct pizza place in Manassas, VA, brought a sample over to our table after we had turned up our noses at the suggestion. It was actually pretty good! Not that I would order it anywhere, but I was pleasantly surprised.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Furgs

                                            Venison. My father and brother never went hunting, so I didn't try it until I was well into adulthood. I had it for the first time in Austria, where it had been marinated and then cooked in a red wine reduction. Wow. I generally will order it when I see it on a menu if it's prepared in a similar fashion.

                                            Second, but not exotic, was nato. I was dared to eat it by some friends from Japan. I can't say I would order it out of choice, but at least I know what it is (and it's supposed to be a great food for guys, by the way. It makes them virile. Supposedly.)

                                            1. re: Furgs

                                              my confession is i love ham and pinapple pizza! i haven't eaten it since i became i pescatarian but i bet i would still love it!

                                            2. Japanese fish and cheese sausages, garlic ice cream with warm caramel sauce, chocolate with whole chili pepper, oysters (thought I would hate this first time I tried it but I loved it, especially with coriander and diced chilli), mochi sundae, with green tea ice cream red bean sauce (yum). Tako Octopus. Cod roe, especially in spaghetti.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: FoodieKat

                                                Garlic ice cream - I used to joke that I loved garlic so much, I'd eat it as ice cream. Wherever did you have it?

                                                1. re: jillp

                                                  There is always a stand giving away small samples (and selling larger helpings of garlic ice cream at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, CA, around which most of the garlic in the US is grown. I did not care for it at all, but there was no warm caramel sauce on it, either.

                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                    Ha, yes actually, the caramel sauce did seem to make it that much more tasty. I think if it was just garlic ice cream it wouldn't have worked.

                                                  2. re: jillp

                                                    At the Stinking Rose, in San Francisco. It was surprisingly good.

                                                2. this thread made me think of this chinese foods site:
                                                  apparently, the motto is "put a stick in it, i'll eat it!"
                                                  or maybe, "heads or tails? i call heads... deep-fried or grilled!"

                                                  1. Caviar I suppose. In my daily life here in the Midwest, I have never had the opportunity to try it and then I took a European river cruise where the food was supposed to be better than average. They served us some kind of cold mousse one night with caviar on the side. I dug right in and to my surprise, I really enjoyed it.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Hooda_Guest

                                                      Sushi. I can remember back to World War II, when one of the libellous stories spread about the Japanese was that they ate RAW FISH (yeccch!). Forty years ago I was, I think, one of the first non-Japanese to patronize a New York sushi restaurant, and it was delicious. I've enjoyed it (respecially maguro, toro, ebi and hamachi) ever since.

                                                    2. Miso, specifically miso soup... always hear about people loving it, but I hated it! Tastes like dirt to me! (And yes, I have pictures to prove that I have, in fact, tasted dirt! ;-)

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: Katie Nell

                                                        Yeah, I never get all the passion for miso soup -- tastes like overly salty dishwater to me!

                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                          really wow, its been a fav since i was born (asian father and grandmother) i can't imagine a dinner with out it at least five times a week!

                                                          1. re: umbushi plum

                                                            I used to eat miso soup every day!! I love the stuff, It's so addictive. I can't order japanese food without getting it, and I must start off the meal with it. Or a snack in front of the tv, or for a light lunch.... any way!

                                                      2. Octopus surprised me. I'm from rural Iowa and for the most part, the people are the Applebee's-as-fine-dining crowd. So I was pretty surprised when I tried octopus (dressed with teriyaki and sesame) and liked it.

                                                        One surprise I had that wasn't a pleasant one was finding that I'd lost my taste for pickled beets. I loved them as a child. Grandma canned her own and always had a container of them on the table at suppertime in an avocado green Tupperware pickle keeper. Now I find that I simply can't stand them and it makes me a little bit sad.

                                                        1. Cold jellyfish salad. I loved it!

                                                          Raw oysters..love them.


                                                          Liver, onions, and bacon on top.

                                                          Spicey green papaya salad...lovely

                                                          Rattlesnake..very boney but good!

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: melly

                                                            melly, that papaya salad (thai som tum) can be made with cabbage -- and i have used jicama. secret is the lime, garlic, fish sauce, dried shrimp dressing. very easy, delicious and guilt free!
                                                            use this recipe from an excellent thai food site:

                                                            good other site to see video of technique, and a simpler recipe:

                                                            it is a fabulous favorite of mine, too!

