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Casu Martzu (wikipedia.org)
209 points by nojs 4 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 175 comments



Sometimes, when a dish is local and doesn't travel, those locals have got to ask themselves why it's not traveling. --Richard Ayoade


I once did some not very serious google-based statistics to look at the number of immigrants vs the number of restaurants of that type. I used Italy, where I lived at the time, because it was easy to get the immigration stats and because most immigration is pretty recent. There are, for instance, a lot of Filipinos living and working in Italy, but not many restaurants. There are a ton of "Japanese" restaurants, but not very many immigrants.


You used the perfect example. Filipino cuisine is not popular anywhere in the world even if Filipinos emigrate in large numbers. Is it possible that more Chinese people emigrated and opened shops whereas most Filipinos worked as employees or nurses? Could that have been the reason why? Maybe Filipino food doesn’t look as good as, say, Thai? Vietnamese? Japanese especially?

I’m looking for answers.


Having visited the Phils quite a few times, the food is notably spice-deficient compared to nearly all its neighbors: a typical Filipino dish is flavored with exactly one thing, usually garlic. Also, some of the ingredients used to make up for this blandness are unpalatable/weird to Westerners. Exhibit A is kare-kare, which is peanut butter and oxtail stew served with fermented shrimp paste (bagoong alamang), where the tiny shrimp are still visible, eyeballs and all.

There are "good even if you didn't grow up with it" dishes like lechon (suckling pig), pork & chicken adobo and halo-halo, and some of the modern/upscale/fusiony places in Manila are amazing, but it would still be hard to have a Filipino place that's authentic and appealing to non-Filipino palates at the same time.


I disagree, Vietnamese and Japanese dishes aren’t known for their spices and are bland when compared to Thai food. I’d say some Filipino dishes if anything are too aggressive since many of them are sour due to vinegar or tamarind.

Also every mentioned country commonly used fermented fish/shrimp paste. The smelly “pla ra” is part of som tam but restaurants in the west probably don’t offer it at all.

Phở is famous but bulalo (oxtail bone marrow soup) is not, yet the two are comparable. The latter has a large piece of oxtail that would make it a delicacy on its own, and it’s good-looking too.

With a set of base dishes that taste good and look good for westerners, I’m not sure the taste is what’s keeping Filipino cuisine a secret.

Ethiopian food is “common” in Los Angeles, but I wouldn’t say it’s particularly varied or spiced.


Ethiopian food is very spiced in my experience - mitmita and berebere are the two distinctive spice mixes that come to mind. The local place makes doro wat so spicy that my partner can't even eat it!


I believe Thailand has methodically promoted its cuisine abroad as a way to garner cultural soft power. I, for one, do not mind in the least! Welcome our new larb moo overlords.


Interesting article on the topic of Thailand's culinary diplomacy:

https://www.vice.com/en/article/paxadz/the-surprising-reason...


I rather think the simple truth is that some cuisines appeal to many more people than others.

While surely every country and culture offers some tasty dishes I think there is a reason we see so many Italian, Thai and Japanese restaurants everywhere and so few German, Phillipine or Peruvian restaurants.

I am German myself and I am sure you can find more Italian than native restaurants in Germany, simply because it makes for a better dining experience. Not everything needs to be socially constructed.


> I am German myself and I am sure you can find more Italian than native restaurants in Germany, simply because it makes for a better dining experience. Not everything needs to be socially constructed.

I doubt that. Every eating place where you can get a bratwurst or a currywurst would count as a German restaurant as everyplace where you can get only pizza would count as Italian restaurant.

If we look at higher priced restaurants it gets fuzzy anyway as those restaurants in Europe are more influenced by French cuisine than the native ones and this wouldn't be any different in Germany or Italy as the influence of French culture was pretty dominant in the past centuries.


A bit of a tangent but… well… interesting.

"Thailand, to combat bad Thai food around the world, creates robot ‘e-delicious’ tasting machine"

https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/191047-thailand-to-comba...


And the world is better for it. Thai cuisine is the most fresh and flavorful I've ever experienced. Can't wait to visit again.


Popular versions of food may not be more than “inspired” by the original localities dishes.

I also wonder if it has to do with segregation when arriving - if the Chinese on the railroad had to cook their own food it would be different than if they just ate whatever everyone else was eating.


Can find plenty in NYC (and it's all fantastic). Many foods get more widespread as consequence of being hip for a time. Hasn't had its hip movement yet?


