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  • Pamela Froman

Fun and Funky Foods From Around the World


Food is more than just about filling our bellies. It's a taste, a savoring moment, a delicious sensation like no other. Los Angeles is full of foods that lay just off the beaten track from all corners of the globe. Here are some funky mouthfuls to try this fall.

Have you ever wanted to eat a poisonous fish? No? Well you can with the illustrious Blowfish or Fugu (as it is known in Japan). This tasty concoction is delicious – but it can be lethal if it's not cooked right. The poison tetrodoxin, found throughout its organs, is 1,200 times stronger than cyanide. Talk about Fear Factor! It's hard to find here in Los Angeles because you need to have special license to cook it, but you can be brave and try it at Sushi Katsu-Ya in Encino. Sushi Katsu-ya serves it four different ways – salad, sashimi, with a hotpot, and nigiri. www.katsu-yagroup.com/encino

You can expect to find rattlesnakes making their way around our local trails, but did you know they are actually edible? Rattlesnake meat is very light and tender with a flavor that resembles chicken. Make rattlesnake chili and rattlesnake stews. Want to try it? You can buy it online at www.buygamemeats.com but don't stop there. They also sell alligator, bison, elk, rabbit, boar and frog legs! Another way to try this exotic meat out is the rattlesnake sausage on the menu at Wurstküche in Los Angeles. www.wurstkuche.com

Wild abalone can be made in two ways: As tenderized steaks, which have been pounded and come shrink-wrapped, or live in the shell. They offer a mild flavor and just a hint of sweetness. And you can buy them online and have them shipped right to you! For the steak version, check out the Abalone Farm which serves tender-ized steaks, $105 for 16 (1-ounce) steaks. www.abalonefarm.com US Abalone sells it online as live in the shell at $30 per pound (2-pound minimum order). www.usabalone.com

Live octopus may sound a bit...squirmy. But it is actually a tasty and delicious dish! You can experience this fishy feast at Island Seafood Restaurant in (where else?) Koreatown. They also offer yummy treats like live lobster, live uni, and live shrimp. 4356 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 953-1740.

What is the next superfood? Insects of course! Ounce for ounce, crickets contain more than twice the protein found in beef, are a more complete amino acid, and have three times as much iron. There are approximately 1,700 edible insect species out there. But where can you chow down on the nutritious bugs?

Most restaurants serving up insects in Los Angeles are Oaxacan-style, where grasshoppers are a popular snack. If you are feeling brave you can try them at Guelaguezta in Los Angeles, where they are fried to crunchy, salty, tangy crisps with a dusting of chile. Or really exercise your nerves of steel and order chapulines a la Mexicana, a sauté of tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and grasshoppers topped with string cheese and avocado. www.ilovemole.com

Unusual dishes and game meats are the specialty at Saddlepeak Lodge in Calabasas, along with an unforgettable atmosphere. There are massive timbers and log walls, a native rock booth, hunting and fishing gear, and elegant salon paintings. But it's the food that is truly the most striking! There are selections like the beef tartare, elk, ostrich, antelope and even emu. www.saddlepeaklodge.com

Poke in a bowl is delicious, but Los Angeles is taking it up a notch. Okipoki serves up poke on a brioche bun. And if that's not enough, they also feature sushi burritos. You can order in-house or online. www.okipokila.com

Are you craving some Japanese desserts? The Fugetsu-Do Bakery Shop in Little Tokyo is a family-owned and operated confectionery store that has been around since 1903! They specialize in Japanese treats, such as mochi, rice crackers, imported candies, rice taffy, cake, and sweet bean paste. Or try their mochi bits which are perfect as a topping for ice cream or yogurt desserts. www.fugetsu-do.com

Organic foods – created without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, growth hormones, irradiation and antibiotics are hugely popular. It's because they’re simply healthier – and they taste yummy.

Health Nut in Woodland Hills offers fresh and healthy food, drinks and supplements with locally sourced produce. They also feature amazing salads, sandwiches, melts and delicious smoothies. www.healthnutla.com

Juicy Ladies in Woodland Hills offers up a connection between food and health. They believe in spreading health awareness through wholesome, organic foods in a relaxed dining space. You can even satisfy your sweet tooth with their gluten-free desserts. www.juicyladies.com

The Vegan Joint is an organic hotspot. This eatery features unique delicacies like garlic fries, Black Bean Burger, Pumpkin Curry and a variety of vegan treats for dessert. www.theveganjoint.com/WoodLandHills

A growing trend is meal delivery services. These time-saving offerings provide scrumptious and healthy eats for the whole family with all kinds of fresh, perfectly portioned ingredients and recipes brought right to your door.

