Guest post by author Neha Khullar of Palate Passport
When I think about places that I’ve traveled to, I think of the places that shocked me with their cuisine. There’s something about a wow factor that makes you remember a place forever. There are places that are known for their food and there are places that you visit not for the food but for the beauty, adventure, beaches and somehow the food slowly keeps showing up on your vacation saying, “Hey, check me out, I’m pretty awesome too.” These are the top 5 countries that I didn’t initially visit for their food, but I left making plans to come back just for the food.
Portugal is a country full of culture representative of the Moor Empire and Roman-Celtic Rule, to name a few. For the tiny country that Portugal is, it’s had rulers and explorers who traveled all parts of the world, conquering bits of land along the way and making Portugal an extensive colonial trading empire in the 15th and 16th centuries. Because of its footprint in the world, Portuguese cuisine is a mixture of ingredients that are common in Mediterranean foods such as seafood, garlic, wine, and olive oil sprinkled with some imports from other countries such as peppers from Africa and curry powders from India. On top of that there’s the age old Port wine that is only grown and sold out of Portugal!
It’s a place for all sorts of connoisseurs. The Portuguese bread is unlike any other, the cornbread or Broa is perfect for any meal, the shrimp and sardines are fresh, and the pork linguiça is made with pride. All in all, there is something for everyone. The biggest draw to Portugal as a foodie are the affordable prices. Due to an underdeveloped economy and low GDP, the cost to eat at a restaurant in Portugal is stupid cheap. Two dishes not to miss are Pastel de Nata, a lush and creamy tart, and Francesinha, Portugal’s answer to the French Croque Monsieur.
Belize is a country in Central America that is rich with chocolate, fresh seafood, organic meats and chili peppers. Since it borders the Caribbean Sea and also has a dense rainforest, Belize is positioned in an ideal spot to produce some of the best natural foods to be tasted. Absorbing influence from neighboring Mexico and Guatemala, Belize has delicacies such as Pupusas, which are stuffed corn flatbreads from Guatemala, ceviche, and tamales. There are Fry Jacks; which are deep fried dough that are typically served during breakfast with a choice of jam, beans or cheese. Several curry chicken variations with the addition of chocolate and coconut milk exist throughout the country. It’s a country to visit for the culture, the water activities, and most definitely the food!
India is one of the most mystical countries on Earth and probably one of the most intimidating Asian countries for the western world to visit. Don’t be intimidated – just be ready for a culture overload. There are 29 states in India and each state has its own language, culture, history, and distinctly different cuisines. There are a multitude of flavors and textures for a foodie to indulge in with street foods like Dabeli, a spicy sweet and sour vegetarian slider, all sorts of meats made in a clay oven called a Tandoor, coconut curries, and Indian versions of Portuguese chorizo. The seafood is abundant on the beaches and the use of pork in northeastern India will surprise you. Taste history in every bite you take while in India.
4. New Zealand
Not only is New Zealand a beautiful place to visit, it has some of the most interesting local eats that are unexpected finds for foodie travelers. The wine is well known amongst foodies and connoisseurs in the know, but there are several other foods that are lesser known like Kumara, humongous green-lipped mussels, the most tender lamb, fruits like Feijoa, and an interesting delicacy of the South Island, the cheese roll.
The M?ori people are the indigenous people of New Zealand and their local culture and cuisine are still alive on the islands. H?ng?, for example, is the process of wrapping meats, pumpkins and potatoes in leaves and burying it beneath the ground on hot coals for hours. This process of slow cooking yields some of the most tender meat. New Zealand will surely leave you with many foods to desire.
Go for the seafood and stay for the yogurt. Feast on Arctic char, sweet langoustines, cod, and many other ocean delights. Iceland truly has the freshest and tastiest seafood! Other than the seafood, the Icelandic yogurt is called Skyr. It is slightly thicker than Greek yogurt and I thought it was sweeter. It is used to make desserts, like butter to accompany bread, and eaten at all times of the day. It’s Iceland’s claim to a healthy lifestyle due to its low fat content yet it’s also very tasty! There are many other things that you’ll hear about while in Iceland… the pylsur (an icelandic lamb based hot dog), lamb stew, smoked sheepshead, fish jerky. Fill up on the food then head out at night to chase the Northern Lights!
Check out this article – 16 Things to know before you visit Iceland
Neha Khullar is the author of Palate Passport, which features recipes and food stories from all around the world. She is also the founder of Food Moodz, LLC, which is an online platform for foodies to share articles on the best eats, chef profiles, recipes, and food trends. Find Neha Khullar on Instagram, Facebook, and at www.palatepassport.net.