Travel doesn’t just broaden the mind—it also has the power to expand our culinary horizons! One of the most exciting parts of any trip abroad, at least for us, is sampling the local cuisine. Sure, seeing the magnificent sites and talking to the locals is exhilarating. But at some point, we all get hungry, don’t we? And that means it’s time for a solid meal, some fab drinks, and a range of delish snacks. Those small experiences can genuinely have a massive impact on your life.
Traveler and artist Dennis Irschara, who goes by u/rakahr11 on Reddit, sparked a very interesting discussion on the r/travel online community. They asked other internet users to spill the tea about their most memorable food stories while they were traveling abroad. We’ve collected the most intriguing ones below. Read on to see what they had to say. Though keep in mind—this post is almost guaranteed to make you hungry (that’s why we brought snacks).
Bored Panda got in touch with traveler Dennis, who has been to a jaw-dropping 34 countries, with a few questions about his passion for adventure and food. He was also kind enough to share some great advice for tourists who want to develop their palates. You’ll find our full interview with the author of the thread as you read on.
Pasta dishes in italy are extremely simple. Usually just a noodle and a light sauce and or oil, but the flavors and freshness are over the top.
The large increase in quality of ingredients between the US and any other country. My first meal in another country (Zurich, Switzerland) I had a meal of Sausage and bratwurst and I walked away feeling great and energized. If I ate anywhere near as much food in the US, I would have felt terrible and extremely tired. The quality of ingredients outside the states is so much better.
That mayonnaise on fries is delicious and that American mayonnaise is totally wrong.
Bored Panda got in touch with traveler and artist Dennis, who has been to a jaw-dropping 34 countries, with a few questions about his passion for adventure and food. He was also kind enough to share some great advice for tourists who want to develop their palates. You’ll find our full interview with the author of the thread as you read on.
We were very interested to learn about what keeps Dennis excited about travel. He told us that he’s a very curious person and that he’s addicted to the unknown.
“It is a passion of mine to discover and try out things I haven’t done before and I do get easily bored by repetitive things. Furthermore, I get a feeling of accomplishment when I go through the hardships traveling sometimes has. It makes the other moments much sweeter and just adds spice to your experience,” he told Bored Panda.
“It soothes me and I can stay calm and collected in many situations. I think traveling also means growing as a person, becoming culturally more aware, and unveiling all the different histories the world has. The more different things I see and people I meet, the more I feel how similar we all are.”
I went to India and it made me vegetarian.
I’m a huge animal lover and had been considering trying to go veggie for a while because it didn’t feel right eating meat to me. I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it though because I’d been brought up on meat and ate it every day.
Went to India for a month travelling and India is a mostly a vegetarian country. Visited some different temples and seen some religious quotes about not eating animals or living creatures and, because it was harder to find meat to eat there anyway, decided to go veggie.
To be honest I didn’t find it hard at all and had no cravings for meat whilst in India. I worried when I got home I wouldn’t be able to stick at it though.
We flew home and the airport is about 45 minutes drive from our house. As we were driving home from the airport I was talking to my husband about how I hoped I could stick at it but wasn’t sure I could now I was home and just as we got off the motorway I looked up and noticed that someone had graffitti’d on the motorway entrance ‘if you like animals, don’t eat them’. Literally seeing that made me more determined than ever to stick to being a veggie because I love animals and didn’t want to eat them! It was like I was meant to see that sign at the right time!
Been veggie ever since. That was five years ago.
My wife and I decided to honeymoon in Ireland, we stayed in bed and breakfasts most nights and the Irish breakfasts were incredible, however we were in a hotel for a couple days so we had to fend for ourselves those mornings. One morning in particular we were driving in our rental car and came across a small town called “Thomastown” there we stopped at a small cafe and walked in where we were greeted by a woman. She took our order and went back to start cooking. A few minutes passed and she walked out from behind the counter, and headed out the door before telling us she would be right back. At this point my wife and I were the only people in the small cafe and were dumbstruck that she would leave us, two strangers, alone in her restaurant. She returned about 5 minutes later and explained she had gone across the street to the butcher to get more meat. For some reason that memory sticks out when I think of our honeymoon. The breakfast was incredible.
