U.S. Regional Foods You Might Not Know About
Kelly Sue, flickr
Though typically San Francisco, the Bay area's signature fish stew (above) has its roots in Italy, originating with Genoan immigrant fishermen in the late 19th /early 20th Century. One theory holds its name derives from the fishermen who would chip in--or, "Cheep-een" with the Italian accent--part of their daily catch to a common pot. A less entertaining, but more likely story is that "Cioppino" is derived from "ciuppin" meaning "chopped" in the Genoan dialect. Indeed the dish features chopped seafood, typically some combination of crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and firm fish prepared in a seasoned white wine and tomato sauce. Of course it's enjoyed with another San Fran specialty--sourdough bread. Learn how to make Cioppino below, or find a recipe here.
Sonoran Hot Dog, Arizona
The Sonoran hot dog is said to have originated in Hermosillo, the capital of the Mexican state of Sonora. Nowadays it's most closely linked with Tucson, Arizona, where estimates of the number of hot dog stands in the city can range from 100 to 250. The amped up dog begins with a bacon wrapped hot dog stuffed into a soft bun, a relative of the Mexican bolillo roll. It's then topped with pinto beans, chopped tomatoes, onions, jalapeno sauce, mayonnaise, and mustard.
Benne Wafers, South Carolina
Walk through the open air market in Charleston, South Carolina, and you will see dozens of stalls selling this typical Low Country treat. Benne means "sesame" in the Bantu languages of Africa, and the plant was brought to the area during the slave trade. Thin and crisp, the wafers have a nutty flavor thanks to the toasted sesame seeds.
Gooey Butter Cake, Missouri
Legend has it that this St. Louis specialty was invented by mistake when a local baker got the proportions of a yellow cake he was making out of whack. Though there are other claims to its invention, there's no doubt it's a beloved local staple. More a coffeecake than dessert item, gooey butter cake usually features a yellow cake base supporting a layer of sticky sweet goo. This might be made of egg and cream cheese or butter and sugar.
Polish Boy, Ohio
This mighty sandwich is perhaps the signature dish of Cleveland, Ohio. At its base is a grilled and/or fried Kielbasa, which takes its cue from a strong Eastern European immigrant presence in the area. This is then tucked into a bun and mounded with French fries, cole slaw and barbeque sauce or hot sauce. Some places even add chopped pork shoulder turning your Polish Boy into a Polish Girl. This sandwich will definitely see you through the winter.
Half Smoke, Washington, D.C.
Though locals might still debate whether or not the District has a signature food, the half smoke is the unofficial official ambassador of Washington D.C. cuisine. The half smoke is a tubed meat, but is twice the width of your typical weiner, with more kick and a coarser grind. Some say the "half" in half smoke is due to it being split cooked, others because it has half the seasoning of a polish sausage. The prevailing theory seems to be that it's because the link is half beef, half pork. Try one dirty water style from a street vendor, or done up with chili, mustard and onions from one of D.C.'s old school hot dog joints.
Coffee Milk, Rhode Island
In Rhode Island, coffee milk isn't just a local favorite, it's the state drink. Like chocolate milk, coffee milk is a simple concoction of milk mixed with coffee syrup. The beverage became popular as a drugstore offering of leftover coffee grounds mixed with milk and sugar. Then in 1932 the first coffee syrup hit the market, making a more refined offering. Add ice cream to your coffee milk and you have a coffee cabinet, which is basically a milkshake.
Hungry for more? See the rest of our list: More U.S. Regional Foods You Might Not Know About
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