One of the best things about travel is being introduced to new foods. Discovering the flavors of other lands often means sampling dishes not available near you. It also means uncovering favorites that you may have tried in your own country, but which taste different (and best!) where they began.
Here, we’ve rounded up the 50 most delicious “must-eat” foods around the world. Some are difficult to pronounce. Some are colorful, like the bright-pink chlodnik seen here. All are popular in their countries, and many are even their home country’s national dish.
If you have a chance to sample these on the road — do it.
In Austria, apfelstrudel (apple strudel) is a traditional dessert dating back to the 1600s in Vienna. Today, it’s such a cultural touchtone, a handwritten recipe for the delectable pastry from 1696 is housed in the Viennese City Library.
Strudel means “whirlpool” in German and describes the whirlpool of apple and thin layers of pastry that are said to have been inspired by Turkish baklava. You can see how strudel is made before sampling it fresh while touring the Schönbrunn Palace’s Cafe-Restaurant Residenz in Vienna.
Eat it hot or cold, topped with whipped cream or not. Mainly, just be sure to eat it!
Corn has long been a staple of the indigenous people of Latin America, and in Venezuela and Colombia the streets are lined with vendors offering arepas.
Archeological sites in Colombia provide proof of arepas dating back 3,000 years, with Venezuelan evidence going back 2,800 years.
Centuries of people enjoying these cornmeal patties can’t be wrong. They are often eaten with cheese or cuajada (fermented milk) and can be made into sandwiches stuffed with chicken or meat. This is street food at its finest!
3. Boba Tea
Also known as pearl or tapioca tea, the people of Taiwan can often be seen drinking Boba tea (bubble tea). Black, chewy tapioca balls are put into tea, mixed with milk, and shaken to create a thick layer of foam (bubbles) like a milkshake — it’s not named for the balls!
The drink was created in Taiwan in the 1980s and since then has become as popular as coffee and soda in other parts of the world. Versions using sugar, fruit and flavored syrups can create practically any flavor imaginable.
4. Bryndzove Halusky
A national dish of Slovakia, bryndzove halusky is a hearty potato-dumpling favorite. Just as Americans love baked potatoes piled high with bacon, cheese and sour cream, the Slovakians top their dish with bacon, cream and cheese.
The dumplings are boiled and similar to Italian gnocchi. Enjoy this dish with a glass of Zincica, a sheep’s milk byproduct of bryndza cheese.
5. Bunny Chow
If you are eating a bunny in South Africa, it doesn’t mean you are eating rabbit. A bunny or bunny chow is a way to grab a quick meal by putting curry into a hollowed-out bread bowl.
This dish was an apartheid-era creation from the nation’s large Indian community in Durban. When Indian and Black South African laborers were banned from eating in restaurants, the bread bowl made for an easy, portable lunch.
Nowadays, the dish is served at many restaurants in the country. Order a “quarter mutton” and you’ll get a quarter of a loaf of bread filled with mutton curry. On the street, however, it remains a bunny.
Take a phyllo pastry and fill it with ground beef and spices, and you have a dish typically served up in Bosnia and Hezegovina. As the strudel originated from Turkish baklava, so too did burek, which made its way around the Balkans and Eastern European nations.
Bosnians rolls their ground-meat pie into a snail-like form and brush it with egg before baking. Other burek can be filled with feta and ricotta cheese and spinach, so even vegetarians can sample this popular dish.
Using an indigenous leaf vegetable in Trinidad and Tobago, callaloo can be a side dish or a soup.
Trini callaloo mixes eddo and taro leaves with okra, crab meat, white and green onions, pimento and scotch bonnet peppers, and thyme, although other Caribbean nations have their own versions using different native leaves.
The dish originated in West Africa but made its way to the Caribbean during the slave trade, and has been an island staple since. (For very good reason!)
While you may have enjoyed ceviche in other nations and American restaurants, it likely originated in Peru and should be sampled from the source. Here, a seafood dish of raw fish is “cooked” with citrus juice, such as lemon and lime, then tossed with chopped onions, tomatoes and sometimes cilantro or a pepper for a light and refreshing meal.
