a table with plates of food and a glass of wine

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…

a tray of meat and vegetables

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.

a hand pouring a glass of liquid into a small dessert

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.

They treat coffee like Walter White treats blue meth. If you had to pick a city doing it better than any other, it’s Melbourne, and if you do, you’ll quickly understand.

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!

a large building with a statue in front of it

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.

a table with plates of food and a glass of wine

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?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. The three best countries in the world for food: Peru, Vietnam, Italy. Runnersup: Japan, France, South Africa, Oaxaca state in Mexico.

  2. pastry in Japan is amazing too. I managed to make 3 French friends to, admittedly reluctantly, agree that some pastry in Japan can be better than in France.

  3. Also:

    Nasi Lamak – Malaysia
    Nasi Kandar – Penang in Malaysia
    Tongkatsu Ramen – Osaka Japan
    Okonimiyaki – Hiroshima in Japan
    Pad Thai Chow Lay – Bangkok in Thailand
    Crab Omlette – Bangkok in Thailand
    Smoked Duck and Rambutan Curry – Bangkok in Thailand
    Hinlay Curry – Chiang Mai in Thailand
    Singapore Chilli Crab – Singapore
    Singapore Chicken Rice – Singapore
    Bahn Mi – Hoi Ann in Vietnam
    Idlis – Southern India
    Chaat – Old Delhi (DaryaGanj)

  4. Gilbert, as a Welshman (Swansea) who’s lived in Melbourne for too long to mention, I have to agree with you regarding coffee. We’re spoiled here. Also, I absolutely concur with your comments on the other places and dishes.

  5. meeeeeeeh you can have a serious list without including the absolute best food country in the world: Vietnam. Phõ or Bo Koh should be here.

    Also: leaving out dim sum in Cantonese China feels very strange (even though I don’t like the tastes).

    Mezze in the Middle East is another very tasty contender that I would trade for several on this list.

    However I get that you tried to include all continents here, even though some continents really have a lot more to offer than the others. Anyhow a good attempt 🙂

  6. Trdelník – Czech Republic would be on my list.

    Also as in US, Louisiana has some of the best food.

  7. Am planning to try all of these….
    But also –
    beignets in New Orleans….
    a proper koeksuster in South Africa
    and – in closing, what kind of uncivilized barbarian are you that you put cream on your scone before the jam! Abslutely shocked that you would even THINK of that !!!!

  8. Peking duck in Beijing is something that I will always remember and needs to be on the list.
    Great article though.

  9. Best sushi I ever had: Peru
    Best burger I ever had: Peru
    Best seafood I ever had: Peru
    Best pasta I ever had: Peru
    Best pizza I ever had: Peru

    And yes, I have been to Italy, Japan, etc, etc

  10. Get yourself into Lidl when you’re in the UK Gilbert.Their instore bakeries do a superb pasteis de nata for a ridiculous 50p a go.

    1. Don’t even contemplate a Lidl pastel de nata. Try cafe de nata in South Kensington or failing this a Sainsbury’s one is probably the best supermarket offering

  11. Lisboa is where the London pasteis de nata come from. Golborne Road near Portobello market. And while you’re in there. keep your hands off the warm crumbed prawn-and-white-sauce deep fried slightly crumbed dumplings (they come out 1-2 hours after opening usually).

    Also Gilbert you must always first put jam on the scone before the clotted cream. Note that’s clotted cream only, an English delicacy. I’m surprised at you.

    And before anyone asks, even though I have a nasty feeling Her Majesty prefers it the other way round, put your milk into the teacup before the tea, not after

  12. Hey Gilbert, You may want to add gumbo in New Orleans (Red Fish Grill), also fried oysters, and Brussels sprouts ( not a typo ) in Luke in New Orleans. And if you must have a po’ boy, get it at Mothers. Since you are in the UK, if you can’t get to Portugal for some pasteis, go to Mayfair, around the corner from the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane is a great deli called Piccolo’s. They make the same thing, (custard tart) and they are fantastic.

  13. When I read the article title, the first thing I thought of was chili crab in Singapore….glad you have it on the list!

  14. Wow! I feel like I haven’t done or tried anything yet, and I am 40. My bucket list continues to grow, if I don’t get started soon I fear I won’t ever be able to finish it.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences, I look forward to trying these for myself one day soon.

  15. I tend to think I know everything, so I expected to disagree with your list.
    But I think you’re really on the mark with this post.
    I’ve done 12, a few more I may have done -don’t remember b/c it’s been a while since I’ve been to some of the countries.

  16. Whale meat in Norway. Nothing better than a freshly harpooned whale steak lightly grilled on the barbie.

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