16 Countries With the Best Food for Insatiable Foodies

As foodies and travelers, we long to visit the countries with the best food around the world. But how do you narrow it down? Here are our top picks — 15 of the best countries for food (and wine) you just have to visit!

More than loving food itself, we love what food represents. Whether it’s a home-cooked meal in someone’s kitchen or a Michelin-star experience, food tells a story of the maker, their life and family, their traditions. A good food experience can truly convey that story, with passion.

We write a lot about traditional food. We’re not food critics, and don’t claim to be.

Food critiques can come off as food snobbery and pretentiousness. And food can’t be enjoyed if it’s not approachable, right?

Travel For Food

That said, do we get excited about food? Do we grin from ear to ear when we can actually experience a place through the food? Do we travel just for food — spontaneously book plane tickets just from watching Chef’s Table on Netflix or getting inspired by regional cuisine? Oh yeah!

And just when we think a meal can’t get any better, we’re surprised by what comes next. Our food and wine palate becomes more refined, and like old friends, flavors help us recall our travels, the stories we’ve heard, and the memories we’ve made over some really great meals.


The more we travel, the more we realize how much good food is out there. So where should we all go next? Just what are the countries with the best food around the world?

Here are some new and maybe unexpected food and wine additions for your culinary wish list!

Countries With the Best Food

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 places, some of the best countries for food around the world.

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!

First course at Restaurant Eckstein, Graz

First course at Restaurant Eckstein, Graz

1. Austria

It may come as a surprise, but not all the food in Austria is sweet like strudel or crispy-fried like schnitzel or backhendl, Austria’s version of friend chicken. It can be rich and filling, but the food culture in Austria is definitely changing.

In the city of Graz, arguably the culinary capital of Austria’s southern region of Styria (Steiermark), food is seasonal and fun. In some cases it’s experimental and cutting-edge. Known as the Green Heart of Austria, it has become 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 farmer’s 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.

This is especially true in the fall at harvest time, when locals enjoy stürm wine, the first press of the season, and the company of friends at weinguts (wineries) and buschenschanks (wine taverns).

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!

Traditional Ragu Bolognese, Bologna

Traditional Ragu Bolognese, Bologna

2. Italy

On one of our trips to Italy years ago we decided to explore Bologna and Emilia Romagna, and no trip has been the same since. When we’re planning on where to go next in Italy our plans almost always include Bologna. Why? Simple, it’s the food.

Although Bologna’s secret is out, we still continue to find something new every time we go.

Considered by many, even Italians, to be 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.

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 where you can find just about anything on the Bolognese menu.

A must try food in Emilia Romagna is parmigiano reggiano, the “King of Cheeses”, made and aged under very strict government rules known as DOP (Designated Origin of Protection).

Another specialty is traditional Balsamic di Modena aged for up to 25 years — it’s expensive and worth every penny. Try it on gelato, fruit or ricotta.

Lasagne lovers accustomed to what is served in the USA are in for the best lasagne ever in Bologna. It’s the pasta that rules here, not those layers stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, and heavy meat sauce. Lasagne Bolognese is made from layers of spinach pasta like you’ve never had with béchamel sauce and a bit of tomato sauce between the sheets. Very different and absolutely yummy!

As you wander from shop to shop you’re likely to see small round flatbreads that are sometimes branded 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 or you can stuff whatever you like into the plain ones.

For dessert, there are gelato and coffee shops on every block. Our favorite for gelato is Cremeria Santo Stefano, pure heaven.

Our grandparents emigrated to the US from Campania 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 — the fruits, vegetables, seafood — was all bright and freshly prepared. With just a few days in Naples, we ate very well.

The local tomatoes here are so sweet and grown in the volcanic soil of Mt.Vesuvius. Regardless of their size, they are deep red and delicious. And of course, they are the star of the show when it comes to pizza.

There’s no pizza in the world like Neapolitan pizza — it’s the best pizza in the world! We’ve had so much good pizza in Naples and Sorrento but our favorite is still Pizzeria Da Michele, though the setting has a lot to do with it. 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. But don’t overlook the nearby island of Capri when it comes to amazing Campanian cuisine.

You can check out our favorite restaurants throughout Naples and the Amalfi Coast for the best suggestions.

