Worldwide icon-chevron-right The world’s most iconic dishes, according to locals
World’s most iconic dishes
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

The world’s most iconic dishes, according to locals

We quizzed 38,000 people to assemble the ultimate culinary bucket list – including where to try the world’s best classic dishes

By Time Out editors, Morgan Olsen, Huw Oliver and James Manning
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One of the best parts of travelling is eating your way through a new city. Better yet is discovering the city’s must-try delicacies, ideally with a bona fide local at your side. After all, some dishes sum up a city’s identity in a single plate.

But identifying those icons isn’t always straightforward, as we found out when we polled 38,000 people on the one dish that represents their city.

To track down the most beloved dishes around the globe, we went straight to the source and surveyed city-dwellers worldwide through our annual Time Out Index survey. That means that every entry on this list – from Los Angeles to Lisbon and Rome to Rio de Janeiro – has been selected by locals as the single most representative thing you can eat in their city.

The choices throw up the tricky nature of the word ‘iconic’. Many of the dishes picked by locals are virtually unheard of outside their city or country. Others are surprises that throw up the fascinating ways that food pervades and crosses cultures: who would have thought that pizza would be so beloved in Brazil, or shawarma in Russia?

Of course, you don’t just need to know what to eat – you need to know where. So we’ve made sure to consult a global panel of local experts: our own Time Out editors plus clued-up food influencers. They’ve each given us the lowdown on their city’s top dish, plus a shortlist of the very best local, independent places to try it.

You’ll walk away feeling like you just attended a barbecue in Johannesburg and slurped a half-dozen rock oysters in Sydney. And next time you see patatas bravas on a menu, you’ll be able to gush about the dish’s contentious origins in Spain

Ready to dig in? Take a (delicious) spin around the planet with this ultimate guide to the world’s most iconic dishes. And get involved: we want you to shout about your city’s delicacy and tell us where to find the best version using the #LoveLocal hashtag.

The most iconic dishes in the world

Bitterballen
Bitterballen
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Amsterdam: bitterballen

The lowdown: Did someone say fried finger food? These small, round, breaded croquettes are a quintessential pre-dinner snack you’ll find at pretty much every so-called ‘brown bar’ in the Netherlands. They usually contain beef or veal ragout, cushioned in gooey roux, and are deep-fried to a crisp on the outside. Locals dunk ’em in a creamy mustard sauce, so make sure you’ve got enough to go around. And no, they’re not bitter at all: the name stems from the fact they are traditionally served with bitters like jenever.

Try the best: ‘You’ll have to head to De Vergulde Gaper, a homey, old-school “brown bar” on Prinsengracht – a beautiful location, right in the centre. Come down to snack just before dinner, and instead of a bitter, team it with an ice-cold beer or wine. Don’t forget the mustard!’@amsterdamfoodsisters

Runners-up: patat, stamppot

Breakfast taco
Breakfast taco
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Austin: breakfast tacos

The lowdown: The first thing you should know about Austinites is that they’re always on the go. It makes sense, then, that they’ve developed an unparalleled obsession with breakfast tacos, a dish that matches their hustle and provides much-needed fuel. Like any other taco on the planet, Austin’s signature dish is infinitely riffable, but most versions include some combination of scrambled eggs, cheese and meat swaddled in a tender tortilla. They’re cheap, filling and can be devoured with one hand – perfect for a city on the go.

Try the best: Veracruz All Natural’s Migas taco has been featured on the Food Network as one of the top five tacos in America – and it lives up to all the hype. How they get so much flavour from such simple ingredients blows my mind every time. If you’re looking for something Texas-sized, try the Don Juan El Taco Grande at Juan in a Million. It’s the size of three breakfast tacos in one and is less than $7.’Mimi (@feedmi_)

Runners-up: BBQ, queso

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Patatas bravas
Patatas bravas
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Barcelona: patatas bravas

The lowdown: When it comes to truly serious business, there’s always a world of disagreement between Madrid and Barcelona. Spicy potatoes first cropped up as a bar snack in Madrid in the early 1960s and the recipe hasn’t changed much since: bravas a la madrileña generally comprises cubes of fried potato seasoned with a piquant roux (oil, flour, garlic, pepper and chilli). As per, the Catalans decided to shake things up a bit – so Barcelona’s take on bravas typically comes with a fried tomato sauce (crucially, not ketchup) and/or allioli (smashed garlic and olive oil), with optional peppers. Every place does it a little different, and that’s the real beauty of this dish.

Try the best: ‘If you’ve never tried it before, you should head straight to Bar Tomás, Barcelona’s quintessential bravas spot: they haven’t changed the recipe in 40 years. Simple yet flavoursome, their dish layers allioli, chilli and bell peppers over a bed of chips (rather than the usual potato cubes). A more modern spin on the dish can be found at Sant Antoni Gloriós: fancy tapas bars are still trying to figure out Fran Manduley’s stunning recipe, created in the mid-2000s. Their secret sauce blends what tastes like a smoky allioli with sweet, marmalade-like fried tomato.’Erica Aspas, Time Out Barcelona

Here’s where to find more of the best patatas bravas in Barcelona.

Runners-up: pa amb tomàquet, paella

Currywurst
Currywurst
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Berlin: currywurst

The lowdown: Currywurst has been a fast-food go-to across Germany since the end of World War II, and to this day stands as a symbol of the country’s newfound openness to the outside world. Simple and cheap, it contains bite-sized chunks of fried pork sausage served with french fries and a good drenching of curry-ketchup sauce. Some say the sausages should come in a casing; others the opposite (this used to be more common in the GDR-run East, where they had no access to casings). Whether you need to grab something to eat on the go or are just pissed after a big night out, grabbing currywurst from your local snack stand always feels like the right thing to do.

Try the best: ‘Arguably the best currywurst in Berlin is served at Konnopke’s Imbiss. In 1930, Max Konnopke and his wife Charlotte would set off with their hawker’s tray to the corner of Schönhauser Allee and Danziger Straße and sell their sausages until late at night. In the 1960s, the family set up a permanent base at a nearby railway junction, where you’ll still find it today. Now you can even opt for a vegetarian or vegan version and choose between different levels of spiciness. Our top tip: go with a group of friends and order one on each chilli level.’@foodvergnuegen

Runners-up: rotierend, döner kebab

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Balti
Balti
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Birmingham: balti

The lowdown: Back in the 1970s and 1980s, balti massively took off in the UK’s second-largest city. A lighter, healthier, quick-serve curry named for the thin steel bowl it’s cooked and presented in, this modified Kashmiri import was adopted by so many restaurants that there’s an area of the city centre that’s still referred to as the Balti Triangle. Chicken or lamb are your typical main events (always off-the-bone), while turmeric and garam masala dominate the spice mix. For the full experience, put down your cutlery and scoop it all up with a large naan.

