USA TODAY - One of the best ways to experience a culture or country is through its food. We encounter famous dishes daily, but it's easy to forget where they come from. A good pad thai can carry you to Thailand just as much as the fragrant steam off a good curry can instantly transport you to India. For the avid traveler and the weekend warrior alike there are as many good foodie trips as there are stars in heaven. As such, it only makes sense that you would need a bucket list for food as much as you'd need one for experiences. Here are a few solid choices to help you get started.
Fish and chips in England
Synonymous with England, fish and chips is a staple in most English pubs. With over 11,000 "chippie" shops throughout the UK and Ireland, you would be hard pressed to miss this traditional meal. Paired wonderfully with whatever brew is on tap, the battered fish and deep-fried french fries will give you a taste of the UK. Toff's of Muswell Hill, Kerbisher and Malt, and Fish Central rank among some of the most renowned chippie shops in all of London.
Decadent pastries in France
Known for its beautifully prepared pastries, France is the place to truly indulge. While the ubiquitous crepe can be found on every corner, it's the sweet and decadent delights in the patisseries that are the crown jewels. Head to Ladurée in Paris, hailed for its colorful assortment of macarons. There, one can snack on the beautifully layered mille-feuilles, masterpieces in their own right. If you're looking for the perfect pastry to go with your morning coffee and cigarette, grab a freshly baked pain au chocolat. Pastries are more of a craft in France and one can literally taste the love and attention that the French put into their works of art.
Schnitzel, stelze and strudel in Austria
With regional influences from Italy, Hungary, Germany and the Balkans, Austrian food is a melange of hearty meals to fill the belly and warm the soul. Meat lovers will fulfill their carnivorous desires in the various schnitzels -- boneless, tenderized meat that's coated in bread crumb batter and fried. Stelze, crispy pork knuckle, is an unconventional snack that leaves one craving it long after the last bite. Both of these dishes pair well with sauerkraut and a beer.
To savor a local favorite that will blow your mind, head to the distinguished Demel bakery in Vienna for its acclaimed apfelstrudel. This apple strudel is a monument in its own right and is best served with creamy vanilla custard and a cup of coffee. If you find yourself too full on stelze and schnitzel to indulge, Demel's storefront windows, with its confectionery art, is a no-calorie feast for the eyes.
Pizza and pasta in Italy
Cliche as it may sound, pizza and pasta in Italy is just better. Don't underestimate the food of the country -- it's popular for a reason. There's something magical about eating true Italian food in the land of its origin. Italians put so much love into their meals and most are made from fresh, local ingredients. Skip the chicken parmigiana and pasta alfredo as, much to Olive Garden's chagrin, these aren't even true Italian dishes. It's best to ask what the regional specialty is, but one can't go wrong with ordering a traditionally made pizza marghertia or spaghetti carbonara. Also, never turn down anything that has truffles in it. It will change your life.
Pad Thai in Thailand
Thailand is known for its flavorful -- albeit, spicy -- dishes. Get a taste of the country by sampling pad thai, a stir-fried noodle dish that is most commonly sold as casual street food. This meal is both filling and delicious. Rice noodles are stir-fried with eggs and pieces of tofu, and mixed with a sauce concocted of tamarind pulp, fish sauce, palm sugar, garlic, shallots and chili peppers. It is then garnished with a lime wedge, bean sprouts and chopped peanuts. Your choice of chicken or shrimp can be added for some extra protein.
Poutine in Canada
While the name sounds like something scraped from the bottom of your dishwasher, this common Canadian dish combines three of the best foods known to man. Originating in Quebec, poutine is composed of a pile of french fries that's smothered in gravy and topped with a generous amount of cheese curds. If you truly want to spoil your taste buds, try a plate garnished with added toppings like bacon, lobster or even truffles. You won't be able to stop poutine it in your mouth.
Korean barbeque in Korea
Korean BBQ offers diners an interactive and appetizing experience. With grills strategically built into the center of the table, Korean barbecue restaurants hand over your side dishes and raw meat, and let you handle the rest. Let pieces of samgyupsal (a thick, bacon-like cut of pork) simmer on the grill as you prepare the perfect blend of onion, garlic and red bean sauce to accompany it. Rib lovers will enjoying cooking the beautifully marinated kalbi, beef short ribs, on their personal table grill.
Kalua pig in Hawaii
If you make it to an authentic Hawaiian luau, kalua pig is almost guaranteed to be served. The term "kalua" literally means to cook in an underground oven, and that's exactly how the pork is prepared. An entire suckling pig is cleaned, stuffed with hot stones and placed in an imu (traditional underground oven) that's lined with banana leaves. After cooking for over seven hours, the pig is removed, the meat shredded and then served with rice, cabbage and poi. This ono dish will have you coming back for more.
Thali in India
A country known for its spices does not disappoint when it comes to the powerful punch of flavor in its national dishes. To get the most out of a meal, order a thali plate. These dishes are served on a steel tray with multiple compartments, each holding a different food. Depending on the region, thalis can come with rice, dal, vegetables, curry, yogurt, some form of protein and a small side of pickle or chutney. Most thalis are served with a side of chapati roti or naan used to mop up whatever remains on your tray. If a filling thali plate sounds like too much food, ask for the region's traditional curry.
Goulash in Hungary
If you find yourself hungry in Hungary, look no further than a hearty bowl of goulash. This traditional soup or stew is made of meat, noodles and vegetables and is seasoned with paprika and a variety of other spices. While it's delicious at all times of the year, it is particularly satisfying in the cold winter months.
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