Food is always an essential part of travel. Tasting the local cuisine gives a unique insight into any destination as well as being a great way of meeting and interacting with friendly locals. Looking at a list of places I’ve visited, it’s no surprise that they are all famous for delicious food – whether it’s plates of spicy noodles, glasses of crisp chardonnay or platters of fresh oysters.
Travel for foodies is a serious matter – big decisions must be made on where to explore, as well as lists of the dishes and restaurants I can’t miss. While most countries will have wonderful dishes to try when you visit, here are my favourites if you are a true foodie looking for a delicious adventure.
With a long coast providing fantastic fresh seafood and the botanical diversity of the Karoo area resulting in high-quality meats it’s a foodie paradise. The history of this beautiful country means you see Dutch, Indian and Indonesian/Malay influence on the food as well as flavours from all over Africa.
Knysna Oysters in Knysna, Bunny Chow, a bread bowl filled with curry in Durban, Cape Malay stew or Bobotie in Bo Kaap, Cape Town, a Braai with pap and vleis (BBQ with maize porridge and grilled meats), safari game meat such as kudu or zebra.
Travel Nation top tip - I love a good afternoon tea so when I heard the Belmond Mount Nelson hotel had been voted the world’s best afternoon tea just before we were flying to Cape Town I booked straight away. With tables laden with scrumptious goodies and South Africa’s first tea sommelier on hand to help you choose a brew, it’s a decadent start or end to your South African travels.
A short ferry ride from the foodie hot spot of Vancouver takes you to Vancouver Island where a whole host of local culinary delights await. Of course, as you’d expect the island offers amazing seafood but there is a rise of small farms producing wonderful cheeses and meats.
It is also a great place to try dishes celebrating the history of the Nuu-chah-nulth indigenous people such as Bannock which was originally a Scottish bread but adopted by the Indigenous people of Canada. The recipe is passed down through generations by word of mouth so every family has their own version.
Nanaimo bars (a no bake treat from Nanaimo), British Colombia Spot Prawns, Dungeness crab, Bannock salmon, smoked salmon (on everything!)
Travel Nation top tip – Our Product Development Manager Milly says ' If you're travelling to Vancouver Island, you must make a stop at the famous Tacofino food truck in Tofino for some of the best tacos you’ll eat outside of Mexico. Making the most of the waters which surround them, you can choose from tempura ling cod or seared albacore tuna tacos, finishing your meal with one of their chocolate diabolo cookies.'
The Yucatan offer some of Mexico’s best beaches, Mayan ruins and tastiest food the country has to offer. You could find yourself standing at a hole in the wall waiting for your slow cooked pibil pork topped tacos topped with a pink flash of pickled onion to be served to you in a napkin or sat at one of the fine dining restaurants on Tulum beach and you know the food would be out of this world. Merida, quite rightly, has a lot of the foodie fame in Mexico but look a little deeper and you’ll find amazing food wherever you go.
Cochinita Pibil (slow cooked pork), Sopa de Lima (a turkey soup with lime and strips of tortilla), Panucho (a fried tortilla stuffed with black bean usually topped with Cochinita Pibil), Ceviche especially with Octopus
Travel Nation top tip – Give yourself a night or two in Valladolid. In the middle of the day, it's full of day-trippers visiting as a stop on the way to or from Chitzen Itza. As the sun sets, the coaches leave and we felt quite smug we’d decided to stay a few nights as suddenly you have the beautiful town pretty much to yourselves.
El Meson del Marques is a must if only to watch the guacamole being made at your table. Theatrical, informative (I’ve had too many arguments about whether red onion and tomato belong in guac!) and very tasty, this restaurant has both style and substance.
With each area and city having its own specialities or version of a particular dish, Japan offers a food scene like nowhere else in the world. Sure we know about sushi, yakitori and katsu curry but how about heading to Nagano famed for its huge and delicious apples.
Or head south to Kochi to try Katsuo-no-tataki (skipjack tuna broiled over a straw fire) or maybe compare the layered okonomiyaki which comes on a bed of noodles in Hiroshima to the Osaka version which sees the ingredients mixed together without a noodle in sight.
Sushi, sashimi, ramen, okonomiyaki, tempura, Udon, Oden or Sukiyaki (different types of hot pot), tea and wagashi (Japanese sweet treats including sweet mochi balls and stuffed pancake sandwich) and chicken yakitori.
