20 great global meals that you need to try
From the familiar to the fancy, the budget-friendly to the bank account-busting, we scoured the globe, tasted our way around the continents and finally settled on what we consider to be the very best bucket list dishes from around the world.
Sounds tasty? Have a gander…
Acharuli khachapuri in Tbilisi, Georgia
By a mere ball-of-doughs throw khachapuri (cheese bread) beats khinkali (dumplings) to win the title of Georgia’s best dish.
The most famous – and for our money, most delicious – khachapuri is the acharuli version hailing from the Black Sea region of Adjara. Wondering why? Well, for starters the warm, canoe-shaped bread is filled with pools of melted cheese, a runny egg yolk and slick of butter. The lucky recipient of said carb-fest then uses chunks of the charred crust to swirl the egg and butter into the cheese for the sort of golden, molten mouthful that dreams are made of.
Where to try it: Tuck into some of the very finest acharuli khachapuri Georgia has to
offer at Café Retro in Tbilisi (chef and owner Gia Agirbas’s personally-designed and patented brick oven gives the dough the extra edge here).
Adobo in The Philippines
If you’re not yet familiar with Filipino cooking then consider this a timely reminder that you really should be.
A staple in homes across the Philippines, there is no better dish to kick off what is likely to be a long-term relationship with Pinoy food than with pungent, peppery, sweet and salty adobo. While there are endless renditions of the dish served up across the Philippines, most tend to use vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and pepper to produce a full-flavoured marinade that renders meat wonderfully tender and creates an irresistible accompanying sauce.
Where to try it: For a classic soy-vinegar based adobo those in the know recommend, head to a branch of Via Mare where the garlic rice and egg served on the side only add to the appeal.
Bunny chow in Durban, South Africa
Big on both flavour and sustenance, Durban’s famous bunny chow sees a hollowed-out quarter, half or full loaf of white bread filled with a thick, spicy curry (normally mutton, chicken or veg, no rabbits involved here).
While the precise origins of the dish are contested, it’s generally agreed that bunny chow originated in Durban’s Indian community during the apartheid era (many attribute its invention to savvy chefs at Indian takeout restaurants having the genius idea of replacing roti with white bread in the popular roti and beans combo so that the bread could do double duty as a takeaway container).
Note that bunny chow is eaten sans knife and fork. Tuck into the loaf lid first, then work your way around the crust, scooping and dipping the bread in the curry as you go.
Where to try it: At the award-winning Jeera restaurant in Durban they serve their much talked about bunny chow with beetroot Ryvita, pickled figs and spiced vegetables for the win.
Ceviche in Lima, Peru
There are few dishes that play greater homage to fresh ingredients and clean, punchy flavours than ceviche.
The uber-trendy dish from the coastal towns of Latin America sees raw fish cured in citrus juice and seasoned with chilli, onion and coriander for an end result that’s somehow hot and cold, sweet and sour all at once.
Where to try it: In Lima chef Javiar Wong is known as the godfather of ceviche. Chez Wong, his famed no-frills restaurant (located in his house) has just 10 tables, no menu and operates a strict bookings-only policy. The ceviche is second to none.
Chicken shawarma, across the Middle East
Doners have their place and the Greek gyro certainly deserves a nod yet the accolade of greatest kebab belongs to the chicken shawarma (in our eyes at least).
The darling of Middle Eastern street food might be a sandwich but there’s nothing simple about this convergence of flavours, colours, tastes and textures. From the strips of lightly charred, smoky yet juicy meat to the rich tahini or piquant toum sauce, the slices of salty pickles and crisp French fries nestled within (not to mention the pillowy fresh pita bread), this is next level munching.
Where to try it: While the shawarma may not have been born in Dubai, it is one of the most popular dishes in the emirate. Amongst a plethora of tasty options, the hummus with chicken shawarma at Al Safadi stands out.
Lobster roll in Maine, USA
Tender morsels of freshly caught, just-cooked juicy lobster meat glistening with homemade mayonnaise and packed generously into a grilled hot dog bun smeared with butter – need we elaborate further as to why the lobster roll is a bucket list dish?
Where to try it: Fairy lights twinkle overhead, the picnic table seating offers views of the nearby harbour and the ratio of meat to brioche bun is nigh on perfect. Yup, the lobster rolls at Abel’s Lobster are sublime (and the setting is pretty good, too).
Masala dosa in Bangalore, India
You can keep your poached eggs and porridge: breakfasts don’t get much better than those featuring lacy, wafer-thin pancakes made from fermented rice flour batter, cooked to the lightest golden brown and stuffed with delicately spiced, turmeric-yellow potato.
