When it comes to travelling, I’m completely led by my stomach – we rarely make a holiday decision that isn’t influenced by the food we’ll be able to eat. For me, eating is one of the best ways to experience a place, and we always make an effort to seek out more “local” places to eat – be it tucked away trattorias in Italy or market stalls in the Far East.
To whet your appetite, here’s my pick of five destinations for food-lovers – obviously the list is by no means exhaustive, but if you’re looking for ideas these five are a good place to start.
With a diverse population made up of ethnic Malays, Indians and Chinese, Malaysia has an appropriately diverse (and utterly wonderful) cuisine. Highlights include roticanai – a layered bread that’s a bit like an Indian paratha and served with curry, deliciously spiced beef rendang, stir-fried char kway teow noodles, Indian dosa and banana leaf curries, freshly grilled satay….I could go on and on. As in most of southeast Asia, the best places to eat are hawker stalls and nightmarkets – not only are they cheap and hugely atmospheric, but the food is usually absolutely delicious.
Until fairly recently, our knowledge of Mexican food in the UK has been based on the stodgy cheese-smothered dishes of Tex-Mex restaurants. In reality, Mexican food is a lot lighter and fresher, crammed full of flavours like coriander and lime. So, expect not just small, soft tacos and zingy salsas, but rich moles, spicy corn on the cob, fresh juices and, perhaps best of all, gorgeous seafood, especially prawns, by the coast
The “Big Easy” is a real treat for food-lovers, with local Creole specialities ranging from jambalaya and gumbo to po-boys (sandwiches made with local French bread and stuffed with meat and/or fish) and Italian-inspired muffuletta’s, oozing with meat and cheese. And that’s not to mention the soft-shell crabs, famously good oysters and soft beignets (like doughnuts). Best of all, you can dance off all that food (and booze, knowing New Orleans), by finishing up your evening checking out the vibrant local music scene.
I absolutely love French food and have enjoyed some of my most memorable meals in Paris and Lyon. But it’s hard to beat Provence for food – the beautiful countryside of the region boasts an abundance of produce which really comes into play in the food served here. Tapenade, made with juicy local olives, is a particular delight, as are the gorgeous local salads that are just bursting with flavour. If you love seafood, then this is another great destination for you – I can never resist soupe de poisson, served with croutons that you smother in saffron-orange rouille and cheese, not to mention freshly barbecued loup (sea bass)– but aside from fish there’s also ratatouille, which makes use of the beautiful vegetables you see piled up in markets throughout the region, gorgeous goats milk cheeses and herb-roasted lamb. And all washed down with an ice-cold glass of local rosé. Perfect.
The food of India is as varied as its geography – and no matter how well you think you know it before you go there, the experience is infinitely better in country. From melt-in-the-mouth naan bread and tangy tamarind bhel puri to curries that will make you vow never to go to your local takeaway again, it’s hard not to be bowled over by India’s gastronomic delights. For me, south Indian cuisine is a particularly highlight – even devout meat-eaters like my husband can’t get enough of the region’s vegetarian food, and the local abundance of coconuts are made use of in a whole host of dishes, from chutneys to prawn curries. In Kerala, I really enjoyed discovering puttu – a combination of rice powder and grated coconut that is sometimes served for breakfast with hot milk, honey and bananas – absolutely delicious, especially when enjoyed with a glass of masala chai (spiced tea) and a view of the ocean.
Where are your favourite foodie destinations? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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