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Travel Like a Local: Supermarket Sweep for the World’s Best Snacks

Around the World, Featured, Local Insight — By Alex Resnik on July 13, 2010 at 6:00 am
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It’s that time once again to put our Local Experts to the test with our Local Expert Challenge! This week, we asked our experts on the ground to head to their local supermarkets from Perth to Prague and find some of their favorite exceptionally tasty, bizarrely regional, or particularly convenient snack foods.

We love that feeling on first landing in a new destination: everything from the airport security procedures to the color of the traffic signals are different and new. One of the best things to do to prolong this feeling, before even checking in to the hotel room, is to step in to a local supermarket. It may seem mundane, but whether they’re stocking a local delicacy or a crazy Kit-Kat flavor, a market’s shelves root travelers in a place’s everyday reality.

If these shelves could talk, they would speak volumes about regional tastes and culinary traditions… and they would make us really, really hungry.

Shanghai

Tea Eggs. These may look like an item only Sweeney Todd would devour, but they are actually great tasting and incredibly healthy. The first few times I saw them at the convenience store, bubbling away in a vat of black liquid I have to admit the smell and sight were a bit off putting… Basically, they are eggs boiled in black tea and spices, including soy sauce, anise stars and bay leaves.

Toronto

What is a peameal bacon sandwich? It is a handful of yum. Peameal bacon is a Canadian variety of breaded bacon (not to be confused with that other artery-clogger, “Canadian bacon”). And be sure to ask for extra mustard!

Atlanta

Eye candy and spice, Mama Zuma’s Revenge Habanero Potato Chips originate in Middletown, Va., but are quite popular all over. A mixture of sweetness and heat, these specialty chips are great for sharing with your travel buddies or coworkers.

Auckland

I’m convinced that New Zealand is the Land of the Long Muesli Bar Isle because that’s exactly what you get in every supermarket. These grainy, nutty, fruity little bars are extremely popular here.

Vancouver

When my sisters are visiting from England, they have to pick up ketchup chips and dill pickle chips. It sounds like an acquired taste, but after you try one, you will understand why us Canadians love them! You can even get those flavors in mini rice cakes too, for those that are a little more health conscious.

Prague

Křupky is the snack food of choice for quite a few people; many ate it as a child and still have a fondness for it today. It’s a peanut butter flavored nibble; with the texture of cheese puffs, like Cheetos. You’ve been warned.

Bangkok

7 Elevens and Family Marts are ubiquitous in Bangkok, and potato chips take up most of one aisle. Sounds a bit boring and familiar, but consider the flavors: Barbecued Pork, Shrimp, Cuttlefish, Octopus, Spicy Crab. Or even some very Thai recipes such as Tom Yum Koong and Laab.

Buenos Aires

[The] deli counter… more closely resembles a full-on butcher shop as opposed to your typical cold cuts and cheese counter. Only hardcore carnivores will want to wander into the deli, as some of the sights may be shocking: pigs’ heads, cows’ tongue, and the dreaded, textured tripe (stomach lining).

Perth

As far as I can figure out, and please correct me if I’m wrong, chocolate freckles are a uniquely Australian treat. But they’re utterly delicious. These freckles are slightly larger than the regular ones and that’s what I like about them.

Edinburgh

A packet of Haggis flavoured Potato Crisps – these will certainly give you the true taste of Scotland with the distinct Haggis flavour.

Oslo

On the fjord, the obvious snack, or rather, dinner, is a heap of prawns. You peel them, add mayo, squeeze on some lemon and make prawn sandwiches. Chilled white wine is the ideal companion.

Geneva

Can’t wait for the later-than-you’re-used-to Swiss dinner hour? Then head for the nearest supermarket where you will find the locals snacking away. Sometimes there are benches inside and outside the supermarket door just for this purpose!

New Delhi

Got a sweet tooth? This is a must have. The ritual: At the shop, jostle with the locals to see these succulent savories being deep-fried prior to being dunked in sugar syrup. They are to be had hot and still dripping with the syrup. Mmmm…messy and heavenly.

Istanbul

Charcuteries sell just about everything that is interesting, imported and fresh. You can even buy your bread there and the have the charcuterie vendor prepare you a fresh sandwich with fresh ingredients off the counter.