Try the best: ‘When it comes to balti, it’s often best to head a little out of the city centre. I really rate Akrams in Stirchley, about ten minutes’ drive out. It’s been open for more than 40 years and serves a proper old-school balti alongside a range of other Kashmiri dishes. You can expect honest food cooked well and friendly service from a family-led team. Toss in the balti chicken karahi if you can handle your spice.’@biteyourbrum

Runner-up: fish and chips

Lobster roll
Lobster roll
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Boston: lobster roll

The lowdown: A fresh lobster roll offers all the sweet, delicious meat without the mess. Traditionalists swear by the classic treatment – served on a humble hot dog bun with just a touch of mayo and a smidge of chopped celery – while serious foodies seek out creative interpretations crafted by top local chefs. True aficionados know any lobster roll should be primarily judged on the freshness and quality of the protein; all the butter in the world can’t make up for rubbery chunks of bland, previously frozen lobster.

Try the best: ‘The city’s most lauded purveyors – Neptune Oyster and the Island Creek Oyster Bar/Row 34 empire – each offer a pair of (mostly traditional) lobster rolls, one warm with butter, the other cold with mayo. For an acclaimed, modern take, check out Cusser’s at Time Out Market Boston, where guests choose between a hot version with red wine butter or a cold one with tarragon mayo.’Eric Grossman, Time Out Boston

Here’s where to find more of the best lobster rolls in Boston.

Runners-up:
clam chowder, Boston cream pie

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Gulyas
Gulyas
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Budapest: gulyás

The lowdown: Somewhere between a soup and a stew, gulyás (also spelled goulash) is rich, thick, intense – and perhaps the perfect hearty winter-afternoon meal. First you sauté chopped onions, then you stir in the flavourful Hungarian paprika (and it must be Hungarian – that bit’s important). Then in go the cubes of beef, pepper and root veg, and right at the end, a little csipetke (pinched pasta). Budapesters usually have it with thick slices of plain white bread, and a glass (or three) of an easy-drinking red such as kadarka or kékfrankos.

Try the best:Stand25 puts a classy spin on a load of classic Hungarian dishes, but it’s never OTT. The gulyás here is very different to the kind you’ll be served in most kitchens across the country, but it’ll still give you that same warm, homey buzz. The soup is generously portioned, and the seasoning tastes like nothing you’ve ever tried before. Bonus: the staff are super friendly.’@szilagyijuci

Runners-up: lángos, kürtőskalács

Asado
Asado
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Buenos Aires: asado

The lowdown: ­A culinary tradition of the arid Pampas plains, asado is a communal outdoor barbecue that innumerable parrillas (grill restaurants) across the Argentinian capital now try to mimic – with deliciously smoky results. From fat slabs of steak to unidentifiable innards, asados are all about eating every last bit of the animal. You can expect beef, pork, chicken, chorizo, morcilla and much else besides, all cooked on a grill or open fire. To drink, perhaps a Mendoza red. As the asador doles out moreish dish after moreish dish, your meal will no doubt last long into the night.

Try the best:El Ferroviario is everything I want in a parrilla. This giant meat palace on the outskirts of the city, near Vélez Sarsfield’s football ground, is known for its huge slabs of beef ribs and lechón (suckling pig), which sizzle on massive grills outside. There are more than 400 seats, and in the Before Times, the restaurant was always packed. I love watching the waiters swarm around tables, balancing multiple plates on one hand, and serving every part of the cow imaginable. My favourite things to order: asado, lechón, chorizo, provoleta and morcilla.’Allie Lazar (@pickupthefork)

Runners-up: milanesa, pizza

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Deep dish pizza
Deep dish pizza
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Chicago: deep dish pizza

The lowdown: Built more like a casserole than a typical pie, Chicago’s deep dish is anchored by a sturdy, buttery crust that’s moulded into a high-sided pan. The dough is then layered with gooey mozzarella and whatever toppings you choose (we like sausage, green peppers and mushrooms) before the whole thing is blanketed in chunky, bright tomato sauce and baked to bubbly perfection. And yes, you’ll need a knife and fork to eat it.

Try the best: ‘Despite what Emily in Paris says, Lou Malnati’s makes a damn fine pie that’s consistently delicious. Want it by the slice? Art of Pizza has you covered with its stuffed triangular wedges (you really only need one). But longtime locals will undoubtedly point you to Pequod’s, a pizzeria that’s famous for its caramelised, halo-style crust and mile-long waiting list. Rest assured, it’s worth it.’Morgan Olsen, Time Out Chicago

Here’s where to find more of the best deep dish pizzas in Chicago.

Runners-up: Italian beef, Chicago-style hot dog

Smorrebrod
Smorrebrod
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Copenhagen: smørrebrød

The lowdown: If you’ve ever been invited to a Danish ‘cold table’ feast, you’ll be familiar with the smørrebrød. In fact, it may well have been the only thing on offer. These open-faced sandwiches are a staple of dinners big and small, and aside from the usual base of rye and a generous slather of butter, there are no real rules as to what goes on top. It could be fried herring, homemade sausage, smoked eel… or indeed pretty much anything else. Two classics are the simple fiske-fillet (fish fillet, often with remoulade and dill) and leverpostej (liver pâté with pan-fried mushrooms, bacon and cornichons).

Try the best: ‘Lots of Danish people are sentimental about smørrebrød – it’s a dish they’ve probably eaten since they were a little kid, at home, in their lunchbox and probably with their grandparents. At Restaurant Schønnemann they tap into that nostalgia. The restaurant looks and feels like visiting your grandma, but the food is prepared with the same level of finesse and attention to sourcing that you’d expect at the city’s many Michelin-star restaurants – it’s the best of both worlds.’Peter Atzen (@copenhagen_foodie)

Runners-up: kebab, hotdog

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Shawarma
Shawarma
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Dubai: shawarma

The lowdown: Not just a late-night stomach-liner, the humble shawarma is a lip-smacking street food dish that’s just as tasty at 5pm as it is at 5am – which would explain why there are so many bustling 24-hour kebab joints in Dubai. Derived from the doner kebab (which spread across the Ottoman Empire during the nineteenth century), this Middle Eastern descendent is now a go-to dish for anyone who wants to feast like a king on a shoestring. The meat is usually lamb, but may also be chicken, beef or veal. Take your pick.

