As any experienced traveller knows, one of the best places to learn about regional culture (and find some fabulous souvenirs at the same time) is at the supermarket. An hour or two of walking up and down the aisles and you'll not only get a great glimpse into the daily lives of the locals but also probably come upon some very yummy, hard-to-find items that someone back home would really enjoy.
With this in mind, the members and editors of travel website VirtualTourist.com (part of the TripAdvisor Media Group) have put together this list of "Ten Great Regional Food Products." Just remember, when transporting food and beverages, consider importing and exporting laws, as well as carry-on restrictions.
1. MARSHMALLOW FLUFF, LYNN, MASS.
While the name may sound frivolous, fans of this sticky, super-sweet product take it very seriously. Aside from being beloved in its own right, the gooey, sinfully delicious filling is responsible for spawning such American classics as the Fluffernutter sandwich and Rice Krispies Treats.
2. BIONADE, GERMANY
Still under 20 years old, in Germany this drink is quickly becoming a serious rival to some of the world's biggest beverage brands. Non-alcoholic, Bionade comes in such unusual flavors as elderberry, lychee, herbs, and ginger-orange and is lauded for its tart, refreshing flavor.
3. GARRETT POPCORN, CHICAGO, ILL.
The lines at Garrett's often snake out the door, but don't let the wait prevent you from trying what one VirtualTourist member described as "edible crack." Not surprising, considering it made Oprah's "Favorite Things" list in 2010. Garrett's beloved cheese corn is so generously seasoned that getting the residue off your hands could take days.
4. SKYR, ICELAND
Although it may be popular in Icelandic culture, even those who list it as a favorite admit it's a bit of an acquired taste. "...something between sour cream and plain yogurt" is how one member described it while another said, "The vanilla flavor had a heavy aftertaste of soap..." Either way, it remains hugely popular.
5. LYLE'S GOLDEN SYRUP, UNITED KINGDOM
Celebrating more than 127 years in business, Lyle's Golden Syrup is one of the most recognized brands in the United Kingdom. Granted a "Royal Warrant" in 1922, the company's iconic green and gold tin has graced the tables of monarch and commoner alike.
6. ARNOTT'S TIM TAM, AUSTRALIA
According to the company's website, almost 400 million of these tasty little biscuits are sold each year, and if that doesn't say something about the product's popularity we don't know what does. When visiting the country make sure to ask an Aussie to show you how to do a "Tim Tam Slam," which is essentially the process of using the cookie as a drinking straw with which to drink tea or coffee.
7. FOX'S U-BET SYRUP, BROOKLYN, N.Y.
This super-tasty chocolate syrup has been a staple in the kitchens of New Yorkers, Brooklynites in particular, for more than a hundred years. Diehard fans believe you can't make a true New York egg cream without it.
8. UNCLE JOE'S MINT BALLS, UNITED KINGDOM
Its distinctive and highly patriotic red, white, and blue packaging is as recognizable to Brits the world over as the Union Jack. Another U.K. company that's been in business for more than 100 years, Uncle Joe's still employs the same production methods used at the time of the company's beginnings. How could anyone resist trying the mint that promises to "Keep you all aglow"?
9. SALMIAKKI, FINLAND
Looking almost more like coal chips than candy, salmiakki, a salty licorice, is such a favourite of Scandinavians that it's used to flavour everything from vodka to ice cream. While it comes in many different forms and shapes, most Finns associate it with its most common incarnation, the shape of a diamond.
10. NASH'S RED LEMONADE, IRELAND
While the company also makes a white lemonade, the reigning favourite is definitely red. Although some drink it straight, most fans use it primarily as a mixer.
(c) 2011 VirtualTourist.com, Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.