Twelve of the world's best foodie destinations
By Martha Hales
There is a whole world of flavours out there to discover, and every country has something exciting and delicious to sample. Some destinations really stand out for their foodie credentials and make excellent choices for gastro-tours, either with food as the main focus or just a happy extra pleasure alongside your other activities. Here we have put together a dozen of our top destinations for foodies, many of which offer dedicated food themed itineraries to whet your appetite.
Mexico’s food scene is zesty, fresh and exciting. Foodies will salivate as they watch tostadas being fried in front of their eyes before they’re laden with all sorts of delicious toppings, from seafood to refried beans depending on where you are.
Another dish you ought to try whilst in Mexico is Pozole - a pre-Hispanic soup that was perhaps once used as part of ritual sacrifices but now is just a delicious slow cooked dish, scattered at the last minute with crispy lettuce, radish, onion lime and chilli. Of course, you can’t go to Mexico without trying tacos - the most popular being tacos al pastor which involves slices of spit-roast pork being placed on a soft corn tortilla with onions, coriander and pineapple. Delicious. Of course, we can’t list every delicious Mexican delicacy here. All we can do is advise that you give everything a try. You won’t be disappointed.
The food of India would require a lifetime's careful study to master. Such a large country with such extremes of topography and climate inevitably produces vastly different crops from region to region and therefore also cuisine. Wheat only grows in the cool north, making an appearance in northern cookery often in the form of flatbreads.
Influences on regional cuisine are not always based on climate, however. The delicate yet rich Muglai gastronomic tradition of the north has its roots in the former royal cities, while central India's dominant Hindu population has ensured this area has a strong vegetarian legacy. Southern India's cuisine reflects it tropical location, and you will find fish, rice and coconut are the regional staples here.
Click here to see our Taste of India itinerary. Don't forget that our itineraries can be fully customised to your needs and wishes! Click here if you'd like to read more about India's street food.
The cuisine of Japan should need no introduction, such is the popularity of some of its best known dishes on the international table. Some of its most famous exports are sushi and ramen, both of which are hugely popular domestically, too. Tokyo is known for its fabulous sushi, particularly at the fish market, while the most sought after ramen in Japan is arguably tonkotsu ramen from Kyushu.
For more unusual delicacies look out for 'meibutsu' which means local specialities - often some of the more memorable dishes of your trip. Kyoto has a particularly strong culinary heritage and the local cuisine is known as 'obanzai ryori' - definitely worth seeking out.
Click here to see our Japan's Culinary Heritage (Group Tour). If you want to read more about Japan's cuisine, click here to read our article.
The secret is already out in foodie circles: Georgia is the hottest destination for anyone serious about discovering a truly great gastronomic tradition. The food is fantastic and the Georgians take eating very seriously, choosing to call a festive, convivial meal a 'supra' or feast, these occasions are a cornerstone of Georgian culture.
Regional specialities are celebrated for their provenance, and some of the best known and loved are khinkali or little dumplings stuffed with meat; and khachapuri, which are buttery open pies often shaped like a boat, stuffed with cheese and eggs before baking. The wine is as famous and delicious as the food, and as Georgia has one if the world's oldest winemaking traditions, sampling is as much a history lesson as an indulgence.
Click here to see our Georgia's Foodie Highlights itinerary. Don't forget that our itineraries can be fully customised to your needs and wishes!
In common with other Middle Eastern destinations , Jordan has a widely available selection of staples which you can reliably find countrywide: tabbouleh, labneh, kebabs, hummus, shawarma, falafel, baba ganoush and flatbread. Traditional breakfast dishes include fuul, a warm mashed fava bean, chili and lemon mixture which is delicious with warm bread and perhaps some eggs.
For main meals, as well as the mezze type dishes as listed above, there are usually grilled meats or tasty stews available, often served with rice and salad alongside such as mansaf - lamb marinated in yoghurt with spices. Maqluba is another Jordanian speciality, a slow cooked rice dish rich with spices and layered with meat and vegetables. Once cooked it is upended onto a dish, layers complete, and sprinkled with nuts.
Click here to see our A Taste of Jordan itinerary. Don't forget that our itineraries can be fully customised to your needs and wishes!
Fresh, colourful and deeply flavoured, Chinese cuisine is as varied as the county is large. There are three principles of Chinese cookery which underpin and encapsulate the nation's food philosophy: 'se' - appealing appearance, 'san' - pleasant aroma, and 'wei' - memorable flavour. Rice is the ubiquitous staple, and noodles are equally popular. Whether you prefer the spice and umami of Szechuan dishes or the sumptuous and delicate banquets of Beijing, there is a style of Chinese cooking to suit.
A quartet of ingredients often create the base flavour of Chinese savoury recipes - ginger, garlic, spring onion and chilli. Soy sauce is another key ingredient which provides a deeply savoury yet rounded undertone beloved of Chinese cooks. Those five ingredients are super versatile and, when used in different quantities, can create a broad spectrum of dishes. The beauty of Chinese cuisine is its endless variety, and you will note distinct regional flavours and dishes as you travel around.
Click here to see our Cooking in Beijing itinerary. Don't forget that our itineraries can be fully customised to your needs and wishes! Click here if you'd like to read more about China's cuisine.
