Travel is wishing for one more bite of whatever that just was.
Whether it is a fancy frog legs and fine wine dinner at a Michelin star restaurant in Paris, a good old backyard crawfish boil in New Orleans, or something you have never encountered before, a holiday driven by a love for food is a holiday you will never forget. These are 5 of the most interesting food cultures around the world and some of their most delicious and unusual dishes:
Eating out in China is a wild ride even for the most daring of diners. Chinese food can swing wildly between hot and spicy to sweet and fragrant, and often contains an array of ingredients, some of which you may have never encountered before.
There are 8 great cuisines of China, each with its own unique culinary traditions: sweet Cantonese, spicy Sichuan, sweet and salty Jiangsu, fresh Zhejiang, sweet and sour Fujian, hot and sour Hunan, wild Anhui, and salty and crispy Shandong.
Famous Chinese dishes include: Sweet and Sour Pork, Kung Pao Chicken, and Ma Po Tofu
The good: Hotpot is one of the best dining experiences in China. Meats and vegetables are cooked in a cauldron of boiling broth in the centre of the table and then dipped in savoury, salty, or peanut sauces afterwards while you sit around chatting and drinking with your fellow diners.
The weird: There are some truly weird dishes in China and the century egg is one of them. This beloved Chinese delicacy is an egg that has been preserved in a mixture of quicklime, ash, clay, rice hulls, and salt and that has a creamy, gelatinous texture that is extremely flavourful.
Although many recipes have been around for centuries – some deeply rooted in ancient Aztec culture – and UNESCO has designated Mexican food a cultural treasure, it is anything but dull.
The first stop on your food journey through Mexico is a taqueria (taco stand), but there is so much more to Mexico than tacos.
Chilaquiles is a breakfast dish of tortillas, salsa, eggs, chicken, cheese, and cream. A cemita is a torta (Mexican sandwich) stuffed with BBQ meat, avocado, Oaxacan cheese, chipotle, spicy sauce, and papalo. And mole poblano is a mysterious but iconic sauce that takes an entire day to prepare and can sometimes contain 100 different types of ingredients.
The good:Cochinita Pibil is a Yucatan dish that involves wrapping a suckling pig in banana leaves, marinating it in orange and a sweet pepper sauce called achiote and cooking it in barbecue pit in the ground for several hours. Nothing can prepare you for the sensational flavour of this dish.
The weird: Head to the riverbanks of Oaxaca and you will find fishermen making Caldo de Piedra (stone soup) right on the rocks of the river. Fish or freshwater shrimp, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and lime is put into a hollow gourd and cooked with a scorching rock that is dropped into the soup.
Italian food needs no introduction.
The Italians gave us pizza and pasta and found 100 different ways to make risotto. They introduced us to the creamy coffee decadence of Tiramisù and Italian cheeses such as gorgonzola, mozzarella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Italy is the birthplace of ravioli and gnocchi and one of the few places in the world you can find truffles, one of the most expensive and coveted foods in the world, growing in abundance in the wild. Italy is a country for indulgence.
A country of great food, wine, and coffee, and where eating is taken seriously. The dining experience in Italy alone is worth travelling for. Restaurants in Italy encourage you to relax and enjoy the food, the wine, the dessert.
The appreciation and fondness for food in Italy is irresistible and you will soon find yourself being seduced by crispy focaccia and creamy Gelato.
The good: Call it a cliché, but there is no pizza like a pizza made in a pizzeria in Naples, an old village on the edge of a volcano that is said to be the birthplace of pizza. A simple margherita will blow your taste buds’ minds and the pizza you will tell stories about.
The weird: Bottarga is a world famous delicacy that had humble beginnings along the coastal areas of Italy, like Sardinia and Sicily. Bottarga is made of salted and cured roe, which is eggs from fish (the Italian version of caviar). It is basically fish egg biltong that is served grated over pasta or thinly sliced.
There is no food in the world like Japanese food.
It is truly iconic and has captured the world’s heart with its delicate arrangements and strangely delicious flavours. Japanese food is beautiful, interesting, and rich in umami, which translates to “pleasant savory taste”.
A food holiday in Japan is will take you through the streets of Tokyo in search of the best sushi and sashimi in Japan. It will have you following your nose through the bright lights of Osaka, the best food city in Japan, in pursuit of ramen and takoyaki, a fried ball stuffed with octopus. You will spend evenings drinking the best sake in Kyoto, a city of temples, imperial palaces, and ethereal wandering geisha. And Kobe will lure you in with gyoza, dumplings dipped in rich soy sauce, sesame oil, or citrus ponzu sauce.
The good:Ramen and sukiyaki are two of the most interesting dishes in Japan. Both are colourful concoctions of exotic Japanese ingredients, meats (vegetarian food in Japan is becoming more popular, so you will be able to find them without meat),and of course, the famous broth and sauces of Japan. Ramen is more of a soup and sukiyaki has less liquid, but both are wildly exciting to eat.
The weird: A big part of Japan’s appeal when it comes to food is its weirdness. Where else would you eat a prostate gland from a fish. Shirako is another of the weird foods from around the world that are strangely appetizing. It has a creamy texture and is popular in northern Japan.
Thai food can also be quite strange because of the sheer variety of ingredients used and the unfamiliar tastes and aromas, but it is undeniably some of the most exciting food in the world.
It is a sensory extravaganza of flavours, textures, and colour that may dazzle you one moment and disturb you the next. Thai food is famous for its street food of bugs and spiders and the zesty zing of dishes such as Tom Yum Goong, a hot and sour shrimp soup.
The food in Thailand can be slightly outlandish with its bold flavours and ingredients, but it is always unfailingly delicious. As if those ingredients have always meant to be cooked together.
Fragrant curries paired with coconut milk, spicy wok fried noodles topped with cashew nuts, and a salad of garlic, chilli, and papaya. There is a reason Thailand is known for its food, the wild array of flavours and exotic aromatics is irresistible.
The good: Gaeng Keow Wan Gai (Thai green chicken curry) is sensational. It has a rather sweet taste that mingles deliciously with the green curry paste and flavours of the meat and vegetables. You have not tasted good green curry until you’ve tasted Gaeng Keow Wan Gai.
The weird: The weirdest food in Thailand is definitely the bugs. When it comes to Thai food, it’s not just spiders and the usual critters you will find at street food vendors. Giant water bugs, silk worms, red ants eggs, and bamboo worms are also on the menu.
Even if none of these appeal to you, let your taste buds lead and you could find yourself on an epic culinary adventure that takes you through steamy city streets in search of secret dim sum bars, to the edge of the Mediterranean in pursuit of real dolmades, and to the frigid far reaches of northern Europe to dine on Hákarl, a rotten, dried poisonous shark that is considered a delicacy in Iceland.
Sometimes the only reason you need to take a trip is food. And with so many interesting food cultures around the world, often it is the best reason to.
Find cheap flights and discover all the weird and wonderful food around the world for yourself.