Why Travel for Food (and Wine)? 19 Unique Destinations Around the World Have The Answer
Are you the type who will travel for food and wine, and maybe beer? Maybe you’re super hardcore and will go far for one exquisite little morsel? Have we got some inspo for you — new and maybe unexpected food and wine additions for your culinary wish list.
Why Travel for Food and Wine?
Food, wine, spirits, and beer all reflect things like the history, heritage, and values of a people and place. Ingredients reflect agriculture, which speaks to an area’s history. Food and wine products reveal what local people have been working at, growing, harvesting, and investing in…what they’re passionate about, what their grandparents may have started and they continue. It’s a beautiful thing. Plus, food and wine just go together like peas and carrots, oil and vinegar, Bogie and Bacall and hundreds of other famous pairings. Because they work together, they need each other, and both make the other shine brighter. While some destinations around the world are known for their food and others for wine, some also do both very well. Places like California, Chile, Bologna… they’re known for their unique local foods, and their wines are fantastic too. It’s almost too much to ask. Everyone knows what to expect when you mention California cuisine. Or wines made in the Italian-style. If you’re a foodie or wine lover and looking for some new places to explore, you may be familiar with some of these.
Following are some amazing destinations around the world for food and wine. Here’s hoping you’ll find some new ideas and exciting food and wine to please your palate. Cheers to that!
Graz, Austria, capital of the southern Austrian region of South Styria (Steiermark) known as the Green Heart of Austria, is one of our favorite foodie destinations. The region is known for producing unique local foods like pumpkin products and pumpkin seed oil, and famous for their light and crisp Austrian white wine. The food scene in Graz is delicious and so much fun, where you can spend your days grazing from one end of the city to the other, noshing on mini, open-faced sandwiches (try them at Delikatessen Frankowitsch or Bar Albert with a glass of wine), fresh roasted chestnuts in the fall from local street vendors, or whatever looks good at several daily farmers markets. For dinner, don’t leave the city without dining at Restaurant Eckstein. The food that Executive Chef Michael Hebenstreit and his team are creating is artfully fun and delicious. For a heartier dinner of local specialties and Styrian tapas, Der Steier is boisterous and very good. The countryside south of the city — Südsteiermark, or south Steiermark — is lush and verdant. We were surprised to find few Americans visiting this part of the country though it’s a popular destination among Austrians and other Europeans. Rent a car and drive the South Styrian wine road, a scenic loop of less-traveled country roads that ramble past rolling vineyards and wineries where you can leisurely stop for a taste of their latest bottling. Be sure and stop in a pumpkin seed oil press like Resch Kernölpresse for a tour and tasting of their products. Vinofaktur Genussregal, located in Sankt Veit am Vogau just across the river from Ehrenhausen, is a foodie’s paradise, filled with everything imaginable related to local food and wine. For a nominal fee of around $5 USD, you can take their tour to see just how committed the local farmers and producers are to local and sustainable food production. Highly recommended!
Is there ever enough time in a premier location to enjoy all the flavors it has to offer? You might not think of Prague as a foodie destination, though it’s certainly a carnivore’s dream. Prague has some of the best traditional food in the Czech Republic. But surprisingly there are some very good vegetarian options tucked in between to satisfy even the most discerning Vegan. Forrest Bistro is one such option, a Vegan bistro and espresso bar offering lunch, dinner, and some killer vegan desserts. Maitrea is another excellent choice near the tourist part of the city, and while it’s gaining in popularity (and patronage) it’s always a good choice. Add in those great Czech beers and you’re in a food lover’s paradise. There is no shortage of excellent restaurants in the city, but if you’re short on time, consider taking a food tour. It’s a great way to maximize your limited time and give you a nice overview along with a delicious taste of what’s on the menu in Prague. We opted for such a tour with Taste of Prague food tour. Our guide was a foodie expert and didn’t waste any time getting us started on the four hour food journey.
