There’s nothing worse than getting home from a holiday and fielding questions from foodie friends about the local cuisine, only to realise you missed the signature dish of a destination.
Well, thanks to Lonely Planet, you’ll never have to feel that disappointment again, because they’ve come up with the Ultimate Eatlist. They asked the globe’s best chefs and food writers for their favourite eating experiences around the world (the full gastronomic bucket list is available now through Lonely Planet). In the Eatlist, you’ll find the world’s top 500 food experiences – from Japan’s bullet train bento boxes to Israel’s shakshouk.
To whet your palate, here’s a taste of the Eatlist’s top 10 dishes you can’t miss when travelling.
1. Pintxos, San Sebastian
The tapas of Northern Spain, pintxos (pictured at top) are small bites, often accompanying a glass or two of tasty Spanish wine. Traditionally served on small pieces of bread like a miniature open sandwich, pintxos have now evolved to a wider-range of delicious snacks. On a bar crawl through San Sebastian, you could expect to be served anything from a bite-sized jamon tart to a small plate of fried asparagus or garlic mushrooms.
Try pintxos in San Sebastian on our Northern Spain Real Food Adventure.
2. Curry laksa, Kuala Lumpur
Malaysian cuisine is often overshadowed by its South East Asian neighbours, Vietnamese and Thai, but it really shouldn’t be because it’s SO good. And curry laksa is just about king in terms of Malaysian offerings. This fragrant noodle soup is the perfect balance of coconutty creaminess, spicy and fresh with options to keep it vegetarian or customise with different seafood or poultry. As a rule of thumb, the longer the line, the better the laksa, so don’t be afraid to head to the back of a queue and chat to some locals while you wait.
Line up for curry laksa in Kuala Lumpur on our Best of Malaysia trip.
3. Sushi, Tokyo
Even if you think of yourself as a bit of a sushi connoisseur at home, you have to try the real deal on your Japanese adventure. In Tokyo, most top-end sushi joints will serve their sushi in the omakase style, which is the sushi equivalent of a degustation – a chef’s selection of their best, local delicacies. Make sure you don’t ask for extra soy sauce or wasabi as it is considered insulting to the chef who has worked to balance the flavours perfectly for you.
Taste traditional sushi in Tokyo (plus lots of other local delights) on our Japan Real Food Adventure.
4. Beef brisket, Texas
Vegetarians – look away. The Southern states of America are known for their barbecued meats, and the beef brisket is perhaps the most iconic of all. In Texas, it’s all about ‘low and slow’ cooking, so the salty brisket falls apart when you touch it but is still juicy and succulent. The States also have some pretty epic craft beer on offer, so grab a cold one to go with your meaty feast.
Get low and slow on our Southern USA Road Trip.
5. Som tum, Bangkok
Whoever believes that you don’t make friends with salad clearly hasn’t tried som tum. The green papaya salad is a classic clash of Thai flavours – sour, salty, sweet and VERY spicy. The combination of the fruit, shrimp, crunchy carrot and acidic tomato make this a favourite street food for locals and tourists trying to beat the heat. If you’re a chilli novice, make sure to specify that you don’t like it too hot when you’re ordering.
Try som tum and plenty more delicious Thai cuisine on our Thailand Real Food Adventure.
6. Smørrebrød, Copenhagen
Bread might sound like a boring thing to eat overseas, but Danish Smørrebrød is a lot more exciting than a simple sandwich. The dark rye bread is served smeared with butter and then piled high with whatever seasonal ingredients take your fancy. Classic Danish combos include pickled herring with onion and dill, roast beef with horseradish, or blue cheese, apple and bacon – but the options are limitless. Be warned, there is an etiquette to eating Smørrebrød; when eating a selection of different types, you’re meant to start with fish, move on to meat and finish with cheese, to ensure a cohesive journey for your palate.
Eat your fill of Smørrebrød on our Taste of Scandinavia trip.
7. Crayfish, Kaikoura
The people of Kaikoura, New Zealand love seafood so much, they literally named their town after one of their favourite crustaceans – the crayfish. In Maori, ‘Kai’ means food and ‘Koura’ means crayfish, and the delicacy is found up and down the coastline surrounding the town. Best served cooked fresh in just a little bit of butter, garlic and fresh parsley and lemon, the sweet, sweet crayfish speaks for itself.
Watch the sunset and indulge in some crayfish on our New Zealand Southbound Adventure.
8. Bibimbap, Seoul
What do you get when you combine stringy, slow cooked beef, crunchy sautéed vegetables, rice, egg and top it with spicy chilli and savoury soybean sauces? The perfect Korean bibimbap of course. Served hot or cold, this one-bowl meal is the perfect dish all year round and encompasses all the colours of the rainbow – meaning it’s good for your tummy, but also works wonders for your Instagram feed.
Try bibimbap and plenty other yummy South Korean dishes on our South Korea Real Food Adventure.
9. Margherita pizza, Naples
Sometimes simple is best and if you’ve tried an authentic Margherita pizza, you’ll surely agree. The traditional Margherita comes from Naples in Italy and has something of a celebrity status in this food-loving region. It’s believed the first one was baked by a local man in the 19th century, for the visiting King Umberto and Queen Margherita. The queen was taken with the tomato, mozzarella and basil pizza because it was the colours of the Italian flag, and so it was named in her honour.
Uncover the best of Italy’s amazing cuisine on our Italy Uncovered trip.
10. Dim Sum, Hong Kong
Dim sum, yum cha, whatever you prefer to call it, a meal made up of delicious Chinese-style snacks is ALWAYS a winner in our eyes. Dim sum in Hong Kong can be a 5-star affair or eaten on the street in a marketplace, but rest assured wherever you go, there will be delicious dumplings, steam buns and wontons aplenty.
Graze on dim sum on our South China Getaway trip.
Want to win your very own food adventure? Thanks to Lonely Planet and Intrepid Travel, you can! Simply enter this competition for your chance to win two places on Intrepid Travel’s Northern Spain Food and Wine Adventure, plus return economy flights from your nearest capital city.
Hero image by Lonely Planet.