**Arancini**, even being European I never discovered them until visiting Sicily. Damn those things are addictive.
The beauty of travel is that it puts us in situations that make us experience new things. We get to see how different cultures live, what customs they have, and how the pace of life differs in parts of the world that are sometimes separated by thousands and thousands of miles.
Ideally, you want to be open to the idea of trying out new dishes when you’re traveling abroad. However, that can be quite a feat if you’re a picky eater. It’s essential that you want to experiment with broadening your tastes rather than being pushed into it all. As we’ve recently covered on Bored Panda, picky eating is the result of a combination of genetic factors and the environment in which people were raised.
Some picky eaters, for instance, might be more sensitive to taste and texture. Being exposed to a wider range of food as you’re growing up makes it more likely that you’ll eat more varied dishes as a grownup. If you realize that you’re very limited in what you eat on a daily basis, you should consider taking tiny steps. Don’t start binging on a dozen different dishes just to prove how tough you are; start small, and taste one ingredient or dish at a time. That way, you’ll get used to jumping in and out of your comfort zone.
Meanwhile, if these culinary experiments don’t bear any fruit (pun not intended), you may want to consider talking to a therapist to check whether your extremely limited diet may be the result of a food disorder.
I’ve never been a big breakfast person but traveling a bit in asia I discovered it was common, in some regions, to have a spicy savory noodle soup in the morning. I found that way more appetizing than traditional western breakfasts.
I was prepared to find sardines in Portugal overrated but was instantly in love. My favorite was having them grilled at a seaside cafe that had plastic tables and chairs on its patio. They were juicy, extremely flavorful and smoky and I couldn’t get enough. They were also bigger than any fresh sardine I’ve seen in the US, around 8″. Somehow the €9 plate there was scads better than the €€€ fancy restaurant we ate at the night before.
Also in Portugal, I fell in love with pastéis de nata, a warm custard tart that can be so breathtakingly, insanely delicious that you momentarily leave your body and can see yourself eating it whilst floating in heaven above. Most bakeries in the ancient neighborhood of Belem have queues round the block after lunch and it’s totally worth the hype. Petite, insanely flaky pastry cups hold silky creamy custard that is broiled until blistered black in spots, then dusted with cinnamon and served warm. Oh my Oh
I wish I could remember the name, but a tiny tapas bar with warm yellow walls in Haro, Spain blew my mind with its deviled egg. Deviled egg? It’s one of those things that you would never guess would be life changing when you order it, but it most certainly was. The eggs were incredibly fresh, the yolk mixed with aioli and pounded like a prostitute, but the kicker were the toppings. On top was a smoky chili-infused prawn, capped with a shaving of manchego cheese and sliver of serrano ham. How can a 2-bite tapa tell such a long and complex story?
In Oaxaca, Mexico on the Pacific coast lies the tiny hamlet of Mazunte. At a comedor, or dine-in kitchen, Doña Jose served my group of 10 friends from a 2 burner stove under a thatched roof patio with hens clucking at our feet. Her assistant chopped vegetables picked from the nearby garden as she sizzled and sauteed chicken, beef and fish that were seasoned with beautiful spices like garlic, oregano, cumin and seasalt. The chicken dish was reminiscent of tandoori, steaming hot and red with spices, and it was served with fragrant rice and smooth mashed pinto beans. My sautéed fish was dripping with juice that the rice soaked up. I could eat that every night. The chef had more hands than Vishnu because the thin, hot tortillas never ran out and all 10 of us were served 5 star dishes within 30 minutes. I still dream about going back there some day.
Liege waffles. These delicious waffles changed my life when I visited Brussels. Now I make them once a year as a special treat since it takes so much preparation time. My family and friends think they are heaven but they don’t know that mine still aren’t as good as what you find in the streets of Brussels.
Bored Panda wanted to know how Dennis’ travels have changed his approach to cooking, and whether he has integrated any new dishes and ingredients into his daily life. He told us that he’s done so with everything. “I grew up with a mix of Italian and Austrian cuisine and have been pretty spoiled by the variety, but I didn’t know how ignorant I was!” he revealed to us.