Italian expat (who still visits Italy regularly and has some interest in Japanese culture) here: you are right in writing Japanese in quotes: most Japanese restaurants in Italy are actually owned/operated by Chinese families. The average Italian does not distinguish the two languages and therefore anyone of Eastern ethnicity can usually "pretend" to be Chinese, Korean,Japanese or Vietnamese without fear of being "unmasked" by general public.


Well, if you would survey the Italian and French restaurants in other parts of Europe, I'm not sure the majority of them would be run by ethnic Italians/French, and I'm pretty sure nobody cares if the food is good.

Some cuisines have "brand appeal", some of it deserved, and that makes business sense for restaurant owners - and at least here in the far north, a chef's training includes the basics of the distinguished European traditions. Those who want to perfect it will obviously make the pilgrimage.


Brand appeal and self-selection are exactly what are happening there. The owner of our favorite Italian restaurant was talking to us and always used phrases like "in my home country" until we got to know him really well and he confessed he was Albanian (and funnily enough made all of his Albanian employees take Italian classes).

I'd like to think I would probably like his Albanian cuisine as well, but admitted to myself I probably wouldn't have tried it in the first place. People don't usually try out things for a nice evening they have no clue how it would taste like.


Dunno why people care so much about the ancestry of the owner. I've had good sushi from Korean owners, and good Pho from Chinese restauranteurs.

Cooking takes experience and effort, not some weird genetic memory.


Cooking also requires specific ingredients, and someone who knows what mozzarella is and how should taste would probably have less problems to source it (or find an "acceptable" local product) when preparing Pizza in Alaska or Tokyo or Oslo...

Genetics has little to do with that, though: lots of ITALIAN pizzerias IN ITALY now hire Egyptian citizens to prepare and (most importantly) cook their pizzas. And nobody has any problem with the way the pizza comes out.

My point is: if you are in the place where a specific dish was "invented", you have access to appropriate ingredients and lots of know-how from the locals. If you grew up in a culture were the dish is available only through ethnic restaurants, proper ingredients might be difficult to find, and most importantly, your own taste (to judge if the food is "correct" or if one of the ingredients is "good enough") is somehow distorted because you are too far from the originals.


Well, sushi is also a big thing in Korea -- Japanese influence and all that. And if we wanna just explore say, raw seafood dishes, I'd argue Korean cuisine has a lot more variety. If you ever get the chance, do visit Busan for some amazing seafood.

Source: currently live in Tokyo, have also lived in Korea (Seoul) for years, and I eat everything.


My guess would be that, growing up in the culture you would be expected to have a better knowledge of what constitutes good food for your culture,moreso than having learned how to cook, say, Italian food from a cookbook.


I had an Iraqi neighbour that operated a small pizza joint, in Berlin. The hut was painted in the colors of the italian flag. They looked italian enough, with their mustaches and all, that the germans didn’t distinguish them, unless they would listen in carefully.


I am Italian, and I don't care about the language part, but I am pretty sure that in a blind test with the Berlin Pizza vs a pizza prepared in Italy by a decent Pizza joint I would be able to discern which is which with a good degree of accuracy.


Is unmasking a thing? What happens when it occurs? Here in the Netherlands I don’t think there is really a strong correlation between cuisine and genetics of the owners, and the food is fine.


It's not much a matter of genetics: it's just that - just to give you two examples of things I have lots of experience with - when we are talking of "Pizza" and "Espresso" a person who grew up (and learned to prepare food) in Italy or at least in an Italian family will have a different idea about how these things are prepared (or should taste when prepared). Do I think that, for example, Pizza Hut pizza is rubbish? No, I like it, and it definitely has a place in the world, but it's not what we mean with "pizza" in Italy. Do I think that Espresso prepared in 99.999% of the coffee shops/cafes/bistrots in the rest of the world is rubbish? Yes, most definitely.

There are exceptions (I know of a place where they make excellent Espresso in Berlin, and neither the owner/store manager nor the baristas are of Italian descent) - but the rare times I had decent Espresso outside Italy itself it was almost invariably prepared by an Italian.

I suppose that this could apply to other specialties from different cultures: I am no Sushi snob for example, nor a Croissant Connoisseur... but I would expect that Sushi prepared by a Japanese chef, or French Pastry made by a French person could be a bit more faithful to the "platonic ideal" so to say.


Nobody cares, as long as it's not an Italian restaurant


Here in France we have a lot of "Chinese" or more generically "Asian" restaurants. They're all Vietnamese ! I guess Vietnam wasn't a particularly exotic or dreamy location after having been a colony for a century, and then the two Indochina wars.

