Spain has its colorful seafood paella, vibrant tapas scene and world-famous jamón; Japan has its fresh-from-the-sea sashimi; and Mexico its whole slew of tacos, burritos and sizzling dishes… It’s a well-known fact that food plays an important part in travel – especially so in our travels. The hunt for good food has brought us through the dark alleys of Hanoi, the chaotic markets of Marrakech and the parrillada steakhouses of Buenos Aires – and it doesn’t stop there. For other food-loving travelers out there, we’ve come up with a list of gastronomic locations around the world with the best foods to offer.
Spain is clearly home to some of the world’s most famous chefs and restaurants – and Barcelona, is almost a representation of its culinary achievements. This is the heart of the Catalunya region – best known for having the highest concentration of Michelin restaurants in the world. From the colorful displays of pintxos (elaborate tapas) to the creative high-tech nouveau cuisine, Barcelona has it all to impress even the hardest-to-please critics. For a crash course in Catalan gastronomy, A Taste of Spain offers an insightful half-day cooking class and market visit. We recommend renting an apartment in Barcelona (you can find a good collection and affordable prices on Oh-Barcelona), where you can then put what you learned into practice. The company also offers 4 to 5-day culinary tours around Barcelona and the surrounding Costa Brava region.
The capital of Vietnam – with its flurry of noodle broths, fresh spring rolls and trusty street grub – has attracted even the grumpy chef Gordon Ramsay to launch a restaurant, Old Hanoi, here. There’s clearly a reason why: Vietnamese cuisine has so many levels of depth to it and is arguably one of the richest and most diverse in Asia (in my humble opinion). The best way to try food in Vietnam is to scour the streets lined with mini-stools and plastic tables where locals are seen slurping rice noodles – such as Ton Duc Thang Street. My personal favorite dish in Hanoi is banh bao, or white steamed pork buns. For cooking classes, check out Old Hanoi – don’t be disappointed though if Chef Ramsay doesn’t show up.
You find Italian food everywhere – whether you’re in a deserted town in the wild west or a mega-metropolis in the far east. But la cucina roma is a lot more than just pastas and pizzas: once in Rome, you’ll be surprised to be swimming in a sea of varied Italian dishes, from the variety of cheese and salami to the hearty ribollita or faro soup and all sorts of grilled meats. Here’s an excellent list of top 10 restaurants in Rome by the Guardian UK, but the best thing about Rome is that good food is everywhere – without the list, you’ll still be guaranteed a fantastic culinary experience.
Fresh-from-the-sea sashimi, seaweed-wrapped sushi and palate-cleansing wasabi have all made a name for themselves around the world. Healthy, fresh and outrageously delicious, it’s no wonder Japanese food has won the hearts of so many. Ask anyone to name something Japanese and the first thing that comes to mind is always food. In Tokyo, there’s something to feed everyone: from cheap yakitori bars frequented by businessmen to exquisite tatami-style restaurants. For a deep culinary experience, Tokyo Food Tour organizes several food-themed activities, such as fish market walks, soba-making classes and food-tasting tours.
Wander through the smoky and chaotic Djemma el Fna Square at sunset and witness the whole souk transform into a labyrinth of open-air street food stands. Order a bowl of snails simmering in savory spice-fuelled gravy and sticks of meat brochettas charcoaled grilled on the roaring fire – with the chef working up the magic right before you. Don’t forget to sample the local’s favorite soup, harira, and for the brave ones, get a taste of the aphrodisiac, sheep’s head, sold at many of the stalls. Most riads organize cooking classes such as Riad Kniza, which teaches the basics and fundamental ingredients of Moroccan cooking.
Cape Town, South Africa
As one of the top wine countries in the world, South Africa naturally has a collection of good food to accompany the wine – especially so in food-loving Cape Town. From buttery grilled king prawns to thick intestine stews, Capetonian food has always been an intoxicating mxiture of flavors from different ethnicities. These days, Cape Malay food, in particular, is catching the attention of many. This fusion of old-style Indonesian cuisine (from the Austronesian immigrants) and modern South African flavors is best sampled in Bo Kaap, the Muslim Asian district of Cape Town. Another great area for gourmet meals and wine-tasting is Franshoek, sprawled across the outskirts of the city with wineries and mountains.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The gastronomic capital of South America is blessed with rich culinary heritage especially from its ancestral Italian and Spanish roots. From sophisticated fine dining to simple street snacks, food in Argentina comes at a good price and in generous portions. Argentina is a carnivore’s paradise: it is most famous for the parrillada, an assortment of meat and internal organs barbequed to perfection – but there’s also a host of local dishes to sample, from the streetside empanadas to bife al milanesa (breaded deep-fried beef). The best places to eat in Buenos Aires include San Telmo, the bohemian district, and the eclectic La Boca neighborhood.
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