3. Lafayette, Louisiana
I’ve written about Lafayette continually since we first visited — you know a place is special when it stays with you over time. And as a writer, it’s one of those places I continue to reference (and compare to, #sorrynotsorry). I suppose all of Louisiana and the US Gulf Coast has that utterly unique feel about it from New Orleans to Shreveport and everywhere in between. But to me, Lafayette embodies the Acadiana culture that south Louisiana is known for — that raucous blend of bayou, boudin, and drive-thru daiquiris. Try the etoufee at the TABASCO’s 1868 Restaurant, the Sweet Baby Breesus (boudin balls on biscuits with praline bacon and Steen syrup) at The French Press, and anything catfish at Prejean’s. The French influence runs a vibrant swale through the swamp giving everything it touches that something special: the food in Lafayette is incomparable, the beer, the people, the landscape — just about everything in Lafayette is a cauldron just about to bubble over at any second. Foodies will love the choices here from unique local foods to more upscale interpretations. It’s all good. Please go. Not only is Lafayette one of the top food destinations in the USA, it rivals the best places for food in the world, hands down.
4. Tualatin Valley, Oregon
The fertile Willamette Valley of Oregon in the US Pacific Northwest is renowned as one of the world’s top wine destinations. It’s an enormous region. The Willamette Valley runs between Oregon’s Coastal Range and the Cascade Mountains, more than 100 miles long and spanning 60 miles at its widest point. Over 550 wineries produce wine from nearly 22,000 vineyard acres planted. Compare that with the 46,000 acres of California's Napa Valley to get a better perspective. Wine in Oregon is a very big deal, with room to get even bigger.
So to narrow your exploration, head to the northernmost part of the Willamette Valley known as the Tualatin Valley. What makes the Tualatin Valley so distinct among an already stellar wine-producing region? The terroir, of course. It's always about the terroir, and it's no different here. Yet it is different, because the northern end of this enormous Valley received the lion's share of the mineral-rich loess soil that was deposited eons ago during the Ice Age Missoula Flood. The soil here is like nowhere else in the United States or the world, which is just one factor behind the stellar winemaking. The Pinot Noir in the Tualatin Valley is a thing to behold. So start planning your next Oregon wine trip, and head for the Tualatin Valley.
On one of our trips to Italy we decided to check out Bologna and the Emilia Romagna region of which it is the capital. No trip to Italy has been the same since. When we’re planning on where to go next in Italy our plans almost always include a stay in Bologna. And why you ask? Simple, it’s the food. Bologna has long been overlooked by tourists in favor of its neighbors, Venice to the north and Florence to the south, but Bologna’s secret is getting out. Considered by many, even Italians, the culinary capital of Italy, Bologna’s food is truly unique among Italian regional foods. If it’s your first trip to Bologna or you’ve visited before, dive right in. Our first meal here at Trattoria Serghei, and one we now never miss, was the Bologna specialty, tortellini in brodo, small stuffed pasta in broth. We added a glass of one of the hallmark wines of Emilia Romagna, pignoletto, and have never forgotten that first lunch. There are several pasta shops, known as sfogline, around the city where you can watch them being made fresh, pick out which pasta you want, then sit down to have your meal made in house. Try the larger tortelloni or the even larger tortellacci. The Bolognese are meat eaters and much of what is featured in the cuisine is made from various meat sources. Sausages, prosciutto, salamis, and mortadella, a cured pork sausage that is unique to Bologna can be found throughout the city. For the best experience, head for the old city market area, the Quadrilatero. Here you can try just about anything that’s on the Bolognese menu.
