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Food that you can't (generally) find overseas

When traveling outside the U.S., I miss being able to get iced tea. Although Starbucks sells a version of cold tea, it is priced like their premium drinks, which seems excessive knowing how little it costs them.

I have discovered a work-around of sorts: cold brewed tea. Through trial and error, I find I can make decent cold tea by putting two or three regular black tea bags in a 500 ML (approx. 16 oz) bottle for some period of time. Eight hours in a refrigerator is best, but shorter times probably work, too.

Lipton sells a family sized cold brew tea bag in the U.S., and the instructions say only 5 minutes of immersion is necessary. I haven't tested that out, but leaving the bags for hours doesn't create too strong a tea taste. (They price the cold brewed tea higher, but I can't tell the difference with "regular" tea.) In a pinch, when a refrigerator isn't handy, leaving the bags in an already chilled bottle of water for 10 minutes or so should still create a reasonable facsimile of iced tea.

The bags fit in the neck of the bottle if they are turned sideways and all the tea is shaken to one side. Carefully pulling them out one at a time keeps them from spilling out the tea leaves.

It isn't perfect -- hard to find ice sometimes -- but it comes pretty close. It is good enough that I've given up brewing tea at home. I just take some family sized tea bags and put them in a container of water in the refrigerator overnight.

One caveat: I like my tea unsweetened. If you want to add sugar, it probably helps to boil water and brew the tea that way to get the sugar to thoroughly dissolve. I don't know for sure.

Posted by
6868 posts

I can't say I miss anything food-wise when traveling overseas, I don't even think about it. In general, I like the food in Europe (especially Mediterranean countries) better - it's less processed and fresher, especially fruits and veggies.

Posted by
27709 posts

I don't know what you mean by overseas, and I can only speak for western Europe, but Lipton Peach Ice Tea is available is available in 500 ml and 2000 ml bottles throughout the area. Italy has in its supermarkets quite a variety of ice teas.

Posted by
489 posts

I understand the ice tea dilemma, especially in hot weather!
What I crave when out of the country for more than a week is a good cheese burger. Yes, we've found probably some of the best hamburgers in many countries. However, in Bulgaria we got something more like a torpedo shaped sausage in a bun and in Northern Spain "ham" burger obviously was some sort of ground pork.
And Paul, since I never drink coffee, I often bring my own tea bags. Some countries have better tea than others.
Another thing that I am now bringing is small packages of mustard or mayo. Sandwiches in Europe (from markets) tend to come "dry" not even some butter.

Posted by
1107 posts

Nigel, I haven't seen bottled teas in most places in the U.K., but even if I had, bottled cold tea is generally an abomination. (It also is almost always sweetened.) It is hard to explain the appeal of really good iced tea if you haven't experienced it and come to live by it, but the bottled goop just isn't the same. To me it always has a mechanical, preserved taste to it. In the U.S., tea drinkers can tell if the tea is not fresh or if it is full of preservatives or - heaven forbid - was made from a powdered mix! I've always been puzzled that the British haven't embraced iced tea because the image I have is that they really care about drinking good tea and disdain what passes for tea in places in the U.S. Lipton, for example, over here, makes, in my opinion, only so-so hot tea. They can make a good iced tea, though. Your version of Lipton may be better.

Posted by
92 posts

Paul, that is the one thing I miss when traveling....fresh brewed unsweetened ice tea! I also make my own when it’s not available. I will go to a market and find local black teas and look for different flavored black teas also. Much better than bottled teas that are generally heavily sweetened or have a strange chemical taste sometimes. I have found some new really nice teas in my travels and love bringing some home to remind me of my trip.

Posted by
537 posts

Emma- you would be appalled then to hear that my mom and aunt would always complain that they could not get Lipton tea at a restaurant. They would order tea and the waiter would come with the beautiful wooden tray with everything but Liptons. We finally just told them to carry a bag with them at all times. (nice memories now, annoying then!)
I miss ketchup and also having to ask for butter - but not very much.