For those with a serious sweet tooth, try the sfogliatella (pronounced sfoo-ya-dell), a shell shaped pastry that is the traditional dessert treat of Napoli and Campania. They can be found everywhere in bite size or larger 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. Buon appetito!

Tredlnik, a popular street sweet in Prague

Tredlnik, a popular street sweet in Prague

3. Czech Republic

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.

Beer and spirits lovers should take a beer tour in one of the Czech Republic’s original beer cities like Ceske Budejovice — the original home of Budvar or Budweiser beer — or Pilsen, home of the Pilsner Urquell brewery.

Take a tour, enjoy a pint or two, and experience one of the world’s premier beer destinations.

4. United States

Food in the US

I’ve written about Lafayette continually since we first visited — you know a place is special when it stays with you over time. I suppose all of Louisiana and the US Gulf Coast has an 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 — the raucous blend of bayou, boudin, and drive-thru daiquiris.

The French influence runs a vibrant swale through the swamp giving everything it touches that something special: the food in Lafayette is incomparable, like fresh crawfish, catfish, and shrimp in just about every variation you can imagine.

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.

There’s always a good crawfish boil in Lafayette

There’s always a good crawfish boil in Lafayette

If you’ve never been to New York City before, suffice it to say that all you’ve heard about NYC is true. In the interest of full disclosure, The Big Apple is my “city”, the one I grew up near, and have the fondest memories of. The one that represents my urban heart. And it is the beating heart of the US in so many ways. Truly, one must see it — experience it.

From a foodie standpoint, there are few other places in the US with the variety of cultural influence you’ll find here. As Americans, 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.

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 — perfect 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!

Wine in the US

If you’re looking for wine to pair with food, the most famous wine regions in the US have been California and Oregon. Head to the northernmost part of the Willamette Valley in Oregon known as the Tualatin Valley for some of the most elegant Pinot Noirs. 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 in the Willamette Valley. The northern end of this ginormous valley received the lion's share of a mineral-rich soil called loess 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.

A crisp Chardonnay, Presquile Winery, Santa Maria Valley

A crisp Chardonnay, Presquile Winery, Santa Maria Valley

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 and our California road trip itinerary included stops at some very interesting and creative wineries. Just outside San Francisco in the Tri Valley, the Livermore Valley wines include crisp Sauvingnon Blancs, Cabernets, and Chardonnays which grow well because of the variety of elevations and exposures.

I’m sorry to say I’m not a big Merlot fan — remember the movie Sideways? :-) Miles did make a good point. And while, sadly, the movie probably did have something to do with sales of Merlot plummeting 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.

And we agree. The Merlot I had at Retzlaff Vineyard took top honors at the Orange County Fair last year (a big deal!) and was so impressive. Smooth, elegant, and a very drinkable wine.

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 Burgundies and were among our favorites in Santa Maria.

Beautifully presented sushi, Japan

Beautifully presented sushi, Japan

5. Japan

Japan is a culinary country to experience. With vibrant cities like Tokyo and Osaka (among others) vying for the food capital of Japan title, there’s just so much to eat, drink, and experience. 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 best 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 large pancake is 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.

When it comes to food in Japan, locals definitely have a sweet tooth, with unique and colorful (often unnaturally so) creations Westerners may find off-putting. But many Japanese desserts are delicious, if not downright fun to eat, so give some a try.

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.

Tokyo may well be Japan’s Ramen capital, with hundreds of ramen eateries to savor around the city.

The food scene in Japan is both vibrant and a bit overwhelming, and language barriers can only add to the confusion. This guide on what to eat in Japan will help get you started, but there’s are many knowledgable local guides just waiting to introduce you to the flavors of Japan.

Ravioli at Slovenia’s Hiša Franko, one of the top restaurants in the world

Ravioli at Slovenia’s Hiša Franko, one of the top restaurants in the world

6. Slovenia

The country of Slovenia is so small, and 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, reinvent, 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 as a culinary power house.

Have you been to Slovenia, or tried Slovenian food? It’s exciting to see, but even more fun to go for a visit and eat the food!

7. Jamaica

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 a tough question.

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 always 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. Jamaica is one of the world’s great coffee cultures, but don’t expect a Starbucks selection of different types of coffee drinks here, unless you’re at a top dollar all-inclusive resort.

The most typical way of enjoying Jamaican coffee — and it’s insanely delicious! — is with a whiff of natural sugar and a teaspoon of sweetened condensed milk from a can. That’s right, from a can. I guarantee this will be your new way of having your morning coffee. Yum!

