When we travel, we seek out new experiences. We seek out what we love, while at the same time looking for things we don’t yet know we love. And we always need to eat. Ultimate Eats from Lonely Planet will make you hungry and inspire an urge to travel, all at the same time. What a great idea it was to list 500 world food experiences, and rank them, in order. Yikes. Not an easy task, and you may disagree with pretty much everything, but that’s the beauty of freedom and the human perspective.
Here’s Lonely Planet’s top 20 food experiences (a check-mark denotes that we done did dat!):
- Pintxos in San Sebastián ✔
- Curry laksa in Kuala Lumpur
- Sushi in Tokyo ✔
- Beef brisket in Texas
- Som tam in Bangkok ✔
- Smørrebrød in Copenhagen ✔
- Crayfish in Kaikoura, New Zealand
- Bibimbap in Seoul ✔
- Pizza margherita in Naples
- Dim sum in Hong Kong ✔
- Ceviche in Lima
- Pastéis de nata in Lisbon ✔
- Oysters in Tasmania
- Cheese in France
- Jerk chicken in Jamaica ✔
- Lamb tagine in Marrakech
- Chilli crab in Singapore ✔
- Moules frites in Brussels
- Peking duck in Beijing
- Pho along the Hau River in Vietnam
(Read a bit more about the top 10.) So, like, start checking your own list off, eh?
Now, some of these are obvious choices, which many a traveler will already have sought out in their travels. Cheese in France? Jerk chicken in Jamaica? Pho in Vietnam? Wha?! You don’t say! But as obvious as they may be, they are classics for a reason. Dig deeper into the top 500 and the variety and opportunities to fly and eat just get deeper and deeper.
I can truly vouch for Florida’s key lime pie (#442), recently having had a sensational piece of heaven at the Miami airport. My God, it must be even better if you travel south to Key West (and out of the airport!). I’m all with gorging on chicchetti in Venice (#415), where you can get a sort of all-you-can eat mini-buffet merely by ordering a drink. Poutine (#391) is a beauty and the book’s suggestion of La Banquise in Montreal is a good pick, but you can find good ones all over Canada (shout out to Canada – and can you really get a bad poutine?). Philly cheesesteaks (#365) are a must-have on the list, but I’d second-guess the book’s suggestion to go to both Geno’s and Pat’s, as these are perhaps touristy and overrated – instead, try other options (we loved Cleavers). I will also vouch for the francesinha (curiously but understandably misspelled in my copy of the book) (#332), a spectacularly unhealthy giant of a Portuguese sandwich we enjoyed in Porto (with some port wine, of course). And in Chiang Mai, a hearty bowl of khao soi soup (#279) is one of my favorite memories from Thailand.
I’m also happy to see Greek salad in Athens (#200) in the top 200 as Greek salad is my favorite thing in the world. I’m a simple man.
A few surprise educational picks (by educational I mean places I wouldn’t have thought of on a travelers’ food list) are Kuwait (#339), with the recommended chicken machboos (spiced meat and rice dish). I didn’t know a thing about Iceland’s ‘practically healthy’ pylsa (hot dogs) made of free-range sheep (#300). We spent part of our honeymoon in Greece but never even heard of taramasalata (#197), a blend of fish eggs, seasoning, lemon juice and olive oil. Maybe next time?
There are some odd (at least to my fickle tastes) choices. #500 is stinky tofu in Taipei. In my experience, it’s certainly an experience, but not a good one. It stinks, yes, and didn’t taste any better than it smelled. Caplin (cod’s tongue) in Canada’s Newfoundland probably hasn’t caught on like poutine and maple syrup for a reason and doesn’t exactly fit on my to-eat list (even though we’re going to Newfoundland in a few months). Durian (#445) is the infamous Asian fruit accompanied by a scary scent but, unlike stinky tofu, actually tastes better than it smells. Worse is Mexican grasshoppers in Oaxaca (#184). Ew. The author is buggin’. The big question is, do the grasshoppers taste better in Mexico or Thailand?
I found myself browsing through the book, scouring for listings from cities on our short upcoming trip to Europe. In London, the Borough Market (#473) and Maltby Street Market (#229) are now on our list. And we need to try the scotch egg in London at Fortnum & Mason (#132). Moving on to Ireland, an Irish breakfast (#458), complete with rich sausage and black pudding, could be a little much, but we’ll inevitibly stumble upon it on a cool Dublin morning. Or more likely, some Irish Stew (#47) at The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub. Moving along to the French Riviera, Ratatouille (#337) in Nice, France, is one I need to try and I look forward to trying the recommended spot, La Rossettisserie. Another Nice classic is the salad nicoise (#238) that I’m dying to try in its home region. And nearby town Menton, near the Italian border, is known for its lemon tart (#215) (tarte au citron, s’il vous plaît).
Traveling is fun. Eating is even better, and when it comes to food, the world is your oyster. This book is a trip around the world and an adventure in gastronomy. Book your flight, pack your camera and ready your tastebuds.
Comment below: What are some of your favorite foodie travel experiences or memories?