Posted by
10052 posts

I miss more foods I cannot get in the U.S. that I could get in Italy. I can live without Fritos but not being able to get great prosciutto or gorgonzola or pecorino is trying. And I miss butchershops.

Posted by
6617 posts

A bag of Cheetos (puffs, not crunchy) and a Dr Pepper in a bottle. Sometimes, that craving hits.

I suspect that Lipton Cold Brew tea is really mostly "instant" tea or some powdered processed equivalent. Its the ice thats the hard part. If you have ice and the patience, freshly brewed hot tea will cool off.

I recall being in New Zealand with my mother who really wanted ice tea. The waitress did not know what that was, and asked us to explain. We said, simply take a glass of warm tea and add ice. She brought a glass, a cup of hot tea, and one ice cube. That was her favorite memory of that trip.

Posted by
18296 posts

You know, there is no food in the United States that I care about and cannot find in Europe. However, I go to Europe (Germany) for their coffee, their beer, and their great crusty rolls.

Posted by
2558 posts

I’m with Lee. When I’m in Europe I eat what the locals eat. There is absolutely nothing I eat in the US that I would deliberately try to seek out or bring with me. Part of the pleasure of traveling is exploring new things, including food.

Posted by
5842 posts

Yeah, I guess I am in the camp of if I am in a locale, I eat and drink what is available in that locale. Sure, if you really have the need, pack a few tea bags for iced tea, but in any warm weather locale there are local options that may become a new favorite. Took a while but my wife's new hot weather drink, besides Sangria, is an Aperol Spritzer. Lots of juices, carbonated drinks, or a myriad of drinks like vermouth, sherry, aperitifs, just too many to avoid and say you traveled. Going to London here in a week, looking forward to Pimm's Cup.

Posted by
7669 posts

I agree that there is nothing from US that I want or need when traveling in European countries that offer so many local foods that often are far superior to those at home.

Posted by
21709 posts

I witness a major explosion when a waiter did not understand and therefore could not provide "Lemon pepper." She declared her salad as uneatable and shoved it to the middle of the table with a great waving of the arms. One of the few times in my life when I want to punch some one out even if she was a female. I suddenly became a Canadian.

Posted by
6478 posts

If I moved to, or planned to spend a lengthy time in, a European country, I might miss some of my favorite foods/drinks. If I'm just vacationing there for a few weeks or less I think I could get along without missing any of those favorites. What I have done though is missed not being able to find things here in the US that I became used to (and really loved) while in Europe.

Posted by
1015 posts

What I have done though is missed not being able to find things here in the US that I became used to (and really loved) while in Europe.

Agree with this completely. From pannenkoeken in The Netherlands to pasta dishes that actually melt in your mouth in Rome, there is so much I wish I could get--or get easily--here in the States. I agree that the freshness makes a huge difference.

And, on the drink front, I wish my local coffee joint would coat the inside of my cup with hot, melted chocolate before adding the coffee, like that little bar below my hotel in Rome did--they charged a whopping 10 extra cents to do so, and it was fabulous! (As an aside, I wonder what Europeans think when they order hot chocolate over here and get the watery junk that we serve.)

Posted by
21709 posts

I really id with the last couple of postings. I don't think there is any food in the US (exception - SC BBQ) that I miss in Europe. But there is a bunch of European foods that I real miss when compared to their Am counterpart.

Posted by
8386 posts

I can understand the tea problem if that's your morning wake up beverage. Many of us would have headaches without our coffee.

Keeping house in Europe, the one food I missed was pre-washed, packaged salad! It's just starting to show up in groceries now but is expensive and poor quality. On the other hand, in the States I miss all the pre-made salads available for first courses: carrot salads, beet salad, celery root remoulade, etc. I also love the variety of bouillon cubes available in different countries: wild mushroom bouillon in Italy, North African spiced bouillon in France. These are wonderful for flavoring grains and rice dishes.

But I'd have to be gone over a year before I'd miss anything from the States, except good Mexican food.

Posted by
4682 posts

I just had to google cheerwine ...