Travel Nation top tip – Our Operations Manager Sean spends a lot of time in Japan and suggests you slurp your way around Japan trying ramen in different cities. Ramen is serious business in Japan as there are so many different types so don’t think once you’ve tried one you know what Ramen is. They can be categorised by type of broth, heaviness or broth base.
Since Hokkaido is the birthplace of miso ramen Sapporo is a pretty good place to start or try Hakata ramen with a tonkotsu broth in Fukuoka before Tokyo style with wide noodles and dashi in a Shoyu broth, which will you prefer?
Sao Paulo is one of the most global cities in South America and you’ll see this reflected in many of the dishes, especially if sampling the fantastic street food. You could choose to pair a cold beer with Bacalhau, the Portuguese salted cod fritter or taste a Pastel, a little envelope stuffed with cheese or beef which is said to have been introduced to Brazil by Japanese immigrants.
The delicious food that fills this city reflects the large immigrant populations within Sao Paulo. Should you want to treat yourself, Sao Paulo is creeping up on Lima as one of the best cities in Latin America for fine dining with 12 Michelin starred restaurants.
Pastel, Pao de Queijo (little dough balls with cheese), Mortadella Sandwich, Cocado (toasted coconut cooked in sugar), Coxinha (dough stuffed with shredded chicken and sometimes additional cheese), Feijoada (a black bean stew with smoky pork)
Travel Nation Top Tip – Senior Sales Consultant Chris has been to Sao Paulo several times and recommends trying the amazing Italian food on offer. Sao Paulo has the largest Italian community outside of Italy so the food on offer here is authentic as it gets. It has also given rise to more unique Italian/Brazilian fusion dishes, each more delicious than the last.
One great place to eat is the Sao Paulo food market, a vast hall of majestic architecture, where you can taste fresh fruit and vegetables, try thick bean stews and taste enormous mortadella sandwiches.
With its cool climate, rich soil, pure air and innovative producers, Tasmania is giving us some of the world’s best fresh produce. Taking inspiration from countries with a similar climate it has started producing global food with fantastic quality. Tasmanian olive oil now rivals its European counterparts as well as it’s amazing black truffles.
If spice is more your thing how about some locally-grown wasabi, so good it’s even added to the tasty local cheddar cheese. The Tasmanian coast offers Atlantic salmon, wild abalone and scallops.
Leatherwood Honey, Tasmanian scallop pie (creamy curry sauce with pastry top), Bruny Island oysters, Tasmanian Apple cake, Sea trout gravlax, fresh berries or berry produce, wild abalone, wagyu beef, wasabi cheese.
Travel Nation top tip – Make a stop at one of the many orchards or berry farms around Tasmania, whether you spend an afternoon leisurely picking your own berries or just sit on one of the verandas or decks overlooking the orchards whilst being served delicious dishes. Don’t forget to try the Tasmanian Apple Cake or a tub of fantastic berry gelato at Kate’s Berry Farm or Hillwood Berries.
Hoi An is famed for its street food and is particularly special as there are certain dishes you won’t (or shouldn’t) find anywhere else. It is said Cao Lau noodles can only be made with water from the Ba Le Well. The noodles are also said to get their unique colour as they are made with ash water from a particular tree from Cham Island. You don’t get more regional than that for a dish!
Cao Lau noodles, White Rose Dumping, Banh Mi (a baguette traditionally filled with meat, pickled vegetables, pate, coriander and chilli) Banh Xeo (a crispy rice flour and turmeric pancake stuffed with belly pork, prawns and bean sprouts and fried Wontons.
Travel Nation top tip – We made several visits to White Rose Restaurant which is the only restaurant to make White Rose dumplings (using water from the Ba Le Well again). Legend has it only one woman knows the recipe so hopefully, they are keeping her safe! These delicious little white pockets of rice paper filled with prawn and pork mix are folded to look like a rose. It is said, if you haven’t eaten them then you haven’t really visited Hoi An which sounds like a great excuse to include Hoi An in your Vietnam adventure.
Have I tempted you to head off on a food-inspired holiday? Whether you want to explore one of the regions above or head elsewhere, I can help you put together a delicious trip. Give us a call on +44 1273320580 or request a quote. We are experts in planning tailor-made holidays, as well as round the world flights, so we can work together with you until we’ve created your perfect food holiday.