If you travel to just one country for the food, I have two words for you — Jamaica, mon!

We think it’s seafood of some kind, Chengdu, China

We think it’s seafood of some kind, Chengdu, China

8. China

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 they 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 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 it’s nothing like we’re served in the States. Stir fried chicken, yes … but it’s fried with peanuts and asparagus lettuce and served with a complex 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.

9. Argentina

A combination of many cuisines especially from the Mediterranean areas of Spain, Italy, and France, the Argentine capital is a melting pot of cuisines. Carnivores, this is your place because 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 in Argentina 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 desserts, 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 and drinks like these make Brazil one of our favorite countries for food.

Making tortillas, Mexico

Making tortillas, Mexico

10. Mexico

Like many cuisines around the world with a bad reputation — or at least misguided preconceived notion — the food in Mexico could be at the top of the list. It’s truly, in our opinion, one of the world’s most misunderstood cuisines. For Mexicans, food is a source of pride, so much so that the food of Mexico has earned a UNESCO World Heritage designation.

Traditional food is one of the hallmarks of any culture and Mexico is no exception. But sadly, Mexican cuisine is one of the most misunderstood cuisines in the world, especially in the US where Tex-Mex food obscures the complexities of Mexico’s popular regional cuisines.

Every region has its own specialties depending on fresh local seasonal foods, elevation, and proximity to the sea. Molé in Oaxaca, carnitas in Michoacan, ceviche in Tulum, fish tacos on the Baha Peninsula, and Zarandeado in Sayulita are just a few of what you can experience in Mexico.

Mexican cuisine is not only influenced by what is seasonal available in each region, but also by the country’s indigenous peoples and colorful history which includes a deep Spanish influence. When visiting Mexico we always enjoy what is fresh and local, and you should too.

11. Spain

It would take months to fully experience the food scene in Barcelona but 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.

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 here and also 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, the ham has a distinct taste with fat that literally melts in your mouth.

But guard your wallet, because 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).

Seafood is huge in Barcelona and that’s a good thing because you may just have the best paella of your life. There’s also the Barcelona favorite, Fideuà, which is paella made 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 found 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 — very similar to dishes our Italian grandmothers made. It’s a lot like a ceviche, light and delicious.

For dessert, try the Crema Catalana, lighter than French brulée but every bit as creamy and delicious.

12. Croatia

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.

Spaghetti with baby clams and shrimp, Rovinj, Croatia

Spaghetti with baby clams and shrimp, Rovinj, Croatia

13. Chile

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?

Roast lamb, Chilean Patagonia

Roast lamb, Chilean Patagonia

14. Peru

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!

Ceviche in Lima

Ceviche in Lima

15. Indonesia

Let me preface this by first saying that I adore Bali. Like many people, I feel the special something that draws people to this Indonesian island country. It’s a spiritual place, one of Hindu devotion, with 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 some Balinese foods from the start — breakfast foods especially, as well as many of the local Balinese street foods.

Breakfast in Bali is like warm comfort food disguised as breakfast. The flavors and textures are warm and familiar. 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!

Chicken skewers, Bali, Indonesia

Chicken skewers, Bali, Indonesia

16. Vietnam

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 the soup simply known as Pho. Pho comes in a large bowl filled with rice noodles, your choice of a cut of meat(s), 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.

Pho in Vietnam however is about as diverse as each region, and no two are the same. Like the ubiquitous homemade Italian tomato sauce or American chicken soup, Pho is universal with tell-tale signs of the family’s primary cook in every spoonful.

As for the proper way to eat pho, etiquette aside, 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 the soup have a Banh mi instead. A Banh mi sandwich is like a hoagie or sub and can be found everywhere. A piece of baguette is stuffed with your choice of meat, then covered in a sublime mixture of pickled vegetables, cilantro and hot peppers. As with pho, there are hundreds of Banh mi variations served around the city. They’re all good and everyone has their favorite.

Spring rolls are light and fun to eat but are more often wrapped in soft rice wrappers than fried crispy. Vermicelli with slices of pork or shrimp are wrapped with basil and lettuce inside soft layers of 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 in Vietnam.

Tea-infused duck eggs in Vietnam

Tea-infused duck eggs in Vietnam

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