Blue Apron wants to create a great cooking experience. You can sign up for a two-person or family plan and receive a weekly delivery, including all the ingredients you need to make between six and 16 meals. Ingredients are pre-portioned and you can skip a week if the recipes aren't for you. Entrees include chicken chilaquiles, steak salad with chicory and curried chickpeas, and salmon cakes with beet salad. www.blueapron.com

Sun Basket is keep you healthy. You’re getting organic, non-GMO ingredients along with sustainably sourced protein, wild-caught fish and meat that is antibiotic- and hormone-free. Sun Basket also offers specialized menus for Paleo, gluten-free, and vegan diets. www.sunbasket.com

Hello Fresh delivers healthier versions of classic comfort foods. Every week you’ll receive a box with ingredients for three meals that is packed with fresh produce and protein. Boxes serve two or four people, and it's quick and easy – recipes take no more than 30 minutes to prepare. www.hellofresh.com

Natural groceries go above and beyond, and some have extremely unique offerings.

Bristol Farms Groceries offers a plethora of original eats from around the world and have recently added over 4,500 new organic, natural, local and gluten free products. Their sushi, produce and cheese selections are quite remarkable. Meats for sale include Beef Hibachi Sticks Teriyaki, Beef Back Rib and Beef Carne Asada. And they deliver – for free!

Gelson's is celebrating Hatch Chile Season! These sweet and spicy peppers are made for roasting. It's the perfect combo of spicy and sweet. A few favorite pairings are Hatch Chile Omelets, Baked Chicken with Hatch Chile, and Hatch Chile salsa. There are also several special items in the service deli. Try the Hatch Chile Salad, Hatch Chile Cornbread, Hatch Chile Sausage or our Hatch Chile Quiche for a heat-infused treat!

In addition, Gelson's is offering sweet goodies! Try the Cookie Dough Cafe Chocolate Chip Gourmet Edible Cookie Dough. It comes in chocolate chip and cookies and cream. They also feature pastries such as apricot croissants, blueberry muffins, brioche and golden raisin scones, among many more. www.gelsons.com

Cost Plus World Market features some delicious international flavors.

Crafted in southern Italy using an old regional recipe and only the highest quality ingredients, Nicola Di Gennaro Soft Hazelnut Torrone is a sweet candy is bursting with rich hazelnut flavor in each chewy bite.

Rugen Fisch Smoked Herring in Canola Oil is flavored with rich beech wood smoke. A tasty staple, it's perfect paired with crackers, added to recipes or enjoyed all on its own. www.worldmarket.com

Lassen’s Natural Foods provides organic produce and wholesome, good-for-you products. Their in-store kitchen features yummies like the Garden Medley smoothie made with organic tomato, celery, carrot, parsley, bell pepper, basil and garlic, the Berry Blast with organic apple juice, blueberry, blackberry, banana and avocado. There are also wraps such as the BBQ Chicken, the Mediterranean, and the Raw Collard Green Wrap. www.lassens.com

Amazon has taken over Whole Foods Market. Changes have included price cuts, selling Amazon products instore, and an upcoming switch to Amazon Prime as Whole Foods' new rewards program. Delivery services are on the horizon, as is the ability to buy Whole Foods products on the Amazon website. Want to get a taste? There are some hidden gems.

First – the chips! The Bacon and BBQ Potato Chips Chocolate Bars are the perfect solution for your sweet and salty cravings while the Cheddar Beer Potato Chips are a funky snack twist.

For the vegan in your life, try the Meatless Meatballs and Chickenless Nuggets. They are made with textured wheat protein.

Are you a cheese aficionado? Try the Mimolette cheese. But be forewarned – there is more to this cheese than meets the eye. The holes on the outer part of the Mimolette cheese are actually from mites (that means bugs). Interestingly, Mimolette cheese was actually banned in the US, but now it is here to stay. When it comes to a cheese to grate over food, from pasta to beans to casseroles, go for Sartori Parmesan Sarvecchio or Bellavitano Gold. www.wholefoodsmarket.com

And don't count out Sprouts Market: They offer some trendy – and tasty – alternatives.

Don’t worry about cutting off the crusts, because the Peanut Butter and Jelly Bites are all the best parts of a PB&J sandwich without the hassle. These fun-sized snacks pack in three grams of protein!

Rich in flavor and made with only organic ingredients, the Sprouts Butternut Squash Panzotti cooks up in just six minutes. This pasta is made in the authentic Italian tradition, and features a creamy butternut squash and cheese filling. Pair it with your favorite sauce, or simply toss with olive oil and Parmesan, for a savory dish you won’t forget!

These offerings are unforgettable and tasty! So take a chance and chow down!

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