Food is one of the most important things in the world, and also, one of the most exciting. As the world slowly reemerges into travel, food has always been one of the greatest motivating factors, at least for me.
Once you’ve had a quintessential food experience, like sushi in Japan, you can’t help but wonder if that southern barbecue everyone talks about is equally as moving, or life changing.
And once you start down that road, you’ll end up down quite a few others, likely in all corners of the globe. That’s a wonderful thing.
Yep, the world’s best food experiences really are “that” moving and memorable — and are always worth the flight. These 19 experiences offer incredible depth, diversity and intrigue that will stay with you long before your passport is stamped back at home.
Since life is all about goals, make it a goal to check out as many of these as you can…
Barbecue In The Southern USA
You’ll hear plenty of trash talk between Kansas City, deep south, Texas BBQ and all that, but the only thing that matters is getting your hands on at least one genuine article of American barbecue.
Proper barbecue is a labor of love, requiring hours of marinade in either a dry or wet coating, and then many many more hours being slowly smoked at a low temperature, using the best sourced meat.
The result? Meat that quite literally falls off the bone, with so much flavor you dare not reach for extra sauce.
Dosa In India
There are great curries all around the world, but a dosa is so uniquely special in India, and it’s a food outside of what most who experience Indian cuisine from abroad are familiar with. It’s the food for everyone, that’s delicious enough…. for everyone.
To be fair, you could say the same about biryani. But it’s all so delicious. A dosa is like a thin crepe cooked in clarified butter, filled with spiced potatoes, cheese, spinach, or just about anything you like. It’s one of the most unique experiences you can have, and it’s so cheap you just have to smile.
Sushi In Japan
It really doesn’t get much more quintessential than this. If there’s one travel expense that’s worth it, doing a proper omakase in the country that does it at another level is something you’ll never forget.
Everything from the tastes to the pace of the meal is different from anything else you’ll ever experience and if you let yourself relax, it will change you in the best of ways. And yes, it will also ruin you for eating sushi elsewhere. I barely eat it in London now!
Pasteis De Nata In Portugal
Sometimes you’ve just gotta say – “damn, that’s good”. A Portuguese custard tart – done right – is one of those things.
Done right should mean flakey pastry around the base, decadently smooth custard and even perhaps a dash of cinnamon, but however you do o it, the real thing is the real thing.
It’s the kind of thing you’ll find yourself smuggling into luggage, not that we condone such a thing. If you needed another reason to visit Portugal — which you probably did not — this is another one, just in case.
Afternoon Tea In The UK
You can get afternoon tea in high end hotels the world around, but it’s never quite the same as doing it in London, or the UK at large.
From the Langham to Cake Boy, Rosewood, Claridges, The Goring and many more, it’s worth every penny — and yes, it’s pricey. Even the things you don’t think you’ll like, you end up loving, and every course redefines the word “delicate”.
And no matter what the late, beloved Queen says, you should always put cream on your yummy scones first, then jam. This is a highly controversial conversation starter, which will endear you to the British people.
Chili Crab In Singapore
Singapore is home to, or famous for countless delights, but many of them originated elsewhere.
For example, chicken rice is a Hainanese dish, and although wonderful, can be had in similar form in many places, even if Singapore typically does it best. Chili Crab, not so much.
There’s absolutely nothing in the world quite like Chili Crab in Singapore, and if you’re already salivating for seafood, Singapore is a must.
Coffee And Breakfast In Australia
For some, this may be a head scratcher, for others, it’s a hand raiser.
If you ask your favorite coffee or breakfast snobs which country does it better than anywhere else – it’s Australia. They brought us the chili scramble, and arguably the avocado toast too, but there’s no arguing that coffee in Australia is off the charts.
Seasonal Pasta In Italy
Growing up in New York, every “Italian” restaurant says “authentic”, but every time I’ve asked an actual Italian what makes their cuisine “authentic”, they say its seasonality.
Canned tomatoes and stewed meats in winter, fresh beautiful produce in summer.
There’s nothing quite like having a truly seasonal Italian pasta dish in Italy, in the prime of the season. And while you’re there, have artichokes in Rome, veal in Milan, and a little pizzette in Puglia. A Margherita pizza gets a big honorable mention here!
Corn Masa Tacos In Mexico
Plenty of people say “yeah, I’ve had a taco” but a taco is not a taco, just like having some sushi isn’t always having sushi.
A masa, smashed corn taco in Mexico has more robust flavour than everything morsel in your knockoff, fully loaded imitation at your supermarket, or even (sadly) most taco stands.
Taken down with some beautiful aromatic sauces and a smokey mezcal, and you might as well just put the sombrero on and call it a day. Stuff it with whatever you like, but this humble ingredient is a game changer.