Try the best: ‘You could find a proper shawarma at any number of fast food joints on the older side of the city, but places such as a Al Hallab, Al Shami and Al Mallah shine when it comes to superbly spiced meat, a generous slick of punchy garlic sauce and decent meat-to-fat ratio. For shawarma lovers at the southern end of Dubai, Allo Beirut comes up trumps. Best served crammed with plenty of pickles and enveloped in freshly baked Arabic bread, there are few tastier (or cheaper) ways to satisfy a need for a feed.’Amy Mathieson, Time Out Dubai

Here’s where to find more of the best shawarma in Dubai.

Runners-up:
black cod, biryani

Haggis
Haggis
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Edinburgh: haggis

The lowdown: Few things are more Scottish than haggis. And few dishes are more often the butt of jokes – unfairly, it must be said. It may not sound all that appetising: a crumbly sausage made using minced sheep offal like heart, liver and lungs, bulked out with oats, suet, onions and spices, then wrapped in a sheep-stomach skin. But when done right, that distinctive meaty hit makes you totally understand why the Scots might be proud. Have it with neeps (mashed swede) and tatties (mashed potato), and pour yourself a dram.

Try the best: ‘Haggis served on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is hardly ground-breaking, but cousins Laura and Peter Sutherland are doing it justice: they’re neither making haggis unnecessarily posh with jus, nor piling it up unenthusiastically in a big beige mound. They serve it as part of the holy trinity of “haggis, neeps and tatties” from inside an unassuming former police box in the Old Town (creatively called The Haggis Box). The haggis is from local butcher Findlays of Portobello and zhuzh’ed up with balsamic vinegar; the swede is from nearby Perthshire; and the mash is soaked through with double cream and salted butter. It’s all married together with a generous drizzle of Auchentoshan American Oak whisky sauce. Quite simply, a masterpiece.’@plateexpectations, author of ‘Street Food Scotland’

Runners-up: deep-fried Mars bar, fish and chips

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Dim sum
Dim sum
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Hong Kong: dim sum

The lowdown: Hong Kong has a lot of love for dim sum – a Cantonese term that translates literally as ‘to lightly touch your heart’ (cute!) and refers to small servings of food, often to share. Dating back 2,500 years, dim sum has evolved to suit modern palates and to this day plays a huge part in the diet of Hongkongers. Dumplings may be the most famous variety, but there are now more than 1,000 kinds of dim sum with varying textures, flavours and cooking methods. Opt for the exemplary duo of har gow (shrimp dumpling) and siu mai (meat dumplings, usually pork), bite into crispy spring rolls, share an egg tart or two, and nibble on as many chicken feet as your heart – and belly – desire. 

Try the best: ‘For quality plates at reasonable prices, the world’s cheapest Michelin dim sum restaurant, Tim Ho Wan, should be your first stop. For traditionalists, old-style yum cha joints such as Lin Heung Tea House will hit the spot with chunky buns, pork liver siu mai and steamed turnip cakes. Alternatively, head skywards to Hong Kong’s highest Chinese restaurant Tin Lung Heen for decadent dim sum like abalone puffs and prawn and scallop siu mai.’Ann Chiu, Time Out Hong Kong

Here’s where to find more of the best dim sum in Hong Kong.

Runners-up: wonton noodles, egg waffle

Doner kebab
Doner kebab
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Istanbul: doner kebab

The lowdown: Vertical rotisseries of seasoned doner are a familiar sight the world over – especially towards the end of a big night out. The meat (traditionally lamb, but occasionally beef and chicken) is grilled until the outer layer turns crispy and is sliced into leafy shavings with a centre that is tender and moist. It’s then served in a dürüm flatbread with chopped-up salad or simply on its own with a serving of buttery rice. Though the dish is said to have originated in the northwestern city of Bursa in the mid-nineteenth century, it became truly popular a century later in Istanbul thanks to pioneering restaurateur Beyti Güler, who founded Beyti, still one of the city’s most famous doner spots.

Try the best: ‘The ultimate comfort food for many Turks, the ever-popular doner kebab can be consumed as a late breakfast, quick lunch, leisurely dinner or late-night snack to complement a night of heavy drinking. The best doner is still to be found at glamorous Florya restaurant Beyti. For a more casual experience, try Tarihi Karadeniz Pide ve Döner Salonu in Beşiktaş or cross over to the Asian side to Bayramoğlu Döner in Kavacık.’Time Out Istanbul editors

Runners-up: kokoreç, hamburger

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Braai steak
Braai steak
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Johannesburg: braai steak

The lowdown: Summer in South Africa is synonymous with braai – outdoor barbecues on which all manner of meats are grilled for large groups to enjoy. In big cities like Joburg, braai parties are customary in every backyard, while public grills temporarily take over neglected outdoor spaces, serving carnivorous delights like barbecued lamb chops, boerewors (sausages), ox liver, crayfish tail and tuna to diners of all generations. More than just a dish, it’s a social custom: you gather around the grill, you chat, you eat and you make merry with copious beer and wine.

Try the best: ‘When you’re there, Kwa Mai Mai Market (a traditional healers’ market underneath a downtown motorway flyover) feels like the loud, smoky, thronging epicentre of South African street food culture. You sit at plastic tables under makeshift awnings that look on to a smoke-filled car park occupied by souped-up VW Polos blasting amapiano tracks from their competing sound systems. Don’t ask for (or expect) a menu; everyone sells more or less the same: wood fire-grilled beef, sausages and ox liver (isibindi senkomo), all of which comes with a side of crumbly putu pap (maize porridge), sliced tomato and fresh chilli, served on a piece of repurposed plywood.’@JohannesburgInYourPocket

Runner-up: kota

Nasi lemak
Nasi lemak
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Kuala Lumpur: nasi lemak

The lowdown: Our neighbours over the border may think they have a claim on nasi lemak, but either way, it’s often considered the unofficial official national dish of Malaysia. And boy, are we passionate about it. This Malay staple consists of soft, fluffy, fragrant rice, cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf, and served with spicy-sweet sambal (chilli sauce). On top, you’ll get an assortment of sides like fried chicken, grilled squid, deep-fried fish or beef, plus the mandatory egg (boiled, fried or as an omelette – it depends on the joint).

