Foods: "authentic" vs. generic namesake - Tell me about it.

I’m sure we have plenty of travellers here at the SDMB.

I would love to hear stories of your personal dining experiences regarding the differences between “authentic” vs “namesake” foods.

Hypothetical examples:
Chinese food prepared and served in China
Italian food prepared and served in Italy
Buffalo wings prepared and served in Buffalo, NY
Philly cheesesteak prepared and served in Philadelphia, PA
Cajun {name your dish here} prepared and served in Louisiana

etc, etc feel free to add more!

I haven’t had the privelege to travel the country (or the world) to know if there is anything particularly “extra special” about “blank” dish being prepared and served in it’s “original” place of origin.

I realize this is a highly subjective issue, (hence IMHO) but I’m sure there must a good deal of truth to positive comments such as, “You don’t know what you’ve been missing until you’ve had real, authentic {name your dish here}.”

What’s the dope?

Not me, but a friend who traveled to England in the 70s ate at a place that served “authentic American pizza.” It was made with cheddar cheese.

Real Cajun food tends to be way different than what is passed off as Cajun food everywhere else. First of all, Cajun food is only one of several distinct types of Louisiana cuisines. It tends to get lumped in with creole food and the newer types of New Orleans cuisine. They are all different. Real Cajun food is really all over the map. It tends to follow a country style and many of the dishes can be cooked in one pot. Dishes include jambalaya, grillade, stews, and gumbos, sausages like andouille and boudin, and many types of crawfish dishes including the boiled crawfish feast.

Authentic Cajun food is fairly hard to find even in Louisiana. The towns around Lafayette, LA tend to have it as well as towns all along the Cajun highway. New Orleans was never part of Cajun country but the Cajun food craze of the 1980’s did cause many chefs to serve it and much of it was done well.

Cajun food elsewhere tend to be things like blackened (it isn’t supposed to be burned) chicken or fish and spicy rice. These are corruptions of real Cajun food.

Well I’d say you should get ‘Chicago style pizza’ in Chicago, ‘New York style pizza’ in NY, and ‘St. Louis style pizza’ in St. Louis.

Spaghetti in Venice: This was a while ago. Before this I’d only had pasta in Asia and the United States (and not exactly in expensive establishments at that), so I was quite surprised when I was brought a tiny portion of spaghetti (maybe, two, three twirls’ worth) and an even tinier blob of tomato sauce, which was not really so much of a sauce as a paste, and then topped with a couple of small clams. It wasn’t the best pasta I’d ever had (that would be my mom’s, that comes with whatever-sized meatballs you care to request), but it was pretty good all the same.

Chinese food in China: can be very, very good for very, very little. Plus they serve all this exotic stuff that’s probably illegal in most other places. Worms, turtles, crocodiles (or alligators - not sure), cockroaches, civet cats, things like that. Unfortunately, there is no custom of complimentary fortune cookies after a meal, although you can always get your fortune told at a nearby temple.

Sushi in Japan: is ohmigod so ridiculously expensive. And I’ve had better in Hong Kong.

Soto in Indonesia: my knowledge is that there are regional variations on the soup, but even given the excess of Indonesian restaurants here in Hong Kong and my enthusiasm in sampling a meal from each of them I have yet to find an establishment that offers soto otak, the same soup, but with cow brain instead of cow meat. Some legal thing, I expect.

And finally, Cantonese cuisine in Hong Kong!: A couple of holes-in-the-wall serve excellent barbecued stuff. Of course, you can get excellent char siew and roasted goose at the Ritz Carlton or the Inter-Continental, but IMO that’s overkill. I’ve done my share of travelling, and in Chinese/Cantonese cuisine overseas they tend NOT to actually barbecue the meats (especially the char siew), but instead, bake it, resulting in a final product more bright red than dark, and without the luscious dripping burnt bits on the sides.

Italian food is very different in Italy than it is here. There are lots of different styles of cooking in Italy so I will have to generalize. Italians use way more types of pasta than we use here and much of it is fresher. They tend to cook their pasta al dente (slightly crunchy) and they use much less sauce than we use here. The variety of sauces is astounding. It can range from a simple tomato, garlic, and basil reduction to exotic seafood sauces in Venice. The sauces tend to have much fresher ingredients and they aren’t over processed like they are in the U.S.

I went to France last year for the third time. I love Paris and Parisian food. However, we decided to go to the Loire Valley (the Valley of Castles) for a few days. Good God Almighty! That was some complicated-ass food of the Gods. They had little plates of frog legs in garlic, creme-brulees, little slivers of excellent meat, etc. It was easily the most well-executed food I have ever seen and probably the best tasting too. Every dish was like a little piece of artwork.

I don’t think that food is ever going to export well because the training to make it is too long and speciifc. I worked with some really good French chefs in New Orleans but who knows where they are now. :frowning:

Really depends on where you go. I always to to this great place which is reasonable (for Japan) and the chief is fantastic. I’ve found only a few Japanese restaurants in the States which I could recommend, but then the Japanese version of most other countries’ fare isn’t that authentic.

