You can probably tell it by looking at me, but I’m a man who likes his food. And, luckily for me, I’m also a man who has liked foods wherever he’s traveled. This lifestyle isn’t one for the picky eaters – especially when you’re traveling through countries where tarantulas, live octopus, honey bees, and even man’s best friend are likely to be on the menu!
No more talk. Let’s just get straight to it. The ten best (in my mind) foods from around the world.
#11 – Poutine, Canada
The only one on this list I’ve yet to try with anything resembling authenticity, what’s not to love about the union of french fries, gravy, and cheese? Canada’s national dish (unless moose soaked in maple syrup counts) is a staple in Montreal and across the country. What better way to follow up a boozy day at one of Montreal’s music festivals than with this delightful dish?
Want to know more about eating poutine, speaking Quebecois (their swear words are all Church words!), and seeing the Great White North? Check out the Tourisme Montreal website.
#10 – Nasi Goreng, Indonesia
It might translate as ‘fried rice’ but nasi goreng is so, so much more than that. On its lonesome it may ‘just’ be wonderfully spiced rice with a fried egg on top, but it’s commonly served with friend chicken or satay chicken, prawn crackers, seafood, and/or various vegetables.
It’s a heavenly good meal.
#9 – Meat Pie, Australia
Many may argue that Vegemite, Tim Tams, Lamingtons, or Pavlova are Australia’s greatest gift to the world. Still others may argue that it was the British who invented the meat pie.
But for mine, there’s nothing as quintessentially Aussie as a piping hot meat pie with a fat dollop of tomato sauce (ketchup) smack-bang in the middle of it.
If the brown, lumpy gravy doesn’t appetize – there’s always a cornucopia of flavoursome choices to pick from at any bakery, service station, or 7-11.
#8 – Jaozi (Dumplings), China
Chinese food and I have had a bit of a love/hate relationship since I got here last March. Prior to China, I’d had food poisoning once in my life; I’ve had it six times in the past twelve months. Case in point, I felt near death on the Karakorum Highway in Xinjiang last May.
Although in China’s defense, one of those times came while eating Chinese food in Sydney.
But one thing that never fails to hit the spot for me is jaozi: the humble dumpling. What you pay $8 for a dozen of in Australia is available on every street corner in China for pocket change, and it’s so damn good! Flavour it with a little black vinegar and some chili paste and you’re laughing.
Baozi (steamed buns) go alright as well, but jaozi gets the nod for me.
#7 – Churrasco, Brazil
It’s all you can eat meat. If that doesn’t excite you, you’re obviously a filthy hippie and I’ll have no further part in this conversation.
Brazil’s biggest export not playing football is literally big skewers of meat being carted around a room for you to pick and choose from. Chicken, beef, pork, lamb, shellfish, fish, potato, and cinnamon laced pineapple are all just begging to be washed back with healthy servings of beer, wine, or whatever your poison may be.
#6 – Sushi, Japan
My first taste (pun intended) of adventurous eating was sampling some sushi at the Cardiff Worker’s Club in my early teen years. In hindsight, I doubt shrimp atop rice is seen as particularly adventurous – but it’s a love affair from which I’ve never looked back.
Call me an elitist, but I do like my meal to have at least taken some effort in the preparation; so while some may prefer sashimi, I prefer something my serve dead and uncooked atop some rice.
#5 – Hungi, New Zealand
Like BBQs? How about a BBQ that’s cooked under the ground? A hungi is a whole bunch of food being cooked in a pit in the ground!
And while it may be a relatively simple assortment of meats and vegetables, it’s remarkably good and eating it is a slightly more interesting experience that rocking up to the Maccas drive-thru and asking for ‘the usual’. And Jesus, it saddens me that I have a ‘usual’ at the local McDonalds.
Maybe it was the pressure of having several face painted, spear wielding, fierce looking Maoris watching me as I ate – but it was hard not to smile and say “It’s wonderful”.
I double dare you to say otherwise in the same circumstances.
#4 – Pad Thai, Thailand
It was hard to select just one Thai dish to include on this list. Green (and red) curries get my taste buds erect and there’s a bunch of other unpronounceable dishes that taught my tongue to feel things it had never felt before when I visited earlier in the year – but the criminally simple noodle dish takes the cake.
Noodles, delicious Thai spices, a bit of chicken or seafood, and some mother-fugging crumbles peanuts on top? How is this not the most popular food in the world?
#3 – Curry, India
Wow, Chris. ‘Curry’? You can’t get more specific than that?
No, I can’t. So shut the hell up.
Curry is awesome.
Butter chicken? Awesome.
Rogan Josh? Awesome.
Shahi Korma? Awesome
And add to that the fragrant delight that is Naan bread and wash it back with a sweet glass of lassi? Heaven! I’m so glad that China has an abundance of Indian immigrants willing to share the awesomeness of their seemingly endless variety of curries with us.
#2 – Dalk Galbi, South Korea
That first word? It’s pronounced ‘duck’. There’s no duck in this dish, though.
Noodles, chicken (or tofu), potato, vegetables, and chewy rice cakes (the titular ‘dalk’) all served in a delightfully spicy broth is improved with the addition of a few hard-to-melt slices of American cheese. It’s sinfully good.
It’s so good that – in a country full of fantastic foods – it was my nomination for my last meal in Korea.
I’ve been trying to find a place that makes it in Australia, Thailand, or China ever since.
#1 – Hamburger, United States
After all of the above exotic foods, it probably feels like a bit of a slap in the face to see the not-so-humble hamburger sitting at the top of the list.
But you know what? It’s my list. And while all of the above carry the risk of disappointment if made incorrectly to food poisoning if made woefully incorrectly – a hamburger has never let me down.
I can walk into the dodgiest dive bar or a restaurant boasting the flimsiest connection to ‘western cuisine’ anywhere in the world and still get a burger that is – at worst – passable.
And when done right? A hamburger is a delightful fusion of flavours that beggars belief. If you haven’t experienced that before – you obviously haven’t been to Fergburger in Queenstown, New Zealand. (Read more about my trip to Queenstown).
Hell, try Choppers on Koh Tao, Thailand if NZ is a bridge too far.
Or, y’know, one of the countless thousands of burger joints across America claiming to make the best burger.
I’ve said my piece (for better or worse), so now you can say yours. What are your favourite foods from around the world?
Remember – no more than one from each country, you dirty cheater!