Try the best: ‘Locals agree almost unanimously that Village Park Nasi Lemak is the top place in town. Their fried chicken nasi lemak is what gets the crowds coming back, but everything else on the menu is good too. Nasi Lemak Bumbung in Petaling Jaya is also affectionately referred to as Nasi Lemak Dadah (‘dadah’ means ‘drugs’) because just their take on the dish is just that moreish. It’s cheap, opens late, and always hits the spot. There was once a rumour going around that they melted plastic straws in their fried chicken to make it extra crispy. You know you’ve made it when your haters make awful rumours about you but business is still booming.’–Jaydee Lok, Time Out Kuala Lumpur

Runners-up: roti canai, banana leaf rice

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Bacalhau
Bacalhau
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Lisbon: bacalhau

The lowdown: You’ll find bacalhau (cod, usually salted and dried) at nearly every Portuguese restaurant in the capital. They say there are 1,001 ways to cook this stuff, which is probably true (and then some). And so you could tuck into timeless simple takes, like baked bacalhau assado or bolinhos (croquettes), but also all manner of more extravagant recipes at many of the city’s classier establishments.

Try the best: ‘For a classic cod dish, try Zé da Mouraria, a small tasca where simple, salted bacalhau is served with potatoes and olive oil. At Time Out Market Lisbon, there’s an entire eatery dedicated to the stuff: Terra do Bacalhau is run by local Luís Gaspar, and always has warm, crispy pastéis de bacalhau (cod pasties) fresh out of the oven. The excellent Faz Frio in Príncipe Real puts a new cod dish on the menu every day. You’ll also find snazzier plates at Michelin-star restaurants like Alma, where chef Henrique Sá Pessoa prepares calçada de bacalhau, with egg yolk confit, onion purée and parsley.’Vera Moura, Time Out Lisbon

Runners-up: bitoque, pastel de nata

Fish and chips
Fish and chips
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

London: fish and chips

The lowdown: We’re not by the sea, and it’s not the 1960s, but the people have spoken: Londoners deemed fish and chips to be this city’s star dish. While it’s not impossible to pay way too much for a soggy cod and chips, there’s a reason this combo is as iconic as Bert and Ernie. Done well, a flakey fillet unleashed from its crisp, golden cage of batter and paired with chunky spuds (we’re not talking french fries, folks) is as good as fried food gets. Don’t forget the mushy peas.

Try the best: ‘If you’re going to do this British paragon justice, step back in time at retro caff Poppies in Spitalfields, where you get the sense of a seaside town – and where fresh catches from Billingsgate Market are on the menu each day. Or try Sutton and Sons, with branches in Hackney and Islington, who have brought the dish bang up to date with battered, plant-based twists.’Laura Richards, Time Out London

Here’s where to find more of the best fish and chips in London.

Runners-up:
Sunday roast, curry

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Tacos
Tacos
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Los Angeles: tacos

The lowdown: L.A. already has a city flag, but if there were any justice, we’d have one devoted to the taco. Angelenos line up at all hours for meat that’s seared, grilled and slow-roasted under tents on sidewalks, in alleyways and from the hallowed hulls of food trucks and thrown into fresh tortillas, then loaded with salsas. It’s a rite of passage here, and just as everyone has a favourite taco stand, there are just as many styles to choose from: corn tortillas or flour? Tijuana-style, heaped with avocado salsa, or Sonora-style, with cabbage and bright tomato salsas? The taco embraces all regions of Mexico for an inclusive, ever-evolving street food scene worth tasting tortilla by tortilla.

Try the best: ‘There’s almost nothing as satisfying as the tacos de camaron from Boyle Heights’ Mariscos Jalisco, which folds fresh shrimp into a corn tortilla and fries it to perfection. Just down the street you’ll find El Ruso, an operation filling pliant handmade flour tortillas to the brim with chopped carne asada, stewed birria and charred chicken. Make a stop at both, since you’re there, but good luck picking a favourite.’Stephanie Breijo, Time Out Los Angeles

Here’s where to find more of the best tacos in Los Angeles.

Runners-up: avocado toast, ramen

Cocido madrileno
Cocido madrileno
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Madrid: cocido madrileño

The lowdown: You’ll find this chickpea-based stew at restaurants all over Spain, but its roots are here in the capital. Cocido is a staple in family homes throughout the winter – what could be more comforting than a hefty plate of slow-cooked meat and veg? – and is so entrenched in Madrid’s culinary tradition that many restaurants reserve a specific day of the week for it to be their ‘star dish’. It’s usually served in three parts: first comes the stock (perhaps with added noodles), then the chickpeas and root veg, and finally the meat.

Try the best: ‘Cocido is on the menu at almost every traditional Spanish restaurant in Madrid – La Bola, Malacatín or Cruz Blanca de Vallecas are among the best. In recent years, others, like Taberna Pedraza and La Cocina de Frente, have started serving more refined versions that emphasise the high quality of their ingredients. If you want to go for a proper blowout, try the daintier but just as succulent cocido off the tasting menu at Clos de Marcos Granda.’Gorka Elorrieta, Time Out Madrid

Runners-up: tortilla de patatas, bocadillo de calamares

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Bouillabaisse
Bouillabaisse
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Marseille: bouillabaisse

The lowdown: Marseille’s most iconic dish is also one of its oldest – bouillabaisse was dreamed up by Phoceans from ancient Greece as a fisherman’s soup to make use of unsold seafood. The hearty stew is cooked in a court-bouillon of water or white wine and served with chunky bread croutons rubbed in garlic and rouille, a spicy, saffron-scented red pepper concoction. These days, there are two distinct ways to serve the dish, which is well documented in the Bouillabaisse Charter of 1980 (yup, really): it’s either all mixed together in a big bowl, or the fish is served separately from the broth. No matter the presentation, bouillabaisse is no longer a poor man’s soup – expect to pay as much as €40 for a bowl of the good stuff.

Try the best: ‘Fancy something authentic? Anchoring the tiny Port des Goudes since 1948, L’Auberge du Corsaire is the place to start and is still quite popular among fishermen (always a good sign). In the same neighbourhood, Christian Qui is a quainter experience, with dinner served around a table d’hôte with views of the sea. For a lesson in top-level gastronomy, make a reservation at Le Petit Nice, where lauded chef Gérald Passédat dishes out a unforgettable dining experience.’Tina Meyer, Time Out Paris

Runners-up: pizza, panisse

Parma
Parma
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Melbourne: parma

The lowdown: Finding a parma at a Melbourne pub is like spotting seagulls at the beach. The word divides the nation, with the states of New South Wales and Queensland referring to it as a ‘parmi’, even though they’re wrong. Originating in seventeenth-century Italy, a parmigiana contained fried aubergine, tomato, cheese and basil. Americans later bastardised the dish by replacing aubergine with chicken, and in the 1980s it voyaged to Australia and became a parma: breaded chicken, napoli sauce, shaved ham and melted cheese.

