You’ll Never Have The Chance Again: 5 Must Try Foods

Extras — By on July 6, 2012 at 12:24 pm

By Amanda King
Special to Lost Girls

After years of travel (and more than 30 countries) I’m convinced that music is not the universal language – it’s food. How else could a sarcastic Manhattan chef have a travel show running for so many years? (Other than the fact that Anthony Bourdain is awesome?)

It’s food. What people in different countries eat, how they eat, where and when; we find it endlessly interesting. Sit down to a table with locals and enjoy their cuisine? Without a doubt, it’s the fastest way to become their best friend. And while every place that I’ve been has good food, there are some foods that you just can’t pass up when you travel. Always try the local dessert.

Belgian Fries

Belgium is a food lovers paradise because of the trifecta of gastronomy that is present: beer, fries and waffles. When traveling to this tiny European country, though, it is not the waffles that I would recommend trying first; it is the fries.

“French fries” are not actually French; “to french” was an old term that meant “to cut into sticks.” If you want to try the best fries in the world, then, live off the fries in Belgium – and don’t be afraid to try them the Belgian way with mayonnaise and meat sauce.

Portuguese Pastries

Alas, while I was in Portugal I did not get to the famous Pasteis de Belem, but I believe I had some of the best pastries I’ve ever had in my life in Portugal.

The pastel de nata is what particularly drew my attention (and filled my belly). Sugar, cinnamon, and some sort of amazing egg custard all whipped up into a flaky pastry cup made the perfect breakfast.

There’s some sort of folklore that the reason why so many Portuguese pastries have egg yolk in them. Apparently it is because (according to these tales) the nuns would stiffen their habits with egg whites, and they needed something to do with all the extra yolk. Whatever stroke of genius brought the Portuguese to create the pastel de nata, I’m grateful.

Swedish Meatballs

Expected as this may be, you’ve never really had Swedish meatballs until you’ve tried them in Sweden with lingonberry sauce. While you may not find that the combination is familiar to your palate, it’s something that you should really try. Go big or go home, right? (And when else are you going to be in Sweden? Seize any opportunity when it presents itself).

An honorable mention, as you should always try dessert wherever you may find youself – the punschrulle (also known by the slang term of “vacuum cleaner.” Yes, really).

San Gimignano’s Saffron Gelato

Gelato is made pretty much everywhere in Europe. Most already know (or assume) that Italy makes the best gelato. While this may be true, pockets of genius in the gelato world do exist.

One of these bastions of amazing gelato is the Pluripremiata Gelateria in the lovely walled town of San Gimignano. It has seven years since I’ve been to Italy, and I was quite poor at recording my experiences, but to this day, I still remember the saffron gelato that I had in San Gimignano.

The way that I would describe this unusual flavor would be “the most intense, rich, and creamy vanilla you’ve ever had.” So go try it.

Chinese Street Food

I could write an entire article on the foods that you should try in China – from hot pot to the spicy Sichuan cuisine, or the more Northern three treasures dish (and maybe I should). China, though, is one of those countries defined by their foods; a standard greeting to friends is “你吃了吗” or “Have you eaten yet?”

China is a vast, ancient country, with rich food traditions. My advice, then, to intrepid Chinese travelers: get breakfast off of the street. Jiaozi or baozi – dumplings – are a great way to start off your morning, and there are endless varieties.

If you find something you like on the street, but don’t know how to communicate, don’t be afraid to point longingly and look like you’re asking a question. The vendors will understand what you mean. Everyone understands food, after all.
Local food may not give you an entire picture of a community with a single bite, but the richness and flavors in any given dish tells a story all it’s own. Sit down and a local restaurant and venture out of your comfort zone when traveling. Don’t chain yourself to names you know, or even worse, your hotel.

Get out and discover new tastes!