Even if we don't always remember the history behind the Colosseum, the significance of the Great Pyramids' configuration, or who built Machu Picchu after returning home from a trip, we can almost always remember what we ate while we were there.
Of course, food memories can range from pleasurable to mediocre to, even, uncomfortable. Judgments aside, most of us travelers can agree that the times when we eat during a trip are most often also the times when we feel the most engaged. With all five senses stimulated, we not only see, hear, smell, or even touch a certain place – we taste it, too.
Globalization has made sampling delicacies from around the world fairly easy. Most of us don't have to live in the Middle East to sample delicious falafel, or travel to China for near perfect jiaozi. But our list isn't solely about individual dishes; it's about the experience of eating in an authentic context. It's about actually stepping foot in the wood-fired pizzerias in Naples, the steaming noodle shops of Tokyo, and the bustling cevicherias of Lima. You may be able to recreate a crêpe, but you (sadly) will have a difficult time recreating the crepêrie that wafts saccharine batter aromas from a Parisian street corner.
None of these dishes could have been created in a vacuum. They are most often the sum of geography, traditions, necessities, and personal tastes of a given culture. Many of the dishes on our list arguably have multiple homes across several borders, yet we've chosen to bring you the locations where we believe you can find them in some of their purest forms.
In this slideshow, we've rounded up 25 different foods that enhance the experience of a given place. Not only do these foods complement a trip, some might argue (as we do) that given the proper address, they're worth the trip themselves.
Admittedly, several of our recommendations might be more accessible to most people's palates, while others might be more of an acquired taste. While it's ultimately up to you to decide what's on your eating itinerary for your next trip, consider our recommendations based upon popularity and critical review.
Originally from Quebec, poutine has infiltrated Canadian cuisine, and has crept into the U.S. as well. It traditionally consists of fries, cheese curds, and gravy, though it also comes topped with anything from Bolognese sauce to foie gras and truffles. In Montreal, two of the best versions can be found at Au Pied de Cochon and Maamm Bolduc.
Dominican Republic: Sancocho
Sancocho is a traditional soup made with chicken or beef, lemon, herbs, potatoes, yucca, rice, and occasionally plantains. It's typically (and probably at its best) when it's home-cooked, but one of the best restaurants in Santo Domingo to try it at isAdrian Tropical.
USA, South: Barbecue
Barbecue is an age-old idea that is the basis of many summertime gatherings, sporting events, and some really good home-cooked meals. Throughout the South of the U.S., it's even a lifestyle. The country's best is found in this region and just about everybody has his or her favorite, with most options ranging from cuts of beef or pork garnished (or not) in a variety of rubs and/or sauces. Check out our Ultimate BBQ Road Trip for 2013 to see our restaurant picks (there are 60!) across the region.
Few things are more American than a hamburger, so it is nearly impossible to try and narrow down the best place to get one. Two of the most popular chains known for their burger are California's In-N-Out and New York's Shake Shack. For a more complete list, check out our 40 Best Burgers in America.
USA: Apple Pie
Apple pie is considered the classic American dessert, so much so that the expression "as American as apple pie" has been popularized. For a delicious version of the popular dessert, check out The Elegant Farmer in Wisconsin.
This Brazilian dish was originally brought to the country by Portuguese colonizers. The meat-packed dish is a stew made of beans, salted pork and beef, bacon, smoked sausage, and spices. For an upscale version, visit Casa de Feijoada in Rio de Janeiro. For a more casual vibe, check out Aconchego Carioca.
The empanada is the national food of Chile, although it is cooked and served throughout Latin America. They are often filled with beef, fish, or beans and cheese, although there are a variety of preparations. Just outside Santiago, visit Las Hermanas for great Chilean empanadas.
Chile: Pastel de Choclo
Pastel de Choclo is essentially a meat pie made with puréed corn, ground beef or chicken, and a variety of other fillings like onions, garlic, olives, and raisins. It is seen on menus throughout Chile, but the famous Galindo Restaurant in Santiago is home to one of the best versions.
Colombia: Bandeja Paisa
There is debate about who originally created this popular dish (many say the Andean people), but today's controversy centers on which town serves the best today: Medellín or Bogota. The dish consists of beans, rice, pork skin, meat or chorizo, plantains, avocado, and fried egg. For one of the best renditions of the meal in Bogota, check out El Portal de la Antigua.
Ceviche is served at restaurants all around Peru, even ones that are not traditionally Peruvian. The dish is made of raw fish that is "cooked" in a marinade of lime and lemon juice and chile. It is often served with corn and avocado. For one of the most acclaimed versions of the dish, visit La Mar in Lima.
A favorite among locals, this potato pancake is served in two styles: savory or sweet. The savory dish is served with sour cream and the sweet version is served with applesauce. A great rendition is available at the Grunwald Café in Minsk, which serves a mix of medieval-style food.