This dish can be made with any type of seafood, from snapper to shrimp, lobster to tilapia, salmon to conch. No matter what you choose, one thing is sure: There is nothing better on a hot day by the sea than eating fish so fresh, it was caught just before it was served to you.
This bright pink soup found in Poland is a summer must-have. Served cold, chlodnik gets its pink color from beets and can be thickened with sour cream or buttermilk. Pickles and hard-boiled eggs complete this beloved dish that is made across the country, in home kitchens and restaurants, between June and August.
Interestingly, chlodnik actually got its start in Lithuania, but so many people traveled between the two countries during the 14th through 16th centuries that it became a national dish of Poland.
Not only is it creamy and cool, but it’s just-plain fun to eat pink soup!
When you think of Ireland, you may think of potatoes and cabbage. But the country’s real treat, especially when celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, is colcannon, which is a combination of both of Ireland’s common foods.
Creamy mashed potatoes are mixed with cabbage or kale and served hot with butter, salt and pepper as a side dish to ham. Some recipes add chives or leeks for more flavor. No matter what you do, say yes to this authentic side dish when in Ireland.
11. Conch Fritters
Beautiful conch can be found throughout the Bahama Islands, as well as the Florida Keys, Bermuda and some Caribbean islands like Turks & Caicos.
These sea snails grow within a protective, spiral-shaped shell that shines pink or orange from the inside. When you remove the snail, it can be turned into a ceviche, but most islanders prefer it served in fritter form — combined with cornmeal, corn, lime juice and peppers, then fried until golden brown.
Dip your fritter into a tangy sauce of mayonnaise, cayenne pepper and salsa. Bet you can’t eat just one!
12. Croque Madame
Think the French only eat croissants for breakfast? Then you’ve probably missed out on a Croque Madame, a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich topped with a fried or poached egg and a Bechamel (milk-based) sauce.
In the afternoon, a Croque Monsieur is a perfect grab-and-go meal from a street vendor in France. The sandwich is the same as the breakfast dish, just sans the egg.
The French didn’t invent the ham-and-cheese sandwich, but they sure did perfect it.
Having a falafel in the Middle East is one of those simple “musts.”
It is believed that the Egyptians likely first developed this deep-fried snack of ground chickpeas or fava beans rolled into a ball with onions, spices and herbs. Today, one of the most popular adaptations of the dish can be found in Israel, where the hot balls are stuffed into pita bread to make a sandwich, paired with a cooling combo of cucumber, onion and tomato.
Sure, you can find these sandwiches sold on the streets of New York City, but you haven’t truly experienced a falafel sandwich until you’ve been to the Middle East.
The story of how Navajo frybread came to be is a tragic one. When Native Americans of Arizona were forced to relocate to New Mexico, not only did they have to walk 300 miles, they found a land that couldn’t grow their vegetables. The U.S. government gave the Navajo flour, sugar and lard to keep them from starving. That combination was used to create this bread.
The flat, doughy bread, as indicated by its name, is fried in a skillet, and may be eaten with a topping like honey or powdered sugar. (A dish that’s essentially frybread topped with cinnamon and sugar is called an “elephant ear” at Midwest fairs.) Native Americans, however, use the frybread like a taco, folding it in half to cradle venison or beef in a Navajo sandwich. If you see a roadside stand selling frybread as you drive through the desert near national parks, pull over immediately!
15. Goi Cuon
In Vietnam, families would take fresh summer vegetables and fish, roll them into rice paper, and serve them up to large groups as an easy-to-make dish for everyone to pass around.
This traditional spring roll, goi cuon, is served at room temperature and filled with fried shrimp, chicken or pork, as well as garlic and lettuce, then dipped into a hoisin sauce.
If you’d rather have the fried version, you’re looking for a cha gio.
Holubtsi, or cabbage roll, is another dish beloved in Eastern Europe. Historians have found mention of this dish dating back 2,000 years ago. To this day, Jews enjoy a version called holishkes on Simchat Torah in the fall.
Taking fermented cabbage leaves then stuffing them with beef or lamb and spices, the rolls are baked or steamed. For embellishment, they come served with a sauce, often tomato-based.
Across Ukraine, where the holubtsi is especially popular, the dish is served as a second course, but no one will mind if you want to try it first.
