Yes, traveling is all about trying the local food. But sometimes when you’ve been on the road for weeks, you just want a bagel for breakfast. If you’ve ever tried to satisfy this craving abroad, you know it usually leads to heartbreak and confusion. Fortunately, there are plenty of countries that have their own type of bagel—and you might even find it better than the classic New York variety. Here are the best bagels around the world to satisfy your carb cravings.
Girde Naan, China
Walk into any street market in the Xinjiang region of China and you’re sure to see piles of round, doughy goodness everywhere. Although the girde naan look identical to bagels, they’re made in a very different fashion. Girde naan are cooked in a tandoor oven, which gives them a crunchy crust and fluffy interior. Eat them fresh out of the oven, dunked in tea or soup as the locals do. Although the girde naan seem to have the exact same shape as a bagel, upon closer inspection, you’ll find that the hole in the center is just an indent that doesn’t go all the way through—which means more carby goodness for you.
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On a drive from the airport into Istanbul, I noticed hawkers selling round treats that resembled a wider, skinnier bagel on nearly every street corner. Had I landed in bagel heaven? Better—I’d arrived in the land of simit. Simit is a better bagel for people who prefer the crispy crust to the chewy inside. You’re not saving any calories by eating these though, as simit is usually twice the size of a regular bagel. Most of the versions of simit you’ll find will be topped with sesame seeds, but you can find versions with other seeds as well. To enjoy like a local, eat simit for breakfast with tea, or snag it as a snack and eat it plain in the afternoon.
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New York City and Montreal’s bagel rivalry is almost as big and long-standing as the Yankees-Red Sox feud. Montreal-style is a totally different type of bagel that reigns supreme north of the border. How will you know the difference? Montreal bagels are sweeter (the dough contains sugar and is boiled in honey-infused water). They are also traditionally cooked in a wood-burning oven to help give the crust some extra crunch. Since everything is bigger in America, the easiest way to differentiate between the two types of bagel is size—the Montreal-style ones are usually much smaller.
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Jerusalem Bagels, Israel
Oval-shaped, smothered in sesame seeds, baked—you’ll find Jerusalem bagels wrapped up in newspaper and sold by street vendors all over Israel. The best way to consume them: fresh from the oven and dipped in za’atar spiced oil.
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Obwarzanek Krakowski, Poland
Polish legend claims that Krakow bakers invented the bagel, but that story is in dispute. Who cares where it came from when it tastes this good? The obwarzanek is made using two woven strands of dough that intertwine to make a circle. The dough is boiled and topped with salt, poppy seeds, cheese, herbs, or spices. Don’t cut these in half to toast and spread with cream cheese—they are usually eaten whole, and always within a few hours of being baked.
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Caroline Morse Teel thinks the best bagels are found at Tal Bagels in New York City. Order the sunflower seed, toasted, with scallion cream cheese. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for food photos from around the world.