A must try is parmigiano reggiano, the “King of Cheeses”. The cheese is made and aged under very strict rules and we’re happy that it is. Another area specialty made under very strict regulations is Balsamic di Modena, which is aged for up to 25 years — it’s expensive and worth every penny of its silky smoothness. Try it on gelato, fruit or ricotta. Lasagne lovers accustomed to what is served in the USA are in for the best lasagne ever. It’s the pasta that rules here, not those layers stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, and heavy meat sauce. Bolognese lasagne consists of layers of spinach pasta like you’ve never had with béchamel sauce and a bit of tomato sauce between the layers. Very different and absolutely yummy! As you wander from shop to shop you’re likely to see small round flatbreads that are scored with a design. These are tigelle, a bread cooked in a cast iron mold like American cornbread, and are usually stuffed with a mixture of herbs, spices, pork and lard. They’re good on their own and you can stuff whatever you like into the plain ones. For desert, there are gelato and coffee shops on every block. Our favorite for gelato is Cremeria Santo Stefano, pure heaven.
Arguably the food capital of Japan, Osaka boasts a food scene that is both vibrant and maybe a bit overwhelming. People in Osaka love to eat and enjoy introducing visitors to their cuisine. Street food can be found throughout the city but if you’re interested in a true gourmet experience then head for the the Umeda, Dotonbori, and Shinsekai areas. In these areas you will find some of the very best restaurants in the city. One of the most famous foods loved in Osaka is takoyaki, dumplings filled with octopus or sometimes shrimp that can be found on the street or in restaurants. Maybe one the most famous places to have takoyaki is the Dotonbori Konamon Museum with a giant red octopus above the entrance. A very popular food also found everywhere in the city is okonomiyaki. This is a large pancake made with eggs, yams, and cabbage topped with whatever you like and how much of it you want. Things like pork, squid, cabbage, shrimp, the list is only as endless as what is on the menu. But not all food in Osaka is Japanese. There is a Korea Town with Korean restaurants that have been there for decades. People come to this area to enjoy Yakiniku or barbecued beef. You pick the cut of meat from the menu and grill it over coals right at your table.
This colorful country in the Caribbean West Indies is known for its rum, sugar cane, Rastafarian religion, and Irie island vibe, but they’re perhaps most famous for the reggae musical gospel of Robert Nesta Marley. Or are they more well known for their food? That’s kind of a hard one. The flavors of this island country are so unique — even amongst other Caribbean nations — and of course, the ingredients are only half the story. It’s what they do with them that finishes it, and quite nicely on the palate I might add. When it comes right down to it, Jamaica is an original farm-to-table food destination, out of necessity. Ingredients are made fresh, or kept fresh by stewing, pickling, or preserving. But refrigeration is not a given in Jamaica, and the creative cooks here rise to the occasion — necessity is often the Mother of invention. Jamaica undoubtedly deserves a spot on this list for the many unique foods of Jamaica like ackee fruit, callaloo, jerk chicken, and of course Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. If you travel to just one country for the food, I have two words for you — Jamaica, mon!
8. Campania, Italy
With our grandparents emigrating from this area of the Campania Region and Sicily, this is the regional Italian cuisine that we’ve been most familiar with all our lives. But something was different when we actually visited for the first time. It could have been that we were enjoying it all in Naples, but it was more than just the atmosphere. Everything we were eating was fresh. The fruits, the vegetables, the seafood, it was all fresh and freshly prepared. With so many great restaurants, it’s hard to miss but therein lies a problem. Naples is a big city and can be a bit daunting when it comes to choosing where to eat. From our 3 days in Naples, here are some suggestions. We loved Antonio e Antonio. They may have had the best homemade pasta that we had, a simple dish with fresh cherry tomatoes, basil and olive oil. Their food was that good that we kept going back to try something else on the menu. The tomatoes here are grown in the volcanic soil of Mt.Vesuvius. Regardless of their size, they are a deep red, sweet and we’ve never tasted anything like them anywhere else. So sure, you can have great pasta and seafood at many places in the city but what about the one thing that separates Naples from other Italian cuisine. We’re talking about pizza — and not just any pizza. There are many great pizza shops all over the city but our favorite is Pizzeria Da Michele. It’s a quaint place on a side street with only one thing on the menu. It’s the most incredible pizza we’ve ever eaten, and we’d return to Naples just to have another pie. But we also had good pizza in nearby Sorrento at Pizzeria Basilico.