17. Hot Pot
Billions of Chinese eat hot pot, and for visitors to China, this is one dining experience that should be sampled not just for the food but for the culture surrounding it.
Some call it China’s fondue, as guests cook thinly sliced meats in a pot of boiling broth seasoned with scallions, mushrooms and ginger. Vegetables, seafood, rice and other items also get cooked, although the Chinese feel there is an art to cooking your own food at a hot pot and often follow a cooking order that begins with the meats.
Hot pots going back 2,000 years have been found by archaeologists, and China’s southern provinces often have at least one hot pot in a restaurant to appeal to the masses. Which should include you, at some point.
18. Jerk Chicken
It is said that Jerk spices may have been developed by escaped African slaves in Jamaica. Whoever we need to thank, we’ll do it.
Today, it’s next to impossible to visit Jamaica without sampling chicken or meat dry-rubbed or marinated in spices including chili peppers, garlic, nutmeg, cinnamon and thyme. Jerk spicing can be mild or feel like a full-on fire, dependent on the amount of chilies used in the seasoning.
Roadside Jerk shacks are commonplace across the island, and although it means leaving the beach to grab a bite, just do it.
Named for the way it squeaks when it’s chewed, squeaky cheese, or juustoleipä in Finland, is a mild cheddar cheese curd.
The curdled milk is baked, grilled or flambeed in a circular pan and then cut into diamond shapes. As a dessert, juustoleipä is served warm with am amber-colored cloudberry jam. (Similar to a raspberry or blackberry jam.) Once the cheese hardens, the Finnish soften it with hot coffee.
Sadly, American laws require cheese to be aged 60 days or more to kill any bacteria within it, but fresh cheese in Finland has never hurt anyone.
You’ll find kabsa across the Persian Gulf, but this rice and meat dish is native to Saudi Arabia.
The meat? Most often it’s camel, but it can be goat, chicken or cow as well. It sits upon a bed of Basmati rice and the entire meal is flavored with spices, onions, tomatoes and raisins.
Kabsa is so common and popular, you won’t have any trouble finding it on menus, particularly for lunch.
It may look like a type of pizza, but khachapuri in Georgia is a leavened bread filled with melted cheese and eggs in the center. Served hot, diners rip pieces of the bread off to dip into the center for ooey-gooey goodness.
It’s believed the dish was created by sailors who didn’t have a lot to work with. The shape of the bread is meant to be that of a boat, with the sea and the sun in the center.
The treat is often enjoyed on January 7, the Orthodox Christmas, but is amazing any day of the year.
Haven’t tried kimchi yet? Head to your local Korean restaurant to sample the popular dish.
Made with fermented vegetables, kimchi is akin to sauerkraut. Created to make perishable vegetables last longer, the fermentation also makes the dish healthy and probiotic.
As a side dish, kimchi is heavily seasoned with gochugaru, ginger, onions and jeotgal. The main ingredient is typically cabbage and radish, but over time, the dish has evolved to sometimes include fermented fish or pheasant as well, and to be served as the main dish.
A pan filled with kitfo is a common sight at Ethiopian restaurants. The dish, enjoyed at lunch or dinner, is made with minced raw steak. (Imagine hamburger meat, but raw, like steak tartare.) A blend of chili and spices are mixed into the meat and and topped with niter kibbeh, a spiced butter, to complete the recipe.
While many eat kitfo solo, you can also use bread to scoop it up. Some add cheese as well as collard greens — better than an American hamburger, even if the ingredients are similar.
If the idea of raw meat scares you, this can be heated, as well.
24. Kobe Steak
Thank Japan for introducing the world to this highly coveted beef.
Wagyu cows raised in the Kobe region of Japan have higher levels of fat for a more marbled and flavorful steak. Both Wagyu and Kobe steaks come from Wagyu cattle (wagyu means cattle in Japanese), but not all Wagyu beef is Kobe. For Kobe steak, there are only 3,000 cattle that qualify each year, making this one of the most expensive beefs available.
The champagne of steaks is worth every. single. penny, if you are a steak lover. You can find it sold outside of Japan, but if you’re going to splurge, do it in Japan, where they not only raise this beef but know best how to cook it.
