Slideshow: SE Staff Picks: Our Favorite Food Souvenirs to 'Smuggle' Home

Macarons from Paris and a Prepackaged Burger from Seoul
Macarons from Paris and a Prepackaged Burger from Seoul
I've never (knowingly) tried to smuggle any illegal foodstuff on a plane; as a kid, due to my family making frequent trips to Taiwan I saw an animated PSA on EVA Airways way too many times showing that smuggling fruit/vegetables/whatever into a foreign country could (or, to my 7-year-old eyes, would) result in destroying the entire country by way of rapid proliferation of stowaway insects. I once really wanted to bring some wax apples back home to New Jersey, but, as the PSA had struck fear into my heart, I selflessly decided it wasn't worth the risk of unleashing a plague of ants evolved to destroy everything on North American soil. (Also, my mom wouldn't let me.)

So instead of illegal, I'll go with "tastiest" thing I've brought home: macarons from Pierre Hermé in Paris. No one makes 'em like Pierre does. They were nestled in a large box of other Parisian sweets (photo at left): macarons from Ladurée, madeleines from Secco, chocolates from Pierre Herme, among other random things. They were mostly gifts for friends, hence all the little boxes. (I can't eat all that by myself. ...Ok, I could.)

And for "weirdest": a ₩1000 prepackaged burger that I bought in Seoul back in 2009 (would that have been illegal because of the meat?...oops). You buy stupid stuff like that when you edit a burger blog. I wrote a post about it that I never published since I thought it was too dumb (although for the Internet I guess nothing is too dumb), but hey, if I'm mentioning it now I may as well put it up: here you go. —Robyn Lee

Manjar from Chile
Manjar from Chile
When I spent a summer in Chile five years ago, I fell in love with manjar, which isn't really different from any other packaged dulce de leche out there, but I convinced myself that it was. I brought back ten one-pound packets of the stuff in my suitcase, and they survived a 24-hour trip and three layovers, arriving safely in my parents' pantry. But the problem with a bag of manjar that big is that it feels like such a commitment to open one; when you open it, you have to eat it all, and when can you really eat that much sugar? In retrospect I should've gone for a smaller tub.

Last week I went home to help my mother move out of my childhood house. We threw away 5 one-pound bags of five-year-old manjar. —Carey Jones

A certain unnamed can of pork and shallots from Taiwan
A certain unnamed can of pork and shallots from Taiwan
OK, so I don't really want to jeopardize other people's ability to enjoy and/or smuggle this food so I don't want to name the company/restaurant, but there is a certain famous place in Taiwan that specifically packages their food just for smuggling.

Their product? A minced meat sauce made with pork and shallots. The packaging? Why, it's just a can of shallots. Yes, they actually sell two versions of their canned product—one has a picture of the actual product (pork + shallots), while the other just has pictures of shallots. So when that TSA officer stops you at the airport and pulls out that shiny can from your suitcase, just smile big and say, "It's just vegetables." —Christine Tsai

[Image of pork-shallot mixture on noodle soup: Photograph: whtaixie.com]

Another tale of Jamon Iberico from Spain
Another tale of Jamon Iberico from Spain
After a trip to Barcelona in 2007, my family thought I was going to turn into a ham. Not just any ham, but a jamón de bellota, made from the famous acorn-fed black-footed (pata negra) Spanish pigs. During just three days in Barcelona, I bought five different kinds of ham and ordered it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner in some form. When I was headed back, I packed one kilo of it. My wife Vicky did not approve of the smuggling, and I thought for sure I was busted when we were waiting at the airport when we landed back in NYC. All the other luggage was falling down the belt, but no signs of mine. One of those drug-sniffing dogs was around, too—surely he would find it. I should have listened to Vicky, I thought.. until the dog found some other illicit souvenir in some other bag before mine. Finally, it came rolling down. Sweet, porky victory! —Ed Levine
A whole Thanksgiving dinner
A whole Thanksgiving dinner
Never smuggled much souvenir food, but my mother-in-law once carried on an entire Thanksgiving dinner. Not kidding. —Maggie Hoffman
Sausage from Hungary
Sausage from Hungary
The wurst thing I've smuggled was Hungarian sausage that my friend's Hungarian grandmother made. It seems more illegal since it definitely didn't have to pass any regulations or get cryovaced. —Meredith Smith [Note: the sausage pictured is not the same sausage!]
Rashers from Ireland
Rashers from Ireland
Growing up, my Nana and Papa used to live six months of the year in Ireland (in Bantry Bay, County Cork) and always packed an extra, empty tote bag just to fill with rashers and bangers, the Irish bacon and sausage. My mom did the same when we spent summers in Ireland. Don't forget the meat bag! We fried them up for many breakfasts upon return. Hm, maybe I shouldn't be sharing this... (sorry, Mom!) —Erin Zimmer

[Flickr: dianeduane]