Even if we don’t always remember the history behind the Colosseum, the significance of the Great Pyramids’ configuration, or who built Machu Picchu, we can almost always remember what we ate as we traveled through far and strange lands. Of course, food memories can range from pleasurable to uncomfortable or even mediocre. Judgments aside, though, most of us travelers can agree that the times when we eat during a trip are most often also the times when we feel the most engaged. With all five senses stimulated, we not only see, hear, smell, or even touch a certain place — we taste it, too.
Globalization has made sampling delicacies from around the world fairly easy. Most of us don’t have to live in the Middle East to try a delicious falafel, or travel to China for near perfect jiaozi. But our list isn’t solely about individual dishes; it’s about the experience of eating in an authentic context. It’s about actually stepping foot in the wood-fired pizza ovens in Naples, the steaming noodle shops of Tokyo, and the bustling cevicherias of Lima. You may be able to recreate a crêpe, but you (sadly) will have a difficult time recreating the crepêrie that wafts saccharine batter aromas from a Parisian street corner.
None of these dishes could have been created in a vacuum. They are most often the sum of geography, traditions, necessities, and personal tastes of a given culture. This considered, many of the dishes on our list arguably have multiple homes across several borders, yet we’ve chosen to bring you the locations where we believe you can find them in some of their purest forms.
In the following five slideshows, we’ve rounded up 196 different foods worth traveling for — 46 more than last year's 150 Foods Worth Traveling For — a figure we chose in honor of the number of countries in the world. Though we haven't chosen a dish from every country due to the similarity between many of the iconic foods of several countries and the wealth of dishes from larger ones, each food enhances the experience of a given place. Not only do these foods complement a trip, some might argue (as we do) that given the proper address, they’re worth the trip themselves.
Admittedly, several of our recommendations might be more accessible to most people’s palates, while others might be more of an acquired taste. While it’s ultimately up to you to decide what’s on your eating itinerary for your next trip, consider our recommendations based upon popularity and critical review. We’ve segmented the five geographical areas into five pages and five slideshows.
Our journey through the world’s most iconic dishes begins in the Middle East and Africa. Some of the dishes in this area maybe be more familiar to you than others (hummus versus poulet nyembwe, for example), with names that you may or may not be able to pronounce. Ranging from origins in Algeria to Yemen, most of the dishes in our list are rich with with pungent spices, hearty grains, and stewed vegetables. Some dishes have strong colonial influences like Cachupa from Cape Verde, a regional version of French cassoulet. Other dishes are local originals like Ethiopian Kitfo, a steak tartare served raw with spices and a special Ethiopian butter.
Next, we head east to Asia, where we honor some popular dishes like Chinese tofu and Peking Duck, and Japanese sushi, as well as lesser-known delicacies like khao soi and adobo. The subcontinent offers up well known Indian dishes like Rogan Josh and Tandoori Chicken as well as the less familiar Vada Pav, a fried-potato 'burger' patty in a bread roll and topped with chutney. A little further south, the Pacific region has hearty Austrailian meat pies and New Zealand's meringue-based Pavlova. A mash-up of both the familiar and more exotic, this lineup is only the beginning when discovering this region's vibrant culinary culture.in their countries of origin. Whether or not you've got your own Eurotrip planned in the near future, our roundup is the next best thing to being there yourself.
Our Europe and United Kingdom selection is a dense and delicious mix, with highlights spanning culinary capitals from Austria to Northern Ireland. A few of these signature dishes are already global favorites like pizza and fish and chips, though the generally lesser-known dishes like colcannon and cevapcici, are also reconginized for their cultural importance. From delectably-sweet treats like Austrian Apple Strudel to savory bites like Danish Frikadeller these dishes are worth travelling for to sample.
While you might assume the foods on this list would be the most familiar, some delicacies that we've included from this part of the world could surprise you. In addition to hamburgers and hot dogs, North America is also home to conch and ropa vieja. This slideshow spans from Trinidad and Tobago to Canada, while encompassing Old and New World culinary cultures, as well as a spectrum of climates and ingredients. Some North American dishes show strong French and African influences, like Haitian Griot, and others are Latin favorites like Mexican Mole Poblano. Just because you may have tried some of these dishes, don't assume that you know them all.Slideshow Builder.
Spanning the entire continent, this leg of our roundup includes many meat-centric dishes and traditions from the region, including Argentina's parrillada and Brazil's feijoada. Lighter dishes, including Peru's ceviche, are included here, too, alongside potentially less familiar selections that generally incorporate rich grains and a variety of beans. More out of the ordinary dishes include Ecuadorian Cuy, a cooked whole guinea-pig, and the too-sweet-to-miss dessert Argentinian Dulce de Leche.
Did we forget an essential dish in one of your favorite travel destinations? Let us know by leaving a comment.
This article was originally published March 4th, 2014.
Additional reporting by Lauren Wilson.