One beautiful thing about travel is that you get to try different cuisines and local delicacies.
As a meat-eater, that means I get to try eating different animals in different countries. Sometimes it’s not quite as great as hoped for, such as toad’s legs in Cambodia; while other times I’m pleasantly surprised.
Over the years I’ve sampled many good, and bad, creatures. You may find some of these to be odd animals to eat, but to me – they’re all tasty animals! While there are hopefully many more deliciously odd animals to eat in my future, here is my current run down of 10 surprisingly tasty animals.
#1 – Camel
Sweet and tangy, perhaps my favourite meat overall. I can’t really say exactly how it tastes, except that it had an actually sweet flavour to it. Unlike any other meat I’ve enjoyed, even the related Alpacas and Llamas. I would make this a more regular meal, except that camel meat is hard to find. On a side note – apparently baby camel meat is extremely popular in Saudi Arabia!
#2 – Alligator / Caiman / Crocodile
They’re all pretty similar from my limited dining experiences. If you’ve only had little fried ‘bites’ of an alligator tail it doesn’t really count. You need to get a nice slab of meat, a Caiman steak for example. There is a good amount of squishy ‘fat’ on them, but the more meaty portion is tender and flaky – resulting in something that tastes like a fish that ate a chicken. The easiest of these to get at home in Toronto is imported, farmed crocodile meat from Australia.
#3 – Ostrich
I first had Ostrich in Africa, but luckily there is an Ostrich farm not too far from home. It’s a healthy meat that is perfect for things like kebabs or burgers. Not overly gamey, but it does have a somewhat strong flavour making sure you know you’re eating something different. I enjoy the slightly longer lingering after-taste of Ostrich as it isn’t too strong. A little Ostrich tenderloin with a mixed-green salad is my favourite way to go.
#4 – Manta Ray
To be 100% honest I don’t know if it was Manta Ray or a different kind of ray that I ate on multiple occasions in Borneo. It was definitely ray and I was told Manta Ray each time I asked, but I’ve also been told since then that it may be a protected species? I haven’t verified that claim though. What I can verify is that the Ray I ate was among the tastiest items at a dinner buffet in Mulu National Park. It tasted meaty, with a slight fish flakiness. Similar texture and consistency to Caiman, but denser.
#5 – Horse
Horse meat is common in Quebec, Canada. You go to a grocery store and see ground beef, ground turkey, ground veal and ground horse meat. Surprisingly, the horse meat is often cheaper than the beef too. I’ve had ground horse meat more times than I can remember now, but a tender horse steak is the way to go. Succulent and super tender, better than beef in my opinion. It’s a controversial meat that some say comes from old race horses that have been pumped full of questionable drugs over their lifetimes. Perhaps. Or perhaps the horses I’ve eaten have been raised for that sole purpose. One thing is for sure – I’ve had my fair share of troublesome horse rides and horses with attitudes during my travels and adventures. So, for me, dining on horse is a bit of tasty revenge.
#6 Wild Boar
Ok, this may not be the most surprising entry as Wild Boar is a somewhat common meat in North America, Australia and New Zealand. I’ve had Wild Boar in burger and sausage form numerous times, but the Wild Boar ribs I had in New Zealand were by far the best. Even the rack of Wild Boar I cooked at home recently couldn’t stack up to the meaty, sticky ribs I had on New Zealand’s south island. So tender and juicy – delicious.
#7 – Wapiti and Elk
Wapi-what? Wapiti is essentially another name for Elk. This large deer species is a great protein-rich meat. From Montana to Montreal – if I see Elk or Wapiti steak on a menu, it’s destined for my fork. I enjoy the natural taste of both meats, without needing any real seasoning besides salt and pepper.
#8 – Bison
The second largest ungulate found in North America (after the Musk Ox). This is easily the most commonly accepted, and eaten animal on this list. But, for foreigners visiting Canada or the US, Bison can be a surprise meat discovery. It’s a feel-good food to me, as I’ll opt for a big Bison burger from time to time. Sometimes with some bacon on top, for a little extra animal love.
#9 – Impala
What is it about hoofed animals that makes them so tasty?
Impala is a common antelope from Africa, which could easily find it’s place on dinner menus at swank restaurants around the world if it were more readily available. Tender, juicy and full of flavour, give it a go next time you’re in Africa! When I first had Impala in Botswana I was actually surprised at how tender it was, after having seen them leap and bound around so much in the wild I figured they had to be a tough meat. But, find the right cut and you’ll understand why the ‘Big Cats’ of Africa find Impala so irresistible.
#10 – Alpaca and Llama
Oh baby, perhaps the best meal I had in Bolivia was a big Llama steak cooked over a grill out on the salt flats. It was the first of a few Llama steaks I had in Bolivia and definitely won’t be the last. After recently visiting Peru, I was finally able to test out the theory held by other travellers I know that Alpaca tastes even better than Llama. Better? Perhaps…I tried succulent, tasty morsels of Alpaca meat almost every day I was in Peru, it was that good! At home in Canada it is growing in popularity to start an Alpaca farm for their wool. So every time I drive by one of those farms now, I’m sad that they’re not meat farms. Watch out Alpacas and Llamas, I’m coming back for you one day.
There you have it, ten tasty species, plus a couple of extra relatives thrown in for good measure! Did any of these surprise you? If you have an animal to add to my surprisingly tasty animals list, leave a comment and I’ll seek it out on my travels! Oh, and watch for my not-so-tasty animals list coming soon too!
Eat ya later…