25 foods you should try at least once

Call yourself a foodie? We’ve picked must-try dishes, trendy ingredients and edible oddities that every discerning gourmand should seek out.

25 foods you should try at least once

Food trends come and go, but some ingredients are mainstays of the ‘foodie’ scene. Chefs love pushing the envelope and introducing diners to curios, from unusual cuts of meat to global dishes and wince-worthy animal innards. We’ve picked 25 underused foods to sample at least once…
 

1. Lardo

While this is something that would never appear in our healthy section, as a rare treat this Italian dish of cured pig's fat is far more appetising than it sounds. Eat it as you would other charcuterie, with crusty bread and pickles, or alternatively stir it through pasta or use as a pizza topping.

Razor clams2. Razor clams

While the common clam comes in a heart-shaped shell, razor clams are tubular and contain much more meat. Grill them on the barbecue as you would calamari, steam with wine or cider, or try them cured with lime juice and chilli – otherwise known as super-modish ceviche.

Read chef Nathan Outlaw's guide to underused British fish
 

3. Laverbread

Welsh laverbread is a punchy dish of cooked seaweed and a food of protected status, meaning it’s only produced in the land of the leek. Luckily, it can be bought online. We recommend it with eggs at breakfast, woven into casseroles or fish soup or simply enjoyed with a sprinkling of Welsh sea salt.
 

Goji berries4. Goji berries

Hit your nearest health food shop to pick up these vibrant ‘superfood’ berries. Dried gojis can be eaten straight from the pack or mixed with nuts, but they can also be used to top cereal or in baking.

Find out more about goji berries

 

5. Tripe

Cooked badly and you'll never go back for a second serving of tripe. But, if you take a leaf out of the Italians’ book and serve it in a rich tomato sauce or deep-fried in breadcrumbs with a piquant green sauce, you might even forget its origin – the lining of an animal’s stomach.
 

Wild garlic6. Wild garlic

Unlike its bulbous sibling, wild garlic comes in leaf form and is far more delicate in flavour – think more along the lines of milder alliums, such as chives. Treat it in a similar way to spinach – whizzed into soups, wilted as a side dish or raw in salads. It makes a mean pesto too.


7. Truffles

We’re not talking the chocolate variety here. This luxurious fungus grows wild, and given the elaborate way of yielding them – using dogs or pigs for snuffling – the price tag means the closest many of us will get to sampling them is via truffle oil. If you do lay your hands on the diamond ring of the food world, use it shaved into pasta, risotto or scrambled eggs.

Pick up a bottle of truffle oil and try our haricot bean & truffle mash recipe.
 

8. Dulce de leche

Caramel potsFacilitator of many a cheat’s dessert, this South American caramel sauce has a thick, gloopy consistency. Buy it in cans or jars and use as a cake filling or topping, in mousse, chocolates or cheesecakes - or simply in large spoonfuls.

Use dulce de leche in our salted caramel pot recipe.


9. Kimchi

Korean food has been making waves across the UK restaurant scene for a few years now. If you're trying it at home, make a batch of kimchi to serve alongside your bibimbap-style rice pot. The fermented vegetable condiment is the ketchup of Korean dinner tables.
 

10. Chia seeds

These miniscule poppy seed-sized spheres are packed with nutrition, boasting lots of omega-3, calcium and protein among other credentials. Sprinkle them onto porridge or salads, whizz into a smoothie or use to add texture to dishes. 

Read more about health food heroes 
 

11. Wagyu beef

CowSaid to be some of the finest meat in the world, Japanese wagyu beef comes from specific breeds of cow. The animals enjoy a nutrient-rich, bespoke diet which is said to give the meat its distinct taste, excellent marbling of fat and sizable price tag. It’s now available in UK supermarkets and is a sure-fire way of spicing up your next steak supper.

Read our guide to cooking the perfect steak 
 

12. Supergrains

Celebrated for their health benefits, complex ‘supergrains’ are a wholesome alternative to pasta, rice or bread. Try pearled spelt in place of Arborio rice, or buckwheat flour to make an on-trend loaf or breakfast pancakes. More unusual grains from Asia, South America and Africa, such as freekah, amaranth and teff, are more difficult to find but worth the hunt.

Read our guide to grains
 

13. Insects

InsectsAt some point in 2013, the food scene got word that the UK had been missing out on crickets, grasshoppers and all manner of spindly creatures. The rest of the world has been happily munching on them for years - infact, it's estimated around two billion people globally enjoy insects in their everyday diet. Despite the fact that our interest has been piqued, British palates haven’t quite embraced the movement. But with sustainable food on the agenda, maybe this will change…


14. Soil

Think less garden flowerbed and more chic bedrock. When pioneering gastronauts like Heston Blumenthal and Reni Redzepi started serving crumbled dessert ‘soil’ in their restaurants, the world took note and started sprinkling granular cake onto desserts too. As it’s so easy to achieve, it’d be rude not to give it a go.

Make restaurant-style soil at home with our choc-peanut fondant recipe.


15. Ramen

RamenFrom laksa to pho, noodle soup is a pan-Asian dish, but Japanese ramen has become the darling of the UK restaurant scene. It’s open to interpretation too, with additions ranging from belly pork slices to boiled eggs. The base is imperative, so make sure you use really good stock– we like a dollop of earthy miso in there, too.