Similarly, I've never heard of an Algerian restaurant. But Moroccan or Lebanese ones are quite common (and the relationships of France with Morocco and Lebanon much better and less contentious).


There's an Algerian pattisier within walking distance of my home. It's very good! A match for any French pattisier.


Related:

My theory is that all of Scottish cuisine is based on a dare.

Mike Myers


Scottish cuisine is quite good and not at all daring. Things are basically the same as rural french or german cuisine, e.g. haggis and black pudding are very similar to weisser/roter Pressack, Leberwurst or boudin noir. That they usually use sheep instead of pigs doesn't make a whole lot of difference. Most fish dishes are quite common in the rest of the world as well. While I'm not very partial to filled fish heads, those are imho the only thing that stands out a little.

I guess Americans are just generally squeamish when it comes to food. ;)


My fellow Americans definitely aren't, for the most part, particularly adventurous about food. I'm game for pretty much everything, personally. I didn't care for haggis, but I mostly objected to the oatmeal flavor and texture, rather than the animal innards. Although I do like black pudding. I suppose the oatmeal percentages are different.

> sheep instead of pigs doesn't make a whole lot of difference.

Oh it sure as heck does to me. Pig in all forms is heavenly. Sheep is almost always way too gamey for me, although I did have some killer lamb chops in South Africa once. But the flavor of the meat and dairy products reminds me of the smell of the sweat from the various goats I grew up with. No thank you.


> reminds me of the smell of the sweat from the various goats I grew up with. No thank you.

without that being added, you really sounded like a sensitive plant.

I recently brought some lamb chops to a barbecue at friend's (Its the only meat my little daughter wants to eat) and my friends had a try and also seconds. They were somewhat surprised they like it.


Scottish cuisine is pretty good, maybe you meant English...


English cuisine tends to be a bit bland in comparison. No need for dares.


I prefer english food, like pizza or chinese


Or curry!


¿Por qué no los dos?


Some reality TV-host recently got in some controversy for using unusual food like these for effect.

Personally, I don't care if people don't like a food or poke fun at a dish I'm familiar with. But some people get sensitive about cuisine even if they themselves don't like those dishes because they take it as a personal affront.


As a typical French, happily eating snails, frogs and strong cheese, I find it a bit silly to take offence.


do you have any advice on eating snails?


In garlic butter sauce with white bread to soak it in. Very tasty. Snails are chicken taste-wise, and texture-wise - not that much different from the chewier bits that you can fish out from a bowl of Boston clam chowder.


Think of them like oysters or mussels. Snail is often prepared with lots of garlic, pesto, or cheese-ish things. The south of France styles are pretty easily taken, since there’s more garlic than snail :).


Eat them in southern Italy. They’re cheaper and you can actually eat more than 5 in a sitting. They vary from 1cm to 2.5cm in size, and you can have a dishful of them.

My grandma used to cook them in the summer with tomatoes and onions in a little clear soup.

In Apulia you might find Municeddhe, which are just cooked with oil and butter and maybe herbs (as far as I know). They’re amazing.


This is cross cultural among med countries, in Spain for example you have them served as drinking snacks


You could also try in Catalonia, it's also a local dish (there are several preparations). Personally I don't particularly like the taste of snails themselves, but I don't think they are gross. It's just like "ground clams" in a way.


Coincidentally enough, "qui menja caragols per Sant Joan, té diners tot l'any".

Translation: if you snails on Saint John's Eve (June 23rd), you'll have money all year.


I think you forgot "eat" in your translation.


Yes, go to a good restaurant, the proper recipe is taking forever (days).


Don’t think about it.


Yes: don't.


The reason in this case is that casu martzu can only be made in Sardinia and it's almost impossible to preserve the maggots alive if enclosed in a container for distant transport.


I've seen it in Sweden in Malmö at the Disgusting Food Museum(really worth vising btw!) - it had live maggots in and everything. Apparently it's not allowed to be sold there at all though. They also had other food items which they got for the museum but which aren't allowed for sale in the EU - like the Brazilian fried guinea pigs.


I visit Sardinia almost every year since I was a teenager, and I've eaten casu martzu many times. Once you get past the maggots (which I hate) it's actually a very good pecorino cheese (my favourite is Roman pecorino cheese, but being from Rome I am biased)

It's illegal because it is considered potentially dangerous, but its dangerousness has never been proved, of course it's safer to simply prohibit it, it's quite popular in Sardinia, but not many even on the island eat it and in Sardinia people keep making it anyway, so I think it was the right decision.

