Shrimp and grits, South Carolina
Festivals don’t get much more niche than the World Grits Festival, held each spring in Saint George, South Carolina. But then this corn-based dish is part of the state’s classic recipe: shrimp and grits, traditionally eaten at breakfast. The grits are usually cooked in stock or milk, flavoured with butter then topped with the seafood.
Although it can be made anywhere in the USA, around 95 per cent of bourbon is produced in the Bluegrass State. Known as "America’s Native Spirit", this barrel-aged booze was named after Kentucky’s Bourbon County and has been made here for over two centuries. Today the Bourbon Trail attracts over half a million visitors each year.
Rocky mountain oysters, Montana
Don’t get tricked into thinking you’re eating seafood. A Rocky Mountain oyster is a floured and deep-fried calf’s testicle. Sometimes going under the pseudonyms "prairie oysters" or "cowboy caviar", they’re mostly served up for tourists these days but originated as a way to use up the side products of castrating calves each spring.
Philadelphia cheesesteak, Pennsylvania
Philly’s Pat Olivieri, founder of Pat's Steaks, reportedly invented the cheesesteak in 1930. This sandwich is all about pure unadulterated gluttony: sliced browned steak and mounds of oozing provolone (or the disarmingly orange Cheez Whiz sauce) stuffed into a crusty roll, often with some onions to top it off.
No trip to New Orleans is complete without a visit to the sticky tables of Café du Monde, the irrefutable home of these doughy, deep-fried and powdered sugar-covered treats. Officially the state doughnut of Louisiana and aped all around the world, classically they’re simple deep fried choux, but can have fillings like fruit or chocolate.
Clam chowder, Massachusetts
Boston is the undisputed destination to try creamy New England clam chowder, classically made with clams, potatoes, celery, onions and cream or milk. Note that the tomatoes you might find in a New York chowder are strictly forbidden. There’s even an annual Chowderfest – now entering its 33rd year – where restaurants vie to be crowned the best.
Iced tea, Georgia
Ordering tea in Georgia won’t get you a cuppa. Tea here comes iced, sweet and with a wedge of lemon, often in jumbo servings. Sugar is added while the tea brews, while flavourings such as peach and lemon are optional extras later on. It might rot your teeth, but it’s definitely addictive.
Key lime pie, Florida
Making use of Florida’s glut of key limes – sometimes known as Mexican limes – key lime pie traditionally mixes lime juice, condensed milk and egg yolks. The recipe has been traced back to the 1850s and has today become an emblem of the Sunshine State. The graham cracker crust is non-negotiable, but debate still rages on toppings of whipped cream or meringue.
Navajo fry bread, South Dakota
Fry bread was named the official state bread of South Dakota in 2005 and this simple dough, fried or deep-fried in oil or lard, is one of the best-known Native American foods. It can be eaten plain, as a breakfast food or turned into a "Navajo taco" with a topping of mince, salad and cheese.
Smoked salmon, Alaska
Alaska is famous for more than just Sarah Palin, bears and snowmobiles. The USA’s most northerly state is also known for its wild Pacific salmon (farming is prohibited). Smoking was introduced as a method of preserving the fish over winter, but today allows Alaskan lox to be shipped around the world.
No, we’re not talking about shoes. Hushpuppies are deep-fried cornmeal and buttermilk dumplings, often served with fried chicken or catfish. They have humble origins: popular across the South since the time of the Civil War, they were supposedly invented as a cheap treat to quieten the dogs at mealtimes.
Sugar-cream pie, Indiana
It’s hard to go wrong with a dessert based around these two-ingredients. The only addition might be some flour or an egg before the mix is poured into a pre-baked pie case. Also known as Hoosier pie, this specialty of Indiana even has a tourist trail named in its honour.
In Texas barbecue is all about beef. Forget bibles, the Lone-Star State is home to the brisket belt of America. The cut is usually slathered in a dry rub of cayenne pepper, salt, herbs and other spices before hitting the smoker. This huge chunk of cow, which comes from the underside of the chest, needs slow cooking.
Ahi Poke, Hawaii
If you’re a fan of ceviche and sashimi, try Hawaii’s classic starter of ahi poke (pronounced "poh-keh", meaning to cut). The recipe is simple: raw ahi (yellowfin tuna) marinated in soy sauce, salt and chilli. Variants include swapping the tuna for octopus (tako poke) or adding ingredients like ginger, spring onion and seaweed.
Pastrami, New York
This popular cured beef sandwich filling originated in Romania and was bought to the States in the 1800s. It’s thought that "pastrami" derives from a Yiddish word appropriated with an Italian inflection. One of the best places to try it is in a sandwich from Katz’s Deli, who have a slew of awards to back up the claim that theirs is the "original and the best".