When you think of all the exotic food and drink you plan to eat when traveling, bread probably isn’t at the top of your list of must-eats. It’s far more likely that the bread you eat abroad will be something you discover and share with your friends on your return. Bread is such a staple foodstuff that we don’t tend to give it much thought, yet it’s always there when we travel—on the dinner table, in a café, bought with funny-looking coins from a local bakery or supermarket. If you’re travelling on a budget, it may even make up a disproportionately big chunk of your diet: we all know the joys of filling up on bread at breakfast so we can last the day, or buying some cheap red wine, bread, and cheese so we can save money to eat out in the evening.
Once you admit to yourself: hey, bread is important, you’re ready to enter a whole new world of joy and cultural understanding. Maybe when you travel you can even make a point of visiting some of the places with the most exciting and unusual bread types, or else you can just do some research to make sure you’re getting the authentic local fare and not what they keep in stock for tourists.
Latin America is a great place to start, and also a common destination for visiting multiple countries (and multiple breads!). Take the very simple, quadruple roll-shaped marraqueta of Chile, for example. Traced back to the Marraquette brothers—18th century French immigrants—this popular standard has ingrained itself in Chilean culture such that it even forms part of a common saying: “to be born with a marraqueta under your arm” means that you’ve got it made in life. Taste a marraqueta topped with salsa-style pebre sauce, and you’ll see what they mean!
Make your way north to Colombia or Venezuala, and you’re more likely to be served an arepa, a round cornmeal patty which makes an excellent base for a cheese or meat sandwich. Indeed, it makes such a good sandwich that locals refer to it as a viuda (widow) if it isn’t paired with a filling.
If you’re traveling abroad soon and are wondering about the oven-baked goodness you’ll enjoy with your meal, feast your eyes on the list below.
Wherever you’re headed – or if you prefer to let your taste in bread lead the way – you’ll appreciate the infographic above, which provides a handy A-Z of the most strange and satisfying breads from around the world.