HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Is the cuisine so boring or just bad that you have to ask for alternatives?

I have done my fair share of traveling in Asia,Europe and Latin America and have found that there was never enough time or resources to fully appreciate the cuisine of any country I visited.
Yet I come across threads weekly asking for the best Tacos in Paris, Southern Fried chicken in Japan,Cheese burgers in Mumbai. Pulled pork in Tel Aviv. Of course I exaggerate for the sake of making my point but my question is , were you so bored or disgusted with the local cuisine that you have to seek out totally foreign food for that country and did you expect it to look and taste even close to what you were used to back home?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't think finding out how Parisians interpret Mexican food = boredom or disgust with the local cuisine. Yes, I *love* learning about local foods when I travel, and trying new things, but I would be interested in trying something that isn't indigenous to that region just for curiosity's sake.

    2 Replies
    1. re: librarianjen

      I would be also...Eventually. But are these posters expats,frequent visitors, political exiles,displaced travelers or all of the above? I jest but am still curious.

      1. re: Duppie

        As someone who travels overseas every summer and spends *significant* time there, I guess I can only echo some of the sentiments already expressed. I don't WANT to eat 'German' food the whole time I am there, especially given the large number of other cuisines not available to me in the boondocks I live in the rest of the year; specifically, great Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Korean, Turkish, etc. come to mind.

        But if I were only visiting a country or region for a week, I'd probably try to sample mostly local foods. I'm not gonna get Chinese food while in Athens for a w/end.

    2. My situation's kinda similar to the situation of people on extended stays overseas. Our restaurant's menu contains -- literally -- over 200 items. They're all Chinese and Japanese. Hey, sometimes I just get the hankering for a burger, mac 'n cheese (recently I made a batch of baked beans and a ham).

      I guess that, as much as I really like Asian food, sometimes the stuff I grew up with shouts my name so loudly I have to answer.

      4 Replies
      1. re: shaogo

        When I travel for 6 weeks, I try to stick to what that country does best, mostly to immerse myself in that culture. I'm usually quite happy to stick to that country's specialties, but occasionally, especially in countries with really meaty cuisines, I'll desperately crave something lighter and more vegetable-oriented. That's when I start hunting down vegetarian or macrobiotic restaurants and buying produce in markets. I never seek out chains that I can find at home or pizza (unless in Italy). Why bother? The only country that offered such bland and bleak cuisine that I broke down and went for their version of Chinese food was in Honduras. It was really bad. I learned my lesson and will never attempt that again in any country that does not have a sizeable Chinese community.

        1. re: 1sweetpea

          I agree that when I travel I do tend to stick with the county's cuisine. (Why would I go for Chinese when I am in Spain??!)
          But normally, I only have at most 2 weeks to spend in one place.

          However, I did have the oppertunity to live in the UK for six years, and I really did find it fascinating to try their versions of other cuisines.
          For instance a standard Chinese menu there is almost completely different to what we would see here in the US.
          My English hubby never heard of an egg roll before he met me!
          And on every Chinese menu in the UK you will find "Crispy Seaweed" -
          Most Americans have never heard of that! (BTW - it's delicious and I LONG for it and wish some English Chinese fellow would move here and start a trend!!)

          Anyway the same thing applies to Italian menus, Greek menus and the like so sometimes now when I travel I do tend to at least look into other cuisines to see what they got! Just out of curiosity...
          I did have some awesome Greek food in Paris one night...and yes it was a bit dfferent than what I am used to.

          1. re: NellyNel

            <And on every Chinese menu in the UK you will find "Crispy Seaweed" -
            Most Americans have never heard of that! (BTW - it's delicious and I LONG for it and wish some English Chinese fellow would move here and start a trend>

            So with you on that. It's been years since I've been to England and I still crave it.

            Sometimes people look for familiar food for comfort.

            1. re: viperlush

              That sounds yummy. i'm going to look for it.

      2. Having lived a substantial number of years out of the US, I can agree w/ some of the sentiments already expressed. But sometimes you just miss an American food, from home, that is not part of the local cuisine. I can remember using lefsa to try and make Mexican food in Norway. We taught our maid, in Bolivia, to make and pronounce Philadelphia cheese steak sandwich. We found a Bolivain BBQ ribs & burgers that "were just like home". In Finland, we'd ask visitors to bring hot Italian sausage because we missed it. The Greek salad at our favorite Greek rest. was made from cabbage, but we got to eat middle eastern style lamb, which we missed.I see you are from Jersey. We bring back to Maine Taylor's Pork Roll, because we miss it. One can not live on lobster alone.
        Our 2 eldest sons work in Seoul. One, who also worked in Thailand, will be back for a visit in October. He can't wait to eat American Chinese and Thai food. All the local Chinese and Thai restaurants in S. Korea, have a very heavy Korean influence, just as our does American.
        Move out of NJ/NYC and see how much you look for NY style pizza in the southwest.
        I've given up trying to find good Mexican food in Maine; we just cook it ourselves.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Passadumkeg

          Passa, you don't get out enough. Take a field trip from Ellsworth, ME to El Cafecito in Grants, NM, for a good fix of green, and sopapillas.

