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Around the world in 20 iconic meals: From pizza and hot dogs to sushi and tacos

Iconic dishes are now global, so where can you still sample them at their authentic best? Sophie Lam and Nicola Trup asked the experts for their recommendations

Sophie Lam,Nicola Trup
Friday 05 December 2014 13:23 GMT

Italian pizza, Giorgio Locatelli

My favourite place to eat pizza is Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente on via Tribunali in Naples. It was called Pizzeria Cacialli until July 1994 when Bill Clinton walked in and tried the pizza, after which they renamed it "The President's Pizza Chef". I first went four years ago when we went to Naples for Johnnie Shand Kydd's exhibition, "Siren City". It stands out for the quality and digestibility of the dough: I always have a margherita. It's a family-run restaurant and a very eat-and-leave kind of place – there's no hanging around. It's how Italians interpret "fast food".

Locanda Locatelli recently reopened in London after a £1m refurbishment (

Pad Thai, David Thompson

This dish doesn't have as much substance as many people think. It was created in the 1940s, a time of depression, in response to a nationwide invitation from the dictator, Plaek Phibunsongkhram, to create a dish that was frugal, healthy and easy to prepare. Strangely, the winner was the wife of one of the government officials. Her recipe was a reinterpretation of Chinese noodles, with the inclusion of palm sugar and tamarind – its name means "noodles in the style of the Thais".

There are so many places to eat it in Bangkok, everyone has their own interpretation. Essential ingredients include dried prawns and sen jan rice noodles. There's one place on Soi Suan Phlu Soi 8, just off Sathorn Road, opposite the main market, that does it really well. Another is Phat Thai Ratchawong on Ratchawong Street, at the top end of Chinatown. There's also a great stall in Sri Yarn market which has been going for 40 years.

David Thompson's restaurant, Nahm, is at the Metropolitan Hotel in Bangkok (

American hot dogs, Daniel Boulud

For me, the classic experience is Hebrew National hot dogs at a ball game at the Yankee Stadium. It's an iconic dog with potato buns and yellow mustard that everybody eats. I got into the hot dog game in New York about five years ago when I opened DBGB Downtown, where I sell grown-up hot dogs using the best natural ingredients. We produce our own sausage and buns as well as a secret sauce that's a blend of spicy, sweet and savoury. We also pickle our own vegetables.

Bar Boulud London (

Mexican tacos, Thomasina Miers

A place in Mexico City that's consistently good is Taqueria los Parados. They make the Mexico City classic tacos al pastor, which originates from a wave of Lebanese immigrants who introduced cooking pork on a spit like a kebab. It's a real staple, a street-food classic.

The pork is marinated in achiote powder, pineapple juice and onion to tenderise the meat; then it's roasted like a kebab. It has a whole pineapple on the top and the juices run down and char the meat. It's garnished with a squeeze of fresh lime and a scattering of sweet white onion and coriander. This taqueria does an incredible avocado green sauce; it's thin and milky green and livened up with serrano chillis.

Thomasina Miers is co-founder of Wahaca and DF/Mexico (;

Peruvian ceviche, Martin Morales

I grew up in Peru and left when I was a teenager, but my family are still there and I go two or three times a year to research new dishes. My last trip was to find the roots of ceviche, which took me to the surf resort of Huanchaco, one of the places where we think the dish was created 2,000 to 3,000 years ago by the Moche culture. Here, I ate delicious ceviche at a restaurant called Big Ben. Another outstanding example is anchovy ceviche from a sand-floor shack, Anchoveta Azul, south of Lima. Its owner, Efrain Morales, pioneers sustainable anchovy fishing and has won awards.

In Lima itself there's Chez Wong. The chef, Javier Wong, who is in his seventies, has been a mentor to me. He started serving food from his garage, which has since taken over his house. Twenty-five seats are available at lunchtime only and he cooks just with sole. There's no menu – you choose hot, cold, sweet or savoury, served with a beer or water. The ingredients are simple: lime, chilli, fresh sole, fresh red onions, great salt and pepper. You might be sitting next to the prime minister or next to a builder; it's a cult place.

Martin Morales is the founder of Ceviche, which will open a new branch in Old Street, London, in March (

Japanese sushi, Nobu Matsuhisa

The best place for sushi was Araki in Ginza, Tokyo. It was a tiny restaurant, seating only 10, and I went years ago when it first opened and revisited many times. It closed recently, but its owner, Mitsuhiro Araki, has just opened a new one in central London with his wife and daughters.

His skills are the very best. He uses the freshest fish sourced from around the coast of England and France to make some of the best sushi and sashimi. I had very good red snapper, fresh clams from France and steamed abalone; also egg with white truffle. The sake sommelier recommended different sakes and we all sat and watched as Araki prep-ared the fish, as if performing a ceremony.

