3 Must-Try Iconic Dishes from Around the World
One of the most exciting parts of traveling is trying the local cuisines. The availability of herbs, spices, proteins and grains varies greatly from country to country, so local dishes are an ode to tradition in every way. If you find yourself in the following parts of the world, be sure to try these three iconic dishes.
Bouillabaisse in Marseille, France
“How to make the authentic bouillabaisse is always a subject of lively discussion among French experts,” wrote Julia Child in The French Chef Cookbook. “Each always insists that his own is the only correct version.” In fact, the ingredients and methods used for preparing, plating, serving and eating this iconic seafood stew are so passionately debated that in 1980, 11 restaurants in Marseille signed an official Charter of Bouillabaisse dictating what kind of fish could be used to make a truly authentic rendition.
What began as a humble fisherman’s stew has been elevated to one of the great dishes of the world. Traditional bouillabaisse includes a variety of Mediterranean fish such as breams, gurnards, mullets, sea eels, weavers, wrasses and rockfish, some of which are to eat and others to disintegrate into the broth. Typically, fish are served on a platter and the broth—a rich mixture of tomato, garlic, saffron, olive oil and potato—in a tureen lined with toasted bread. Broth is then spooned from the tureen into large soup plates or bowls and topped with the fish. Diners use large spoons and forks until just the remnants are left, which can be scooped up with crusty baguettes slathered with rouille—a thick chili-spiked sauce made with breadcrumbs, garlic and olive oil. But not all bouillabaisse is created equal, and there are plenty of restaurants peddling subpar versions to tourists.
This is a dish on which it pays to spend more, which considering how much fresh seafood is involved, should cost upwards of €40. While bouillabaisse remains one of the most beloved dishes of the Mediterranean, several Marseille chefs are putting a fresh spin on the classic. Apparently the statute of limitations on the charter has run out. At Le Pétit Nice, Gérald Passédat serves a deconstructed version called “Bouille Abaisse” that dramatically arrives as a tower of dishes, while at Une Table au Sud the dish is reimagined as a frothy milk shake with delicate layers of mousse, fish and potatoes.
Where to Find It
-Calypso Restaurant: Bouillabaisse is prepared and served according to the traditional methods established in the official Charter of Bouillabaisse. The separate components—fish, broth and toasted bread—are plated tableside.
-L’epuisette: The Michelin-starred chef Guillaume Sorrieu serves a modern interpretation of “Fisherman’s Bouillabaisse” that is as memorable as the view.
-Chez FonFon: Grab a window seat at this old-school favorite, perched along the picturesque port of Vallon des Auffes, overlooking the fishing boats that supply the daily catch.
-Le Petit Nice: This opulent presentation of the region’s most beloved dish from Provence’s only three-star Michelin chef is enjoyed as part of a bouillabaisse tasting menu.
-Le Miramar: It’s a good idea to order your bouillabaisse in advance when booking your table at this renowned restaurant in the heart of the Old Port.
-Une Table Au Sud: At this modern one-star Michelin restaurant, chef Lionel Lévy serves a clever and nuanced take on bouillabaisse.
Fried Chicken in America’s Deep South
There might be nothing more American than apple pie, except perhaps fried chicken. Brought to the U.S. by Scottish immigrants and cooked in kitchens by African slaves in the Deep South, fried chicken started as a Southern staple but quickly became a national treasure. At its golden crispy best, fried chicken can trigger an emotional response. “Fried chicken is one of those things that people have certain reference points from their childhood,” says Jeff Cerciello, chef-owner of Farmshop in Brentwood, Calif. “Mine was the KFC that my parents got once a week for dinner. I grew up in the time of fast food restaurants. But tasting fried chicken in the Deep South, you really appreciate what fried chicken is. You learn an appreciation for these humble, simple foods.”