          1. re: Veggo

            The owner is one of my old students. The "Christmas" burritos are great. Sooner than ya think.


          2. re: Passadumkeg

            Oh yes - actually I forgot to write in my above post - what I originally started to!

            There were definitely things that I craved while living abroad... Pizza being numero uno!

            I lived in an area heavily populated by English Italians, and was able to enjoy good pizza - excelllent pizza, in fact...but it wasn't a New York slice!!!
            Man I used to crave it!!
            That ......and a good burger!

            So yes, I know what you mean

            1. re: NellyNel

              Sometimes late at night I too crave a NY slice like the ones in my old Washington Heights hood. and I only moved across the river.

              1. re: NellyNel

                In Norway, mussel and asparagus pizza, in Finland, reindeer 'za and in Bolivia, llama and corn pizza, yum! In Maine, convience store pizza. Gimme reindeer!

            2. I assume that you are talking about Americans and other nationalities that insist on eating their home cuisine to the exclusion of all others. I've certainly seen Americans do it abroad. However, it happens with other nationalities, as well. A friend of mine hosted in Tampa a group of Indians who were being trained to work in an American company with branches in India. While in Tampa, the Indians insisted on eating in the same restaurant every night: an Indian restaurant!

              Certainly, when traveling, you should eat the native cuisine of whereever you happen to be. You've spent a lot of time, energy and money getting to that place, so why wouldn't you immerse yourself in the culture? On the other hand, when you are not just a casual and brief visitor to a country, the situation is a little different. I ate Chinese, Indian, and Malay food continuously for about the first six months I worked in Singapore and it was absolutely delicious! But one day, I felt an overpowering urge for a Burger King Whopper with extra mayonnaise and pickles. I ate one. After that, I found that I had to have an American food fix--one or two meals every two or three weeks.

              2 Replies
              1. re: gfr1111

                Granted, that likely speaks well of the Indian restaurant.

                1. re: gfr1111

                  A month or six weeks abroad, all is well, and then suddenly one day I find myself in McDonald's and then I know it's time to go home.

                2. There's a lot of great food in Paris from all over, especially North or West African, Caribbean, Lebanese, and Vietnamese. Many others, too. But I think seeking out Mexican is pretty wierd.

                  22 Replies
                  1. re: Steve

                    Not if one is from the southwest.
                    What about being an American Bolivian saltena junkie in DC?

                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                      There may very well be good Mexican food in Paris, but as a visitor I think I'll stick with the stuff that is well-represented by a large community. I also think I'll pass on the Parisian BBQ scene.

                      Hey, the Bolivian community here is huge. But I still think they are holding out on me.....

                      1. re: Steve

                        But what if you're a 'Merican from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico and you've been living in Paris for 10 years and you git a craven for a taco or real Q? Foi gras just doesn't cut it any more.

                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                          True, but I think the OP was just talking about people visiting for a normal vacation. Though I could have misunderstood.

                          For folks who are there for an extended period, I imagine anything goes. Except KFC.

                          1. re: Steve

                            Yeah, I remember living in Norway for a couple of years and it dawning on us that we hadn't eaten a hamburger. So we cooked some.

                            1. re: Steve

                              Yes Steve, It amazes me to see obvious vacationers line up in Mc Donalds in Lisbon,Brussels,Paris,Hong Kong and Rio. Cities which IMHO offers some of the best cuisine around while we can't wait to experience our next local meal and was one of the primary reasons we chose to spend our hard won vacation weeks there.
                              I recognize that some people only eat to live,and others don't possess a curious pallet but why would I fly in this day and age to visit an exciting new land and eat something I can get in any suburban strip mall in New Jersey?

                              1. re: Duppie

                                We went to Seoul last June for 3 weeks to visit family. It dawned on me when we got on the plane and they gave us plastic utensils that I hadn't used a knife and fork in 3 weeks. I don't even eat fast food burgers in the US.

                                1. re: Duppie

                                  I went to the McDonalds in Bangkok almost every day for an ice tea and a chance to use the western style toilet. I never ate any food there, but the bathrooms are dependable.

                                  1. re: lulubelle

                                    Lol, that's too funny and I'll have to keep it mind next time I'm in Asia and looking for a western toilet.

                                    1. re: lulubelle

                                      Oh God, your post made me laugh out loud. How we appreciated McDonald's toilets everywhere we went. God bless McDonald's for their toilets.

                                      1. re: lulubelle

                                        The bathrooms aren't dependable everywhere. Better than most other places, yes, but up to western standards, no. Just saying.

                                        1. re: LMAshton

                                          Well, evidently you haven't been in the low-end restaurant facilities in Kansas City, MO. It's not pretty. Or good-smelling.

                                          1. re: Teague

                                            Nope, never been to MO - Missouri? I'm still willing to bet that bathrooms in Sri Lanka are far worse. They tend to look - and smell - like they haven't been cleaned in quite a few years. The bathrooms at the Dehiwela Zoo can be smelled from 20 feet away.