The setting is intimate, very Zen – simple Japanese design with attention to detail. You can see the passion that has created it. The counter is one long, carved piece of wood with a long chopping board the same length as the counter. All the food and ingredients are kept underneath.

Nobu Matsuhisa is the founder of Nobu Restaurants (

Israeli falafel, Yotam Ottolenghi

The falafel at Hakosem in Tel Aviv, just off the Dizengoff Centre, are amazing. The staff hand out fresh falafel to lunchtime customers as they are waiting in line for their food to take away. They have just the right amount of spices, a great crunchy texture and are incredibly fresh and fluffy. I heard that they import their chickpeas from Spain and grind them 15 times a day.

Yotam Ottolenghi is a cookery writer and chef-patron (

Jamaican jerk, Levi Roots

Scotchies in Ocho Rios is not only an institution, it is my absolute favourite spot for jerk chicken. It's the original Scotchies and the best; when you're sitting under the stars, the aroma of this classic Jamaican dish permeates the air – deeelicious! At Scotchies, jerk chicken is done the traditional way, over pimento wood (the wood of the Jamaican allspice tree), and to really lock in the smoky aroma, sheets of zinc are used to create a lid. At Scotchies, you really feel like you are in Jamaica.

Levi Roots is the creator of Reggae Reggae Sauce, and a musician. His latest album, Soundbox, is available to download on iTunes (

Singaporean Hainanese curry rice, Justin Quek

Hainanese curry rice, or scissor-cut curry rice, is a celebrated Singaporean dish. This dish has both Hainanese and colonial origins as most cooks who worked for British families in the early 1900s were Hainanese. They have put an innovative twist on the classic pork cutlet by pummelling it flat, snipping it up over rice and coating it with curry.

The Beach Road scissor-cut curry rice is one of the best in Singapore. This is comfort food for me on my days off. The simple dish comprises a fried pork cutlet with dark gravy, chup chye (stewed cabbage) and a fried egg. The pork cutlet is cut into bite-sized pieces with a pair of scissors, after which gravy from the lor bak (soy braised pork) and then curry is ladled over it. The layering of the lor bak gravy and curry creates a delicious gravy that is slightly spicy and starchy in texture. It is the crucial element that brings all the individual ingredients together, transforming an ordinary dish into something amazing.

Justin Quek is celebrity chef at Sky on 57 at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore (

Indian tandoori, Atul Kochhar

Karim's in Nizamuddin, New Delhi, is an old-style Muslim restaurant near my home and it does some of the best tandoori kebabs Delhi has ever seen – fish, chicken, buffalo and also beef because it's Muslim rather than Hindu. It's very simple. You sit on a wooden bench with a stainless steel plate and a rumali roti – which means "handkerchief bread", because it's so thin – and a little bit of salad, and your kebabs keep coming. For a high-end experience, Bukhara is exceptional. They use a Hindu style of cooking, with kebabs roasted Rajasthan-style, but the prices reflect the five-star hotel setting.

Atul Kochhar is chef-patron of Benares Restaurant and Bar in London (

French steak frites, Hélène Darroze

The Café des Abattoirs on the rue Gomboust in Paris. Their steak is exceptionally good; it comes from the Breton butcher Le Ponclet, situated in a small village next to Brest. The French fries are the best and all their sauces are home-made: barbecue, tarragon, tomato, horseradish, peppercorn and mustard.

Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, London (

Indonesian nasi goreng, Farah Quinn

Nasi goreng is the most important dish in Indonesia because everybody is crazy about rice. You can pretty much find nasi goreng anywhere, but the most famous place is Nasi Goreng Kambing Kebon Sirih in Jakarta. It has been there for ages, I guess about 15 years. What makes it very special is that they use goat meat and different spices. Normally with Indonesian fried rice you can make it very simply using salad, garlic and sweet soy sauce, or kecap manis. But in this place they use spices; I think there is a Middle Eastern or Indian touch.

Farah Quinn is a chef and TV personality (

German currywurst, Heinz Beck

Currywurst is a red sausage with a sauce that is a mix between curry and ketchup, which you eat with French fries. It is very common in Berlin, and is popular because it does not cost a lot of money; it is accessible for everybody. Bier's Kudamm 195 has served it for many years, and is open late night – so if you come out of a disco you might go there. It's not a restaurant; it's somewhere you eat quickly. It serves simple, uncomplicated street food.

Heinz Beck is chef at La Pergola restaurant in Rome (

Korean kimchi, Judy Joo

Kimchi is the cornerstone of Korean cuisine; it is the national dish and is on the table for every meal. In fact, Koreans often say they feel they haven't eaten if they haven't had kimchi. It is a dish that is deeply embedded in Korean culture and embodies the fiery spirit of the Korean people.