Dennis said that before traveling in South and South-East Asia, he never thought that he’d cook curry or soup for breakfast. What’s more, he has learned about the different ways of cooking rice and has been exposed to the wide range of spices that are available.
“I use soy sauce now way more often instead of plain salt. I wouldn’t say I’d eat all the dishes on a daily basis, but of course, I picked a few favorites and they became my reccurring specialties I love to cook up: Caponata, Gulasz, Sticky Rice with Mango, Ćevapčići, Ginataang isda/tilapia (fish stew coconut gravy, Pinoy), (sweet onion) Samosas, Matar Paneer, Nasi Goreng with fried chicken leg (tasted like cinnamon/cloves), Adana Kebab… the list goes on,” the adventurer shared a few of his top faves.
Singapore by far has the best food I have ever had. From gourmet to the amazingly cheap hawker markets which I ate pretty much every day at. Any time I hit SEA I try to go to Singapore for a few days just to eat.
While it’s very romantic to try out new dishes while traveling to before yet unseen places around the globe, let’s not be naive. Odds are that some ingredients won’t sit right with you. Your digestive system simply isn’t used to them (yet). So it’s always best to take things slow, see how your body reacts, and always err on the side of caution.
Don’t just eat anywhere while traveling abroad. Get some recommendations from your friends who’ve been to the city before, talk to the locals, and figure out what cafes and restaurants have a good reputation, tasty food, and solid hygiene standards.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises to avoid eating raw meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, and raw produce like salads. The ingredients ought to be washed and well-cooked so that they’re safe for eating. You should also avoid undrinkable tap water and ensure that you wash your hands. Often!
About 15 years ago my husband and I went to Barcelona from the US. We flew out of NY and prior to the flight we found an airport restaurant that had a roast of some sort turning on a spigot in the window as a way to entice ppl in.
Two weeks later, I’ve just eaten some of the best, most freshest meats and cheese and fruit and seafood of my entire life. I’ve had wine with almost every meal. I’ve walked everywhere, lost about 15 pounds. I’ve spoken and ordered coffee in Castellano, hit Sitges during a major religious holiday, and watched a woman walking her pet duck. To this day i still eat pan con tomate for breakfast and my youngest kid asks for it on the regular.
As I reentered the US, customs went through my luggage and threw away ALL the meats and cheeses I’d brought back as gifts for family. Food that I’d literally consumed and was still digesting. Their reason was that it could introduce a foreign illness or disease. That was the angriest I’d ever been just watching this jerk callously tossing the best food into the trash without a 2nd thought or any remorse. My husband had to drag me away once he saw my face.
We walked past that same airport restaurant on our way to our connecting flight and I swear it was the same roast from 2 weeks earlier in the window, only drier and more disgusting.
American food had no taste to me for months after that trip. I miss Spain!!
Not the most glamorous or exciting, but years ago my first trip outside NA was to France for a food-related study abroad course. Our chef taught us how to make delicious vinaigrettes on the fly, and evenly toss with plain greens. This was so different than the loaded up ranch-laden salads of my youth—it was a total revelation that I could make a simple dressing that took a few seconds to whisk up and not have to add in sliced veg, croutons, olives, etc. for a salad.
If, for instance, you spot food openly sitting around the kitchen at room temperature, you might want to pass on the place and go elsewhere. Food like raw chicken, raw egg, unpasteurized milk, seafood, and raw flour are incredibly fertile breeding grounds for various pathogens.
Ingredients that have high acid content such as lemons or pickles and low-moisture foods like crackers or rice cakes spoil far less quickly than groceries with low acidity and a high-moisture content. That’s why it’s so important to handle seafood correctly. You cannot let it just sit around in the open air. It’s a disaster that might put a dark spot on your otherwise wonderful adventure.
