Confit pork bao at Bao, London, UK
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A nest of sticky, salty confit pork, speckled with a few slices of crisp shallots, overflows from the fluffy steamed pockets churned out at this unassuming Soho nook. Though bao aficionados regularly queue to work their way through the five other fillings offered, the restaurant is still quietly unassuming, with orders taken by ticking the correct box of the slip of paper at your table.
Cookie shots at Dominique Ansel Bakery, New York, USA
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He may be the inventor of the world-famous cronut but baker Dominique Ansel is no one-trick pony. He also conceived the Cookie Shot: a shotglass-shaped choc chip cookie that expertly holds a nip of Tahitian vanilla-infused milk without ever becoming soggy. Using top notch 66 per cent Vahlrona chocolate, this clever treat redefined the American classic of milk and cookies – and gave devotees a new reason to queue outside his Soho bakery.
Patatas bravas from El Tomas de Sarria, Barcelona, Spain
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If you thought hot chips smothered in tomato sauce was the unbeatable way to consume potatoes, you probably haven’t been to Spain. Patatas bravas, found on tapas menus all over the country, are cubes of potato lightly fried in oil and topped with aioli and spicy tomato chutney. The very best can be found at El Tomas de Sarria in Barcelona – they serve up to 500 portions per day. A cold mug beer is a necessary accompaniment.
The Fergburger at Fergburger, Queenstown, New Zealand
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It’s safe to say The Fergburger is the most famous burger in New Zealand and quite possibly the most famous non-chain burger outlet in the world. Although the original burger (with beef, lettuce, tomato, red onion, aioli, tomato relish and optional cheese) is the best known, there are plenty of other patties to tempt you – pork belly, falafel, cod and tofu, for a start. In the stunning adventure capital of Queenstown, it’s open for nearly 24 hours and everything is handmade fresh daily.
Smoked meats at Franklin Barbecue, Austin, USA
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When the flavoursome meats – brisket, ribs, pulled pork and turkey – are sold by the pound, taking a seat at this establishment means settling in for an afternoon of serious feasting. But get in line as early as you can: the smoky bundles of brisket sell out in less time than it takes to fire them each day. Impressive for a barbecue hub that began its life in a turquoise trailer.
Tsukemen (dipping ramen) at Fuunji, Tokyo, Japan
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Tsukemen was invented in the 1960s by chef Yamagishi Kazuo and quickly spread across Japan – it’s hard to resist the simple pleasure of dipping noodles in a steaming bowl of soup before slurping. Don’t be intimidated by the line at Fuunji – diners chow down fast. When you walk in, you’ll see a ticket machine on your right where you order – ramen or special ramen, dipping noodle or special dipping noodle (including egg and pork belly). The broth is made from chicken bones, with a dried bonito dashi powder to give a salty edge.
The Sando at Howlin' Ray's, Los Angeles, USA
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Don’t be fooled by its casual exterior and fast-food-esque menu – the foundations of this LA eatery are well and truly rooted in gourmet. Head chef and co-founder Johnny Zone worked under Gordon Ramsay and Nobu Matsuhisa before opening the “hot-as-hell” Howlin’ Rays bricks-and-mortar. The Sando – a boneless breast sandwich with slaw, sauce and pickles between a butter bun – is so popular, it’s ordered by over 500 hungry visitors a day. To have a true Howlin’ Rays experience however, you’ve got to turn up the heat: each chicken piece comes in five temperatures. The last, X-Hot, is for fire fanatics only.
Korean barbecue at Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, New York, USA
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The banchan might be tempting but the main attraction for carnivores at this buzzing Koreatown restaurant is the succulent cuts of beef short rib and pork belly sizzled to perfection on the table in front of you. A New York outpost was opened in 2014 after the original LA restaurant was highly acclaimed among critical circles – and when the queue might plump up with kitchen royalty such as Anthony Bourdain and celebs including Channing Tatum, you know the grub has to be good.
Twice-baked croissants at Lune Croissanterie, Melbourne, Australia
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Nearly every flaking pastry at this Melbourne institution is worth the hours spent in line but there’s something even more transcendent about biting into one of the twice-baked croissants. Stay simple with an almond version, abundant with the flaked nuts, or go extra-decadent with a black forest option, imbued with cherry jam, maraschino cherries, double cream, chocolate mousse and hot chocolate frangipane.
Pork Bánh Mì at Marrickville Pork Roll, Sydney, Australia
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Lunch hour is rush hour at this unassuming Marrickville eatery. The friendly staff at Marrickville Pork Roll frantically stuff fluffy white bread rolls to create classic Vietnamese pork bánh mì – considered by many to be the best iteration of the iconic sandwich in the city. Fillings can include hot or cold pork, along with the paté, fresh and pickled vegetables such as carrot and coriander as well as mayo and, of course, a sprinkle of chilli.
