The legendary local speciality
Grub kebab, Bangkok
Grub's up - if you're in Bangkok you have to try the kebabs at Insects Inter.
The best thing about going anywhere at all is, for me, trying new foods - and particularly the local favourites. I only have two rules about eating somewhere new: try and find eggs benedict somewhere (I'm on a mission, but more on that another time), and try and eat wherever and whatever I've been told to. There's something about the promise of trying someone else's favourite something that makes going to a new place all the more exciting. But what are some of the better or worst local delicacies and specialities out there? And why are they never very healthy?
People are never backward about coming forward with these things. If they've been somewhere before you, everyone's eaten something memorable or particularly famous, and everyone has somewhere to recommend you should go to eat it. Wherever it is you announce that you're going somewhere or that you're new in town, people (whether in an office or, in my case, usually through an email or call phones at whatever hour of the day) inevitably say, "and while you're there, make sure you try the ..." They feel oblige to make sure you eat properly wherever you go.
And it always sounds delicious, or at the very least intriguing. And it's never salad, or anything to do with steamed broccoli. Perhaps it's because it's a comfort food, I have no idea, but it always seems to be the kind of food that wouldn't feature highly on most healthy eating plans, or if it did, it would only be in a list on the side with "HELL no" printed above them in large letters.
I speak of this particularly because I currently have burritos on the brain. I also have burritos on the hips, the thighs, the liver, the sternum, the wrists: at this point in time, I conjecture myself to be around 90% burrito. If I died and someone cut into me, they would find the perfect mix of pinto beans, rice, hot salsa, grilled meat, sour cream, guacamole and other stuff, wrapped up in my skin, which they would be surprised to find is actually made of stretched flour tortilla.
The reason for this is that my offices recently moved somewhere where burritos are arguably one of the local speciality of the shopping center where we eat - so not only has the world and his mother recommended their favourite taqueria, bar, restaurant or taco truck to try, but I feel obliged to try them all anyway for when people come to visit us.
But long before my blood ran with a mixture of refried beans and jalepeños, I have been a big fan of the "What's big round here?" method of holiday (very few actually) or business-trip eating (many of them).
Because of various things during the last ten years, a lot of the recommendations I've got have been in the USA. Chicago-style pizza was talked up to me extensively, but turned out to be just plain weird (I'm sorry Vincent, but it's true, it just tasted like deep-fried cheese on toast with a tin of tomatoes poured over it), but apparently I couldn't leave without getting some barbeque on the South Side (with Michelle Obama maybe?), preferably from somewhere that looked like a deserted petrol station and required shouting your order through two-inch bulletproof glass to do so.
In New York, I'd been given the address of four different 'best NY style thin crust pizza places in the whole world ever, officially', but also was told I couldn't leave without trying a Shake Shack Burger (and Frozen Custard) and also two OTHER burger places, a particularly fine deli for matzo-ball soup. Oh, and a steak. Obviously. Because, you know, I might be peckish.
In Washington, you have to eat at Ben's Chilli Bowl I was told, and did some years ago- where you can order chilli fries, chilli cheeseburgers, chilli-dogs. Basically if it's something edible, whether it already has meat on it or not, it can only be improved by having chilli poured over it, or at least I think that's the theory. Famously, for a long time, Ben's has had a sign behind the counter declaring that the only person who can eat for free is Bill Cosby (and no one else), but the other week the president-elect was added as well, so here's hoping he likes chilli. I did prefer the lobster in a cosy terrace in Georgetown, though.
I had about many places still to go, so a lot to catch up on. I'd never eaten the famous "five thousand years egg" before I went to Hong Kong.They are delicious and green. Or snake soup, or worms. Or the typical speciality in Equador where up in the mountains eat a kind of big rat delicously done by roasting them hours and hours. I had never eaten mussels with french fries and mayonnaise before I went on a romantic weekend to Bruges and discovered that they were practically the ONLY thing to eat in the historic centre and would have looked like a complete ninny ordering anything else. Apart from chocolate. If you eat nothing but moules frites and chocolate, drink nothing but beer, and wear nothing at all but lace and novelty t-shirts I can seriously recommend Bruges as a place to live out the rest of your days.
In Britain, many of the signature dishes belonging to particular places are sweet, with Eccles cakes and Bakewell tarts and compulsory cream teas in Devon; and all with people's particular favourites in mind - Betty's being THE place to go if you're in Harrogate and want a nice cup of tea and a fondant fancy.
Well, it IS a phenomenon, though, isn't it? That wherever you're going someone will have been there before and will tell you exactly what you should be ordering? So what's best where? What's the best local delicacy you've ever had? Is anywhere's local favourite or famous dish remotely healthy?
Any recommendations? For anywhere? Local favourites or famous places for national dishes - all are most welcome please.