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Best food in the world

I little while ago I was accused of being a foodie. At first I thought that was a bit ridicilous, as I'll happily eat at McDonalds, gorge on sweet stuff by the galleons and couldn't care less about what the name of my cow was. However, the accusation does have some merits, as I certainly care more about food nowadays. To prove it, here's my list of recommended foods.

One word of warning though. The pictures are mostly illegally borrowed from the internet, and were the closest I could find to the meals I had.

10. Mongolian Meat Soup Without Meat 

I had this soup in Zamiin-Hud, which is a dusty, grimy Mongolian bordertown next to China. It's a somewhat deserted town, with two cafes serving microwaved stuff and this one local place where all the mongolians ate (here, right at the north corner of the parking lot).

To say my expectations were low would be a gross understatement. The cafe barely had furniture, the staff had that thousand mile stare and didn't bat an eye when I stumbled in. Anyways, I somehow managed to order food, ending up with some very, very stale bread and some soup scouped up from a large bucket.

Imagine my surprise when it had the cleanest, strongest lamb-flavor I have ever tasted. Very little salt and no other spices. Just a really, really strong lamb flavor from the strongest soup-stock I have ever tasted, along with absolutely perfectly cooked potatoes and pieces of carrot. And trust me, when I say perfectly cooked I mean perfectly cooked. As a Norwegian I'm very peculiar on my potatoes and my carrots, and these were absolutely perfect. It was the last place I ever would have expected utter perfection, but there it was. The simplest, most awesomest meal I have ever had.

Sidenote: If you're ever in Mostar, Bosnia, be sure to try the Bey-soup. For anybody who's only had our poor western excuses for soups, it should blow your mind. It's not as good as the mongolian soup, but still pretty damn good.

9. Cold noodles in Daegu 

I had this meal in Daegu, which is a fairly nice city in South Korea. At the time I was actually only there for a stopover, as I was flying to Japan. Walking out from the local airport I went searching for a restaurant. At the time it was around 45 degrees celsius outside, it was in the middle of the day, however this one place did seem to have quite a few customers (here). Obviously my spider senses started tingling. This might be good.

When I got inside it turned out that neither the elderly couple running the place nor any of the guests actually spoke any english. Worse, their handwritten menu was very korean. Wanting to try this place, I just pointed at something random and asked 'ok?'. As far as I can tell, the lady gave me a long look and decided to pull a grandma on me: "I know what you want better than you, so I'm going to chose".  She pointed at something else, and I nodded ok.

What I ended up with was the best cold noodles I have ever had. For those of you who haven't had cold noodles before, they're actually really sweet. It's noodles, meat and vegetables in a cold, sweet soup with icecubes. This time they had however perfectly managed to balance it out with spices and herbs, so the sweetness never became overpowering. I found myself just enjoying the meal more and more as I dug into it. It was always just on the verge of being overpoweringly sweet, but due to the spices it somehow managed to never actually cross that line. It was a strange experience.

8. Porky box in Thaichung

Taiwan does in general have extremely high quality food. Everybody eats out all the time, so the market for food is crazy competive and very active. This stall had about a 30 minute wait to get the food, so I was not surprised at all to find that the food was great.

I was however surprised at exactly how great it was. The meal was basically freshly fried wienerschnitzels, with a creamy bacon-cheese sauce and assorted vegetables. The pork was perfectly moist, the crunch crunchy and the fresh vegetables kept the meal from being to overpoweringly fat. It was really awesome.

I actually went back to this place 3 weeks later, and brought a friend for a second opinion, as I didn't really think wienerschnitzels should be that enjoyable. Turns out, it was awesome the second time too. It's really, really good.

7. Ice-cream in Osh! 

Fly into Kirgizstan, grab a shared taxi over the mountain and descend upon the trading city of Osh. There you will find the best ice-cream in the world. As they pull the levers of the softice machine, you will find yourself not expecting much at all. You might notice the cream is a lot thicker than usual, but it isn't until you the taste the damn thing you find out what you've gotten yourself into. It will fill your mouth with awesomeness, and you will not understand what is happening. The taste is just overpoweringly whole and milky. It's just plain awesome.

Now, Kyrgyzstan is a poor country without stable electricity and no real way to actually reliably store milk. As far as I can tell, this means the softice vendors have resorted to just simply using dayfresh whole milk instead of the industrial products we're used to now. Trying this icecream was honestly an eyeopener to how completely awesome real icecream can be. As an avid icecream eater, that was not something I saw coming. Especially not in Kyrgyzstan.

I do however recommend skipping it. I've pretty much stopped eating icecream back home in Europe now. It's simply not the same anymore.

6. Crab Curry in Jaffna 

This crab curry we had in Jetwing Jaffna, a luxury hotel in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. I very strongly recommend it. Northern Sri Lanka is in general extremely good food-wise. Jaffna in particular is famous for it's crab curry, and Jetwing apparently has the best one. I can't say I disagree.

First of all, the crab they served was weak enough that it was easily possible to bite through the shell. This meant it was actually possible to eat the crab and the curry at the same time. Now, while I do love curry's, the problem with indian style curry's is that they tend to only taste like curry. This works out perfectly if you're using alaskan pollock or other ingredients you don't really want to taste, however lamb curry alway felt like a bit of a waste to me. Crab curry however works out perfectly.

The crabtaste is actually strong enough to punch through the taste of the curry, so you end up with these awesome, competing tastes completing eachother perfectly. It was by far the best curry I've ever had.

5. Barbecues in the balkans 

Now, this is going to be a bit of a cop-out. I don't actually have a specific meal to talk about here. I've had many barbecues, but none of them really stood out enough by themselves to be worth mentioning here.

