If you're a foodie, then chances are you have Japan, France, Italy, India and Singapore on your travel list. After all, sushi, crepes, pizza, curry dishes and chicken rice are some of the yummiest internationally beloved foods and it's natural to check out if there's more where those came from. But you shouldn't limit yourself to just the bestsellers, go out of your comfort zone and explore what other places have to offer.
Culinary magazine Chef's Pencil released a list of the most underrated foodie destinations to help foodies plan their future travels. But we say you don't have to wait for travel restrictions to ease up; you can go on a gastronomic adventure right now from the comfort of your own home by recreating signature dishes from these spots. Ready to go on this journey? It's time to channel your inner chef and start cooking.
Adobo from the Philippines
Taking the spot of the world's most underrated foodie destination, the Philippines is home to a culinary heritage that's been influenced by many cultures, specifically by its Asian neighbours like China and India. And of course, no one can deny that the centuries-long occupation of the Spaniards left a mark on the country's culinary style as well. Perhaps, the best symbol of this interesting fusion is the nation's unofficial national dish, the savoury Adobo (meat braised in a vinegar-soy sauce mix). Although the cooking process is indigenous to the Philippines, the name "Adobo" was given by the Spaniards based on Adobar (a similar cooking process of using vinegar to marinate meat). And thanks to trade, ingredients like soy sauce were incorporated to make the Adobo we know today.
Cooking Notes: All you need are vinegar, soy sauce, salt, ground pepper, garlic, dried bay leaves, choice of meat (it can be chicken, pork or fish) and egg (optional). It's a one-pot dish where you can just put everything together and let the meat be braised. Some people prefer it to be sweeter; in this case, honey or sugar is added to the mix. You can also add in green vegetables like sitaw (green beans).
Pho from Vietnam
Pho ever, Pho you, Pho sho — this world-famous Vietnamese dish has been made popular internationally partly thanks to some witty restaurant names. But it's actually pronounced as "fa" and not "fo". The history of how Pho came to be is a little murky and to this day there are still disagreements on where and when this filling dish really originated. But one thing is clear, this dish has been embedded in Vietnam's modern history and culture. A celebrated poet even dedicated a poem to Pho. Upon the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Vietnamese immigrants brought with them this dish and began to introduce it to the world.
Cooking Notes: Prepare star anise, cinnamon stick, yellow onions, lime, basil, bean sprouts, cilantro, scallions, choice of meat (beef or chicken) and add sriracha as desired. While this dish is easy to cook even for beginners, you do need to allow a bit more time to make its stock but we assure you that the wait is worth it.
Elote from Mexico
We're as surprised as you are when we learned that Mexico was named one of the top underrated foodie destinations. But we have to look beyond fast-food staples burrito, churros and tacos because there really is more to Mexican cuisine than we've yseen. One dish that's not as known internationally but is ubiquitous in the streets of Mexico is Elote. It's a corn-on-the-cob dish that you top off with goodies like butter, chilli powder, cheese, mayo, sour cream or lime. You can look at it as a healthier take on the hotdog in a bun. It's preferably eaten on a stick but can also be enjoyed in a cup. Like Pho, Elote has poorly documented origins but some trace it back to the ancient times. It's really impressive for an ancient dish to still be beloved in this modern day, don't you think?
Cooking Notes: For a local twist, you can add in some toppings and sauces from your area to make the taste more interesting. You can also eat it with a meat dish from your favourite Mexican restaurant.
Brudet from Croatia
For many of us in this side of the world, Croatian food is a bit unfamiliar but you'll be surprised at how some elements of their cuisine has a semblance to Asian food. For starters, seafood is a very much beloved ingredient for them, just like it is here in the tropics. Brudet, a popular hearty seafood Croatian stew dish, is something that we reckon Southeast Asians would also love. It traces its origins from Italy, but Brudet's modern form uses different ingredients — like a tomato base — that make it uniquely Croatian.
Cooking Notes: What's fun about trying to make this dish is you can use just about any seafood combination — squid, clams, fish or shrimp. The ingredients used can also be found in Asian cuisines. It's like a remix of the dishes we're familiar with!
Tom Yum Goong from Thailand
Thai cuisine is very rich and has given us a lot of flavourful dishes, so it's a shame that Thailand is still considered as one of the world's underrated foodie destinations. If you're not familiar with Thai cuisine, start with their staple dish, the Tom Yum Goong which is surprisingly easy to make at home. It's another dish with a history that's not fully known but the consensus is that it came from Central Thailand where there is an abundance of shrimp. With a name that literally means "boiling spicy sour", this dish is — you guessed it — fiery hot and deliciously tangy. Modern versions make it to be creamy to suit the palate of those that are not used to the ultra spicy original version.
Cooking Notes: Aside from shrimp, you can also use fish or add other meat and even vegetables native to your locale. If you're going for the spicy version, make sure to cook some rice to go with it to balance its fiery taste.
(Cover photo from: Jennifer Schmidt via Unsplash)
Next, bring South Korean street food home with these recipes.