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13 Foods Served Either Too Early Or Too Late

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: Updated: 05/17/2012 10:06 am

A person's taste for one kind of food or another is usually determined by his or her cultural background, a fact that's clear in thousands of dishes across the world. What might be disgusting to one person might be the favorite of another.

It's important to keep this in mind when it comes to some foods that, by our admittedly Western-influenced estimations, are served up either too early or too late. We're talking about fish that's left to ferment for weeks (too late!) or fish that's served squirming and alive (too early!). Of course, just because something seems a bit out of your comfort zone doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a try.

Click through the slideshow below for 13 foods that, for some, are served either too early or too late.

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  • Too Early: Balut

    Balut, a popular street food in Southeast Asia, looks like a grocery-variety egg on the outside, but it may make you squirm once the shell is cracked open. Within is a fertilized duck embryo, developed often to the point of having a pointy beak and feathers. Diners who enjoy this delicacy eat it boiled, often seasoned with ingredients like chili, garlic and vinegar. <em>Photo by Flickr user <a href="" target="_hplink">JMParrone</a>.</em>

  • Too Late: Stinkheads

    Stinkhead, or <em>tepa</em>, is traditional dish of the Yupik Eskimos made with fermented whitefish heads. The heads and fish innards are placed in a wooden barrel, covered in burlap, and placed in the ground for as long as a month, or even longer. It's then dug up and eaten raw and frozen.

  • Too Early: Drunken Shrimp

    This popular Chinese dish isn't for the faint hearted. Forget cooking, these fresh-water shrimp are often eaten alive -- after they're marinated in a strong liquor, which stuns them. <em>Photo by Flickr user <a href="" target="_hplink">Swiss James</a>.</em>

  • Too Late: Prahok​​

    Nicknamed "Cambodian cheese," Prahok is a fermented fish paste that can take years to prepare. Fresh fish are ground and left in the sun for a full day, then salted and sealed in salt-filled jars. It can be eaten after just 20 days, but the higher quality stuff is left to sit for up to three years.

  • Too Early: Live Octopus

    This video actually made us gag. Yes, that's a live octopus, and yes, people are eating it still very much alive. It's not for us to judge other people's customs, but wow. We'll leave it at that.

  • Too Late: Shiokara

    This Japanese dish looks, well, interesting. It's made from the guts of various marine animals that are heavily salted and left to ferment for up to a month. It has a strong flavor; even natives are known to turn their noses up at it. Often, diners down a serving in one gulp, followed by a shot of straight whiskey.

  • Too Early: Dancing Squid

    Unlike the octopus in a previous slide, the squid in this one isn't among the living. It's only been recently killed, but nerve cells in its <a href="" target="_hplink">tentacles are jolted to life</a> when sodium-rich soy sauce is poured over them. The result is a bit unsettling: A dancing squid!

  • Too Late: Thousand-Year-Old Eggs

    OK, so these eggs aren't actually a thousand years old, but they have been preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime and rice hulls for anywhere from a few weeks to several months. The result is a brown, jelly-like white and a creamy, almost green yolk. <em>Photo by Flickr user <a href="" target="_hplink">verygreen</a>.</em>

  • Too Early: Ikizukuri (Live Sashimi)

    Your eyes don't deceive you. The fish in this video is alive -- even though its meat has been sliced away from its body and rearranged in macabre fashion atop it. The preparation of live fish for sashimi, called ikizukuri, is understandably controversial and many people see the practice as cruel. It's prohibited in Australia and Germany.

  • Too Late: Hakarl

    It takes a strong stomach to order hakarl, a Icelandic delicacy of shark that's been let ferment for four to five months. Even natives admit the dish, which smells strongly of ammonia, is an acquired taste. <em>Photo by Flickr user <a href="" target="_hplink">moohaha</a>.</em>

  • Too Early: Yin Yang Fish

    A slight variation on the eating-fish-while-still-alive concept is seen with this 'ying yang' dish, which involves plunging a living fish into hot oil and frying it from the gills down. It's widely considered to be a cruel practice, which has led to it being banned in Taiwan, Australia and Germany.

  • Too Late: Casu Marzu

    Casu marzu is a cheese that might gross out even the most seasoned connoisseurs. The Sardinian dish, which translates to "rotten cheese," is infused with the larvae of a cheese fly and left to ferment to a stage many consider decomposition. As the larvae grow, they break down the fats in the cheese, making it very soft with a strong odor. Although some people remove the insects, which by the time the cheese is ready are small translucent worms, but many don't. Check out Andrew Zimmern braving a few bites in this clip.

  • Too Early: Unlaid Eggs

    See those orange balls? Those are unlaid eggs, or unfertilized eggs from butchered hens. Considered a delicacy by some, a 2007 <em>New York Times</em> article said they had a "deep, concentrated flavor, a hint of sweetness, but not overly rich." <em>Photo by Flickr user <a href="" target="_hplink">clayirving</a>.</em>