Virginia Woolf once said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” She was right. Food is more than just nourishment, it’s the glue that holds society together. No matter which country you find yourself in, food is the common thread that joins communities.
We’ve scoured the globe to find the best dishes available, so you may want to pack your bags and finally take that big trip. From fragrant curries to staples of American cuisine, you won’t be able to make it through this without salivating. Bon Appetit!
Vietnamese pho is a bowl of soupy, flavored goodness that will chase your worries away. The broth-type dish typically contains a plethora of herbs and spices such as chili, pepper, cilantro, cinnamon, and star anise. These are mixed with stock, beef, bean sprouts, and noodles to create a surprisingly versatile dish.
The recipe has been around for centuries and can be found in any restaurant or bustling street market. It’s inexpensive to make and to buy, and if it tickles your taste buds you can even try recreating it at home. It probably won’t be quite the same, though.
The Greeks don’t get nearly enough credit for their cuisine as their neighbors the Italians do. Spanakopita, aka spinach pie, is one of the most popular savory dishes the Mediterranean country has to offer. It’s a staple in the many bakeries you’ll find on every corner.
Made with feta cheese, thin layers of filo pastry, and onions, it offers up a hearty bite at a surprisingly cheap cost. Plus, it can be eaten hot or cold, making it the perfect takeaway snack. Its origins are difficult to trace, but it’s thought that this particular dish is around 400 years old.
Marzipan (Cafe Niederegger, Lubeck, Germany)
If you’ve got a sweet tooth there’s no better place than Cafe Niederegger in Lubeck, Germany. Pastry chef Johann Georg Niederegger founded the enterprise in 1806, helping his marzipan become world-famous. To this day, tourists and locals flock to the sweet cafe to enjoy a taste of their freshly made treats.
Their marzipan comes in a plethora of flavors all fit for royalty. Interestingly, marzipan originated in Italy, but this German store is thought to have some of the best in the entire world — and that’s a pretty tough act to follow, isn’t it? Wash it down with a slice of their cake, while you’re at it.
Indian food is one of the most popular foreign cuisines in other countries around the world. There are dozens of incredible dishes to choose from, but our eye falls on the underappreciated dosa. These pancakes are made from lentil and rice batter and often stuffed with different vegetables, herbs and spices.
They’re popular in almost every town or city, thanks in part to their affordability and ease. A dosa takes mere minutes to make, so it’s great if you’re looking for a flavorful bite to go. For the real deal, visit one of the many street markets in New Delhi or Mumbai.
Reuben Sandwich (United States)
The Reuben sandwich has surpassed mere food level notoriety to become a pop-culture staple in America. While its history is largely disputed (some attribute its creation to Reuben Kulakofsky while others say it was Arnold Reuben), one thing not up for discussion is how good this thing tastes.
Different eateries do different versions of the colossal meat-filled snack, including the above pictured Reuben from Salt & Grinder in Denver. Often filled with copious amounts of pastrami, pickles, and sauerkraut, a Reuben ticks all the boxes, be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner! New Yorkers are especially fond of this hunk of munch.
Crepes (Paris, France)
Paris is one of the food capitals of the world. Escargot, hot chocolate, French onion soup – this place put them all on the map. One of its unsung heroes is the simple crepe. Street vendors selling the wafer-thin pancakes can be found at almost every tourist hotspot. There are several outside Notre Dame cathedral alone.
The best thing about grabbing one of these buttery street snacks is how adaptable they are. Vendors are quick to make them fresh in front of you and offer a variety of sweet or savory options to tantalize your taste buds, including Nutella or cheese.
Pizza (Sorbillo, Naples, Italy)
Why travel to Naples to get a slice of pizza when you can pick up the phone and call Dominos? Believe us when we say it’s worth the journey. Naples is the birthplace of the cheese-covered dough so if you want to see it done right, you’ve got to head to Italy.
One of the most popular pizzerias is Sorbillo, but be prepared to queue for 1-2 hours. Even the locals frequent, which is a sure sign of quality. These individually made-to-order circles sent from God are the be-all and end-all for pizza fans. You haven’t tasted heaven until you’ve had pizza in Naples.
If you ever find yourself traipsing through Greece with an empty stomach and a couple of spare euros, there’s only one place you want to go. Most towns and cities have several gyro stores. Sliced kebab meat paired with a variety of fillings, ranging from fries to bacon, is wrapped in thick pita bread.
It’s the stuff food comas are made off and definitely isn’t for those with a weak constitution, but it tastes delicious. The flavor of the slow-roasted meat alongside the carb-heavy side ingredients makes for a happy, full, and contented traveler. Just make sure you take a nap afterward.
Poutine (Quebec, Canada)
Poutine might sound a little weird to those who haven’t encountered it before. After all, fries, gravy, and cheese aren’t typically seen on the same plate – unless you’re in Canada, of course. The national delicacy first originated in Quebec in the 1950s before becoming a countrywide craze.
This is definitely a don’t-knock-it-until-you’ve-tried-it scenario. You can find eateries across the country serving up various forms of the famous dish, from gourmet restaurants to street vendors. You can’t go to the Great White North without getting a serving of this filling, yet surprisingly tasty carb overload.
Raw fish isn’t for everyone, but for the more adventurous foodie, it doesn’t get much better than poke. Either served as an appetizer or as a main course, it’s one of Hawaii’s most popular native dishes. Most of the time chefs use tuna, but octopus, salmon, and other variations often surface across the globe.
