When I think of travelling, I don’t just envision the captivating landscapes or the thrill of navigating through bustling city streets. For me, the heart of any journey lies in the art of savouring the local cuisine. And learning more about its history and meanings as well.
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It’s ultiamtely a sensory experience, allowing us to taste the history, culture and soul of a place. From rustic street stalls to grand feasting halls, I’ve discovered that the story of a region often unfolds on a plate.
And is the best souvenir to take home: knowing about local flavours and maybe even being able to recreate it at home or knowing to look for it in restaurants.
So, if you’re like me, with a burning passion for both travel and food, allow me to guide you through my culinary passport, an odyssey of taste that transcends borders.
The Grill Globetrotter
The act of grilling, I believe, is as old as civilization itself. The sound of a crackling flame, the tantalizing aroma of searing meat, and the camaraderie it fosters is universal. Across continents and cultures, there’s a shared love for this primal method of cooking.
USA – The Barbecue Belt
My journey across the States taught me that BBQ isn’t just a cooking method; it’s a culture, a lifestyle, and in some places, almost a religion. Houston and Galveston in Texas alone have a vibrant foodie culture.
- Texas Brisket: Slow-cooked over hours, this melt-in-the-mouth delicacy, when done right, carries a smoky aroma and a flavor that needs little embellishment.
- Memphis Ribs: Glazed with a tangy sauce, these ribs are a messy, sticky delight. Pair them with a side of coleslaw, and you have a meal fit for a king.
- Cheesesteak: When you’re in Philadelphia, a must is trying cheesesteak. There are many iconic restaurants with their own spin on the recipe with some rivalry going on. So you can book a cheesesteak tour* to sample all of them and declare your own verdict.
Germany – Sausages
Look at the sausage culture in Germany! Local sausages are actually patented. If you want to get an idea, here is a map of the different sausages in Germany.
Note that in some areas, it’s customary to get them from a street stall and in others, you should dine in a restaurant. But everywhere, you can get various types in local supermarkets to cook at home.
However, even if you fall in love with German sausages, you are most likely not allowed to take them home in your luggage and not even to ship some home in a parcel, regardless of packaging.
- Thüringer Bratwurst: grilled on both sides for a slightly crispy outer layer and nicely spiced (not spicy tho) filling – have it with mustard from the Born brand, and only at street stalls, not restaurants
- Weißwurst and sweet mustard: the typical Bavarian breakfast to have at a restaurant
- Nurembergers: get a stack of tiny grey sausages in Nuremberg to go with your bread bun. It’s not unusual to get 16 at once
Argentina – The Asado Experience
If there’s one place where I felt the true essence of community grilling, it’s Argentina. An asado here isn’t just about the food; it’s an event.
- Traditional Techniques: The beauty of an Argentinian asado is in the simplicity. Quality cuts of meat are grilled over wood or charcoal, letting the natural flavors shine.
- Chimichurri: This zesty green sauce, made with parsley, garlic, vinegar, and oil, was always by my side during my Argentinian grill adventures.
- Empanadas: The perfect pastry dough snack to fill your stomach with cheesy goodness. If you’re in Buenos Aires, you can learn how to make them in this cooking class*.
Tip: Speaking of grilling, if you’re a grilling aficionado like me and love to take the experience wherever you go, looking into the best portable gas grills is a brilliant idea. It transforms camping trips into gourmet feasts!
Asia – A Symphony of Street Food
One can’t speak of culinary travels without delving deep into the heart of Asia. The street food scene here is vibrant, diverse, and bursting with flavours. There is simply so much to try and so many amazing overlays of flavour.
Thailand – A Feast for the Senses
Once the afternoon ends, soup kitches are set up on the pavements to allow busy passersby a quick bite.
Don’t be afraid to take a seat on the plastic chairs and order from the menu. It’s usually in Thai but often comes with pictures.
It’s a good idea to research upfront for meals you want to try and meals you don’t, to avoid any surprises, especially if you want vegetarian dishes. You can also try your hand at classic dishes in a Thai cooking class*.
- Pad Thai: A simple noodle dish elevated with tamarind, peanuts, and fresh prawns, it’s a symphony of sweet, sour, and spicy. The essential thai dish.
- Mango Sticky Rice: This dessert, with its ripe mangoes and creamy coconut milk, is the perfect sweet conclusion to a day full of adventures.
- Tom Yum Soup: Spicy Thai Soup covered in tiny shrimp
India – The Spice Route
India, with its rich tapestry of cultures, presents a culinary landscape that’s diverse, intense, and incredibly soulful.
- Chaat: An umbrella term for a variety of street snacks, these are a riot of textures and flavors. Crispy, tangy, spicy, and sweet all at once!
- Biryani: A fragrant rice dish with succulent pieces of meat or vegetables, it’s a testament to the art of slow cooking in India.
Did you know that in each city you can get a foodie map and the local keychains in tourist shops have popular anime/manga characters holding the special dishes and foodie products that represent where you bought them?
Japan is really proud of of its food. And rightly so.
- Okonomiyaki: This dish you have to have in Osaka. And if you get to Hiroshima, you need to try it there as well. It’s different and each city is dead set on saying their version is the best. Try it yourself but don’t tell the locals. ;)
- Sushi: The classic Japanese “snack” is something you should sample in Tokyo. There are many sushi restaurants. And you can attend a cooking class* (like I did).
Europe – Culinary Traditions and Wine Trails
Europe, for me, is about exploring age-old culinary traditions. Every country and every region has its very own special dishes, products and beverages to sample from. Be it bread, cheese, sauces or other products, foodie travellers will find a lot to love.
Check for local foodie tours to to not miss out on anything special.
Italy – More Than Just Pizza
Italy made me fall in love with the simplicity of fresh ingredients and the passion that goes into every dish. Plus, there are regional differences when it comes to the classic pasta, pizza and gelato dishes. Try them out!
- Pasta: From the rich Carbonara of Rome to the zesty Pesto of Genoa, every region offers a unique pasta delight. And there are pasta shops to take wonderful ingredients home with you.
- Gelato: No trip to Italy is complete without indulging in this creamy delight. Trust me; it’s ice cream, elevated!
- Graniti: That’s the original crushed ice from Sicily. It is said to have been ‘discovered’ when the big ice chunks melted with fresh fruits in the volcano caves used for storage over summer.
France – Gourmet Galore
French cuisine is sophisticated, refined, and absolutely delightful. My culinary sojourn here was nothing short of magical. And just sitting in a cafe and watching people go by is an experience in itself.
- Croissants: A simple pastry, yet when done right, it’s flaky, buttery perfection. Get it from any bakery.
- Wine Trails: The vineyards of Bordeaux and Champagne offered not just the finest wines, but also stories of generations of winemakers.
Are you also on a mission to try cheesecake all over the world? Did you know that it’s recipe is interpreted wildly differently from country to country.
And then there are milkshakes. The best so far are in the US, with really creamy thick shakes. Here’s a list of the best milkshake parlours in NYC – based on personal research.
My culinary passport isn’t just about the food I tasted but also the memories I created and the stories I discovered.
Every dish, every flavor carries the essence of a place and its people.
So, for those who dream of traveling, remember that food offers the most authentic journey. It’s a voyage of discovery, one bite at a time.
Where did your foodie travels lead you and what dishes were the most impressive to your sensory memory?