We travel for a lot of reasons! Some travel for leisure, some for business, some for employment, some for adventure and then are those who travel for the pure bliss of food. These are the ones you will find queuing up outside new restaurants to sample food or waiting to experiment with new cuisines as soon as they hear about them. These are the ones who don’t eat to live but live to eat!
Being an avid foodie, I have always been fascinated by different kinds of foods popular around the world. I believe in experimenting with local cuisine and trying the regional food whenever I visit any new place. Maybe that’s why some of my fondest and most vivid memories revolve around food and the exact places where I found them. Foodies like me are always in search of local food delicacies, popular restaurants and recommended food joints where we can satisfy our hunger pangs. After all, the best part about travel is to make the country that you visit, your own; to keep your inhibitions aside and try stuff you may have never tried before. Travelling is nothing but stepping out of your comfort zone and creating stories to last forever!
To make it easier for people to know what to eat, where to eat, when they traverse across the seven seas, here is a list of some of the most popular food delicacies belonging to countries around the world. Read on and thank me later for the food treasure that you are about to discover.
1.) Paella, Spain
This rich, fragrant, super-tasty delicacy finds its origins in the Valencia region of Spain! So much so that it is considered to be the symbol of Valencia. The traditional Valencian Paella is essentially a rice dish made by combining white rice, vegetables, meat (chicken, duck and rabbit), beans and olive oil, seasoned with saffron and rosemary. Replace the meat and veggies with seafood such as shrimps, lobster, mussels (in their shells) and you get the globally popular version of Seafood Paella. There is also Mixed Paella which combines meat, seafood, vegetables all together and is easily available throughout Non-Valencian Spain.
2.) Tom Yum Soup, Thailand
This delicious seafood broth from Thailand is personally one of my favourite food dishes! Tom Yum Soup is a type of hot and sour tangy soup preparation that is made using seafood, stock, chilli peppers and South-East Asian cooking staples such as Kaffir lime leaves, Galangal ginger, lemongrass and fish sauce that give this preparation its unique and distinct flavour. You would find many versions of Tom Yum around Thailand and across different countries around the world! However, my best experience of piping hot Tom Yum Soup was at one of the quaint restaurants on Khao San Road – the most colourful, bustling and popular food street in Bangkok.
3.) Moules Frites, Belgium
You would hardly find a restaurant in Belgium that does not serve this iconic dish! Moules Frites which means Mussels and Fries is a popular dish originating in Belgium that is also considered to be the national dish of the country. It is believed that this popular combination took birth when the locals on the Flemish Coast, accompanied their usual meal of mussels with fried potatoes which were usually eaten during winter when there was nothing else (meat or fish) available. When served as a dish, the mussels and fries are usually plated separately so that the fries do not become moist. The preparation is so popular in Belgium that around 25-30 tonnes of mussels are consumed as ‘Moules Frites’ annually.
4.) Ramen, Japan
The go-to Japanese dish that can be consumed on-the-run or enjoyed leisurely! I say that because Ramen is a staple food of the Japanese, a self-sufficient meal in itself, which can be slurped quickly by the always-in-a-hurry businessman or can be enjoyed as a fun meal experience by families, youth and kids alike. Ramen is a bowl of lip-smacking happiness that combines elements such as Chinese wheat noodles, meat or fish broth, boiled egg, sliced meat, seaweed, green onions and flavourings such as soy sauce or miso. There are different variations of Ramen available throughout the country; from the miso-flavoured Ramen of Sapporo to the soy-flavoured thin noodle broth famous in Tokyo, Ramen is the absolute favourite in Japan! Ramen was originally introduced in Japan by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century-early 20th century however, it has become Japan’s favourite comfort food today!
