One of the best things that travelling gives you is the chance to discover, taste and probably develop a liking for various cuisines. Your trip to anywhere in the world does not seem complete until you have tried some local dishes. To whet your appetite, here’s a look at some of the must-try dishes in a few of the top favourite destinations around the world.
Fly me to Bali
Australians love to go to Bali because it is home to some of the friendliest folks in Southeast Asia. It is rich in culture and history and the landscape is just this side of fantastic. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find something to see and do. It is fairly close to Australia, the food is great, the shopping is greater and you will definitely get the value for your money. The warungs, or the small roadside food houses in Bali are some of the best sources of these five local delicacies that you should try.
• Nasi Goreng or Indonesian fried rice. This is served everywhere but the Balinese version is fresher, tastier and filling. The fried rice has meat and vegetable seasoned with soy sauce and chili paste. A fried egg tops the serving, together with fresh cucumber slices and prawn crackers.
• Nasi Campu. Wanna try a smorgasbord plate? Nasi Campur is a combination of one cupful of steamed rice served with several dishes, which is quite an adventure because every Nasi Campur comes with different dishes. You can get cucumbers and vegetable curry, satay, tempe (caked soybeans), fried tofu and grilled chicken. It also comes with a serving of sambal, to turn up the spiciness a notch.
• Sate Lillit. This is specially delightful and flavourful. This unique dish in Bali consists of minced seafood or minced meat, mixed with bumbu Bali (Balinese spice paste) and other aromatic spices. The mix is molded into balls, pushed onto lemongrass stalks or wooden skewers and grilled.
• Gado-gado. This dish does not look appetizing but it is a wonderful dish, a salad of boiled vegetables and sliced fried tofu with a hearty topping of peanut sauce. Vegetables may include bean sprouts, corn, garlic, string beans and blanched cabbage. Fresh cucumbers, sliced boiled potatoes and sliced hard-boiled egg complete the dish. The peanut sauce is delish – made with shrimp paste, lime, tamarind water, sugar and ground fried peanuts.
• Babi Guling. This is roasted suckling pig with spices and chilli. The spiciness level of this dish is quite high. A serving consists of chopped portion of the roasted pig, fried intestine, pork satay, blood sausage and crackling. It is also accompanied by a serving of lawar, an original dish from Bali which is a mix of minced meat, vegetables and coconut made richer by the addition of spices and selected herbs. The best warungs that serve this dish are Pak Malen at Sunset Road and Warung Ibu Oka, located in Ubud.
Thailand is dubbed the “Land of Smiles” because of its friendly and welcoming people. It is one of the top destinations in Asia, mainly due to its beaches and its scrumptious food. Of course there’s the convenience, affordability, the scenic landscape and bargain shopping to add to the list. Speaking of food, here are some dishes that you must try at least once while you are visiting Thailand, specifically, Bangkok. These are available from restaurants, roadside food houses and even vendors.
• Chicken in Coconut Milk Soup (Tom Kha Gai). This dish is very distinct, with the use of several Thai herbs and coconut milk giving the chicken and straw mushroom soup a very flavourful taste. The main Thai seasonings such as fish sauce, lime and chili are tempered by the addition of coconut milk.
• Green Chicken Curry (Gaeng Keaw Wan Gai). Curry is one of the dishes Thailand is known for. Green curry is less hot, as fresh green chillies are used. It has the perfect balance of spiciness and sweetness, blended with the saltiness of the fish sauce and the rich sweet taste of fresh coconut milk and palm sugar. You can eat this with Kanom Jeen (noodles) or steamed rice.
• Thai Style Fried Rice Noodle (Pad Thai). This is one of the most authentic of Thai cuisines, and uses only fresh ingredients. Its flavour comes from the careful blending of Thai sauces. The original version of the dish contains stir-fried noodles together with tofu, shrimp, bean sprouts, red chillies, tamarind juice, fish sauce and eggs. Chopped coriander and crushed peanuts are used for topping.
• Spicy prawn soup (Tom Yum Goong). This is Thailand’s signature dish. A very hearty spicy and sour soup with full-bodied flavours. Fish sauce, lime, chillies and special soup paste are just some of the flavours you’ll encounter when you have this dish. The main ingredient is fresh prawns combined with several types of mushrooms. Some have other seafood and fish. The broth is cooked with galangal, shallots, lemon grass, lime or lemon, tamarind, chillies, and kaffir lime leaves.
