When it comes to food, I’m all in. If I could travel the world and just eat – and make a living out of it – I would do it in a heartbeat. Food is part of what makes traveling a unique experience for me – eating great, soul-achingly, humbling good food.
From donuts to street food to Michelin starred restaurants, here are 10 cities around the world that will satisfy your every appetite.
1. Modena, Italy
The ancient town of Modena is located in the Province of Modena in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy. Like its peers Bologna, Naples and Rome, it is legendary for all things delicious. My father and I were supposed to go last year, but we opted for Siena – we regretted it, to say the least.
Contemporary Italian cuisine is defined by one name: Massimo Bottura. His Michelin-starred restaurant Osteria Francescana is the best in the world and embodies the heart and soul of Modena and the Italian kitchen. Some of the signature dishes include 5 different ages of parmesan cheese and a dropped lemon tart turned into a Jackson Pollock drip-painting.
Modena is also where you get the real deal Parmesan cheese. Visit a dairy farm open to the public, such as the famous 4 Madonne Caseificio Dell Emilia where you get a chance to see the production, storage and even have a taste of a 38 months aged parmesan.
But where’s the pasta you say? Do not despair. During September, the city hosts a traditional Tortellino festival honouring the delicious knot-shaped Tortellino (also known as Venus’ belly button). Tortellino is a local pasta speciality of Modena and can be filled with a number of ingredients.
The best time to go to Modena is from early May until September. Just make a note that the temperature and humidity will rise during the summer months.
2. Mendoza, Argentina
Mendoza, the capital of the province of Mendoza in Argentina, is considered the largest wine producing area in Latin America and is renown for its Malbec grapes. And where there is wine, there is also food. Delicious food.
Mendoza’s most famous food ‘asados’ comes in the form of traditional and social Argentinian barbeque – enormously and perfectly cooked steaks prepared over a grill or open fire of native trees. Food is usually prepared by an assigned ‘asador’ or ‘parrillero’, who is the cook, and various meats is prepared and served alongside chimichurri sauce and salads. For a modern take on the traditional cuisine, visit Azafrán, one of Mendoza’s most popular restaurants and try their unique Argentinian stew or empanadas – paired with a perfect bottle of wine.
On a sweeter note, one Argentinian treat you have to try in Mendoza is Alfajores; two shortbread style cookies filled with the traditional dulce de leche and rolled in a bit of shaved coconut. It’s a typical street food and is sold at corner koisks for 1-2 dollars.
Mendoza has a stable climate, which makes it a good city to visit all year around. And because of the food and its laid-back atmosphere, you will definitely stay longer than intended.
3. Hanoi, Vietnam
If you’re into street food, you’ll love Hanoi. The capital of Vietnam has a rich culinary tradition making it a sought-after spot for foodies from all over the world. Some of Vietnam’s most famous dishes is believed to have originated in Hanoi.
The food in Hanoi is diverse, cheap and soulfully good. It’s everywhere you go and is an integral part of the city and the livelihoods of many locals. Though there are Michelin restaurants in Hanoi, the real star of the show is the local street food. Take a trip to the Dong Xuan Market, a market in the center district of Hoan Kiem and have a look around and then explore the alleyways in the area for more food.
Notable places to dine is the organic little restaurant May’s Taste and Ray Quan for authentic Vietnamese food. Some of the dishes you’ll find on the menu is pho tiu noddles with a broth of sweet and sour soup of pork and fish sauce and banh mi, baguettes filled with herbs, crispy onion, chilli and pate. However, food is all around the city so just keep your eyes open and get lost.
And if you’re still not convinced – US President Barack Obama was recently spotted sipping on some hot $6 noodles with Anthony Bourdain in the Vietnamese capital. Where the president eats, one should eat as well, right?
4. London, The United Kingdom
Before I went to live and study in London, I didn’t consider it to be a food capital. However, some of my greatest memories of the city includes delicious high-class gourmet hangouts, world-class Indian food and street food and cakes (hint: Cocomaya has THE best salted caramel bun).
London’s culinary scene is diverse – from new Michelin starred restaurants such as Umu and Araki to street food in Shoreditch – you can find everything you desire. A personal recommendation is Gymkhana in Mayfair, a one starred Michelin restaurant with the most flavourful Indian food you have tasted (outside the motherland India of course). Order a couple of dishes and then finish the night with a watermelon and cucumber gin tonic. You will fall in love. I certainly did.
Another notable mention is Brick Lane Market in Shoreditch, which comes alive every weekend. Stroll around, shop some new trinkets, art and vintage, taste every international cuisine and delicious sweets and immerse yourself in an environment filled with street art – a more urban side of London. All I can say is – London will not leave you disappointed.
5. New York City, New York
Whatever food you want, New York City has it. For some reason, I dreaded writing down recommendations for NYC because it has everything. So I will keep it brief and to the point.
If you’re looking for fine dining and have a wallet for it, Eleven Madison Park offers the most beautiful experience. Swiss chef Daniel Humm is known for an innovating style and tasting menu based on all local ingredients from New York. One of his signature dishes includes a honey and lavender roast duck cooked to perfection and a foie gras terrine. Oh, and did I mention it’s the third best restaurant in the world? However, the popularity of the restaurant comes at a cost – you need to book months in advance.
Looking for something more traditional and unique? Then don’t miss the fabulous oysters at Grand Central Oyster bar in the basement of the famous train terminal. The place has been open since 1913 and will give you a feeling of New York glitz and glamour in a classic atmosphere.
