Sampling the local cuisine can help you make friends, understand the history, politics or religion of the place you're visiting and provide a lasting memory of your trip. Food and travel go hand in hand, and there's no better way to delve deep into a destination than to try its most famous dishes.
No matter where you go around the world, every culture puts its own spin on food, whether they're serving a slightly different version of a familiar favorite or a strange (to you) dish sure to challenge even the most adventurous eater.
From China's famous Peking duck to good old US barbecue, here are ten iconic dishes from around the world that every traveler should try at least once!
-- Viator Travel Team
The imperial dish, Peking duck from <a title="China tours, things to do in China" href="http://www.viator.com/China/d13-ttd" target="_blank">China</a> is synonymous with superior Chinese food of the non-takeaway variety. What makes this particular roast duck a standout 'try before you die' candidate is the garlicky sweet crispy skin. Plating up the dish is an event in itself: order the whole duck, and the bird will be carved in front of you. First you'll be served the famously crispy sweet skin. Next, juicy slivers of meat will be carved and served with steamed pancakes, spring onions and a sweet hoisin sauce so you can create your own Peking duck pancakes. If you're still hungry, the remaining duck will be served as a stir fry or broth. <strong>Try Peking Duck and other specialties on a <a title="China food tours" href="http://www.viator.com/China-tours/Food-Wine-and-Nightlife/d13-g6" target="_blank">food tour in China</a></strong> <strong>and read more about <a title="Chinese food" href="http://thingstodo.viator.com/china/local-recommendations/eating-restaurants/" target="_blank">Chinese food</a>.</strong>
You've got to try snails at least once in your life, if only to try to distinguish their flavor lurking beneath all that garlic butter. The ancient Romans ate snails, and they're eaten across the globe from Morocco to Cambodia. However, it's the French who are most readily identified with these tasty morsels, ideally sourced from <a href="http://www.viator.com/Burgundy-and-Dijon/d177-ttd">Burgundy</a>. Escargots are generally eaten as an appetizer, served in the shell and cooked in a delicious melange of garlicky parsley butter. And what do they taste like? As you might expect, the texture is firm, but shouldn't be chewy, and the flavor underneath all that garlic and butter is similar to mussels. <strong>Pair a <a title="Wine Tasting in France" href="http://www.viator.com/France-tours/Wine-Tasting-and-Winery-Tours/d51-g6-c21" target="_blank">wine tasting</a> with a <a title="France food tours" href="http://www.viator.com/France-tours/Food-Tours/d51-g6-c80" target="_blank">food tour</a> for the ultimate French culinary experience.</strong>
The national casserole in <a title="Greece tours, things to do in Greece" href="http://www.viator.com/Greece/d53-ttd" target="_blank">Greece</a> is a certain must-try dish, and these days there aren't many of us who haven't succumbed to this melting concoction. The Greek answer to the Italian lasagne, the dish is made by smothering layers of ingredients in a cheese béchamel sauce, and baking until creamily melted and golden. Along with ground beef or lamb, the major ingredient in a traditional moussaka is eggplant; regional varieties might use other vegetables following this method, such as artichokes and potatoes. The salted and browned slices of eggplant are layered with meat stewed with onions, garlic, tomatoes and spices. Wherever you live, the resulting cheesy casserole is a heart-warming dish to serve in winter. <strong>Browse <a title="Greece food and wine tours" href="http://www.viator.com/Greece-tours/Food-Wine-and-Nightlife/d53-g6" target="_blank">food and wine tours in Greece</a> and read more about <a title="Eating and drinking in Greece" href="http://thingstodo.viator.com/greece/eating-and-drinking-in-greece/" target="_blank">eating and drinking in Greece</a></strong> Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/merlejajoonas/4856049355/" target="_hplink">Merle ja Joonas</a> via Flickr.
