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5 Regional Foods From Around the U.S. You Might Not Have Heard Of
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January 4, 2020
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Travel Trivia Editorial
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If you're an adventurous foodie, you don't have to travel the world to try unique dishes. Your own area might be home to an unusual meal the rest of the country would consider bizarre. Here are some regional favorites you may have never heard of.

Indian Tacos

 Indian Fry Bread Tacos with Ground Beef Lettuce and Tomato
Source: Brent Hofacker/ Shutterstock

Instead of tortillas, these tacos are served on Native American frybread. Familiar in the Midwest and Southwest and darn-near unheard of everywhere else, Indian tacos come in many varieties. Navajo tacos, in particular, are made by piling ground or shredded beef or venison on a wide piece of fried dough. Add the lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and other accoutrements, and you've got yourself a hearty meal.

Despite its deliciousness, frybread comes with a complicated history, as detailed by the Smithsonian. Native Americans started making it based on the rations of flour and lard afforded them by the U.S. government. Today, it's a major part of powwows and other gatherings. Despite its lack of nutritional value, it's a crowd favorite.

If you make Indian tacos at home, the key is in frying the frybread at the right temperature so it doesn't get too greasy. Then pile those toppings high and enjoy. If you'd rather have a pro do the cooking, visit Tim's Drive Inn in Warr Acres, Oklahoma, or Frybread Express, a food truck in Minneapolis, Minneapolis.

Chislic

A plate of fried beef chislic
Credit: danielvfung/iStock

This is native to South Dakota. According to The Argus Leader, its origins can be traced to the tiny town of Freeman, in the southeastern corner of the state. The Cooking Channel dubbed it "South Dakota Cubed Meat," probably because everyone was asking, "What the heck is chislic?"

Chislic is simply that: cubed meat.

Traditionally made with mutton or lamb, it can also be made with small cubes of elk, deer, or even beef. Originally, it was simply salted and fried. Today, however, it may be grilled, marinated before cooking, or served with dipping sauces.

In South Dakota, you may be able to throw a piece of cubed meat and hit a restaurant serving chislic. If your aim is off, head straight for Mad Mary's in Flandreau or the Bumpin' Buffalo Bar and Grill in Hill City. If you have a strong stomach and aren't in the mood for chislic, the Bumpin' Buffalo offers another regional specialty...

Rocky Mountain Oysters

Rocky Mountain oysters cooking on a charcoal burner outdoors on a farm
Credit: Colby Lysne/iStock

This is not seafood. We repeat. Not seafood. You know the Rocky Mountains are nowhere near the ocean, right? We're talking bull testicles. Yup. Rocky Mountain oysters show up on menus sporadically across the country, though you may be wondering how they ever made it far enough that someone was willing to pay money to eat them.

Ranchers are a waste-not, want-not lot, and eating the testicles after they castrated their calves simply made sense from that point of view. Though some may see this as a novelty food item designed to trick tourists, others enjoy them as a treat. There are even festivals that center around the food.

Rocky Mountain oysters are typically breaded and fried. If you want to give them a try, you can place an order at restaurants like The Fort in Morrison, Colorado, or Bruce's Bar in Severance, Colorado.

Scrapple

Two slices from a loaf of scrapple on a white background
Credit: Bjoern Wylezich/ Shutterstock

Scrapple is a pork-based meal with German origins found in Pennsylvania. The original dish dates back to 16th-century Germany.

Scrapple is a meatloaf of sorts, featuring a mixture of pig parts (that's the "scrap" in scrapple). Whatever pig parts weren't suitable for other edible uses became a part of the scrapple. The meat is cooked with salt and pepper, thickened with cornmeal or buckwheat, and served for breakfast. This recipe from Food Network includes onion, celery, and bay leaves.

Akutaq

Alaskan berries in a pile
Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/ Public Domain

An Alaskan specialty, akutaq was made with animal fat, seal oil, and snow. It has been flavored with dried meat, berries, and other plants throughout the ages. Today, Crisco is a fine substitute for those animal fats. Traditionally, sugar wasn't included. Today, it may be. In the old days, akutaq was made by whipping the animal fats by hand to achieve the silky texture that makes it such a delight. An electric mixer may save you some time and a sore arm. If you want to make an authentic batch, however, there is a precise preparation for this dish. Even though it's largely a dessert now, it has an important role in survival in the extreme north.