Eating is a significant part of any travel experience and whether it’s tucking into burger and fries in New York or spicy jerk chicken in Montego Bay, there’s nothing better than savouring a meal synonymous with its country or place of origin, plus it’s a great way to meet the locals. Here is our list of must-try dishes of the world:
Fish and Chips – Whitby / ENGLAND
Battered fish and thick-cut potato chips – both deep-fried, salted and sprinkled with vinegar – are as much a part of the nation's fabric as a cup of tea or the Royal Family. A marriage made in the 19th century to provide cheap and nutritious food for the working masses, fish and chips have fed countless memories for generations. The true home of fish and chips is by the sea and there is still a special magic about eating them at a classic English seaside resort. The Magpie Café (magpiecafe.co.uk), which overlooks the harbour in Whitby, revels in its reputation as the place to go to enjoy some of the best in the north.
Tapas – Madrid / SPAIN
Going on a tapeando or tapas crawl is an excellent and authentic way to get into the Spanish eating and drinking swing. Strictly speaking, tapas are appetisers to be enjoyed with a glass of wine or beer followed by dinner, but they can also be the main focus by going from bar to bar. Tapas can be anything from a simple bowl of olives to tortilla española (potato omelette on bread). Among the best places for tapas in Madrid is the atmospheric bar Los Gatos (Calle de Jesús, 2) in the Santa Ana district, famous for its creative gourmet tapas including the much-loved anguilas (baby eels on toast).
Fried herring – Stockholm / SWEDEN
Freshly fried Baltic herring or stekt strömming is a classic Swedish dish which tastes especially good on top of buttered knäckebröd (hard bread) served with fluffy mashed potatoes sprinkled with chopped parsley and a side of lingonberries. The place to sample some of the best in Stockholm is Nystekt Strömming, a simple food caravan just outside the Slussen Tunnelbana station on Södermalmstorg. After placing your order and waiting for your food, grab a seat next to the caravan to people watch and enjoy Baltic Sea views.
Currywurst – Berlin / GERMANY
A gastro 'must-do' while in Germany and particularly in Berlin, is to sample the legendary currywurst, the most popular fast food in the city, some say the nation. Costing a couple of euros, this chubby pork sausage doused in tomato sauce that’s been laced with spices such as mild curry, ginger and cayenne pepper is traditionally eaten from a paper plate with a tiny disposable fork while standing at chest-high snack tables on the sidewalks. The cult place to go in Berlin is Konnopke's Imbiss (konnopke-imbiss.de) situated underneath the green girders of a railway bridge in Prenzlauer Berg, which has been feeding the hungry hordes since 1930.
Tagine – Marrakech/MOROCCO
Situated in a glorious 19th-century riad with 21st-century Zen décor, a short stroll from Marrakech's medina, the Narwama (Rue el-Koutoubia 30) restaurant serves award-winning Moroccan cuisine, including arguably the country's most famous dish – the tagine). The name tagine refers to the conical-lidded pot in which it is prepared, as well as the intricately spiced stew of meat and vegetables, usually with dried fruits or nuts, cooked very slowly over a charcoal fire. Typical tagine combinations include lamb with raisins and almonds and chicken with green olives and preserved lemons.
Thali – Panaji/INDIA
From simple hole-in-the-wall eateries to plush air-conditioned restaurants, Goa's capital, Panaji is packed with a great range of places to eat, and situated within its narrow streets is Anand Ashram which has been serving its fish thali for over a century. The thali is the ubiquitous Indian lunch which just happens to be one of the whole sub-continent’s best food deals. For around USD0.80, you get a stainless steel platter with small, fitted bowls usually containing a piece of fried fish, dry and wet vegetable dishes, roti, rice, pickle, and dahl (lentil curry). Thalis provide a great opportunity to taste many Indian dishes at one sitting.
Pie and Mash – Sydney / AUSTRALIA
It's not just the Brits who have a passion for pies, the Aussies love them too. Ask any Sydneysider about his or her favourite pie place and Harry’s Café de Wheels (harryscafedewheels.com.au) on Cowper Wharf Road is guaranteed to be among the replies. This 24-hour pie-cart has been serving its chunky lean beef pies with mushy peas, mash and gravy alongside the wharves since 1945. From taxi drivers and sailors to celebrities and late night revellers, people of all walks of life have scoffed a pie at Harry’s legendary cart. With other pies available, such as curry and seafood – even the fussiest of pie punters will love this place.
Jerk Chicken, Pork or Fish – Montego Bay / JAMAICA
Jamaica's signature dish is fiery jerk chicken or pork, served with rice and peas, sweet potatoes or yam. Although there are thousands of ‘jerk centres’ at almost every crossroads or street corner, one of the best places to go is Scotchies, a simple thatched-roof joint on the outskirts of Montego Bay, where customers rub shoulders at rustic tables opening tin foil parcels of tasty jerk chicken or fish washed down with a Red Stripe beer. Around the back, rows of chickens are splayed flat and sizzle in jerk marinade over a low fire of pimento wood that introduces a strong distinctive smoky flavour to the meat. Like most places, the recipe for jerk sauce at Scotchies is a closely guarded secret, but they usually contain peppers, onions, pimento, ginger and chilli.
Lobster Supper – Prince Edward Island / CANADA
Only 224 kilometres from tip-to-tip, Prince Edward Island (PEI) is Canada’s tiniest province, but still manages to punch above its weight in the culinary world thanks to its abundance of local seafood such as oysters, mussels and particularly, lobster. A 'lobster supper,' consisting of lobster, potato salad and crusty rolls, held in dining halls and churches throughout the island, is the classic island dining experience you shouldn’t miss, and one of the most renowned places is St Ann’s (lobstersuppers.com). Established in 1964 by Father Denis Gallant, the dinners at St Ann’s began as a modest way to help pay off the mortgage on the new church, and 50 years later the non-profit outfit is still going strong.
Burger & Fries – New York/ USA
Burger and fries are as much a part of New York as Times Square and the Statue of Liberty. Whether you want to keep things classic with beef, bacon or cheese or go for something more exotic like free-range ostrich or bison, the city has burgers for every taste with a diverse range of places from historic to hip. Located inside the elegant foyer of the swanky Le Parker Meridian Hotel, the Burger Joint (burgerjointny.com) is no ordinary burger establishment. Before it even opens at 11am a line of customers start to gather down a dimly-lit corridor, where only a simple neon hamburger sign indicates what lies beyond. On the other side of some velvet curtains is a windowless room, with posters of Sex and the City and The Sopranos adorning graffiti-strewn walls above leatherette booths, where you can enjoy the uncomplicated menu of burgers (from USD5.74), fries (USD3.90) and milkshakes (USD5.97).