Try the best: Mrs Parmas is a restaurant devoted to parmas, with some ten iterations on the menu, while the Birmingham Hotel dishes up a huge plateful fit for an eating contest. The Cornish Arms Hotel serves a mock chicken alternative with vegan cheese, and many gastropubs put a gourmet spin on things with fancy slaws and organic chicken.’Rushani Epa, Time Out Melbourne

Here’s where to find more of the best parmas in Melbourne.

Runners-up:
coffee, dumplings

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Tacos al pastor
Tacos al pastor
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Mexico City: tacos al pastor

The lowdown: Tacos al pastor is what happens when the classic Mexican tortilla combines with luscious meat sliced off vertical rotisseries (technology brought here by Lebanese immigrants around a hundred years ago). Slivers of pork are marinated in a complex, aromatic blend of achiote, red chilli and spices. Add some pineapple, salsa and lemon and you get Mexico City’s – and perhaps the world’s – most famous fusion dish. 

Try the best: ‘Purists will say the best tacos al pastor are to be found at Los Manolos: greasy, well grilled and spicy. But there are also innovative twists at places like La Sirloinería, where they may include sirloin meat, or be made using cheese crisps instead of tortilla. There’s also the excellent kebab de pastor at Yeccan Cervecería. But let’s be real: nothing beats the original.’Andrea Vázquez, Time Out Mexico

Here’s where to find more of the best tacos al pastor in Mexico City.

Runners-up: chilaquiles, pozole

Cuban sandwich
Cuban sandwich
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Miami: Cuban sandwich

The lowdown: Unlike pastelitos, croquetas and every other delicious Cuban import that’s ubiquitous in Miami, the Cubano is said to have originated in Florida. Specifically, Tampa and Key West when Cuban cigar workers in the mid-nineteenth century needed something filling and portable to bring with them to the factories. Fast-forward several decades, and the simple combo of thick cuts of sweet ham, sliced roasted pork, Swiss cheese, crunchy pickles and yellow mustard (plus salami if you’re in Tampa) is a round-the-clock staple and most tourists’ first taste of Cuban food in Miami.

The lowdown: ‘The Cubano is uncomplicated but easy to get wrong – think too little mustard, too much ham or a piece of overly toasted bread. Sanguich de Miami gets theirs just right, in part by making most of the ingredients themselves, like brining their own pork and special-ordering the Cuban bread – essential to any Cuban sandwich – to their specifications. Once pressed, it’s warm, crunchy and with just enough pull in the melted Swiss. Some might scoff at Pollo Tropical’s fast-food version, but the affordable $7 number comes out hot and fresh and also gets an A in my book.’Virginia Gil, Time Out Miami

Here’s where to find more of the best Cuban sandwiches in Miami.

Runners-up:
ceviche, croquetas

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Risotto milanese
Risotto milanese
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Milan: risotto milanese con ossobuco

The lowdown: Milan may have a rep as an Eden of traditional Italian dishes like pasta al pomodoro and bruschetta, but risotto milanese con ossobuco may well be its most famous export. A bed of creamy, saffron-infused risotto is the ideal resting place for a perfectly cooked veal shank that’s been braised with veggies and broth. When it’s plated up, the dish wafts a heady scent of white wine, lemon and butter. It’s not hard to see why so many attempt to emulate this culinary masterpiece at home.

Try the best: ‘If it’s a traditional version of the iconic dish you’re after, head to Trattoria Masuelli San Marco, a historic destination that boasts décor, signage and a bar that date back to 1921. At Testina, a relative newcomer, you can opt for the classic or indulge in more modern takes, some even featuring parmesan and braised beef cheek. Our advice? Try them all.’Anna Rahmanan, Time Out USA

Runners-up: cotoletta, sushi

Poutine
Poutine
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Montreal: poutine

The lowdown: This comfort food’s French-Canadian roots are undeniable, but its history is debatable. As many as five different towns in Québec are believed to have invented this simple yet indulgent dish of crispy french fries covered in squeaky cheese curds and blanketed in warm, savoury gravy. Aside from that culinary whodunnit – and yes, it’s a whodunnit, because poutine absolutely slays – it’s now one of the most recognisable cultural exports from the Canadian province after Céline Dion. It tastes infinitely better than outsiders might imagine and only gets better the more you drink. 

Try the best: ‘Montrealers regularly hang their hats on the work of La Banquise, which has been dishing out poutine 24 hours a day since 1968. Other notable names include Chez Claudette, Paul Patates, Romados’ chopped-and-topped Portuguese chicken version and Au Pied de Cochon’s luxurious foie gras variation, but every local has their favourite in and out of town. The dish can be found on every self-respecting casse-croûte’s (French for diner or snack bar) menu.’JP Karwacki, Time Out Montreal

Here’s where to find more of the best poutine in Montreal.

Runners-up:
viande fumée, beignet

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Shaurma
Shaurma
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Moscow: shaurma

The lowdown: A Syrian import from the early 1990s, this popular street food is a chaotic feast of kebab meat, coleslaw, salad and a mayonnaise-ketchup dressing, stuffed inside a thin lavash (flatbread). Shaurma caught on faster in Moscow than in Saint Petersburg, where at that time locals still made pirozhki – small, stuffed buns – their go-to comfort snack. Now you’ll find it pretty much everywhere in the Russian capital: not only in station cafés but also in swisher, sit-down restaurants.

Try the best:Shwarm does a brilliant marbled angus beef shaurma, along with a range of punchy Middle Eastern-inspired cocktails. The beef is stewed in sous vide, then marinated with a mix of spices, which gives it a delicate texture and bold flavour. The lavash is filled with pickled cabbage and cucumber, sliced tomato, coriander and onions. If you’re after a spennier but more adventurous restaurant version, try Kraby-Kutaby, whose spirulina-tinted lavash brims with Kamchatka crab, coleslaw, yuzu, tomatoes, avocado and aioli.’Marina Likhacheva, Time Out Moscow

Runners-up: pelmeni, borscht

Vada pav
Vada pav
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Mumbai: vada pav

The lowdown: Often found near suburban train stations and pretty much anywhere else that pulses with commuters, Mumbai’s vada pav vendors do a properly roaring trade: some two million of these sandwiches are sold every day in India’s biggest city. The vada are deep-fried spiced potato balls, and the pav is a fluffy, square bread roll. What really sets this on-the-go snack apart, though, are the chutneys. You may get a garlic and coconut chutney, you may get something sweet and tamarindy, or you could get something else entirely. Every vendor claims to have their own ‘secret’ twist on this exquisitely simple dish.

