What’s on your foodie bucket list? We asked 10 well-travelled chefs, cooks and authors, who nominated the amazing dishes around the MEGAN MILLER reports
Landmarks are lovely and shopping is fun, but so often it’s the food that makes a holiday truly memorable. Exploring a culture through its cuisine is rewarding, insightful and scrumptious, especially if you know what to order.
With this in mind, we asked a clutch of leading chefs and food identities to nominate their must-eat dishes from around the globe.
The result is an international hit list of standout meals, from the markets of Shanghai to the Basque coast, from spice-filled India to truffle-strewn Italy.
Put the Michelin guide away. Almost all of our experts recommend eating like a local at unassuming restaurants. These are the dishes worth travelling for.
ANDREW MCCONNELL, CHEF- RESTAURATEUR AT MELBOURNE EATERIES INCLUDING THE NEW CHINESE-SKEWED RICKY & PINKY
“When I first moved to Shanghai in the 1990s, it was a very different city to now. In the markets, a few Chinese RMB would buy you a plate of sheng jian bao dumplings, the local specialty that are more rustic than the xiao long bao served in restaurants. The seasoned pork filling is wrapped in a thin, bread-like pastry skin. The dumplings are placed in a large shallow frypan, topped with a wooden lid and cooked with a splash of water to steam as the base crisps up. Six dumplings per serve, a stool on the street and a bottle of brown vinegar to douse the piping-hot dumplings. It was the perfect way to watch a city awaken.”
SHANE DELIA, CHEF AT MAHA IN MELBOURNE
“One of the most beautiful food experiences I have ever had was a peasant dish of braised goat with sherry
vinegar, livers and fried potatoes. It was prepared by my food hero, Charo Carmona, of Arte de Cozina in Antequera, in the south of Spain. It might not sound like something you would travel halfway around the world for, but it touched my soul and my heart. If I could spend my last days in Charo’s dining room, eating and drinking with my loved ones, I would die a happy man.”
CURTIS STONE, CHEF AT MAUDE AND GWEN RESTAURANTS IN LA
“I’m a spice fiend and one of the most memorable dishes I’ve eaten is the crying tiger pork at Jitlada in LA. The pork is bathed in a marinade of soy, lime, palm sugar, and lots of chilli. It’s then sliced, grilled and served with a nam jim dipping sauce. The first thing you experience is this wonderful flavour, and then you get a little warmth in the back of your tongue. Eat another piece and the warmth hits the front of your tongue and intensifies. Before you know it, your entire mouth is on fire. I’m usually crying at the table and loving it.”
MARION GRASBY, AUTHOR OF
MARION’S KITCHEN MASTERCHEF “I dream of gaeng pu bai cha plu. It’s a traditional southern Thai yellow crab curry with betel leaves that’s not for the faint of heart. It’s eye-wateringly spicy and yet after each tingling mouthful you can’t help but go back for more. This coconut milk curry is studded with sweet chunks of crab meat and finely shredded betel leaves that provide a herbal high note. This is the curry I crave when I’m away from Bangkok and can’t get enough of when I’m there. My favourite version comes from Khua Kling Pak Sod, which has multiple branches in Bangkok.”
IN SYDNEY AND FORMER CONTESTANT MIKE EGGERT, CHEF AT PINBONE
“I would travel to Singapore for black pepper blue swimmer crab in a heartbeat. I first encountered the dish on a late-night outing, and was wowed. Such care is taken in the selection of the crab – they focus on spawning female crabs – so that the flesh is rich. There is no cream, butter or chilli in this dish – it’s just crushed black peppercorns and stock thickened with an egg. The taste of the crab comes through. It’s served with white rice and fried bread for dipping.”
“Having family in Bordeaux, I’ve been lucky enough to have enjoyed my fair share of caneles, the wonderful fluted cakes from south-west France. I still remember my first one at 12, when my cousins and I would walk down to the store and over-order for petit dejeuner (breakfast). The best way to eat them is to dunk them in a bowl of cafe au lait. A good canele should be dark and sticky on the outside and custard-like in the centre. My favourites are from La Toque Cuivree in Le Bouscat.”
DAN LEPARD, LONDON- BASED, AWARD-WINNING BAKER
“In San Sebastian, a beautiful seaside town in northern Spain, you find these wafer-thin cornmeal flatbreads called talos. I made them first with some of my friend’s mothers, pouring boiling water on cornmeal with oil and salt, worked to a dough, then patted thinly. Two of these char-cooked on a hotplate, sandwiched with nutty melted sheep’s milk cheese and cooked bacon, or a spicy pork sausage called ‘txistorra’, become a mighty feast. You’ll see them sold at traditional street markets.”
LYNDEY MILAN, AUTHOR AND TELEVISION PRESENTER
“About nine years ago my partner, John Caldon, and I called into the Hotel Splendido in Portofino, for dinner on the terrace. I ordered the sublime white truffle taglierini, and it was the most memorable version I’ve ever had. The aroma hit first – fine strands of handmade pasta in a creamy white truffle sauce, and ethereal white truffle shaved over the top. The heat of the pasta helps release the aroma of the truffle. An unforgettable confluence of company, location, food and service.”
FRANK CAMORRA, CHEF- OWNER AT MOVIDA IN MELBOURNE
“There is a busy bar called Casa Balbino in the town of Sanlucar de Barrameda in Spain. It’s deservedly famous for one thing: tortillitas de camarones. These are tiny, almost krill-sized prawns cooked in super-crispy chickpea fritters. It’s one of the most moreish and Moorish things I have ever eaten. You can see vendors selling these tiny prawns in the markets. Casa Balbino is the place to eat them while standing at the bar, the waiter chalking up your bill on the counter. It’s the best Andalusian food experience, and one I keep coming back for again and again.”
CHRISTINE MANFIELD, CHEF, AUTHOR AND TRAVEL WRITER
“One of my all-time favourite dishes is tamarind prawns, a Moplah (Muslim) dish from Thalassery (formerly Tellicherry) in Kerala, India. It’s in my 2011 book, Tasting India. I first tasted this dish at Ayisha Manzil, a guesthouse owned by Faiza and Moosa. On each visit, I have spent time in the kitchen cooking with Faiza, and this is one of the family heirloom dishes she taught me to make. Every time I taste it, it reminds me of those times and the tangy, sour hot flavours bring the prawns alive. It’s addictive.”