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Culinary Tourist: A Curious Eater’s Checklist

OkonomiyakiWhether a food is exotic or not completely depends on the experience of the person consuming it. Fodor’s editors and writers have had the good fortune and fortitude to have tried the following local specialties. How many have you sampled?

Talk travel: What is on your personal checklist of culinary discoveries?

A Local Treat In: Japan
A kind of pancake made with egg, meat, and vegetables, okonomiyakis (photo, right), sometimes referred to as Japanese pizza, are considered snacks more than full meals. Some okonomiyaki restaurants are do-it-yourself; patrons choose their ingredients and cook them on a teppan (grill).

A Local Treat In: Cambodia
Down south, Kampot Province grows world-renowed pepper. If you’re coming from a northern climate, try a seafood dish with whole green peppercorns on the stalk. You won’t find them (not fresh, anyway) in your home country.

A Local Treat In: Provence, France
This poached fish dish owes its anise kick to pastis and its garlic punch to aioli. The name comes from Provencal bourrio, which translates less poetically as “boiled.” Monkfish–known as baudroie in Provence and lotte in the rest of France–is a must, but chefs occasionally dress up their bourride with other species and shellfish.

A Local Treat In: Croatia
This local take on a sandwich is a must-eat. Although Zagreb is not exactly overflowing with budget sandwich shops, traditional bakeries have long fulfilled that role for locals. At such places, you can pick up a burek for as little as 10 Kn a piece.

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French Fries
A Local Treat In: Belgium
French fries are a Belgian invention. Stands (friterie in French and frituur in Flemish) serve them in large cones, with a selection of condiments that go far beyond banal ketchup. Another favorite snack is the famous Belgian waffle (gaufres in French, waffels in Flemish), which you can buy at stands and in some city bakeries. Waffles are considered an afternoon snack here, though.

A Local Treat In: Argentina
These croissant-like pastries are a cafe breakfast staple and come in two types: de grasa, which tend to be a little drier and skinnier but have a very delicate, mellow taste, and de manteca, which are plump, moist, sweet, and hard not to eat six of at a time.

A Local Treat In: El Salvador
No food is more typically Salvadoran: it’s fried tortilla filled with beans, cheese and/or chicharrón (pork skin). A pupusa called a revuelta has all three fillings mixed together. Delicious pupusas de arroz are made with rice flour and are not quite as thick; rather, they have a certain lightness, though they are still quite filling. Loroco, a sprouty green local vegetable, is also a popular and interesting filling. All are found in pupuserias, where they’re served with spicy tomato sauce and a vinegary pickled cabbage and carrot concoction called curtido.080423_Kjunstorm_trufflesF.jpg

A Local Treat In: Umbria, Italy
Umbria’s celebrated “black diamonds” are coveted for their intense aroma and rarity. More truffles are found here than anywhere else in Italy. The primary truffle areas are around Spoleto and the hills around the tiny town of Norcia, which holds a truffle festival every February.

Geitost & Norvegia
A Local Treat In: Norway
Norway’s famous brown goat cheese, Geitost (a sweet, caramel-flavor whey cheese made from goat and cow’s milk) and Norvegia (a Norwegian Gouda-like cheese) are on virtually every table. They are eaten in thin slices, cut with a cheese plane or slicer—a Norwegian invention—on buttered wheat or rye bread.

A Local Treat In: Bogota, Columbia
Bogotanos like to start the day off with santefereño, a steaming cup of chocolate accompanied by a slab of cheese, which you melt in the chocolate. 080423_Mauricio%20Pellegrinetti_RIJSTAFEL.jpg

A Local Treat In: Amsterdam, Holland
This multi-ingredient Indonesian dish with rice, vegetables or meat, and sweet and spicy condiments is a tasty legacy of Dutch colonialism.

Cha siu bao
A Local Treat In: Hong Kong
A favorite dim sum item, these steamed barbecued pork buns are an absolute must. With the combination of soft and chewy textures and sweet and salty tastes, you might forget to remove the paper underneath before eating.

Photo credits: (1) Photo by Barry Silver; (2) Photo by Coralie Ferreira; (3) Photo by Kjunstorm; (4) Photo by Mauricio Pellegrinetti.

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