Some people might argue that there are only four basic pleasures in this life: sleeping, eating, sex, and going to the toilet. It’s not worth delving into the argument as many people find numerous different things pleasurable, and the discussion would take forever. However, it’s undeniable that eating has become for humans much more than just a basic survival need, and has morphed into a lifestyle, an identity for cultures and regions, a product to export, and an all-around billion dollar industry that relies on fashion, trends, and entertainment. The travel and hospitality industry has accordingly developed terms like Gastro-Tourism, Foodie-Travel, and the Food-Adventurer. Whatever you call it, the concept relies on local food traditions, ingredients, and techniques that make each location a new world of food, flavor, texture, and fantastic dishes waiting to be discovered by food-lovers all over the world. So, get your taste buds ready for an international culinary trip.
The United States may come as a surprise for many people reading this list and expecting something more exotic. However, if you visit any of the states in America, get ready to discover some of the best food you’ll ever try. America is made up of cultures from all over the world, as it is a country of immigrants with their roots expressed through specific cuisine. Tuck into a variety of food including the most tender and delicious grilled meats, melt-in-your-mouth-BBQ, incredibly fresh seafood, and the most innovative concoctions from Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America. The various regions of the country offer adventures for all types of eaters. Start in the southern states of the country, where barbecue is slowly smoked for hours in mixtures of incredible spices. Each region has their own distinctive signature BBQ: Tennessee style, Memphis style, Florida Style, Texas Style, North Carolina Style, South Carolina Style, and so on. Continue up the coast to northern states like New York, Connecticut. New Hampshire, and Philadelphia where you´ll find the best steaks, lobster and crabs to salivate at, as well as world-famous clam chowder and delectably scrumptious pies and desserts. Jump back to New Orleans and indulge in fantastic Cajun-style foods like Jambalaya. Go West to California and taste authentic Mexican food or some of the most renown and delicious wines of the world in Napa Valley. This section could go on and expand into entire encyclopedias, so, to sum up, no matter where you land in the United States if you´re looking to discover new flavors and taste the best of the best, you will. Undoubtedly.
The popularity Mexican food has gained all over the world is not due by chance or luck, it’s a truly well-deserved prize due to the diversity and deliciousness of real Mexican gastronomy. Like most of Latin America, Mexico is a place where immigrants from all over the world have brought their heritage. With that being said, Mexico is also a place rich in indigenous cultures with a long history of cultural traditions, costumes, ingredients, and techniques. Mexican people are extremely proud of their cultural heritage, including (and exalting) their food; which has helped in the evolution of their food and in making it available across the globe. Mexican food and culture are truly an export product. The spiciness, sweetness, and fantastic variety of more than 60 types of chili peppers makes Mexican cuisine more than just spicy food. Mixing peppers with all sorts of ingredients from every region of the country, Mexicans create food as varied as the different states in the country. There are tacos, enchiladas, burritos, sopes, tortas, cazuelas, moles, and more — a never-ending gallery of different combinations. Sauces like Chipotle, Habanero, Salsa Verde, Salsa Roja, and infinite others give each dish a distinctive flavor. Needless to say, on top of the outgoing and warm personality of its people and the phenomenal cultural richness of the country, Meixcan cuisine is the most popular reason people fall in love with Mexico.
It´s hard to mention only one country in South America on this list. The variety and distinctiveness of each place makes it impossible to overlook how amazing the different cuisines truly are. In the last five to ten years, Peruvian authorities have invested vigorously in establishing the Peru brand. This effort has included a big focus on Peruvian gastronomy. Realizing their food has such a wide variety of flavors, ingredients, textures, and influences, it became easy for the entire world to crave Peru’s cuisine. From delicious Ceviches made with fresh ingredients and fantastic seafood, to Anticuchos, Ají de Gallina, Suspiro Limeño, Chicha Morada, and much much more, Peru offers a gastronomic experience like no other and tops it off with its native (although Chileans may dispute this) Pisco, a liquor made from grapes.