Try the best: ‘Ashok Vada Pav serves hands down the tastiest vada pav in Mumbai. And that would make sense: legend has it, the dish was invented here. It’s said Ashok Vaidya, whose food stall was originally set up just outside Dadar railway station, was the first to think of stuffing fried batata vada inside his chutney-slathered pavs. The spices are punchy, and the pav is gorgeously fluffy. You have to try it.’@munchymumbai

Runners-up: pav bhaji, chaat

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Pizza margherita
Pizza margherita
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Naples: pizza margherita

The lowdown: For a dish so brilliantly simple, there are a surprising number of rules that must be followed when making a proper Neapolitan margherita. To start with, no tools may be used but the hands of the pizzaiolo. The cornicione (crust) must be crunchy yet thick and fluffy inside. The ingredients (tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, flour, olive oil) must all be high quality and locally sourced. And the pizza must be cooked at a very high temperature (400–500C) for a burst of 90 seconds. The resulting dish is now world-famous, but it’s still best tasted in the city that invented it.

Try the best: ‘While there are many internationally renowned pizzerias in Naples, not all of them are able to consistently pump out the same high quality of pie day after day. Look out for places that don’t wave picture-filled laminated menus at you as you walk past. My favourite margherita can be found at Fiorenzano, on Piazza Montesanto in the centre.’@tasteguidenaples

Runners-up: ragù, pasta e patate

Pizza
Pizza
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

New York: pizza

The lowdown: New York pizza rouses plenty of debates. Is the city’s water the secret ingredient? Is it best fired in coal or wood-burning ovens? Do locals fold their slices? (Yes!) If there’s one universal truth, though, it’s that New Yorkers have loved their pizzas ever since Italian immigrants tossed the city’s first discs of dough in the early twentieth century at Lombardi’s in Soho, often cited as the first pizzeria in town. It doesn’t matter where you find yourself in New York – you can’t walk more than a few blocks without stumbling upon a flame-kissed pie that’s topped with lip-smacking red sauce and oozing cheese.

Try the best: There’s a pizza for every occasion in New York. Whether you’re an oenophile or simply wanting to jump on the natural wine trend, Ops in Brooklyn serves creative pies that are as varied and surprising as its wine selection for a sit-down experience (at home or in their convivial dining room). Or if you want something deliciously old-school, Juliana’s in Time Out Market features pies slung by the pizza legend himself, Patsy Grimaldi.'Bao Ong, Time Out New York


Here’s where to find more of the best pizza in New York.

Runners-up: bagels, pasta

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Takoyaki
Takoyaki
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Osaka: takoyaki

The lowdown: Osaka is the home of fast, gooey, cheap, savoury food that cries out for a cold beer and a good time. Takoyaki is a case in point: balls around three to five centimetres wide, made with a flour-based batter and filled with pieces of octopus and pickled ginger, then drenched in mayonnaise, Japanese barbecue sauce, bonito flakes and seaweed powder – all eaten while mouth-scaldingly hot.

Try the best: ‘Part of the fun of takoyaki is watching them being made: the vendor pours the batter into a special cast-iron mould and swizzles the balls around with a metal pick at incredible speed and with impressive precision. The odds are on your side in Osaka for great takoyaki spots, but some reliable standouts are Takoyaki Wanaka (various locations) and Tamaya in Kokubunji.’Jessica Thompson, Time Out Tokyo

Runners-up: okonomiyaki, ramen

Steak frites
Steak frites
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Paris: steak frites

The lowdown: Steak frites may be the most popular order at bistros and brasseries across Paris – so ingrained is it in French popular culture that a certain Roland Barthes even thought it worthy of some generous analysis in his ‘Mythologies’ – but there’s nothing humdrum about it at all. When you’ve got a case of hunger pangs, a gorgeously saignant entrecôte (ribeye) with a side of fresh, crispy, slightly oily fries always hits the spot.

Try the best: ‘If you’re in Paris on a budget, you’ll want to hotfoot it to 300-seater contemporary bistro Bouillon Pigalle, which plates up a 200g hunk of Limousin meat with fries blanched in two separate rapeseed oil baths – and for only €10.50 a pop. You’ll find a snazzier, Michelin-endorsed version at Clover Grill for a reasonable €20, while the equally charming (and much more traditional) Le Petit Vendôme, just across from the Louvre, serves steaks and other French classics to a mostly local crowd.’Tina Meyer, Time Out Paris

Runners-up: burger, croque monsieur

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Cheesesteak
Cheesesteak
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Philadelphia: cheesesteak

The lowdown: Thanks to pop culture, Philadelphia is forever immortalised as the birthplace of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and the Philly cheesesteak. Though there’s no sign of Will Smith around these parts, the cheesesteak remains a fixture on just about every menu in town – from the corner deli to the fine-dining restaurant. You’ll find appealing twists everywhere you go, but most start with a large, crusty hoagie roll that’s stuffed to the brim with paper-thin slices of ribeye steak and smothered with gooey melted cheese (usually provolone or Cheez Whiz). It’s the kind of sandwich that deserves your full attention, with both hands and a pile of napkins on standby. 

Try the best: ‘Just outside the centre in Roxborough is Philly institution Dalessandro’s, where you’ll find queues out the door for one of the city’s finest cheesesteaks. Here, the meat is finely chopped and complemented with tender, grilled onions and a pillowy-soft roll. Also worth a visit is John’s Roast Pork, where the ordering experience is a trip (I won’t spoil it for you). Once you’ve tried the classics, get unconventional with the Whiz-topped brisket cheesesteak at Mike’s BBQ or the $130 spin at Barclay Prime, which is loaded up with wagyu ribeye, foie gras and truffled Cheez Whiz and served with a half-bottle of champagne.’Bari Goldstein (@Baris_Belly)

Runners-up: roast pork sandwich, hoagies

Francesinha
Francesinha
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Porto: francesinha

The lowdown: The word francesinha translates to ‘little French lady,’ but don’t be fooled – there’s nothing small or dainty about this dish. Drawing its inspiration from the French croque monsieur, this monster boasts layers of several types of meat, sausages and melted cheese, all smothered in a sultry and spicy sauce and flanked by two fat slices of bread. Francesinha is the ultimate comfort food, the perfect hangover cure, the kind of dish you want to make love to, savour and devour. It may not offer any nutritional value, but there’s no denying this sandwich is downright delicious.

