6 of the Best: Foodie Destinations
Food and travel go together like mango and sticky rice. Or curry and paratha. Or cheese and…well, everything.
If you're anything like us, you'll agree that food plays a huge part in our travels. Every mouthful tells a story when sharing a feast with new friends, offering great insight into the local culture and community, and even its history.
So let your tastebuds lead the way to these destinations that offer some of the most authentic and exciting gastronomic experiences you can have…
Peruvian food is considered the pride of South American cuisine and with its sheer diversity of natural ingredients and variety of dishes that innovatively incorporate a range of influences, we think it deserves the accolade.
The unofficial national dish title goes, quite rightly, to ceviche. Chunks of fresh raw fish are marinated in lime juice which slightly ‘cooks’ the fish and paired with chopped red onion, coriander, and peppers, served with corn, avocado or sweet potato for a fresh, citrusy, yummy amalgamation of flavours. You can see why a Peruvian/Japanese fusion, known as Nikkei, would work so well. The Japanese first started emigrating to Peru in the late 19th Century and have had a huge influence on the culture.
Another Peruvian favourite is empanadas, kind of like a British pasty. The crispy dough is usually filled with some kind of meat, cheese and vegetables. But the flavourful and much-loved aji de gallina may be Peruvian’s go-to comfort food. It’s essentially a chicken stew, but it’s quite unlike any other. It’s cooked with chilli, walnuts, spices and aji Amarillo peppers served with rice or potatoes and garnished with olives and boiled eggs.
Where to begin?! Japan is renowned not only for its incredible food but its sheer dedication to the art of dining - using the very best ingredients with chefs religiously honing in their specialities, intricately balancing flavours. Often the whole dining experience is just that, an experience. In fact, Michelin Guide Tokyo 2023 just awarded 200 restaurants in the capital alone an impressive 263 stars.
Here, you’ll find the freshest sushi in all varieties. Fish options range from lean tuna to the more expensive fatty tuna, yellowtail and eel, to some more adventurous options like sea urchin and ark shell. Or, for a bit of everything, try Chirashi-don - a bowl of sushi rice topped with a variety of raw fish.
Ramen is a must-try, especially if you’re visiting in the colder months. A few inexpensive ramen restaurants have even gained a Michelin star if you’re willing to queue. The main kinds of ramen include shoyu, a soy-sauce-based broth, miso and tonkotsu, made from simmered pork bones creating a thick and creamy broth.
Ramen is usually paired with noodles and a selection of toppings. There’s also a kind of ramen called tsukemen, where the noodles are served separately to be dipped into the broth. Don’t be embarrassed to slurp, it’s encouraged!
If you’ve never tried Iranian food, you are in for a treat. It’s not all succulent kebabs, even if they are out of this world. Ingredients like pomegranates, walnuts, pistachios, saffron and a range of herbs are used liberally in Iranian cooking, with mind-blowing results.
Iranians love sour flavours, which may be why gormeh sabzi is considered Iran’s national dish. Seasoned with plenty of herbs including fenugreek leaves and dried limes, this deep green stew with lamb chunks and kidney beans has a very unique taste, but is definitely moreish. It’s best eaten with rice.
Speaking of rice, true Iranian soul food can be found in the incredible rice dish, tahdig, and to lay your eyes on it, you might wonder why, but this is definitely a ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ kind of situation. The secret is the crispy layer of rice at the bottom of the rice pot - it’s almost like a naughty potato crisp addition to fluffy, flavourful basmati rice. Simple but oh so effective, you won’t find any leftovers of tahdig at any Iranian feast!
A relatively undiscovered foodie destination is the south Caucasian country of Georgia. There are many reasons why this is a favourite destination of ours, but the food and of course, the wine, are definitely up there.
It’s probably to be expected in a country that considers dinner guests' a gift from God that the food is going to be nothing short of heavenly and because of its position on the Silk Road route, the food is a coalescence of cultures, but still manages to hold a strong Georgian identity.
Georgian food could be considered comfort food to the max. Have you seen khachapuri adjaruli? It’s basically a bread boat decadently filled with cheese, butter and egg yolks, which you whisk up in the middle, break off bits of bread from the outside and dunk. There are variations all over the country but this version is the official national dish, so you can’t go wrong. You also must get your fill of khinkali, which are soup-filled dumplings, the stuffing of which also depends on the region, but traditionally meats and spices.
Indian cuisine is as varied as its land, culture and people, and you often find that even the fussiest eater will have a go-to curry in their repertoire.
But beyond spice-rich, mouth-watering curries, a visit to India will have you adding many new favourites to your list. The biryani for example.
South India has more varieties than anywhere else in the subcontinent. The Hyderabadi biryani in particular originated from blending Mughlai and Iranian cuisine. Key ingredients are basmati rice, yoghurt, lemon, saffron, onions, spices and either goat or chicken if meat is added. A typical garnish consists of coriander and fried onions and it’s served with a Dahi chutney (made from yoghurt, mint and onions), green chilli curry and a salad.
Thai food is famous the world over and whether you prefer coconutty curries with a kick, fresh, flavourful salads, sour soups or stir-fried sweet-savoury noodles, you’re sure to find your Thai-food soulmate.
Street food is very popular in Thailand and you can easily pick up a pad thai from the most inconspicuous stall and think every steaming bite of chicken, prawn, noodles, peanuts and egg, with a zesty kick of lime juice is the best you’ve ever had. Massaman is a popular curry made with melt-in-the-mouth chunks of beef (sometimes chicken or duck) and potato. Massaman features ingredients not commonly found in Thai curries, like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and star anise - a nod to its Muslim roots.
Be sure to try the fresh, crunchy green papaya salad (som tam). Unripe papaya is shredded and mixed with green beans, cherry tomatoes, chillies and peanuts and pounded with pestle mortar in a fish sauce/lime juice/palm sugar dressing. It can be found across South East Asia and is the national dish of both Thailand and Laos. It can be incredibly spicy but you can request less fire if it’s more to your taste.