Horseburgers: Slovenia’s Unusual Delicacy

horseburgers
Sean McLachlan

The horse has been with us for thousands of years. A loyal steed that has pulled plows, helped us migrate to new lands and carried us into battle, there is no more noble animal. We’ve honored the horse in myth, art and song, so what more fitting end to this fine beast than to eat it?

Horse meat is a good source of iron and is a free-range meat that’s low in fat. Horses produce far less methane than cows, so they’re easier on the environment too. As I mentioned in my post about Slovenian cuisine, Slovenia is one of the many European countries where horse is considered a delicacy. I’d never tried it before so while I was in the capital Ljubljana I decided to set out to one of the most popular places to eat horse – a horseburger stand called Hot Horse.

The branch I went to is in Tivoli Park, a large green area filled with families enjoying a sunny weekend. Hot Horse is located right next to a kid’s play park offering slides and games. No pony rides, though. That would have made my day.

Hot Horse looks like pretty much any other fast food place you’ve seen, with garish colors and plastic furniture. I ordered a horseburger, small fries, and a Coke for €6.50 ($8.67). As you can see, the thing was huge and slathered with ketchup and mayonnaise. I had to scrape much of this off to actually taste the horse meat.So how was it? OK. It does have a distinct flavor, a bit like beef but more mild with kind of a nutty taste. I enjoyed it but wasn’t converted. Of course, I was eating a horseburger in a fast food joint and not a horse steak at some fine restaurant, so perhaps I wasn’t experiencing horse meat at its best. Still, I came away more glad for the experience than impressed by my meal.

This made me think of all the other exotic meats I’ve tried – kangaroo, bison, alligator, ostrich – and how I wasn’t converted to them either. There’s a reason that beef, chicken and pork are the most popular meats around the world. They’re the most flexible, able to take on all sorts of different flavors depending on the recipe. They’re also cheap and easy to raise.

While the big three aren’t my favorites (venison takes first place, followed by game birds) they constitute 95 percent of my meat intake because they are easy to find, easy to prepare and easy to afford.

So if you’re in Slovenia, try out some horse. Just don’t expect Hot Horse to rival to Burger King anytime soon.

Check out the rest of my series, “Slovenia: Hikes, History and Horseburgers.”

Coming up next: Ten Random Observations About Slovenia!

horseburgers
Sean McLachlan

10 unusual foods from around the world

Fried Tarantula in CambodiaWho doesn’t love trying new and exotic foods when traveling? Maybe some spicy curries in India, a selection of savory tapas in Spain, or some authentic…Pig’s Blood Cake? Check out this list of 10 unusual foods from around the world and see if your perspective on trying international cuisine doesn’t change.

Fried Tarantulas, Cambodia

According to Victoria Brewood at Bootsnall, you can find this delicacy in the streets of Sukon, Cambodia, fried whole with their legs, fangs, and all. Apparently, they taste great pan-fried with a pinch of garlic and salt and have a crispy outside and a gooey inside.

Pig’s Blood Cake, Taiwan

This unique dish is prepared with sticky rice and hot pig’s blood. When the mixture becomes solid it is coated with peanut powder and cilantro then formed into a flat cake and sliced. This meal is usually dipped in various sauces such as chili sauce, hot sauce, or soy sauce.Pig's Blood Cake in TaiwanHaggis, Scotland

This Scottish dish contains the internal organs of a sheep, including the liver, heart, and lungs. Mix this with some chopped onions, raw beef or mutton’s fat, salt, and spices. Once this is ready, you stuff it into a sheep intestine as sausage and simmer inside the animal’s stomach. Dinner will be ready in 3 hours!

Drunken Shrimp, China

When hearing the name of this dish, I had kind of hoped it was a cute play on words of some kind. In reality, the name should be taken very literally, as these are shrimp that are actually stunned with strong liquor and then consumed alive. Not shockingly, there have been some problems with this meal of uncooked seafood as there is the health risk of Paragonimiasis, a food-borne parasitic infection.

Live Octopus, Korea

I can’t help but think of Fear Factor as I write this entry. Sannakji, as it is known, is an octopus that is prepared and cut while still alive. It is served while still squirming, and should be chewed well as the suction of the tentacles can stick to the inside of your mouth and throat.

Silkworms, China

This insect is cultivated and bred in factories and sold in local markets for cooking. While you can prepare them anyway you like, popular silkworm dishes include Crispy Silkworms and Silkworm Kebabs.

Bear Claw Stew, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan

Soup made from the claws of bears is a delicacy in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and is literally sold for hundreds of dollars. The bear meat in the stew is actually believed to be a health and sexual-performance booster. According to nerdygaga.com as well as factsanddetails.com, environmentalists are protesting the practice of making bear claw stew, as bears are being tortured in front of diners before being cooked, as it is said to make the meat taste better.

Casu Marzu, Italy

This decomposing cheese made from sheep’s milk is, according to Alka Sharma of Environmental Graffiti, full of squirming white worms. Casu Marzu is made when the cheese fly lays its eggs, which is usually about 500 at one time, and the maggots that hatch eat their way through the cheese. Because the digestive system of the maggots breaks down the fat of the cheese, it gives it a very soft texture. The key to eating this unusual food is that it must be eaten while the maggots are still alive and wriggling, unless you want a bowl full of dead maggots (this, apparently, is considered unfit for consumption).

Ying Yang Fish, China

This fish is unlike most seafood delicacies, as it is half dead, half alive. While the top half of the fish is uncooked and moving, the bottom half is deep fried and covered in sweet and sour sauce.

Corn Fungus, Latin America

Also known as Corn Smut, this food, which looks very similar to grey brain matter, is a “pathogenic plant fungus that causes plant disease on maize (corn)” and is often used as filling for quesadillas. According to Martha Mendoza on MSNBC.com, Corn Smut is actually good for you, as it contains protein, minerals, and other nutritional values.