Four foods you have to try in certain countries

If you have ever wondered why that pizza you made does not quite taste the same as the one you ate in Rome, it is probably because some foods just taste better in their countries of origin. Whether it be because of fresher ingredients, different methods of cooking, or just the sights, smells and sounds of a foreign land, some foods seem that bit more delicious abroad. Here is a look at four foods that you have to try when visiting certain countries. Or for something a little different in your travels, check out some unusual local delicacies.

Smorrebrod, Denmark

(Image by cyclonebill on Flickr)

Scandinavian open sandwiches such as Swedish Smorgas are known across the world, but the best place to try these gastronomic delights is surely Denmark. The Danish equivalent Smorrebrod uses a wide variety of toppings, but usually they are piled on top of Rugbrod bread, a dark sourdough rye, robust enough to taste, and firm enough to withstand and soak up heavy toppings. Some of the most well known varieties of Smorrebrod include smoked or cured salmon paired with cooked prawns, often smeared with dill and mustard; pickled, spiced or curried herrings; warm liverpate with bacon and mushrooms; roast beef with remoulade, horseradish and onion; as well as smoked eel, scrambled eggs and chives. As a rule, freshness is the name of the game, and a good smorrebrod will be made to order, though for convenience many cafes pre-make their sandwiches. In recent years, many chefs have begun experimenting with flavours and toppings, using innovative ingredients and pairings such as Orange Smoked Halibut with strawberries, or crayfish, salmon roe and wasabi, to truly bring Smorrebrod into the 21st century. Surely it is only a matter of time until these delicious open sandwiches cross over to global popularity. Any visit to Denmark without sampling a good array of Smorrebrod would be criminal, so next time you are in Copenhagen, ask for your sandwich open.

Sushi, Japan

(Image by avlxyz on Flickr)

One such foodstuff that has truly gone global in the past decade or so is Sushi. Usually made from rolled vinegared rice, and often topped with raw fish, Sushi delights seafood lovers worldwide. Yet the very best sushi is still to be had in Japan, where markets such as Tokyo’s Tsukiji specialise in selling raw fish to feed the appetites of the Japanese public. Some of the most prized cuts of fish to use include uni, or sea urchin, akagai, or red clam, as well as the most expensive of all, toro, or Bluefin tuna belly. In fact, this last type of fish is so popular that the Japanese consume over 44,000 tonnes of it each year. To get the best flavour from the fish, it is recommended that each piece of sushi be lightly dipped in soy sauce, and seasoned with a little wasabi to add bite. For those brave of heart, try Fugu, a deadly pufferfish. The internal organs and some of the flesh of this fish are highly poisonous, and if prepared incorrectly, can kill humans in just a few minutes. Up to six people in Japan die each year through eating incorrectly prepared Pufferfish. If you want to stick to something a little safer, sushi rolls, made by wrapping fish, rice and vegetables in a dried seaweed called nori, have became increasingly popular in recent years. While not considered authentic, sushi rolls are a great way for newcomers wary of eating raw fish to become acquainted with sushi. Just make sure you don’t give them fugu by mistake!

Fish and Chips, UK

Fish and chips
(Image by sk8geek on Flickr)

And so on to another fish dish, this time in Blighty. Many dishes vie for the title; Steak and Kidney Pie, Bangers and Mash, even Chicken Tikka Masala, but Britain’s greatest contribution to the culinary world has to be good, old fashioned Fish and Chips. First invented around the mid 19th century, this staple was designed as a cheap and quick method of feeding workers returning home from a day hard at labour in the factory, down the mine or at the mill. Consisting of battered, deep fried white fish, usually cod or haddock, and accompanied by a side of chips, Fish and Chips was traditionally served wrapped in old newspaper. While this practice no longer continues, and Fish and Chips is no longer the most popular dish in Britain, the humble “chippy” remains a much loved favourite up and down the length and breadth of the nation, where over 8000 of them still operate and thrive. Down the years different regions have developed alternative methods of serving this classic; alongside pease pudding on Tyneside; with a saveloy in London; slathered in curry sauce in the north; or soused in brown sauce in Scotland. Even celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal has tried his hand at reinventing this classic dish, rustling up a batter made from vodka and lager, triple cooking his chips, and plating up with atomised pickled onion essence. But of course the quintessential fish and chips experience still remains queuing up in the rain for a freshly fried and still steaming fish supper. Soaking the chips in vinegar and mushy peas are optional, of course.

Jamon Iberico, Spain

Jamon Iberico
(Image by acme on Flickr)

When visiting Spain a night out on the town should always include a visit to a Tapas Bar. Small taverns, often with standing room only, offer cervezas, wines and sherries, to be drank with small plates of food, called Tapas, or, when served on bread, Pinchos. Tapas can come in many forms, with some of the most popular dishes being Pimentos Padron, or chargrilled peppers, tortilla, a sort of potato omelette, as well as the most revered of all, the Jamon Iberico, or cured ham. This ham is similar to the more well-known and Italian Parma ham, but is made from Pata Negra pigs, who are left to wander freely around forests, consuming acorns and other wild food, before going off to slaughter. This makes the ham exceptionally fatty, giving the meat a wonderful rich and nutty flavour. The very best cuts melt on the mouth like the finest foie gras or caviar, and Jamon Iberico is increasingly being held in similar regard to these luxurious foodstuffs. In fact, many of the most expensive legs of Jamon Iberico can easily fetch around £1800 on the open market. If you cannot afford this extravagance, stop in at a Tapas Bar on your visit to Spain, and ask for a mere plate of the meat, hand carved from the bone. It won’t come cheaply, but each delicious morsel will be savoured slowly. When you are finished, you may even find yourself asking for seconds.

Similar examples can be found for pretty much every nation on earth, whether you are eating Roti Canai in Malaysia, or Empanadas in Argentina, local flavour adds an extra touch of something special that just cannot be replicated elsewhere.

Date posted: 30th August, 2011

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