I don’t miss anything when I am just traveling. I’m never gone for more than 3 weeks, so I’ve hardly got time to explore all the local foods that I want to try.

When I lived in Sweden, there were definitely things that I came to miss. They included vanilla extract for baking, extra sharp Vermont cheddar, the variety of chilis (both fresh and dried) for Mexican cuisine, fresh corn on the cob and peaches like you can get at the farmers’ market in the summer, homemade crabcakes made with Chesapeake blue crabs, etc. I almost never eat peanut butter in the U.S., but peanut butter on knäckebröd (crisp bread) became a frequent dinner choice when I got home late from work.

Posted by
996 posts

OMG, I have found my tribe! Everyone always looks at me strangely when I say I want iced tea, unsweetened, and then I don't add anything to the glass when it arrives.

Having said that, I can live without it when I travel. The main thing I miss when I'm abroad is drip coffee in the mornings. This has been my morning wake up call for a LONG time now, and while I can do without it - I do feel its absence when it's not available.

Posted by
173 posts

I don't miss American food while traveling. I'm a pretty adventurous diner and love sampling a different country's cuisine. It is a big part of the travel experience for me. I have never traveled for months at a time. That might make a difference. Besides, my local food is something to look forward to when I get back to the USA--hello, brisket and TexMex!

However, in my moves to 7 different states, I have missed regional brands and specialties. Knowing that these foods aren't even available in my new home state makes the craving that much stronger. My first move was from the deep south to New England in the dead of winter. I got lots of funny looks when I ordered iced tea!

Posted by
10052 posts

But I'd have to be gone over a year before I'd miss anything from the States, except good Mexican food.

Bets - Good Mexican food is impossible in Europe! We tried so hard in Rome. Could get black beans at a specialty store, sometimes decent tortilla chips and not-too-bad salsa. Tortillas impossible and tough to find was cheddar but at least we could get cumino.

Posted by
80 posts

I understand the iced tea craving! I miss some of the cold beverage options when I am abroad. I can't drink carbonated beverages, so no Coke or similar (not even the little bottles of Limonata), and I don't always want something alcoholic, not even wine with dinner. I drink a lot of iced tea and lemonade at home, and after a while I really start to miss it.

Laura--I'm with you on the vanilla extract! I could not believe how hard that was to find! I know there are ways to substitute, but what a big to do for a couple batches of chocolate chip cookies, which is what I really wanted!

I usually love immersing myself in the local cuisine, but sometimes while in Europe I just want some Mexican or Thai food, neither of which are super obvious, but then I have never been desperate enough to go hunting for it. I think time away from home influences cravings. You should have heard the squeals of excitement about the Pizza Hut in Cairo from people who had been abroad for months!

Posted by
7573 posts

Iced tea is definitely the easiest thing to miss -- because the easiest thing to make!! My mom always makes our tea for home in a huge glass jar, fill with hot water, add tea bags and let steep for a few hours. Just use a smaller bottle or jar if on the road and then transfer to a personal-size water bottle for taking with!!

I know you said you don't like (pre-made) bottled iced teas, and I have long been the same, but there are starting to appear a couple of brands here that are SO much better than that dreck of canned Lipton. One brand is called Maytea, and the other one starts with a Y . . .will try to remember to look next time I go to Monoprix, I had one last Saturday and it wasn't bad at all (not like homemade but SO MUCH BETTER than the other stuff)

I'm with everyone else who's lived here any length of time . . . boy I miss my Tex-Mex.

Posted by
4677 posts

In the 90’s when I lived in southern France as a university student, I went to Luxembourg for vacation because I heard there was a Chi-Chi’s Mexican restaurant there. That same year, I made a trip to London just to visit the only and only Taco Bell in Europe. Happily, here in Vienna, we have a pretty good Mexican restaurant and a Mexican grocery store.

Posted by
4654 posts

Emma beat me to it.