Carnivores will think they have stumbled upon paradise in Argentina, a country with a strong tradition of rearing cattle on the wild grasslands of the pampas for the best quality organic meat. Beef is the headline act, whereas poultry and pork products are relegated to a supporting role.
To understand Argentine devotion to cooking and enjoying meat, you need to participate in an asado - a barbecue, but raised to another level, with several courses cooked on the padilla, each making the most of different cuts of meat. Gourmet Argentina is best experienced at the wineries around Mendoza, where fine dining is accompanied by some excellent wines.
Click here to see our Taste of Argentina itinerary. Don't forget that our itineraries can be fully customised to your needs and wishes! Click here to read more about foodie Argentina.
Absorbing a plethora of gastronomic influences from nearby India and China, Malaysian food is delectably flavoursome. There are few foodie destinations to rival Penang. Georgetown, for example, is widely regarded as one of the great places to eat on the planet. So many delicious dishes to try, including some of the finest examples of Indian, Chinese and Malay cooking.
One dish that is famously great in Penang is laksa, a spicy coconut soup with fish sauce, noodles and various additions of your choice. You can find it all over Malaysia but those in Penang are regarded as the best. Nasi Kandar is an array of exciting Penang dishes which combine flavours of India and Malaysia on a tasty selection platter.
Classic Moroccan cuisine makes good use of the legacy of herbs and spices brought by Berber and Arabic peoples, resulting in some wonderful multifaceted flavours that you don't find elsewhere. The tagine is the signature dish of Morocco, named for the earthenware vessel with the conical lid which it is cooked in. A tagine can be a multitude of flavours such as lamb with apricot and chicken and olives, and many of them are flavoured with chermoula, a marinade of herbs, preserved lemons, spices, garlic and ginger which adds a great burst of flavour.
Couscous is another celebrated Moroccan staple, when combined with a variety of vegetables it is a favourite family feast. If you enjoy Moroccan flavours, cookery classes are easy to organise, plus you can easily find spice mixes and pastes in any souk to take home and cook with. Finally, you can't interact with many Moroccans before you will be plied with mint tea, served sweet and hot in delicate glasses. It's a national institution and it's nicknamed 'the whisky of Morocco.'
Click here to see our Taste of Morocco itinerary. Don't forget that our itineraries can be fully customised to your needs and wishes! Click here if you want to read more about local Moroccan cuisine.
10. South Africa
From delicious street food staples to impeccable fine dining establishments, South Africa's food scene will not disappoint. Food courts and gourmet markets have taken off in a big way in the last decade, along with a trend for fine international and local cuisine. Fresh produce is top quality and one of the best ways to sample South Africa's favourite dining experience is to join in a traditional braai.
Think of a normal barbecue and supersize it, add boerewors sausages, and you'll be somewhere near. South African Braai culture is legendary, and sampling the revered grilled meat, fish, seafood and vegetables is a true foodie bucket list experience. For a different perspective, try Cape Malay cuisine, a taste of Asia brought by the Malaysian slave trade and best sampled in the Bo Kaap neighbourhood where the style of cookery originated.
Click here to see our Wine and Dine: South Africa itinerary. Don't forget that our itineraries can be fully customised to your needs and wishes!
11. Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka's food scene has been shaped over time by many different cultural influences and the result is fiery, flavourful and truly mouth-watering. Try Sri Lanka's answer to a stir-fry, kottu roti, which is a delicious mix of shredded roti with meats, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and a concoction of spices. For those with a bit of a sweet-tooth, why not try Watalappan? This custardy desert is particularly popular with Sri Lankan Muslims and is often eaten during religious festivals. Made with set steamed egg custard, sweet Kitul jaggery, coconut milk and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamon, it's sure to satisfy any puddingy craving you experience whilst travelling.
If you want to sample something with more of a European influence, then give lamprais a go - little slow-baked banana leaf parcels of aubergine, frikkadels (Dutch-style meatballs), boiled eggs, sambol and lots of mixed spices.
Click here to see our Spice Trails of Sri Lanka itinerary. Don't forget that our itineraries can be fully customised to your needs and wishes!
Vietnamese cooks pride themselves on creating dishes with balanced flavours, and the finest dishes are those where salty, sweet, hot and sour are all in obvious yet in harmony. As well as the many thousands of fantastic dine-in eateries which have given Vietnamese food such a renowned reputation, the street food here is off-the-scale delicious, too.
Countless neighbourhood stalls and portable outdoor kitchens turn out the same dish day after day, year after year, meaning that the cooks are consummate professionals in their selection of dishes. Many specialise in just one recipe, and you will be able to spot the best by looking for the longest queues.
There are a whole host of must try dishes in Vietnam, but among the most iconic are Pho, a masterclass in deeply flavourful broth laced with noodles and most commonly sliced beef; Banh Xeo, a delicious egg wrap stuffed with prawns, fresh herbs, pork and vegetables which is served with a spicy dip which complements it perfectly; and nems, the Vietnamese spring rolls which are fresh and crunchy and often served raw.
Make it happen
Pack your finest stretchy waistbands and settle in for some serious foodie indulgence. Whether you are on a pho pilgrimage or an asado odyssey, there are so many amazing cuisines to get to know. Which one gets your mouth watering? Even if they don't already have a sample itinerary to inspire you, our local experts can easily plan you a bespoke holiday taking in all the best foodie features of their country. Click on the links above to find out more about your chosen destination, or to speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.