1. Harissa (Tunisia)
I wasn’t quite sure about this bright red, very spicy condiment, but soon learned that harissa goes well with pretty much everything. It can be pretty hot, but sometimes its mild enough to pile on a good ol’ tablespoon of the stuff. Actually, the stuff that Cava makes (Whole Foods sells) is much hotter than any of the stuff I remember getting in Tunisia. Don’t think that harissa is just to add to a pita or slather on a piece of bread: you can also throw some harissa into spaghetti sauce, or even mix it to make a light breaded chicken. I’ve also put some into chili. I’m sure you can make your own with crushed peppers, oil, and spices, but I’m really not that energetic about my condiments.
2. Ema Dhatse (Bhutan)
Who can’t love a national dish that is like an extra hot queso but better? I’ve long been a fan of queso, so ema dhatse was an exciting find for me. I’m not sure where you can find ema dhatse outside of Bhutan, so if anyone has spotted the stuff on a menu, let me know. It’s very flavorful, with a tang and a zap of pepper. But it’s also really, really hot. I was barely dabbing it on a full plateful of rice and still chugging water. If you go to Bhutan, don’t be afraid to ask the chef to dumb it down–even those that are super tolerant of heat may have a hard time with a whole bowl of this deliciousness. Is it a meal? A condiment? Probably a bit of both.
3. Pumpkin or Squash Soup (Tanzania)
I can be weird about food, and when we first went to Tanzania I totally turned up my nose at squash or pumpkin soup. Yes, I know this is not an inherently Tanzanian dish, that I could have ordered in many U.S. restaurants–but I wouldn’t have, until I tried it in Tanzania. It has quickly become a new favorite of mine, and I make it frequently in the winter. It doesn’t take much, and you can dress it up with some ginger, smoked paprika, garlic, or whatever you like. I think the pumpkin soup we had freshly cooked in the Serengeti will always hold a special place in my heart, but this has become a routine rotation in our home eating. Just please don’t put sugar on it…
4. Linzertorte (Austria)
A dessert person I am not, but Linzertorte is one of my favorites. It’s classically made with red currants, which give it this wonderful snappy tart taste with the sweeter dough. It’s definitely not overpowering, and is the perfect combination when you get it into one bite. I’ve also seen it with raspberries, which works just fine as long as too much sugar isn’t added to the berries. While I’ve perfected my raspberry pie (why does no one sell raspberry pie regularly….why), I have yet to tackle the beautiful lattice overlay found on a linzertorte. Someday.
5. Rondon (Costa Rica)
Rondon is one of those things that really just tastes better than it looks. If you get hung up on food appearance (and particularly color), rondon may not be right for you. It’s pretty much a fish/seafood stew, with some Caribbean spice added. We tried a few different restaurants in Costa Rica, and each put their own spin on it. Some added more crab–some added more crab legs that you couldn’t get the meat out of. Sometimes there was a lot of fish, sometimes there were more onions/broth. Nonetheless, grey school-lunch looking appearance aside, rondon is flavorful and delicious. A perfect soup, even for a hot day.
What have you found when traveling that you love to eat?