One of the many pleasures of traveling is trying different foods. If that’s one of your favorite things about globe-trotting, here are some of the best destinations for people who love to eat.
Food is an important part of every culture. Many traditional dishes were invented hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago and have been enjoyed by locals ever since.
Those traditional foods aren’t just a way to experience authentic local cuisine, either; they’re also a window into the culture. The French practice of taking your time to enjoy a rich meal isn’t just about food—it’s an insight into French culture and what’s important to its people.
Being open to new cuisines can expand your palette, help you meet new people, and probably introduce you to a new dish you’ll enjoy again and again. That’s why every foodie (or cook) should visit these cities.
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It’s no secret that the entire country of Italy is a food lover’s dream. But the best place to try different types of Italian cuisine is the capital itself. Piping hot pizzas just pulled from a wood-burning oven, fresh seafood caught that morning, rich pasta dishes, and a plethora of other tasty foods can be found in Rome.
There are more dishes to try in Rome than anyone could accomplish in a single vacation, but one of the most quintessential is cacio e pepe. This pasta dish dates back to ancient Rome because of the simplicity of its ingredients: dried pasta, aged pecorino, and black peppers. These were easy for Roman shepherds to carry around and didn’t spoil.
Cacio e pepe is the perfect example of Italian food. It’s rich and flavorful but only made with a handful of fresh ingredients. You can find this dish at many restaurants in Rome, but Roma Sparita, Trattoria Da Cesare al Casaletto, and Trattoria Da Danilo have all truly mastered the dish.
Other foods to try in Rome include:
- Carbonara: Pasta made with eggs and cheese.
- Bucatini amatriciana: Pasta with a spicy tomato sauce.
- Supplì: Fried rice balls.
- La coda alla vaccinara: Oxtail stew.
- Pizza Margherita: This Neapolitan version features San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil, salt, and extra-virgin olive oil.
- Gelato: This frozen treat is made of butterfat whole milk and sugar.
Mostly known for its unbelievably fresh sushi, Tokyo has a long list of other delicious dishes available. It’s genuinely hard to find bad food in Japan.
While you should certainly give sushi here a try, you don’t need to find the fanciest restaurant in the city to get some delicious rolls. Sushi is sold in most grocery stores and often tastes better than your sushi restaurant back home for a fraction of the price.
You can’t leave Tokyo without trying a bowl of Japanese curry. There are many variations of this dish, all descendants of the original dish introduced to the country in the late 1800s by Anglo-Indian officers of the British Royal Navy. Some curries are dark and spicy while others are light and slightly sweet, but all are delicious.
Curry is often served with meat and vegetables and eaten with rice. One of the most popular versions of this dish is katsu-kare, which is curry served over a breaded and fried pork cutlet. You can find fantastic katsu-kare at Manten in Chiyoda City, Tokyo, or other yummy curry dishes at Fujiyama Curry and Curry Kusamakura.
Other foods to try in Tokyo include:
- Ramen: Noodle soup.
- Yakitori: Grilled meat and vegetables on skewers.
- Tempura: Battered and fried meat and vegetables.
- Gyoza: Pan-fried dumplings.
- Soba: Buckwheat noodles.
- Yakisoba: Fried noodles.
- Sukiyaki: A variety of ingredients simmered in a broth.
- Udon: Noodle soup with fish stock.
- Onigiri: Stuffed rice balls.
New Orleans is a unique food destination with influences from French, Spanish, West African, and Native American cuisine. It’s packed full of iconic dishes that will all leave your stomach full and your soul satisfied.
It’s tricky to narrow down a single most iconic food in New Orleans, but no one should visit without trying gumbo. This is a thick stew served over rice that is made from celery, peppers, onions, chicken, sausage, okra, and/or seafood. Practically everyone in the city grew up eating this dish, and each family has their own spin on the recipe.
Other dishes to grab while you’re NOLA include:
- Jambalaya: Meat and vegetables with rice.
- Crawfish etouffee: Fish stew served over rice.
- Red beans and rice: This one is all in the name.
- A Po Boy: French bread sandwiches that come in a variety of meats and toppings.
- Oysters: You can get all types of seafood in NOLA, but these are a real treat.
- Bananas Foster: A fried banana and ice cream dessert.
- Beignets: Fried donuts covered in powdered sugar.
