Twelve of the world's greatest guilty pleasures

Irresistible ... gelati.
Irresistible ... gelati. Photo: Lisa Wiltse

I like to maintain a strict, healthy diet. I find that that, coupled with a regimen of daily exercise and regular check-ups and ah ... who am I kidding? I eat a bunch of crap. Whatever the hell I feel like really.

I'm a sucker for a guilty pleasure. Cheesy, creamy pasta dishes. Dog's eyes from Harry's. Late-night "Indian kebabs" (from Oxford Street – they're dangerous).

Same goes overseas, where there's usually an embarrassment of riches, the sort of fatty, sugary goodness that you're not supposed to admit to enjoying, but which most of us really do. You're here for a good time, not a long time, right?

They do fatty food in the US? Get out! Or In 'n' Out for your burgers.
They do fatty food in the US? Get out! Or In 'n' Out for your burgers. Photo: Bloomberg

So here are a few of my favourites. Get in.

Alfajores, Argentina

Ever tried dulce de leche? It's like caramel, but somehow better. And the Argentines have found some creative ways to incorporate it into meals. My favourite is the alfajor, which is basically two cookies sandwiching a giant slab of dulce de leche, and sometimes rolled in shaved coconut. They're so rich that if you can eat more than one in a sitting you're my new hero.

Gulab jamun, India

Anyone who thinks Indian food is all about spice has clearly never fronted up to a sweets counter. The selection of carefully crafted, intricately designed treats is a sight to behold – what do you choose? Trust me, the head-and-shoulders winner is gulab jamun, those sweet little balls of awesome that have to be doing some serious damage to your teeth. The best in the world come from Madurai, in Tamil Nadu. (*prepares for onslaught*)

In-N-Out Burger, USA

Wait, what? The USA has fatty food? Fatty food that comes in burger form? Get out! Anyway, you could pretty much list the entire country as a guilty pleasure, but my favourite and that of many of my fellow Hollywood celebrities is In-N-Out Burger, a fast food joint with the tastiest, fattiest burgers around. Hangovers were made for this. (Ask about the "4x4".)

Full English breakfast, England

Fried bread? You have to be kidding me. Surely at least the bread doesn't require frying? But it does, and it is. The Poms are kings of the slap-up breakfast, with the world's best sausages (*ducks*), plus thick-cut bacon, black pudding, eggs, beans... You can't top it.

Febo krokets, The Netherlands

Febo is a takeaway store designed with the stoner in mind. This is a fast food joint that requires no human interaction whatsoever – just wander in, stick a few coins in a slot, open a window, and there's your meal. My advice? Go for a kroket, those little sausage-shaped packages of deep-fried greatness. It's like someone extracted the inside of a meat pie and battered it. Slather on some mustard and you're away.

Portuguese tarts, Portugal

Addictive. Seriously addictive. You could spend an entire holiday in Portugal seeking out the very best pastel de nata, going from bakery to bakery to bakery stuffing your face, and you'd come away having had the time of your life (and, let's face it, being a few kilos heavier). Sweet custard, crumbly pastry. Heaven.

Brioche, Italy

Everything in moderation, right? Which is why it's okay to wake up every morning, stumble down to the café and order a cappuccino, plus a brioche, a sweet bread filled with a flavoured custardy-type substance. Of course then you'll want to have another one, and another one. And another one. Moderation schmoderation.

Gelati, Italy

Hey hey, it's another entry for Italy! I don't eat much ice-cream at home – doesn't really do it for me. But it's irresistible in Italy, when every second shop is seemingly displaying row after row of brightly coloured, fantastic tasting gelati. It's ice-cream, but not as you know it.

Haggis supper, Scotland

Some people dislike the notion of haggis, of all those organs chopped up and cooked in a wee sheep's stomach. So those people would dislike even more the notion of visiting a dodgy fish and chip shop at two in the morning and ordering a haggis battered and deep-fried and served with chips and gravy. I'm not one of those people.

Tim Horton's double double, Canada

Don't get me wrong, this isn't good coffee. It's barely even passable coffee. But there's something awesomely Canadian about heading into a Tim's (like Starbucks, but worse) and ordering a double double. That's double cream, double sugar. In a coffee cup the size of your head. It does the job.

Tacos al pastor, Mexico

I loooooove Mexican food, and tacos al pastor are the best of the best. The key ingredient is shredded pork that's been marinated in citrus and chilli, cooked on the grill with fresh pineapple and cheese, then slapped in the middle of a couple of fresh tortillas. The dodgier the taco stand, and the longer the queue, the better it will be.

Rosti, Switzerland

Humble shredded potato cakes get taken to the stratosphere in Switzerland with a few added extras. There's a place in Lauterbrunnen called the Oberland that serves rosti with mozzarella cheese, Bolognese sauce and bacon, which sounds like a heart attack on a plate, and it pretty much is. But damn it tastes good.

What are your favourite guilty pleasures overseas?

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