Someone feeling sick after eating it in France would be very bad PR for such a small, local, traditional food.

I know of people that went to Sardinia only to taste it, exporting it doesn't make much sense both economically and beaurocracy wise.


As someone born and raised in Sardinia I have never eaten it and I hope I never will ( but other Sardinian chesses are quite good indeed). Of all my friends, I think only one has ever eaten it, mostly as a dare.

Sometimes I think they keep making it just for the tourists.


What is it with Sardinia and weird cheeses btw? Su Callu is another one that I don't really have any interest in trying, at least this description makes it sound....super unappealing.

https://adobe.ly/3gGu56r


I know this as "callu de cabreddu", but it's the same thing:

https://guffantiformaggi.com/en/cheese/callu-de-crabettu/

And it's anything but weird. It's likely that this is how cheese was originally discovered: in the fourth stomach (the abomasum, the "true stomach") of an unweaned ruminant slaughtered for food.

The stomachs of unweaned ruminants are also the traditional source of rennet ("callu" means rennet and callu de cabreddu doubles as rennet). Why unweaned ruminants? Rennet is made of two proteolytic enzymes, chymosin and pepsin, that break apart milk proteins (specifically, caseins) by hydrolysis and cause them to coagulate and turn milk into curd. Chymosin has the strongest clotting power whereas pepsin has the strongest proteolytic power. Stronger proteolysis breaks proteins down into smaller peptides and amino acids and it turns out that those register to our sense of taste as bitterness.

Chymosin has strong clotting power at a pH of 6.2 to 6.4, close to that of fresh milk (around 6.8), whereas pepsin clots milk best at a pH of 1.7 to 2.3 which is way too acidic for cheese and basically impossible to get with the usual way to acidify milk for cheesemaking, fermentation of lactose by Lactic Acid Bacteria. LAB generally don't develop at a pH below 4.6 so I don't think milk can even get to the ideal pH for pepsin just from fermentation (pepsin is probably fine-tuned for the very acidic environment of a mammal's stomach).

So basically, to get the same clotting power with pepsin as with chymosin one would have to make a cheese so tangy and bitter that it would be inedible, if it could even be made in the first place.

Now, the age thing. Both chymosin and pepsin are produced in the stomachs of ruminants, young and old, but younger animals produce more chymosin while older animals produce more pepsin. I think it's something like 75/25% chymosin/pepsin for unweaned animals and the opposite for adults, I don't remember. So, to have maximum milk clotting power with slower proteolysis, and less chance of developing bitter tastes, you need to use the rennet from a young animal, preferrably one that hasn't yet eaten grass. It appears that eating grass is what triggers the mechanisms that start producing more pepsin than chymosin. Don't ask me why because I have no idea.


This is an awesome comment. As I said in a comment below su caggiu (or callu, it depends from where you are, we sardinians have a dialect for each village) is my preferred cheese, now I know more than before about it, thanks.


This was an exceptional comment. Have you considered writing a book about food?


awesome explanation!


How do you think most cheeses were traditionally made if not with a bit of calf stomach?


I knew that, my issue with it is that normally you use a single calf stomach to make loads of cheese. Here you slaughter a calf and hang the stomach to dry and ferment for months to produce a single(not very large) amount of cheese. Just seems wasteful.


> like the Brazilian fried guinea pigs.

It should be Peruvian. I’m Brazilian and never heard about this dish here.


You're absolutely correct, my bad.


I didn't realize they weren't for sale in the EU. I've had cuy before in Cuzco and whilst it was mentally distinct enough from a rat not to be too mentally challenging to eat, the heads look horrific with elongated rodent teeth in a perpetual scream.

It wouldn't be anywhere near my top list of disgusting foods though


So the cool thing about the Disgusting Food Museum was that it really tries to show that the whole idea of "disgusting" depends on the culture. They had some American foods like Twinkies on display - they are literally nothing but sugar and preservatives, in some way it is "disgusting" when looked at logically.

I took some pictures, if you want to have a look:

https://adobe.ly/35AOjrZ


Thanks for sharing! Is this photo [1] the titular Casu Martzu? It doesn't have a sign, but fits the description

[1] https://lightroom.adobe.com/shares/a05893101da94e1bb109f1ff4...


Correct! And the maggots were live and moving :-)


I love kitkat and twinkies just casually chilling out next to bull testicles and sheep eyes.


Thanks for sharing this, it was interesting to look though.


I think the problem with guinea pig is rather that nobody is "farming" them to the proper standards, not that they are banned entirely?


