Food plays a major role in every culture across the world. So the only way to fully immerse yourself in a country is to feed the soul. Literally. Some cities are a foodie’s paradise – offering vibrant food markets, food-from-source experiences and avant garde cooking. Here are just a few:
I’m slightly biased, but Cyprus is like a food emporium. It’s the perfect fusion between Greek and Arabic food and everywhere you go, from a kebab van in the middle of nowhere to the bustling metropolis, you’ll find mouth-watering dishes.
Nicosia is relatively off the beaten track for tourists, as it’s far from the turquoise oceans that cradle the island. However, venture inland to sample the best ‘sheftalies’ (barbecued herb pork meatballs) and ‘koubes’ (minced meat in bulgur wheat cases) and ‘louvi’ (black eyed beans with spinach, courgettes and fish).
Greece’s palette isn’t a million miles from the Cypriot one, but ‘stifado’ found here will leave you salivating. Then there’s the ‘kleftiko’ cooked on charcoal in its own juices… You’ll be dreaming about it for years.
The dishes will all be familiar, as the Mediterranean diet is the best in the world. However, coupled with North Greece’s incredible climate and proximity to the coast, the ingredients are second to none.
The birthplace of tapas offers a huge array of cheese, ham and vegetable dishes as well as modern takes on the classics, like chocolate risotto and slithers of salmon on rice (a bit like sushi but more Spanish).
Check out the places around Santa Ana church, Alcazar, the bullring and Las Setas de la Encarnación. Don’t be afraid to try somewhere new, they’re all competing for who can make the most imaginative tapas. So you’re guaranteed to stumble across something original.
Paris is far more famous for its haute cuisine, but for something less pretentious, head to Montpelier. Its food markets are an assault on the senses and nothing quite beats its locally sourced meat, fish and vegetables you can get in the vast array of restaurants, cafes and brasseries.
I often wax lyrical about Montpelier being one of my favourite places in France, if not Europe, it has everything from city to country, ancient to modern, mountain to sea, culture to rustic and cosmopolitan to native. And this influence shows in the food.
New York, USA
Let’s face it; the food in the US of A is dire. However you dress it, it’s just a mish-mash of plastic, e-numbers and beige. However, New York does offer food that could rival its European counterparts without needing to go Michelin Star.
Restaurants around Bryant Park and the Lower East Side are fantastic for modern Chinese dishes and more traditional New York delicacies.
Vietnamese food is enjoying a bit of a renaissance at the moment. Pho restaurants seem to be popping up in fashionable neighbourhoods everywhere. However, nothing beats a bit of street food from the labyrinth that is Hanoi.
You can’t go wrong if you stick to the areas near the Red River and in Phan Chu Trinh – you’ll find everything from curries, traditional pho and French influences in the peacefully chaotic ambience of Vietnam’s second largest city.
Far away from threats of Delhi Belly (although still exercise caution) is the Pink City of Jaipur. The food is as tantalising as the architecture and culture that resides there. Fragrant curries, delicious dhal and delectable dosas are the staple in every restaurant and food stand, but no two are ever the same.
Keep away from the main tourist traps around the gate and Hawa Mahal Palace. If you venture to the area around Ram Niwas Gardens, you’ll find a whole district of restaurants and cafes dedicated to modern Indian cuisine.
Moroccan inspired dishes have long been the staple for any foodie. Even hummus gets the harissa treatment. However, no matter how many apricots or dates you put into a tagine, you can’t seem to imitate the handed-down family recipes of Marrakesh’s locals.
The Medina is a destination marked in everyone’s guidebook, but check out the food stalls in and around it for truly authentic dishes cooked in front of your eyes.
Get up early and head to Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market to see Samurai fishmongers carve up the day’s catch. It’s what marketeers call experiential dining. And you won’t find anything like it anywhere else in the world.
You’ll be mesmerised by the amount of fish that is caught and whirlwind of workers in the market. Don’t worry, there’s normally a few travellers wandering round looking bewildered, enthralled and hungry.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I saved the best til last. KL’s food courts can be found all over the city and provide a buzzing setting to sample cuisine from all over the world. And not only will you find any type of dish here, from Michelin Star to rustic and swanky to street food, but you’ll find every type of person excitedly leaping from stall to stall. The only problem is deciding what to eat and where. The best place to start is Chinatown and move out from there. And remember to wear an expandable waistband.