The joke is that no one can go into an IKEA without stocking up on Swedish meatballs. But kottbullarr, as they are called in Sweden, are no joke. These mushy balls of meat soaking up a cream sauce will melt in your mouth. (Just don’t trust IKEA to do you the honors of introduction; find the real deal!)
Though synonymous with the Scandinavian country, you can actually thank Turkey for the creation of this dish. During the 18th century, King Charles XII of Sweden brought the recipe home from Turkey after a visit!
There is a debate about the Indian dish of masala and its origins. Though it likely has its roots in northern India, those in Glasgow, Scotland, claim the recipe for chicken tikka masala was the creation of an authentic curry house in the city.
What’s all the hubbub about? Can’t we just enjoy it in India no matter who first created it?
Masala is a curry and tomato sauce combination that is cooked with chicken (or meat or seafood) and then served hot over a bed of rice. You couldn’t throw a grain of rice in India without it hitting someone who eats masala often — it’s that much a mainstay of the nation. Today, of course, it can also be found around the world.
Meze isn’t one type of food but a chance to sample a number of foods in Turkey.
When you order meze, you receive small plates (tapas-like) of finger foods as well as the anise-flavored liquor raki. Included in the dishes are often cheese made of sheep’s milk (beyaz peynir), a thick yogurt (haydari) and another with cucumber and garlic (cacik), grilled calamari salad, grilled seasonal vegetables, grape leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables (dolmas), a hot pepper and walnut paste (acili eme), fresh fruit and lamb meatballs.
Walk into a Turkish restaurant and order this for dinner and you’ll enjoy a great evening — especially if you find a place with belly dancing as part of the entertainment!
Plantains are commonly grown across the Caribbean, and while they may look similar to bananas, they are smaller and have a different taste. (They also cannot be eaten raw.) Islanders often use them to bring sweetness to a meal.
In Puerto Rico, pickled green plantains are fried before getting mashed with olive oil, garlic, salt and broth, creating a dish called mofongo.
If you’re a mashed-potatoes-side-dish sort of person, mofongo may just ruin you.
If you like spice with your meals, don’t pass up a mole sauce in Mexico. Chilies, dark chocolate and a few more spices such as cinnamon and garlic are used to make a rich, thick sauce that covers chicken and meats or is used as a stew base. One bite and you’ll understand why this is a traditional sauce for the people.
Does it taste like chocolate? Nope. Does it taste like chilies? Nah. It tastes like mole.
And, they sell it in jars so you can bring some home with you, which you also should do. Mmm.
Throughout Central Africa, in countries like Gabon, chicken muamba is a chicken stew that all families grow up enjoying throughout the years. This is African comfort food at its best.
The stew of palm oil is spiced with onions, hot peppers and garlic, then thickened with okra. Different countries may add different ingredients, such as butternut squash in Angola or peanut butter in Congo.
In any case, this dish is so delish that even CNN ranked it as one of the world’s most delicious foods.
31. Moules Frites
Walk down a city street in Belgium and the menus and signage will undoubtedly feature moules frites.
The national dish of the country, moules frites means “mussels and French fries” in French and Dutch. Just as the American South combines chicken and waffles, mussels and fries just pair perfectly together and rarely are enjoyed without each other.
For extra goodness, the mussels come from the coast of Belgium and are simmered with a white wine sauce. Yes, please.
You cannot be in New Orleans without sampling a muffuletta. In the N’awlins sea of French Creole foods, this sandwich created by the city’s Italian immigrants stands out. It’s made by taking a round Sicilian sesame bread, then filling it with deli meats and cheeses such as salami, ham, provolone and Swiss, all topped with a fresh olive salad.
You’ll need two hands to hold onto to this puppy, created in Louisiana in the early 1900s. There are plenty of places in NOLA claiming to make the best version; we recommend sampling it at its place of origin at the Central Grocery & Deli on Decatur Street.
33. Pa Amb Tomaquet
Take bread and top it with a spread of tomato, olive oil and garlic, and you have Catalonian pa amb tomaquet. That’s it! It’s so simple, but then again, some of the more simple foods are often the best.