I learned that China has one of the best street food. Authentic Chinese food is a completely different experience than westernized Chinese food. In the sense that chow mein essentially doesn’t exist there. Orange chicken- nope. Lol that was a huge learning curve for me when I lived there for a year. But once I opened my mind to the difference in dishes, my mind was blown. Can I just say HOT POT? Yum. Also, you better love spicy food. I never knew how spicy authentic Chinese dishes could be! I thought I could handle spicy food being latinx & all, but China was on a different level!
Also- in South Africa I learned a simple cheese sandwich with tomato tastes so much better on a braai (South African term for BBQ) than on a pan. These are called Braaibrootjies & their delicious.
On Vienna a schnitzel has to be larger then the plate, and when you order a coffee you get a glass of water with it.
In Brussels the cherry beer was amazing, the raspberry beer ok and the lemon beer tasted like cough mixture
Some of the nicest Italian meals I’ve ever had have been in Japan
Dennis was also kind enough to share some of his expertise with any new travelers who might want to experiment with the local cuisine but may feel afraid to do so. He pointed out that different places will focus on different tastes, spices, and produce. It helps to speak to the locals, do your own research, and be open to new experiences (while having the patience for your palate to adjust).
“Many times I rely on the recommendation of the waiting staff, especially in very touristy places. Most of the time, they know what your palate is used to and what you might appreciate. So I simply trust them!” he said.
“To be honest though, I do some research on local dishes and specialties and try them all. How can I know if I like it, if I have never tasted it before? Also, I keep in mind that my palate needs to get used to the taste of local food. Sometimes, dishes aren’t to my taste the first time, but I would try them a second time in a different restaurant, and surprisingly enough, I was able to appreciate them afterward!”
This is small change, but literally changed my food world.
Living in San Diego, I started going to Tijuana with a friend and her coworkers (Tijuana locals) and they took us to a taco shop, where my life was legit changed by adobada tacos.
I was an extremely picky eater and I had always thought I didn’t like spicy food because my definition of spicy, being from the Midwest, was vinegar-based hot sauce and pepper (both of which I still don’t like).
After that flavor experience, I started trying anything and everything.
Honorable mentions: Radler in Germany, arepas in Colombia, fondue in Switzerland, and Guiness stew in Ireland.
the one dish i still think about sometimes – khao soi. ate my first in chiang mai and would hop on a flight right now to get another one
In Dennis’ experience, it’s best to share dishes with each other and to stay curious. “Just because Dish A wasn’t to your taste, Dish X might just tickle your taste buds and hit that spot! If you can, try to find home cooking or workers’ lunches, like Italian Trattorias, Tavernas in Greece, ‘Hotels’ in India, and the corner street food stand in Thailand. It’s the local everyday food that I find the easiest to try. It’s very convenient as well!” the traveler some of his wisdom with us.
According to the traveler, something else that he’s grown to appreciate is that many dishes have “transformed into their local fusion version” and he is deeply amazed by how creative different societies are. Dennis explained that someone might know what pizza tastes like in Italy, but it’s interesting to see what other countries might make of the dish.
“So I never run around complaining that the Italian restaurant in Random City in Random Country didn’t serve me an authentic Italian pizza. They actually did. It’s simply their version of an Italian pizza. Love the differences: it’s just another experience you can tell your loved ones!”
My top three meals during international travels would have to be the following…
– Fresh kabobs (mine with chicken, peppers, and onions) + GIANT pita bread from a food stand behind the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.
– Falafal with potato from a food cart in Jerusalem; or was it Tel Aviv? Hmm.
– Endless bowl of gnocchi at a beautiful restaurant overlooking Rome. Wish I could remember the name of it, but who knows if it’s even still around (that was like 20 years ago).
Went to Central America and stopped in El Salvador we had Pupusas which are corn tortillas (or rice tortillas) stuffed with cheese other ones with pork and cheese or black beans. I’ve had them here in the U.S but these hit different they were smaller and so much tastier. The U.S Pupusas are large like the size of your hand the ones in El Salvador are silver dollar size. A must try if you visit or have a Salvadorean restaurant near by. Oh the pickled relish that goes on top…
Dennis also shared with Bored Panda the list of 34 countries that he has been to: Italy, the Vatican, San Marino, France, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and the United States.
