The BEST things ever – Country by Country

30 Jan

My tweet last week about the merits of French croissants versus Italian cornetti (“the crappiest train stations croissants are better than the best Italian cornetti”) and the ensuing flurry of comments and opinions made me start thinking about the foods that you can count on in each country – cheap, delicious, and you have to go out of your way to find a bad version.

So, tell me what are your opinions?

Italy – Coffee

Italy converted me. A lifelong tea drinker, coffee literally made me nauseous. Until my first trip to Italy. An epic journey including a Honolulu – Houston – Newark – Rome flight, then a 6-hour train to Venice where I was to meet a long lost friend at noon for a day of exploring and catching up. I needed more than mere tea and dared for a cafe on the train. Shocked by its diminutive size, I was instantly hooked by the mellow intensity of my first Italian espresso and have never looked back (Starbucks: puhleeez).

No matter where you go in Italy; from the chicest cafes to the lowliest bars (the place in Italy to get a coffee, not a beer) you’d be hard pressed not to find an exquisite espresso. Order one al vietro (in glass) to go Roman style. It can set you back 5 euros to sit at a table in a touristy piazza, but generally you’ll find the delicious nectar for 80 centesimi. Stand at the bar and admire the Italians posing with their brew.

France – Croissants

Flaky, buttery, light….I’ve never managed in France to have anything less than extraordinary pastries. I don’t know why this sacred knowledge can’t be infused somehow in Italian cornetti.

Turkey – Pomegranate Juice

I feel my body tingling with antioxidant goodness just to think of this. On every street corner in Istanbul anyway, you’ll find juice sellers ready to squeeze the juice of your choice. Save the orange juice for back home. I practically swim in pomegranate juice every chance I get.

Hawaii – Raw Fish

Raw fish is one of those things that you need to be careful how and where you buy it. But in Hawaii, you can buy it from the back of a pickup truck parked by the side of a country road and you’ll fantasize about it for months. My favorite haunt for raw fish? Fort Rugers Market in Honolulu looks like the kind of place where you’d wipe of the top of beer cans before drinking them, but has the most divine Maui Onion Poke – raw ahi tuna mixed with sesame oil, sea salt, sweet maui onions and shoyu.

Taiwan – Dumplings

Boiled, steamed, or pan fried….a fancy restaurant is no better than street food and the latter is much cheaper.

Nepal – Chai
It was one of those travel circumstances where I trusted a stranger, and everyone else later thought I deserved to have been kidnapped. In the end, I was right. A polite teenage boy offered to show me around the monuments of Kathmandu so he could practice his English. I tried to pay him money but he refused. Instead, he invited me to the inner courtyard of his family compound for chai, a place few tourists ever see in Nepal. This was the first place I ever experienced chai – spicy, milky and sweet. I sat and drank it while neighbors did their laundry and placed saucers of milk out for roaming cows. From the rooftop cafes of Kathmandu to the trailside guesthouses in Annapurna, chai in Nepal was always a comforting friend, and I’ve never tasted its equal since I left.

Portugal – Bread
My love affair started while at university in London, Canada. The was a hole-in-the-wall Portuguese bakery that sold bread, for about an hour a day. Only bread, 2 sizes, and when it was gone, it’s gone. Heavenly bread – warm from the oven, a satisfyingly crunchy crust with a dense spongey texture in the middle. Swoon….my later travels to Portugal had me forsaking regular meals to just indulge in the bread basket and olives brought to the table.


3 Responses to “The BEST things ever – Country by Country”

  1. spacedlaw January 31, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    Funny enough, I tend to go to Germany for bread. But with so many breads around the world there is room for everyone’s tastes.

    • A Life in Rome... January 31, 2013 at 10:21 am #

      Very true, you have reminded me that I adore Danish brown bread – I don’t know what it’s called or if its truly ubiquitous in Denmark; it’s dense with nuts and so good!

  2. Pete January 31, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    Love this list!! May I add: Germany – Beer and change Turkey to chai? 😉

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