Just because something sounds strange, looks weird or smells funny, doesn't mean it won't taste absolutely delicious. Who knows, that slow-cooked camel pie or blistery black corn fungus might even become your next food obsession.
Inspired by all of the weird and wonderful dishes created on MasterChef Australia, we've created a hit list of ten unexpected dishes to find around Sydney. If you're looking to expand your culinary horizon, give them a try. Go on, we dare you.
Huitlacoche has to be one of the tastiest diseases out there. Quite literally. A black blistery corn smut, this Mexican delicacy is prized for its earthy flavours and funky, mouldy kick, making it a big hit with the truffle and blue-cheese crowd. If you're keen to give it a try, head to Chula in Potts Point, where this modern Mexican eatery serves up a huitlacoche tlayuda, which is kind of like a Mexican pizza. The intriguing dish sees a crisp corn tortilla base layered with refried beans, stringy cheese and inky blots of huitlacoche.
What started as an Easter special has risen through the ranks to become one of Bodega's best-selling dishes. The sacrilegious snack is made from a cinnamon and clove spiced bun, loaded with pink fleshy slices of corned beef, pickled vegetables and kimchi and topped with lashings of smoked oyster mayonnaise. The seemingly chaotic jumble of ingredients actually work together nicely, with sweet, salty and sour notes in perfect balance. Forget smothering your buns with butter, once you go corned beef you never go back.
Strange sounding we know, but a spider steak is simply a cut of beef, taken from the tail end of the cow. You don't often find it on restaurant menus — unless you frequent the Unicorn Hotel in Paddington, that is. While the steak may look a little lumpy, it's actually quite tender and flavourful, thanks to its fatty web of marbling. The Unicorn has been exploring curious cuts since day one, with rump, scotch fillet and T-bone taking a back seat to hanger, skirt and striploin. All slabs can be topped with house made garlic butter or fruit chutney, with side servings of crinkle cut chips, home-style cauliflower cheese and braised red cabbage.
A delicacy from the Middle East, camel meat finds its way into Israeli pastry pockets at Nour in Surry Hills. Head chef Roy Ner makes his sambusaks from spiced, slow-cooked camel rib seasoned with ras el hanout and cumin. The camel meat is then stuffed into Yemenite pastry, sprinkled with black sesame seeds and baked in a woodfired oven until perfectly puffed. The softly shredded camel meat is surprisingly delicious, offering up a rich gamey flavour that sit somewhere between beef and lamb. For your next hump day, why not try camel.
While burnt food is something we generally try to avoid, it's worth making an exception for Gogyo's kogashi ramen. The famous black broth is made by cooking pork lard at explosive temperatures, before adding chicken broth, springy noodles and fatty rashes of chashu pork belly. What arrives is a rich, scorchy soup, swirling with flecks of char and lidded with porky oil. The flavours reveal intense umami and a sweet lick of smokiness. Surprisingly, there's actually very little bitterness there.
While there's nothing special about Brussels sprouts, it's highly unusual when they actually taste good. Porteño in Surry Hills is one of the few places (on this planet) to actually get it right. Owners Ben Milgate and Elvis Abrahanowicz have ditched the steaming method, which, as any ten-year-old will tell you, makes them mushy and sour. Instead they're deep-fried until crunchy and golden, then tossed through with torn herbs and drizzled in vincotto. The crispy sweet buds are perfect as they are — although you could consider a side order or lamp rump or rib.
WAGYU BEEF BARBIE, SPICE WORLD
If you're looking to spice up your life — and your dining experiences — head to sichuan hot pot hot spot Spice World in China Town. This Chinese-based restaurant chain is bubbling with personality, from the teddy bear soup stocks to the smiling robot waiters who serve up chilli oil and mints. Order a portion of the wagyu and you'll receive a limited edition beef Barbie, draped in a marbled meat gown. Guests will need to de-robe poor Barbie, dipping her dress into the chilli-slicked broth to simmer alongside hand-pulled noodles, bean curd and bamboo fungus.
If you like your Italian food traditional, prepare to be initially outraged, then completely won over by the unorthodox offerings at Surry Hills spaghetti and spritz bar Mark + Vinny's. Here, the pasta comes in a rainbow of flavours, from sky blue spirulina tagliatelle to a ruby-red beetroot spaghettini. It even has a vegan carbonara (gasp) made with charcoal bucatini mixed through with mushroom pancetta and plant-based parmesan and crowned with an unctuous sweet potato "egg yolk".
MORTADELLA RAVIOLI, JONAH'S
Long regarded as one of the more inferior luncheon meats, it's nice to see chefs taking this pink processed log a little more seriously. Not only has mortadella been embraced in sandwich form at ACME and on pizzas at Via Napoli, but esteemed Sydney restaurant Jonah's has immortalised it in ravioli. The popular entrée is made from a paste of creamy minced baloney meat and pistachio crumb, neatly tucked into handmade pasta parcels. The dish is served with circular slivers of sweet jellied balsamic vinegar, baby turnip tops and a sprinkling of seeds. No ketchup required
Dan Hong from Ms G's has taken two of the world's most popular dishes and rolled them into one. These crispy fried cigars are stuffed with minced beef, processed cheese slices, mustard, tomato sauce and gherkins to give you a greasy hit of your two favourite fast foods. They're relatively small in size, so follow it up with the Stoner's Delight 3.0, a junk-food mountain of doughnut ice-cream, crispy bacon and potato chips that will leave you in a haze of happiness.