Sorrento has a number of really great restaurants, but a must-try is in the hills above Sorrento, the Michelin-starred Don Alfonso 1890 — truly a one-of-a-kind experience! The island of Capri should also not be overlooked in amazing Campanian cuisine, so you should probably check out our favorite restaurants throughout Naples and the Amalfi Coast for our best suggestions. For those with a serious sweet tooth, you’ll find the sfogliatella, a shell shaped, filled pastry, is the dessert treat of Napoli and Campania. They can be found everywhere and from bite size to ones you can share. A ribbon of crispy thin dough holds all sorts of fillings from orange flavored ricotta, ricotta with citron, custards, chocolate, and almond. They are a must with an espresso. For a great selection of restaurants and cafes to try unique Campanian foods, don’t pass up Naples and Sorrento. Buon appetito!
Named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, Chengdu, China is at the heart of Sichuan cuisine. This city is a foodie’s paradise especially if you enjoy authentic Asian cuisine. Excellent dishes can be found as street food or in restaurants. Street vendors are everywhere and sell complete dishes as well as snacks. A Chengdu favorite is pockmarked granny’s tofu, a spicy dish of bean curd topped with minced beef in a bean-based sauce although we’re not sure why it has its name. Another interesting favorite is ‘fish fragrant pork’, shredded pork fried in a sweet fish sauce but that doesn’t taste like fish. A specialty of the city is chuanchuan, skewers with a variety meats, vegetables, and quail eggs. Chuanchuan restaurants can be found throughout the city. Basically, you select skewers with the ingredients of your choice. They are then boiled in a spicy broth and eaten with dipping sauces of your choice. Kung pao chicken is on most every menu but nothing like we’re served in the States. Stir fried chicken, yes fried with peanuts and asparagus lettuce served with a unique sauce. Enjoy all the dishes the city has to offer. Just be careful with how spicy you request a dish to be. Sichuan cuisine can set your mouth on fire.
10. Buenos Aires
A combination of many cuisines especially from the Mediterranean areas of Spain, Italy, and France, the Argentine capital is a melting pot of cuisines. Argentines love meat and eat a great deal of it throughout the year. Asado, a style of barbecue, is the favorite way to eat meat, usually beef and is served with chimichurri, a blend of minced herbs and garlic. We have a particular fondness for empanadas, the Argentine version of a sandwich. These are pastry pockets stuffed with ground or shredded meat. We’ve also had them stuffed with potatoes, peas and onions and some with cheese and potatoes. The Italian influence is ubiquitous in the dishes served in restaurants. Pizza, ravioli with different fillings, spaghetti and many meat dishes served with pasta are on most menus. And there’s one thing you and your sweet tooth can’t avoid, dulce de leche. This sweet gooey caramel sauce is everywhere. It’s on deserts, in all sorts of pastries, a topping for ice cream or just spread on a piece of bread and eaten straight from the jar. Buenos Aires has no shortage of restaurants, local cafes, and small neighborhood bars. A most curious food tradition is drinking mate. The herb yerba mate is infused in hot water like a tea and drunk from a small cup or gourd through a metal straw. It’s supposed to be healthy if not a bit bitter. Local foods prepared with the combination of influences on dishes make Buenos Aires a top foodie destination.
11. California Central Coast
Everyone knows California for its mild, temperate climate, which yields some of the most amazing wines in the world. But few know these wines are produced in regions other than the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. We traveled the Golden State on a 10-day road trip from the San Francisco Bay area to southern California, and our California road trip itinerary included stops at some of the most interesting and creative wineries we’ve had the pleasure to try. In the northernmost Livermore Valley outside San Francisco, the wines they’re producing including crisp Sauvingnon Blancs, Cabernets, and Chardonnays which grows very well because of the variety of elevations and exposures the Valley has. I’m sorry to say I’m not a big Merlot fan — a point made even finer in the movie Sideways — but he made a good point. And although, sadly, the movie likely had something to do with sales of Merlot tanking after the movie was released, many believe it also forced winemakers to up their game and become more creative with how they crafted their Merlot. I agree. The Merlot I had at Retzlaff Vineyard is one I will remember fondly, it was that impressive. Further south in the Central Valley, the wines being produced in the Santa Maria Valley are simply beyond what you might imagine. Vineyards here benefit from the longest growing season in California. Bordered by the transverse mountains known as the San Rafael range which run east to west, their unique geography also lends to a quality of wine that we never expected, but thoroughly enjoyed! The red wines at Presqu’ile Winery are crafted in the style of French Burgundys and were among our favorite in Santa Maria.
