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Things to Eat Before You Die

We've grilled a rack of world famous foodies to compile our bumper list of extraordinary culinary experiences to try in your lifetime. But what would you add to the menu?

Things to eat before you die
Meet the world's first celebrity butcher, discover where to eat one of the most poisonous fishes on the planet  without dying get the culinary lowdown on the deep fried Mars bar, and maybe, just maybe, consider consuming casu marzu, the contraband Sardinian delicacy of maggot-infested pecorino cheese.

We've consulted some of the world's best chefs and food writers and scoured the culinary annals to concoct our mammoth collection of 25 things around the world to eat before you die.
Fugu, Tokyo
It's the fish that nearly brought down Homer Simpson. Fugu, deadly pufferfish, is Japan's most notorious foodstuff. Prepared by inexperienced hands, the tetrodotoxin poison in the organs, for which there's no known antidote, can bring on an agonising death by paralysis and asphyxiation. Prepared by one of Tokyo's few licensed experts, however, and it's a delicacy: almost, as it were, to die for. Takefuku restaurant in Ginza is renowned — for its safe preparation of the dish, we mean.
White truffles, Alba, Piedmont, Italy
The New York superchef Mario Batali isn't exaggerating when he compares the turf wars of Alba's white truffle season to a drug deal on Washington Square. It's life or death stuff from October to December when the Piemontese town teems with Armani-clad gastronomes in search of their $15,500/kg "white gold" fix at the weekly Mercato del Tartufo. Batali indulges at Il Vicoletto restaurant, a modest place seating just three dozen diners. "A plate of local tajarin [pasta] with butter and truffles can easily cost around 100 smackers," he warns. "So, buyer beware."
Chicha, Bogota, Colombia
Spit or swallow? Chicha, the fermented maize drink prepared with human saliva gives a new meaning to the phrase. The word today refers to any fermented homebrew, but chicha was originally made by the Incas who glugged it at religious festivals. They'd grind the maize then moisten it in their mouths to set the enzymes in their saliva to work on breaking down the starch. Unbelievably, it's back in vogue and sold in trendy bars around Bogotá.
Sea urchins on the beach, Puglia, Italy
Ricci di mare sea urchinare a mainstay of seaside eating up and down the Puglian coast. To get them at their freshest, simply do as the locals do and slurp them down au naturel on the beach. The light and foamy edible roe inside is salty, subtle and has an unforgettable taste of the sea. A post-prandial double espresso, cigarette or gelato is authentic but optional.
Lamb kebabs, Charikar, Afghanistan
It would take balls these days to holiday in Charikar, 70 km from Kabul, just for the sake of a kebab, but balls is what you get at Uncle Kebabi's Kebabs. Lamb balls, to be precise, with mounds of fat and meat grilled over a streetside brazier. The intrepid food writer Stefan Gates calls it "the best kebab shop in the world." It's the heady mix of "fear, magic and food" you get from garlicky, charred lamb eaten with only AK47-wielding bystanders for company.
Lobster rolls, Kennebunkport, Maine
It can be tiring work, eating. Hence the appeal of the lobster roll, the so-called lazy man's lobster. All the picking and scraping's done for you, leaving just the juicy flesh — no shell — to pile on to a toasted hot dog bun then slather in hot butter. Shack season, from May to October — when the lobsters are fished — sees the 161-kilometre stretch of Route 1 between Kennebunk and Rockport spring to life. Driving north, Kennebunkport and its celebrated Clam Shack (On the bridge, Kennebunkport), is the first key stop on the lobster-roll trail.
Casu Marzu, Sardinia, Italy
In order to impress a certain kind of epicurean, an ingredient should first be likely to make everybody else gag. Casu marzu, Sardinia's contraband, maggot-infested pecorino, has the power to do just that. The "delicacy", whose name literally means rotten cheese, is produced by introducing live insect larvae into the cheese to promote fermentation. Tom Parker Bowles, author of The Year of Eating Dangerously, warns that "the effects of eating it aren't known for a year". Locally it's considered an aphrodisiac, possibly because, if you're up for casu marzu, you're up for anything.
Yang Cheng Lake crab, Yang Cheng, China
Finding a genuine Yang Cheng, or hairy crab, among the counterfeit crustacea at Yatai Xinyang market, in Shanghai, is like finding a real Rolex among the fakes there: rare but thrilling. Most Shanghai-ites go for the surer route and take a journey to the crabs' home, the same-named lake, for the real thing. The food blogger Pim Techamuanvivit, of, advises eating the high yang crab with high yin ginger. "You'll catch a cold otherwise. Trust me on this."