Flamin' Hot Cheetos......yes
Ranch dressing....everywhere
Vanilla extract......again, everywhere but even better is vanilla bean paste
Iced tea....yes
Thai food......everywhere
Lemon pepper....definitely

There's actually little that can't be found in the UK although British bacon is so much better than American bacon, even our streaky kind (what American's would consider bacon rather than Canadian bacon) is a world apart. The number of times I've opened a pack in the US and pulled out long thin strips of fat with barely any meat attached.

You'll also struggle to find Velveeta and CheezWhizz but there's a very good reason for that!

Lipton tea is horrible and I don't know anyone in the UK who drinks it although there must be some because it evidently sells.

A good Mexican is hard to find but that's because there are hardly any Mexicans here! However I can buy pretty much any Mexican ingredient online.

Posted by
25 posts

Several years ago in Beijing, my wife had a craving for cottage cheese, and we were told it wasn't available over there.

Posted by
4682 posts

I think you all need to visit the UK more regularly. Pretty much everything you are saying you miss in "Europe" is widely available here.
The only ones you might struggle with are the more obscure variations of Mexican food, although you will find it in London if you look hard enough.

Emma, There was really very little I missed when I lived in London. I was a regular at the cool chili company to get tortillas and chilis. https://www.coolchile.co.uk. When I moved back to Sweden after a year assignment in London, one of me suitcases was full of food items that I bought in London.

Posted by
8100 posts

Ranch dressing (my suitcase comes back filled with packets) When I serve this to German guests they go wild.
Lawrys seasoning salt
Vanilla extract
Liquid Smoke
More Tex-Mex ingredients in stores

After so many years here, I learned how to make all the Tex-mex stuff, like refried beans, flour tortillas, enchiladas, etc. In the meantime, we are finally getting a few decent Mexican places, run by Mexicans. We also have Peruvian and Argentinian places now. All the other countries in the world are pretty well represented in Frankfurt including a couple of really good burger places.

Plain old ice tea is tough to find. They will make it and then put ginger in it with mint leaves, or berries, or something. The bottled stuff all has fake peach or lemon flavoring as well as fake sugar. Truly yucky. End up just sticking to water.

It is different when you live here than if you are just visiting for a few weeks. All in all, I find the food here to be superior, but sometimes a Taco Bell just sounds good. On my last 2 Caminos, ended up eating in a Burger King in Spain on the 1st one and a McD in Portugal on the 2nd one.

Posted by
14881 posts

Maybe you can get good iced tea in the US, but it's nearly impossible to get a good cup (or preferably pot) of hot tea. Lipton's swimming in almost hot water is not a cup of tea.

Anyway, now I'm on the other side of your coin - I'm soon leaving for a 6-week visit to the US and I've been trying to figure out what I'm going to eat. I can usually find pretty good food (veg, some fish) in restaurants, but going to the supermarket is just depressing - cheese isn't cheese, fresh produce looks beautiful but that's all you can say about it, farmer's markets aren't everywhere and stuff is very expensive. Even a decent loaf of bread requires tracking down a good bakery and spending a lot of money. In most of Europe (and here in Israel), tasty fresh bread is cheap and available in every grocery store.

The one thing I can't get here is corn tortillas. I always pick up a couple packages at the local shop near my friends on the day I fly home.

Posted by
113 posts

We had wonderful food on our trip to France last fall but my SO commented more than once on the lack of spice in the food. Everything was seasoned well but nothing was spicy and he missed that. No, we didn't try any Mexican or Spanish or Sicilian restaurants (he might have found what he was looking for there)...he was just surprised that none of the typical French dishes we tried had any ZIP to them.

I've been to Europe several times now and I haven't missed any American foods since my first trip when I was 18 (then it was peanut butter). I have too much fun trying things I can't find at home :)

Posted by
8386 posts

Lisa, French food is subtle, with wine sauces, herbs. When we moved to the States, my typical dishes would be washed out at pot luck dinners by all the vinegar, onion, chilis in the food brought by others.
You have to go to the African and Caribbean restaurants in France for bold flavors. In Spain, Sicily, and Provence France’ you'll find more vinegar, vegetables and olives but not necessarily chilis.