Depending on where you go, you can find the fish mixed with avocado, cilantro, sriracha, pineapple, cucumber, and more. Some diners may be reluctant to try it at first but they’re the ones missing out on this flavor explosion that’s stood the test of time quite nicely.
Cockles (London, England)
Not everything that’s tasty always looks appealing to the eye. Cockles are a small type of shellfish that have been popular in London for centuries. The teeny tiny fish are often pickled, giving them a tart taste. While they are available in other countries, parts of London’s East End once relied on them as an affordable way to feed the family.
Cockles have a delicate flavor so pairing them has to be done carefully so as to not overpower them. Ask a Londoner where to get the best cockles from and they’ll likely point you in the direction of Borough Market.
Crab Cake Grilled Cheese Sandwich (Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, United States)
We love crab cakes. We love grilled cheese. Put them together and what do you get? This utterly insane sandwich from the good people at Murrells Inlet in South Carolina. This glorious invention is stuffed with mac and cheese — and crab cakes.
Is it a staple food of any nation? Absolutely not. It’s a heinous creation that should’ve never seen the light of day — but that’s what makes it so utterly brilliant. It’s two worlds colliding between slices of fluffy white bread. If South Carolina wasn’t on your bucket list, it sure is now.
French Toast (Hong Kong)
Don’t let the name fool you, Hong Kong’s French Toast is nothing like the version found in diners across the United States. This Chinese snack takes two pieces of bread, smothers them in peanut butter or jam and soaks them in egg batter before sticking it in the deep fat fryer and letting the magic happen.
The result is an incredibly rich mound of breaded gold, served with lashes of syrup and butter. The late celebrity chef and foodie Anthony Bourdain (pictured) attested to its benefits on one of his shows. That’s a stamp of approval if we ever saw one.
Irish Stew (Ireland)
Irish people may love their Guinness, but they’re also partial to some good eating. Irish stew is a simple fare that usually consists of root vegetables and beef in a well-seasoned stock. This recipe goes all the way back to before the Potato Famine.
In the throws of poverty, Irish families often had to take what they could get and make a meal out of it for large Catholic broods. When seasoned right, this stew can be fit for a king. Traditionally it’s served in winter, but it’s great any time of year – especially if you’ve got a tipple or two to wash it down with!
Pie, Mash & Jellied Eels (Manze’s, London, England)
Don’t recoil at the very mention of jellied eels. Sure, the thought brings to mind something pretty slimy and unpalatable, but the reality is quite different. Pie and mash has long since been a staple of British cuisine, but Manze’s know how to do it better than anyone.
Michele Manze established the quaint restaurant in 1902, making it the oldest eatery of its kind in London. Customers can tuck into a plate of pie and mash with a side of jellied eels in gorgeous Victorian surroundings. The richness of the eels coupled with light, fluffy mash potato, and hearty pie isn’t to be sniffed at.
Pasta Puttanesca (Naples, Italy)
If pizza alone isn’t a big enough incentive to go to Naples, then how about pasta puttanesca? This translates roughly to “Tart’s Pasta.” Anchovies, capers, and olives are all mixed together in a tomato sauce for a tangy, salty treat that will leave you reeling.
One Italian food historian named Segan says the dish got its name from the “pungent aroma” rising from the saucepan. Don’t let that put you off — this is a dish not to be missed!
Pastel de Nata (Lisbon, Portugal)
Portugal knows how to do a sweet treat justice. Pastel de Natas are extremely popular pastries that can be found all over Lisbon and beyond. Made from egg custard and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, they’re typically served in cafes with a piping hot espresso.
They’re an important feather in the cap of any self-respecting Portuguese chef. On a good day, a cafe can sell dozens of these moreish morsels to tourists and locals alike. Some eateries, like Nata’s Cafe (pictured), base their entire business around Pastel de Natas. It’s certainly worth the risk if the taste is anything to go by!
Rendang is a beautifully poignant and flavorful dish hailing from Indonesia. Typically, beef or chicken is simmered in coconut milk with a mixture of lemongrass, galangal, garlic, turmeric, ginger, and chilies. The chef can then leave the fragrant mix to stew for some time before serving.
Eating it straight away is enough to send any food lover into a blissful coma, but some believe that leaving it to stew overnight is the real secret ingredient. Marinade anything for long enough and it’s tastiness multiplies tenfold. Why not try both on a trip to Indonesia? You only live once.
Massaman Curry (Thailand)
If you like your curry with a hint of coconut and a large dollop of tradition, then look no further than Thailand’s massaman curry. Noted for its clash of sweet and savory, many enthusiasts cite this dish as being the best of the best.
This versatile meal can be made with anything you like, be it beef, tofu, or chicken. The secret is in the sauce, which can’t be imitated by off-the-shelf versions (although some of them do the job in a pinch.) Venture to The Land of Smiles and leave with a huge grin after chowing down on a bowl of massaman.
Squid (Chinese New Year Market, Taipei, Taiwan)
Squid is a delicacy in many parts of the world, including the Mediterranean. Across the water in Asia, it’s also equally loved. A must-visit spot is the Chinese New Year Market in Taipei, Taiwan. For two weeks leading up to the holiday, Dihua Street is filled with vendors selling all sorts of gorgeous food.
Dried or fried squid is one of the most popular things offered. People buy it by the pound, gorging on its deep-fried deliciousness. Squid is popular in all of its various forms, from fresh to shredded. We wouldn’t have it any other way.