He told us that he counts countries that he’s spent longer than a day in. He doesn’t include layovers like in the United Arab Emirates or Qatar, but counts a day’s visit for city-states like the Vatican and San Marino.
In Morocco, they always served fresh mint tea in every restaurant/hostels I went to. I wasn’t a tea person before but definitely loved it after this experience. Also, different types of flatbreads (sweet or savory) served with honey or butter for breakfast!! So good.
All the bread in Germany.
Warungs in Indonesia. Different types of veggies, meat, and fish with rice. Gorengan (there are different types but idk what they are) for snacks!
I love carbs.
I will never forget my tomato egg noodle soup in a random small ‘restaurant’ in Chengdu, China. It was around the corner of our hotel and we were starving. Not expecting anything from a little streetshop we hopped in for dinner. The owners didn’t speak a single word of English and we only knew 2 words in Chinese. By theatrically flopping our hands around we somehow managed to order some food and it was the best meal we have ever had. The next night we went back! The locals were so much fun, felt like we played hints the entire night ;). I’ve tried to recreate the recipe many times now, but it will never be the same
Also, I will never forget the delicious Pastel de Nata from Portugal! My mouth starts watering when I think about it….
Plokkfiskur, horsemeat and skyr in Iceland,
Pasteis de Nata from Manteigaria in Lisbon (better than Belém IMO)
These massive pine nuts called Piñones in Patagonia. They are a very common snack over there and they come from Araucaria trees.
You essentially heat them on a stove before you crack open and nibble on them. Sad that I cannot find them back in London!
We were in Budapest and the Chicken Paprikash was so fresh and delicious. I’ve had it before but this was a game changer!
In China, we did overnight Great Wall tour, our guide took us to this tiny Hot Pot spot right outside of the wall close to the Mongolian border. We picked the trout we ate out from a pond that was in the restaurant!
My mom and I went to Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. We had to order our apple strudels we were planning on having for desert BEFORE the castle tour even began! They make each one fresh and it takes hours. Hands down best dessert of my life.
Small one but had fresh papaya right off the tree in the Dominican Republic, I’ll never forget that!
The cheapest food is often the best. Noodles on a plastic table in Thailand, grilled fish over coals in a Cebu open air market, hawker stalls in Singapore. But one of my favorite foods anywhere would be good Yakitori in Japan or Pepper Crab in Singapore.
Best hot dog in the world is in Iceland, and much cheaper than other food there.
Best steak I had was in Kobe Japan.
I also live 30?minutes from Tijuana, but we also have Tacos El Gordo which is pretty much the same tacos without the border hassle.
I don’t have a specific dish that comes to mind but my biggest take away from eating while abroad is that standards of cleanliness vary drastically all over the world. I yet to have gotten sick! Also, what may seem weird to eat in my culture may be perfectly normal in others. But good food is good food.
Gotta give Brazil all the love!
The Gauchos in the south with churrasco and potato salad, high gastronomy (at a high price) in São Paulo on par the world’s best, passing Rio heading north toward the Amazon you’ll find any number of fruits you’ve never heard of, maybe with some real-deal açaí and cupuaçú for brekkie before exploring endless, breathtaking beaches.
And street food? Fuggedaboutit! Pastel, coxinha, rissóis, quibis, pão de queijo (pro-tip: na chapa com requeijão!), hot dogs (w/ mashed potatoes in SP?), fried polenta, xis, acarajé in Bahia, and on and on.
It’s about the size of the continental US, and having lived there only 10 years the only thing I know for sure is that I’ll never see (or eat?) it all.
So so many.
I could just write ‘Vietnam.’ as a full sentence, but I’ll elaborate. It showed me that there are a million tasty ways to cook shellfish and snails. Baby clam rice bowls with taro stem, herbs, clam broth, and rice. Blood cockles with garlic and pork fat. Steamed leopard snails in lemongrass broth. Scallops on the half shell with tamarind.
