The big bite: National dishes you need to try
One of the greatest pleasures of travelling is sampling all of the wonderful cuisines along the way.
No matter where in the world you are, we advise you to get stuck in and try as many local dishes as possible. From local delicacies to national dishes, sample it all, you’ll only regret it if you don’t.
We’ve devised a list of the best dishes from around the world and the best regions for you to try them.
Try Jerk Chicken in Jamaica
Jerk refers to a way in which an ingredient is cooked; this could be chicken, beef, pork, goat, fish or vegetables. This typical style of cooking uses a marinade or paste, formed of allspice (called pimento in Jamaica), scotch bonnet peppers and maybe a few family secrets, depending on the creator's recipe. The meat or vegetables are coated in the marinade and left to soak up all the lovely spices for a couple of hours or overnight, and then the meat is slow cooked to perfection.
Jerk Chicken is readily available throughout the beautiful Caribbean island; you’ll find jerk huts tucked away in the most unusual places, so much so that you’re likely to smell the chicken before you see it. Jerk Chicken is usually served with rice and peas, a combination of rice and a type of legume such as kidney beans, pigeon peas or cowpeas. The peas are traditionally boiled with allspice and garlic until tender; they are then seasoned with salt and pepper, scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, grated ginger and coconut milk. Lastly, the rice is added and left to simmer until cooked.
Jerk Chicken and Rice & Peas is the perfect lazy afternoon lunch.
Try Sushi in Tokyo
The history of sushi is a long one, at least, 1,800 years old in fact. Originally, sushi arose because it was a way of preserving food; fresh fish was placed in rice, and whilst the rice fermented the fish remained fresh.
Today, there are around 5,000 sushi restaurants in Tokyo, so you really are spoiled for choice. The Japanese rolls you’ll come across are commonly done in the traditional manner, which is to serve them with the nori (seaweed) wrapped on the outside of the roll. You’re probably more familiar with the rice being on the outside, which was tailored for the Western World. Throughout Tokyo, you’re likely to find Sashimi (fresh, raw meat or fish sliced into thin pieces) rather than rolls. Fleshy, meaty fish such as salmon or tuna are commonly used for Sashimi, which is then served with a hint of wasabi on a bed of rice.
There’s no better lunchtime treat than a plate of fresh, hand-crafted sushi, whilst you watch the world go by.
Try Paella in Valencia, Spain
Valencia is the undisputed home of paella, so head here for the ultimate taste of Spain. Originally known as farmers and farm labourer’s food, paella has very humble beginnings. Workers would often cook paella over a wood fire. They’d start the paella off with rice, and then they’d add anything which they could get their hands on, for example, tomatoes, onions, beans or snails. On special occasions rabbit, chicken or duck would be added to the dish. With Valencia being home to one of the world’s largest natural ports, it’s no surprise that as paella evolved, seafood soon crept into the mix.
Today, you can find absolutely anything in paella from mussels to prawns, chorizo sausage to chicken; paella is best enjoyed with good friends and amazing wine.
Try a monstrous burger in America
There have been many claims about the origin of the mighty hamburger, although America isn’t necessarily the home of the pattie, it’s the perfect place to get your hands on one. Deciding on where the best place to get a burger is difficult, as it all depends on what you want. Whether you want a cheap eat or a gourmet bun, you’re guaranteed to get a meaty experience like no other. You can find standard cheeseburgers everywhere, however, why not be tempted by some of their burgers which boast meaty extras such as pastrami, pulled pork or chilli con carne – America does have some of the best cattle in the world! Do be assured that wherever you go you’ll be presented with a burger of monstrous proportion.
Whilst you’re over there don’t forget the sides! Double or triple up on carbs as no one will bat an eyelid at your added extras such as chilli cheese fries, sweet potato fries, mac and cheese or onion rings. The sides are just as important to the burger so go all out and order something truly eye-watering.