Reuben sandwich at Monty’s Deli, London, UK
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You’ll need dexterous fingers to get your hands around this serious sandwich: generous slabs of house-made pastrami or salt beef are stacked between slices of light rye bread, dressed with a vinegary mustard, a Russian dressing made from a secret recipe, sauerkraut and cheese. Then this monster is squished between the plates of a toaster, and served with fries and coleslaw.
Lobster roll at Red’s Eats Lobster Roll, Maine, USA
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This 80-year-old institution is so popular it causes gridlock on Route 1 in Wiscasset, Maine as excited lobster fans make their way to the little red shack by the highway during the crustacean season (April to October). The formula is a buttered, toasted hotdog roll, stuffed with lobster meat and held together with a little mayonnaise, served with butter and even more mayo on the side.
Steak frites at Relais de l’Entrecôte, Paris, France
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For all the pomp of rich French food, the timeless pairing of steak and fries remains one of the country’s best culinary traditions. Relais de l’Entrecôte serves the combination with a healthy helping of ‘secret sauce’ (ingredients are rumoured to range from simple marjoram to chicken livers) so delicious, it frequently draws a crowd.
Sushi breakfast at Sushi Dai in Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan
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Waking up before the sun rises and catching a train through a still-waking city to visit the Tsukiji Fish Market is a must-do Tokyo experience and it’s best-known sushi restaurant is Sushi Dai. It opens at 5am but queues start long before – if you arrive at 4am, you may still have to queue for over an hour. You can either order from a combination of seven nigiri and maki, or from the omakase (chef’s selection) menu. Afterwards, head over to the actual market to marvel at the gleaming fish on display.
Barbecue pork buns at Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong (and locations in Australia)
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Tim Ho Wan has the reputation of being the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, with outlets across the Asia Pacific as well as the United States. But if you’re a die-hard fan of barbecue pork buns (char siu bao), make the pilgrimage to where it all started – the original stall in Mong Kok, Hong Kong. When you arrive, get a ticket and prepare to wait. The bun is glazed and crunchy, with barbecue sauce and tender pieces of pork held within. In the Sydney and Melbourne outlets, you’ll pay $9.50 for three buns.
Voodoo doughnuts at Voodoo Doughnuts, Portland, USA
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Make no mistake – a doughnut from this Portland institution won’t help you with any health kick. The options don’t include your average flavour profile either: consider the ‘Oh Captain, My Captain’ doughnut, which is bejewelled with pieces of Captain Crunch cereal over a simple vanilla frosting. There’s also the heart-stopping ‘Bacon Maple Bar’ – with a smear of maple frosting adorned with strips of crisp, salty bacon.
Braised noodles at Xin Mei Xiang Lor Mee, Singapore
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One of the best places to find lor mee in Singapore is at Xin Mei Xiang Loe Mee, at Old Airport Road Hawker Centre. It’s a Hokkien dish, with flat noodles and a thick, starchy soup topped with eggs, fish, pork and fresh chilli. Hours of prep go into making the soup; this one is a little less thick, less sweet and smoother than others found in Singapore.
Double-Double Burger, Animal Style at In-N-Out Burger, Los Angeles, USA
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Of all the burgers at this burger mecca, the Double Double is the one intrepid travellers rave about when they return home. In one bite, the spongy buns yield to the two American beef patties covered in American cheese, crisp lettuce, single slice of tomato and rings of onion, all coated in the 70-year-old sauce recipe. Order in Animal Style and your patties will be cooked in mustard and you’ll get extra onions and spread, plus a juicy pickle.
Portuguese tarts at Pastéis de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal
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Any bakery that sells an average of 23,000 tarts a day has got to be doing something right. In the case of Lisbon’s Pastéis de Belém, it’s a matter of legacy – it’s on this very spot the gold-tinted Portuguese tart (known locally as a pastel de nata) was born back in 1837. Sure, they sell other things but let’s be honest: no-one who’s lined up to get inside is ordering anything else other than those carefully caramelised egg custard creations.
Chocolate and pistachio escargot at Du Pain et des Idées, Paris, France
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Considering the amount of delicious boulangerie dotted around Paris, permit us to utter 'sacre bleu!' at the thought of a Parisian crossing the city to frequent a specific bakery. Such is the offering of Du Pain et des Idées, fronted by baker Christophe Vasseur, where the thick-crusted pain des amis is almost always part of a Parisienne order. If you're stopping in though, you shouldn't miss the pistachio and chocolate escargot bun, centred with a slathering of pistachio and a sprinkle of choc chips.
Hot dogs at Pink's Hot Dogs, Los Angeles, USA
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New York might be the spiritual home of the hot dog but this decades-old stand on the corner of Melrose Avenue is where those in the know travel to get their dogs. With 16 permanent options plus a bevvy of specials (including the Martha Stewart Dog replete with relish, onions, bacon, tomatoes and sour cream) your best bet is to start slow with a mustard-and-onion chilli dog. Celeb trivia: Bruce Willis apparently proposed to Demi Moore over them.