Foods You Just Have To Try - Even if You're Food Shy
Have you ever known a picky eater? Chances are, you have, and not just of the toddler variety. They get a certain look on their face when you suggest trying a new dish or restaurant. They swear up and down that they are reasonable people, and that they have tried to be open minded about food. But they lament that every time they let their guard down and go against their gut (literally,) their taste buds are attacked by something awful. It takes them months to get over the insult.
It’s fine to have likes and dislikes. There is more than enough room for preferences in this world. But open mindedness when it comes to food is one of the most satisfying ways to live life to the fullest. Food is life, food is comfort, and food is adventure. You are missing out if you decide that just because you tried something new and didn’t like it, all of the world's foods are to be feared. You will never know what you’re missing until you try it ALL. This globe is filled with incredible food and it’s waiting for you.
So forget about your diet and your preconceived notions about food. Forget about your fear of the unknown. Start making plans and finding ways to try everything on this list. Your life will be better for it. And if your picky-eater-friend doesn’t want to come along for the ride, that’s fine too. You’ll make new food friends and have new culinary experiences.
Ok, we’ll start off small. It’s not a huge culinary leap to try French fries with gravy and cheese curds. But you’d be surprised how many people think it’s a “weird” dish. Don’t say that out loud in Montreal. The beautiful thing about poutine in Canada is that they’ve made it an art. There are restaurants in Canada that only serve poutine and add anything you can think of to those three main ingredients. How about crunchy bacon, avocado, foie gras, jalapeños, curry, or kimchi on your poutine? Now you’re talking interesting…and delicious. Poutine is sold in the United States, of course, but there is something about eating it in Canada. It just feels right.
You could describe paella easily to anyone who’s never tried it. It’s saffron rice with a lot of yummy stuff in it. But some finicky eaters might raise an eyebrow to the “yummy stuff.” Shellfish in seafood paella looks intimidating and rabbit in meat paella isn’t commonly consumed. But if you want authentic paella (either the seafood variety or the meat variety,) you must include these ingredients. And you also have to include flat green beans and lima beans. They aren’t the prettiest of beans, it's true. Although paella originated as a regional dish in Valencia, it’s taken the route of pizza in Italy and has been adopted all over Spain. Many chefs have given their paella a few twists, but the fact remains, if you want to say you’ve tried paella, Valencian paella is the gold standard.
Thailand: Tom Yum Soup
This Thai street food is arguably the tastiest soup in the world. It’s sour. It’s salty. It’s spicy. It’s every kind of taste. It can be creamy or clear (for the creamy version you use evaporated milk.) In order for it to be authentic, it must include ginger, lemongrass, and lime. Shrimp is the most popular protein and yes, they use the whole shrimp, shell, eyes, and all. There are variations including tom yum with squid and of course the American version that only serves the shrimp’s flesh - but if you want an authentic Thai tom yum experience, you’ll have to get past the eyes and shell and dig in.
Sushi divides friends and family. When you love it, you are obsessed. When you fear it, you can’t bear the thought of even entering a sushi restaurant, much less trying something you’ve never heard of. But how much of a sushi adventurer are you really? Does your adventure begin and end with spicy tuna and a California roll? You need to go further. You need to venture into the land of sea urchin and fugu (puffer fish.) You haven’t lived until you’ve tried authentic fatty tuna, eel, amberjack, and sardine. Now you’re talking unforgettable sushi. And don’t forget that in order to eat sushi properly, never dunk the rice in the soy sauce. Soy sauce should be dribbled on top. And when you eat your sushi, flip it so that the fish hits your tongue first. Just a few pro tips for when you find yourself in Japan.
India: Saag Paneer
When most people think of Indian food they think of spicy curry. This would be accurate of course and spicy curry dishes in India are amazing. But there are other less spicy and yet still interesting dishes that are often seen on an Indian dinner table. One of them is the wildly tasty and mild (if you choose) saag paneer. By looking at it, you just know it’s healthy. But what you don’t know is how yummy it is. Paneer is a type of Indian cheese that almost looks like tofu in this dish, but is soft and mild like ricotta. Saag describe the dish's green base, which can include spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, and others. Now of course any dish can be made spicy, and saag paneer is no exception. Leave the chili seeds in for a kick, or take them out if you just want flavor without burn.
This list may seem pretty tame to the foodie rebel, but we’ve got to start somewhere. It would be too much too soon to include guinea pig, tuna eyes, and fried tarantula. That’s some next level stuff for the person who is just getting used to the idea of food as adventure. So consider this list a springboard. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it and your taste buds are more cooperative, you can really go wild. In the meantime, would you mind passing the worms please? Hey, you only live once.