“Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture.”
It’s safe to assume we all know food is different when you go abroad. Whether a staple dish is a burrito, chicken feet, or a smörgås, you know not to expect to find everything you can get at home while travelling – as it should be. But…what about those things that you can find almost everywhere? What about the potato chips, the pizza, the candy?
Surprisingly, the split is pretty even on international brands and food you’ll find when you go abroad – some is practically the same and some is, well, very different. For example, in the USA we tend to prefer our chips to be “Barbecue” or “Salt and Vinegar” flavored, but Greece has a popular “Feta Cheese” type and Australia has a “Vegemite” flavor that probably no other country in the world would quite understand. And let’s not ignore the subtle, yet unique “ketchup” flavor that Canada prides itself on. Check here for a full list of the different chip flavors you can find abroad.
Major chains, such as McDonald’s or Pizza Hut, have a foundation of similarity no matter where they are, yet the recipes are altered to cater to local tastes. McDonad’s in China has Pineapple and Taro Pies while Germany has Nürnberger on the menu; South Korea has sweet potato pizza. All of these things are just a window into the world of international cuisine – where global appeal and local taste must find a happy medium in order to be successful, and where adaptation and culinary experimentation provide and outlet to improve and alter the ever-changing dining experience for “foodies” and otherwise.
Let’s not ignore the fact, either, that there are multiple theories as to why some cultures prefer certain tastes and others don’t, and you can always rely on Anthony Bourdain to give you a fairly honest opinion of food from everywhere.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have foods that are so uncommon and so region-specific they can only be described as unique. For example, certain parts of Malaysia have a delicious curry-like dish known as nasi kandari. And Iceland has the hákarl, a fermented shark that would certainly take some adjusting to for the untrained palate.
- Poutine (Canada) – a batch of fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. It’s sometimes spiced up with other forms of garnish, and always a comfort.
- Sichuan Hot Pot (China) — Thinly sliced meet and hot, spicy, boiling water with you cook yourself surrounded by friends, family, and the like. Expect pain and numbing, yet you’ll keep going back for more.
- Banista (Bulgaria) – An interesting and flexibly-served pastry dish that including feta cheese and a variety of vegetables to suit your fancy.
- Kishka (Russia) – Try this dish when you want to live a little – meat inside a pouch of chicken skin and intestine.
- Berenjena en Escabeche (Argentina) – Eggplant that has been marinated and can be eaten alone or place alongside a sandwich. Try it for something a bit different, but not too far out of your comfort zone.