Posted by
14881 posts

I read that hot weather depresses the appetite and hot spices stimulate it. So the warmer the climate, the hotter the food. Conversely, in cold climes the food's pretty bland. The typical Polish housewife here would use 4 seasonings - salt, pepper, garlic and sugar. Russians - similar, no sugar.

Posted by
3303 posts

Even when I lived overseas which was twice in my life, I didn't miss any food or drink as I was so thrilled to be able to try so many things unavailable to me at home.

Posted by
1217 posts

I'm married to a fella who has a touchy gall bladder and always travels with a jar of his preferred brand of almond butter (peanut butter has too much fat in it) because he figures that worst case, he can find some decent bread and do yet another almond butter sandwich on the road. In the same suitcase is a ziploc bag of PG Tips tea (yes you can find the basic brand of it in many grocery stores over here) because he loves tea but too many other types of it tend to give him migraines. The Tips has been reliably safe for him.

He even makes iced tea with the PG Tips at home or if we're in a lodging that makes it easy to have access to ice.

Posted by
21031 posts

A few days ago I went to a large Carrefour market in Wroclaw, Poland. In looking for the cracker section (which I never found, though I'm sure it was there), I encountered the spreads. Among them were jars of plain and strawberry-flavored marshmallow fluff. There are lots on North Americans in the major Polish cities I've visited; maybe they're fond of making fudge? That's the omly thing I've ever done with marshmallow fluff.

Posted by
4534 posts

As someone that has lived and spent long periods of time in Europe, my main longings were for:

Ice tea
Pancakes (with maple syrup of course although Swedish cloudberry sauce is a pretty good substitute)
Mexican food (I've tried some of the Mexican restaurants all over Europe, they really aren't that good but I'm spoiled from Chicago, Austin and New Mexico)
BBQ (good BBQ is hard to find even in the US outside of the specific regions where it originated and in Europe it is abysmal given the lack of proper smoking wood and technique)

I also long for foods I've had in Europe that aren't as available in the US. It's gotten a lot better in the last 25 years and Chicago has great European restaurants, but thankfully I cook and make much of my own European food

Posted by
27709 posts

I was a favourite BBQ place today in Cambridge - Smokeworks, just near to the Guildhall and Corn Market, not far from Great St Mary's Church - and had a bbq sandwich which included slabs of deep fried macaroni and cheese. It wouldn't have expected it - it was a special of the day - but boy was it good.

Posted by
4654 posts

Would any American restaurant would serve a cheeseburger with this cheese-food on it?

Yes, plenty. A lot of places will have different variations such as blue cheese or swiss etc but the standard cheeseburger tends to come with a slice of American processed cheese. It's the only time I'll eat processed cheese and I think it works in a burger. Jarlsberg will be too stringy and not have enough taste to complement the other components.

Posted by
4654 posts

What do you mean by "food cheese"?

Monterey Jack is processed cheese, it bears no resemblance to proper cheese and therefore comes under the title of processed cheese, likewise Colby.

Posted by
2982 posts

I always roll my eyes at travelers who are only in Europe for a week or two who complain about missing American food.

That said, due to globalization, things have changed a LOT since I arrived in Germany in the beginning of 2011. There are so many foods and beverages you can in any major city now that were unheard of a few years ago. I mean, you can get Buillet Rye Whiskey now! I used to smuggle that stuff back in my bags when I visited the US.

It's true that Mexican is a real problem in many places, though. The European version of "Mexican" food is more like Tex-Mex through the mirror darkly. There are a few places in some of the hipper capitals that are done by expats from Mexico or Los Angeles that are good, though - like Taqueria Ta'Cabron in Berlin, or El Chaparrito in Madrid (Madrid has a sizable Mexican expat community, and tacos/burritos are becoming trendy in Europe right now, so there's apparently a lot of good Mexican in Madrid). As young Europeans travel and spend time abroad they bring more sophisticated and authentic tastes back to their home countries, so there's been a real improvement, but German is currently suffering through a glut of Chipotle-style burrito chains that are all terrible.

