Full disclaimer here: I am not a “foodie”. I wish I was a more adventurous eater and I do try to at least keep an open mind about new foods, especially while travelling, but if I were to be completely honest, I’d have to describe my palate as timid. I love my fruits and veggies, but I’m sort of squeamish about most meats and seafoods and I’m pretty sure that at least 80 percent of the world’s toddlers have more tolerance of spicy food than I do. That being said, I do love to try new things when I travel, and I’ve found that the world is filled with amazing food experiences that even an “anti-foodie” like myself can appreciate. Sure, everyone knows about the pasta in Italy or the dim sum in Hong Kong, but here are just five examples of slightly less famous international treats that have made and impression on me over the years.
1) Cheese pastries in Romania
Okay, to be perfectly honest, it was thinking about these treats recently that got me started on this topic. I don’t know what they’re called, and I’ve never seen them mentioned anywhere else, but when I visited Romania in 2004, there was this chain of little bakeries with an orange and yellow stall in every train station and shopping area selling these amazing, fresh, hot little puff pastries stuffed with fresh, slightly sweet cheese. For about a dollar you could buy a bag of ten or so, and it could easily tide you over from breakfast to dinner. There were several different shapes and the fillings varied slightly, but they were all delicious and I’d just join the crowd of locals lining up, hand over my Leu and smile and nod at whatever the worker said as she filled up the paper bag with those little nuggets of cheesy delicousness.
2) Egyptian Kusharie
Or Kosharie. This is a popular everyday staple in Egypt, but it’s not easy to find in Middle Eastern cookbooks. Basically it’s a carb fest of rice, lentils, noodles (usually macaroni), tomato sauce and loads of fried onions and garlic, served in layers from giant vats at roadside stands or restaurants all over Egypt. It’s cheap, relatively nutritious and tastes absolutely wonderful. I finally found a cookbook with a recipe that comes close to replicating this treat and I serve it ot my family occasionally, but nothing beats eating kusharie out of a takeout container while strolling through the market in Egypt as the sun goes down and the air begins to cool.
3) Self heating coffee cans in Japan
Okay, I’ve seen this other places, too. For some people, this might not even be much of a novelty. But I’ll never forget my first morning in Japan when I desperately needed a caffeine fix and I figured that a cold can of coffee from the machine in my hostel would be better than nothing and I grabbed it as it came out and then realized, hey, this can is warm! No, wait a minute, it’s hot! And it’s getting hotter! It’s getting hotter all by itself! How is it doing this? This is so amazing! And it even tastes good! All I can say is that North America really really needs this technology.
4) Tost in Greece
Yes, Greece has amazing seafood and salads, but one of my favourite staples when I was in Greece was a chain of restaurants selling freshly made hot sandwiches. They called the sandwiches tost, and I’m pretty sure that was the name of the chain too, but I could be mistaken. All I knew was that I was never far away from one of these stands where you could order from a huge list of meats, cheeses and veggies and have it tucked between two pieces of bread, put into these magic toasting machines and have it come out all hot and melty and delicious. Fast food perfection!
5) Doritos a la Turca
I loved pretty much everything about the food in Turkey. The rich creamy yogurt, the grilled veggies,the baklava, the mezes, the fresh fish, and of course the turkish delight. You may think you’ve had turkish delight before, but if you haven’t had it in Turkey, you’ve only had a poor imitation. But those are pretty well known, and I’m aiming for offbeat today. And you can’t get much more unexpected than Doritos a la Turca. Yes, regular Doritos in a little bag like you can get anywhere, but in the most amazing flavour combinations. I’m not really sure what those flavours are since I can’t read Turkish, but they were so much better than any Doritos I’ve ever had anywhere else. My only regret is that I only discovered them on one of my last days in Turkey and I only had a few days to buy and eat as many of them as I could. If you’re ever in Turkey, make sure you enjoy all the delicacies they have to offer, but don’t forget to also try the Doritos!