An In-n-Out burger, 240 locations across the US west coast
In a supersized fast-food world of nuggets, wraps and wedges, God bless In-N-Out restaurants for sticking to the basics of burgers, fries and shakes on a short menu that's barely changed since 1948. Fans of the family-run chain particularly love the secret menu (viewable online), the bible references at the bottom of the shake cup and the sightings of three-Michelin-star chefs such as The French Laundry's Thomas Keller, who says In-n-Out makes "the best fast-food hamburgers around."
Fermented shark meat, Iceland
It was the extreme eating challenge that saw even Gordon Ramsay crumble. Hákarl, Iceland's Viking dish of fermented shark, inspires F-words in almost everone but the locals, who see past the ammonia whiff to the dish's surprisingly mild flesh. Made by burying basking shark meat underground for three months, then hanging it to dry for five, hakarl forms part of the midwinter Thorrablot feast (alongside pickled ram's testicles) but can be found at supermarkets year round. A shot or five of brennvin, the local spirit, supplies courage.
Deep-fried Mars bar, Stonehaven, Scotland
"If you're not enjoying a deep-fried Mars bar, you're just not drunk enough." Or so says the daredevil food writer Anthony Bourdain in his A Cook's Tour. Since its creation in 1995 at the Carron Fish Bar in the fishing town of Stonehaven, near Aberdeen, the deep-fried Mars bar has come to symbolise the artery-clogging Scottish diet of urban myth. The surprise is it's actually sinfully tasty, and a snip at $1.50 a pop for one of the world's premier extreme-eating experiences.
Sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo
Set your alarm clock for the world's largest piscine emporium: Tsukiji Fish Market should be on every Tokyo itinerary. Only thing is, the action kicks off at 5 a.m. -- for the famous tuna auction, from which tourists are currently banned. What to do instead? Have a lie-in and catch up with the city's chefs and fishmongers at 10 in the morning when they pile into Rye Sushi restaurant, in the inner market, for a breakfast of cold beer and sushi. It's been serving bleary-eyed customers for 50 years.
Pintxos, San Sebastian, Spain
San Sebastian has more Michelin stars per capita than any other city but it's still its casual fare, the pintxos, Basque tapas, that gets foodies' pulses racing. A donostia txikiteo, or tapeo -- essentially a bar crawl with both food and drinks -- should take in the old town and square, where bars proliferate. Local celebrity chefs, the three-starred Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter Elena Arzak, recommend the lamb's feet at La Viña and the anchovies at Bar Txepetxa.
T-bone steak, Antica Macelleria Cecchini, Panzano, Italy
He's the world's first celebrity butcher, he quotes Dante, is pals with Jamie Oliver and has turned the picturesque Italian hilltop village of Panzano, into a paese dei golosi — a village of gourmets. Dario Cecchini's cooking is all about the meat, specifically bistecca alla fiorentina — T-bones, to us — which you can buy to-go or eat in at his restaurant Solociccia.Work the heavenly steaks off with a stroll down to the 12th-century Pieve di San Leolino church, where the views of Chianti will take your mind off your groaning belly.
Brunch and a flat white, Bill’s, Sydney, Australia
Watch out New York. Sydney is taking over as the world's sexiest brunch spot. The leading light of the Sydney scene is Bill Granger. He may be from Melbourne but his easy-breezy restaurants (three in the city) are pure, sunny Sydney. Sydneysiders flock to the original Darlinghurst branch (433 Liverpool St, Darlinghurst, +61 2 9360 9631) daily for perfect scrambled eggs, a "flat white" coffee and ricotta hot cakes. They'll queue hours for a spot at the communal table. "I would never [line up] for anything in my life," sniffs food writer Jill Dupleix, "except a table at Bill's."
Croque monsieur and a bellini, Harry’s Bar, Venice
There's better food in Venice. There's certainly cheaper food in Venice, but Harry's Bar is one of those places you need to do once in your lifetime. Opened in 1931, Harry's was famous then, as now, for its sublime croque monsieur toasted cheese and ham sandwiches, peachy bellinis and authentic carpaccio. The cookery writer Simon Hopkinson concludes: "If you come away muttering that you cannot understand what all the fuss is about, then I can only think that Harry's Bar is just not for you."