America is definitely the place to go and just pig out.
Try Pho in Vietnam
You cannot absolutely cannot go to Hanoi without trying Pho (noodle soup). Pho is considered the national dish of Vietnam as it’s a reflection of its culture and history. The history of Pho is a little hazy, but what people do agree on is that Pho started out in the region of Hanoi in the late 1880s.
A hearty dish that packs a punch, Pho is a noddle soup which is traditionally made with beef or chicken broth which is flavoured with a variety of spices and topped with various herbs. Proteins such as beef, chicken or fish are also added to Pho along with crunchy bean sprouts. Recipe variations differ tremendously, so much so that no two recipes are exactly the same, so whilst you’re in Vietnam, try as many variations as you can.
Pho should be enjoyed slowly; take your time, appreciate the flavours of the stock, the rice noodles and the texture that the bean sprouts which really bring the whole dish together.
Try a Carbonara in Rome
It’s believed that the origin of our favourite pasta dish is Rome. Theorists say that the dish was made in the Apennine Mountains by woodcutters. The woodcutters would cook the dish over hardwood charcoal fire and use penne pasta rather than spaghetti as it was easier to toss with the eggs and cheese.
If you’re heading to Rome then this is one dish you absolutely need to try to get an authentic taste of Italy. The Romans like to keep a carbonara simple; pancetta, pecorino cheese and the freshest of eggs – with a dish like this you don’t need anything else the food really does speak for itself.
With an obsession with the freshest, seasonal ingredients, Rome is a vibrant city where food and dining is paramount to leading a healthy, happy life. Italians are generally known to take their time over their meals – they savour every mouthful and enjoy the company of the people they’re dining with, so follow suit.
Carbonara is best served with a large glass of wine on a late sunny afternoon.
Try Pad Thai in Thailand
You cannot go to Thailand and escape Pad Thai; this stir-fried dish is on the menu of practically every street food vendor or casual eatery. Whilst the ingredients create a complex flavouring, a street vendor can whip up a delicious plate of noodles in no time at all.
Some believe that Pad Thai is of Chinese origin, made popular in World War II the stir-fried noodles have since become a Thai national dish. Made from dried rice noodles which are stir-fried with eggs, tofu and flavoured with tamarind pulp, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic, shallots, red chilli pepper and palm sugar which is served with a lime wedge and chopped roasted peanuts. You can also add fresh prawns, squid, chicken or any other proteins to the dish to enhance its flavour. A large plate of Pad Thai could cost you as little at £0.80p from street vendors.
There’s no better way to enjoy this dish than whilst wondering around outdoor markets or taking in the sites.
Try a curry in India
Curries vary tremendously throughout the Indian Subcontinent, from the variations of spices to the ingredients used; so there’s plenty to get your teeth stuck into. You can’t even distinguish the difference between northern and southern India as you need to recognise that within those areas there are also sub-styles and variations.
In northern India try curries from the Gujarati region. Despite its vast coastline which provides incredible seafood, it is primarily a vegetarian state, due to it being traditionally Hindu. A traditional Gujarati Thali (an assortment of dishes arranged on a platter for lunch or dinner) consists of roti (flatbread), dal (dried pulse), rice and shaak/sabzi (a dish formed of several combinations of vegetables and spices). Gujarati cuisine varies widely in flavour and heat, however, most dishes are distinctively sweet, salty and spicy simultaneously.
If you head to Southern India and you love your curries with a bit of a kick then head to Telugu. Known as the region to serve up some of India’s hottest curries you’ll need mouth and stomach of iron to handle the heat. The state of Telugu is the leading producer of red and green chillies and natives are also very liberal with their spices, which over time has secured them the top position for producing the richest and spiciest curries in the world. You’ll find dishes which contain meat and seafood throughout the state which is a welcomed addition.
There are literally thousands of curry variations to try throughout India, try as many as you can as you won’t find more flavoursome food elsewhere.