Top Five Lunches From Around the World

Falafel
Israeli Falafel

Food and eating are integral aspects of any trip, more so in certain areas of the world. There are few cultural indicators as important as what the people who live there decide to eat on a daily basis. Throughout my travels, I have had some truly great meals as well as some rotten ones. I’ve poured through my notes and have found my five favorite lunchtime meals from around the world.

1. Madrid jamon – Ham is more than just a meal or snack option in Spain, it is a national obsession. There are two primary types of Spanish ham, Jamón Serrano and Jamón Ibérico with the Ibérico being harder to find and more expensive. You can find dry-aged ham throughout Spain and while the meal is not at all fussy, it is absolutely delicious. It is usually served simply, just the jamón on the baguette with a light spread of some sort – nothing more is needed when the quality of the food is so high. If you seek out this culinary treasure be careful, there are many tourist restaurants advertising huge plates of jamón at alarmingly high prices. Instead, head for a small neighborhood restaurant that can deliver the same quality meal at a more modest price.

2. Conch Fritters – Conch is big in the Bahamas, very big. While visiting there earlier this year, local chefs regaled me in a Bubba Gump manner with all of the ways in which conch could be prepared. Conch salad, conch soup, grilled conch, raw conch, baked conch and of course, conch fritters. Perhaps it is because anything fried is therefore good, but I loved conch fritters. I enjoyed them several times during my brief stay in the islands and couldn’t get enough of them. While fried, they are deceptively light and when served with the right sauce, make for an amazing appetizer or even full meal.

3. Tonkatsu – I know most people fawn over the Hawaiian plate lunch, but for me it’s all about the tonkatsu.  Originally of Japanese origin, tonakatsu, which refers only to the pork version, is popular throughout Hawaii. It is decidedly simple, but hearty and filling – the classic definition of a family meal. Katsu is made by frying a scaloppini chicken breast or pork cutlet, similar to a schnitzel, and served with a tonkatsu sauce. Sides almost always found with the katsu are a portion of rice and macaroni salad.

Tonkatsu
Tonkatsu

4. Tagine – If you spend any amount of time in Morocco, then you will become indoctrinated into the cult of tagine enthusiasts. Moroccan tagine are slow cooked meats braised at a low temperature. This slow cooking results in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce. Like a conventional stew or Dutch oven meal, there aren’t many rules and you can use any meat, spice or vegetable that you prefer. My personal favorite is the chicken tagine with fries. It’s amazing what the right cook can do with just a few ingredients, creating a delicate masterpiece worthy of any five-star restaurant.

5. Falafel – Falafel can be found everywhere from New York to Lebanon, but one of the best places to find this classic lunch fare is in Israel. I wasn’t exactly sure of the ordering etiquette, so I winged it as they asked me a variety of questions. I opted for the falafel pita, which sounded nice and compact, rather than the baguette or mysterious sounding Iraqi Pita.  The falafel balls were fried to order and I was thrilled to see that the pita was topped with equally fresh French fries and hummus. I opted out, but lettuce and/or a Moroccan salad was also available to add to the incredibly messy meal. A veritable portable Middle Eastern buffet, the falafel pita is truly a culinary masterpiece.

What are your favorite snacks or lunch dishes from your travels?

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Tags: , , , , ,

Subscribe and get my free ebook!

Subscribe to the LandLopers newsletter and get a free copy of my new book, "My Favorite 50 Travel Photos."

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

18 Responses

  1. Brett

    Some delicious items listed above! I fell in love with the conch fritters (and ceviche) in Belize the past two years. Looking forward to some on our cruise in two weeks!

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Ooh, now that sounds nice! Where are you cruising too? We’re past due for another one, maybe I should work on that. LOL

      Reply
      • Brett

        We’re off to Southern Caribbean for 7 nights – San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Lucia, and Barbados. A little belated Chinese New Year, since I have to work all week while everyone else in the office here has off! Our first Caribbean cruise, only my second Cruise ever! Other than Belize, never been in the Caribbean region, so really looking forward to finally seeing some of this!

      • Matt Long

        aw, that sounds SO NICE! I can’t wait to hear more about your travels!

  2. Jen

    Our favorite lunch from our travels is the doner kebab sandwich! When we were in Wallau, Germany, we would walk down the street to a little stand by a strawberry field every other day for lunch and a strawberry dessert! We loved the macaroni salad in Hawaii, too!

    Reply
  3. Annie Bettis

    That falafel looks so amazing! YUM!

    I enjoyed Dutch frites while I was there because their fresh and they come in that convenient little paper cone. I definitely want to try the Belgian ones! mmm.

    I’m definitely excited to add some things to my own list, including everything you’ve listed!

    Reply
  4. Andi

    Had a great tonkatsu lunch in Tokyo in December, but the best lunch I had there was fresh grilled eel (unagi) – yum! My all time favorite lunch was a paella made with squid ink lunch in Barcelona.

    Reply
  5. Chris - The Aussie Nomad

    I know I only just ate but you’ve given me the biggest craving for katsu right now oh and that falafel looks just a good.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      LOL, then my mission here is complete. Luckily I’ll be in Hawaii in 2 weeks and you better believe I’ll be ordering katsu right away.

      Reply
  6. Federico

    I would also add Pad Thai in Thailand and Gyros in Greece. They are cheap and delicious, and can be found anywhere!

    Reply
  7. Sarah

    That Israeli pitta looks soooo good! It sounds like my perfect meal. *makes a mental note to add it to the list of must try food around the world*

    Reply
  8. Abigail Rogers

    We just bought some falafel mix, so maybe we’ll try the pita dish!

    Reply
  9. Taylor Schrang

    I love the amount of fried food on this list. Good work.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      So you noticed that trend, eh? 🙂

      Reply
  10. Jack

    Falafel, French fries and hummus…what a combo. I make falafel a lot but I’ve never put that lot together. I will now 🙂

    Venezuelan arepas are another top, cheap lunch. They’re filled fried (ticks that box) corn pancakes. The reina – avocado, chickem and mayo – is particularly good.

    Reply
  11. Patrick

    Great Article! I used to live in Spain and ur right! They are truly obsessed with ham! Also one of my favorite cuisines is Mexican! U can find tacos of literally anything, cheap and delicious!

    Reply
  12. Anu

    Just stumbled upon your site and am addicted now! Have you been to India?? We have some awesome food here as well.. very different from the “curries” you constantly hear about 🙂

    Reply
  13. transvectio

    Tonkatsu, yayness!
    I’ve never tried Falafel, but Turkish Kebab is also a great option for lunch!

    Reply

Leave a Comment