Basic dishes you might consider getting on a plane for.
Travel isn’t travel without eating. You can’t get to know a place without tasting the local specialties, and food is often one of the best mediums to explore a culture. Be it in a market, on the street, at a restaurant, or in someone’s home, food gives us a very personal look into another culture. Sure, not all your travel culinary experiences are always good ones, but even when you try a local food that doesn’t suite your palate (pickled herring isn’t for everyone) at the very least, it makes for a good story.
When you travel, it can be fun to choose one local food to always go after. In my experience, being on the hunt for something in particular often leads to interesting adventures. Whether you like to travel to eat, or are just looking for an excuse to plan a summer trip, here are eight local meals worth traveling for.
1. Socca: Nice, France
The local street food of Nice, socca is a crepe made from garbanzo bean flour. While street food often makes its way around the world – you can get a döner kebab in just about any city – socca is a little harder to track down. Even in Paris, there’s only one guy making it. Here are a few recommendations on some of the best ones you can find in Nice. Just make sure to get a chilled glass of rose while you’re at it.
2. Pho: Hanoi, Vietnam
Pho is one of those dishes that has made a name for itself outside of its homeland. In most food metropolises it’s easy to track down a few Vietnamese restaurants that top local foodies’ list of recommended places. But pho is best consumed on a hot street corner in Hanoi, sitting on a small plastic chair and drinking a cold beer. Go all out on the dish of garnishes that is served with it: a bowl full of broth, cilantro and lime is a good thing.
3. Stroopwaffel: Netherlands
A bike ride in Amsterdam followed by a stroopwaffel: is there any better way to spend a trip? Stroopwaffels are cookies made from two layers of thin waffles and held together by a sweet caramel. They’re all over Amsterdam, both sold in bags and packages at stores and markets as well as larger versions as street food. Hint: the day before you head home, go to the local grocery store and buy a few packages to take home with you. They’re that addictive.
4. Asado: Argentina
They’re not for the vegetarian, but asados are acclaimed events, barbecuing many kinds of meats at one time. Argentina is known for its steak, and raised on wild grasslands, you’re assured a leaner meat than standard feedlot-fed US cattle. Try a traditional asado in Patagonia, grilled by local gauchos.
5. Smørrebrød: Denmark
The Danish open-faced sandwich is one you’ll find on almost any traditional Danish menu. It’s a buttered piece of rye bread topped with an assortment of options, from cured meats to cheese. For a truly Scandinavian meal, get one with shrimp and pair it with a local light beer.
6. Accras: French Caribbean
Most Caribbean countries have some form of the accras, a fritter made from fish or shrimp. Accras de morue are popular appetizers in Guadeloupe and Martinique. The word “accra” is most commonly used in the French-speaking part of the Caribbean, but you will also see them listed as fritters in the English-speaking parts. You’ll often find them served as street food and they make for a great snack.
7. Pa amb tomaquet: Barcelona, Spain
Bread rubbed with olive oil and tomato might sound basic, but sometimes, it’s the simplest foods that are the best. Such is the case with Pa amb tomaquet, the classic Catalan dish (pan con tomate in Spanish) that you’ll find in almost any tapas bar. The oilier and juicer the better. If a place does it well, you can be sure that the rest of their menu will be up to par.
8. Amok Trey: Cambodia
This popular Khmer dish is made of steamed fish and coconut milk. With an emphasis on zesty flavors, it has a softer and less spicy taste than most curries. The fish is wrapped with other ingredients in a banana leaf and steamed in the coconut milk.
Images: katinalynn, Tran’s World Productions, sindy, dr_pablogonzalez, fredrikrynde, SnippyHolloW, Jen SFO-BCN, Ben Yapp