A place may attract visitors because of its scenery, its historic landmarks, its street life, or the treasures in its museums. But the opportunities for good eating can be as much, if not more, of a draw. On such journeys as these, unfortunately, three meals a day may never be quite enough.
A sampling menu:
The roots of local cooking lie in Quebec’s fur-trapping past, resulting in nourishing, rich food. Try poutine, a sort of Québécois fast food: French fries topped with a rich gravy and bits of densely textured, squeaky cheese curds.
Food Journeys of a Lifetime: National Geographic, 320 pages, Rs1,800.
When to go: Spring through fall (March to August)
Recommended: Au Pied de Cochon for duck in a can: a duck breast wrapped around a lobe of foie gras with a head of garlic, sprigs of thyme and a rich balsamic maple glaze, served on a slice of toasted sourdough spread with celeriac puree.
From early days, Cajun cuisine blended French country cooking methods with local ingredients, in particular seafood, rice, sugarcane, celery, onions and peppers. Several Cajun dishes are now cherished well beyond the bayou, among them gumbo, jambalaya and crawfish pie. But there are plenty more where those came from.
When to go: Spring and fall
Recommended: K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen for the original blackened redfish.
Packing intercontinental fusion twists, Puerto Rico’s capital city showcases a playful modern interpretation of Latin American dishes—themselves a blend of Amerindian, Spanish, African and other influences—using French cooking styles. Nuevo Latino cuisine thrives on freshness and typically uses humble local ingredients.
When to go: Year-round
Recommended: The Oof! chain, including Aquaviva, Parrot Club and Koco.
A typical izakaya has all the bustle and buzz of a Western bar or pub. But the Japanese like to eat when they drink, and izakaya also serve excellent food. The dishes are often compared to Spanish tapas, but tend to come in larger portions, though no dish is a meal in itself.
Culinary capers: (clockwise from far left) Don’t miss Hong Kong’s dim sums, Tunis’ spices and Montreal’s poutine fries.
When to go: Late-spring and mid-fall
Recommended: Tengu and Tofuro, izakaya chains with multiple outlets across Tokyo.
For non-Muslim Filipinos, pork is king and the version that reigns supreme is lechon or whole spit-roast pig. Whether seasoned only with salt and pepper, as in Manila and the northern island group of Luzon, or with lemongrass, scallions and other seasonings, as in the southern island groups of Visayas and Mindanao, a lechon should taste utterly, extravagantly porcine.
When to go: Anytime but the monsoon.
Recommended: Kamayan, where the milk-basted lecon de leche is served with sweet, sour, and spicy dipping sauces.
Hong Kong claims to have the best dim sum in the world, from street level basics to pricey rarities and fusion versions served in high-rise restaurants. The classic menu items by which any dim sum restaurant can be judged are har gau, prawns in a bite-sized, rice-noodle wrapper, and sui mai, steamed minced pork bound into a small round parcel with tofu skin, topped with crab roe.
When to go: November through January
Recommended: Shu Zhai at Stanley Market or the Easterngate Seafood Restaurant at Citygate mall at Tung Chung.
Denmark’s smørrebrød translates as “butter and bread” and describes the city’s famous open-face sandwiches. One popular version is bread topped with pork liver pate and served with crunchy pickled cucumber, bacon and fragrant fried mushrooms.
When to go: Spring and fall
Recommended: Restaurant Ida Davidsen.
A diverse multiculturalism ensures that its restaurants offer an ever-changing array of Mediterrasian cuisines. Chefs select from some of the world’s finest ingredients, including grain- and grass-fed beef, succulent lamb, free-range poultry, and the more exotic kangaroo and crocodile. But seafood is Sydney’s real specialty.
When to go: Spring for seasonal food
Recommended: Rockpool, Pier, Tetsuya’s. Or Frenchmans Beach at Botany Bay for a takeout.
In pizzerias around the city, mozzarella di bufala bubbles and blisters in the volcanic heat of wood-fired ovens. It is destined for the queen of pizzas, the Margherita. To create a Margherita, the mozzarella is combined with vibrant basil and locally grown San Marzano tomatoes. Also found on the menu of every Neapolitan pizzeria is the marinara, topped with deep-red tomato puree and wildly fragrant oregano.
When to go: Winters
Recommended: Da Michele.
Until recently, the city would never have figured in anybody’s list of gourmet destinations. Happily, Scotland has now learned to appreciate national produce that includes seafood from crystal-clear northern waters, Europe’s finest beef cattle, lamb with a delicacy of flavour that comes only from grazing by the sea or on heather-clad hills, wild mushrooms, game and luscious soft fruits.
When to go: August
Recommended: Castle Terrace Farmers’ Market, held every Saturday from 9am to 2pm for sweet and savory free samples and brunch.
Start your tasting tour by entering the Medina through Bab el Bahr. Inside you can lose yourself in a maze of narrow alleyways, all of which lead to the souk. Each part of the souk features a different product but everywhere hole-in-the-wall restaurants beckon. Sit inside or at one of the tiny tables that line the narrow alleys and enjoy a snack of merguez or brik. For a formal lunch or a delicious dinner, visit La Galette, Tunis’ port.
When to go: Spring and fall
Recommended: Le Café Vert, L’Avenir.
Reprinted with permission of the National Geographic Society from Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe. Copyright ©2009 Toucan Books Ltd. Available freely.
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