                                                              1. re: melly

                                                                Happy Thanksgiving, and remember on the mil issue.... smile, smile, smile (you will actually convince yourself!) ;-) no, really, have fun, and don't sweat it!

                                                          2. Ackee. When I first saw it I thought it'd have the consistency of a cooked navy bean... I was wrong (but pleasantly surprised).

                                                            1. I have tried calf brains, octopus, balut (fertilized duck egg), sweetbreads, jellyfish, caviar, durian and a bunch of other bizarre culinary dishes and have loved all of them, Yet the one thing that still gets me in taste and texture is foie gras, which is really weird for people that know me to understand, but I just can't. I take a bite and thing I can do it and take another bite, but then I gag, It's disgusting. Sorry.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: chinkymonkey

                                                                Me too, monkey! I'll eat sweetbreads (prefer heart kind to throat kind), marrow, sea creatures, tripe... but I can't stand foie gras. It's so greasy and thick and the way it coats every surface of my mouth's insides... yuck... but yeah, don't tell anyone! ;)

                                                              2. Guava Paste and Queso Fresco...a combo I probably wouldn't have stumbled upon by myself but addictive!

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: yamalam

                                                                  yamalam, pair that off with a cafe con leche and it's the perfect breakfast for me.

                                                                2. Persimmon. The first time I had it my mouth got so dry and sandpapery so quick I thought my throat would instantly close up and I'd die. I had no idea this would happen. I later learned they need to be very, very ripe. Still, I hesitate to enjoy them now, since my first experience was bad.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: scuzzo

                                                                    Agree with the persimmon. Same thing happened to me and now I leave the fruit on the counter until I think I should throw it out. Then I try it and remember why I LOVE it! So sweet and delicious.

                                                                  2. Shrikhand. I loved it right away despite being scared away by someone who said it was nasty.

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: choctastic

                                                                      Heh heh. Yeah, shrikhand is one of those concoctions that people tend to either love or hate. Haven't found too many ambivalent shrikhand eaters.

                                                                      1. re: sweetTooth

                                                                        I don't understand this one, if Wikipedia's description is right, it's just thickened fruit-flavored yoghurt, what is there not to like about that??

                                                                        1. re: Chocolatesa

                                                                          Depending on how its made it can sometimes be extremely sour and some people find its got a tang of milk thats gone off.
                                                                          Our homemade version has no fruit. Once the yogurt has been strained to an almost paste like consistency we add icing sugar, cardamom, saffron and pistachio nuts. On of the only Indian sweets that i can eat by the bowlful

                                                                          1. re: waytob

                                                                            Ah ok, thanks! Yeah sour milk is definitely unpleasant lol.

                                                                    2. Dragonfruit. From the wild appearance, I expected it to taste more exotic. Instead it tastes like a bland, tang-less kiwi...

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: huaqiao

                                                                        Dragonfruit may be the most disappointing food based on its appearance ever.

                                                                        1. re: Humbucker

                                                                          Aw, I LOVE them. The ones we get are hot hot pink on the outside and pink on the inside and very flavorful. (In Southern California.)

                                                                          Seems quite close a relative (huge spidery plants that they come from) to prickly pear cactus fruit, which while much less expensive here alas has large obtrusive seeds inside. (That when I ate anyway I believe yielded some very mildly trippy effects. I think there's something in there they haven't gotten around to regulating.)

                                                                          1. re: Humbucker

                                                                            Yes I've heard that the ones that are pink on the inside are much more flavorful.

                                                                        2. loved chinese jellyfish salad i had at a wedding banquet. so subtle with a little sesame oil (?) and a nice little al dente crunch.

                                                                          at a different banquet (chinese in k.l.), the shark's fin soup was meh. i wondered why people raved and revered this dish. (i know, i know, the "texture.") still...meh. but, i didn't worry about it -- esp. after the johnny walker black.