Try our ramen-style teriyaki noodle broth

 

16. Sourdough bread

With its substantial crust, chewy texture and distinct flavour, we can get behind the sourdough craze. Not sure what all the fuss is about? Try making your own yeast starter by feeding yeast with water until it expands to a small, lively pillow, which can then be used as a raising agent.

17. Cod's roe

Cod Move over caviar - there's a new fish egg in town. Pressed or soft cod's roe is more affordable than traditional caviar, and much less dainty, meaning it can be treated with a rougher touch. Try it blitzed into taramasalata, deep-fried or sliced and stirred through pasta. 

18. Tongue

A whole boiled tongue is an intimidating sight, but when served in thin slices, this resourceful ingredient becomes something far more delicate – and tantamount in flavour to any Continental charcuterie. 
 

19. Courgette flowers

Courgette flowersEvery summer, courgette recipes become some of the most popular on bbcgoodfood.com, so it stands to reason the vegetable's elegant flowers should be a hit too. Catch them in early summer and have a go at filling the paper-thin shells with Italian-style cream cheese.

Try our recipe for courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta
 

20. Sea urchin

Approach with caution – this sea creature is covered in barbaric-looking spikes. Beyond this defensive shell is a core of delicious roe. A delicacy in Asia and Italy, we advise buying the roe ready-prepared by a fish expert. Try it with spaghetti for a Puglian-style pasta.

21. Octopus

Don't be intimidated by all those tentacles and suction pads - appearance isn’t everything when it comes to octopi. The meat makes for a delicate dish when slow-braised or served in a Mediterranean-style salad. 

22. Okra

Okra curryOtherwise known as 'lady's fingers' because of their distinct tapered shape, okra is used extensively in Asian and Caribbean cooking, and rightly so. It can handle strong flavours and can be enjoyed whole or cooked down until soft. Try and pick okra up fresh, but the canned variety is a good alternative. 

Try one of our okra recipes
 

23. Spirulina

Most commonly sold in powder form and added to smoothies, juices and soups, spirulina is a blue-green algae and a nutrition powerhouse, being high in protein, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. In contrast to other super foods it has been reported recently that its harvest in Africa supports the economy and its producers – making it a superfood in more ways than one.

24. Cobnuts

CobnutsThese Kentish beauties are related to the hazelnut and have a lovely smooth flavour. They come in a frilly cover and can be eaten fresh from the shell – or blitzed up and served as a crust for meat or fish, or in a nutty dessert.

 

25. Bilberries

Champion this underused berry, often eschewed for its lookalike, the blueberry. It's a sour fruit, so best served sweetened as a jam, filling or sauce. They can be found in the British wild too, so keep an eye out for them on your next ramble.

 

How many of our 25 foods have you tried? We’d love to hear your suggestions too, so share your unsung heroes in the comments below...

Comments, questions and tips

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Ben Haith
6th Oct, 2014
I have actually tried 16 so far - Razor clams, Goji berries, Tripe, Wild garlic, Truffles, Dulce de leche, Kimchi, Wagyu beef, Insects (if scorpions count in this bracket?), Soil, Ramen, Sourdough bread, Courgette Flowers, Octopus, Okra and Spirulina - all of which have been great.. Ramen is one of my favourite comfort foods to make at home. Definitely going to have a look for some Lardo and Laverbread.. maybe some cobnuts and bilberries too to get to 20!
halcyondays
5th Oct, 2014
I am surprised kangaroo,emu and crocodile haven't made the list. The latter tastes like chicken ,all readily available in butcher shops in Australia.Kangaroo is a healthy diet choice but has little fat so you need to put in a little bit of pork when baking a "roo "pie. If you can get emu, try it in black bean sauce. Witchetty grubs can be found under the bark of many trees and can be eaten raw or cooked. Have not yet tried snake,my grandchildren tell me it is very tough.Wagyu beef is a real treat but expensive.Octopus is great poached in milk, especially if freshly caught. Baby octopus are great char-grilled on a barbecue or marinated.. You can add spirulina to your home-made chocolates. I make my own sourdough starter, and I find it is the best bread to use in bread and butter puddings.I am lucky to live in a truffle growing state, they are still expensive, but just a sliver in a bottle of extra virgin oil gives a great flavour.(I grow my own olives) Gogi,chia seeds and bilberries are great sprinkled on breakfast cereal. The grasshoppers pictured are a delicacy in Asia. It is "hawker" food sold on the streets, as are roast chestnuts. They are very cheap, but I am not fond of them. Tried kudu stew in Africa that is very gamey. Am off to Shanghai next week and am really looking forward to trying new foods.
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pajbse
4th Oct, 2014
Absolutely love ramen, although much better in Japan than here! Okra not nice, as it adds slime to a dish, yuk! I've made my own sourdough bread which is lovely for bruschetta etc. but not so good for making sarnies etc. I make all our bread but most is yeasted and based on Spanish pan rustica. Had kimchi in a Korean BBQ restaurant in Osaka. Loved it. Have had dulce de leche but too sweet for my taste.
dorothyfinch
3rd Oct, 2014
I have tried Goji berries, Tripe, Sourdough bread, Cods roe, Tongue, Octopus &Okra, I did not like Tongue or Okra,All the other things are good
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