5.) Tacos, Mexico
‘The only bad Taco is the one you didn’t eat’! This one statement perfectly summarizes our feelings for Tacos – Mexico’s culinary gift to the world. You can hardly go wrong with a Taco! How can you when the crispy treat of a wheat or corn tortilla is filled with the yummy affair of cooked meat, seafood, vegetables, cheese, only to be topped with the delicious goodness of avocado, guacamole, salsa, tomatoes, onions and lettuce. All of these come together to form the world-famous Mexican snack that is best enjoyed when eaten by hand! Some restaurants even let you enjoy the Taco experience hands-on by giving you separate components of the Taco which you can then put together and eat. Well… we are not complaining as long as we get to eat! 😉
6.) Fish & Chips, UK
Fish & Chips is the epitome of fried food and the best snack out there that can be enjoyed with a glass of chilled beer! Just imagine yourself sitting at one of the harbour-side cafés and enjoying this yummy treat with the salty wind in your hair and the sight of the never-ending ocean. A perfect combination right? This culinary fusion consisting of fried battered fish and hot crispy potato chips originated in the United Kingdom as the staple food of the British working class. Earlier, standard fish & chip shops across the country served the snack in old newspapers which then became the identity of a traditional fish & chips delicacy. Today, Fish & Chips is a common takeaway meal that is popular not just in the UK, but the entire world!
7.) Macaron, France
We simply couldn’t resist mentioning this culinary sweet treat that literally screams France and French food! Macarons are the very popular sweet biscuits/cookies that are a confectioner’s dream-come-true made from meringue, sugar, almonds and food colouring. A macaron is filled with ganache, buttercream or jam filling that is sandwiched between two cookies. The cookies are smooth round-shaped and the best part, they are absolutely melt-in-the-mouth delicious! Macarons are available in a variety of colours and flavours throughout the country, ranging from small confectionery shops to high-end restaurants. Did You Know? The city of Montmorillon in France is well-known for its Macarons and even has a museum dedicated to this delicious confection.
8.) Laksa, Malaysia
Another one of my recent favourites that I had the fortune of trying in Langkawi, Malaysia! Laksa is a soupy noodle broth, rich with seafood flavours consisting of rice noodles, chunks of chicken, prawns, fish and squid served in a spicy tangy curry made of coconut milk, garnished with lemon wedges, lettuce and cilantro. The flavour becomes even more tangy and crispy when you squeeze fresh lime juice from the lemon wedges on the soupy broth. Such a heavenly concoction that my friends and I devoured two bowls of this soup on one of the beach-side stalls and the beautiful taste lingered in our mouth for a long time. The other variation of this dish is known as Asam Laksa which is a tamarind-based soup with thick noodles. Laksa is popular throughout Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand with variations occurring in almost all regions.
9.) Mezze Platter, Middle East
There was such an amazing variety of dishes in the Mediterranean cuisine that I realized the Mezze Platter as a whole could be a delicacy from this region! The Mezze Platter is an assortment of delicious snacks that are popular across countries of the Middle East, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon and Greece. The platter typically consists of Hummus, Pita Bread, Falafel, Tzatziki, Babaganoush, Tabbouleh, Kibbeh and a variety of finger foods that originate from the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries. Mezze literally means taste or snack and the platter consisting of snacks, salads, finger foods and dips is usually consumed as an appetizer or light meal. The Mezze Platter is a treat for veggie-eaters since most of the snacks are vegetarian in nature!
10.) Peking Duck, China
Nothing says China like the traditional Peking Duck that even has the former name of the capital city (Beijing) as part of the dish name! Peking Duck has been a delicacy in China since the Imperial Era; the first variation of roast duck was prepared during the Yuan Dynasty and further developed during the Ming Dynasty. For this delicacy, a whole duck is glazed with a layer of sweet maltose syrup, hung-dried for about 24 hours and then slow-roasted in a closed oven or open hung-oven. Pekin Ducks are specially bred and fattened for this delicacy. The final dish is characterized by its thin, crispy skin and tender meat which is traditionally carved by the chef in front of the diners and served alongside Hoisin Sauce. Beijing is home to two of the most celebrated restaurants that serve the traditional Peking Duck in their own distinct styles – Bianyifang that cooks their duck in a closed oven and Quanjude which opts for the modern method of open hun-oven.
11.) Neapolitan Pizza, Italy
Think about it! Would this list really be complete without mentioning Pizza? But, this is not your traditional thick-crust Pizza that is available on almost every street of every country in the world today. No! We are talking about Neapolitan Pizza from Naples, Italy. The birthplace of our favourite Italian delicacy – Pizza! The Italians are so possessive of their creation that the country urged the European Union to register the Neapolitan Pizza as a TSG (traditional speciality guaranteed) dish. This means you can find the traditional Neapolitan Pizza only in Naples, Italy! The Pizza is primarily made with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. But wait, these are not your regular everyday ingredients; the tomatoes are essentially San Marzano tomatoes that are grown on the volcanic plains of Mount Vesuvius and the cheese is Mozzarella di Bufala Campana (cheese made from the milk of water buffaloes that are raised in the marshlands of Campania and Lazio). This was the origin of the very first Modern Pizza which was later adapted by the entire world!