Every family has its own recipe that is very much like an heirloom, passed down from generation to generation, and it tastes different in every home. The best kimchi is at my aunty's home, of course, but if I'm going out I like the kimchi that Bicena restaurant serves in Itaewon. They use traditional recipes that they have researched extensively and then modernised slightly to make them even more delicious. They make several different kinds and change them seasonally, so you are always surprised with a new version.

Judy Joo's new restaurant, Jinjuu, opens in London in January (

Vietnamese pho, Bobby Chinn

Fifteen years ago when I was in search of the best of the best of street foods, I discovered a one-man pho shop hidden in a back alley of the old quarter in Hanoi. It was so good he was charging 50,000 dong (£1.50) a bowl, when the market average was 5,000d (15p). Only people who knew it could find it, as the alley is so narrow. In fact, I have never seen another foreigner there.

The guy only cooks pho and he's on a completely different level; he doesn't need monosodium glutamate and serves a crystal-clear beef broth, with the perfect balance of spice that makes it impossible to identify what the spices are. The subtlety is magical, which is the hardest thing to achieve when making pho.

It is located in Hang Giay street in the old quarter, but it's not as simple as following an address here. The street signs are ambiguous and the old quarter is notoriously difficult to navigate. The address is just a fraction of finding it.

I understand that his daughter married into a family that owns a beach resort in the south, and rumour has it that he has been training the staff on how to make his pho. So if you find yourself in a beach resort in the south ...

Bobby Chinn's latest restaurant is House of Ho in London (

Turkish kebab, Allegra McEvedy

Kokorec is a kebab that you get on lots of street stalls in Istanbul. They wrap the lamb around a big skewer that ends up being about a foot long and half a foot wide and weave sweetbreads and fat through the meat. It's grilled with coals behind it for around an hour until the outside goes like crackling and they start shaving it. It's properly authentic. The meat is layered into pitta with a scattering of dried oregano, some chilli flakes and ground cumin.

The place that I go to eat it every time I'm in Istanbul is Kral Kokorec in Sirkeci. It's owned by Hasan Usta, who learnt this art from Varap Usta, the guy who is idolised as making the best and most famous kokorec in Turkey. They raise their own lamb – it's all taken very seriously.

Allegra McEvedy's restaurant is Blackfoot in London (

Swedish meatballs, Mathias Dahlgren

Swedish food has a very long tradition of being served at home and that hasn't always necessarily translated to restaurant culture. Meatballs are very traditional, but something you'd expect to eat at your grandmother's house. However, some examples of restaurants that serve the next-best-thing are Gyldene Freden, where they are served with potato purée, cucumber, lingonberries and cream sauce; as well as Prinsen, which serves classic Swedish cuisine; and Tranan, which also serves classics. They're all in Stockholm.

Mathias Dahlgren's restaurant is at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm (

Spanish tapas, Jose Pizzaro

My favourite tapas are actually pintxos – just like tapas but very common across the Basque Country and into Catalunya. The best place to eat pintxos is a little restaurant called Gambara in San Sebastián. There is the most incredible dish there called gilda and it is the plumpest anchovy, brightest chilli and biggest green olive you can imagine, on a wooden stick. It is gone in seconds. Then you have another one. Repeat.

Jose Pizarro has two restaurants in London (

Cantonese dim sum, Ken Hom

It is a real Cantonese tradition to drink tea and nibble on dim sum. It is a loud and noisy affair and very much a part of Hong Kong culture. My all-time favourite place is Yan Toh Heen, which is one of the most classic and innovative Cantonese restaurants. Chef Fai's dim sum always surprises me: the combinations are modern but also so Chinese, as well as offering real comfort food. It is well deserving of its reputation as one of the best Chinese restaurants in the world.

Ken Hom's range of Oriental meals is available from Tesco. Ken's Chinese New Year booklet can be downloaded from his website (

British fish and chips, Nathan Outlaw

RockFish, Mitch Tonks's restaurant in Dartmouth. He sources really good fish to do proper fish and chips. It's done out like a beach hut, so it's quite smart, but really relaxed. It reminds me of when I'd go for fish and chips with my grandad in Hastings. We'd have haddock or cod and my nan would have plaice, then we'd have a round of bread and butter, a pot of tea and my grandad would have a glass of wine – the only time he drank wine. The way Mitch does fish and chips is like that; it's nostalgic. He serves mushy peas, curry sauce and pickled eggs. And I still order haddock.

Nathan Outlaw has restaurants in Rock, Port Isaac and Knightsbridge (

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