Best local foods: Ten meals worth flying across the world for

My friend Krissy has too much money, clearly. She also has a deep and abiding love of oysters, particularly Bluff oysters from southern New Zealand, so it was nice, for her at least, that she was able to combine those two qualities last year.

Around late April she was sitting in her office in Sydney and suddenly had a craving: oysters. Bluff oysters. Creamy, briny Bluff oysters. 

Anyone who's tried them would know the feeling. They're some of the best oysters in the world, and they're only harvested at a certain time of year, which adds to the mystique.

So Krissy, having too much money and a craving, made a decision: she would fly to Queenstown for the weekend. For oysters. She managed to rope in a friend and together they made the three-hour flight across the ditch, rolled up to a restaurant and ordered a couple of dozen to feast on.

It's crazy, really. Flying to New Zealand just for oysters? However, as a fellow food fan I can understand her madness. And it got me thinking about the dishes I would travel for, those delicacies I crave enough to hop on a plane purely to taste them again (if I had the money). Dishes like these.

Thali in Madurai, India

I knew southern India food was good, but I had no idea just how good until I feasted on a thali – a sort of set meal of curries, rice, roti and a sweet – in the city of Madurai. I don't know what I ate, and I don't even know where. But I would gladly spend money to do it again.

Pho in Hanoi, Vietnam

There's no particular place to go to try this, although the dodgier the shop, and the more people sitting on the street outside on little plastic stools slurping hot, soupy noodles, the better. Just to smell the rich Hanoi broth is reason enough to return.


Steak in Cordoba, Argentina

The restaurant is called Alcorta, and it serves the best steak I've ever tasted in my life. I'm not even a huge steak fan, but I'd still travel to Cordoba, in central Argentina, purely to taste another cut of charred, salty, tender beef. It's served with… nothing. As it should be.

Whole fried fish in Kyoto, Japan

There are several places you could have this, but I'm thinking of a restaurant called Agiyao, a tiny "izakaya" that specialises in the freshest of seafood. I ate a lot there, but the highlight by a mile was a whole fish, lightly floured and fried, served with nothing but chopsticks and a pyramid of salt. Perfection.

Spaghetti carbonara in Rome, Italy 

I try, and I try, but I just can't find a spaghetti carbonara in Australia that comes close to the one they dish up at Salumeria Roscioli in Rome. This isn't even an "I would travel just for this" entry. It's an "I am travelling just for this". In June. Can't wait.

Tacos al pastor in Mexico City, Mexico 

Tacos Hola is not a fancy place, it's just a hole-in-the-wall eatery that dishes up no-frills tacos that are probably the best thing I tasted in Mexico. Their al pastor tacos – pork meat marinated in citrus and pineapple – are easily worthy of a pilgrimage. 

Meatball tagine in Marrakech, Morocco 

I might have over-romanticised this one because it was the first dish I ate in Morocco and I'd been looking forward to it for a long time. But the meatball and egg tagine – a clay pot of meaty goodness swimming in a rich, oily sauce – I had at Al Fassia in Marrakech was absolutely delicious.   

Tostada completa in Seville, Spain

Every morning during six weeks of studying in Seville I would call past a cafe to eat "tostada completa": a toasted bread roll filled with tomato, jamon iberico and olive oil. It was simple, it was cheap, and it's something I dream about whenever I'm presented with a menu full of quinoa in Sydney.

Arroz con pato in Lambayeque, Peru

Again, this isn't posh food, it's the food of the people. "Arroz con pato" is duck with rice, and at El Rincon del Pato in Lambayeque, in northern Peru, it's done to perfection. It's fried rice with spices and vegetables, topped with a confit duck leg. I want one now.  

Ramen in Tokyo, Japan

There's a tiny ramen joint in Asakusa, Tokyo, that's just like a million other tiny ramen joints in the city – so much so I can't even remember its name. The ramen is amazing, but the difference there is the music, a loud playlist of mid-'90s Californian punk rock that could have come straight off my iPod. Now that's an experience worth travelling for.