                                      2. re: Duppie

                                        People travel for lots of reasons , and - strange as it may seem to 'hounds - many of them are not particularly interested in local cuisines, preferring the familiar to the foreign. We here are obviously interested in food; I think we tend to project our own passions onto others.

                                        Indeed, plenty of American tourists come to NYC, where there's a plethora of interesting and varied food choices at all price points - and head straight to Olive Garden or Red Lobster or Applebees. Go figure. :)

                                        1. re: Striver

                                          I am not naive to this fact but coming from a long line of eaters,marrying into another long line of eaters and having eater friends, it still strikes me as strange.
                                          In retrospect there must be quite a lot of these folks because this type of restaurant seems to be proliferating here and overseas. Please, I like a whopper every once in awhile but it never crosses my mind abroad or in North America when I am on vacation,that IMO would just dull the whole idea of Vacation.

                                          1. re: Duppie

                                            Short vacation, probably not (couple days to a couple of weeks) but I've gone traveling for 3 months in Asia and boy, did I need a fix of western food every so often. The irony is that I'm Chinese and grew up eating Chinese food most of the time but what I craved while in Asia...a great steak, burger and eggs benny.

                                            1. re: Duppie

                                              My guess is that you're one of those lucky people who experiences no digestive issues when traveling. There are plenty of people who feel ill from even the slightest change of diet. I know I feel out of sorts all day if I stray too much from my typical breakfast, so it's not worth it to me to try to be more authentic at the expense of my health and enjoyment of the trip. I still try my best to try to enjoy the local food when my stomach allows, but when I'm having issues you can bet I'm going to stick to familiar food.

                                              1. re: queencru

                                                You would be correct, I am blessed with a very forgiving stomach. By familiar food do you mean toast and cereal for breakfast,perhaps salads, pizza or burgers for lunch or dinner?

                                                1. re: Duppie

                                                  I tend to have problems when I go to countries where the food tends to be more rich/heavier than what I'm used to eating at home. As a result I try to eat one lighter meal or two when I am traveling so I don't get overwhelmed. For other people it might be something different that causes issues.

                                                  1. re: queencru

                                                    To be honest I was not entirely immune, while on a contract in Portugal I developed a extreme reaction to their white and green wines after perhaps imbibing a little too much. Even today I tend to stay away from overly acidic wines.However when it comes to acidic prone foods{Thai,Philippino} I have no problems.

                                                2. re: queencru

                                                  I'm like that, too, to a certain extent, as is my mother in law. Real pain in the butt. Pun intended.

                                  2. re: Steve

                                    there was *just* a paris thread seeking tacos. i thought something quite snarky to myself and clicked on it. the op was on an extended stay, perhaps studying, and was thinking to celebrate cinco de mayo. . . so that made sense to me, and i held my snark for a future occasion :)

                                  3. I think there a lot of issues at play. For starters, people want variety in their diets, even when the native/local cuisine is amazing, otherwise "ethnic" restaurants would be far less common. There is also the comfort food factor - sometimes you just want to food you grew up with. Finally, there's the "I can't get it anywhere else" factor. A lot of places just don't have access to certain cuisines. I don't always have access to good North African food at home, so when I'm in a city with a significant N. African population I take advantage. Then again, there are times when the local cuisine just isn't that good...

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: mpjmph

                                      I think, too, when most people on these boards ask these questions, it is because they are expats or are living abroad for a prolonged period of time.

                                      For example, as a vegetarian living in France last year, I was constantly seeking out Indian or veg Middle Eastern food because (other than in the peak of fresh veggie season) the veg food in France was a) horrible or b) nonexistent.

                                      That being said, if I am visiting a place for a week or two, I try to sample as much of the local food as possible, even if it means eating things I normally don't care for (sometimes even relaxing on the vegetarian thing a bit). But months on end? Not so much.

                                    2. I've spent three of the last seven years living outside my home country, in significantly different cultures. I don't really crave that "taste of home", as most of the things commonly associated with North American dining are not part of my regular diet (I'm a vegetarian), but I often crave a taste of something different. Being a vegetarian often means limited eating choices when sticking only to "local" cuisine. I developed a huge love of Indian and Middle Eastern food when I lived in Italy. When I lived in Mexico I would constantly order pizza from a Bolivian restaurant nearby (thin-crust pizza with the lightest brushing of sauce, the lightest sprinkle of cheese, and then about a pound of mixed fresh herbs... mmmmm...). I also had stand-out Indian and Thai dishes in Honduras not too long ago.

                                      This summer I'm off to Turkey, Romania and Moldova for seven weeks. I have a feeling that after a few days of authentic Moldovan vegetarian cuisine I'll be ready for a vegetarian burrito!

                                      1. Some of the posts are event specific, such as someone looking for a place to celebrate cinco de mayo, others are American/Foreign living in the country with a craving, some are from local nationals looking for the same things we here in the states look for, good ethnic cuisine from other lands.

                                        1. I just want to chime in as another expat who occasionally wants a taste of home. Or at the very least, a taste of something that isn't local. Usually I end up cooking it myself, because the one Mexican restaurant here makes "nachos" that resemble curry, but I do eat the local pizza and Chinese food. It doesn't taste like Italy, or like China, or even like Chicago, but at least it's not curry. (for the record, I do love curry.)

