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Learn more about some of these prized delicacies and the controversies behind them

Although many items on this list are highly sought-after and even exude connotations of luxury, these six specialities stir some heated debates, be it on the grounds of sustainability, animal cruelty, or uneasiness. Take a closer look at these controversial delicacies from France to Korea, and learn more about what makes them so contentious here:

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1. Shark’s Fin

The key ingredient in the once-popular and luxurious shark fin soup, this delicacy has become wildly infamous because of how sharks fins are collected. Since the market price of shark fins are much higher than its meat, live sharks are typically caught, finned, and thrown back into the water, where they either suffocate, are slowly eaten by other animals, or bleed to death.

Numerous countries and jurisdictions now have full or partial bans on shark finning, shark fishing, and shark fin soup. At the same time, multiple airlines have also implemented bans against the transportation of shark fins.

See also: Environmentalist Dave Albao on the Practical Need for Sustainability

2. Stingray

A close relative to sharks, stingrays are a delicacy commonly enjoyed barbecued and served with sambal paste in Malaysia and Singapore and tossed into curries like the tangy spicy Asam pedas. However, like sharks, many ray species are threatened and “are at a substantially higher risk for extinction than most other groups of vertebrates.”

See also: 10 Malaysian Street Food You Have To Try When Visiting

3. Balut

Known as balut in the Philippines, the fertilised duck egg is a popular Filipino delicacy, incubated for only 17-18 days, so the embryo is still not fully developed. Similar delicacies are also found in other Asian countries, such as the Chinese maodan, Vietnamese hot vit lon, and Cambodian phog tea khon, through incubation periods vary. 

In mainstream Western media, such as shows like Fear Factor and Survivor, balut is often portrayed as exotic, integrated into challenges in the game shows. Despite this, it continues to be an extremely popular street food item in the Philippines, especially at night, as some believe it to be an aphrodisiac.

See also: 11 Classic Filipino Dishes Everyone Needs To Try: Sinigang, Adobo, And More

4. Caviar

Compared to other fish roe, caviar is especially expensive as sturgeon fish take years to mature, and those who farm sturgeon cannot identify whether the fish are male or egg-producing females for a long period of time. Once the female fish are identified, some companies choose to remove the eggs from the live fish via C-section and return them to the farms to produce more eggs—a practice considered inhumane by many.

Thankfully, some experts have learned how to extract the fish roe by massaging the caviar out of the fish’s belly, though “humane caviar” tends to be more expensive.

See also: Asian Caviar Producers You Should Know About

5. Foie Gras

Perhaps one of the most commonplace yet contentious delicacies is foie gras, considered unethical by many on the grounds of animal cruelty. Made by force-feeding a duck or goose using a long tube inserted through the mouth and down to the oesophagus, the French speciality is actually the bird’s fattened liver. While the production and/or sale of foie gras is prohibited in many countries and some parts of the United States, the luxury product is still popular.

See also: 8 Luxurious Mac And Cheese Dishes With Truffle, Lobster, Caviar, And More

6. San-nakaji

San-nakaji or sannakaji is a raw Korean dish consisting of a young live octopus that is eaten immediately after being cut into small pieces so that the tentacles are still moving. Often served with sesame oil, it is a common street food delicacy enjoyed with ssamjang (a spicy fermented soybean dipping sauce) and green tea—but remember to chew carefully, as there have been a number of cases where diners have choked on the tentacles as it may latch onto the oesophagus.


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