The Viator travel Blog at The Huffington Post recently listed the Ten Foods Around the World to Try Before You Die. Naturally , such a list is bound to be highly subjective. Each of us is bound to have a different list of favorites , depending on our backgrounds , personal tastes and travel experiences. Still , it was interesting to read the list from the Huffington Post and I was very surprised to find that I’ve sampled all ten of the dishes. Here the list is , with my comments . ( The entries do not seem to be in any particular order ).
Peking Duck ( China) : The specially bred ducks are roasted whole and sliced at the table. The crispy skin and slivers of duck meat are eaten either separately or together rolled up in soft pancakes with scallions and hoisin sauce or sweet bean sauce . I’ve eaten it at the Peking Duck House on Mott Street in New York’s Chinatown. I’ve also had it in Quanjude , a 140 year-old establishment in Beijing where , in addition to the skin and the breast meat , the other parts of the duck were served in different guises as a seven course meal ; it doesn’t get any more authentic than that ! Not one of my top 10 ; I feel it’s more the hoopla than the actual taste of the duck.
Escargots ( France) : Snails served in their shells with parsleyed garlic butter. Another case of the reputation being greater than the taste. When you get right down to it , the snails themselves are unremarkable ; what you taste is the garlic butter and it is fun to prise out the little critters from their shells with those little forks .
Moussaka ( Greece) : Traditionally , a casserole of eggplant slices layered with a spicy meat filling and topped with béchamel sauce before being baked . In some versions , potatoes or zucchini are substituted for the eggplant. I’ve had it in Greek diners here as well in restaurants in Crete and Athens and there was a world of difference. At its best it can be very , very good .
Masala Dosa ( India ) : is something I’ve enjoyed many times , It is a very crisp paper-thin pancake or crêpe rolled around a mildly spiced potato filling and served with sambhar ( curried lentil gravy) and two chutneys – one of tomato and one coconut. The crisp texture is wonderful but I prefer the triangle shaped Bangalore Masala Dosa which is more substantial , if less crisp , and has a spicy chutney smeared on the inside.
Zucchini Flowers ( Italy) : stuffed with ricotta , dipped in a thin batter and deep-fried they are indeed delectable . I’ve had an Indian version (without the ricotta filling )which was just as good .The zucchini flowers have a very delicate flavor and are not always available in quantity and so they are a special treat.
Teppanyaki ( Japan ) :a style of cooking in which food is prepared on a flat grill for the diners seated around it . The chef cooks beef / chicken/ shrimp/ lobster / scallops very quickly with soy sauce , oil and butter with a lot of showmanship. Side dishes include sliced onions / bean sprouts / zucchini and fried rice. More showmanship than haute cuisine , it was popularized in the U.S by Rocky Aoki and his chain of Benihana restaurants .
Seafood Curry Laksa ( Malaysia) : a very tangy broth with a coconut milk-curry base and containing noodles , seafood , vegetables , deep-fried bean puffs and hard-boiled eggs , served with a chili sambal and garnished with daun salam ( Vietnamese coriander leaves ). There are also versions made with chicken instead of seafood.
Som Tam or Green Papaya Salad ( Thailand ) : Shredded papaya enlivened with a dressing made with palm sugar , garlic , lime juice , tamarind pulp, dried shallots and dried shrimp. It may also contain carrot shreds , and tomatoes and is usually topped with crushed peanuts . It’s popular in much of South -east Asia ; in the U.S, I’ve had it most often in Vietnamese restaurants .
Pavlova ( Australia ) : A surprise inclusion as far as I am concerned . A delicate meringue topped with whipped cream and fruit , strawberries / kiwis / etc. I’ve had it Down Under and it is very nice, but Top 10 ? I don’t think so.
Barbecued Ribs ( USA) : After having eaten them at the Salt Lick in Driftwood , Texas ( outside of Austin ) , this is a choice I heartily endorse. What can be better than a plate of ribs with a side of creamy coleslaw or potato salad ? Juicy , hot , sweet , succulent … scrumptious !
The list, I suppose , was prepared by a group of travel writers and not by a single person . Still I’m surprised by its eclectic nature . Truly , the world is a much smaller place today than it has been in the past . If this list had been prepared , say forty years ago , it would have been completely different .
For one thing , it would have been heavily Euro-centric ( caviar would have been a shoo-in) . I remember that Craig Claiborne writing in the New York Times back in the seventies picked coulibiac as the dish he would like to eat above all else. When I read that , I remember thinking … Wha.. Coulibiac ? Most readers will probably have the same reaction, never having heard of coulibiac either. I had to look it up too. Coulibiac is a loaf made of salmon or sturgeon, rice , hard-boiled eggs , mushrooms and dill. The loaf is baked in a pastry shell, usually of brioche or puff pastry. It sounds kind of bland and not the sort of thing that Americans today would care for . In the last couple of decades we’ve learnt to like our food spicy.
Of the ten foods mentioned on the Huffington Post List only one, at most two , would be on my list . I ‘m busy compiling that list but you’ll have to wait for my next post to see what my favorites are.