Would you like some loco moco with your cheese curds? Unless you’re from the areas where these regional foods rule, you may not want to answer that question. The melting pot of America’s culture gives the U.S. some of the weirdest and unusual regional foods in the world. Here are 8 of the most popular regional foods you’ve never heard of or always wondered about.
#1. Deep-Fried Cheese Curds
Cheese curds are a staple in Canada, but the Upper Midwest adds it own twist with deep frying. The batter covered deep-fried cheese curd is one of the most popular Minnesota State Fair attractions every year. Minnesotans aren’t the only people who love deep-fried cheese curds. People in Wisconsin and Michigan love them, too.
#2. Paw Paw
If the only time you heard about paw paws was in the old children’s song, you’re missing out. People in the mid-Atlantic region know all about the paw paw. The wonderfully sweet fruit that tastes like a cross between a mango and a banana is often called the “custard apple.” Paw paws are indigenous to 26 states and grow wild from the Gulf Coast on up to the Great Lakes region. People eat the fruit by itself or turn them into delicious creations, including paw paw nut bread and ice cream.
You’ll find more regional bites in this Mid-Atlantic roundup.
Chitlins, or chitterlings, is a Deep South delicacy wildly popular during the holidays. It’s popularity remains purely local, however, possibly because it’s made of hog intestines. To make chitlins, the cook cleans and boils pig intestines. (The boiling creates an overwhelmingly offensive aroma, which is why they’re usually boiled outside.) After boiling, the intestines are chopped up, breaded and fried. A tangy sauce is added and the dish is served with cornbread and fried chicken. You probably can’t wait to try it!
#4. Loco Moco
Sounds a little crazy, but loco moco is a popular food in Hawaii. The Lincoln Grill in Hilo invented loco moco in 1949. Consisting of white rice with a topping of beef patty and fried egg, covered in brown gravy, loco moco is the comfort food of choice for Hawaiians and a must-taste for visitors.
If you’re from Cincinnati, you know all about goetta. Called “Cincinnati caviar,” goetta is a breakfast sausage originated by German immigrants. To extend ground pork or beef, thrifty home chefs added oats and shaped the mixture into a loaf. The loaf was sliced as needed and fried in pork fat until brown and crispy. Now, goetta is on the breakfast menu of many Cincinnati restaurants.
Many hard-working Norwegian immigrants settled in the Upper Midwest. The immigrants brought various traditions with them and one of them was lutefisk The painstaking lutefisk-making process involves soaking dried whitefish in water and a lye-based mixture for up to eight days. The fish swells, losing approximately half of its protein, and turns into a jelly-like texture. And, that’s lutefisk. Norwegian-Americans serve lutefisk during the holidays. Not for the weak of stomach, the eating of lutefisk symbolizes hardship and courage.
#7. Fried Diamondback Rattlesnake
You’ve heard of diamondback rattlesnakes, of course. But in Sweetwater, Texas, the locals roundup the reptiles from the nearby desert and bring them to the Nolan County Coliseum. The snakes are then skinned, covered in batter and deep-fried. The highly divisive annual event remains popular with the Sweetwater locals.
#8. Shoofly Pie
Pennsylvania is Amish country and shoofly pie is a favorite. Bakeries, diners and restaurants all over Pennsylvania serve this rich, sticky, coffeecake-like dessert. It’s thought the name came from the fact that flies were attracted to the sugary confections as they cooled on window sills. Who wouldn’t be attracted to such sweet goodness?