One of the most satisfying ways of experiencing a country is through its food. Every place has its own delicacies and its own style of cooking and eating, and some are more rewarding to adventurous diners than others. Here are 6 countries where the food is likely to be one of the highlights of your stay.
Some of the tastiest food is found in the most humble places. For the perfect pad thai look out for busy canteen-style dining areas in markets or in roadside shacks. A good papaya salad is something special; be warned however, that you order a spicy dish in Thailand it’s likely to be on another level of hot to anything found outside of Asia. For the adventurous eater, most Thai markets will also have a stall selling deep-fried insects.
The danger of going to India is that you’ll never want to eat at your local Indian restaurant again. The spices and herbs are so much fresher, and the variety of food on offer is bewildering. If you like your food on the spicy side, let the waiter know when ordering; many places will tone down the spiciness by default for western diners. Indulge in a masala dosa or a freshly-made poori for breakfast.
Enjoy the bustling vibe of a busy Tokyo ramen house, or head to an izakaya (the Japanese version of a pub) for a plate of gyoza to go with your beer. Sushi bars with conveyor belts are particularly enjoyable experiences, as each has its own complicated set of rules and the staff rarely speak any English. Just pick what you want and sort out the bill later; prices are generally cheaper than in Japanese restaurants in Europe.
Most travellers to Vietnam will be familiar with pho, the noodle broth with meat and a dish greens served on the side; most people however, will not have eaten it for breakfast. Hanoi and Saigon (and indeed all cities where tourists tend to go) will have plenty of street stalls selling tempting food. Look for the busy places with a fast turnover and you shouldn’t go far wrong. Make sure to try goi cuon (translucent, flavour-packed spring rolls), and banh xeo (Vietnamese pancakes).
If you put aside the strange obsession with adding a beetroot slice to a burger, there are plenty of familiar dishes to enjoy in Australia. Modern restaurants serving locally sourced produce abound, while immigration over the years has ensured that there’s a great selection of Asian, Greek and Italian restaurants. For something definitely Australian, try a skewer or a slab of kangaroo, emu or crocodile meat.
The diversity of South African food reflects that of the country as a whole. Boerewors (a curled beef or pork sausage) and frikkadel (meatballs) will look familiar to European visitors; biltong (dried beef) and bobotie (a bit like a shepherd’s pie but with a lot more flavour) are distinctly African. Go to Durban meanwhile and it’s all about thick, creamy curries. Finish your South African meal with a super-sweet koeksister, a doughnut coated with syrup.