Book flights to Paris
France has plenty of iconic buildings and monuments. It is also the location of the Louvre, one of the most famous galleries in the world. French culture is truly different, and its fashion avant-garde. It is also a place where you can have such a gastronomic adventure. Here are some food’s you should try.
• Breads. The French make delicious bread, which you can find anywhere. You should try some baguette’s and slather it with your favourite spread or topping or eat it as it. You should also have some pain au chocolat (try the one from Angelina Patisserie), any type of puff-pastry from Eric Keyser, or splurge a bit for an order of St. Honore Pastry, available from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s Cake Shop.
• Parisian chocolates. Who can say no to chocolates? When in Paris, seek out the stores of Jacques Genin, Jean-Charles Rochoux and Patrick Roger for some of these melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
• Cheese. Paris makes a variety of cheeses and the ones from Laurent Dubois may be the best. He is MOF-certified. This honor, Meilleur Ouvrier de France, is the highest honor given to a French culinary professional. The shop can vacuum-seal the cheeses so you can take them home.
• Escargot. Escargot is a dish that you should try because it is something that is definitely French. The best place to have this special dish is at the top snail restaurant in Paris, the L’Escargot Montorgueil.
• Bouillabaisse. This hearty and savoury fish stew is perhaps one of the signature dishes in France and the best restaurants specialising in bouillabaisse are found in Marseilles. Check out Chez Michel, Chez Fonfon and Chez Aldo.
Book your flights to this beautiful island here!
Hawaii has perfect weather, well, maybe not for the whole year, but most part of the year. The beaches are glorious, the scenery spectacular and the allure of the swaying palms mimicked by the swaying hips of the hula dancers make visiting the island paradise called Hawaii very irresistible. Most of the food are freshly caught from the sea, although there are some that are local concoctions and cannot be found anywhere else.
• Loco moco. It’s a local dish, concocted by very hungry students. It’s a mock-
burger, using white rice topped with beef patty and slathered with brown gravy. Over it is one fried egg. You can have it at Da Kitchen if you are in Maui or at theNori’s Saimin & Snacks in Hilo.
• Plate lunch. For those who want to have a taste of several things at once, order the plate lunch. It’s a common labourer’s lunch, but hey, who’s complaining? One serving consists of one cup of rice, one small cup of macaroni salad or green salad, breaded chicken cutlet (chicken katsu), tonkatsu sauce, prawns or pork wrapped in taro leaves (laulau).
• Kalua pig. This is a very succulent dish that consists of smoky and very tender pork. A whole pig is cooked in a traditional earth oven (imu) with hot stones for several hours. Several whole banana leaves cover the pit to prevent the heat from escaping. Several places in Honolulu serve this dish. Try Helena’s Hawaiian Food, Young’s Fish Market, Yama’s Fish Market, Haili’s Hawaiian Foods and Bob’s Bar B Que.
• Poke. This is like ceviche or sashimi, Hawaiian style. Bite-sized pieces of octopus, salmon or raw tuna are marinated in ground kukui nuts, scallions, chilli peppers, sesame oil, and shōyu.
• Malasadas. This is a quick sweet snack that you will enjoy. It’s Portuguese doughnut rolled in sugar and stuffed with white chocolate and dipped in caramel or filled with guava jam. Afterwards you might want to have some colourful and flavour-filled shaved ice from Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice if you are in Maui or from Matsumoto Shave Ice in Oahu’s North Shore.
Book your flights to Greece here!
Familiarity could be one of the reasons why many people are drawn to Greece. There are the Greek philosophers, the mythical gods and goddesses, the Acropolis and the Parthenon. The weather in Greece is great throughout the year, the beaches are fantastic and the scenery stunning. Or maybe it’s the food. Here are five must-try dishes.
• Greek Salad and Feta Cheese. Eat healthy and hearty. This is a great dish. You have salad greens, tomatoes, onions, olives, cucumbers and crumbled feta cheese. It’s just delicious, especially when you have Tzatziki, which goes well with almost anything. Tzatziki is a Greek cucumber and yogurt dip.
• Gyros (souvlaki). You can find it all over Greece. It’s lunch, snack or dinner, if you like. It is that filling. It’s like taco, but served on pita bread with fresh salad, grilled meat and tzatziki. Get some at Harokopou Street in Athens, Arachova in Petroupoli Square or at Thanassis on Mitropoleos Street, Monastiraki.