The reason they gave was that it's on the same list of forbidden food items along with other pets - no matter how you farm cats or dogs, they can't be sold as food anywhere in the EU. No idea what other animals are on that list though, I can't find it with a quick google search.


Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EvZNTvPR8Q

Context from 8:40


This actually travels. By itself.


Up to 15 cm, if I read that article correctly. But not all of it.


If you wait long enough, it just flies away.


We have this where I come from (Corsica) and it's not so bad. You have to drink wine when eating this, like stroooong red wine.

Note that even if it's a traditional dish here, only a minority of people are OK to give it a try. Often to impress other people around the table.

My grandmother used to prepare it. It's quite simple to make. Put the right kind of cheese in a pot, cover it with a green cabage leaf, cover and wait for a week.


> it's not so bad.

> You have to drink wine when eating this, like stroooong red wine.

You know, I don't generally associate "you'd have to be dead drunk to eat this" with "it's not so bad".


I don't think previous commenter was thinking about the promille of the wine but rather referring to a strong flavour, in order to mask the taste/feeling of eating maggots.


Same thing on a different level, inspires just as little confidence in the statement that it's "not so bad".


Hard disagree. If you have two dishes, the only one can only be eaten when "dead drunk" and the other one only with strong wine, then I'd say the first is most likely way worse than the second, if strong wine doesn't even mask the taste of the first one and requires you to be "dead drunk".


The urban legend I always heard was drink high ABV wine to kill the maggots in your stomach.


In most southern of Southern Europe drink strong wine !== get dead drunk.

It's just a matter of knowing what pairs best, or get rid of aftertaste if the food is peculiar.


> I don't generally associate "you'd have to be dead drunk to eat this" with "it's not so bad".

If you translate « pair with a strong red » to « get dead drunk » it’s on you and you should get it fixed, it has nothing to do with Gp.


> Some who eat the cheese prefer not to ingest the maggots. Those who do not wish to eat them place the cheese in a sealed paper bag. The maggots, starved for oxygen, writhe and jump in the bag, creating a "pitter-patter" sound. When the sounds subside, the maggots are dead and the cheese can be eaten.

Sounds like there is less protein rich ways of eating the cheese as well.


> Sounds like there is less protein rich ways of eating the cheese as well.

You know cheese is mostly protein, right? If you took out the protein, it would be butter, not cheese.


I do know the origins of cheese :) My hypothesis is still that maggots contain more protein than cheese, but I've been wrong before so could be wrong here too, haven't actually checked that.


> We have this where I come from (Corsica) and it's not so bad.

Please tell me you've read "Asterix in Corsica". Goscinny makes at least a couple of jokes about Corsican cheese, and in one of them it's called "some kind of demented cheese" :P



... and Dogmatix faints dead away ...


    Because the larvae in the 
    cheese can launch themselves
    for distances up to 15 
    centimetres (6 in) when 
    disturbed, diners hold 
    their hands above the 
    sandwich to prevent the 
    maggots from leaping.


It's a feature.


It is unquestionably a bug.


My 2nd favourite cheese. For those concerned about the maggots, they are born in cheese, eat cheese and shit cheese all their life as maggots, they are basically living cheese :)


I'm afraid to ask what your #1 favorite is.


It is "Su Caggiu", probably one of the first cheeses discovered.

Here is an (italian) article about it https://www.onaf.it/index.php?c=index&a=schedaformaggio&id=3...

Google Translate version: https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=it&tl=en&u=https:/...


From what little I know of Sardinian, I'm guessing su caggiu simply means the cheese?


No, but you got the article right. Caggiu means rennet or curd the substance that is used to transform milk into cheese, cheese translates as casu as in casu marzu (that could be translated as spoiled cheese).


no, it's the Sardinian dialect for the Italian word caglio (rennet)


American cheese?


An oxymoron, some would say in Europe.


Government Cheese.


I have to ask, what is the first? I'd be disappointed if it's just pecorino sardo, tho I like that :)


Replied above. In general I love strong, flavourful cheeses.


Different bit of Italy, but have you ever had Puzzone di Moena? Lives up to its name, which, for the non Italian speakers, translates to the "Big stinker from Moena", roughly.


Just once, loved it!


Limburger probably.


I was concerned about the maggots as well, it seemed inhumane, but if being the cheese is their purpose, that is a relief. I would almost like to be reincarnated as one, but even I'm not that into cheese.


I still think this is disgusting, but... you make a really good point.


So basically ... you are eating maggot shit ... delicious


Another interesting forbidden food: Tempeh Bongkrek[1], tempeh fermented with coconut which creates the wonderfully named respiratory toxin "bongkrekic acid".