Thai Curry In Thailand
You can probably get a great curry within 10 miles of where you’re reading this, but it will never ever be as good as what you’ll find in Thailand for one simple reason. The aromas, flavours and pungency of the herbs and spices that make a truly epic Thai curry will never be as powerful abroad as they are picked from the source.
From Bangkok to Chiang Mai and everywhere in between, there are just so many variations, each with their own twist on sweet, sour, spicy and punch, all of which will blow your mind.
My fave? Probably Panang, but Massaman can be lovely too.
Jamon Y Queso In Spain
With a damn good glass of red wine to wash it down in style.
There’s are great tastes, and then there’s Iberico Bellota, in its purest and most untouched form. Having acorn fed jamon by the pallete in Spain is an untouchable taste in terms of simplicity, the way a piece of tuna toro or salmon belly tastes.
You don’t need sauce, salt, pepper or even oil, you just put it in your mouth and rejoice, as the flavors slowly develop. This, like a good wine, is a 30+ second bite, with evolving tastes and joys at every turn!
Ceviche In Peru
Everyone has an idea of ceviche, but the best way to describe the genuine article is what happens when that idea is Google.
It’s bigger, better and more memorable than anything you could’ve possibly conceptualized, and that’s all about the freshness and potency of the ingredients. Peru draws from Japanese and ancient techniques, while sourcing fresh herbs and citrus to create a complete explosion and symphony of flavor.
This is an art form of the finest magnitude, and it’s best in Lima, and Peru in general. PS, did you know Lima has three of the world’s 10 best restaurants right now?
Szechuan Cuisine In China
You’ve heard of Szechuan Pepper, but experiencing true Chinese cooking in China is greater than the Great Wall.
For most guests, China can be odd, but the food you take away from region to region is a masterclass in why trying something in its domaine makes all the difference.
There are dumplings, there’s noodles and there’s grilled meats, and there’s no flavor profile like any of them. Even the Szechuan pepper itself has no flavor equal.
Tzatsiki, Or Any Dip In Greece
I hear you Turkish people, and I know what you’re going to say. But, sorry, I’m going with Greece here.
Greek food is misunderstood around the world, mostly because it’s impossible to reproduce the way it’s fully intended. Greek honey knows no equal. But the secret ingredient to it all is likely do to something you can’t put on a plate – the climate.
Find your way to Mykonos, Santorini or any of the Clyclades in season and then “nom” your way through the incredible fresh spreads. It’s worth the trip alone.
Steak In South America
We’ve got friends all around Suda America, and chose not to bring tension to an issue where everyone that eats, wins.
Whether you prefer a churrascaria in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay or anywhere else in between, a steak in South America, once again washed down with a very heady glass of wine, is just wonderful.
Think big flavors, lots of garlic and more meat than you can eat. But, you’ll be glad about every ounce you try. Just don’t expect to like your local steakhouse ever again on taste, or price.
Bánh Mì In Vietnam
Who doesn’t love a sandwich? The French influence on Vietnam created many gems, and the Banh Mi is certainly one where this fusion of style and taste is a winner.
The problem with Bánh mì is that you’ll never love your favorite sandwich at home quite as much ever again, after enjoying one of these in Vietnam. Maybe, unless you live in an area with similar climate.
The best of bread, the punchiest ingredients inside, fresh herbs taking things to new heights. That turkey club will never feel the same again…
Pastry In France
Oddly enough, pastry tends to be extraordinarily good in Japan and Australia, but something about France feels like the genuine article.
A great croissant in France is off the charts, with more folds than a chubby dog.
Combining that with the enviable caffe culture of France makes the trip all the more worthwhile, too. Sit outside, ignore the cigarette smoke and immerse yourself in a culture which has no equal, and is seemingly impervious to change.
Nasi Goreng In Indonesia
There’s such a distinct pleasure to visiting Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, and one of the greatest is Nasi Goreng.
This classic dish is comfort, on comfort, on more comfort with hedonistic flavour in every little mouthful.
This is a staple of Southeast Asian cuisine, and for many of the same reasons that a Thai curry isn’t the same anywhere else, a good Nasi just can’t be replicated without the potency of flavour found locally in this area. Jump on it!
Tagine in Northern Africa
Don’t get me wrong, South Africa is probably the most underrated culinary area in the world, and should have more Michelin stars than restaurants, but it lacks a specific dish which is worth traveling for.
In North Africa however, a tagine is such a beautiful meal. Steamed to perfection, a tagine is big bursts of flavor mellowed through time, and when you have one that’s just right, it’s as satisfying as anything else.
Which food experience is up next, when you start collecting passport stamps again?