Malaysia: fusion gone traditional. Malaysia is probably my favorite foodie destination if I HAD to pick one. South Indian banana leaf lunches with tons of tiny curries, papapum, rice, snake gourd. Perfectly fried chicken with sambal, anchovies, and peanuts over coconut rice. Astringent noodle soups stuffed with shrimp. Stink beans that make your pee smell like marijuana but are somehow delicious going in. 100 varietals of durian. Kaya toast and a runny egg. Wok-charred flat rice noodles with cockles. Someone stop me!
Hokkaido, Japan: ruined me for most raw seafood for the rest of my life. It’s almost not worth eating sea urchin or king crab or salmon roe anywhere but there.
Bali knows from grilling fish – I must have had 30 different fish grilled with 30 different sambals.
I think China is the most polarized food place I’ve visited, giving me the best meals of my life (herb-stuffed spit-roasted fish, Sichuan hot pot, ‘chicken foot’ mushrooms, etc) and the worst meals of my life (soil-filled snails in a sauce so numbing it took feeling away from my entire chest, for example).
I had a meal in Perth, Australia, that I still kind of suspect I dreamed because it sounds so bizarre. I will reproduce it in full here because what the f**k: “Sourdough bread with macadamia butter; blue crab, avocado, kohlrabi, finger lime, and sea blight in macadamia milk; red emperor with roe, broad bean, sea vegetable, plus a garlic squid ink waffle; fungus wine grape custard with apricot sorbet, lemon aspen, and toasted sandalwood.” This was at Wildflower if anyone wants to check whether it actually exists.
Uzbekistan and Georgia are my two favorite places for food now.
Samsa, not to be confused with the similar, samosas, is a savory meat (beef or lamb) filled pastry with onions. Cooked on the inside wall of a tandoor. The soft, juicy pastry is perfect for a quick bite on the go.
Another classic is plov, or beef pilaf rice. I’ve had it in the U.S., but f**k it’s no match for this Uzbek giant. We had a guy from Bukhara cook us some on a kazan stove. I can honestly say it’s the best I’ve ever eaten in my life.
Then of course Khachupri (po ajarski) and Khinkali in Georgia. Along with my favorite salty dish jonjoli, a flower which they pickle and salt.
In Spain, I had AMAZING tapas in Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville. Almost all tapas places were great, except for a few obviously touristy ones, eg on a main square, menus on a board outside with photos, wait staff trying to entice you in. But a little away from prime tourist spots, all tapas was wonderful and inexpensive.
Other memorable foods:
-Dutch pancakes for breakfast in Amsterdam
-poutine in a little village an hour drive north of Montreal
-cheese fondue in Switzerland
-french fries with dipping sauce in Brussels
-pastel de nata (custard tarts) in Lisbon; actually all the Lisbon bakeries were wonderful
-anything from a patisserie in France; my 2 favorites are chocolatines and canale de Bordeaux
* Japanese food introduced me to eating sacks of sperm, raw chicken and snake flavoured ice cream. I loved it all.
* Lived in Southern China for a bit as a kid, and after seeing what goes on there, I totally understand veganism. But on the other hand, tarantula goes alright.
* holy f**k horse is delicious. I even like sour horse milk and giant horse sausage. Gg Central Asia.
* Zebra is far less delicious than horse, but Ostrich is the best burger meat I’ve ever had. All of the antelopes taste good too, I can see why lions are fans.
* I eat Kangaroo basically every day, and apparently that’s weird (had this discussion with an Ecuadorean while sharing a guinea pig face).
* That America is the home of Coca Cola, but the only place where you can’t buy real Coca Cola (at least not without going out of your way for Mexican coke). Also American “chocolate” is absolutely disgusting, and I can last 3 days in that country before I destroy a toilet.
* breakfast curry is amazing.
* That I have a limit, and it’s called balut.
There’s a northern Thai dish, Khanom Jeen Nam Ngeow. One of the main ingredients is cubed chicken blood. Now, I would never have ordered this, had I known what it would be. Luckily, my Thai was only good enough for “One bowl of this, please”. It’s one of my all-time favourite Thai dishes now – just a pity I’ll never get it in Europe 😀
How ’bout a handful of fried and salted millepedes in Oaxaca (very good with VERY COLD Sol beerS !!! and green salsa) for starters? Your own bottle of tequila by your side will help also…