Think you’ve got a strong palate, an iron gut and the will to travel your taste buds? Here is our list of Costa Rica’s top five less-than-popular culinary oddities.
Mondongo (tripe soup) Unless you grew up eating the stuff, it’s difficult for most people to dig into a hot, steamy bowl of boiled intestines. Assuming you can forget about what you’re eating, where they came from and what used to pass through them, textures like chewy, stringy and spongy don’t exactly get the mouth watering and the stomach grumbling.
Ceviche de pulpo (octopus ceviche) Sushi aficionados the world over may disagree with us, but it takes a bit of mental preparation to put a piece of raw octopus in your mouth. Although the citric acid in the lime juice arguably cooks the octopus, it’s still rubbery and hard to chew, and it’s difficult to describe the feeling of the suckers sliding down your throat.
Vino de palma (palm wine) The preferred firewater of rural campesinos (farmers) throughout Costa Rica, palm wine is the fermented sap of the palma de corozo tree. After burning your innards, inducing temporary blindness and killing a few million brain cells, you will be treated to one of the worst hangovers of your life.
Chicharrones (fried pig skin) Although hot, salty and oily are usually good adjectives for describing a snack food, it’s hard to eat pig skin if you’ve ever seen one rolling around in its own filth. Of course, ‘pork rinds’ are a popular snack food in the US, though the real thing is less like a pork-flavored potato chip and more like a greasy slab of pork-flavored fat.
Huevos de tortugas (turtle eggs) Although they’re rumored to increase virility, prolong erections and make you a champ in the sack, eating the eggs of endangered sea turtles is just plain wrong. Although they do occasionally appear on the menu, the taste is an earthy mix of species extinction and environmental insensitivity.
Of course, it's not all bad news...there's plenty to tempt the palate in Costa Rica - exotic tropical fruits, locally raised fish, and churros washed down with shade-grown coffee are just the start.
For the low-down on all things culinary in Costa Rica (the good and the bad), take a look at the Lonely Planet Costa Rica - History, Culture & Adventure Travel Pick & Mix chapter.
This article was refreshed in June 2012