Destination delicacy: The 10 best stops for foodies
FOOD is an important part of travel and for many it is the main purpose of visiting a country. Ann Rickard believes in embracing the cuisine of the country you are in at the time, forgetting all your usual favourite foods and taking your taste buds out for new experience. Be brave and try, she says. These are her 10 favourite food countries, but you surely will have your own.
STICK to the familiar if you are nervous, but dumplings, Peking duck, yum cha and stir fries as we know them are taken to a new level of flavour in China. For the adventurous, everything is possible. We've braved chicken feet in a Guangzhou restaurant that seated 1,000 people, eating everything from what looked like battered spiders to slippery eels.
FAMILIAR and fabulous is Goi Cuon, a translucent spring roll filled with minced pork or crab and coriander. Not so familiar but a must-try is Banh Xeo, sizzling fried pancakes with prawns, bean sprouts and egg, wrapped in rice paper with herbs and dipped into a spicy sauce. Steer clear of the wet markets unless you have a strong stomach. Live frogs, snakes and turtles in buckets might disturb us but the locals love them simmered in a spicy sauce.
IT'S not all Michelin-star dining, although it is quite the experience to sit down in elegant surroundings to confit duck and foie gras. But the real pleasure comes in finding a rustic bistro (often behind a tabac in a small village) serving three simple but good courses for 15 euros the lot, including wine. Then there are the vibrant markets to pick up a pungent cheese, gnarly tomatoes, marinated olives, an obligatory baguette and maybe an apple tart tatine. Where's the nearest picnic spot?
WE'VE eaten five-star here at David Thompson's Nahm restaurant with its teak and wood panels, but we also love pulling up a plastic chair at a tin table on a footpath while something nearby sizzles in a wok or chars on an open burner. Don't be afraid to eat on the street, but stick the rule of eating at stalls with crowds of locals, and watch your food being cooked (beware of anything in a food warmer.) For the timid, street food tours with English-speaking guides in the cities and towns will show you the ropes.
HIT as many tapas bars as possible for lunch and feast on hundreds of varieties of small bites. Then have a long siesta and go out to eat at 11pm like the locals do. Paella at one of the waterfront restaurants along the Passeig de Joan de Borbo might be touristy but when you have a towering pan of fragrant, saffron rice filled with moist chicken and fresh seafood in front of you, being a tourist among other tourists is okay.
BREAKFAST on roti canai, a griddled pizza-like dough with a pile of lentils on top, (or an egg if you are conservative.) Eat at least six times a day here where food is king and all the familiar dishes are tastier than we know them: nasi goreng, rendang curry, satays. But a snack on the street of kuey teow, rice noodles cooked over charcoal with chilli, prawns and soy, eaten out of a paper parcel, will make you feel like a local.
ENJOY your pizzas with thin crusts and simple mozzarella, prosciutto and tomato topping, and eat one all to yourself (locals do) and then take the taste-buds out of their comfort zone with insalate di polpo (boiled octopus salad) or trippa (tripe). Each region has its own trippa recipe but it is often cooked in a tomato and wine broth. Look for cacciucco, a seafood stew in a chilli tomato broth.
FOOD is not the first thing you think of here, more like beer, but start the day with bread and you'll know you've arrived. Crusty outsides, soft or dense insides, Germans eat bread with every meal. Then there are the slow-cooked pork knuckles,smoked meats, sauerkraut...let yourself go but do save yourself for a large slice of Black Forest Cake.
THIS small land-locked country never blows its trumpet about its cuisine but some of the tastiest food in the world is here. Rosti, thinly grated, pan-fried potatoes is a national dish, enhanced with salty bacon and fried egg and raclette cheese (Rosti Valaisanne) and eaten with tangy gherkins and pickled pearl onions. Finish that off with a Swiss chocolate or two and you'll know you're in a country that loves its food.
IN A taverna in the Plaka with views of the Acropolis I once ate a slab of moussaka so rich, I could barely lift my stomach off the ground for two days. But moussaka is a must in Greece, as is stuffed squid, a Greek salad, meatballs and baklava. Octopus, fresh off the boat and cooked over a grill on any Greek Island is going to be a lasting memory.
Read more of Ann's musings at www.annrickard.com