The country of Slovenia is so small, which is why — like the country of Jamaica above — we’ve listed the entire country rather than a big city within it. Slovenia has never been thought of as a foodie destination, but that’s changing. After the break up of the former Communist Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, the country continues to rebuild infrastructure and hone their regional culinary resources. Today food is coming into its own thanks to several factors: the abundance of natural resources, the initiative and creativity of local chefs, and their recognition that a wealth of organic foods are at their doorstep without the need for recreating, or rebranding, the wheel. Slovenia is one of the greenest countries in the world, with soil and climate that’s ideal for growing and producing, so fresh and organic ingredients yields in abundance, as do grain and cereal crops for staples like breads and dumplings. Livestock is raised for meat, milk, cream, and eggs, to make cheese and other specialty Slovenian dishes like štrukli and frika, a lightly-fried omelette. And sustainable conservation efforts are strengthening local species of fish like the marbled trout, and deer for venison. Through efforts like these, and a driving desire to showcase the natural foods of Slovenia, local chefs like Ana Roš of restaurant Hiša Franko in the Soča Valley and others are positioning Slovenia to be a real culinary power house. Have you been to Slovenia, or tried Slovenian food? It’s exciting to watch, but even more fun to go for a visit and eat the food
It would take a month of Sundays and then some to fully experience the food scene in Barcelona. What better place to start than at a tapas bar. Every tapas bar and even many restaurants serve bomba, a ball of mashed potatoes filled with ground meat then deep fried (think Italian arancini but with potato). It’s served hot with a tomato sauce with paprika and garlic aioli. We find you can’t miss in tapas bars. In some tapas bars, Manchego cheese, a hard semi-sharp cheese made from sheep’s milk, is sliced and placed in a jar then covered with olive oil. If you get lucky, you might get the last slice at the bottom that’s been in the oil the longest. Ham is hugely popular and hugely expensive. Serrano ham is similar to Italian prosciutto but with less fat making it a bit drier when sliced. The king, however, is Iberico ham. This specialty is made from pigs that eat only acorns from oak trees. Aged for three years this ham has a distinct taste with fat that literally melts in your mouth. But be prepared, Iberico ham is the most expensive ham in the world with one kilo costing over €30 ($34 USD) and a whole ham €500 - €800 ($560 - $900 USD). There’s something for everybody and it’s all delicious. Seafood is huge in Barcelona and that’s a good thing because you may just have the best paella you’ve ever had. There’s also the Barcelona favorite, fideuà, which is paella with noodles instead of the traditional rice. Visit a local market and you’ll see all sorts of fish and delicacies from the sea that are on local menus. Fried squid is a big favorite as is suquet de peix, a seafood and potato stew made with whatever fishes are in season. This is real home style cooking but can be had in most restaurants. During the cooler months Escudella d’Olla, a hearty stew with lots of meat or different sausages, veggies and sometimes pasta is served. Make no mistake, this is a belly filler. In the warmer season you’ll find Esqueixada, a salad made with salted cod (bacaloa), peppers, onions, tomatoes, and olives. It’s a lot like a ceviche, light and delicious. A simple dish that is found everywhere in the city is pa amb tomàquet, a slice of toasted crusty bread, sometimes first rubbed with a garlic clove, with fresh tomatoes and olive oil. Lighter than French brulée but every bit as creamy and yummy is Crema Catalana, a favorite dessert. Need something to wash it all down? There is an abundance of excellent wines and a thriving craft beer scene all across Barcelona.