National institutions like The Loveless Cafe in Nashville, Mama Dip’s in Chapel Hill, and Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles in Los Angeles have been setting the standard for decades with their crispy, salty, authentic fried chicken. There are few foods more pure in their perfection, so it’s little surprise that the dish has been exalted at some of the top tables around the country. At Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc in Napa Valley, where Cerciello first experimented with fried chicken, Keller soaks the chicken in a lemony brine before coating it in a buttermilk batter and deep-frying it. At Pies ‘n’ Thighs in Brooklyn, N.Y., cayenne and black pepper find their way into the batter, while jalapeño adds kick to the marinade at Max’s Wine Dive in Austin, Texas.
“Starting with organic chicken is paramount,” says Cerciello. “We brine ours for 12 hours and then air dry it for a day to help dry out the skin, and then there’s the breading procedure, where the creativity comes in. We play with flour mixtures of whatever it is we are serving the chicken with. This time of year it’s citrus, maybe fennel seed in the batter; sometimes we’ll do dishes with eastern Mediterranean spices, sumac and thyme; sometimes we’ll do a lot of rosemary, a lot of herbs. But we try not to overthink it.”
Where to Find It
-Birch & Barley: Chef Kyle Bailey goes haute serving Belgian waffles with his fried chicken in this classic brunch favorite.
-Farmshop: Chef Jeff Cerciello’s Sunday night fried chicken dinners are among the hottest gets in a town where every calorie counts.
-Max’s Wine Dive: Fried chicken gets the Tex Mex treatment by soaking the pieces in a jalapeño buttermilk marinade before deep-frying to crispy perfection and serving with a glass of bubbly.
-Pies ‘N’ Thighs: This Williamsburg spot is a favorite for its fried chicken seasoned with black pepper, cayenne and paprika.
-Restaurant Eugene: Esquire magazine voted Eugene’s fried chicken the best in the country. Chef Linton Hopkins serves it on Sunday nights with seasonal side dishes.
Ebelskivers in Copenhagen, Denmark
Ebelskivers may be one of the few Danish foods that Americans can name thanks to the intriguing dimpled pans that beckon from the pages of the WilliamsSonoma catalog. In Denmark, they are traditionally served around Christmas with gløgg, Scandinavian mulled wine. The name ebelskiver, which translates to apple slice, refers to this simple, traditional Danish pancake ball that is often baked with apple inside. Sweet or savory, other popular fillings include jam, cheese, ham and even smoked fish. While purists would perish the thought of indulging in these ubiquitous holiday treats anytime outside of December, ebelskivers are having a moment, popping up year-round in surprisingly sophisticated incarnations including on the menu of the world’s best restaurant (as named by Restaurant magazine) Noma in Copenhagen.
“I always knew [ebelskivers] as those weird doughnuts you got in Solvang; the pans as the oddest item in the Williams-Sonoma catalog,” says Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prize–winning restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times. “But the ebelskivers at Noma were pretty swell: round, savory cakes, fresh from the pan, served with half a smoked fish sticking out from either side—it looked as if the herring extended all the way through.” Noma Executive Chef René Redzepi has also been known to serve a sea salt bone marrow version. Also giving ebelskivers the New Nordic treatment is Chef Thomas Herman, who, as the chef at Hotel Nimb until February, served eel-filled ebelskivers in a bisque of Jerusalem artichoke.
Where to Find It
-Acme: Acme is a modern bistro helmed by Chef Mads Refslund, who blends New Nordic cuisine with New American seasonal fare.
-Domku Bar & Café: Kera Carpenter has been serving ebelskivers year-round at her popular neighborhood cafe since she opened in 2005.
-Henry Public: At this Brooklyn saloon, ebelskivers are called Wilkinsons— after consulting chef (and former “Top Chef” culinary producer) Shannon Wilkinson—and are served with a rumcaramel dipping sauce.
-Malerklemmen: Restaurant Serving ebelskivers year-round, this charming, thatched-roof restaurant is about 20 miles from Copenhagen.
-Noma: At what is considered the best restaurant in the world, René Redzepi serves a haute rendition speared with a smoked fish.