Accompanied by a colourful, full-flavoured array of chutneys and sauces for dipping and dunking, the phrase ‘breakfast of champions’ might well have been invented for the humble masala dosa.
Where to try it: Vidyarthi Bhavan in Bangalore has been serving up knockout versions of the dish since 1943.
Freshly shucked oysters in Sydney, Australia
As divisive an ingredient as they come. We’re not even going to attempt to convince confirmed oyster dodgers to rethink their views (skip on to the next recommendation, there’s plenty more to feast on). If, like us, you can’t get enough of those meaty bivalves though, this one’s for you.
While fine de claires are delicious and we’d never turn down a plump native straight from cold Scottish seas, it’s Sydney rock oysters, with their complex, incredibly intense flavour and minerally, ever-so slightly acidic finish that are the variety every oyster lover should slurp back at least once in their life.
Where to try them: Trendy Sydney boasts oyster shacks and bars galore, but it doesn’t get better than picking up a dozen freshly shucked beauties from the world-renowned Sydney Fish Market before heading to the nearby harbour to imbibe them al fresco.
Moules-frites in Brussels, Belgium
As culinary duos go, moules-frites is one of the greats. Mussels are best in Brussels (so the saying goes) and there are few finer meals than a steaming bowl of juicy, briny mussels accompanied by hand-cut, hot and crisp Belgian fries. That said, you could certainly add a pot of garlicky mayo and a side of crusty bread without ever being accused of gilding the lily.
Where to try it: Tuck into the classic dish at the quaint and cosy In’t Spinnekopke in the charming Place Sainte-Catherine area of Brussels, Belgium.
Paella in Valencia, Spain
Families have been estranged and battles waged over less controversial issues than what counts as authentic when it comes to paella. For that reason alone we’re not even going to go there: this round-up is about trying the ultimate rendition of a dish, rather than the most echt version of it, after all.
In our opinion, that means a large paellera bursting with colour and gleaming with fragrant, saffron-hued rice and resplendent with delicious protein – that could mean hunks of chicken and rabbit, giant shrimp, mussels or crayfish. Other essentials include late afternoon sunshine, a gaggle of friends to enjoy the feast with and plenty of socarrat (the caramelised golden crust that forms on the base of a well-cooked paella).
Where to try it: One of the oldest restaurants in Valencia, family-run La Pepica has been dishing up paella for close to 125 years (i.e more than enough time to perfect the recipe).
Pastrami on rye in New York, USA
Quite simply the king of sandwiches. Originating in the Jewish delicatessens of New York City in the 19th century, the lure of slice upon slice of melt-in-the-mouth pastrami finished with a lick of mustard and bookended by soft rye bread is an understandably enduring one.
Where to try it: The most famous place in the city to get your chops around a classic pastrami on rye is of course the legendary Katz’s Delicatessen. Two pieces of advice: go hungry (each serving features almost 500g of spice-rubbed, slow-smoked, boiled and hand carved beef) and don’t even think about asking for mayo.
Peking duck in Beijing, China
It’s not until you’ve sampled the real deal delight that is laboriously prepared and exquisite tasting made-in-Beijing Peking duck that you can claim to have tasted the dish at its finest. And by that we mean crisp, golden lacquered skin, meltingly soft meat carved tableside, gossamer thin pancakes, rich and sticky hoisin sauce and strips of cooling, crunchy cucumber and spring onion.
Where to try it: There’s a reason why the Da Dong chain is famous for its duck (the Beijing location boats a Michelin-star, no less)
Pho in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Pho, the fragrant, long-simmered bone broth rich with warming cinnamon and spice, swimming with tangles of slippery white noodles and abundant with fresh herbs and slivers of meat (usually beef, sometimes chicken) is a source of national pride in Vietnam. While renditions vary across the country (there are nuanced differences between the pure, light broths served in the north and the bold and sweet stock of the south, for example) coming across a disappointing bowl of pho is unlikely. Which is handy, as it’s the perfect comfort food.
Where to try it: For a truly authentic pho experience make for the bustling Bến Thành Market in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1 and follow your nose. If you fancy pho in hipster-influenced surrounds, the trendy Bến Thành Street Food Market will more than deliver.
Pie and mash in London, United Kingdom
Think you’ve had proper pie and mash before? Unless you’ve tucked into the dish at one of London’s East End pie and mash shops don’t go striking it off your bucket list just yet.