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempeh#Tempe_bongkrèk


"Fatalities from contaminated tempeh bongkrèk were once common in the area where it was produced.[42] Thus, its sale is now prohibited by the law; clandestine manufacture continues, however, due to the popular flavor."

Remarkable. It joins fugu on a very short list of "things that are lethally poisonous, but also food".

Wikipedia even has a category for this!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Potentially_dangerous... ("Category:Potentially_dangerous_food")

Casu Martzu, tempeh bongkrèk, fugu are all on there. But I think it's missing a couple interesting ones: raw cassava root (glycosides that are metabolized to cyanide) and rhubarb (oxalic acid (which is also the toxic metabolic product of ethylene glycol, the antifreeze fluid)).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassava#Potential_toxicity

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhubarb#Oxalic_acid

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxalic_acid#Occurrence_in_food... (several other obscure foods)


Also missing: potato

Contains solanine, especially concentrated in sprouts and green sections, which is toxic.

Also produces a gas which can be lethal. See this [1] article about a girl who was left orphaned after her parents, brother, and grandmother were killed by a sac of potatoes left too long in the cellar.

[1] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2409920/Russian-gir...


I always wonder how disgusting foods like this come in to being. I have to believe it's primarily kids daring each other. My other favorite example is Korean Hongeo-hoe, fermented skate, which has been described as "like licking a urinal." My, sounds delish!!


> I always wonder how disgusting foods like this come in to being.

The answers tends to be either finding a way to eat the inedible (because there are times where calories > no calories regardless of the source of calories), or finding a way to conserve it somewhat / somehow. Even ignoring its use in creating alcohol from sugars, fermentation can do both (separately or at the same time) and more.

Often these become typical delicacies (the flavors can be intriguing or interesting, or "interesting" in the case of some like Hákarl and possibly the Hongeo-hoe you're talking about).

For Casu marzu, it's probably either finding a way to control spoliation such that the result is still edible, though it's also possible that uncontrolled spoliation simply resulted in something those adventurous (or desperate) enough to try eating it took a liking to.

I'd expect the latter to be the story here: hard cheeses like Pecorino keep a while until they're "open" and you start eating them, and it's not a huge cheese (I believe pecorino wheels are under 2kg, we're not talking the 30+ wheels of a parmesan or comte).

Or maybe sardinia regularly has conditions where the cheese can't be kept and so a controlled decomposition was superior to just losing the cheese.


> there are times where calories > no calories regardless of the source

I have a friend who was in a forced-labor camp and this pretty much sums it up. I recall him describing that the "meat" they were given was usually so rotten than the only way they could stomach it was to basically cover it in chili peppers to mask the taste and smell. But it kept them alive.


I've always suspected my periodic craving for Vegemite is simply due to salt deficiency. Those that didn't grow up with Vegemite tend to find it disgusting but a craving for Vegemite is a well known thing in Australia where you can sweat out huge quantities of salt on a typical summers day.

These weird foods probably have concentrations of various things that you simply won't see in anywhere else. Salt appetite is a proven and understood phenomenon but i bet there's similar things going on in all of these foods. You try it once and probably don't like it then and there and then one day your brain brings up the memory of that food and tells you to go eat it again.


It's probably an ancient survival mechanism. If you eat the food nobody else wants you have better chances of survival.

That's how "acquired tastes" develop physiologically and culture takes care of passing it down the generations.


Probably desperation. Someone left a cheese around too long and didn’t have anything else to eat. Cheese itself is pretty gross as a concept, at least until you get enough experience cultivating the right kinds of fungus.


> Cheese itself is pretty gross as a concept, at least until you get enough experience cultivating the right kinds of fungus.

A basic cheese doesn't involve any fungus...?


Many cheeses contains fungi like Penicillium [1], think blue cheese etc.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penicillium


Huh you’re right, I guess the acidification is usually bacterial. Same story though.


Eh, as a Korean I've eaten Hongeo hoe ("raw skate") - while it has a distinct flavor of ammonia, it's nothing to write home about. (I dunno, maybe the authentic ones sold at the region may have stronger taste.) There are stuff I'd be much more reluctant to try, like boiled silkworm pupae[1].

Maybe it helps that I never licked a urinal, so I have no idea what a urinal tastes like.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beondegi


I've tried the silkworm. It's... not very good.

Monggae bibimbap had a lot of ammonia, but there were some pleasing elements. I can't remember if I've tried hongeo hoe, but I can imagine it could have some appeal.