Napa Valley

The Napa and Sonoma valleys are fertile growing grounds for much more than the wine that makes them so famous. Depending on the season, you might see stands selling tomatoes and other garden vegetables, fresh-picked berries, exotic mushrooms, micr0-greens, and fresh herbs.

Jerusalem

Ahh…but the ultimate in Israeli-style snacking are burekas (they’re actually a Turkish import). Puff pastry filled with cheese, potato, spinach, mushrooms or sometimes all of these together.  At 4 NIS a kilo, they’re top of the snacking pile.

Maui

Spam Musubi: Quite easily the most famous snack offered to teens growing up in the Hawaiian Islands. The recipe is quite simple: One block of rice topped with spam and wrapped with sushi.

Lyon

For a typically French snack that you can throw in your day-pack and dig into anytime you get a bit peckish; pick up a jar of cornichon (fine pickled gherkins), a mini or standard baguette and a tub of rillette – a type of paste made from tuna, salmon or pork.

Cancun

Nopales are flat pads of cactus. You find them in the produce section where you can often see employees removing the spine (sharp, pointy ends) and chopping the nopales into cubes. This low-carb, high fiber food is native to Mexico.

…and the rest

Do you have a favorite snack in your neck of the woods? Did our Local Experts miss something (doubtful, but possible) you think just needs to be on here? Let us know in the comments below!

Tags: bizarre foods, strange snacks, supermarket sweep, travel snack, when in Rome... have a snack

    13 Comments

  • Libby says:

    Here in Ecuador they serve “salchipapas,¨ sausage and potatoes covered in chiles and other condiments in a paper bag on the street. It’s more of a meal than a snack, and it’s super cheap.¨Sometimes you also get soda in a plastic bag with a straw so the vendor can get the deposit for the glass bottle.

  • TheReviewer says:

    Hmmmm Jalabi from India! Going to get some Tea eggs and Cuttle Fish Crackers now, I am hungry in Amsterdam!

  • Revitol says:

    Oh that’s one awesome list! The pig head is especially appealing ;)

  • Arthur Dent says:

    Uhh, peameal bacon IS Canadian bacon. In fact, you won’t find anything called “Canadian bacon” in Canada. “Canadian bacon” is the American name for what Canadians call peameal bacon or back bacon.

  • tudsy says:

    Thanks for the list. Minor correction: those burekas in Israel are 4 shekels per 100 g, not per kilo. And in Israel, the ‘Krupky’ from Prague are quite popular in their local version known as Bamba.

  • incognito says:

    now I want some tea eggs… just a minor correctio, spam musubi is wrapped in nori, not sushi…

  • Arthur Dent says:

    I just want to correct my correction: It seems that in the United States, “Canadian bacon” can mean two things. It can mean peameal/back bacon, as I stated. It can also mean some kind of smoked ham, which is basically a cheap knockoff of peameal/back bacon. So, maybe the second definition is what the author meant.

  • Luther says:

    Well the author is definitely not a well traveled person!
    Portugal and Spain is where you can find the best snaks in the world.

  • I could munch on those prawns all day long :)

  • Josh says:

    Belgian waffles are a very popular street snack in Belgium, but they’re probably a little different than Americans are used to. The type more familiar to Americans is known as a Brussels waffle, which are rectangular, sprinkled with powdered sugar and often topped with chocolate and fresh fruits for the tourists.

    Most Brusseliers know to go for the Leige waffle (or gaufre leigeois), which are made with a special type of sugar known as pearl sugar. These little morsels partially melt throughout the waffle, creating a carmelized, sugary exterior and a chewy, soft interior speckled with crunchy bits of sweetness. Any true Belgian will tell you that a gaufre liegeois is best eaten au nature, since only the tourists feel the need to ruin a perfect snack with chocolate, whipped cream or other such nonsense.

    This snack must be included on this list!

  • marvin says:

    I was surprised that some cactus fruit are edible, like the well known dragon fruit. But now, cactus leaves are also edible. Hope Philippines have that kind of cactus.

  • I just want some plantain chips. yummy

  • John T K says:

    Buenos Aires looks like something repulsively out of Lord of the Flies.

    Edinburgh looks Zeee Best, by far!!!!

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