My mouth's already watering just thinking of all the great stuff I hope to be eating this year! Here are my top 5 picks based on the places I plan on boarding a plane to in 2012:
Pastéis de Belém - Lisbon, Portugal
Some people may tell you the correct term for these custardy little cups is pastéis de nata. Well, technically it is but I'm being more specific. Because anyone who tells you pastéis de nata are the same all over Lisbon is lying. There's only one place to eat them and that's at Pastéis de Belém
near the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos a few kilometres outside the centre of Lisbon.
Crisp tarts filled with oozy custard blistered to caramalized perfection, dusted in sugar and cinnamon and enjoyed with a bica (a Portuguese espresso) or café pingado (a bica with a pingo - or drop - of milk) Heaven! The monks who first came up with the recipe definitely had some divine help.
Foie Gras Street Hawker Style - Singapore
Asian street food. Three words associated with some of my happiest travel memories. And while I've chowed down on numerous helpings of char siu bao, deep fried wontons, turnip with XO sauce and even the odd deep-fried snake, this is one thing I can't wait to try - foie gras sold at a Singaporean hawker stall. A friend who recently moved to the city posted a pic on Facebook of a stall called Saveur's
at Ali Baba Eating House and I'm hooked. I've never visited Singapore before but I've no doubt it will deliver on its foodie promises with its rich jumble of Indian, Chinese and Malay culinary influences. French finesse + Asian ambience, I'll definitely be heading to Saveur's when I'm in town.
Chicken on Sugarcane Sticks - Bali, Indonesia
When my sister returned from her honeymoon in Bali almost three years ago, she told me all about the awesome time she had. There were stories about amazing breakfasts on the beach, underwater walks and thieving monkeys but I remember one better than all the rest. It was about a piece of chicken wrapped around a stick of sugarcane and devoured at a place called Bumbu Bali
. I was so inspired I remember attempting to make a version of the dish using shrimp and lemongrass sticks. It was delicious but what I really wanted was to chomp down on the original version of succulent chicken wrapped around a sugary, grainy core. The story of the Bumbu Bali chicken is one I want to make my own and I'm hoping I'll get the chance to this year.
Bush Braai - Phinda Game Reserve, South Africa
I'm crossing my fingers 2012 will be the year I finally get to go on safari. And while I'm counting on seeing the Big 5, I understand sightings depend on a number of factors. What is less negotiable is the food. I'm thinking spicy boerewors and juicy steaks, smoky from the barbeque and enjoyed with a nice glass of South African red and a giant helping of malva pudding for dessert. Yup, if I don't spot an elephant or two I think I'll still live.
Pintxos - Barcelona, Spain
The heartier cousin of traditional tapas, pintxos are tasty morsels attached to a piece of bread with a toothpick. (The name 'pintxo' means 'thorn' or 'spike' and you save your toothpicks which serve as your tally when it's time for the bill). Personally I thought there was something quite quaint about paying for your bites based on the number of toothpicks you tot up. And yes I know pintxos are Basque and Barcelona is in Catalonia but there's still plenty of places all across the city to enjoy them. Ham, cod, fried squid, stuffed mushrooms, blood sausage, deep-fried mussels, cheese and quince... the list goes on, all piled on little pieces of crusty bread (which offer the added benefit of soaking up all those glasses of wine that go along with the daily grazing ritual). The little streets making up the Las Ramblas area have some amazing pintxos and tapas bars and I'm looking forward to heading back for some more this year.
So that's my list of dishes I can't wait to tuck into. If you know of others I should keep an eye out for while I'm visiting these cities, I'd love to hear about them.