Covering about three million square miles, Brazil is home to over 200 million people and is one of the world’s biggest economies. On top of that, Brazil is a true melting point of cultures that continues to nourish heritage originating from Europe, Asia, Africa, and native peoples. This fantastic mixture gives each region of the country a distinctive gastronomic personality sewn together by a special thread that makes Brazil one truly wonderful world. A common staple in Brazilian cuisine is the use of beans, all types of meats, seafood, and spices ranging from sweet and sour, to spicy and fruity. Some of the most famous dishes include Feijoada, a delicious pot of beans, pork, sausage, ribs, accompanied with farofa and oranges. But don’t just stop there, try magnificent concoctions like Coxinha, Pastel de Queijo, Pao de Queijo, Kive, Cassava, sweet delicious Brigadeiros; and of course Brazil´s world-famous meats served by a Gaucho on a sword directly from the grill to your plate.
Next up is Argentina. Enter the land of the world’s best steaks and enjoy cuts like Bife Chorizo, Vacio, Asado de Tira, Chinchulines, Chorizo, Morcilla, Molleja, Cabrito, choripan, all paired with a signature sauce “Chimichurri”. Even better, these dishes are paired with some of the best wines, including an out-of-this-world Malbec, a delicious Bonarda, or a more traditional Cabernet. However, Argentinian cuisine doesn’t stop there, indulge further and discover Argentina’s famous Dulce de Leche, Alfajores, and Empanadas. Last but not least, Italy may have had invented it, New York may have had given it world fame, but the best pizza in the world is found in Buenos Aires. Argentinian pizza is prepared in a deep cast-iron baking pan and is filled with abundant mozzarella cheese and ingredients including numerous types of meats and cold-cuts, vegetables, and the perfect spice mix of oregano, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Try Buenos Aires’ famous Fugazzetta, a pizza made only with a white garlic base, plenty of white onions, tons of mozzarella cheese, and oregano.
Europe is the true cradle of cuisine as a science and an art form. The best chefs, restaurants, and the most famous dishes come from this land, many of them specifically from France. French cuisine encompasses the perfect balance between finesse, flavor, tradition, and innovation. In fact, France has influenced the entire world’s cuisine so much that it was added to UNESCO’s world list of intangible cultural heritage in 2010. The best way to begin your exploration of French cuisine is to sample its incredible wines and cheeses; the variety of textures, flavors, aromas, and colors is enough to make your taste buds dance. Paris and Île-de-France, Champagne, Lorraine, Alsace, Poitou-Charentes, Limousin, Bordeaux, Périgord, Gascony, Basque country, French Guiana each has their own special take on gastronomy, and an individual take on French and world flavors. Some of the most representative dishes of French cuisine include Soupe à l’oignon, Coq au vin, Cassoulet, Beef bourguignon, Chocolate souffle, Flamiche, Confit de canard, Nicoise salad, Ratatouille, and Tarte tatin.
Spain is recognized around the world as one of the best places to indulge in an incredible experience of flavors, textures, colors, and amazing ingredients. With over 100 years of culinary evolution, Spain has managed to conjure a list of dishes and specialties impossible to list entirely. Tourists from around the world visit Spain and quickly find themselves in love with Spanish gastronomy. The different regions of the country — from Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Islas Canarias, to Vasque Country, Valladolid, Murcia, and even Ibiza — offer a variety of dishes with worldwide fame. Loosen your belt a notch and order dishes like paella, Jamon Serrano, Manchego Cheese, Tapas, Tortilla Española, Croquettes, Gazpacho, Pisto (Spanish ratatouille), Pulpo, fried milk, and Prawns in Garlic. To top off a perfect Spanish meal, make sure you compliment it with one of Spain’s world-famous wines from its Rioja Region. Ole!
No food aficionado would ever not mention Italy as one of the world’s best places to taste amazing food. Over one hundred years ago, Italian explorers found Asia’s pasta and America’s tomatoes and developed a menu so rich with varied food that it quickly spread around the world, and today there are few cities or towns without an Italian restaurant. But Italy is not only pasta and pizza. Italy is also incredible wines, cheeses, cured meats, and an infinite menu of possibilities to last you a lifetime. The various social classes in the country, as well as a long history of rich culture, make each region of Italy stand out from the others with delectable delicacies that continue to conquer palates and hearts everywhere. Other than traditional pizza, calzone, lasagna, cannelloni, and gnocchi, Italy is filled with dishes as varied as the paintings found in the country’s museums. These dishes include Bottarga, Lasagna, Fiorentina Steak, Ribollita, Polenta, Ossobuco, Risotto, Carbonara, Truffles, Focaccia bread, Arancini & Supplì, Gelato, and Tiramisu. Round-up a satisfying meal with a cup of Italian coffee such as a Cappuccino, or their famous Digestivo. If you fancy something stronger, alcoholic beverages include limoncello, grappa, Amaro, cynar, amaretto, and if you’re feeling brave, sambuca. Mamma mia!