Moved from IMHO to CS.

I haven’t actually been across the border into Mexico, but I have since moving to Santa Fe eaten in a number of Mexican restaraunts owned and run by actual Mexicans. I have no hesitation in saying that it’s overall better than the Mexican I grew up eating in the Northeast - for example, I’ve discovered what real, good salsa is, both red and green*. The Mexican food here tends to be spicier, I think. Practically everything comes on a tortilla and with sopapillas, and the you’re hard-pressed to find something that’s without both rice and beans.

*And, oh dear god, fresh, homemade salsa is downright orgasmic.

I’ve had authentic Guinness in Dublin.

Pasta in Italy is NOT a main course, it’s a starter. Always. That’s why you don’t get much. Main courses are usually meat, fish or chicken with vegetables.
Typical meal in Italy:

  1. Antipasti - bruschetta or parma ham or tomato and basil salad

  2. Pasta - say Spaghetti con vongole or Gnocci con salsa di pomodoro (spaghetti with clams or potato dumplings with tomato sauce).

  3. Main course- steak, pork chop, veal, chicken or fish with sauce and vegetables.

  4. Pudding- Tiramisu or trifle or icecream

  5. Coffee

Indians eat mostly rice and lentils. Lovely sauces, but it’s basically rice and lentils. They do, however have excellent Chinese food in India…I had the best chicken fried rice I’ve ever eaten.

There used to be a Chinese restaurant here in town and my family became chummy with the owner and his family (dad and some friends from work used to go there for lunch all the time), it was a pretty typical “cheap, eat in/take out, but good” chinese restaurant. Tasty, fresh, quality, but typical.

Anyway, for his daughter’s 9th birthday, the guy invited us and a few others to the restaurant for a party, and he cooked us “real” chinese food. Ho-lee crap. It was so good, and nothing I had had before. No particularly bizarre ingredients, but it was spiced a bit differently, much lighter (there were fried crab legs, IIRC, but it was more like a tempura kinda fried as opposed to a General Tsao/Tso/Gau’s Chicken deep-fry).

I wish I could remember more specifics, but that was definitely my eye-opener to the potential of chinese cuisine. Mmmmmm.

New Yorkk-style cheesecake–Once you’ve had it at Junior’s, everything else is an imitation.

When I was in Beijing, I guess I didn’t really notice a difference between the authentic Chinese food and that that I eat here back in the States. They used more fish in Beijing, I guess. And what Americans would consider the “weird” stuff was more accessible, but I didn’t order any. But the Chinese food I usually eat here in MN in owned and staffed by some Chinese immigrants, which might make a difference.

I’ve had authentic cheesesteak from Philly (we went to Gino’s), and while it was incredibly delicious, I’ll be the heretic and say that it really wasn’t all that different from what you can get at Great Escape or the like. But I didn’t order the one with
Cheese Whiz - I went with the provolone instead, to my regret. Shoulda gotten the really authentic one, I 'spose. The Philly sandwich was better than the cheesesteaks you get at sit down restaurants (when they offer one), however.

Mexican food in Mexico - very different than the Tex-Mex or California-Mex or New Mexico-Mex I’ve had. Can’t say I’ve been throughout all of Mexico, but I’ve been to towns in Baja that are so small they don’t even have gas stations or phones, and I’ve been to Cozumel.

Much less cheese, and things aren’t dripping in sauce. Lots more fried food - in fact, after ten days in Baja, I was so sick of fried food that I couldn’t wait to get something not fried.

The tortillas were better, and I don’t remember flour tortillas, just corn.


Greek food in Greece: The biggest difference is that it actually tastes good. Maybe I’m just unlucky, but I’ve yet to go to a Greek restaurant in the US that didn’t seem to specialize in flaccid Spanakopita and mealy Baklava.

The desserts in Greece are dreamy: Everything is covered in honey and butter and nuts. Very very sweet, but somehow delicious.

Feta cheese comes in a thousand different varieties, none of which taste like salted chalk. Some are as creamy as cream cheese; others are fresh-smelling and crumbly and only slightly salty.

Small whole fish, deep fried and served like french fries.

I gots to get me back to Greece…

The Mexican food I had in Mexico, around Nuevo Laredo, ran heavily towards grilled meat of various kinds served with tortillas and beans. Not terribly hot or spicey. Halapenos or serranos were nibbled along with the food, but not mixed into it. There wasn’t much that resembled what you get in “Mexican” restaurants here in the northeast.

I lived in Philly for 4 years. The Philly cheesesteaks that I had there are impossible to find in Pittsburgh, just a 5 hour drive away.

“St. Louis style pizza”? :dubious:

How do these 3 pizza style differ?
I assume CHICAGO STYLE was the deep dish.