A recipe shows pa amb tomaquet debuting during the late 1800s, when tomato and olive oil were used to soften stale bread and make it edible again. Now, you eat this dish at the start of the meal in southern Spain, much as you dip bread in olive oil and balsamic vinegar in Italy.
Paella is internationally synonymous with Spanish cuisine. Originating in Valencia, the pan-cooked dish of rice and seafood or meats was originally a laborer’s meal using rice from the fields, tomatoes, onions and snails or rabbit, all cooked over an open fire. This “Valencian rice” spread across the country and now is one of the most popular foods of Spain.
Fun fact: Paella is the name of the cooking pan used and not what goes inside. Most paella is now seafood-filled, but true Valencian paella only uses meat. Available in restaurants, paella is also commonly a feature at outdoor family gatherings.
35. Pastel de Nata
While the Portuguese will argue over whether pastel de nata or pastel de Belém are best, the similar egg-custard pastries served warm and topped with powdered sugar are so popular in Portugal, particularly in Lisbon where they originated, that lines outside bakeries will extend around the corner.
Hop into the line, as they move fast. During the day, pastel bakers churn these out as quickly as people snatch them up. You can take them to go and eat them cold, but to do it right, grab a few with a coffee and gobble them up right away.
36. Pie Floater
Leave it the the people of Australia to come up with this uniquely named comfort meal. Start with a bowl of thick, creamy pea soup, then top it with a meat pie that “floats” inside it. It’s your meat, bread and veggies all served as one, and it’s especially good as a street dish for take-away.
Inside the flaky phyllo crust is meat cooked in a heavy gravy that gets mixed with the pea soup with every spoonful. The Aussies, who have been eating pie floaters since the late 1800s, top the pie with a tomato sauce (not ketchup) and Worcestershire sauce to give it an extra kick.
37. Platanos Fritos
Here come those Caribbean plantains again, this time found in Latin American countries such as Ecuador that border the sea. Frying fresh plantains in a light batter caramelizes the fruit and makes for a sweet side dish often accompanied with white rice.
You can eat platanos fritos as a treat, as well, dipping them into a variety of sauces. In El Salvador, they’re served with refried beans and a sour cream made with mantequilla or cheese as an appetizer.
This dish gives burgers from America, and Hamburg for that matter, a run for their money.
The national dish of Serbia (although it’s also popular in Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina), pljeskavica is a grilled meat patty mixture of beef, lamb and pork. (We know you’re now thinking: “Why haven’t I ever considered that?!”)
This “burger” isn’t served on a bun because it’s so good it doesn’t need accompaniments. Still, onions, kajmak (a creamy clotted cream), ajvar (red pepper sauce) or urnebes (white cheese and chili pepper salad) may be provided to enhance the flavor.
Thankfully the poke bowl is moving from the Hawaiian islands to the mainland, so more people are able to enjoy this traditional island dish. Poke (POH-keh) means “to slice or cut.” A bowl of rice and vegetables gets topped with sliced chunks of raw fish, such as tuna, providing a full meal in one container. Hawaiians have been enjoying their fresh fish like this since ancient times.
Poke bowl restaurants are popping up across the United States, but Hawaii still does it best. (As if you needed another reason to visit!)
Americans love to drench their French fries in melted cheese, but before our kick, the people of French Canada were already doing it — better! A combination of cheddar cheese curds and a brown gravy over French fries, poutine is a Canadian dish served in restaurants and on the streets that will make you wonder why it hasn’t yet spread around the world.
The dish was created in Quebec in the 1950s, although two different restaurants claim they invented it. The name derives from the Quebec slang term for “mess,” which it certainly is.
41. Prosciutto di Parma
You have not had ham until you have had ham from Parma, Italy. Curing the hind legs of pig in this northern Italian area is a painstakingly long process (it can take weeks to years of salting and aging!), and fewer than 150 factories are certified to do it.
Once the curing process is complete, paper-thin slices of the ham, prosciutto, are often served with local Parmesan cheese and are so worth the wait.
Save room when dining at a traditional Brazilian churrasco restaurant, where they serve unlimited cuts of various meats, because you won’t want to miss dessert. Pudim, similar to flan, is a custard made with egg and sweetened condensed milk, topped with a warm caramel sauce in Brazil.