I do however like the barbecues in the balkans a lot. The sausages are generally awesome, the meat perfectly done, the vegetables fresh slowgrown from local farms and there's always more than enough. It would simply be wrong to not have them included on this list.

There's also something charming about the whole logic of it. While the barbecues are of generally very high quality, there's also something childishly pleasing about the balkan approach to them. So, we know a lot of meat makes for really good meal. But, how to make it better? Haha, even more meat! Now more better! (and they're not wrong).

4. Beef Kottu in Tricomvale 

This is actually my picture. It's a beef kottu I had in the Tamil city of Tricomvale, north in Sri Lanka.

Now Kottu is made from frying up old chopped up Roti (a type of flatbread), vegetables and egg/meat. It's fairly spicy to begin with and it's usually served with a fairly spicy side sauce.

Now, Kottu in northern Sri Lanka (don't order in the south, it's chewy and boring) is among my favourite dishes in the world. This one was however just plain amazing. The kottu itself was normally awesome. Spicy, very filling and  vegetables balancing it out so it doesn't become too heavy. For obvious reasons beef isn't served in most of buddhist Sri Lanka, however the tamils in Tricomvalee were apparently happy to serve it.

It was the perfect mix. The tender, tasty meat just took this utterly awesome meal and made it perfect. That extra nuance of taste, that little bit of meat to sink your teeth into and add some texture to the meal. It just worked out perfectly. It was utterly awesome.

3. Argentinian beef

For any Argentinians reading this, I will start off by offending you. I actually enjoy Urugayan beef more. They're not as butter soft as the Argentinian meat, but there's a bit more of the wild taste to it.

However, when it comes to whole meals Argentina has Urugay beat hands down. Basically anywhere you'll get fairly perfectly cooked potatoes, vegetables that go fit perfectly with the meat and good wine/sangria anywhere. That the meat is perfectly prepared goes without saying.

As far as philosophy goes, argentinian beef is as different from the Balkans as it's possible to get. It's all about taking a very good meal, and then perfecting it. In my opinion, they are succeeding.

2. Ginger Udon with Tempura in Kurashiki 

Japanese food is subtle. So subtle it actually takes a few weeks to get used to and fully enjoy. The different tastes and spices are generally very carefully used to make up amazing meals, but if you're used to getting blasted with taste Japanese food will at first appear very bland.

This ginger udon (not the one pictured, it was just the best I could find) in Kurashiki was however not bland. By Japanese standards it was fairly strong, but using global standards it was a pretty averagely strong meal. What was amazing was the composition of the meal. The shrimp tempura (batterfried shrimp) on the side was pretty standard, but the Udon was incredible. The stock was as usual nuanced and well balanced, the meat perfect, the weird vegetables and seaweed perfectly arranged and tasty. What sets this meal apart from everything I've had elsewhere is something I can simply describe as magic. In this perfectly arranged meal, they had somehow managed to make only the bottom of the soup taste like ginger. 

This meant the meal started of as a standard meaty, balanced udon made from very high-quality soup stock, and ended up with a nuanced explosion of taste. I was simply floored by the experience.

The shop was fairly small, only 12 seats, isn't mentioned on google maps and looked like a pretty standard small family run shop. When I went back to the hostel and explained what and where I had eaten, one of the staff simply responded: "Oh, you went there? Yes, it is the best.". I really agree, it was.

1 Masala Dosa in Mysuru

Making food spicy is really easy. Just add too much Chili. Making good, well-balanced, savoury spicy food however? 

Balancing out the spicy punch and the slow burning, while still having nuance and variety to the taste? It's really difficult and none do it better than the Indians.

This meal was served in a really local restaurant (this one), which served nothing but Masala Dosa. A lady would walk around with two plastic buckets with sauce and fill up any empty trays, while a guy would walk around with fresh Dosa you could grab. As simple as it gets. No questions, no bullshit and utterly horrible chairs. They had stayed open for a few hundred years already, and seemed to be fully commited to keeping it that way.

The taste was however sublime. The white sauce was still mild, but it had an undercurrent of sourness to it that I never found anywhere else. The strong sauce had as much punch as anywhere, but it was the most well-balanced punch I've encountered to date. The medium sauce was just averagely awesome. The Dosa's were the perfect balance between crispy and fatty, and fitted perfectly with the meal. 

Finding well-balanced, extremely spicy food, with depth and nuance to the taste is something that happens extremely rarely. While we had a lot of good food in India, one vegetarian meal in Mombai also stands out, this Masala Dosa meal was just of the charts. 

Honourable mention

Freshly caught fish back home, especially at our holiday home at Løvøya is something I really felt like should be included in this list. There wasn't really anything I felt like removing though, so it's getting a honourable mention instead.

Now, most fish around the world I find to be generally fairly tasteless. The only way to actually make good meals out of them is to spice them up. That's perfectly ok, but the fish itself doesn't really add much to the meal then. 

Norwegian fish is however different. In our cold waters they grow a lot slower and thus end up with a lot more taste. Add to that our strong traditions in actually cooking them to bring out the taste, it makes for an awesome experience. Norwegian cod wrapped in aluminium foil, gently buttered and slightly salted, with carefully selected side dishes is among my favourite dishes in the world. In many ways, this is comparable to the Japanese tradition, where you compose several mild tastes to a wholesome and complete meal. If any single component is too strong, it overpowers the rest of the meal and the balance is broken. 

So, to put it simply: Norway is the only country in the world where it's worthwhile to eat the fish. Fish can be valuable parts of dishes in other countries, but if you want a proper meal centered around good fish, there is only Norway. Nowhere else. 

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