12.) Bunny Chow, South Africa
Although the name says Bunny Chow, this savoury delicacy from South Africa is not made from rabbit meat! This peculiarly named fast food dish also known as ‘Bunny’ originated in the Indian community of Durban in South Africa. In this dish, a hollowed-out bread loaf is filled with meat curry usually made of chicken, lamb or mutton, beans, chips which is further seasoned with spices. Originally, the bunny chow was vegetarian, however, variations to the recipe and popular public demand resulted in meat being added to the original creation. There are many stories about the origin of Bunny Chow. One of the popular ones being; Indian immigrants who were taken to South Africa to work on the sugarcane plantations required a handy meal which they could carry to the fields every day. Bunny chow was the perfect way of carrying their lunches where the bread loaf supported the curries and at the same time created the unique characteristic of Bunny Chow, the gravy-soaked bread… Yum!
13.) Apple Pie, USA
As American as an Apple Pie… It cannot get more American than this! The USA is characterized by many traditional delicacies and comfort foods that have found their origin in the country but it is the All-American goodness of a simple Apple Pie that wins the race when it comes to a food favourite from the Land of the Free (The Thanksgiving Roast Turkey comes a close second!). An apple pie is a baked double-crust pastry filled with apples (fresh, dried or canned) and seasoned with cinnamon and sugar. The Apple Pie is traditionally served with ice-cream or whipped cream which is also known as ‘Pie a la Mode’. The top crust is usually decorated with a cross-strips pastry design or the pastry is simply laid out on the pie and different patterns are created on it, to give it more visual appeal. The Apple Pie was introduced in America during colonial times but today it is one of the most prominent cultural icons of the country!
14.) Meat Pie, Australia
If the Americans like their Apple Pie, the Australians love their Meat Pies! A typical meat pie is a palm-sized baked pastry filled with a savoury filling of meat, gravy, vegetables and cheese, served with tomato sauce. It is one of the most iconic dishes of the continent and was declared as the national dish of Australia in 2003. Same goes for the Kiwis, who regard the Meat Pie as an integral part of their national and cultural identity. It is also one of the popular snacks that is consumed during the Australian Rules Football Game and Rugby League. The pies are widespread across the country and have their own variations in almost every region; right from the oval-shaped footy pie convenient for games to the family favourite, farmer’s market pies and from the Aussie pub classic, pub pot pie to the iconic Floater Pie that is served on top of a mushy pea soup in Adelaide.
15.) Ceviche, Peru
Seafood at its best! If you find yourself in the Pacific coastal region of Peru, do try the popular dish of Ceviche that has put Peru on the culinary map of South America. It wouldn’t be completely wrong to call this dish, a raw seafood delicacy. Yes! The seafood used in this dish is fresh and raw which is then generously sprinkled with lemon juice, spiced with chilli peppers and garnished with onions, tomatoes, salt and cilantro. This seafood salad-of-sorts is usually accompanied by sweet potato, lettuce, corn and avocado that simply enhance the flavours of this dish. Ceviche is now popular in the United States and many countries of South America, although it remains the national dish of Peru. Did You Know? Ceviche is part of the national heritage of Peru and the country even has a National Ceviche Day in honour of this popular dish.
There you go! A list of the best and most popular food varieties from all over the world. I’m positive there are many more food delicacies around the world I may have missed out on. Comment below and let me know the food specialities that you have tried or the ones which are popular in your country. Trust me… If it’s about food, I would definitely want to know about it!
A glance through this list also made me realize I was quite partial to meat and seafood in this blog. As someone with a perpetual sweet tooth, I plan to come up with a list of sweet treats that one must try when they travel to different countries across the world. Until then, enjoy reading and add some of these lip-smacking delicacies to your food bucket list! And for all the foodies out there… Travel to discover and live to eat until your stomach, heart and soul is content…