Think of the foods you'd travel a thousand miles to taste again. Dishes so delicious you carried the memory of them home as a treasured souvenir. Those snacks, sweets, and savories that surprised and delighted you, that taught you something about the place you were visiting. This is a story about those meals. Here are 10 of our favorite foods from around the world, foods we think you've simply got to try.
Who needs fire when you've got the acidic power of citrus to do the cooking? Ceviche—the bewitching blend of raw fish, citrus juice, and a little something extra like onion, cilantro, and salt and pepper—is a food that inspires devotion in Central and South America. It's got everything going for it: the combination of textures, the bright flavors, the incredibly fresh fish. It's a dish as delicious tossed together with just-caught fish onboard a boat as it is enjoyed in a traditional cevicheria. Each country with a ceviche culture does things a little differently, so you may need to travel and sample extensively to find your favorite.
There's so much going on with bibimbap; it's a veritable Korean kitchen sink—and it tastes so good. Admire the artful arrangement of meats and vegetables atop a bowl of warm white rice, then adjust the seasoning with various sauces or chili pastes, mix it all up, and savor a new flavor with every bite. For added excitement, try the version served in a hot stone pot, which turns any rice touching its sides crisp and golden.
In a world of earth-bound breads, India's bhature reaches for the sky. The wildly puffy bread makes a serious statement straight from the fryer. Served with chole, a spicy chickpea curry, the classic Punjabi combination is rich, filling, and totally addictive. Some restaurants throw in contrasting flavors such as sweet chutney, tart lemon, or spicy pickles on the side.
You know you're an iconic (and irresistible) treat when you have your own hashtag (#buttertart), food trail, and festival. That's the case with Ontario favorite butter tart. Much better—but nearly as rich—as it sounds, the Canadian butter tart falls somewhere between a British treacle and a French tarte au sucre, with butter, sugar, syrup, eggs, and sometimes raisins or nuts baked inside a flaky crust. It's rich without being cloying, utterly indulgent, and definitely reason enough to return to the Canadian province again and again.
Salty, sweet, spicy, and tart hold hands and serenade your taste buds with every bite of miang kham. Hailing from Thailand and Laos, the popular street food and party snack starts with a leaf (everything from cabbage and spinach to local wild pepper), onto which you pile little bits of diced ginger, coconut, peanuts, lime, and dried shrimp. A sweet, tangy sauce gets drizzled on top and then the whole thing is wrapped up and devoured with delight.
When we say tacos, we don't mean the deep-fried jobbies dressed up in lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. We're talking traditional Mexican tacos, the kind you buy from street sellers in Mexico City and elsewhere in Mexico, those simple arrangements of homemade corn tortillas, meat, onions, cilantro, and squirts of lime. With such a short ingredients list and modest size, it's easy to underestimate the incredible marriage of flavors they deliver. That is, until you try them.
The great thing about Australia and New Zealand both laying claim as the originator of the pavlova is that it means there are two entire countries filled with chefs expertly creating delectible versions of the dessert. With its merengue-like base, whipped-cream topping, and generous adornment of whatever fruit is the most luscious at the time it's made (think kiwi, passion fruit, and strawberries), it's as light and refreshing as Christmas in summer. Which, not coincidentally, is often when it's served.
No one does moules frites like the Belgians, who likely invented the dish hundreds of years ago. Simultaneously elegant and down-home, this isn't just a dish, it's a feast. Extravagant mounds of mussels atop a brothy sauce (often flavored with white wine) pair with thin, crisp French fries that were born for just this sort of union. And you, lucky you, get to unite them all with your fork and your appetite.
The glorious pastilla (also spelled bastilla, b'stila, or bisteeya) presents a slight translation problem. Taste the elaborate Moroccan meat pie—which blends a thin, crisp outer layer of dough with a rich filling of poultry, onions, almonds, sugar, and spices—and there's no resisting it. But read some version of the words "sweet-and-sour pigeon pie" and you might not order it at all. Ignore that instinct of self-preservation and try this comforting dish—your belly will thank you.
There are plenty of French foods that could have made this list, but croissants stand out because they're simply not the same anywhere else in the world. In France, the stars of flour and butter, geography and weather, steam and heat all align to create the world's most perfect croissants. Tear open the flaky and golden outside to reveal a delicate, airy interior. To find a croissant that will change your life, look for local boulangers who make their own rather than trucking in goods from large central bakeries.