Whenever you travel to a destination for the first time, you are indulging yourself in an odyssey of discovery, as you find out about the local attractions, landmarks and amenities. And one of the most pleasing aspects of such a trip is the chance to sample the local cuisine, because culinary delights from a new location can taste like a little slice of heaven.
Non-Americans who are newcomers to the USA should be encouraged to do a little homework about the cuisine in their chosen destination, because there is so much more to cooking in the US than the standard fare offered by the ubiquitous fast food outlets that you find in every town and city.
In California, America’s most populous state and a holiday destination like no other, you’ll find plenty of independently owned restaurants cooking up burgers like you’ll never see in the chain outlets. Thick and juicy, and often served with chilli or some tasty jalapeno peppers, the chances are you’ll be hooked from the very first bite.
Thanks to its unique history and its specific geographical location, life in California is heavily affected by colonial Spanish and Mexican influences, and the cuisine is no different. The Golden State is home to a number of taco shops, for example, offering this delightful speciality and usually filled with pork or beef, and a variety of vegetables and cheeses.
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Another favourite is the burrito, similar to the taco in that it features a tortilla with various fillings, but different in shape and easier to carry, making it perfect for those who want to eat on the go. If you’re new to Mexican food, try it with some carne asada meat, American cheese and a little guacamole – it’s simply delicious.
Although there are a great many of the better-known pizza joints throughout the state, it can be fun to explore the less famous ones. A Californian-style pizza is a very different entity to the standard fare, because it would tend to include unusual, but no less tasty, ingredients. These can include left-field items such as boiled egg, fresh spinach, barbecued pork and smoked salmon.
California has around 840 miles of coastline hugging the spectacular Pacific Ocean, so it comes as no surprise to discover that fish dishes are found everywhere. Perhaps the most popular, and something of a speciality in the Garden State is tuna. Even if you’ve eaten tuna sandwiches at home, you will never have experienced anything like a Californian tuna sandwich before.
Shrimp dishes are to be found in almost all Californian restaurants, and this local delight will often be available with a number of different sauces. Other marine temptations include swordfish, crab, halibut and salmon. Whichever you choose, it will be perfect with a portion of French fries and a quarter of fresh lemon.
David Showell lives in the UK and is a big fan of American cuisine. He works for a car rental website.