Top 10 iconic foods and where to find them

05/02/2014 12:00 AM

04/30/2014 6:02 PM

For decades, residents in certain communities have been divided by their chosen favorite of the local cuisine. In Naples, the debate over the best pizzeria has occurred for at least 150 years. Residents and visitors to France differ on whether crepes should be savory or sweet in addition to debating where the best place to get them can be found.

With the foods that spark controversy and favoritism in mind, the members and editors of travel website VirtualTourist.com came up with the “Top 10 Iconic Foods and the Best Spots to Find Them.”

Pastrami sandwich: New York

Neighborhoods grow and change, but some things do stay the same. A fixture in New York’s Lower East Side neighborhood, Katz’s Delicatessen Katz’s has served its world-famous pastrami for more than 125 years. The deli’s superiority is so renowned that it even has online ordering, shipping all over the United States and to military addresses, a tradition that was established during World War II.

The deli is a located less than a block from the Tenement Museum, which celebrates the immigrants who inhabited the neighborhood in the early 20th century. Now, as luxury hotels and trendy nightclubs pop up around it, the quality and tradition of Katz’s could keep it going as a neighborhood fixture for the next 125 years.

Pad thai: Bangkok

One of Thailand’s more accessible and less spicy dishes, pad thai is the first foray many individuals make into Thai cuisine. Composed of stir-fried rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts, and peanuts, the dish is traditionally served with lime wedges and can be found all over Bangkok’s street food scene.

The most famous spot for pad thai in Bangkok is Thip Samai, an unassuming storefront across from Wat Thepthidaram in the city’s Banglamphu district. The restaurant serves “Original Pad Thai” for about $2, as well as a version called “Superb Pad Thai,” which is Thai noodles served in an egg omelet.

Pizza: Naples, Italy

While pizza has been reinterpreted all over the world, the original slice can be traced back to the working-class neighborhoods of Naples. Traditionally, it was served marinara or margherita, with the primary difference being mozzarella cheese and basil atop the margherita. It was named after Queen Margherita of Savoy, who was served this style when she visited Naples in the late 19th century.

While there is no shortage of pizzerias, two of the most famous shops are L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele and Pizzeria Di Matteo. The latter, located near the Duomo, is where President Bill Clinton sampled Naples’ famous export during the 1994 G7 conference.

Frites: Brussels

Belgium is well-known for many food specialties, including waffles, mussels and chocolate, but one of its greatest areas of expertise is frites, or fried potatoes — known in the United States as french fries. Belgian frites are distinct for two reasons — they are usually made with Bintje potatoes, and they are fried not once, but twice.

Vying for top spot in Brussels are Frit Flagey in Place Flagey, Friterie Tabora near the Grand Place, and Maison Friterie Antoine in Place Jourdan. Once you select a vendor, your next decision is how to dress your frites. While the traditional Flemish topping is mayonnaise, Maison Antoine provides more than 20 different sauces, including curry, mustard, traditional ketchup, poivre and even cocktail sauce!

Coffee and beignets: New Orleans

A people-watching institution in its own right, Cafe du Monde is a mandatory stop for any coffee connoisseur visiting the Big Easy. Conveniently located on Jackson Square, the patio at Cafe du Monde is a great spot to enjoy the European ambiance and pace of New Orleans or listen to street musicians and performers.

While Cafe du Monde is known around the world, many people do not know that coffee first came to North America by way of New Orleans. After the French successfully cultivated it in Martinique, they brought it to their new colonies along the Mississippi River. The beignets — square pieces of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar — are a perfect complement to the chicory coffee.

If you can’t make it to the flagship on Decatur Street, there are eight Cafe du Monde coffee stands within the New Orleans metropolitan area.

Steak: Argentina

Steak and beef have played a large role in the culture of Argentina, from the asado cuisine to the image of gauchos on the estancia.

Argentina’s steaks are a cut above the rest because the cattle are raised on grass in the pampas, not grains in feedlots. A few recommended parillas, or grill restaurants, are El Boliche de Alberto in Bariloche, Don Julio in Buenos Aires, and La Cabrera in the Palermo Viejo district of Buenos Aires.

VirtualTourist members recommend the Bife de Lomo at La Cabrera, which comes with a variety of side dishes and promises to be the most affordable 12-ounce steak of your life.

Sushi: Tokyo

As with steak in Argentina, delicious and fresh sushi is available all over Japan, but it is perhaps most associated with the sleek culture of Tokyo. Although there was some concern about the safety of dining on fish after Japan’s tsunami and radiation scare, the incident has not affected the popularity or consumption of sushi within Japan.

While sushi can be had at any hour in Tokyo, one experience unique to the city is a visit to the Tsujiki Fish Market, where early risers (and we mean really early — arriving there at 4 a.m.) can watch the Meguro tuna auctions. For the truly dedicated, the line begins at around 4:30 a.m. for a spot at Sushi Dai, the revered sushi restaurant within the inner market.

For those who prefer coffee in the morning and sushi for dinner, check out Sushi Saito, which has three Michelin stars and only seven seats, located in the Akasaka district.

Gelato: Florence, Italy

Perhaps the most hotly debated item on our list, gelato is a treat that no traveler visiting Italy can avoid or resist. The well-documented difference between gelato and ice cream is the amount of air whipped into the batch — only 20 percent for gelato compared to 60 percent air for ice cream. This difference makes gelato denser and gives it a richer flavor. Although gelaterias do have some traditional ice cream flavors, they also carry certain flavors more popular in gelato, like nocciola (hazelnuts), stracciatella and zabaione.

VirtualTourist members strongly suggest Bar Vivoli, Perche No and Grom in Florence. Grom also has locations in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Malibu, Calif., and Osaka, Japan.

Crepes: Brittany, France

Although crepes can now be found all over, they originated in Brittany, in the northwest region of France.

Crepes can be eaten either savory or sweet. While some people eat the savory galettes for lunch or dinner with cheese, ham, eggs or vegetables, the more widespread interpretation is as a sweet treat, filled or topped with Nutella spread, whipped cream, or custard.

Three widely recommended spots are Creperie Tout le Monde in Douarnenez, Corps de Garde in Saint Malo, and Breizh Cafe in Cancale.

Chili crab: Singapore

Although chili crab can be widely found throughout Singapore and Malaysia, it is considered Singapore’s signature seafood dish.

Crabs are served in a bright red sweet and savory tomato and chili-based sauce, often with pullman toast, crusty bread, or steamed buns to sop up the sauce.

Members recommend the Jumbo Seafood Restaurant in Singapore’s East Coast Seafood Center, although the restaurant has five locations throughout Singapore and a new outpost in Shanghai.

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