                                          1. Like some other American posters, I lived abroad for several years (five years in London), and I often craved things that just weren't available (or if they were, I couldn't find them because this was long before the Internet was ubiquitous). I once spent the equivalent of about $25 on a small bag of Oreos that some shop had important, and I don't even particularly crave Oreos.

                                            Not terribly related, but I remember one night it was my turn to cook for our regular "dinner parties," but I was running really late and could really only manage to throw together a Mexican meal (make-your own tacos, rice, beans, that sort of thing, not fancy at all). I was prepared to be very apologetic, but it was a huge hit. With there being at that time only one arguably Mexican restaurant in London (a very mediocre Americanized chain-type place) and being so geographically distant from Mexico) it really never occurred to anyone there to make Mexican food at home.

                                            With a good American friend living in Paris, we ate at a lot of "unusual" or at least "non-French" places there constantly. I particularly remember this fantastic little Guatemalan place right in the heart of the city - go figure.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Mestralle

                                              And that reminds me of another reason to not always seek out the native cuisine -- immigrants! Paris has quite a bunch of very good tagine places, that I'll take over any mediocre, overpriced bistro any time.

                                              Same with Berlin, and its Turkish & Middle Eastern immigrants: obviously, you can get some pretty excellent Turkish and Middle Eastern food.

                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                well, maybe, but the Indian food I've had in Paris has been awful....not sure why we even tried, except that DH had to have his fix!

                                                And in reply to Mestralle: Your Mexican meal reminds me of a very successful party we threw years ago (in fact, it was for my 16th birthday) in Mexico City. My mother decided that she would serve "American Style" tacos (you know: crispy shells, lots of cheese, lettuce, ground beef, etc) to show folks that what passed for tacos in the US (at least in the late 1960s) was very different than what was served in the DF...She got together all the fixins' and had people make their own. At the time I remember thinking something to the effect of "my crazy mother is at it again.." , but the "tacos" were a hit with all of our friends...go figure....

                                                1. re: janetofreno

                                                  I must have been even more worried about crazy Mom than you, because I don't remember that party at all! Blanked it out I suppose :-)

                                                  The Indian food in Paris may be awful, but I had the best char sui bao I've ever eaten at a little place in Paris years ago. I still dream of them as one of my top travel-related food memories (and it has nothing to do with bad or boring local cuisine, since French cuisine is anything BUT bad or boring)... and it is true that the influence of immigrants can have a very positive influence on eating experiences in some areas, including Paris (as well as San Francisco).

                                            2. The tourist who wants to limit his experiences to the familiar is an odd duck indeed, but he or she certainly exists. Mrs. O and I have both encountered acquaintances back from overseas trips who complained that nobody spoke English and you couldn't find a decent steak anywhere, just weird local crap. By far the ones least interested in local cuisine tend to be those not there by choice, mostly Armed Forces personnel; my sister and her children adored the food in Italy, but her husband, a career Air Force NCO, couldn't stand any of it because it wasn't what he's grown up on in Ohio. Well, he did enjoy the pizza, but it had to be from one of the few large places that catered to tourist tastes... which is why for my farewell dinner we drove all the way from San Vito dei Normanni to Matera, because the big restaurant there was where all the Americans hung out.

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: Will Owen

                                                Though there's a subgroup of military folks who do indeed eat their way around the world. I've met a good number of AF people down here in Florida who still pine for that perfect Korean BBQ they discovered while stationed over there and get so very excited when someone down here comes moderately close to getting it 'right'.

                                                1. re: Will Owen

                                                  Where I live there is one company (who shall remain nameless) whose employees are famous for trying to set up a little USA right here in South Asia. The frequent the American Club, the Pizza Hut etc, but you never see them at the local restaurants. They are also the people who complain that the school is not "American" enough, whatever that means. I think that for people who are pushed into a life overseas, as opposed to going willingly, the food is something east to control in an unfamiliar place.

                                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                                    The military is what introduced me to cuisines other than "American".
                                                    While there is a large portion of military folks that rarely, if ever, leave the post or the nearby "American Town", there were also quite a few that would try anything and everything the host country had to offer.
                                                    The adventurous types were the ones who consistently volunteered for overseas postings, and considered stateside assignments as a "hardship" duty.

                                                    1. re: hannaone

                                                      During a two week stay in Athens we had breakfast sandwiches from McDonald's almost every day- about $6. It sure beat the aporx $30 per person that the hotel was charging for breakfast. Eggs, bacon, sausage, english muffins sort of the same everywhere.

                                                      1. re: emilief

                                                        My parents and sister had a similar experience in Tokyo- breakfast at the hotel was this gigantic buffet for $25-30 while the McDonald's was considerably cheaper. I know when I travel I try to find hotels that include breakfast or provide inexpensive options, but if that's not a possibility you'll probably find me at the local McDonald's or Starbucks.

                                                        1. re: emilief

                                                          I haven't been to Athens,but I think that's pretty sad. No markets around? Nothing? I've done a fair amount of traveling, plus I'm a cheapskate, but I have never been in that position.

