World's best dishes named by top chefs: The meals we've been missing out on

Whatever represents the most memorable meal from your travels, be it a simple though sensational street snack, or a complex, mind-blowing Michelin-starred signature dish, the idea of second helpings has proved elusive these past two years.

All we could do to satisfy our off-shore holiday hunger pangs was to dine out on our memories. Then there's that cohort of truly impassioned travellers who have been really starved of inspiration: our leading chefs, among them Christine Manfield, whose latest book is Indian Cooking Class, published by Simon & Schuster.

"After being confined for more than two years, I realise I have missed the big wide world and the chance to look outside our own backyard, to experience 'other'," she says. "I can't wait to put my travel wings back on and get out of here, to expand my horizons once again."

Now that the world is gradually reopening to us, Traveller asked 10 top chefs to name the dish they've missed the most during Australia's exile from the rest of the world.

The overriding and perhaps surprising theme of the chefs' responses? Most of them chose familiar and always delicious comfort food as their most missed overseas meals. For the rest of us, there's a chance to follow in their tastebuds and savour these dishes on our own overdue foreign wanderings.

THE CHEF

BRIGITTE HAFNER, TEDESCA OSTERIA, RED HILL, VIC

Brigitte Hafner
SatApr23cover The hunger games /  Salivation of the nation COVER story by Belinda Jackson.
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THE DISH

Slow-cooked lamb, Rioja, Spain

WHY I'VE MISSED IT

Always in my head, I travel to Spain, and I think that craving comfort food such as roast lamb is particular to the COVID era.

WHERE TO TRY IT

Restaurante Terete is a little agriturismo in Haro, in the Rioja region. The lamb grazed on the wild rosemary and herbs of the high plains around Rioja, then was cooked in a terracotta dish in a wood oven. It was pulled apart with two forks and came with the best tomatoes I've had in my life, drenched in sherry vinegar and so juicy. We added an amazing bottle of Muga. I still dribble thinking of it.

MY TRAVEL PLANS

I haven't been outside of Australia yet but at the first opportunity we're going to New York because I'm really looking forward to some inspiration, and then Sicily and Rome, in September.

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ESSENTIALS

Restaurante Terete, Calle Lucrecia Arana 17, Haro, Rioja, Spain. See terete.es, spain.info

THE CHEF

PAUL FARAG, AALIA RESTAURANT, SYDNEY, NSW

Paul Farag
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THE DISH

Iskender kebab, from Istanbul, Turkey

WHY I'VE MISSED IT

For me, iskender is a comfort dish. If I've worked a long day, it's my guilty pleasure when I get home. I really missed it during lockdown so I created my own interpretation for our new restaurant, Aalia, called kawera iskender, with bone marrow and chermoula.

WHERE TO TRY IT

Donerci Celal Usta in Istanbul does the best, most authentic iskender kebab that I've ever tried outside of Australia and they are known for their unique kebabs.

MY TRAVEL PLANS

I can't wait to visit the Middle East again. My parents are from Egypt and the country inspired the Pharaoh's foie gras, which is one of my favourite dishes at our new restaurant.

ESSENTIALS

Donerci Celal Usta, Hoca Pasa, Ankara Cd. 30/A, 34112 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey; Aalia, 7-8/25 Martin Place, Sydney. See donercicelalusta.com, goturkiye.com, aaliarestaurant.com

THE CHEF

CHRISTINE MANFIELD, CHEF AND AUTHOR

THE DISH

Butter chicken or murgh makhani, Delhi, India

Christine Manfield Butter Chicken CREDIT Anson Smart
SatApr23cover The hunger games /  Salivation of the nation COVER story by Belinda Jackson.
Images supplied via journalist for use in TRAVELLER - check for reuse.

WHY I'VE MISSED IT

It's pure comfort food, gently spiced and deeply satisfying, a real crowd pleaser. One of India's most recognised and popular dishes, butter chicken originated in Delhi by Sikh chefs at Moti Mahal Restaurant. Traditionally made with yoghurt-marinated chicken cooked in the tandoor oven and stirred into a creamy tomato gravy, it's buttery rich and silky smooth.

WHERE TO TRY IT

Dabbawal are street-food pioneers in the UK and have two restaurants in Newcastle upon Tyne – High Bridge and Jesmond. UK-based Indian star chef Alfred Prasad consults to the group, and also shares his butter chicken recipe in my new book.

MY TRAVEL PLANS

I have missed the sensory overload of India, and plan to spend November staying at village houses with some gentle trekking in the Himalayas before heading to rural Rajasthan to stay at our favourite tiger and leopard safari camps.

ESSENTIALS

High Bridge, 69-75 High Bridge, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK. See dabbawal.com; visitbritain.com; christinemanfield.com

THE CHEF

MAURICE TERZINI, ICEBERGS DINING ROOM AND BAR, CICCIABELLA, BELONGIL BEACH ITALIAN FOOD, NSW

THE DISH

Arrosticini lamb neck shoulder skewers, Abruzzo, Italy

WHY I'VE MISSED IT

These skewers bring back childhood memories of summer holiday … these beautiful memories are what I want to think about after these last horrific years. They're followed by large chunks of watermelon bought on the side of Abruzzo's mountain roads.