14. New York City
If you’ve never been to The Big Apple before, suffice it to say that all you’ve heard about NYC is true. Whatever you’ve heard, good, bad, or otherwise — is true. In the interest of full disclosure, NYC is my “city”, the one I grew up near, and have the fondest of memories of. The one that represents my urban heart. And it is the beating heart of the US in so many ways, the one city that defies explanation or description. Truly, one must see it — experience it. From a foodie standpoint, there are few other places in the United States with the variety of cultural influence you’ll find here. Yes, as Americans we know that we’re still in our infancy at just two or three hundred years of age, but those years have lovingly simmered the melting pot of flavors that the country was founded on. And it seems it’s just coming to a boil! For foodies, where do you begin? A food tour is always a good starting point! We recently took a tasting food tour with Urban Adventures which highlighted the early history of the city’s immigrant neighborhoods and how it relates to the local food — a perfect tour if you love finding the connections between local culture and food. It used to be that you could choose your meal according to what part of town you’re in — for good Italian head to Little Italy, for kim chee head to Koreatown, but even those lines are blurring. While there are some things you can still count on like good dumplings and knish on the Lower East Side, there is so much more. So what are our favorites? Peasant in Nolita for rustic Italian, db Bistro Moderne in Midtown, Tavola on 9th Avenue, the noodle kugel at The Broadway Diner, pastrami on rye (with pickles and slaw) at Katz’s Deli downtown. Two of our recent favorites, Kung Fu Kitchen and Mercato Trattoria are close to Midtown and definitely worth a visit. If you only have two days in New York City, these are where you want to eat!
On Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula sits the absolutely charming seaside city of Rovinj. Walk the streets of the old town area and you’ll find shops and markets selling fresh produce, truffles, olive oil and wine. Walk along the picturesque harbor with both pleasure and working boats and you’ll find restaurants and cafes. Make no mistake. In Rovinj, seafood rules. The Venetians ruled here for centuries and you might just think and feel like you’re in Venice! The Venetian influence in the local cuisine is apparent in the Rovinj restaurants and in local street food. You’ll find calamari, sardines, prawns, and anything else that makes up the catch of the day on menus everywhere. But don’t think that that’s all there is. If you’re not a fan of seafood, you’ll find high quality beef and pork from Croatia’s agricultural tradition. We were impressed with the local olive oil and and the number of dishes using truffles. The aroma is ever present in the air. The Croatian wines we tried were quite good and there are many to try. Tasting new wines is always fun and one of our favorite things to do in Rovinj. What about dessert you ask? There are gelato and pastry shops scattered throughout old town. We love the cafe culture here along with the laid back atmosphere. It’s great place to relax and enjoy the excellent food and wine.
The fifth largest city in South America with a population close to 7 million people, Santiago is indeed a very big city. There is a center city metropolitan area with excellent restaurants and bars and then there are the districts, each with its own distinct personality. Throw in the markets with street vendors serving traditional style foods and your choices can be overwhelming. Chile is the second longest country in the world, with as many varied landscapes and climates as you can imagine. In the far north of the country is the Atacama Desert with a dry, arid Altiplano environment more similar to Peru than Patagonia. The desert yields grassy foods like quinoa and other grains that can thrive in the harsh desert climate. In the south lies Patagonia, known for the wilderness landscape and cold Antarctic waters. Diets there are rich in heavy seafood, kelp, and meats like the popular Patagonian lamb, roasted on the cross spit. It’s one of Chile’s most traditional foods. And in between the desert and Patagonia is the Central Valley and the country’s capital city of Santiago, fertile land that is known for their famous Chilean wines. The moist sea air rolls in and turns to rainfall as it gets trapped against the high Andes mountain range. It has the perfect climate and conditions for growing grapes. It’s amazing how geography influences terroir and how excited wine lovers get when we see just the right conditions for making wine. Which is exactly why you need to visit Santiago, Chile, and soon. Is it any wonder Santiago is such an amazing wine and food destination?