                                                          Where did you stay? If I were staying in a city for two weeks, I'd think about figuring out a way to cook. I love shopping in the local markets.

                                                          1. re: Steve

                                                            Not really sad- just practical. Since we have many friends and family in Athens, we had lunch and dinner with them at local tavernas or at their homes, so breakfast was the only issue. Themarkets are not close by the Athens Hilton and I have no desire to cook on vacation. The other alternative is to pay more for your room and stay on the concierge floor where there is gratis food all the time.

                                                            1. re: emilief

                                                              there has to be some option between the 2

                                                    2. Here in Southern California, and in particular the San Gabriel Valley, you'll often see busloads of tourists from either China or Taiwan flock to local Chinese restaurants for meals.

                                                      While no doubt the San Gabriel Valley offers some of the finest Chinese restaurants in the Western Hemisphere, it is a bit odd that visitors from half-way across the globe would want to eat what they could easily get back at home rather than, say, sample a good taqueria or hit up a decent pizza joint. [shrug]

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                        I think those people who are used to Chinese food have trouble digesting pizza and tacos.

                                                        1. re: Tripeler

                                                          That maybe. Do you think it's the cheese? While many Asian folks are lactose intolerant, even those that are not find the taste and aroma of cheese of any kind very off-putting.

                                                          That said, I know bunch of Chinese teenagers who would rather have pizza over a Taiwanese rice roll and spaghetti and meatballs over a bowl of beef noodle soup.

                                                          Go figure.

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            It's the combination of beans, corn tortillas, usual (to them) spices and lots of fatty meat. I don't know about China, but in Japan most all Mexican restaurants are fully qualified bean-free zones.

                                                            I think the Chinese teenagers you know are likely American raised ethnic Chinese.

                                                      2. Interesting post. My husband and I just returned from a trip to Europe (still meaning to write up the restaurants on the Italy and France boards). We had carefully researched and planned for several special dinners at local places, and happily ate street fare and groceries most of the rest of the time. Since we were visiting the typical touristy sites for much of our trip, however, we found that most of the places open for lunch were the typical touristy lunch places- and they were expensive! In Rome, we learned a trick of stopping by a Chinese restaurant near our hotel at mid-day for a dirt-cheap and tasty snack and a couple of drinks to tide us over until our dinner reservations. Also there was just something funny about eating Chinese food in Rome- and vacations are about having fun :)

                                                        1. hungarian-chinese is interesting. . . so is anglo-indian. indian-anglo just sucks big time (my traveling companion's fault, thank god it was only breakfast). many times when i've traveled i've been on a very limited budget where i could really only eat cheap ethnic eats and street/market food, and reserve my big splurge for *one* really good "best italian restaurant in florence" etc meal-- or sometimes i couldn't afford the big spurge at all. sometimes it feels a little better to check out what a greek restaurant in bulgaria might be like, if your other choice is a cheap and wan execution of local cuisine-- when you simply can't afford to eat as well as you'd like to and the price points in the 2 restaurants are the same.

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                            If by Anglo-Indian you mean Indian food in England, I beg to disagree---a good Vindaloo in London beats hell out of a lot of English food.

                                                            1. re: Querencia

                                                              I read soupkitten's post as the opposite. I think it was meant to be taken as Anglo food in India, meaning their take on American standards.

                                                              Sometimes when on longer vacations, my husband develops massive pizza cravings. He breaks down and tries the local take on pizza, with varying results. Some have been truly terrible while others are interesting, possibly in a good way. I'm usually a little disappointed that he gave in to cravings, especially if we only have a few meals left before returning home.

                                                              I get cravings when we are in foreign lands, but rarely make an attempt to satisfy them while abroad, knowing that good things come to those who wait (until returning home). When in Asian countries, I crave Italian Middle Eastern and cheese. When in India, European, Mexican or Central American countries, I longed for pho, sushi and Thai food.

                                                              The only time I've ever ordered a cheeseburger abroad was in Iceland, when we wound up at the only restaurant in a tiny town and the Icelandic options seemed roundly unimpressive. Many diners were eating cheeseburgers with fries or pizza. I resorted to a seafood soup (which tasted like it came from a powdered mix with frozen seafood added) and a cheeseburger, both of which were utterly unmemorable. My husband had a pizza that had what tasted like ketchup for the tomato sauce, a mix of brick cheese (generic white cheese) and blue cheese and possible parm from the can. Nasty. The sausage bore no resemblance to pepperoni and the vegetables (peppers, canned mushrooms) only brought out the sweetness of the ketchup-like sauce. He was a good sport and declared the pizza passable, but it wasn't. I should note that we had some spectacular Icelandic meals while in that country.

                                                              The only other non-Icelandic meal we had was another pizza meal. We arrived late in a small town and the only restaurant serving food served pizzas, burgers, fish and chips, meatloaf-type heavy plates and not much else. We opted for the pizza. One of us chose a fairly standard pie, while the other picked the weirdest mix of toppings. We shared them. The standard one was easier to enjoy, though it was by no means good. The wacky one was so bizarre that it was fun to try to appreciate it as pizza, but something was so off about the Icelandic take on pizza sauce that no amount of savoury toppings could mask the sweetness. Blech.

