By Jeff Jung — Check out Jeff’s Custom Guide to under-appreciated foodie spots around the world!
¨Uncle Jeff. What’s that?¨
A few years ago, I took my niece to Greece for three weeks. Getting a teenager to try new foods was challenging. But, she learned to travel by my rule: try everything once. The seafood pasta served with steamed prawns still in their shells didn’t go over well. But, after discovering haloumi cheese, she looked for it on every restaurant menu thereafter.
There are some places around the world that serve iconic food. Steak in Buenos Aires. Tapas in Barcelona. Sushi in Tokyo. Cheesesteak in Philadelphia. Poutine in Quebec. When you go to these places, you seek it out. You plan for for it to be part of your travel experience.
But, there is a lot of great food that isn’t as well known. Some countries don’t have an iconic dish or their food isn’t even known or understood. And, in many cases the iconic dish is either not as good as its reputation suggests or there are dishes that are unexpectedly better the iconic one.
Argentina: Steak is the icon of the country. From Buenos Aires to Mendoza to Bariloche, you can find it easily. And, there is the same pride in preparing it as there is in Texas. Thanks to a strong Italian influence, the pastas are incredible. Many places prepare it fresh with just enough fresh sauce to keep it light. For dessert, do not miss out on the ice cream. It’s easily some of the best I’ve had anywhere in the world. Serving sizes range from petite cones giving you a small taste to larger double or triple scoops.
Chile: Before my first trip, I didn’t have a sense of what Chilean food was like. To the extent that wine can be considered food, it was the only thing I knew about what I would be eating or drinking in Chile. I discovered that the 2700 kilometer length of the country gave it ample farmland for harvesting more than wine grapes and coastline for fishing a wide variety of seafood. My favorite was the lamb from Patagonia. I ate it almost daily while exploring the Torres del Paine park near Puerto Natales and driving the Southern Highway leaving from Coyhaique. A wide range of fresh vegetables contributes to great soups. In Santiago, head over to the market La Vega. Next door there is a large building with dozens of mom-and-pop restaurants serving soups and other dishes made with the fresh produce from La Vega.
Colombia: This is a country without a clear internationally known iconic dish. Coffee is the country’s most famous contribution to the international menu. But, here’s a secret: try the hot chocolate. While much of the country’s cacao is exported, hot chocolate cocoa is widely available and cheap. It’s served with creamy whole milk and sugar. Even when I’ve traveled through the coffee country in Armenia or Manizales, I make sure to order this in addition to my morning coffee. Furthermore, Colombia has a wide variety of fresh fruit which makes great juice. When you order juice at a restaurant it’s made fresh. Go beyond orange juice and try lulo, feijoa or guanabana (also known as cherimoya in other parts of South America). And while in Cartagena, order the coconut lemonade (limonada de coco) to cool down while you escape the heat.
New Zealand: Best known for its sheep herds and chardonnays, the cuisine from Auckland in the north to Dunedin in the south is quite varied. While you won’t get out of the country without having a pasty, I would recommend the seafood. There is a wide selection of fish and prawns. One night I had freshly caught abalone caught outside of Wellington, a real treat.
Turkey: Sadly, doner kebab was the only dish from Turkey that I knew. Yet from Istanbul to Bodrum to Kas to Goreme, I was overwhelmed with the food choices. One of my favorites was a basic comfort food, pizza known as Lahmacun. Simple, cheap and satisfying without making you feel overly full. Finally, if you can score an invitation to someone’s home for dinner, you won’t be disappointed. The Turkish hospitality is special and you will eat well.
About Jeff: Jeff is known as The Career Break Travel Guy who hosts the new TV series, The Career Break Travel Show and runs CareerBreakSecrets.com. He left a fantastic but crazy consulting-turned-corporate-marketing career to learn Spanish fluently in South America, see magnificent sunsets and sunrises in far flung places like the Galapagos, Easter Island, Cappadocia, and the Nile River and learn to ski.