6 Unique Dining Customs from around the World
From fish eyes to eating with one hand only, the world is full of weird and wonderful dining customs. What one culture considers normal the other may consider strange. When traveling, keep an eye out for these unusual customs from around the world.
In the former USSR territory of Tajikistan, Russian drinking traditions still remain an important part of a meal. Photo by Evgeni Zotov
1) Fish Eggs for Breakfast: A Swedish Classic
Fish Roe with hard boiled eggs and bread represents a common meal in Sweden. Photo by bjornman
Caviar, or Kalles Kaviar in Swedish, epitomizes a Swedish staple typically served for breakfast or lunch. Kalles Kaviar consists of pollack roe, sugar salted cod, salt, potato flakes and tomato puree. Swedes eat the mildly smoked, soft, and slightly creamy fish roe on top of bread and hard-boiled eggs. However be sure not to pair together with orange juice which tastes horrible, a common breakfast mistake that every Swede learns the hard way.
2) The Festival of Onions in Catalonia, Spain
During the months of January through March, the Catalan people throw parties based around cooking a special kind of onion, the calçot. Photo by Marc L.C.
At the end of winter, the Catalan people of Spain throw a special daytime barbecue based around a type of long green onion or scallion known as the calçot which grows in the Catalonia region of Northeastern Spain. During this popular event called a calçotada, family and friends gather and grill large quantities of calçots over a large open fire.
Once completely blackened, everyone peels the onions’ blackened top leaves by hand, making it an eating ritual where everyone gets their hands dirty. Next, each person dips the calçot in salvitxada, a type of romesco sauce, made from a mixture of roasted almonds, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and bitxo or nyora peppers.
The meal also includes a wide array of meats including catalan sausages called “butifarra”, vegetables, and bread slices accompanied by red wine or cava, a type of Spanish sparkling wine.
3) China: Dinner is in the Eye of the Beholder
In China, giving the eye of the fish to someone represents a way to honor a favored guest. Photo by potzuyoko
The Chinese prefer to conduct business during meals, and have a well-established set of customs pertaining to dining etiquette. During such occasions a common main course of the meal is steamed fish, served whole with sauce on a platter set in the center of the table.
Don’t be surprised when someone plucks out the fish’s eye and gives it to another guest for them to eat.The Chinese consider this a gesture to honor a favored guest.
4) How to Drink Like a Russia
The Russian’s have very unique and traditional vodka drinking customs. Photo by Paul Bratcher Photography
The act of drinking comprises an important part of Russian culture. However, there exists many unique points of etiquette to follow when drinking. Here are some easy tips on how to drink like a Ruský:
- Never turn down vodka. In Russian culture, it is a faux pas to turn down a drink when offered.
- Never mix vodka. Russians always drink it chilled and neat without chasers, mixers, or even ice.
- Drink vodka only in shots. A toast in Russia consists of a quickly downed shot and is not sipped.
- Drink to Life, to Love, to Anything EXCEPT Cheers. Unlike most cultures, Russian does not have a universal word for “Cheers” when toasting. The famous Russian phrase, “Na zda-ró-vye!“ is actually a widespread myth and not a drinking toast. When toasting in Russia, each shot will toast to a specific theme such as “Budem zdorovy” meaning “Let’s stay healthy” or “Za lyoo-bóf” meaning “To Love”.
- Drink Pickle Juice to Avoid a Hangover. Drinking pickle juice is a common hangover cure in Russia after a night of heavy drinking. After holidays, the streets of Russia fill with people carrying a container of pickle juice.
5) India: Dig in… literally
According to Indian dining etiquette, people eat using only the right hand. Picture by respontour
Traditionally, Indian as well as some Middle Eastern and African cultures do not use cutlery when eating. Food should provide a full sensory experience, and traditional Indians consume foods such as curry, rice and nan bread by picking it up using the hands.
However, in India people should only eat with their right hands. Eating with the left hand is considered to be unclean because you only use it after going to the bathroom.
6) Mexico: Real Men Eat the Worm
Eating the worm of tequila serves as a rite of passage in Mexico, separating the Men from the boys. Photo by Julio Martinez
Tequila and its cousin mezcal represent time honored traditions in Mexican culture. The famous “worm” found in bottles of mezcal and tequila is actually the larva of a moth that lives on the agave plant. Supposedly, the worm proves the quality and high proof of the liquor which is to say that if the worm remains intact in the bottle, the percentage of alcohol in the spirit is high enough to preserve the pickled worm.
In addition, the Aztecs believed the worms had aphrodisiac properties, and worms and bugs are sometimes consumed in Mexico as a delicacy. Consuming the worm, has also served as a rite of passage for generations.
When considering unusual dining customs from around the world, also consider that the world continues to become a smaller place and these differences lessen. Thirty years ago many Americans found the idea of sushi disgusting. Today, sushi restaurants exist all throughout the United States. With familiarity even the most unusual customs can seem quite normal.
Article by EatWith blogger and foodie traveler, Allie Michelle
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