The Most Craveable Dishes Anthony Bourdain Ate Abroad

Anthony Bourdain's career found him traveling the globe tasting food, seeking out special dishes, and discovering new ingredients with locals. So when asked by Bon Appétit to list some of the foods he craved no matter where he was on the planet, it is perfectly understandable that Bourdain would rattle off a list of items from several different countries. What is unique about Bourdain's answer isn't necessarily the dishes themselves, but the places in which the different meals were enjoyed. Though Vietnamese noodle soup ordered from your local restaurant may be a delicious meal, for Bourdain, the dish made right in Huế is what he would think about most.

"There are certain dishes that are only really done right in the place where they come from," Bourdain explains, before announcing a few of his favorites, including bowls of noodles in Asia, chicken and rice eaten in Singapore, and pastrami sandwiches made in New York City. Enjoying meals in the actual place of origin was a special experience for Bourdain, and after browsing through his list of crave-inducing meals, you may be researching plane tickets and looking up recipes to try to replicate for yourself at home.

Vietnamese noodle soup in Huế

Bourdain wasn't shy about his love for Vietnam, and in "Parts Unknown," Season 4, he set out to find bowls of noodles in Huế. "[It's the] greatest soup in the world," he insisted, via CNN. But this spicy, textured soup isn't for everyone, and Bourdain recognized that fact, asserting that if he was on a date with someone who didn't enjoy the dish, the relationship would be over. 

The area in central Vietnam is known for delivering heat and offering spicy dishes that can work up a sweat. Bún bò Huế, a deep, spicy broth that contains beef, pork, and fresh herbs, can be found in local markets. While many of the ingredients are well-known to noodle soup lovers, the inclusion of congealed pork blood boiled with salt until solidified can give more finicky eaters pause. The dense, chewy mound hat is plopped right into the soup bowl of round noodles. With the addition of banana blossoms, lemongrass, shrimp and chile pastes, and pork bones, this soup is certainly flavorful and rich — and captured the heart and memory of Bourdain. "It's all downhill from here," Bourdain remarked after finishing the soup, indicating that this dish is a tough one to beat.

Kuching-style laksa

"In the hierarchy of steaming hot bowls of magical broth and noodles, laksa is at the absolute top. The best. The most delicious. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner — it will cure what ails you," Bourdain wrote in "Appetites: A Cookbook" to introduce his own Kuching-style laksa recipe. With a description like that, it is no wonder this spicy bowl of noodles found a place on Bourdain's list of crave-worthy foods.

Bourdain often described the happiness he would feel eating spicy noodles while sitting in a plastic chair somewhere in Asia. The laksas from Malaysia found a particular stronghold on Bourdain's culinary experiences, and he often would gush over the recipe. "There is an incredibly delicious Penang version, with a tamarind and fish-based broth, chunks of mackerel and pineapple bobbing within — and while both styles have fervent adherents, the Kuching version is my favorite," he admitted. When directing at-home chefs, Bourdain encouraged cooks to consider making the laksa paste in advance, as flavors deepen over time. The result is a spicy, filling bowl of shrimp, eggs, chicken, rice noodles, and bean sprouts that can be customized to suit your spice tolerance, then topped with cilantro, lime, and red chili peppers for garnish.

Chicken and rice in Singapore

Chicken and rice in Singapore made up another one of Bourdain's cravings, but he left very specific instructions for the best way to go about ordering this dish. "If you're in Singapore and there are two chicken and rice places, and there's one with a huge line, go to the one with the huge line," he told Bon Appétit. "If a place is crowded, but the people lining up are not local, that's a clue — a bad clue." Bourdain also looked at the sign boards and menus — whether they were written in English or not — and watched to see if locals were waiting in line for food. Bourdain observed that in Singapore, diners from mixed incomes and backgrounds could flock to the same food stall and wait for food orders.

In Singapore, boiled chicken and white rice is usually cooked in chicken stock is served simply, with dark soy sauce and a minced ginger chili sauce on the side for dipping or drenching your meal. Restaurants will put unique spins on the traditional dish, flavoring rice with lemongrass, ginger, or pandan leaf. Bourdain isn't the only one who'd cross oceans for this meal; BBC Travel describes Singaporean chicken and rice as "sublime," "transcendent," and worth every second of a 15-hour flight.

Mapo dofu from Chengdu

Bourdain included mapo dofu from Chengdu in China's southwestern Szechuan province in the list of dishes he would reminisce about. Bourdain referred to this recipe as the apex of Szechuan food: A tofu recipe made with ground pork or beef and cubes of bean curd served in a spicy sauce of peppercorns, chili oil, bean paste, and garlic shoots. "This dish, done right, has got it all," Bourdain told CNN, adding, "If you ever have a hangover — and you will, my friend, you will," he said with a smirk, "This will scare the evil right out."

Though a spicy, savory dish may not suit everyone's palates, plates of mapo dofu made at home can be tempered with dried shiitake mushrooms and crushed ginger, and additional ingredients like quinoa, broccoli or cauliflower rice, or couscous served on the side can help soak up some of the more intimidating levels of heat. 

Pastrami sandwiches in New York

Last, and certainly not least on Bourdain's list of food craving-causing dishes, is a pastrami sandwich — specifically, one that has been made in the heart of New York City. "If I'm away from New York long enough, I need a correct pastrami sandwich from either Pastrami Queen or Katz's," Bourdain told Bon Appétit, adding, "And you're not getting that anywhere else, as far as I'm concerned."

Pastrami sandwiches are serious business to New Yorkers, who firmly claim ownership of bodegas and delis slicing up meat and assembling sandwiches for hungry customers. Bourdain was one such resident who was vocal about his love for the dish. To Variety, Bourdain explained that the first meal he would seek out upon returning home was the pastrami sandwich. "It's a quintessential New York meal for me," he explained, describing slices of warm, fresh rye bread served with mustard and a side of pickles. Bourdain would even take to Instagram to show off his pastrami sandwich order — even at 10 o'clock in the morning.