For many, food is a hugely important factor when planning their next trip. “What was the food like?” is almost certainly the second question you’ll be asked when telling your family and friends about a recent trip, second only to perennial British favourite “how was the weather?”
Eating well and travelling go hand in hand, with food able to give us a unique and tangible (not to mention tasty!) insight into local culture, history and tradition. Vindaloo, for example, is thought to have originated from the Portuguese dish carne de vinha d’alhos (meat marinated in wine and garlic), which was introduced to Goa by Portuguese colonists in the 15th century.
It’s not just what you eat either, but also how you eat it: although equally delicious, the experience of sampling New Mexico’s street food is a million miles away from enjoying a Michelin-starred meal in Paris.
This week, we’ve been busy thinking about our favourite mouth-watering foodie destinations. The hardest part was narrowing the list down to five…
A culinary giant on the global stage, Italy has given the world some of its favourite foods, most famously pizza and pasta. Italian cuisine is simple and seasonal, making use of the fresh produce that grows in abundance, thanks to the country’s Mediterranean climate. Although food varies by region in Italy, fresh vegetables and herbs, especially tomatoes and basil, along with cheeses such mozzarella and pecorino, fresh bread, pasta and olive oil are ubiquitous throughout the country. In the south, Naples is known as the home of pizza, whilst Tuscany is famous for its wine, Florentine steaks and game dishes. Coastal areas, such as Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, are known for their fresh seafood and limoncello, a refreshing lemon-flavoured liquor. In the north, the city of Bologna claims to be where ragù, also known as bolognese sauce, came from, whilst Venetians enjoy a diet of seafood risotto and creamy polenta.
Find out more: Food & Wines of Northern Italy: A Gourmet Tour
India is one of the most culturally and geographically diverse countries on earth, and this vibrant tapestry is reflected in its culinary scene. Often hailed for its fragrant, tangy and tantalisingly spicy curries, it’s little wonder that India’s distinctive fare is regarded as one of the world’s most popular cuisines, especially by us Brits. Each region has its own unique set of flavours, and as much as we’d love to, we don’t have time to list them all here! Broadly speaking, Northern India is known for its traditional tandoori-style dishes, served with breads such as roti and naan. Curries in the north tend to be made using ghee, and are pungently spiced. In South India, on the other hand, curries are lighter, made with coconut milk and traditionally served with rice.
Find out more: India – Tigers & the Taj
Portuguese cuisine has a rich historical legacy, consisting of multicultural ingredients such as grains and spices from North Africa, codfish from the North Atlantic, black pork from the Iberian Peninsula and saffron from Southeast Asia. The Portuguese diet could be described as Mediterranean, but with added spice. However, Portugal’s ubiquitous delicacy is sweet, not spicy: pasteis de nata is a sweet custard tart with a flaky caramelised crust and cinnamon topping that is a real treat for your taste buds. Portugal is also famous for its wine, including port, which is produced in the vineyards of the Douro Valley.
Find out more: Pousadas of Portugal
Sandwiched between the USA and Central America, Mexico is a larger and more varied land than you may think at first, and its cuisine is about far more than nachos and tacos. With a wealth of cultural influences and a wide variety of regional differences, dishes are made using an array of spices (Mexico is home to over 100 varieties of the chilli pepper!) and fresh produce, perhaps most notably lime and coriander. Mexico City is famous for its award-winning traditional street food and, in more recent years, its burgeoning fine-dining scene. In the south, Oaxaca is known for its diverse range of traditional dishes such as the tlayuda: a fried tortilla topped with mole sauce, refried beans, meat, stringy cheese and salad.
Find out more: Classic Mexico – Mayan & Aztec Wonders
France is another one of Europe’s gastronomic powerhouses, and the French take food – and the experience of dining – very seriously. Although you’ll find plenty of casual crêperies and cafés in France, the country has a serious reputation for fine-dining: Paris is home to more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in Europe. Many aspiring chefs come to Paris to train under the world’s greatest, notably at Le Cordon Bleu Cookery School. Traditional French dishes are rich and flavoursome, such as boeuf bourguignon and cassoulet. In Southern France, the diet is more Mediterranean, with stables including fresh herbs, seafood and olive oil, whilst in the north, cheese and dairy are especially popular, particularly in Normandy and Brittany. The French know a thing or two about wine as well – France produces some of the world’s most popular varieties of grape, including Bordeaux, Burgundy and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Find out more: Carcassonne, Avignon and Provence