After 21 trips to Chicago, at least one per year to visit family, I'm convinced that the Midwestern city has some of the best food available in the US. From unique takes on US-style pizza to ethnic specialties unique to local immigrant communities, Chicago has it all.
One of the most famous Chicago foods is Italian beef. You won't find it anywhere in Italy, but it is believed that Italian-American communities created the recipe sometime in the past century. Italian beef sandwiches feature thinly-sliced beef in an herbed gravy that the bread is often soaked in, with cheese, sweet peppers or a pickled vegetable relish called giardiniera on top. Chicago also has its own signature pizza styles--deep dish, stuffed and a thin-crust variety that is often cut into little squares. (The small triangular crusty bits at the edge of the circle that don't make it into an even square are the best.)
The Midwest is also heavily influenced by German, Scandinavian and Eastern European immigrant cuisines, so it's not uncommon to find foods like wienerschnitzel, hassenpfeffer, Swedish-style pancakes and pierogi. Chicago is also home to the one and only Rainbow Cone, an ice cream parlor whose signature cone includes chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House, pistachio and orange sherbet. (Palmer House, invented by a Chicago hotel, is a vanilla-almond ice cream with walnuts and cherries.)
My trip to Rome was an awakening. Any foodie should make a pilgrimage to Rome, if they want to taste good quality Italian dishes.
My memories of visiting Rome are often centred around one thing- the food. The city is home to amazing Trattorias, in hidden back-streets, away from the touristic buzz of the city. Here you can find delicious pasta dishes, such as my favourites, Spaghetti alla Vongole, and Squid Ink Pasta, as well as perfectly crispy Romana pizzas, and top quality Vino to wash it all down with.
If you're looking for a bit of class with your dining experience, the Villa Borghese gallery has a beautiful cocktail terrace on top of the building. With panoramic views of the entirety of Rome, this little gem is perfect for a relaxing sunset cocktail, and a great Proscuitto, Mozzarella, and Rocket sandwich.
Outside the City Centre there are wonderful little delis where you can find delicious Salamis, breads, and olives. The perfect ingredients for any recipes you want to whip up during your stay. They also serve delicious Pizzaiolos which can be taken home or eaten just outside the deli, if the smell gets to be too much.
It would be remiss of me if I failed to talk to you about the wonder that is Roman Gelatarias. They take ice-cream to a whole new level of silkiness, creaminess, and rich flavours. They are the perfect accompaniment to any afternoon in Rome- though for the money-conscious, I'd suggest finding one not in the tourist hotspots. They serve these delicious frozen treats along side cannolinis, biscottis, coffee, wine, and any other Italian stereotypical food you can think of. Its easy to spend an hour or two just chilling watching the world go by, enjoying the Gelato as the sun begins to set on Rome.
Rome may not be considered the Foodie capital of Italy, but I know it is not something to be ignored. I believe that the food here rivals Bologna's, in terms of vibrancy, taste, and authenticity.
Sichuan – China
Ever heard of ‘Szechuan’ sauce or spice? That’s right – it’s actually Sichuan and it comes from the Sichuan province in China. Before moving there for my year abroad, I had an average spice tolerance, but that’s something that changes pretty quickly when you live in the spice capital of China. Sichuan peppercorns are famous for their mouth-numbingly tingly good spice, and they are in absolutely everything in Sichuan. Not a fan of the throat-choking kind of spice? Sichuan peppercorns are here for you. The kind of spice that clears your sinuses and refreshes your mouth without making you feel like your throat is rebelling against you, living in Sichuan fully converted me to a spice lover.
Dumplings dipped in delicious spicy-savoury sauce, savoury breakfast crepes with egg and (you guessed it) spicy sauce, beef noodles with scallions and chilli oil, the spice is in everything in Sichuan and it is delicious! You can’t mention this province without mentioning 火锅 (huo guo), hotpot! Hotpot is a dish where you cook cuts of meat and vegetables in a boiling hot soup of spices and flavour. The soups usually are spicy, non-spicy tomato, or mushroom, among other options, and they are poured into a huge metal pot on your table with a burner underneath to keep it hot. You select what meat or vegetable you want to eat, then plop it into the soup for it to cook. Then you pick it out when it’s cooked and voila – spicy infused goodness. This dish is so popular in Sichuan that there are entire restaurants dedicated to it alone. My favourites to eat in hotpot were quails eggs and lotus root! For more adventurous palates, there’s meat like eel, and more unusual cuts of beef (even brain!) that you can try. There’s also a variety of delicious vegetables, such as 明天(mingtian) mushrooms.
Taiwan has colonial connections to Japan, as well as China. It also has various Indigenous communities. All of these cultural influences come together to make some of the best food for a foodie. You’ll be able to find Japanese food like bento boxes and sushi, in addition to more Chinese dishes. There’s also amazing Indigenous food and other food unique to Taiwan. Boba (bubble tea) was first created in Taichung in Taiwan, and that spirit of food innovation is something you can find all across the country.
There are several famous noodle restaurants across cities in Taiwan that are amazing. In terms of indigenous food, I tried bamboo millet rice, a fried chewy dessert similar to mochi, and Ma Dang sausage – the best sausage I have ever eaten. Taiwan is famous for its street markets, and there is so much there to try. Must-eats include fried and flaky scallion pancakes, shaved ice (perfect in the summer, with a grass jelly drink), stinky tofu, Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings), Taiwanese fried chicken, braised pork belly and rice, vermicelli noodles, beef noodle soup, Gua Bao (the Taiwanese hamburger) and the famous pineapple cakes often given as souvenirs. Eat your way across Taiwan and you won’t regret a second.