If one subcontinental meal could persuade a committed carnivore to order vegetarian, my vote would go to a masala dosa in South <a title="India tours, things to do in India" href="http://www.viator.com/India/d723-ttd" target="_blank">India</a>. The plate-covering, paper-thin pancake is made from rice and lentils, cooked to lacy perfection on a hot griddle. What creates the flavor is a spiced concoction of mashed cooked potatoes and fried onions, served with a liberal dose of garlicky chutney. <strong>Read more about <a title="Dining in India" href="http://thingstodo.viator.com/india/dining-in-india/" target="_blank">dining in India</a> and have a once-in-a-lifetime Indian food experience: <a title="Delhi cook and eat with a local family" href="http://www.viator.com/tours/New-Delhi/Delhi-Cultural-Experience-Cook-and-Eat-with-a-Local-Family/d804-5076HUA" target="_blank">cook and eat with a local family in New Delhi</a>!</strong> <strong></strong> Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mckaysavage/400552747/" target="_hplink">McKay Savage</a> via Flickr.
Everyone who's eaten <a href="http://www.viator.com/Tuscany/d206-ttd">Tuscany</a>'s <em>fiore di zucca</em>, or deep-fried zucchini flowers, says they're to die for, so it makes sense to add them to our list. The tender yellow zucchini flowers are stuffed with a delicious filling, maybe herbed ricotta or mozzarella, then dipped into a simple tempura-like batter and sizzled in olive oil. The result is a melt-in-the mouth, sweetly crisp sensation that must be eaten immediately. <strong>A <a title="Tuscany food and wine tours" href="http://www.viator.com/Tuscany-tours/Food-Wine-and-Nightlife/d206-g6" target="_blank">food and wine tour</a> is a must-do for any trip to Tuscany</strong>! Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/tavallai/4707023303/" target="_hplink">Tavallai</a> via Flickr.
If you like a little theater and audience participation with your food, don't miss the experience of dining at a teppanyaki restaurant in <a title="Japan tours, things to do in Japan" href="http://www.viator.com/Japan/d16-ttd" target="_blank">Japan</a>. With much flame-fuelled drama, sometimes accompanied by juggling of utensils and flipping of ingredients, the skilled chefs grill your steak right in front of you, via a sizzling-hot gas-powered griddle. Order grilled Kobe beef, seafood or chicken, or ask for a signature flaming volcano of onion rings, and get ready to be amazed by your teppanyaki chef's superb knife skills. <strong>Take a <a title="Japan cooking classes" href="http://www.viator.com/Japan-tours/Cooking-Classes/d16-g6-c19" target="_blank">cooking class in Japan</a> and skim our <a title="Culinary guide to Japanese food" href="http://thingstodo.viator.com/japan/the-culinary-adventurers-guide-to-japanese-food/" target="_blank">Culinary Adventurer's Guide to Japanese Food</a> to</strong> <strong>learn more</strong>. Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lovati/5331003427/" target="_hplink">Simone Lovati</a> via Flickr.