Of course, all of these things are insane to the average Midwestern US person that I might encounter.


I'm repulsed by durian. It smells like a dumpster on a hot day to me. But apparently people really do like it, versus just eating it as some sort of social signal. Maybe it's like the cilantro thing where some people are genetically prone to think it tastes like soap?


I’d never heard of cilantro tasting like soap. Had to look that up:

https://www.britannica.com/story/why-does-cilantro-taste-lik...

Thanks for teaching me something new.


To me, coriander leaves smell like stinkbugs. Soap would actually be a great improvement.


Interesting, I quite like Durian. I think it smells like a gas leak (which isn’t per se “disgusting”), but tastes pretty good.


I was under the impression gas leaks are supposed to be foul smelling, since the gas itself doesn't have an odor, and they add a foul-smelling additive for safety purposes.


At least to me, durian has a sulfur smell, but it’s not strong and not that different from say cooked broccoli.

To me it’s like a strong creamy cheese. But I could see how some people find it unappetizing.

I can’t stand jackfruit any more. I used to love it, but now it just smells like the fake lemon smell of soap.


Gas (or rather the additive we talk about here) itself also does not smell "foul" to me. Intense and very distinct, but not foul, or disgusting.


There are two types of durians. One which is supposed to be eaten as a fruit when ripe, other which is supposed to be cooked into a dish when raw. When used for the wrong purpose, they taste horrible. Otherwise, the ripe fruit of right variety is sweet, and the dish of the right variety tastes acceptable.


Oh my I looooove durian! To the point that it is difficult for me to understand why one wouldn't like it.

But many people don't like it indeed, so I must accept this as a fact.


It really does smell like rotting meat to me, and smell is very intertwined with taste for me. Though I do like some pungent things, like sardines. I can't explain it either ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.


I grew up in Southeast Asia and durian never smelled bad to me. Pungent and strong, yes, but not bad. It definitely does not remind me of a dumpster.


kinda like the perfumed armpits of a hot chick


To me it tastes nice and creamy, with hints of rotten onion on a hot day.



this is actually not as disgusting as it looks.

Most of the food we eat have come to be through centuries of iterations to make it better tasting, safer, easier to preserve, etc. or simply edible.

For example olives taste really bad in nature, to make them tasty there are different ways, including immerse them in a solution of water and caustic soda or water and burnt lime, which are highly toxic substances.

I can't even wrap my head around how someone thought it was a good idea, but however the procedure was invented, it worked and we can now experience the amazing taste of sweet olives.

Or think about meat hanging (dry aging) where meat is aged for weeks before being eaten.


it may have been an accidental discovery. a bunch of olives fell near a vat of the said ingredients, someone was brave enough to try it...and survived +/ found it good!


Fermented foods really make you wonder how crazy and/or desperate the ancients were. You have to do a lot of things wrong along the lines of storing surplus grain to even come up with something as tame as beer.

Greenland has its own fermented cartilaginous fish, Hakarl. At least twice in culinary history, someone decided that letting a shark or skate sit somewhere long enough to get WEIRD and start reeking of piss so badly that it hurts wasn't such a bad idea and eating it might be okay. Crazy.


The really crazy part is how those sharks are toxic until they’ve fermented.

There’s definitely a story of desperate starvation in there somewhere.


Wonder if it's for the same reasons as this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%A1karl


Food you consider "disgusting" mostly has to do with survival, and often deadly famines, rather than childish dares.


I assume this describes the process:

https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/craproot



I'm so lucky that society hasn't decayed enough to wipe out this cultural and culinary masterpiece.


What was interesting to me was the claim of pseudomyiasis from ingestion. I can’t imagine the maggots would live very long or even necessarily be in the digestive system very long even if they did live, so it doesn’t seem like a severe or dangerous condition. What am I missing?


I was wondering about this too. The article also says that the maggots can be killed by suffocating them in a paper bag. Wouldn't the gut also suffocate them?

I desperately need to know this, because if I ever travel to Sardinia I will definitely try this unless there's a chance of getting infested by flesh eating maggots.


Your stomach will contain some nitrogen/oxygen swallowed while eating and some carbon dioxide from carbonated drinks (both of which is what will make you burp if the pressure gets too high). Same (to a lesser degree) for your intestines. However, the nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere will be gradually mixed with methane and traces of other stuff when traveling further down the digestive system, and loose oxygen. Some insect larvae are also capable of breathing from a bubble of air clinging to their behind if they are immersed in fluid. But I think the risk of any larvae surviving for long in your stomach will be low.