WHERE TO TRY IT

They can now be found in most restaurants in Abruzzo. My pick is La Pecora Matta in the hill town of Casoli.

MY TRAVEL PLANS

London, straight to the American Bar at The Savoy. I'll be drinking an Americano, of course, during the day, and straight to a Negroni at night.

ESSENTIALS

La Pecora Matta, Via Guarenna Nuova 33, 66043, Casoli, Italy. Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, 1 Notts Ave, Bondi Beach, NSW; CicciaBella, 153 Macquarie Street, Parramatta, NSW; Belongil Beach Italian Food, 33-35 Childe Street, Byron Bay NSW. See pecoramatta.it; italia.it; bbif.com.au; thesavoylondon.com; idrb.com; cicciabella.com.au; bbif.com.au

THE CHEF

SCOTT PICKETT, SMITH ST BISTROT, COLLINGWOOD, VIC

THE DISH

Gargouillou de jeunes legumes, the Aveyron, France

Gargouillou de Jeunes Légumes by Michel Bras
SatApr23cover The hunger games /  Salivation of the nation COVER story by Belinda Jackson.

WHY I'VE MISSED IT

Designed by chef Michel Bras, it was a dish I had read about, heard about, seen photos of, and was one of the dishes in my life that truly exceeded any expectation I had. It has about 40 different vegetables from Michel's garden, each prepared differently, such freshness but filled with different textures, temperatures and flavours. It looks and feels like you're eating a painting. I've missed the journey to Bras, in Laguiole in the Aveyron, France – travelling to a restaurant, perched on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, having the most divine dining experience.

WHERE TO TRY IT

Septime is one of my favourite restaurants in Paris. A chic, yet casual French bistro, with modern, refined food by head chef Bertrand Grebaut. It always impresses.

MY TRAVEL PLANS

I'm going to Beaune in Burgundy, France, in the European summer to stay in a little maison in a village to relax and eat local cheeses and charcuterie.

ESSENTIALS

80 Rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris, France; Smith St Bistro, 300 Smith St, Collingwood, Victoria. See septime-charonne.fr, parisinfo.com; scottpickettgroup.com.au

THE CHEF

SHANNON MARTINEZ, SMITH & DAUGHTERS, COLLINGWOOD, VIC

Shannon Martinez CREDIT KRISTOFFER PAULSEN
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THE DISH

Matzoh ball soup, New York City, US

WHY I'VE MISSED IT

I lived in New York on and off for eight years, and there were definitely more bad things going into my body than good, so it was like a Band-Aid for all the over-work and the over-partying. It's like a big hug from the inside. It calms me down.

WHERE TO TRY IT

Katz' Deli is almost a gimmicky joint, but it's f—-ing good. Its soup is iconic for all the right reasons. It's not fancy. It comes in a shitty, generic bowl, with shitty cutlery on a shitty table. But they are lovely people. And that's where the best food comes from.

MY TRAVEL PLANS

My family is in Andalucía but I really want to go to France to do my dream trip, which is Rick Stein's French Odyssey, sailing through its canals on a barge and cooking on the boat. The travel is so slow, at 5kmh, and that's the pace I need. To just chill.

ESSENTIALS

Katz' Deli, 205 East Houston St, New York City, US; Smith & Daughters, 107 Cambridge Street, Collingwood, Victoria. See katzsdelicatessen.com, nycgo.com; smithanddaughters.com

THE CHEF

O TAMA CAREY, LANKAN FILLING STATION, EAST SYDNEY, NSW

THE DISH

Popiah, Singapore

WHY I'VE MISSED IT

I love these fresh spring rolls for their chewy wrapper, and inside is a bit of pickle, with some chilli heat and sweetness from the bean sauce. The bean sprouts and veggies add a nice crunch and freshness. It's the perfect street snack.

WHERE TO TRY IT

The Maxwell Hawker Centre in Singapore has the best popiah I've had in my life. All good Asian street stalls sell one or two dishes only, and people queue up for that one dish, which is really sensible. To eat, you sit on plastic stools in the busy centre, with tropical fruits hanging around you.

MY TRAVEL PLANS

I'm desperate to go back to Sri Lanka. I want to reacquaint myself with the food and my suppliers, to hunt for more recipe ideas and small producers.

ESSENTIALS

Rojak, Popiah & Cockle, Maxwell Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur Street, Singapore; 58 Riley Street, East Sydney, NSW. See visitsingapore.com; lankanfillingstation.com.au

THE CHEF

KOICHI MINAMISHIMA, MINAMISHIMA, RICHMOND, VIC

THE DISH

Kushikatsu - breaded, fried morsels on sticks, Nagoya-style

WHY I'VE MISSED IT

Nothing beats heading to my hometown, Nagoya, and enjoying some kushikatsu. Nagoya-style kushikatsu is served in a hatcho miso-based sauce. Pulling up a stool to a local kushikatsu-ya and being served fresh deep-fried skewers brings back a lot of great memories of growing up. One of my favourites is deep-fried herring fish roe with kelp (komochi konbu) served with bonito sauce and flakes. It may not be the traditional style sauce, but the bonito sauce pairs very well with herring fish roe.

