TRADITIONAL MEALS are one of the best ways to explore a culture — a country’s cuisine can tell you more about its customs and people than a landmark or tourist attraction. Here are four musts for all foodie travelers.
You’ll have to travel all the way to New Zealand to experience a Hangi feast. This Maori method of cooking requires food to be cooked in the ground. A pit must be dug into the ground, then a fire set, upon which stones are laid to heat. Baskets of food are put on top of the rocks and everything covered with dirt for several hours while it cooks.
Popular Hangi items include:
- Sweet potatoes
The meal is typically accompanied with traditional Maori song and dance, often including a Hakka, the traditional war dance, before the meal.
Country: New Zealand
Where To Try the Hangi: The Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua
Sichuan Hot Pot
Sitting down for a hot pot meal in China is an event. Since the meal is served boiling hot, it’s traditionally eaten in the winter months, especially around Chinese New Year. Sichuan hot pot is a preferred meal when families are celebrating exciting life events.
Specialty restaurants are equipped with round tables big enough to hold giant pots of boiling water. The water is full of Sichuan spices, turning it into a broth: anise, garlic, ginger, and tongue- numbing Sichuan pepper.
Waiters drop off heaping plates of thinly sliced lamb and beef, chicken meat balls, and an assortment of raw vegetables to be added to the broth.
Popular items to cook in the hot pot include:
- Fish balls
- Bok Choy
- Bean sprouts
Diners pick their favorites and toss them into the broth, chatting while they wait for the items to be ready to eat. They then strain their choices out of the pot and eat them over white rice to neutralize the spiciness.
Where to Try Sichuan Hot Pot: Haidilao Hot Pot Restaurant, Beijing
There is much more to a Hawaiian luau than Hula girls, flower leis, and a pig roast. You watch as the crispy pig is lifted from a cooking pit in the ground by strong, shirtless men. You may hear the faint sound of a ukulele in the distance. A buffet stands off to the side, brimming with traditional Hawaiian foods like taro, pineapple, and teriyaki. Some of the most notable luau dishes include:
- Spiced tropical fish
- Honey roasted sweet potatoes
- Pineapple bars
- Kalua pork
- Chicken long rice
- Lomilomi salmon
While the feast is certainly the main attraction, a luau wouldn’t be a luau without the island songs, traditionally dressed hula performers, fire dancers, and ukulele music.
Country: U.S.A (Hawaii)
Where to Try a luau: Wailea Beach Resort (This is one of the only luaus on the island where the pig is taken right from the ground and carved for the buffet.)
The Bedouin people are the nomads of the Middle East. Some typically wander the deserts, herding camels and goats, and setting up camp wherever is favorable. Poetry, dancing, sword routines, and camel riding are favorite pastimes and have been preserved, even though many Bedouins have taken on more stable lives.
Many modern Bedouins now stay in one spot and often are involved in local tourism. People from all over the world visit their campsites to spend the night and enjoy a traditional feast called a Mansaf. Floor pillows surround a large serving table where guests can sit together and dig into the meal with their hands. Common mansaf dishes include:
- Freshly cooked flatbreads
- Fluffy rice
- Stewed lamb
Guests will be entertained with traditional song and dance throughout their meal, and will finish the feast off with traditional pastries and tea for dessert.
Where to Try a Mansaf: Elias Tent