I'm in the boring, conservative south, so I simply make Mexican food at home, tortillas and all. But I can get masa, dried chilis, habanero hot sauce, etc at the Spanish stand at the Markthalle.

Anyway, if someone can't hack a few weeks without their favorite this or that, you may not be the grand adventurer that you think of yourself as!

Posted by
794 posts

I have spent years out of the USA and can understand the cravings. But for me it was always a case of trying to find a chili-cheeseburger at 2 in the morning or a convenience store open at 3. If you're near any American military base (less likely than it used to be) you can find almost anything (Cheetos, Dressing, Ice Tea, etc.) But for those of you who live OCONUS (outside the Continental USA) there's always Amazon. The world has flattened.

As for drinks, I find that having a couple of the instant packets in my bag make it easy to have iced tea, lemonade, etc anywhere in the world.

Try finding a good currywurst in the USA sometime; especially at 2am...

Posted by
3491 posts

Maybe a little late on this ...

American Cheese and pasteurized processed cheese food are NOT the same thing.

Real American cheese is cheese like any other. It is the cheese of choice for most restaurants serving cheese burgers around where I live. Yes, many offer other cheeses (cheddar, blue, whatever) but American is the default. "Restaurants" do not include fast food places.

The cheese food thing is what you buy in the grocery stores that comes individually wrapped in sheets of plastic and has about as much flavor, if not less, than the plastic does. It also has the texture of the plastic wrap as well. It is made from various things that don't always include milk. It should be avoided if at all possible.

Mcdonald's and other fast food places use pasteurized process American cheese. Not cheese food. So it starts out as cheese and then has a lot of artificial things added to extend its shelf life and reduce the possibility of growing mold. Best thing is it melts fast.

Posted by
2982 posts

Good hamburgers, late-nite food, and convenience stores are things I miss. Also Target. God bless Target.

Posted by
4419 posts

“The cheese food thing is what you buy in the grocery stores that comes individually wrapped in sheets of plastic and has about as much flavor, if not less, than the plastic does. It also has the texture of the plastic wrap as well. It is made from various things that don't always include milk. It should be avoided if at all possible.”

My kids called that stuff Raincoat Cheese years ago when they saw it served at their cousins’ house. Nasty!

Posted by
47 posts

Real maple syrup. We often stay in apartments, so making pancakes or french toast is easy, but I haven't found real maple syrup (or even the fake stuff that passes for syrup in the US). That and vanilla extract - can't find that either. They might be somewhere in the stores, but I haven't found them in my travels.

Posted by
27709 posts

Real Maple syrup is easy in the UK - every supermarket, and if you want a big jug either in the UK or France Costco will sell you one.

Vanilla extract is easy in the UK - every supermarket and Lakeland and Costco.

Posted by
8100 posts

Frankfurt has some really good burger places. We won't include 5 Guys in this list as personally, found the product they are selling here to be just awful. We also have a Bareburger, which is a NY chain. If you are here and want a burger, try Good Guys, Fette Bulle, Fletchers Better Burger, Bareburger, or Jamys. Good Guys is my favorite.

Maple syrup (real) is available in every grocery store. Vanilla is sold in either little ampules or you buy packets of vanilla sugar. Both work just fine in baking.

Posted by
1549 posts

After living in Italy for 4 months, there are a few things we miss.

Really good authentic Mexican food and fresh Salsa from the Mexican market a few miles from our California home. The closest we’ve come is ElPaso taco shells at the grocery store, ick!
But I really miss popcorn. We’ve yet to find in any supermarket locally that sells kernals. We have found on Amazon.UK, (not Amazon.IT) but has to be on an order totaling £20. 1kg of popcorn is £5.83. So now I need to find something to buy (that I may or may not need) or buy 4kg of popcorn totaling over £20.

Other than that, we’d take Italy food over US food everyday. When we need our hamburger and french fry fix, we go to our favorite local bar. Have yet to go to McDonalds, which us only 1/2 mile away.
We find bakery goods to be amazing and fresh the day you buy. I think that since there are no preservatives a day later are dried out and not as good.