                                                              1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                Interesting! One can certainly get local food while traveling around Iceland ( we did a couple of years ago)/ lots of delicious fish, soups, and yes - Wale and Puffin can be tried also, but we were really amazed that the local food in most areas consisted of Pizza/Hamburger/Tex mex combination joints. We thought the quality of the dishes served in those places was quite good. Perhaps you were a bit out of luck where you wound up eating? Our experience did not match yours.

                                                                1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                  I was in Iceland a couple years ago and also tried a burger and pizza while there. I had pizza in Reykjavik at a tiny little place and it was quite good. We just got a basic meat pizza and definitely enjoyed it. I had a cheeseburger at a tourist site and it was just ok. The weird thing was that they put cucumbers on the burger. A pickle substitute, I guess...

                                                                  It wasn't the burger or pizza I was used to or expecting but it was nice and I enjoyed an Icelandic take on typical American food.

                                                                  I agree with you about Icelandic food, though- we had some absolutely sublime seafood. I can't wait to go back.

                                                                  1. re: Hobbert

                                                                    And when you go back, take a side tour to Greenland, you will be in absolute Seafood heaven!! :-) and some delicious Danish cooking too!

                                                                    1. re: RUK

                                                                      I so wanted to but we went during a time of year when flights were infrequent. I'll definitely plan for Greenland next time!

                                                                      Funnily enough, I had a lovely time chatting with a Danish guy who couldn't say enough good things about Greenland.

                                                            2. We usually structure our trips so we don't get sick of something - vary levels of restaurants in France for example, the occasional splurge with bistros and various regional cuisines and non-French places for a break (usually Asian, Vietnamese or Thai/Laotian). We do the same thing in Asia, different regional cuisines in China and throw in the (very) occasional non-Asian meal for variety (there are very good French restaurants in Kyoto for example). We stick to things that we expect to be done well because of cultural or colonial backgrounds of the countries we visit. Wouldn't look for a taco in Tokyo or Lyon, but see no reason if someone needs a fix that they shouldn't do so.

                                                              1. For me, the great attraction of food is and has always been the "magic" that can be performed with fresh ingredients, herbs and spices, and a great cook who knows how to perform "kitchen magic." Soooooo... I LOVE a great pot roast like my mom used to make, but I also LOVE great classic Turkish dishes that my chef/housekeeper made for me when I lived in Turkey, and the great Greek food that I had when I lived there, and the fantastic nigiri sushi that a girlfriend's mom used to make for us for lunch way back in the 1940s, when she could get (cheaply!) GREAT wild tuna of such quality that in Tokyo's fish markets of today, a single tuna would draw many thousands of dollars.

                                                                The food that I find boring is most of the agribusiness foods that we find in American supermarket foods today. HOW can you make a great marinara sauce from scratch with tomatoes that have all the flavor of their glossy picture in a magazine?

                                                                I really do love exploring the "kitchen magic" that can be accomplished with great fresh ingredients, great naturally raised or wild caught proteins, and the broad broad spectrum of flavors and style that those same ingredients can draw from different ethnic/national cuisines. It's like playing with a chemistry set when I was a kid! Except I don't make anything smell like rotten eggs with my magic spice rack chemistry set... The rotten egg trick is how I lost EVERY chemistry set that Santa ever brought me when I was a kid so I don't go there anymore... Especially not in my kitchen! '-)

                                                                1. I sometimes like seeing how other cultures interpret certain cuisines. For example, we once ate at a Thai restaurant in Denmark: the curries were similar to what I've had in the US, but I was amused to see most of the diners concluding their meals with pancakes and whipped cream.

                                                                  I used to go to Tokyo regularly for business, and for some reason, despite how good the local food was, at least once a trip I'd come down with a craving for Indian food.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: tardigrade

                                                                    Since you mentioned it, an Italian place near my former abode in Tokyo served all-you-can-eat blueberry waffles with their pasta.

                                                                  2. That's Taiwan and Hong Kong for me. Can't stand most of the food (and nearly all of it in Taiwan, save for some delicious grilled squid and 7-11 sweet potato milk), but luckily I'll go for most anything else.

                                                                    In Hong Kong, my go-tos are the Indonesian consulate "neighborhood" of Causeway Bay, and Chungking Mansions. A hop to a Tsim Sha Tsui supermarket (not Wellcome or Park 'n' Stop) gives me more options. Hui Lau Shan is a treat...too bad they haven't reopened in NYC.

                                                                    As for the other place, let's just say the only times I fly China Airlines these days, the flights aren't taking off or landing in Taiwan.

                                                                    As for "southern fried chicken in Japan," they've got something better- karaage. Squeeze some lemon on and I can (but shouldn't) eat it everyday.


                                                                    1. In Seville we overheard two Americans at an adjacent restaurant table discussing menu items. "What is spaghetti Bolognese?" "They put baloney in it." "How about spaghetti Carbonara?" "That would be, cooked on a grill." I strained my ears hoping that the next query would be about Spaghetti Puttanesca.