                                                                          1. I expect to like everything. So I was surprised at what I have found to be foul: yak butter tea, pulque, most chicha from the Bolivian high Andes, marmite, vegemite, ugalli (more or less), and some Amazon fish prepared by an indigenous group way back up the Ucayalli - all bones and cold snot.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                              I think with ugali it varies on who mixes it and the quality of maize flour used. Also like with most countries that have an alternative starch accompaniment, ugali is always the vehicle for what is added to it, rich beef stew, lightly spiced sukuma wiki and tender nyama choma with a hot kachumbari. The burnt crust at the bottom of the ugali pan is a particular favourite

                                                                              1. re: waytob

                                                                                Yes! The ugali burned bottom is great; and I love all sukuma wiki! In terms of starch, its just that I grew up eating rice.

                                                                            2. There's nothing exotic now about my biggest culinary surprise. It was sushi. I don't know what I expected. I have a very fine sense of smell and a gag reflux that won't quit, so I find it very difficult to eat fish even the least bit off. Yet when I had sushi, I loved it.

                                                                              1. French Andouilette sausage. Didn't know what they were. Cooked them, took one bite and gagged and spit it out. Then I googled it to find out what I just attempted to eat.....

                                                                                On the other hand Boudin noir(blood sausage) was quite enjoyable.

                                                                                1. Was pleasantly surprised when I first tasted

                                                                                  Azuki Bean Steamed Buns--

                                                                                  1. I know this is old but this is one of those timeless threads that I have never seen before:

                                                                                    The good-
                                                                                    Raw oysters
                                                                                    Hog maw
                                                                                    Kale chips
                                                                                    Pork belly
                                                                                    Fennel seeds
                                                                                    White anchovies
                                                                                    Oil cured olives
                                                                                    Foie gras mousse
                                                                                    Brussels sprouts
                                                                                    Lima beans
                                                                                    Ñame with olive oil
                                                                                    Smoked salmon with bagels

                                                                                    Some of these were years in the making of retrying.

                                                                                    The bad-
                                                                                    Collard greens
                                                                                    Raw carrots
                                                                                    Almond extract
                                                                                    Cherimoya- didn't hate, just very dissappointing
                                                                                    Curry powder
                                                                                    Raw clams
                                                                                    Hundred year eggs
                                                                                    Pickled watermelon rind
                                                                                    Spaghetti squash

                                                                                    I am sure there are more on each list.

                                                                                    1. Bone marrow. I am a big meat eater and as much as I've seen people enjoying it and talking lovingly of it on TV and the internet, I expected to love it. But I found it to be bland and awful. It was just like scraping up grease from a coffee can and eating it, except I think bacon grease has even more taste besides just "greasy." Not for me.

                                                                                      1. It didn't matter that the liver was heavily seasoned and covered in a rendang-type sauce. What surprised me was that no matter how much the chef tried to mask the flavor of the liver, that taste was most prevalent.

                                                                                        I have nothing against eating organs, but some of my organs had something against that street food fest soon afterwards.

                                                                                        My point is, no matter how many fences are built along the street, people will still take pleasure in hopping them...

                                                                                        1. Making peace with Mexican food is not nearly as exotic as some of your other posts on this thread, but-
                                                                                          For years and years, I knew for a fact that I really didn't like real hot, spicey foods. (That is still true.) My stomach and other bodily signals would give me many uncomfortable messages for hours after spicey stuff, so I had always sworn off.
                                                                                          And my fears included (wrongly) Mexican food. "Can't eat that---> spicey. Danger. Avoid!" Several years ago, my wife and I were visiting my sister in Houston Texas, and they were intent on taking us to one of the best Mexican restaurants in the area. Well, I couldn't insult my sister, so I secretly ate Pepto Bismol tablets for hours before our venture to the restaurant. (Coat that stomach good, for the onslaught.)
                                                                                          Much to my absolute surprise, none of it was "hot and spicey" at all! It was delicious! And I've been enjoying Mexican dishes of all kinds ever since (maybe short of "Cow eyeball tacos," however). I just laugh at the torture I put myself through OD'ing on antacids, anticipating the worst on that evening in Texas.
                                                                                          Florida Hound

                                                                                          1. I'd be happy to name this in a number of categories and it'll fit in nicely as "most surprising".

                                                                                            Andouillette de Cambrai.

                                                                                            It's a sausage. It's big. And meaty looking.

                                                                                            And the surprise? Well, the taste. And the texture. Completely vile on both counts, to my palate

                                                                                            Certainly surprised me. Being a northern male, I had assumed that it was hard-wired into my genes that all sausages were good, if not great.