The custard is similar to Portugal’s pastel de Nata, but is larger with a different topping. We like “larger” — more for us to devour!
As you walk about villages and towns in Switzerland, you will undoubtedly see signs offering raclette. Raclette is actually a way of cooking Swiss hard cheese, melting it in front of a fire and then scraping the melted portion of the cheese block onto a plate.
A raclette dinner, however, is a twist on Swiss fondue cooking. Diners sit before a double-grill to cook raclette cheese, fillets of beef, small sausages, slices of ham, peppers and boiled potato.
Melted cheese cooked tableside with friends makes for a grand time when traveling in the Alpine nation.
Thank the people of Indonesia for creating an array of wonderful spicy dishes such as rendang. The dish was created by the Minangkabau people of Sumatra and is a stew made with coconut milk-braised beef with a curry of spices that include chilies, turmeric, garlic, onion, ginger and coriander.
The stew is cooked for up to 7 hours, so you can just imagine how soft the beef is when you take your first bite. You’ll find it across Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, as people loved this so much that the recipe spread like wildfire.
Popular across Germany, Switzerland and Austria, schnitzel is as much a part of Viennese cuisine as apfelstrudel. It actually involves a couple different variations: wiener schnitzel (Vienna is “Wien” in German) is made with veal pounded flat, while schweineschnitzel in Germany is made with a pork chop. Both are coated with breading and fried.
Schnitzel has grown to include turkey, chicken and mutton, but pork is the original and true dish. A fresh half of lemon is meant to be drizzled over the hot schnitzel, and then tart lingonberry is added to complete the perfect bite. A rightfully thinned schnitzel will often taken up an entire plate!
46. Som Tam
From som tam in Thailand, to goi du du in Vietnam, to l’hong in Cambodia, to tam som in Laos, you’ll find this spicy green papaya salad across Asia.
No matter where you get it, the concoction typically features shredded green papaya, peeled garlic, cherry tomatoes, bird’s eye chilies, green beans and toasted peanuts, tossed in fish sauce and lime juice.
This staple of Asia uses palm sugar to tone down the spice outside of Thailand, where they like it extra hot.
Remember that burek of Bosnia? A similar dish can be found in Greece, also influenced by Turkey’s baklava. Using a thin, flaky phyllo pastry, spanakopita is a casserole pie filled with spinach, feta cheese, onions and herbs.
Often served as a side to lamb or chicken, spanakopita also goes perfectly with hummus and can be served hot or cold. It’s also very similar to Turkey’s ispanakli, so let’s keep giving accolades to Turkey for spreading food love around the Aegean and Adriatic Seas!
Throughout Central and Eastern Europe, spatzle is a dumpling-like pasta served as a hearty side. Made with egg noodles in Germany, it’s rare to not be offered this along with a main course in the nation, particularly with meats. Or, try geschnetzeltes, which serves spaetzle with a saucy collection of pork, mushrooms and onions.
Spatzle means “little sparrows” because the handmade pasta was originally shaped by a spoon and looked like the birds. The pasta is garnished with herbs, but chopped bacon makes it even more savory.
Have you ever been on an airplane and given a waffle-like cookie filled with a caramel-like filling? Well, that is just a poor imitation of a stroopwafel.
Created in the late 1800s by a Dutch baker, you can find these cookies sold in stores and yes, on airplanes, but the real way to eat them are in a Dutch coffeeshop.
The crisp waffles have a brown sugar, molasses and butter filling and are eaten across the Netherlands. Order a cup of Joe and place the stroopwafel on the top to let the coffee warm and soften the cookie for the best flavor. (You could do that with the airplane version, as well.)
Named for the vessel in which the dish is cooked in Morocco, a tagine cooks a stew-like meal in a ceramic triangular-topped pot that captures the aroma of the clay and doubles as the pan from which to eat the meal. Slow-cooked until the meat, like lamb or chicken, is softened, the stew includes vegetables and Arabic herbs and spices, and is typically eaten by hand.
Tagine dates back to the Roman Empire, where soldiers and travelers were able to carry the pots as portable ovens. Today, families gather around the tagine pot and use bread to scoop up the contents communally. Grab a slice and join them when you can!