Ant’s eggs, Mexico
Here's a bush tucker challenge with an Aztec heritage. Ant's eggs, or escamoles - grandly called "insect caviar" by some - are harvested from agave plant roots, then boiled until they resemble cottage cheese. Mexico City's ladies who lunch love them, judging by the crowd at El Cardenal,a restaurant specialising in the cuisine of Hidalgo and a hot fave of the Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers. "The tortillas and salsa verde are enough to get you there, but no one makes better escamoles," she says.
Peking duck, Quanjude, Beijing
Five million customers a year jockey for space at the Quanjude flagship in Beijing.The restaurant, nearly a century and a half old, is a veritable machine, housed over seven floors, seating 2,000 guests, and with two million ducks flying out the door each year. The recipe, bought off an Imperial Palace chef during the Qing dynasty, calls for wood smoke from apricot and peach trees for its fragrance and delivers crisp moreish skin with a lustrous lacquered finish.
Fish head curry, Little India, Singapore
As a melting pot of culinary cultures Singapore has many contenders for its national dish. The nominally Indian fish head curry rightly claws votes from the more obvious chilli crab. Why? Because it sums up the fusion of cuisines that defines Singaporean cuisine, being geared towards both Chinese eaters and Indians, with their nose for spices. Muthu's Curry restaurant Little India claims to have invented it.
Ice cream, Cofea, Palermo, Sicily
Every town in Italy has its passeggiata, an evening jaunt through the town square, gelato in hand, Gucci sunnies in hair. But only in Sicily will you find the morning ritual of congregating for a sweet brioche filled with coffee ice cream or dunked in coffee granita. The island is renowned as the birthplace of ice cream, where ancient Greeks and Romans would flavour snow from Etna and later Arab conquerors would freeze their sherbets. Cofea, in Palermo, is considered among the island's best gelaterie.
Macaroons, Pierre Hermé, Paris
Pierre Hermé literally wrote the book on macaroons,those delicately scented kisses of almond, egg white and sugar. Why, his macaroons have even featured on the TV teen drama Gossip Girl. Each year, Hermé introduces two new collections of its confections, in the manner of a couturier, with wacky flavours such as foie gras and olive oil alongside the more mainstream. Travellers on a shoestring will find Hermé's bijou St Germain flagship to be one of the few foodie temples in Paris that you can actually leave from with change in hand.
Po’ Boys, New Orleans, U.S.A.
As New Orleans rebuilds itself post-Katrina, a fierce civic pride in the city's signature dish, the po' boy, is building too. The po' boy, named after the striking railroad workers it was invented to feed, is a French baguette stuffed with food that historically came cheap: oysters from the bayous and french fries with gravy. The best are given medals at the newly inaugurated annual Po' Boy Festival, held in New Orelans in November.
Noodles at Ramen Jiro, Tokyo, Japan
While the tourists explore the starry, sophisticated side of Tokyo dining, food bloggers and geeks and assorted ramen freaks get down and dirty at Ramen Jiro,the grease-splattered noodle joint in Minato-Ku ward. In a city of noodles, Ramen Jiro's USP is the quantity of pork fat and garlic in the broth. Combined with homemade wheat flour noodles, it's barely digestible to the uninitiated - which seems to be part of its appeal to the ramen-initiated. Queues form half an hour before opening time.
Suckling pig, Cebu, the Philippines
Little known fact: the national dish of the Philippines is paella. That's three centuries of Spanish rule for you. But the dish that really inspires the most passion in the country is lechòn de leche, a baby pig roasted over an open fire. Served at one of the country's best restaurants, The Lighthouse,with a side dish of pickled green mango, red onion and chilli banana hearts, it's the favourite dish of the regular visitor and Michelin star chef Jason Atherton. He's not such a fan of one local custom, however: "Whoever earns the most, it's their job to pay."

Rocky Mountain oysters, The Fort, Denver, Colorado
They're not as plain-talkin' in the wild west as you might think. Too squeamish to ask for bison testicles, the mountain men prefer to order "Rocky Mountain oysters" or, even more quaintly, "small bites" of buffalo meat. At The Fort restaurant,a kitsch-as-heck replica trading post in Denver, Colorado, off-cuts of every stripe and rediscovered western dishes such as rattlesnake cakes are the order of the day. The great cookery writer Julia Child's favourite meal here was roasted marrowbone, referred to as "prairie butter".