Africa & Asia
Much of the joy of South African food comes from sharing with the locals and getting sucked into their culture and traditions. The country has seen many invasions, wars, struggles, successes, victories, and defeats, and all of them have made an impact on its culture and thus on its gastronomy. That might be the reason why street food is ever-present in South Africa. From Pretoria and Johannesburg to Durban, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth, and Cape Town, South African cuisine is flooded by exotically delicious spices, fresh ingredients, and incredible techniques dating back centuries. This mix of modern and old has given birth to delicacies such as Amagwinya/vetkoek, Biltong, Bobotie, Boerewors, Braaivleis, Braai chops, Braaibroodjies, Bredie, Bunny chow, Don Pedro, Denningvleis, Gatsby, Koe(k)sisters, Malva pudding, Milktart, Mogodu with ting, Pap en sous, Peppermint crisp tart, Smiley, Snoek, and Umngqusho. Main ingredients include seeds, nuts, vegetables, leaves, pulps, and meats from different animals, while some of the most traditional dishes also include blood and unusual foods that are sure to expand your tastebuds’ taste range.
Centuries of social and economic history, as well as cultural development and heritage, make Japanese food an icon among the world’s connoisseurs of the gastronomic universe. Being an island, Japan’s cuisine features plenty of fish and seafood prepared with ancient techniques such as grilled and pan-fried dishes (yakimono), stewed/simmered/cooked/boiled dishes (nimono), stir-fried dishes (itamemono), steamed dishes (mushimono), deep-fried dishes (agemono), sliced raw fish (sashimi), soups (suimono and shirumono), pickled/salted vegetables (tsukemono), and dishes dressed with various kinds of sauces (aemono), among many others. With such a variety of ingredients and cooking methods, plus the freshness of their seafood, Japan has become a mecca for food-lovers and its influence has crossed borders to conquer the entire world. Japan is also home to some of the world’s best beef, specifically Kobe Beef. Cows bred in special farms are fed beer and given massages. The meat is so good it is sometimes eaten raw.
Thailand and the surrounding region of Southeast Asia is a melting pot of cultures, colors, flavors, spices, and fresh and exotic ingredients that create a gastronomic landscape worthy of being among the world’s best food. Thai food is characterized by putting emphasis on lightly-prepared dishes with strong aromatic components and a spicy edge. The main ingredients include rice, noodles and starches, pastes and sauces, vegetables, herbs and spices, and fruits; all combined with various meats, seafood, and fish to create fascinatingly delicious dishes. Some of the most known and iconic of this region are Guay Teow (Noodle Soup), Tom Kha Gai (Chicken in Coconut Soup), Som Tam (Spicy Green Papaya Salad), Yam Talay (Spicy Seafood Salad), Laab (Spicy Salad), Pad Phuk Tong (Stir-Fried Pumpkin), Pad Thai (Thai Style Fried Noodles), Pad See Eiw (Thick Noodle Dish), Pak Boong (Morning Glory), Khao Pad (Fried Rice), Pad Krapow (Fried Basil), Panang (Thai Curry), Gaeng Keow Wan (Green Curry), Khao Soi (creamy coconut curry noodle soup), Gai Tod (Fried Chicken), Pad Phak (Fried Vegetables), Kai Med Ma Muang (Chicken with Cashew Nuts), Kai Jeow (Thai Omelette), and Kao Niew Ma Muang (Mango and Sticky Rice). It´s no surprise visitors tend to fall in love with this cuisine as it’s so fresh, combined with a perfect level of spiciness, and a well-balanced mixture of tantalizing flavors.