                                                                      1. I'm a Canadian who's lived overseas for the last decade - Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia. Sometimes, I just get bored with the local cuisine. Really, I get bored with any cuisine if I've had it too much. I cook a fairly wide variety of cuisines at home, but sometimes, I just need change of pace.

                                                                        Having said that, if I'm visiting somewhere for a week or two, I'll definitely eat whatever the local cuisine is for the most part. Take advantage of what I can't usually get at wherever home currently is.

                                                                        1. I've lived in Tokyo for 20 years and have only found 3 sources of good chicken: 1) Make it yourself (that's what I do); 2) Go to Costco on the fringes of Tokyo and purchase whole roasted birds; and 3) settle for KFC. And yes, sometimes you do get bored with local cuisine if you have been outside of your country too long. I can eat sushi and sashimi just like the next Japanese but you long for something close to what you like. However, ramen is the Japanese salary man's "fast food" and I love that more than McDonald's! This is a city of 22 million people and over 80,000 restaurants. You will never be disappointed!

                                                                          1. For someone who is living abroad (or staying for an extended time), asking where to get the best Tacos in Paris is no different from someone in a city in the US trying to find the best Burmese food. When I lived in the US for three years, I certainly didn't eat American food every time I went out to a restaurant, or have people look at me like I was an uncultured boor because I wanted to eat Thai food.

                                                                            For me, it's an issue particularly for types of food that I can't prepare at home, or where I can't get the ingredients. I can't get good ingredients for Mexican food, for example (mind you, I can't get good Mexican in a restaurant either), and I only have a toaster oven, so pizza at home is out of the question.

                                                                            I was in Germany for two weeks last summer. I thoroughly enjoyed the food, but if I had stayed longer, you can bet I would have been seeking out a non German restaurant, simply to get some vegetables beyond sauerkraut into my diet. I go to McDonalds in Tokyo, because the 100 yen coffee there is a lot more appealing than 500 yen coffee anywhere else. I went to a McDonalds in Germany because it was the only place I could get a quick, cold drink before catching the streetcar to our hotel after 9pm.

                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                                              You couldn't get any vegetables besides sauerkraut? In the summer?

                                                                              Where, pray tell, in Germany were you staying? Unless you ate at places specializing in Bavarian cuisine, you would've had plenty of other seasonal vegetables served to you.


                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                I've never been to Germany, but I will say that, if you don't count potatoes, I had a similar issue in Zeeland, in the Netherlands. Granted it was years ago, but a typical meal in all the restaurants was a piece of meat, accompanied by three types of potatoes (usually fries, tater tots, and boiled). It got old fast. Fortunately, the cheeses made up for it, and Belgium wasn't far away....

                                                                                Thinking of the cheese raises another issue that I've found in some places I've travelled: there are areas of the world where the restaurants may be either not too great, geared mostly to tourists, and/or either poor or really pricey, but where great ingredients are availabe in the markets and shops. Unfortunately, if one doesn't have the foresight to rent a place with a kitchen, it may limit the opportunity to take advantage of those ingredients, other than those like cheese that don't need prep other than a knife. The Big Island of Hawaii comes immediately to mind.....not to mention my current home town of Merced, where there are great ingredients to cook 'local' but where for the most part the good restaurants feature cuisine that is not local (such as Thai...)

                                                                                1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                  Yeah, I'm familiar with the Big Island. I travel to Hilo for work periodically, and the local ingredients are lovely, the restaurants not so much. Fortunately, my employers have a couple of condos rented, as we have a lot of people travelling there regularly, so we do have a kitchen available.

                                                                                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                                                    yes, I also go to the BI fairly regularly, and I would never get a place without a kitchen now. It's a great place to cook.

                                                                                  2. re: susancinsf

                                                                                    India is a great example of that. I had good meals in restaurants there, but none that were noteworthy enough for me to even remember the name of the restaurant. OTOH, most of the meals I had in people's houses were very good to great, and there were a few I still remember in detail over 20 years later....

                                                                                  3. re: linguafood

                                                                                    We were eating in fairly affordable places mostly in Heidelberg and the Black Forest - not too fancy but not fast food. But the vegetable selection was pretty minimal in general. Pfifferlings were in season, so there were mushrooms on offer.

                                                                                    I normally eat a lot of vegetables - so I find myself craving vegetables when travelling in North America as well, but there I found they tended to be much more a part of the meal than I was getting in Germany.

                                                                                    1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                                                      No side salads, steamed carrots or asparagus, or sweetheart cabbage or sugar snaps?

                                                                                      I'm not trying to be confrontational -- I'm just a little surprised. I rarely see sauerkraut as a side unless it comes with certain dishes. It is not (contrary to common belief) the only vegetable available in Germany :-)

                                                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                                                          No, not really. I don't know if it was the level of restaurant we were at - there were main courses that came with sides (likes sausages, potatoes and sauerkraut), the occasional side salad, and appetizers (usually starchy/fatty/meaty), but not much in the way of vegetables on the side of the main courses, or a la carte veggies.