Also, for some reason when I think of NYC I think of donuts. According to foodie tips on Instagram the donuts from The Donut Project will leave your sweet tooth satisfied. With names like The All Nighter, 24 Carrot, Chocolate Wasted and Those Beetz Are Dope – the donuts are just as unique as their titles containing things such as beets and ricotta cheese, garlic and sea salt, espresso and milk chocolate… the list goes on.
Head over to Koreatown for two streets filled with dozens of Korean restaurants – featuring endless side dishes along with grill-it-yourself marinated barbecue – perfect for filling you up after a day of shopping near Herald Square.
Like I said, I was at a loss of what to choose for NYC. These examples are hardly enough to describe this food capital (yes, I don’t do the city justice) so just go and explore everything. Period.
6. Tokyo, Japan
Though you might automatically think sushi when it comes to Tokyo, there is more than meets the eye. With more Michelin stars than any other city, the capital of Japan offers plenty of food.
There are endless possibilities in the city so depending on your interests and your time schedule, that should determine what you see in Tokyo. Visit the famous Tsukiji fish market for endless quantity of seafood or head to Ryogoku Sumo Town to catch a wrestling tournament while eating chankonabe – a flavourful japanese sumo stew with broth, protein and vegetables commonly eaten by wrestlers as part of a weight-gain diet.
For a more contemporary Japanese cuisine, go to Michelin restaurant Kanda, a minimalistic stated place with fresh and seasonal dishes served as exquisitely as haiku poems. Chef Hiroyuki Kanda specifically creates a new menu every day believing that each experience is designed according to the customer. You are therefore in for a surprise if you go there more than once. However, if you want to get a spot at the eight-seated table, make sure you reserve at least two months in advance.
7. Jaipur, India
Although I mentioned London as a good place for Indian food, nothing beats the motherland. Jaipur is the largest city in the state of Rajasthan in India and was built in the eighteenth century as India’s first planned city. As a major tourist attraction, Jaipur is famous for its spice-imploding, mouth-watering currys.
One of the city’s most famous dishes are laal maas, a spicy and fiery Rajasthani goat curry, which has 45 chillies to a kilo goat, garlic, onion and yoghurt. Despite the hotness of the curry, it will leave you wanting more. The dish is usually served with delicious flatbread, raita and poppadoms to soothe the sting. According to various devoted foodies, Handi Restaurant has the best authentic laal maas in all of Jaipur.
Other than a rich food scene and also lots of street food, Jaipur is India’s most flamboyant state with colourful, chaotic and buzzing streets sitting alongside some of the most majestic palace architecture that will make your food experience even more magical.
8. Fez, Morocco
Fez, the former medieval capital and one of the imperial cities of Morocco, is considered to be the new Marrakesh due to its booming tourism and renovation of the city. The city offers a more unique experience of Morocco because it’s still considered a fairly new destination and not prone to heaps of tourists in the streets.
Visit the Bar Boujeloud market for local, delicious food, spices and shopping in true Moroccan-style. Wander around the area, ask to try local dishes and get lost as you’re surrounded by an infinite smells, sights and sounds that will leave your senses in an uproar.
If you want a graceful dining experience in Fez go to Dar Roumana, an intimate restaurant with six candlelit tables set inside a tiled, lush courtyard. Chef Vincent Bonnin, classically trained in France, makes dishes from the freshest produce and according to the various seasons.
Also, there would be no real Moroccan experience without a proper traditional cup of tea. Stop by Café Clock in the heart of Fez’s medina for some fresh mint tea after taking in the colourful streets and beautiful tiled mosques of the city.
9. Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
For me, Barcelona conjures memories of white wine sangria, sparkling red wine and an intoxicating nightlife with endless music, dancing and people in the open streets of Old Town. Though it is mostly known for seafood and humble family-run tapas bars, Barcelona has plenty more to offer.
A notable mention is the famous (now-closed) El Bulli, which was year after year ranked as the best restaurant in the world for its constant innovation. Now one of the reigning places in the city is Tickets run by chef Albert Adrià and known for its contemporary take on tapas. Some of the dishes include an infamous liquid olive oil alá Ell Bulli and a world tour of oysters – traditional tapas dishes deconstructed to deliciousness.
For a more affordable food experience in Barcelona, go to Mercado de La Boqueria, one of many markets in Barcelona or enjoy some exploring in the narrow alleys of Barri Gòthic.
As you go explore you will suddenly find yourself with freshly-baked churros and chocolate in one hand, and a bag of shoes or vintage goods in the other. Trust me, I’ve been there myself. The churros always got there first though.
According to Evelyn Chen, food expert for the Telegraph – the food scene in Singapore is unrivaled. The prosperous metropolitan city state is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world for its food alone.
For one – Singapore is the only place where you can eat Michelin food for $2. Just a few weeks ago, two modest food stalls in the city made history by becoming the first street food vendors to be recognised by the prestigious Michelin Guide; Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle and Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle. Their signature dishes include a flavourful chicken rice dish typically made at lunchtime and minced pork noodles.
Apart from street hawker food, there is plenty of other things to eat in Singapore. Because of its ever-growing cosmopolitan influence through tourism and new immigrants, you can find everything from Chinese, Indian and Malay to Italian, Turish and Nepalese cuisine in the city.
Singapore has numerous food festivals throughout the year, including 50 Cents Fest! where you can sample hawker street food for $0.50 to $2. The festival is held within Chinatown Food Street and sells delicious and classic dishes from bicycles and other mobile vendors.
Traveling is all about exploring so go out and try everything – especially food. Every city has its own specialities, traditions, fusions and hidden gems – keep in mind these are just a handful of cities with a very few selected places to go eat your heart out.