Long ago, there was no way for human beings to trade and experience new foods other than traveling thousands of miles away on horse or by sea. But now those days are over. Globalization has brought an unprecedented wave of new ingredients, new ways of viewing food, and new dishes eaten in homes and restaurants around the world. In the average American city, there are so many different foreign foods and cuisines to choose from that it can suspend your decision making.
Do you want spicy or savory? What about noodles or bread? The options available to you are only halted by your willingness to experience the unknown and how far you can travel. But if you want to encounter some of the world and its hundreds of cuisines in the comfort of your own city, here are ten foreign foods you need to try.
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10. South Korea: Bulgogi
The culture of South Korea has taken the West by storm, and most young people who live in the major cities of the United States have either heard of or tried Korean food. From Japchae and cold bean noodles to kimchi and Korean potato salad, South Korea has a plethora of delicious and unique dishes. Still, today we’ll introduce you to bulgogi.
Bulgogi, which literally means fire meat, is thinly sliced marinated beef surrounded by kimchi, rice, and greens. The cooking style can also be applied to pork or chicken, but it is beef that renders the best flavors and aromas. The type of meat used to make bulgogi is sirloin or brisket. It’s sliced thinly and seasoned with ginger, black pepper, onions, rice wine, and soy sauce. Every person who tries bulgogi won’t be able to get it out of their minds. Even people who aren’t adventurous eaters can’t stop raving about this sweet and savory dish.
9. Mexico: Ceviche
Mexican cuisine excels in many ways, and one of those ways is seafood. It’s ceviche if there’s one foreign food you need to sample when you go to the country of salsa and Dia de Los Muertos. In every town and city on the coasts of Mexico, you find ceviches of all kinds and with many different local ingredients.
As a rule, only the freshest seafood can be a part of ceviche. Now is not the time to pull out the two-week-old frozen salmon from your freezer. The most prevalent ingredient to use is shrimp. It’s mixed with avocado, diced red or yellow onion, a squeeze of lime juice, chopped cilantro, chopped cucumber, and diced jalapenos if you need a spicy kick. Although it is available year-round in some parts of Mexico, you’ll find people dining on their fresh dish mostly during the summer.
8. The Philipines: Palabok
Palabok is one of those foreign foods that add all of your extra scraps and leftovers into it, and it will taste delicious every time. Loaded with garlic and shrimp, Palabok is usually piled high on a serving plated and can become more or less fancy depending on the occasion. The most popular method of eating palabok is with boiled eggs, shrimps, green onions, chicharron, and fried garlic. The Philippines’ favorite fast-food franchise, Jollibee, has a quick and easy version on their menu. Still, there’s nothing like making it home. Sit down with a bowl of these noodles along with some hot sauce and a cold beer, and you’ve got a delicious meal that will keep you full and satisfied all night long.
7. Indonesia/Malaysia: Lahksa
If the absence of spice in your meal leaves your soul unfulfilled, you will experience nirvana the moment a forkful of Laksa touches your tongue. An essential dish in much of Southeast Asia is made with vermicelli noodles, laksa chili, chili, fish sauce, garlic, coconut milk, ginger, chicken broth, or water, and chicken or shrimp. It’s similar to spicy coconut curry, but it is the laksa chili that gives the soup its unique flavor and also renders your tastebuds useless if you’re not used to spicy foreign foods. Laksa is a testament to the community of India, Malaysian, and Indonesian people that created the Peranakan culture in Singapore.
6. Italy: Cacio E Pepe Pasta
Long ago, when Rome ruled the world, Cacio e Pepe was a popular meal that both citizens of Rome and soldiers enjoyed. Flash forward to 2020, and it’s still as important to Italian cuisine as the day it was created two millennia ago. Its ingredients are simple: tonnarelli pasta, salt, black pepper, and pecorino romano cheese. Once the pasta is boiled and drained, it is scooped onto a wheel of pecorino romano cheese. The heat from the pasta turns the cheese molten beneath it. The server slowly spins and tosses the noodles, which gradually costs itself in the cheese. After the noodles are plated, seafood, bacon, or vegetables are added. This dish is savory, cheesy, and will take you back to the days of the mighty coliseum.