WHERE TO TRY IT

Kushikatsu can be found in Hobaitei (Nagoya), a local kushikatsu-ya owned by my friend Hohen-san.

MY TRAVEL PLANS

I cannot wait to return to Japan later this year as I haven't seen my family and friends since December 2019.

ESSENTIALS

Hobaitei, 1-48-2 Shin Sakae, Naka ku, Nagoya 460-0007 Aichi Prefecture, Japan; Minamishima, 4 Lord St, Richmond VIC. See japan.travel; minamishima.com.au

THE CHEF

ALEJANDRO SARAVIA, FARMERS DAUGHTERS, MELBOURNE, VIC

THE DISH

Snapper ceviche, Lima, Peru

PERUVIAN CEVICHE SEBICHE. Peruvian seafood and fish sebiche with maize. CoverOption
SatApr23cover The hunger games /  Salivation of the nation COVER story by Belinda Jackson
Photo: iStock - reuse ok

Photo: iStock

WHY I'VE MISSED IT

I grew up on the coast in Lima eating ceviche on the beach, so those flavours take me back to my childhood. Nothing competes with having your feet in the sand, looking at the Pacific Ocean and enjoying fresh ceviche with a cold Pilsen Callao lager or pisco sour. The ceviche is dressed in what we call tiger's milk; a blend of lemon, lime, garlic, onion and Peruvian chilli which, when blended with pieces of scallop or fish, is the perfect hangover cure.

WHERE TO TRY IT

Every time I go home to Peru, I go to Sonia's. Sonia is a fisherman's wife who used to cook only for fishermen with the catch they brought her. Her children now manage the restaurant and people outside the industry are allowed in. You actually have to knock on the door to get in.

MY TRAVEL PLANS

Peru. I haven't been home to Lima for more than two years.

ESSENTIALS

Restaurant Sonia, La Rosa Lozano Y Tirado 173, Chorrillos, Lima, Peru; Farmers Daughters, 95 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, Victoria. See restaurantsonia.com; peru.travel ; farmersdaughters.com.au

THE CHEF

JUNGEUN CHAE, THE LINCOLN, CARLTON, VIC (until the end of September)

THE DISH

Bindae-tteok, a mung-bean pancake with cold makgeolli (Korean rice wine)

Mung-bean pancake which is called Bindaetteok SatApr23cover The hunger games /  Salivation of the nation COVER story by Belinda Jackson.
Photo: iStock reuse ok

Photo: iStock

WHY I'VE MISSED IT

This popular Korean street food immediately transports me to my childhood. Some people fry it with such ingredients as kimchi, pork or vegetables but I like to keep the original nutty flavour and enjoy it with either kimchi or pickled onion on the side. While makgeolli is a popular every-day alcoholic beverage, it's more often enjoyed on rainy days in rustic back-alley bars or street-food tents. The combination of bindae-tteok and makgeolli weirdly fits the melancholic atmosphere of a rainy day and elevates emotion.

WHERE TO TRY IT

Seoul's Gwangjang Market is the oldest market in South Korea, and its street food vendor stalls make a fun, dynamic destination.

MY TRAVEL PLANS

I'm going to Jeongeup-si in South Korea to see my mum. It's been forever since I last spent time with my family and it'll be a chance to meet with many suppliers while I'm there.

ESSENTIALS

Gwangjang Market, 88 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. The eponymous Chae restaurant is opening soon at Cockatoo in the Yarra Valley, Victoria (check chae.com.au for dates). See kwangjangmarket.co.kr visitkorea.or.kr; chae.com.au

FIVE CHEFS ON THE HOMEGROWN DISHES THEY'VE MISSED

SCOTT PICKETT

I am really looking forward to getting back to Adelaide where Jake Kellie's arkhe is a must-visit. You must try the Parfait Tartlet a la Burnt Ends and the Chargrilled prawns, lardo, chicken garum dressing. See arkhe.com.au

CHRISTINE MANFIELD

I have missed so much about Melbourne and its vibrant food scene but that's about to be remedied, and my first stop will be plates of dumplings at Supernormal. See supernormal.net.au

BRIGITTE HAFNER

Chauncy, in Heathcote, Victoria. is cooking very simply, very beautifully and in a similar vein to us, cooking directly from farms. It's a small team serving a set menu with a beautiful wine list. That's what I'll be travelling for. See chauncy.com.au

SHANNON MARTINEZ

I have never had ramen like Gumshara Ramen in Sydney. It's in a tiny little food court in Haymarket, made by a Japanese guy who decided to leave his career as an architect, do an express apprenticeship and make ramen. It's so thick you can stand your spoon up in it. See gumshara.com

ALEJANDRO SARAVIA

I was craving going to Gippsland, Victoria, during the lockdowns. It's very close to my heart, and I have a lot of friends there. To me, the farm-style tarts of Udder and Hoe cafe in Lock are a symbol of Victorian hospitality in the regions. See udderandhoe.com.au

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