The chance to try amazing new dishes is definitely one of the highlights of traveling abroad. Sampling the local cuisine is a way to get a feel for a new culture and understand it deeper. Whether you're about to go on a trip or just want to explore new culinary flavors, here are 10 international dishes you absolutely have to try.
Masala Dosa, India
Fans of Indian food may be familiar with masala already. This popular spice blend can be found in a wide variety of Indian dishes. But, while you may have had delicious masala-spiced curries or tikka masala, you probably still need to try this popular South Indian breakfast food.
Similar to crepes, dosas are thin pancakes made from ground lentils and fermented rice. Masala dosa is the Indian version of a breakfast burrito. Instead of beans, Mexican-style chorizo, and eggs, you'll find soft, spiced potatoes in a pancake that's crispy on the outside and slightly spongy on the inside. Try your Masala dosa with coconut chutney for a satisfying breakfast.
Som Tam, Thailand
Also known as Thai green papaya salad, som tam is one of the most popular dishes in Thailand. Available from restaurants and street vendors, som tam originated in the northeastern part of the country and has evolved with the local customs.
The three most important ingredients in som tam are cane sugar, roasted peanuts, and green papaya. Green papayas — which are just unripe papayas — are prized for their neutral, fresh flavors. This base of ingredients is combined with garlic, chilies, fish sauce, fresh basil, lime juice, and tomatoes for a salad that's light, aromatic, and slightly spicy. If you're feeling adventurous, try som tam pla ra, which comes with a fermented fish and crab sauce.
Pudim de Leite Condensado, Brazil
This sweet Brazilian treat is made from milk, sugar, and eggs. The word "pudim" is used in Brazil to define a condensed milk pudding baked in a water bath. While the dessert is now immensely popular in Brazil, it actually originated in Portugal.
In fact, pudim de leite condensado was invented by a priest and amateur cook named Manuel Joaquim Machado, who guarded the recipe closely until his death.
Today, different versions of the dish can be found across Latin America. The most popular variant of the dessert is made with condensed milk, eggs, and sugar. It's deliciously creamy, with a consistency similar to a flan.
Hainanese Chicken Rice, Singapore
One of Singapore's national dishes, chicken rice can be found all over the island nation, often with variations. It's said that the dish originated from Hainanese immigrants. As a result, many foodies also call it Hainanese chicken rice. However, the same dish is also popular in neighboring Malaysia, which claims its own version of the rice.
At its core, the dish consists of boiled chicken, rice, and a chili sauce infused with garlic and ginger.
While the dish appears unassuming at first glance, making this chicken rice correctly takes a special touch — the rice should be just a little oily, while the chili sauce should be spicy with just a hint of sourness. In Southeast Asia, chefs achieve the unusual consistency of the rice by pre-frying it in chicken fat and then boiling it in a rich chicken stock.
Stinky Tofu, Southeast Asia
As a rule, we generally avoid food that smells bad — and usually, this tried-and-true method allows us to enjoy satisfying meal experiences. Sometimes, however, smelly food may actually taste good. Not convinced? If so, you probably haven't tried stinky tofu, a fermented tofu dish popular in many Southeast Asian countries. Even people who enjoy it maintain that the dish smells like wet, dirty socks. Here's why: the tofu gets its characteristic smell from being fermented in a brine of milk, shrimp, and amaranth.
That said, the flavors of the dish are actually quite mild and delicious.
While preparation styles may vary, the most popular version of stinky tofu is deep-fried and served with a chili-infused soy sauce. In addition to its mild flavors, the texture of this snack makes it well worth a try; it's crispy on the outside and silky soft on the inside.
French Toast, Hong Kong
And — wait for this: each French toast sandwich is also slathered with peanut butter on the inside. So, in actuality, you're eating a peanut butter-filled French toast sandwich. Try it at any time of day for a rich, decadent treat.
Ohmi-Gyu Beef Steak, Japan
This particular style of beef produces some of the best steaks in Japan. The unique cuts come from Tajima black wagyu cattle. In fact, this style of beef was served in the Edo era as a medicinal cure. The cattle are raised in a serene natural environment, surrounded by fresh water.
Meanwhile, the beef itself boasts a high percentage of marbling, which lends it a peculiar richness that's hard to beat.
Bunny Chow, South Africa
Despite its name, bunny chow doesn't contain any rabbits. The word actually comes from the term "Bania," a group of Indian traders who were known for selling this popular street food.
Found at vendors all across South Africa, bunny chow consists of a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with a warm, aromatic curry. Generally made with chickpeas, potatoes, and vegetables, this delicious dish can be easily transported, making it the perfect street food. The original bunny chow recipe was vegetarian, as you may have guessed. However, later versions included meats like beef and lamb.
Pastéis de Nata, Portugal
Pastéis de nata, also known as Portuguese custard tarts, are rich, delicious treats found in many bakeries across Portugal. While they can be made at home, it's well worth trying those made by an actual Portuguese baker. This traditional dessert, while simple, ascends to a whole new level when made by an expert.
The tarts are made with thin, buttery pastry crusts, eggs, milk, and sugar. They are sweet, uncomplicated desserts — the perfect comfort food. If you do get a chance to try them, be sure to eat them right away; they're best when warm and fresh out of the oven.
Chicken Muamba, Central Africa
Considered by many to be the national dish of Angola, chicken muamba is the perfect comfort food. This aromatic stew is made from chicken, palm oil, garlic, okra, onions, butternut squash, and hot peppers. The chicken is often marinated first, resulting in a deep flavor that permeates the entire dish. As with most stews, chicken muamba can be altered to suit your preferences, such as substituting potatoes or pumpkin for the butternut squash.