What we’re talking about here is a reassuringly stodgy, made-from-scratch pie featuring a slow-simmered beef, gravy and vegetable mix encased in a suet pastry shell (puff pastry doesn’t get a look in here). As purists will attest, that pie should be served upside down, swimming in parsley liquor and accompanied by scoops of buttery mash. A bowl of jellied eels on the side is essential (no arguments please).
Where to try it: G. Kellys in Bow has been serving up pie and mash on Roman Road for nearly a century, and has the old-school look (despite a recent refurbishment) to match. Vegans don’t have to miss out, either, as G. Kellys has embraced the hipster revolution sweeping the capital and now serves up plant-based pies, too.
Pizza in Naples, Italy
It’s contentious, but we’re calling it: the best pizza in the world, and the one you need to taste at least once in your life, comes from none other than Naples.
To say that the city takes its pizza seriously is something of an understatement (the regulatory body known as the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana functions to protect that art of pizza-making in the city) and the results speak for themselves. Neapolitan pizzas are renowned for their sublime, super thin and crispy but somehow light and airy bases and high-quality toppings.
Where to try it: Gino Sorbillo is regarded as one of the finest pizza makers in Naples and pizza-lovers the world over flock to his restaurant Sorbillo for a wood-fired slice of the action.
Poutine in Montreal, Canada
Meat, cheese and fries all in one mouthful – let’s just call poutine the late-night meal to end all late-night meals and be done with it.
The origins of the Canadian fast-food staple that sees French fries topped with fresh cheese curds and soused with gravy are much contested, but our favourite tale dates back to 1857 when an in-a-rush customer at a restaurant by the name of L’Ideal asked for his takeout order of cheese curds and fries to be combined in one bag. While the chef obliged, he declared the result ‘poutine’ (Quebecois slang for a mess) and as a result an iconic dish was born (the gravy came later).
Where to try it: When Anthony Bourdain visited Montreal poutinerie La Banquise he devoured plate after plate (five in total) of poutine. Enough said.
Southern fried chicken in Nashville, Tennessee
Southern fried chicken done right is a finger lickin’ (forgive us), life changin’ revelation. To taste the all-American classic at its finest you must of course head for Nashville, where succulent, brine-infused chicken legs and thighs enveloped in a deep golden brown, craggy, crunchy coating are the order of the day, all day, every day. Add a side of coleslaw, crinkle cut fries and some Southern greens and you’re good to go.
Where to try it: For chicken so juicy, so crispy, so out-and-out tasty it will silence a crowd in seconds, Hattie B’s is the place to be (if you’re a heat fiend, the cayenne pepper soused Hot Chicken is the order for you).
Sushi in Tokyo, Japan
For the best sushi in the world, head to its birthplace, Tokyo. On your way throw all memories of conveyor belt California rolls out the window and prepare yourself for a transcendental eating experience (and one that may well do your bank account some serious damage). In return, you can expect spanking fresh fish, rice cooked so reverentially it could well bring a tear to the eye and chefs with knife skills that are quite frankly mind-blowing.
Where to try it: Should you snag yourself a much-coveted seat at the legendary three-Michelin star Jiro, helmed by 96-year-old Jiro Ono, consider yourself very lucky indeed.
Tajarin al tartufo Bianco in Alba, Italy
Relatively rare, intoxicatingly rich and exorbitantly priced: fresh white truffles from Alba tick all the boxes when it comes to once-in-a-life time, must-taste ingredients.
For quite the most memorable way to sample said delicacy you’ll want to tuck into a bowl of tajarin al tartufo Bianco d’Alba (that’s ribbons of handmade, egg-rich pasta dressed with butter, parmesan and a bordering on the indecent amount of shaved white truffle for the non-Italian speakers).
Where to try it: Overseen by the same team behind the three-Michelin star Piazza Duomo, the tajarin al tartufo Bianco served at the hugely popular La Piola in Alba is, for want of another word, sublime.
White ant egg soup in Vientiane, Laos
One for the more adventurous eaters: let’s just say that we’re not in cream of tomato territory here.
The Laotian delicacy that is white ant soup features a combination of ant eggs and snakehead fish swimming in a broth flavoured with garlic, galangal, lime juice, basil and tomatoes. While the protein-rich end result is described as full-flavoured – tangy, intense and slightly sour – it’s the sensation of the clusters of pearl white eggs popping in the mouth as you bite into them that makes the dish truly unforgettable.
Where to try it: The menu changes daily at Doi Ka Noi in Laos’ capital Vientiane but in late summer you’ll often find white ant egg soup on the menu.