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Are Popular Cuisines Better in Their Home Country?

One of the best (and sometimes strangest) parts of travelling is trying all the different cuisines from around the world.

While you can find Italian, Mexican, or Chinese restaurants in England or America, the actual food served might not live up to what you’d find in these countries. It’s always fun to try your favourite dishes (and some you’ve never heard of) right from their country of origin.

We’ve visited a number of countries with world famous cuisines, and we’d like to recommend some foods to try, some foods to avoid, and, of course, a nice local drink to enjoy with it all.

 

Chinese Cuisine

Give it a try!

Pigeon – Yes, the birds you see eating crap off the floor are a popular food choice in China. The head was still on the plate, but nobody ate that. The rest of the body was edible and surprisingly tasty. Like all meat, a complimentary sauce goes well with it. I thought it tasted similar to chicken. So if you want to be able say you’ve tried something that sounds strange (but tastes familiar), give this a go.

Our serving of delicious pigeon

If you dare…

Chicken Feet – When it comes to this popular dish, there’s just something that doesn’t sit right with me. They taste very fatty and the texture is too strange. I’m giving this one a massive avoid!

If you see this shape, run! 

My missed opportunity

Dog and Donkey – Where we lived (Guangzhou) there was a joke among locals that they would eat anything with legs except a table, anything in the ocean except a boat, and anything with wings except a plane. Yes, the Chinese seem to eat anything. One night after work I turned down an offer to go for dinner to try dog and donkey. Looking back, I still wonder what that would have been like.

Something to drink?

Tsingtao – Grab one of these cheap beers, but not too many. They can cause hangovers that are beyond words – some of the worst I’ve had! But it can be worth it for a drink that’s tasty and affordable.

Similar or different?

Completely different! Prawn crackers didn’t seem to exist and we only saw sweet and sour sauce once in the year we were there.

 

Thai Cuisine

Give it a try!

Noodle Soups – They may look bland and unsatisfying compared to all the curries available, but these soups are delicious. Fill yours up with noodles, herbs, spices, meats, and veggies. Make it as spicy as you want. Add in a little sauce or a squeeze of lime for extra flavor.

If you dare…

Squid – A lot of menus in Thailand will include squid in their meals. Feel free to skip. It’s just rank – very chewy and more effort than it’s worth.

Do not dare! 

Something to drink?

We have a few cheap options to recommend. If you’re out for a long night, grab a bucket of whatever mixed drink you prefer. Buckets are cheap and great to share with a friend or two.

You should also give sangsom, a local whiskey, a try. It’s cheap and goes well with coke. Kristin mixed it with orange juice once, but that was a fail.

Finally, there a couple local beers, like Singha or Chang. Keep in mind that the percentage of alcohol in Chang changes from drink to drink.

Similar or different?

Mostly different! Some dishes are a good representation, but we’ve found the spices and flavors to be stronger in the country.

 

Indian Cuisine

Give it a try!

A Thali Set – This is a full meal with plenty of variety. You get a curry and several side orders alongside rice or naan. Vegetarian meals are common in India, but you can get your thali set with meat if you prefer. You can also tell the cook how spicy you want it.

If you dare…

Honestly, there wasn’t anything in India we disliked. Everything was delicious, whether we were in a fancy restaurant or somewhere cheaper. By the end of our trip, we had grown a bit tired of curry (and our stomachs didn’t always feel great), but there is nothing we’d tell you to avoid.

Indian flavours made the stomach hurt but we loved them.

Something to drink?

Kingfisher – This is one of India’s best local beers, brewed in Bangalore. It’s reasonably priced and very refreshing when served cold. In a country where alcohol didn’t seem too popular, many places would still serve a cold Kingfisher.

Similar or different?

The same! All the food reminded us of Indian food back home.

 

Mexican Cuisine

Give it a try!

Guacamole – This world famous dish, created back in the Aztec age, is still popular today. Made from fresh, local avocados, no one does this dip better. It went well with every meal.

If you dare…

The spicy salsa – The waiters put down two salsas and warn that one is a little spicy, while the other is extremely spicy. Kristin got the two mixed up, and it was a terrifying moment that took some time to recover from.

Something to drink?

Margarita – Yes, please! We love ordering margaritas no matter where we are in the world, so of course margaritas would make the top of our list in Mexico. Served frozen or on the rocks, be sure to try the different flavors. Some include passionfruit and mango.

Similar or different?

There were some differences, and things definitely got a lot spicier.

 

Italian Cuisine

Give it a try!

Pasta alla Norma – This famous Sicilian pasta is a favourite of Kristin’s, and one she still talks about years later. It has simple ingredients – eggplant, tomato sauce, and ricotta, but there was something about it that made it so much richer and more satisfying than any Italian food from back home.

If you dare…

Octopus – We’d watch out for this seafood ending up in your meal. Maybe we just have something against ocean-dwelling animals with many tentacles.

Something to drink?

Bellini – Definitely try this famous Italian cocktail. It’s made from sparkling wine and a peach additive. You can find it throughout the country, but it first gained fame in Venice.

Similar or different?

The dishes might seem the same at first glance, but something about their ingredients are just better.

 

Icelandic Cuisine

Give it a try!

Reindeer Soup – This is one of the most popular dishes in Iceland. We even found a couple restaurants in Reykjavik that only had two items in the menu – Reindeer soup and a vegetarian alternative. Around Christmas time, some say the locals are willing to queue for hours for a serving in a warm bread bowl.

If you dare…

Fermented Shark – Hands down the worst thing I’ve ever tasted. It was horrible, sickly, vile, and a million other disgusting adjectives. It wasn’t at all what I expected. It was served in a jar, cut into six small cubes. Biting into the first piece was like biting into something that had been pulled right out of the ocean and thrown into a pile of salt. One was enough.

Horrendous!

Something to drink?

Brennivin – Brennivin is an unsweetened snapps that is best downed as a shot. It’s considered a special occasion drink amongst locals. It has a similar taste to vodka. You definitely need to try a shot. After all, isn’t being on a holiday a special occasion for us?

Similar or different?

Unknown. We’ve never tried (or seen) any Scandinavian restaurants outside of Iceland.

 

Based on our personal tastes we have found way more foods that we like than dislike in all the above countries. Be sure to get out there and try some yourself.

Is there something we’ve recommended that you hated? Or maybe you’re loving squid, octopus, or chicken feet? Let us know your experiences and opinions!