• Lamb Skewers. There are plenty of lambs in Greece so it is no wonder that the country will have several lamb-based dishes, such as the juicy and succulent lamb skewers that you can get from street vendors, in restaurants and other food outlets. Or you might go for the mouth-wateringly tender grilled lamb chops.
• Moussaka. Its name alone sounds very Mediterranean. This is an iconic baked dish in Greece – layers of sautéed aubergine, flavour-rich ground lamb lightly sautéed with puréed or chopped tomatoes, garlic, onion, black pepper, allspice and cinnamon, potato slices topped with Béchamel sauce and grated cheese. Try it at Aleka’s Taverna near the Acropolis.
• Fresh fish. You can never go wrong with fresh fish caught in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. You do not need much with a dish like this. Have it grilled or steamed whole and drizzled with lemon and olive oil dressing (ladholemono).
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What’s not to like in Italy? It’s got gorgeous beaches, plenty of history, some of the best artworks in the world, sumptuous cuisine, fine red wines, thermal spas and long days of sunshine. Here’s five food you should try before you leave Italy.
• Pizza Margherita. It looks so simple and ordinary compared to what you are used to, but Pizza Margherita is historic. It was invented in 1889, commissioned by the Royal Palace. It’s the combination of secret (family) sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil that makes this a very eye-popping, completely filling and oh, so delizioso! If you are in Naples, get some at Da Michele on Via Sersale or at Brandi on Salita S.Anna di Palazzo.
• Gelato. Gelatarias are ubiquitous in Italy. It’s sheer bliss to have a gelato on a hot day. And you might not run out of flavors to try before leaving Italy.
• Pasta Carbonara. Outside of Italy, Carbonara is usually made with a creamy sauce. In Italy cream is not part of the sauce. Instead, it is made with white and romano wine, egg and bacon over spaghetti noodles or rigatoni. When in Rome, drop by Da Danilo or Da Enzo.
• Roman Meals. If you are after a bit of everything, try the “Turista menu” that is composed of four to five courses (it varies per restaurant). You are likely to get an antipasto, primo or your choice of pasta, meat plus a side dish (secondo), dessert (dolce) or something to drink. Walking is recommended after such a heavy meal.
• Fritti. Crunchy deep fried food without the chips, this is what fritti is. It’s a great to-go food that you can have in Rome. It could be battered salt cod (baccala) or zucchini flowers (fiori di zucca) or maybe seafood. You can also have the fried rice balls or suppli`. Get them at Fish Market or Da Enzo at Trastevere or at 00100 in Testaccio.
Book your flights to Portugal here!
Portugal’s Atlantic coastline is stunning. It is cheaper to go to Portugal than in any other European city. Portuguese food is sumptuous and some even argue that it is better than Spanish food. The cities are compact so you see much more of its stunning array of museums, landmarks, architectural wonders and other sights. Plus, the weather is glorious and you can easily converse in English. What to eat in Portugal? Here are some of the food you must try.
• Bacalhau. This is Portugal’s signature dish, made from salt cod. There are many ways to prepare the fish and each one of them is delicious. The fish itself is flavourful and it seems that there are as many as 365 ways to cook bacalhau. Visit Casa do Bacalhau and order a plate of bacalhau a bras, which is stir fried cod, rice, onions and scrambled egg, with black olives for garnish.
• Pasteis de Belem. These are little custard tarts, served warm with a dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon. It’s been around for more than 200 years and you can get the original from the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem.
• Sardines. You might have heard of Portuguese sardines (in cans). In Portugal you can have them fresh with their natural oils intact. Grilled fresh sardines (sardinhas assadas) is a specialty in Algarve where it is caught. Place a grilled fish on crusty bread and munch away.
• Chorizo Bread. It’s chewy bread baked with slices of chorizo, its oils infusing the bread with additional flavour. The Moinho do Outeiro windmill bakery in Sesimbra bakes them with flour ground the traditional way.
• Clams Algarve-style. In Australia cockles are plentiful but they are not generally eaten. This seafood stew is oozing with flavours, cooked in its own juices and lemons, with (optional) slices of spicy sausage. It is a great appetizer, usually cooked using cockles, clams or donax harvested from the fertile, fresh seawater lagoons in Algarve. Coriander, garlic and olive oil are its main seasonings.
Book your flights to Spain now!
Spain is an art center, where the Museo del Prado is found. It has eternal sunshine, a variety of festivals, great food and offers plenty of adventures. It has a long history, great culture and tradition and quite affordable. Here are some of the food you simply must try at least once when in Spain.