5. South Africa: Bunny Chow
Bread bowls can be found all over the world, but no other country fills their bowls with such rich and hearty ingredients than South Africa. Bunny chow is a curry-like stew traditionally made with rabbit, but you can easily substitute chicken, lamb, or pork. The sauce itself is a mixture of different spices like cinnamon, fennel, cumin, cardamom, anise, and more. The chunky, spicy curry is served inside a bread bowl and topped with coriander leaves. Bunny Chow was invented during South Africa’s depression era, as every bit of food and old scrapes had to be eaten if workers and children wanted to survive. Nowadays, it’s served to hard-working South Africans after a long day.
4. Turkey: Yayla Çorbası
When life becomes exhausting and bleak, and you need something stable to rely on, you can always turn a hot bowl of Yayla Çorbasi. This soup has the power to uplift your soul and make your dream of a better future, as it was an invention of the mighty Assyrian civilization. This Turkish yogurt soup is often prepared in a large batch. It can easily feed ten people with chickpeas, olive oil, water, yogurt, mint, parsley, and rice. If you buy this from a vendor on the street, it’ll be served with a big chunk of bread and drizzled with olive oil on top.
3. Puerto Rico: Mofongo
Even though Puerto Rico has been a territory of the US for over a hundred years, few Americans have heard up or tried Mofongo. And that’s quite a shame because Mofongo is unlike anything in the traditional American diet. Plantains, fried garlic, broth, and olive oil or all mixed together with dried chicharron and fried up in a pot. On top, Mofongo is adorned with shrimp, chicken, or vegetables. It is then placed in a bowl and plated on a dish with rice and beans. Sweet but garlicky, Mofongo is a treat for the eyes as well as the stomach. Many vendors in Puerto Rico serve this as a late-night snack.
2. Georgia(the country): Khachapuri
If there’s one ingredient that is used all over the world and in every culture that has ever lived in history, it is the egg. Creamy, filling, and preserves well without refrigeration, eggs can improve any dish. Georgian culture knows how to treat their eggs right and make them the center of a meal. Khachapuri is a popular dish in Georgia, and it shows that a few simple ingredients can go a long way. Whole eggs and cheese with seasoning are baked inside of an oval-shaped bread. But don’t commit the faux pas of picking it up and eating it. The correct way to eat this Khachapuri is to tear off the chunks of bread crust from around the edges and dip them into the middle that has layers of cheese and egg. Khachapuri is the perfect breakfast food, but you can also eat it for lunch or dinner. Diced or blanched veggies or thin meat can be added too.
1. Morocco: Tagine
Long ago, Morocco was a vital player in the Silk Road, making sense that Moroccan food is heavily spiced and unbelievably flavorful. No better dish showcases the art, history, and the creativity of Moroccan food than Tagine. Named for the special earthenware dish it’s cooked in, Tagine is a dense stew filled with sauce and vegetables. Its main ingredients are turmeric, saffron, ginger, cumin, olives, lamb, beef, or chicken. Even eggs can be added on top of the stew for extra creaminess. Surprisingly, like the Cacio e Pepe listed above, this dish is also an invention of the Roman world. Their dedication to ceramics is renown, and bakers, cooks, and slaves were known to use earthenware when they cooked.
The purpose of this top 10 list is to providing a jumping-off point to those who want to experience new foreign foods and begin their culinary adventures but are unsure of where to start. There’s never been a time on Earth where so much is now available to the average person. Stay within the realm of your own culture’s cuisine is almost a disservice to the human palate itself. And as different cuisines intertwine, through experimentation or immigration, the variety and creativity of foreign foods worldwide will only grow.