Iconic foods and where to find them

  • Article by: MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
  • Updated: April 4, 2014 - 5:41 PM

A travel site targets the best places to get signature items.

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For frites:  Maison Friterie Antoine in Belgium.

For decades, residents in certain communities have been divided by their chosen favorite of 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 and debate about the best place to get them. With the foods that spark controversy and favoritism in mind, the members and editors of travel website VirtualTourist.com (www.virtualtourist.com ) came up with “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 since 1888, Katz’s Delicatessen is a holdover from a time that has long disappeared from the old neighborhood. Less than a block from the Tenement Museum, which celebrates the immigrants who inhabited the neighborhood in the early 20th century, 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 and shipping all over the United States and to military addresses, a tradition that was established during World War II.

Pad thai — Bangkok

One of Thailand’s more accessible and less spicy dishes, pad thai is many individuals’ first foray into Thai cuisine. Composed of stir-fried rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts and peanuts, the dish traditionally is served with lime wedges and can be found all over Bangkok’s street food scene. The most famous spot: Thip Samai, an unassuming storefront across from Wat Thepthidaram in the city’s Banglamphu district. The restaurant serves “Original Pad Thai” for about $2.13 and 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 to the working-class neighborhoods of Naples. Traditionally, it was served marinara or margherita, with the primary difference between the two styles being that margherita features mozzarella cheese and basil on top. It was named after Queen Margherita of Savoy, who was served this style by a young chef when visiting Naples in the late 19th century. Two of the most famous shops are L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele and Pizzeria Di Matteo, the latter located near the Duomo.

Frites — Brussels

Belgium is well-known for many food specialties, including waffles, mussels and chocolate, but one of its greatest areas of expertise is in frites, or fried potatoes — known in the United States as French fries. Belgian frites are distinct for two reasons: They usually are made with Bintje potatoes, and they are fried not once, but twice. Vying for the 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 aioli, Maison Antoine provides more than 20 different sauces, including curry, mustard, traditional ketchup, poivre and even cocktail sauce!

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. Widely considered to have the best beef, Argentina gets its steaks from cattle 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 in Japan. While it can be had at any hour of the day in Tokyo, one experience unique to the city is a visit to the Tsujiki Fish Market, where early risers (and we mean really early, as in 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 for ice cream. This difference makes gelato denser and richer. Although gelaterias have traditional ice cream flavors, they also carry certain flavors more popular in gelato, like nocciola, stracciatella and zabaione. VirtualTourist members strongly suggest Bar Vivoli, Perche No and Grom in Florence.

Crepes — Brittany, France

Although crepes can be found all over, they originated in Brittany, the northwest region of France. They can be eaten either savory or sweet. While some people eat the savory galettes 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 Crêperie Tout le Monde in Douarnenez, Corps de Garde in St. Malo, and Breizh Café in Cancale.

Chili crab — Singapore

  • related content

  • A fixture in New York’s Lower East Side since 1888, Katz’s Delicatessen is a holdover from a bygone time.

  • One of Thailand’s more accessible dishes, pad thai is many individuals’ first foray into Thai cuisine.

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