Every foodie loves the prospect of eating the traditional food around the world, trying a new flavor on for size for the first time or finally getting to savor that uniquely traditional dish you’ve been hearing about.
It’s our favorite thing to do and the genuine pleasure of culinary travel — traveling to the world’s best countries for food and letting your palate guide the way.
What’s equally fun with food travel is when you get to the point where you have some culinary experience — where patterns begin to emerge and you take note of similarities among ingredients, dishes, cultural expressions, cooking techniques, geography, and other influencing factors.
Little by little, the more we eat our way around the world, the better our understanding of the world becomes.
And yet…the more those food stories become global and bound together, the more regionally defined they are….once again leading us to feel like first time foodies all over again — a pleasant conundrum.
Thankfully there’s always what lies ahead… a new food experience to enjoy, another dish to be devoured. So let’s eat the world, my culinary friends, in 50 famous and traditional dishes, starting in the good old USofA!
Crustacean on a bun? When the succulent meat from a monstah lobstah is lightly tossed with mayo, tossed with a pinch of chopped celery and stuffed in a roll — Yes please! The easternmost state in the USA produces one of our favorite American sandwiches, the ubiquitous Maine Lobster roll, easily one of the most famous foods in the US.
It’s a simple but expensive dish — one lobster roll will typically set you back $12-$15 dollars or more, even at a roadside walk-up. But considering the amount of meat that spills over and out the sides, and the fact that it would take you an hour to extract all that meat in a DIY lobster deconstruction, it’s worth every cent!
If you’ve been to Louisiana, chances are you tried a shrimp Po’Boy, étouffée, and of course a good crawfish boil! But have you tried boudin?
The only thing better than eating boudin in Louisiana is saying it, with a southern twang. Pronounced boo-dan in Looziana, this delicious sausage is traditionally made with pork, Louisiana rice, other assorted pork parts like hearts and livers, and seasonings stuffed in a natural pork casing. Recipes for the ratio of meat to rice and how it’s all seasoned varies widely from place to place.
We’ve had it in the traditional way in Lafayette, and also made with shrimp or crawfish. Then there are boudin balls which are most often served with a good local mustard. Take a trip along the Cajun Boudin Trail for some of the best food in Lafayette or if you’re in the area in October don’t miss the famous Boudin Cookoff.
Ah, what can we say about the New York bagel, one of New York’s most perfect foods (we’re northeast Yankees and admittedly biased)!
Arguably the most traditional food of New York, the bagel is a simple food that’s not easy to make well, at least not outside the NYC metro. That’s because of one essential ingredient — water. The water in New York is what makes a bagel a New York bagel. It’s also sadly why no matter where you eat a bagel outside of NYC, the taste just isn’t the same.
The yeasty smell of an authentic New York bagel greets you as you tear it open like a loaf of fresh bread, chewy (not crusty) on the outside and gluten-y soft (not crumbly) inside.
As for how to eat a bagel? Well you can slather and schmear it with cream cheese and add lox (the traditional Jewish bagel) or any number of other toppings from red onion and capers to eggs and lunch meat. But the true test of a great bagel is how it stands up on its own.
No toppings, no props or gimmicks. Just the pure joy of a bare naked bagel.
Key Lime Pie
Florida is one of the biggest states in the Union with some pretty unique climate zones that yield a wide array of Floridan foods, from fresh seafood to citrus fruit.
But if you head to the Southernmost Point in the USA, all the way down highway A1A to the tropical outpost of Key West in the Florida Keys, you’ll find some of the country’s most beloved foods with a Floribbean flair, and certainly some of the tastiest things to do in Florida The hands-down favorite of course is Key Lime Pie.
It’s hard to pick a favorite Key Lime pie with so many good ones in Key West, but they all have just three basic ingredients in common: 1) sweetened condensed milk, 2) fresh lime juice from the small and freshest local key limes, and 3) a good graham cracker crust.
When you visit Florida, plan a road trip down to the Florida Keys and taste one of the biggest — and most delicious — reasons to go to Key West!
Texas is known for its excellent food across the board, but among all the best Texas foods to try, none is more iconic than barbecue. Texas barbecue originated in the mid-nineteenth century, when German and Czech immigrants brought their traditions of smoking meat to the Lone Star State.
Mix cultural traditions with plentiful livestock and a booming cattle business, and Texas barbecue quickly exploded.
While there are many styles of Texas barbecue, what most non-Texans think of as the iconic “Texas” style belongs to Central Texas, where it’s traditional to smoke meats low and slow over open fires, coated in minimal seasoning (sometimes just salt and pepper!).
The most essential features of any plate of Texas barbecue are ribs, sausage, and–most importantly–brisket. Brisket is the pride and joy of many pitmasters (aka barbecue chefs), and an essential part of the traditional Texas diet. Eaten at all times of day (brisket breakfast tacos are not to be missed), the most die-hard fans will even claim that you shouldn’t put barbecue sauce on your brisket, but rather enjoy the meat just as it comes.
At traditional barbecue joints, you’ll order meat by the pound, and sides (think potato salad, mac n’cheese, and corn) by the pint. Your meal will frequently be served on white butcher paper, and will generally come with white sandwich bread, onions, pickles, and barbecue sauce, so you can pile it up however you like.
While choosing the best barbecue joint in Texas is impossible, you can’t go wrong with visiting the small towns of Taylor, Luling, or Lockhart (the self-declared barbecue capital of Texas), which are well-known for their concentration of excellent spots.
Philadelphia is one of America’s ultimate foodie destinations. One of the most famous Philadelphia foods is the Philly cheesesteak. While locals will all tell you that it’s just called the cheesesteak, they won’t agree on where to get the best one.
In fact, most locals even avoid the two most famous cheesesteak shops — Pat’s and Geno’s in the Italian Market. Still, the story origin of the famous sandwich is owed to Pat’s cheesesteak stand.
The legend of the first cheesesteak dates back to the 1930’s. That’s when Pat Olivieri’s hot dog shop made a daily special of chopped beef and onions that were grill-fried and served in a loaf of bread.
A local cab driver is said to have tried the item and told Pat that he was onto something, should quit selling hotdogs and keep making this new sandwich. So he did, and Pat’s King of Steaks was born.
The new invention wasn’t served with cheese — that came later and the new local favorite spread around the city when a manager in their Ridge Avenue location added smoked provolone cheese to his sandwich.
In 1952, a new product called Cheez Whiz hit the market in the United States and millions of American parents turned to the convenience of spreadable processed cheese. So did Pat Olivieri who began adding it to his cheesesteak sandwiches and today, they’re the most popular variety of cheese topping.
Other toppings include peppers, mushrooms, marinara sauce, and of course onions. However you order it, the cheesesteak is a truly special American original.