11 Dishes Worth Traveling For
For the type of traveler who starts planning lunch halfway through breakfast and books dinner reservations months in advance, food is the ultimate attraction of any vacation. Emily Saladino hits the road hungry and discovers 11 dishes worth hitting the road for.
Pork buns in Hong Kong
Cha siu bao, the dim sum delicacy that made Dave Chang famous, is a Cantonese classic made from barbecue pork, oyster and hoisin sauces, rice wine or some combination thereof. The buns themselves are alternatively sticky and steamed, or baked and buoyant like a French pastry. Oh-la-la.
Where to try them: Hong Kong‘s streets are pretty much paved in pork, but brave the crowds awaiting tables at Tim Ho Wan, the world’s least expensive Michelin-starred restaurant. Here, the pork is sweetly sauced, the bao is baked and buttery, and your taste buds (and bank account) will thank you.
Smoked meat in Montreal
Pastrami’s Canadian cousin is made from rich, dark beef brisket that is slow-smoked to supple, sinewy perfection. While exact cut and marbling vary, Montreal-style smoked meat is generally leaner, more seasoned and less sugared than its anglophone brethren.
Where to try it: Opened by a Romanian immigrant in 1928, Schwartz’s Deli is a Mont-Royal institution. The brisket is smoked for eight or nine hours, steamed for another three, sliced by hand and served atop mustarded rye bread.
Fried fish sandwiches in Bermuda
Britons (and, apparently, Venetians) claim fish and chips, but fishy fritters have devoted followings on both sides of the Atlantic. Bermuda honors its lineage and the local bounty with a fish sandwich to end all lunch debates: lightly breaded fillets are topped with tartar sauce, grilled sweet Bermuda onions, melted cheese and slaw, and served on brave, load-bearing toast.
Where to try them: At Art Mel’s Spicy Dicy, an island institution with counters in Hamilton and St. George, lunch-hour professionals, local families and sunburnt tourists alike queue for gargantuan sandos made with freshly caught snapper or halibut. Locals request theirs on raisin bread toast, which gives the hearty handful a sweet crunch.
Bikini in Barcelona
The ultimate Catalan bar snack combines salty jamon, nutty manchego and thin slices of toast, pressed to melty perfection and cut into handheld triangles. Legend has it the tapa gets its racy moniker from a fabled concert hall in Les Corts, and some contend it’s a Catalan croque monsieur. Just don’t call it grilled cheese.
Where to try it: elBulli alum Carles Abellan helms Tapas 24, a bright, buzzy bar in Barcelona’s Eixample neighborhood. Abellan adds grated black truffles to local Iberican ham and manchego for a rich, indulgent take that belies its small size — and austerity-worthy €8.90 price tag.
Chocolate and churros in the Yucatan
A Spanish import to Latin America and the Caribbean, churros can be coated in cinnamon sugar, filled with savory cheese, or stuffed with guava paste. For our calorie count, the dippers are best Mexican-style: cut thin, coated in sugar and accompanied by spicy hot chocolate.
Where to try it: Chocolate and churros are served at casual taquerias across Mexico, but the version at the super swank Viceroy Riviera Maya is especially indulgent. Twists no thicker than three chopsticks are lightly dusted in sugar, flawlessly fried (crisp on the outside, doughy on the inside), and accompanied by ramekin-sized bowls of spiced chocolate and dulce de leche sauces. Que rico, indeed.
Beef noodle soup in Taiwan
Taiwan‘s answer to Japanese ramen is beef noodle soup, a spicy bowl so popular it launched the annual New Rou Mian Festival, a heated (get it?) competition attended by sauciers coast to coast. Much like ramen, beef noodle is a multicultural affair — fiery Sichuan peppercorns and chili bean sauce couple with Australian beef and tropical star anise, and some cooks steep local black tea in their broth for added intrigue.
Where to try it: With its fluorescent lights, formica tabletops and befuddling lack of signage, Yong Kang is neither beauty queen nor Pritzker candidate. Still, follow the lines of locals clamoring for a table at the bi-level, family-run establishment, which has been ladling bowls of noodle and tendon soup made with Australian beef and gracefully spiced, fiery red broth since 1963.
Braai in South Africa
Pride and protein collide on the South African plate, where cuts of heritage game like kudu and springbok join hearty lamb chops and boerewors, an Afrikaans-style sausage made from pork and beef. The best way to sample them all is at a braai, a traditional outdoor barbecue where the smoke is charcoal, the meat is plentiful and the party lasts until evening hours.
Where to try it: Pack plates, napkins and your dancing shoes, and head to Mzoli’s in Cape Town’s Gugelethu township. The lively scene includes an onsite butcher and multiple grilling stations, and deejays spin house music that inevitably brings a crowd of stylish locals and carnivorous out-of-towners to their feet.
Cannele in Bordeaux
Gallic croissants and baguettes are (thankfully) exported and recreated worldwide, but canele, the signature pastry of Bordeaux, remain relatively unknown beyond the region. A springy, spongy snack that stands only a few inches tall, canele combine a custard-like center with cake-like outer crumb. If there is a more elegant way to recover from a late-night wine tasting, we don’t want to hear it.
Where to try it: The cobblestoned streets of Bordeaux’ city center are lined with cafés and patisseries, but we are partial to the canele at Les Sources de Caudalie. Renovated last summer, the luxe wine country inn serves the springy pastries alongside prune croustades, poached eggs, coffee and even morning wines as part of an epic breakfast spread.
Currywurst in Berlin
When Berlin’s club kids need sustenance for all-night dance parties they rely on currywurst, a traditional street snack with staying power. The combination of steamed and fried pork sausages (usually bratwurst), salty French fries and curried ketchup are nearly as hip, multicultural and coolly frugal as the city itself.
Where to try it: Every Berliner will likely advocate for a different local vendor, but a democratic favorite is Kreuzberg’s Curry36. Expect to see black-tie revelers, artfully disheveled clubgoers and, depending on the hour, neighborhood families gathering at its convivial counters.