Try the best: ‘You can find a francesinha just about anywhere in Porto – every restaurant has its own recipe, and portuenses will often argue over who does it best. For a foolproof take, head to Café Santiago, where they’ve been serving the dish since 1959. Loved by locals and tourists alike, the place is always busy, with waiters moving around with jugs of sauce just in case you need a top-up. For comparison’s sake, you should also try Cervejaria Brasão, where francesinhas are made in the oven and served with their own house beer. Plus, they’ve got a mean vegetarian version.’Time Out Porto editors

Here’s where to find more of the best francesinhas in Porto.

Runners-up:
tripas, bacalhau

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Svickova
Svickova
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Prague: svíčková

The lowdown: Some say the name refers to the roast beef, others to the hearty vegetable sauce. Whatever svíčková actually is, you’ll struggle to find a Czech restaurant in Prague that doesn’t serve this substantial Bavarian-inspired dish, which comprises sirloin beef prepared and marinated often a day in advance and a creamy sauce of carrot, celery and onion. It’s traditionally served with knedlíky (boiled bread dumplings), then garnished with a slice of lemon, cranberry sauce and a scoop of whipped cream. May as well forget about dessert, then.

Try the best: ‘For some of the very best svíčková, you’ve got to head to Lokál. This buzzing, industrial-chic restaurant serves a tasty, nourishing twist on the quintessential dish. The sirloin beef, the knedlíky, the cranberry sauce… everything is done just right.’Kate, @praguetoday

Runners-up: guláš, trdelník

Feijoada
Feijoada
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Rio de Janeiro: feijoada

The lowdown: For cariocas (Rio’s locals), feijoada is the centrepiece around which nearly every Saturday revolves. They’ll start the day with a dip in the sea with family and friends, followed by several hours’ bronzing on the beach. Then, as hunger stirs and the temperatures soar mid-afternoon, they’ll hop it to their favourite bar or restaurant for feijoada, a rich stew of black beans, pork and salted beef. Best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, and washed down with a potent caipirinha, this notoriously filling dish will ensure the rest of the afternoon pretty much takes care of itself. Snoozetime.

Try the best: ‘Far from Rio’s beachside tourist magnets, Bar do Momo can be found in Tijuca, an unflashy part of the city renowned for its bar food culture. Momo serves its sumptuous feijoada for lunch on Fridays and Saturdays. A huge bowl arrives at your table, overflowing with black beans, jerked beef, pork ribs and sliced sausage, served with the traditional sides of rice, shredded collard greens and toasted cassava flour. It’s rich, velvety and deeply satisfying. The optional (but strongly recommended) side of pork belly takes this to the next level.’@eatrio

Runners-up: churrasco, arroz e feijão

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Carbonara
Carbonara
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Rome: carbonara

The lowdown: You may think you’ve had your fair share of carbonaras – but have you really? Did you use ham rather than guanciale (pork jowl)? Parmesan not pecorino? Pour the eggs in the pan rather than on the plate? Sorry, but that’s no carbonara. Romans are very particular about how to prepare this indulgent dish, which was originally made as a pick-me-up for Italian charcoal workers (carbonari). Try a proper one, and you’ll immediately understand why.

Try the best: ‘If you eat one thing in Rome, it should be SantoPalato’s carbonara. A self-described “trattoria moderna”, this San Giovanni favourite specialises in updating classic Roman cuisine for a modish young crowd. Chef Sarah Cicolini has created the kind of carbonara that foodie dreams are made of: intensely smoky guanciale, farm-fresh eggs and a slight bite from the pecorino, all of which come together in one truly perfect dish.’@abbiestark

Runners-up: cacio e pepe, amatriciana

Burrito
Burrito
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

San Francisco: burrito

The lowdown: Asking for a burrito rec in San Francisco is asking for a fight; locals have a long history of arguing over who makes the best version of the dish, which finds meat and beans tucked into a generous flour tortilla. Why? SF is the birthplace of the Mission-style burrito, named for the neighbourhood that’s been slinging them since the 1960s and distinguished from other versions by its large size and inclusion of rice.

Try the best: ‘Many SF taquerias claim to have originated the Mission burrito, but for true authenticity head to El Farolito, where they serve two-pound behemoths stuffed with charred carne asada. For a more modern (and modest) take, the Al Pastor Papi food truck serves grilled burritos, loaded with smoky al pastor pork freshly sliced from the spit and topped with avocado, cheese and sour cream.’Sarah Medina, Time Out USA

Here’s where to find more of the best burritos in San Francisco.

Runners-up:
sourdough bread, cioppino

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Pizza
Pizza
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

São Paulo: pizza

The lowdown: It’s fair to say the people of São Paulo are pretty keen on pizza. Owing to a huge wave of Italian immigrants in the early twentieth century, there are currently more than 6,000 pizzerias sprinkled across the city, and for many Paulistano families, it is Sunday tradition to make a trip to their local parlour. Italian staples like the margherita are still most popular, but you’ll also find distinctly Brazilian inventions like the ‘Portuguese’ pizza, which is topped with ham, hard-boiled egg, onions and black olives. The more original pies tend to have a higher ingredient count (and come much more generously covered) than in Italy.

Try the best: Bráz Pizzeria is a small chain of seven restaurants with a history dating back 20 years now. They always use fresh ingredients to create Italian-inspired recipes with a Brazilian touch. Our favourite is the caprese, with house-pulled buffalo mozzarella, Persimmon tomatoes, giant basil leaves and black olive pesto. Just delicious.’@foodguidesp

Runners-up: virado à paulista, feijoada

Korean BBQ
Korean BBQ
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Seoul: Korean barbecue

The lowdown: There are few sensations quite as thrilling as seeing, smelling, feeling the heat of a charcoal grill being fired up for a sumptuous night of Korean BBQ. Head to a classic grill restaurant, and you’ll probably get to gorge on all manner of delicious things like galbi (short ribs), bulgogi (marinated beef), samgyupsal (pork belly) and dakgalbi (marinated chicken), to name just a few. And then, of course, there are all the ssam (veg to wrap the meat in), ssamjang (gorgeous spicy sauce), jjigae (soups) and banchan (side dishes), which are almost always on the house and come to the table before the grill is fired up.

Try the best: ‘Korean BBQ can be enjoyed a multitude of ways, from high-end hanwoo (premium Korean beef) restaurants such as Born and Bred, which offers a beefy multicourse dinner, to the original 67-year-old standing galbi restaurant Yeonnam Seo Sikdang, and even a solo BBQ party with individual grills at Baetjang. Pork lovers should head over to 853 for samgyupsal, grilled to perfection, or the Maple Tree House in Itaewon for exquisite Jeju black pork.’Fontaine Cheng, Time Out Asia

Runners-up: kimchi, bibimbap

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Chicken rice
Chicken rice
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Singapore: chicken rice

The lowdown: It should come as no surprise that Singapore voted chicken rice its most iconic dish. There’s a whole damn romcom written about it, ffs (it’s called ‘Chicken Rice War’ – check it out). First, the all-important chicken is prepped one of two ways: steamed to lock in all its natural juices or roasted for a deeper flavour. Both have their ardent fans, but it’s the pandan-scented rice, cooked in a flavourful broth and the bird’s own fat, that makes this dish a firm favourite.