                                                                                          The local berries were lovely, however - it's been a long time I lived somewhere you could get local berries aside from strawberries.

                                                                                  4. I pretty much agree with you. But it can be interesting to see how a familiar food has been adapted by another country. The best example I know of is the Hong Kong-style cafes in local Chinese enclaves. They serve Western style dishes (like French toast and spaghetti) that have been adapted for Hong Kong snack culture and then moved back across the Pacific.

                                                                                    1. At least a few times a month, I get a craving for Chinese, Japanese or Vietnamese style soup noodles. So, when traveling, I do try to make note of where these items might be acquired. Also, sometimes I do just like to have something "familiar", without resorting to McDonald's fries :) My last long trip was to Melbourne, for 3 weeks, so lots of variety there!

                                                                                      1. Trying to immerse yourself and appreciate local culture is about more than food. It's also about people. It's about neighborhoods. It's about art. And if in the midst of a day of exploring the beautiful neighborhood off the beaten path that your rental apartment is in, shopping at its tiny stores and markets, interacting with your temporary neighbors, you have a hankering for something not of that city, big deal. Better all that then eating at only "native cuisine" restaurants while staying in some tourist hotel in the midst of a tourist scene. And of course, there is very very much ground between those two imagined travelers.

                                                                                        Some of my most wonderful evenings in Spain have included dining with local acquaintances at a small pizza place enjoying personal pies and celebratory shots of whiskey, enjoying homemade cous cous at a dinner party, and chowing on Indian food because it was someone's favorite place in the neighborhood. If I was able to return to Barcelona now and someone wanted to treat me to a meal at Patka to try the Peruvian-Japanese menu, I'd surely say yes.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: debbiel

                                                                                          lol....I think I would make a point of going there just to try the Peruvian-Japanese menu:-) My son lived in Barcelona for about a year, and has plans to briefly return there this summer....maybe he can go there and report back, if he hasn't been there already.....

                                                                                          1. re: debbiel

                                                                                            I agree with your perspective and I think it's useful to realize that many/most major cities have significant immigrant populations. Their cuisines get reinterpreted based on local ingredients and tastes, or they put their own spin on local food, and both of those things can be interesting and delicious.

                                                                                            If it's a short trip, it may not be worth it to step outside the obvious local options, but if you're spending more than a few days in a city getting in some examples of the more recently imported food ideas can give you a much broader perspective on what the modern culture of an area actually looks like.

                                                                                          2. I have been thinking about this very issue the last few days as I start to think about restaurant/food choices for our upcoming trip to Tokyo. DH likes Japanese food well enough, but he doesn't eat any meat and eats less and less fish. He also prefers spicy food (he was born and raised in India), and begins to absolutely crave capsicum if he hasn't had any spice in a few days. I'm afraid that he WILL, sadly, be seeking variety after a week in Tokyo. Part of me wants to enjoy only the local cuisine while we're there, but a bigger part of me knows that we will not leave until he can at least try the (supposedly decent by all accounts) South Indian place a few blocks from where we'll be staying....And I have to admit, part of the fun is finding those memorable meals (good or bad) in unexpected places. Heck, we laugh about that horrible Indian meal in Paris, but we're still talking about it years later.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                              I love Japanese food. In fact, it's in the top 3 of my favorite cuisines. I was in Japan for 2.5 weeks. After 1.5 weeks of eating purely Japanese meals I started getting ill at the thought of eating another soy-based product (soy sauce, tofu). I realized I needed a break to reset my taste buds so that Japanese food would start tasting good again. I had an Italian and Indian meal. The Indian meal, however, was "Japanified" as the chopped spinach curry was topped with mozzarella cheese and an onsen egg!

                                                                                              Depachikas may be good for both of you. There are so many stands you can choose from. You can get grilled mackerel, sushi, tonkatsu, yakitori, etc. while he can gorge himself on salads (Japanese salads are really good!), cheeses, bakery items. In fact, I could have sworn one of the depachikas carried samosas!

                                                                                            2. I think there are two divergent reasons

                                                                                              people who like variety seek it out - maybe French for breakfast, lunch and dinner gets boring - nothing wrong with stopping in to a trendy Mexican joint near the Bastille for lunch - World cities like Paris, London, Rome are diverse metropolii limiting yourself to some idea of "Authentic" seems silly and narrow


                                                                                              some people are just plain terrified of the unfamiliar - and a trip to McD's provides that certainty of bland, soft, sugar mush that says "comfort" and not so cynically travelling can be very stressful and something familiar can be a break from the challenge o experiencing a different culture - experiencing "new" foods is not everyone's idea of fun.

                                                                                              I love food, I love to try new food but I have been guilty of Mexican in Paris and Chinese in Como among other non "Authentic" choices - I certainly did not avoid French or Italian food but with an extended stay sometimes you just choose something different.

                                                                                              1. After a couple of weeks of foreign food, I am very happy to indulge in a familiar burger and fries from McDonald's.

                                                                                                I'm also happy to see what US-based burger or pizza chains will add to their menus to cater to overseas customers.