What you can do to make sure they die: Schnaps will cause more stomach acid to be released. And as always, chew properly.


giving the climate change contribution from meat production, population growth, etc. i think our future diet here on Earth will look more like this Klingon reminding cheese. And insects and maggots are probably the most suitable way to farm protein on space stations/colonies.

It is interesting though why we, humans, haven't got to regularly eat the insects, snails, frogs, etc. (except for a few cuisines) - i mean until the 2nd half of the 20th century the malnutrition was very widespread, and so you'd expect that all the possible cheapest ways of food production would have been utilized. I wonder are there any hidden aspects which would naturally select out people/communities who would go that way in any substantial ways (say high risk of mistakes leading to poisoning? though we do eat mushrooms and fish then why not say frogs? the frogs for example were eaten only during famines in Russia, yet not in normal times).


Yeah I think I wouldn't be too bothered if there was a way of getting rid of the larvae. Just freezing might do the trick for me.

Not sure if it's more or less appetizing than Hakarl (I guess it smells better).

Still better than Balut though. That's definitely a no for me.


> Casu martzu is considered by Sardinian aficionados to be unsafe to eat when the maggots in the cheese have died.[8] Because of this, only cheese in which the maggots are still alive is usually eaten, although allowances are made for cheese that has been refrigerated, which results in the maggots being killed.

Looks like that’s an option!


There's another option further down

>Some who eat the cheese prefer not to ingest the maggots. Those who do not wish to eat them place the cheese in a sealed paper bag. The maggots, starved for oxygen, writhe and jump in the bag, creating a "pitter-patter" sound. When the sounds subside, the maggots are dead and the cheese can be eaten.


When the sounds subside, the popcorns are dead and the microwave popcorn can be eaten.


Balut is fine if eaten right. Only in Vietnam and Cambodia you can have decent balut with pickled papaya salad and tasty leaves. Or deep fried. Philippines and Thailand like it with just spicy vinegar and hot sauce respectively.


Reminds me of the 1903 film 'Cheese Mites', one of the first films to be censored because Cheesemakers were concerned that it would put people off of their cheese.

The original film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wR2DystgByQ

Warning: It might actually put you off cheese

source: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/20570/cheese-mites-how-c...


There is a meme going around that "Elites Want You to Eat Bugs". This dish would allow them to characterize the practice as "traditional" instead of "novel".


> Because of European Union food hygiene-health regulations, the cheese has been outlawed, and offenders face heavy fines.[12] However, some Sardinians organized themselves in order to make casu martzu available on the black market, where it may be sold for double the price of an ordinary block of pecorino cheese.[10][8] As of 2019, the illegal production of this cheese was estimated as 100 tonnes (98 long tons; 110 short tons) per year, worth 2-3 m€.[15]


Nope nope nope. Not for me.

This cheese is illegal for a reason!


“Illegal cheese” sounds really cool, but then you read this and it’s just really nasty.



Another bit about this cheese is that the maggots are large enough that they can also sometimes leap onto your face when you lean for a bite


I had it from someone I know who produces it in Sardegna and I can only say that it's amazing. I couldn't stop eating it.


I first learned about this cheese from a essay prompt while studying for the GREs. Grossed me out.


you may not like it now, but a future you will be craving it https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/smell-and-taste


   a traditional Sardinian sheep milk cheese that contains live insect larvae (maggots).
Nope Nope Nope Nope. Whole lotta Nope.


> Because the larvae in the cheese can launch themselves for distances up to 15 centimetres (6 in) when disturbed,[4][11] diners hold their hands above the sandwich to prevent the maggots from leaping.

Noooooope nope nope nope nope.


> According to some food scientists, it is possible for the larvae to survive the stomach acid and remain in the intestine, leading to a condition called pseudomyiasis. There have been documented cases of pseudomyiasis with P. casei.[13][14]

Noooooooooooooope nope nope nope.


There are some things that no matter how good they may taste, I just don’t need to eat and it won’t improve my life in any measurable way.

As a wise man once said: “Casu Martzu may taste like pumpkin pie, but I'd never know 'cause I wouldn't eat the filthy motherf*er.”*


Funny how tastes are. I think pumpkin pie is nasty.


no idea why this isn’t more popular.


It's because it's a cheese that bugs people off.


I recall this being on HN at least once previously, probably more, so I guess it is, in a way.


Sardinia Italy is a blue zone with some of the longest living people in the world. Many people live to and past 100 in this area.

Guess Casu Martzu must be the secret ingredient.


Why?




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