While there’s no shortage of good food in Mexico, some of the best can be found in Oaxaca. This city has a rich cultural diversity and many of the ingredients in Oaxacan food were used by ancient civilizations.
Oaxaca’s most famous street-food dish is tlayudas, or “Mexican Pizza.” This consists of a large tortilla that’s been brushed in pork lard, toasted, and loaded with toppings. No one knows exactly when it originated, but it seems to have been around for a while because of how convenient it is to make.
Other foods you have to try in Oaxaca include:
- Mole: A Mexican sauce
- Memelas: Fried cakes made of masa.
- Enfrijoladas: Enchiladas with a black bean sauce.
- Tamales: Stuffed masa dough.
- Chapulines: Grasshoppers.
- Tejate: A drink made from maize and cacao.
No foodie should miss a trip to France, where the culture seems to revolve around food. The French believe that everything you eat—whether it’s a five-course dinner or a single croissant—should be savored. Meals are notoriously long, and it’s rare to see locals eating on the go.
One of the most traditional French foods happens to be one of the sweetest. Macarons are light, airy cookies that come in a variety of colors and flavors. It is believed that this cookie was introduced to France by the Italian chef of queen Catherine de Medici during the 16th century.
Other foods that are necessary to try for an authentic Parisian experience include:
- Baguettes: Long loaves of French bread.
- Croissants: A buttery, flaky pastry.
- Cheese: Any kind, but Camembert and Roquefort are good for a start.
- Crepes: Very thin pancakes.
- Escargot: Snails.
- Duck confit: Salted and cured duck.
- Coq au vin: Braised chicken stew.
- Croque monsieur: Hot ham and cheese sandwiches.
The melting pot culture of NYC means you can find everything from fantastic pizza places to Jewish delis to terrific ramen shops throughout the city.
One of the most iconic New York eats is a bagel with lox. Bagels first arrived in the city with Polish immigrants and lox appeared as a combination of Scandinavian imports and Native American smoking techniques.
A traditional bagel with lox is often topped with American cream cheese and Italian capers, for a satisfying breakfast that’s a melting pot of its own.
Other things you have to try in New York include:
- Pastrami on rye: You haven’t truly experienced NYC until you order one of these at a deli.
- Pizza: New York-style, obviously.
- Falafels: A deep-fried patty made from chickpeas.
- Cheesecake: No city does this famous dessert like NYC.
- Black and white cookies: Cake cookies that are chocolate on one half, and vanilla on the other.
- Hot dogs: From a street vendor with your fave toppings.
- Hand-pulled Chinese noodles: These have a more elastic mouthfeel than traditional noodles.
- A cronut: A donut and croissant hybrid.
Everyone’s favorite takeout option is even better in the capital of Thailand, where you can get most meals for just a few dollars. Experiencing Thai food in Bangkok also allows you to eat it like you’re supposed to: late at night in the middle of a bustling street market.
One dish you should try from the source is tom yum goong. This spicy shrimp soup contains fragrant lemongrass, chilis, lime, shallots, fish sauce, and shrimp. It’s bold, spicy, and slightly sour. No one knows exactly when it was invented, but this soup is believed to have originated in central Thailand.
Other foods you can’t miss in Bangkok include:
- Pad thai: Fried noodles.
- Som tum: Green papaya salad.
- Gaeng daeng: Red curry.
- Tom kha gai: Coconut chicken soup.
- Khao pad: Fried rice.
Argentina flies under the radar of many foodie lists, but this city is full of delicious food and wine. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Italians flocked to Argentina and created a strong influence on the culture there. As a result, many of Argentina’s signature dishes combine South American and Italian cuisines.
Mendoza is primarily known for its grilled meats, which some people consider to be the best in the world. Virtually any cut of an animal can be found in a restaurant here. You’ll want to head to a parilla, or barbecue, restaurant to get the full experience.
Before leaving Argentina, you should also try:
- Empanadas: Baked turnovers filled with meat.
- Chimichurri: An herbaceous sauce served over meat.
- Dulce de leche: A caramel-like spread used in desserts.
- Medialunas: Breakfast pastries.
Mendoza is also surrounded by vineyards, so be sure to have a few glasses of incredible wine.
This list certainly doesn’t cover every global foodie destination, but it’s a good place to start. Before you jet off to sample some delicious cuisine, though, ensure your comfort on the plane with a good travel pillow.