<a title="Malaysia tours, things to do in Malaysia" href="http://www.viator.com/Malaysia/d17-ttd" target="_blank">Malaysia</a>'s king of soups is a spicy, tangy, coconut-creamy soup packed full of noodles, seafood, fish sticks, puffed tofu, vegetables, a hard-boiled egg, coriander and chilli sambal. The Chinese-Malay dish is a classic of Peranakan cuisine, merging elements from Malaysia and <a href="http://www.viator.com/Singapore/d18-ttd">Singapore</a>. There are heaps of regional variances, and some seafood laksas also include chicken. If you come across assam laksa, you'll find it has a fish rather than coconut broth. The general rule is the simpler the surroundings, the tastier the curry laksa, so pull up a stool at a streetside stall in a <a href="http://www.viator.com/Penang/d339-ttd">Penang</a> backstreet or Singapore food court and tuck in. <strong>Read more about <a title="Malaysian cuisine" href="http://thingstodo.viator.com/malaysia/malaysian-cuisine/" target="_blank">Malaysian cuisine</a></strong>. Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/4355100359/" target="_hplink">Alpha</a> via Flickr
To savour <a title="Thailand tours, things to do in Thailand" href="http://www.viator.com/Thailand/d20-ttd" target="_blank">Thailand</a>'s four essential flavours - sour, salt, sweet and chilli - in one dish, load up a bowl of som tam and prepare for sensory overload. The base ingredient of shredded unripened papaya is combined with any or all of the following: palm sugar, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, tamarind juice, dried shrimp and, quite often, seafood, tomatoes, carrot, beans and peanuts. Simply add the ingredients to a mortar and start pounding. A northern Thai dish from the Isan region, som tam is typically served with grilled chicken and sticky rice. If you're making the dish at home and can't source a green papaya at your local supermarket, you can substitute unripe mangoes, apples or cucumbers for a similar, but not as authentic, result. <strong>Learn more about Thai food with a <a title="Thailand cooking classes" href="http://www.viator.com/Thailand-tours/Cooking-Classes/d20-g6-c19" target="_blank">cooking class</a> or read about <a title="Traditional Thai cuisine" href="http://thingstodo.viator.com/thailand/traditional-thai-cuisine/" target="_blank">traditional Thai cuisine</a>.</strong>
Fiercely competitive <a title="Australia tours, things to do in Australia" href="http://www.viator.com/Australia/d22-ttd" target="_blank">Australia</a> and <a title="New Zealand tours, things to do in New Zealand" href="http://www.viator.com/New-Zealand/d24-ttd" target="_blank">New Zealand</a> vie for ownership of this iconic dessert. Currently the odds are on a hotel in Wellington, New Zealand as having invented this heavenly melange of meringue and cream. The dish is named for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, and indeed the meltingly soft light-as-air meringue does bring to mind the fluffy tulle of a ballet tutu. A classic pavlova is topped with lashings of whipped cream daubed with passionfruit, strawberries and kiwi fruit. <strong>Book a <a title="Australia and New Zealand food tours" href="http://www.viator.com/Australia-and-the-Pacific-tours/Food-Tours/d3-g6-c80" target="_blank">food tour in Australia or New Zealand</a> and read about other <a title="Famous foods to try in New Zealand" href="http://thingstodo.viator.com/new-zealand/famous-foods-to-try-in-new-zealand/" target="_blank">famous foods to try in New Zealand</a></strong>. Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/toholio/4296260341/" target="_hplink">toholio</a> via Flickr.
If there's one <a title="USA tours, things to do in USA" href="http://www.viator.com/USA/d77-ttd" target="_blank">US</a> cuisine that has aficionados frothing at the mouth, it's the holy grail of smoked pork ribs: the BBQ. Kansas City, <a title="Memphis tours, things to do in Memphis" href="http://www.viator.com/Memphis/d783-ttd" target="_blank">Memphis</a> and St. Louis are US BBQ capitals, not forgetting <a title="Texas tours, things to do in Texas" href="http://www.viator.com/Texas/d296-ttd" target="_blank">Texas</a>, the Carolinas ... hell, it seems everyone has their favorite local variety. Memphis ribs get their extra belt of flavor from a dry rub made from garlic and spices, which is slapped on prior to smoking. The ribs are generally served with a tomato and vinegar BBQ sauce on the side. Kansas City style ribs are prepared with a sweetly spiced rub before being extra slow-smoked, and sugar, honey and molasses add a sweet edge to the BBQ sauce served alongside. St. Louis pork spare ribs are grilled, and served with lashings of tangy tomato-based BBQ sauce. Whichever style of BBQ you choose, get ready to tuck in your bib for a messy feast. <strong>Feeling hungry? Read more about <a title="Food and travel" href="http://travelblog.viator.com/tag/food/" target="_blank">food and travel</a>.</strong> Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/instantvantage/7181957216/" target="_hplink">Guian Bolisay</a> via Flickr.
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