Off the Beaten Menu: 8 Regional Foods Worth Traveling For

By all means, try pasta when you are Italy, steak in Argentina, and sushi in Japan, but after you finish, dig a little deeper and try some of these regional specialties that don't have much world-wide fame.
08/07/2014 10:47 am ET Updated Dec 01, 2016

There is so, so much good food in the world, but sometimes it takes getting off the beaten menu, so to speak, to find something really worth drooling over. By all means, try pasta when you are Italy, steak in Argentina, and sushi in Japan, but after you finish, dig a little deeper and try some of these regional specialties that don't have much world-wide fame. And try not to get too angry with the locals for keeping them hidden from you for so long.

1. Ochazuke, Japan

Ochazuke (Photo: kossy/Flickr)

Ochazuke is a dish that the Japanese have been eating for thousands of years as a way to make use of leftover rice. It consists of a base of rice with toppings like pickles, seaweed, sesame seeds, wasabi, seafood, and roe, all soaked in green tea. Simple? Yes. Surprisingly delicious? Absolutely.

2. Chicken 65, India

Chicken 65 (Photo: haynes/Flickr)

Although it doesn't often show up on the menus of Indian restaurants outside of India, Chicken 65 is Indian food at its best. The dish, which originated in Chennai, is made by frying chicken and coating it in a sauce of ginger, garlic, chilies, vinegar, and plenty of spices. As for the name, no one has a definitive answer for how it came about, but the 65 could easily represent the number of times you will lick your fingers in bliss after finishing a plate.

3. Pozole, Mexico

Pozole (Photo: marthax/Flickr)

Some people (we're looking at you, America) think Mexican food is all tacos and enchiladas. But this country's cuisine was already delicious before restaurants north of the border started dumping piles of cheese and sour cream on top of it. Take pozole, for example. This corn-based stew has existed since the days of the Aztecs and is made to be both hearty and mouth-wateringly good. Try it at more authentic Mexican establishments in your neighborhood, or in the states along the western coast of Mexico.

4. Ful medames, Egypt and Sudan

Ful medames (Photo: avlxyz/Flickr)

This dish of cooked fava beans is a staple in much of North Africa, but difficult to find anywhere else. But don't let the obscurity fool you -- these beans have been popular for millennia (many were even found buried in the tombs of ancient Egyptians), so it's safe to assume that they've just about perfected how to eat them.

5. Khao Soi, Laos and Thailand

Khao Soi (Photo: avlxyz/Flickr)

Crispy, deep-fried egg noodles and boiled egg noodles are the base of this soup dish, which also has pickled cabbage, shallots, lime, chillies, and a coconut-curry sauce. Thai has long been a popular cuisine in much of the world, but this particular dish is still relatively unknown to foreigners. Head to the north of Laos and Thailand to try this regional specialty.

6. Pachamanca, Peru

Pachamanca (Photo: chosicarelax/Flickr)

The Peruvian foodie scene may have taken some significant strides lately, and even made some major progress in getting international attention, but there are still many nooks and crannies of the country whose regional foods have gone unexplored. Pachamanca, made by burying meat and vegetables under the ground under hot stones, is most popular in the central Andes. The key to this dish's finger-licking factor? The delicious marinade of Peruvian spices and the long cook time that makes the meat tender and, well, finger-licking good.

7. Cao lau, Vietnam

Cao lau in Hoi An (Photo: kirksiang/Flickr)

This regional Vietnamese dish can only be found in the town of Hoi An because (legend claims) the recipe uses water from an ancient, undisclosed well in the area. The plate, which includes noodles, vegetables, and fried lard, differs from typical Vietnamese cuisine in the fact that it doesn't include soup. While its origins may be debated, the quality is not, making this a plate of food definitely worth traveling for.

8. Biltong, South Africa

Biltong (Photo: wmjr/Flickr)

Biltong is a popular South African form of cured meat, which has been made using a unique combination of vinegar, salt, and spices since the 17th century. The meat used varies from beef, to game, to even ostrich. That's probably an excuse to try this succulent food over and over (and over) again.

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