Peru is certainly known for its Aztec cities, the ancient fortress of Machu Picchu, and the colorful Quechua culture of its many indigenous people. But when it comes to the food, I’m always surprised that the only thing travelers seem to remember is that they eat cuy (guinea pig). They also eat alpaca, and in the high Altiplano and desert areas where the landscape is harsh and meat is hard to come by, high-protein quinoa is a staple. Alpaca is very good, and very lean, but you’ll rarely see Americans dining in Peru on Alpaca — because they’re too cute. Peru in fact has a tremendously diverse array of foods to offer, but on the coast in the capital of Lima, fish is on the menu in a big way. Specifically, seafood. So it’s no surprise that the national dish of Peru is ceviche. And one of our favorite places to have it is in Lima at La Mar, owned by famed Peruvian Chef Gaston Acurio. Go if you can, and if you can’t get in for dinner, go for lunch. Yum!
Let me preface this by saying that I absolutely love Bali. Like many people, I feel the special something that draws people to to this Indonesian island country. It’s a spiritual place, one of Hindu devotion and a beauty that’s hard to define. I thought I would also love the food of Bali, too, but I was wrong. My love of southeast Asian cuisine tricked me into thinking the cuisine of Bali would be similar, even just a little. But my palate wasn’t ready for some of the unique flavors in Balinese cooking. Ingredients I wasn’t at all familiar with. But — and this is a big but — I fell in love with Balinese breakfast foods from the start. Breakfast in Bali is like warm comfort food disguised as breakfast. The flavors are warm and unique. Popular items like Bubar Ayam which tastes like a big bowl of warm chicken soup (with a crispy piece of puffed chicken skin like the cherry on top) is my favorite. Or is it their banana crepes with honey drizzled over? It’s hard to decide. But that’s not important. What is important is that you go and see for yourself. And see if you’re finally convinced that breakfast is the most important — and welcoming — meal of the day!
19. Ho Chi Minh City
Formerly know as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City was so named in 1975 after being captured by North Vietnamese forces during the war with the United States. Even so, you’ll hear locals still referring to the city as Saigon. Since the dust has settled, the city has become a modern metropolis welcoming visitors to enjoy its culture and food. Vietnam has a traditional farm to table culture which is still reflected in its most popular dishes. We love Southeast Asian cuisine and will have to restrict this article to just some of our favorites although if you visit you’ll find a diversity of specialties from the other regions of the country. One of the most popular dishes is a soup known as Pho. This comes in a large bowl filled with rice noodles, your choice of a cut of meat, bean sprouts, green onion, and traditional herbs like basil or mint. Add hot sauce or fish sauce and a squeeze of lime and you’re all set. Etiquette may not be something you need to worry about, but if you want to eat like a local, chopsticks go in your right hand and the soup spoon in your left at the same time. If you don’t want soup have Banh mi. This sandwich is like a hoagie or sub and can be found everywhere. A piece of baguette is stuffed with your choice of meat which is covered in picked vegetables, cilantro and hot peppers. There are hundreds of variations served around the city and they’re all good and everyone has their favorite. Spring rolls are light and fun to eat. Vermicelli with slices of pork, we prefer shrimp, with basil and lettuce is all wrapped tightly in rice paper. They’re served at room temperature with some crushed peanuts and dipped in a variety of sauces. In what seems to be a variation of this theme is rice vermicelli served in a deep dish with grilled pork or beef or any other cuts of meat on the menu. You get a plate on the side that has basil, bean sprouts, hot chillies, lettuce, maybe some daikon, and peanuts. Add however much of these you like to your dish along with some nuoc cham sauce (lime, fish sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, a little sugar and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes) that comes in a small bowl. This is just the tip of the iceberg and most all of these can be found as street food. Just be prepared to sit in kid sized plastic chairs at an equally small table.