Try the best: ‘Purists might point you to the queues outside Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, or suggest you pull up a chair at one of Boon Tong Kee’s several excellent addresses. But if you ask us, just head to your nearest hawker centre – most will serve you up a decent plate. We’re saving our bucks for Labyrinth’s version of the dish that comes cooked in a claypot to seal in all the flavours. Looking for a tasty novelty snack? You’ll also find chicken rice-flavoured crisps at many of Singapore’s supermarkets.’—Fabian Loo, Time Out Singapore

Here’s where to find more of the best chicken rice in Singapore.

Runners-up:
chilli crab, laksa

Kottbullar
Kottbullar
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Stockholm: köttbullar

The lowdown: Forget Ikea, ‘The Muppet Show’ and everything you think you know about Swedish meatballs. To truly understand this national dish, you must visit one of the hundreds of traditional restaurants that line the cobbled streets and waterways of the capital. Smaller than their Italian counterparts, beef köttbullar are a staple of nearly every Swedish child’s upbringing, and the country’s major festive celebrations (Easter, Christmas, Midsummer) will usually centre on a spread of meatballs with mashed potatoes, tart lingonberries and some form of gravy or gräddsas (cream sauce). Whatever the occasion, it’s the ideal, hearty antidote to the oft-bracing Scandinavian climate.

Try the best: ‘If I had to choose the ultimate meatball spot, it would be Ulla Winbladh, a proper institution just next to the Royal Djurgården park. Their traditional meatballs are made the way legendary Swedish chef Tore Wretman liked them: in a classic epiche riche spice mix and paired with mashed potatoes, lingonberries, pickled cucumbers and gravy. No doubt you’ll be coming back for more.’Rebecca Brage (@stockholmfood)

Runners-up: lax, toast skagen

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Rock oysters
Rock oysters
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Sydney: rock oysters

The lowdown: Though they’re generally called Sydney rock oysters, these exquisite intertidal molluscs are endemic to the whole east coast of Australia, which is how they come to be so plentiful that ‘oyster happy hours’ are a very common occurrence in the city’s bars and restaurants. Instead of cut-price cocktails, you can score oysters for a dollar a pop if you know when and where to look. You’ll also find them as an opening offer on the city’s best menus, so treat yourself to a dozen complex and creamy bivalves for a real taste of Sydney.

Try the best:Saint Peter’s sustainable raw bar is the city’s premier seafood dining experience, showcasing the best local oyster regions like Batemans Bay, Wapengo Lake and Tathra. Or you can spend two hours every Wednesday evening eating cheap AF oysters at the Morrison, where happy hour kicks off at 5pm on the dot.’Emily Lloyd-Tait, Time Out Sydney

Here’s where to find more of the best rock oysters in Sydney.

Runners-up: fish and chips, burgers

Ramen
Ramen
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Tokyo: ramen

The lowdown: Rich and creamy tonkotsu (pork) ramen may be the best-known version of this dish, but in Tokyo, you’ll find it’s just one of many varieties on offer. Shoyu (soy sauce) ramen was one of the first kinds to emerge in Japan, making its debut in the early 1900s. Whichever kind you end up going for, you’ll expect every ingredient to be impeccably sourced; the whole thing an explosion of comforting, earthy flavours. Also, a bowl of ramen will rarely set you back more than 1,000 yen (£7.50, $10) – which, for something so great, is very much a bargain.

Try the best: ‘Every region in Japan has its own take on ramen, but Tokyo is the place to try them all. Head to Do Miso in Kyobashi for a bold take combining five kinds of miso paste, or Akanoren for Hakata-style pork broth ramen. We recommend starting with the classics, though, like the shio (salt) and shoyu at always-good Konjiki Hototogisu.’Jessica Thompson, Time Out Tokyo

Here’s where to find more of the best ramen in Tokyo.

Runners-up:
sushi, curry

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Sushi
Sushi
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Vancouver: sushi

The lowdown: Vancouver reaps the many benefits of its coastal setting – including an abundance of pristine fresh fish. Pair that with a vibrant Japanese community and it’s no surprise that the
Couve is one of the world’s top destinations for sushi. You’ll find raw fish in every nook and cranny of the city – whether you like it wrapped in a hand roll, draped across warm rice or served without any accoutrements.

Try the best:As a proud multicultural city, Vancouver is home to many immigrants who have brought with them traditional sushi practices as well as modern spins on the dish. My favourite authentic sushi restaurants are Sushi By Yuji, Toshi’s, Sushi Bar Kilala and Masayoshi. Aburi-style sushi – or nigiri that’s been lightly torched before serving – is a must when you’re in Vancouver. Try it at Miku or Yui Japanese Bistro.’Bethany, Bites of Vancouver

Runners-up: salmon, ramen

Half-smoke
Half-smoke
Photograph: Shutterstock / Time Out

Washington, D.C: half-smoke

The lowdown: Locals, tourists, celebrities and politicians of all walks have experienced the perfect snap of a half-smoke, though few have made it through one without chilli spilling down their chin. A D.C. icon, the half-smoke is the chilli-cheese dog reborn: a thick sausage (usually a blend of pork and beef) is smoked, grilled and topped with hot beef chilli, chopped white onions, mustard and grated cheddar for a spicy, tangy, greasy, meaty meal to be enjoyed at all hours.

Try the best: ‘Often duplicated but never truly rivaled, one of the country’s most old-school grills is still the mecca for half-smokes, going strong after more than 60 years. Ben’s Chili Bowl should be a national landmark: it rocketed the dish to fame with seared sausages grilled at a large front window – spilling the scent of spice, meat and onions out on to U Street – and its use as a community gathering place and unifying force through recessions and riots cements Ben’s as a downright icon. Want to try a half-smoke outside of D.C.? Ben’s also ships nationally so everyone can get a taste.’Stephanie Breijo, Time Out Los Angeles

Runners-up: Ethiopian food, ‘anything with Mumbo Sauce’

More amazing eats

The Time Out EAT List

Restaurants

Discover the hottest tables in the world’s coolest cities with Time Out’s globe-spanning guide to great eats, great value and insider info. If it’s on the EAT list, we think it’s awesome and we think you will too.

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