France: Boeuf Bourguignon
As the name reveals, this quintessential French stew hails from the region of Burgundy. The dish evolved over many years, but was first written down by the great Escoffier in 1903. Since then, the hearty beef stew has become a worldwide symbol of French country cuisine. A traditional preparation of this dish involves braising beef cuts in Burgundy (what else?) wine before stewing the meat with potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic and a bouquet garni (a small bundle of thyme, parsley, and bay leaves). Boeuf bourguignon can be found at traditional restaurants across France, but you'll find some of the best at Au Clos Napoléon in Fixin, France.
A pierogi is perhaps the most famous Polish dish. It can come in a variety of forms – baked or fried, filled with meat or potatoes – and is the quintessential Polish comfort food. While it was initially thought of as peasant food, pierogies are now one of the most popular dishes in Poland. If you're visiting Krakow, visit Zapiecek Polskie Pierogarnie to taste this iconic dish.
Paella has its roots in mid-19th century Valencia, and contrary to popular belief, it is not traditionally made with seafood. It started as a dish of the countryside, and the main ingredients included rabbit, chicken, beans, and snails. But seafood eventually began to find its way into paella, and today, seafood paella is considered the most globally popular form of the dish. For authentic paella, try Restaurante Levante in Benisanó, just northwest of Valencia.
With origins in Eastern Europe, this red or purple soup is made up of beetroot and tomatoes and is often topped with a dollop of sour cream. Borscht is served in a variety of different ways – some versions are hot, some are cold, some are clear and light, while others are thick and hearty. Ukraine is frequently listed as borscht's country of origin, and Puzata Hata in Kiev has some of the best in the city.
Merguez is a North African preserved meat that is typically a fresh or dried lamb sausage. Different variations of the dish include sausages made with veal, seasoned with olive oil, lemon, or black pepper. The pork-free sausage is popular in regions like Algeria, where many of the inhabitants maintain pork-free diets. Head over toRestaurant Atlas in Annaba for some authentic Algerian merguez.
Though this traditional dish tends to vary, its roots are always the same. Comprised of bulgur or rice and ground meat mixed together in different forms, kibbeh can be fried, place in soup, baked in a pie, or served raw, depending on the region. No matter how it is prepared, it is typically cooked with olive oil and served with a lemon garnish. Locals recommend Zawat in southern Lebanon for the best version of this dish.
Found in many Arabic countries, tabbouleh varies slightly depending on the region. With its origins in Lebanon, the dish is made of bulgur, tomatoes, and finely chopped vegetables and herbs (often parsley). It is often served as a side to other traditional dishes such as falafel. Some of the best tabbouleh can be found at popular Lebanese restaurant Manuella.
This Moroccan dish is named after the earthenware pot that it is cooked in. The tagine pot is made of heavy clay and has two parts: a base unit and a cover. The dish cooked in this pottery is usually a rich, slow-cooked stew made of meat, chicken, or fish mixed in with vegetables and fruit. Because of the design of the pot, a minimal amount of liquid is required to cook the dish and the pot is usually placed over hot coals to cook the stew. The dish is a national pride of Morocco and can be found in almost any restaurant or street vendor. For a high-end version of the dish, try it atLes Trois Saveurs in Marrakech.
Pastilla, salty and sweet at the same time, is a flaky pastry filled with meat, usually squab or shredded chicken, to create a salty and savory filling that contrasts with the sweet phyllo dough, cinnamon, and sugar. One of the best can be found at Al Jawdapastry shop in Marrakech.
Jiaozi is a traditional Chinese dumpling that's popularity has spread into Nepal, Japan, and other parts of Asia. It is made using ground meat and vegetables that are wrapped in a thin piece of dough. The dough is then crimped closed and it's then steamed, boiled, or fried. Sample jiaozi at Baoyuan Jiaozi Wu in Beijing.
Hong Kong: Char Siu
Originally Cantonese, char siu is flavored barbecued pork that has become a specialty in Hong Kong, and throughout other parts of Asia. Many of the char siu restaurants in Hong Kong hang their meat specialties in the window to show off for passersby. Hong Kong's Joy Hing's Roasted Meat arguably serves the most famous plates of it.
Laos: Larb with Sticky Rice
Larb is a term for a traditionally Laotian-style meat salad served with a special ground toasted rice and sticky rice. It is usually made with pork, chicken, beef, or duck and mixed with mint, chiles, and vegetables. Try it at Makphet, a traditional restaurant in Vientiane.
New Zealand: Pavlova
Pavlova was officially declared to originate from New Zealand in 2010. Before that, there was much debate about whether it belonged to New Zealand or neighbor Australia. The dish, a light meringue dessert topped with fresh fruit and cream, is named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. Many locals enjoy it at Euro in Auckland.
Thailand: Pad Thai
This ubiquitous Thai dish is meant to be sweet, salty, and sour all at once with ingredients like radishes, peanuts, egg, and dried shrimp adding to its flavor. Although pad thai dates back to ancient Siam, it truly gained popularity after World War II. The dish can be easily found throughout the country, but for an authentic Thai experience, try it at We's Restaurant in Chiang Mai.
Source: USA Today