• Paella. This is a quintessential favourite. But eating paella in Valencia is still the best experience. Try the Paella Valenciana which is composed of beans, white rice, rabbit, chicken and duck meat, land snails, vegetables and spices or the Seafood Paella, which is made with various seafood, rice, saffron and seasonings or have them all together in Paella Mixta. Get paella in Restaurant Levante or La Pepica, which used to be a favourite haunt of Ernest Hemingway.
• Gazpacho. If you are anywhere in Andalusia, give gazpacho a try. It could be a stew, salad or a warm or cold soup but the main ingredients are the same –cucumber, tomatoes, garlic, onions, wine vinegar, salt and olive oil.
• Crema Catalana. When you reach Barcelona, do not miss having some Crema Catalana. While many think this is a Spanish version of Crème Brule, a smart foodie will spot the little differences. It is served cold usually and its custard is infused with cinnamon and lemon rind instead of vanilla.
• Gambas Ajillo (Garlic Prawns). Imagine biting into some fresh and succulent large prawns cooked in olive oil, chilli flakes and plenty of garlic – that’s how gambas ajillo should be.
• Jamon Iberico. Madrid is the best place to have this thin slices of authentic Spanish ham, which is known and prized worldwide. Jamon Iberico is cured for three to four years, using only mainly black Iberian pigs according to standards.
• Tortilla Española. This is a Spanish omelette. The Spanish version is made with eggs and potatoes and quite thick, it’s like a pie. It may sound boring but wait until you have a taste of this, which is staple fare anywhere you go in Spain.
Book your flights now to magical Morocco here!
Morocco has a bit of everything. It’s got the Sahara Desert, several mountains for hiking and trekking, astounding beaches, some of the world’s finest leather products, ancient history and flavourful and aromatic dishes that you might not find anywhere else. Here are a few street foods.
• B’ssara. Get a taste of something hearty, with a bowl of hot fava bean soup cooked with tons of garlic and served with a swirl of lemon-infused olive oil and a dusting of cumin. Best eaten with some crusty bread.
• Tajine. Everywhere you look you’ll be able to see this clay cooking pot with a conical lid. This is used to make a variety of dishes, one of which is also called tajine, a type of stew made with meat, fish or poultry together with slices of fruits and vegetables. It’s the blending of herbs and spices such as cinnamon, turmeric, saffron, cumin and ginger that makes this a very unique Moroccan dish.
• Fish chermoula. There’s plenty of fish caught in the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts of Morocco. Chermoula is a special marinade used to flavour seafood or fish. It is made with various herbs, lemon juice, spices and salt and also used as a dipping sauce after the fish has been grilled over open coals.
• Makouda. In Marrackech, find the Djemaa el-Fna square where you will find some of the best Makouda. These are small deep-fried potato balls that you dip in harissa sauce, which could be spicy, so beware.
• B’stilla. This is a pie that represents Fassi cuisine. Underneath the layers of flaky and thin pastry you will find a savoury filling of eggs, pigeon meat, fresh coriander, almonds, cinnamon and saffron. As if that was not enough, it is served dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar.
Book your flights to Brazil here!
A great combination of nature and adventure is what you get in Brazil, a South American country where the official language is Portuguese. It’s a fun-loving country with several festivals, a young population and a whole load of places to visit and things to savour. The street food in Brazil is something that you should not miss, because there is such a wide variety, with a cacophony of flavours.
• Acarajé. The best of this back-eyes peas fritters are in Bahia. The fritters are deep fried until golden, split in half and filled with a spicy and thick paste of okra, cashews and cassava, fried shrimp and a salad of cilantro, onions and tomatoes. It’s not easy getting all of the ingredients into that small ball. It is then topped with hot sauce made from vinegar-and-oil-soaked malagueta peppers.
• Coxinhas. You will find these anywhere in the streets of Brazil but you can also order it from a restaurant. These are crispy fried soft dough filled with cheese and shredded chicken that has been well-seasoned.
• Acai. After all the spicy and fried food that you’ve eaten, soothe your palate with this sorbet, which may be topped with fruit and granola if you order it from a restaurant.
• Feijoada. This is considered as the national dish of Brazil. Feijoada is a stew of black beans, sausage, pork and beef, served in specialty restaurants throughout Brazil.
• Mandioca Frita. This is the Brazilian version of French fries, using manioc root, a plant native to Brazil. It resembles yucca and can be baked, fried or boiled once peeled. Most restaurant and hotel menus feature this dish.