While the term "culinary capital" has become ubiquitous in culinary and travel writing—and while many small cities have achieved this status—it's important to remember that being a political capital does not exclude a city from also being a culinary capital. From tasty treat just south of the border in Mexico to the oriental delights of Far Eastern Taipei, these are the best foods to sample in capitals across the world.
Taiwanese Braised Pork in Taipei
Taipei has made waves in foodie circles in recent years, to the extent that some refer to the Taiwanese capital as the "best food city in the world." Even if you're not prone to hyperbole, it's difficult to argue the supremacy of Taiwanese cuisine. One of the best is Braised Pork Rice, known as "滷肉飯" in Taiwanese Mandarin.
The best part about this simple, yet sophisticated dish? You can find it in street markets, so it's never far from any hotel in Taipei, although you should check to make sure your hotel doesn't prepare an upmarket version of it—it could be fun to compare!
Borscht in Moscow
Although the beautiful, red beet soup known as "borscht" is technically a Ukrainian dish, its cultural association with Russia makes it a can't miss on your next trip to Russia. As iconic food in world capitals goes, the technical accuracy of this example might be in question, but it's not a detail most of the planet seems to be caught up on.
Whether your Moscow hotel offers it as part of room service, or you try some at the top-rated Café Pushkin in the city center, add borscht to your eating list for your next trip to Moscow.
Chapulines in Mexico City
Mexican food has become so popular around the world that while it's tempting to recommend you hit up fine dining spots in Mexico's capital to eat the best versions of dishes you know, the best option is to eat something completely strange.
Specifically, chapulines are grasshoppers toasted with lime juice, salt and chili powder. While they're technically native to Mexico's Oaxaca region, the crispy critters are never too far from your Mexico City hotel—probably in a street market. They're not only tasty, but are high in protein, which makes them the perfect way to fuel your next hop around the city.
Nasi Lemak in Kuala Lumpur
"Nasi Lemak" literally means "fried rice" in Bahasa Malaysia, the official language of Malaysia—and, to be sure, Malaysian fried rice is the signature dish of the Southeast Asian nation, even if it's not the official one. Among popular foods in world capital, it's both among the easiest to find and the most representative.
While most Malaysians will insist that their mothers or grandmothers cook the best nasi lemak, you can enjoy a delicious take on it at Village Park Restaurant, a celebrated eatery not far from many fine Kuala Lumpur hotels. Alternatively, take to the exciting street of KL, as the city is known among locals and travelers alike, to go on your own nasi lemak hunting adventure.
Sautéed Reindeer in Helsinki
One fun fact you might learn if you ever travel to the Lapland region of northern Finland is that every reindeer in the country belongs to someone. Interestingly, this occurs via a sophisticated computer tracking mechanism that belies the simplicity of the way people live north of the Arctic Circle, in the land of Santa Claus.
While the capital of Helsinki is distant, both geographically and culturally, from the traditional people of Lapland, you can still enjoy a Lappish delicacy in the capital, probably just steps from your Helsinki hotel: Sautéed reindeer, known in Finnish as "poronkäristys"—you'll have much better luck finding a place to eat this than pronouncing its name.
(Plus, since Helsinki is a bit lacking compared to other cities in Europe when it comes to tourist sights, pictures of an iconic food like this are sure to impress your friends on social media more than, say, the Helsinki Cathedral.)