Some people travel for relaxation and others for the adventure. Food travel is a good mix of both. When planning a foodie trip, however, the cost of eating out can quickly add up. Because of this, many people choose Asian, Latin American and Caribbean destinations for delicious and inexpensive dishes. These are also the best regions for street food, which further helps to keep your trip as affordable as possible. Here are six spots you should add to your foodie vacations bucket list.
When most people think of the Caribbean, Jamaica comes to mind. This island sports a reputation far bigger than its size. One of its cultural aspects most recognized in the world is its food. Jerk chicken, jerk pork and even jerk fish is a staple on the island and Jamaican restaurants abroad. Boston Jerk Center in Portland makes some of the best jerked meats on the island. You can purchase a full meal for $25 or less or grab a quick plate for around $15.
Many tourists who visit Jamaica also describe a dish that closely resembles scrambled eggs. This is actually a yellow fruit cooked with codfish and vegetables. Called “ackee and saltfish,” this is the national dish on the island. Jamaicans typically eat this as a breakfast item, but it’s not uncommon to see it on the lunch or dinner menu of restaurants all across the island.
There are many other foods worth trying in Jamaica, such as oxtail, curry goat, beef patties, bammy and festival. Also try not to forget the rum, coffee and beer. Jamaica is famous for all three, particularly Appleton Rum, Blue Mountain coffee and Red Stripe beer.
Closer to Home: New York City and Miami have large populations of Jamaicans, and by extension, a lot of authentic Jamaican restaurants you can choose from.
One country arguably even more famous for its beer brands is Mexico. Beer connoisseurs can typically identify Mexican beer by the mild taste and light body. Corona is the most common Mexican-beer brand and is one of the best-selling beers in the world.
Mexico is also well-known for its tacos, burritos and enchiladas. Still, you should leave some space for a follow-up of elote. This is the Mexican version of corn on the cob but with way more flavor. Mexicans add cheese, butter, lime, chili powder, sour cream and mayonnaise. You can buy this for less than 75 cents. In fact, street food in Mexico as a whole is inexpensive.
Guacamole and avocados have become a millennial-American favorite, and the Mexicans get the credit for this too. Guacamole dates all the way back to the Aztecs. Once you’ve had this delicious side dish with your chips or taco bowl, you’ll have a hard time accepting the American version as the real deal.
Closer to Home: Southwestern U.S. states tend to have larger Mexican populations and are well-known for making some of the most authentic Latin American dishes in the country. California and New Mexico are your best bets.
France is known to many foodies as the crème de la crème of high-end dining. It is where the sophisticated travelers often go to enjoy small portions, high prices and rare wines. Even so, France is a must-visit on any foodie’s travel list. You may want to keep the fine dining to a minimum, but you should try the local wine from Bordeaux and the cheese from Normandy.
If you would rather be in the big city, then Paris might surprise you with some amazing street food options. The trick is finding them. Large tourist populations can cause bland and questionable versions of traditional French foods to spring up.
The good news is that with some tips and a practiced eye you can spot the best options. Ensure that the food is freshly made, not pre-made and reheated. Take a look at the ingredients to verify freshness. Great street foods to try include crepes, quiches, tarts, sandwiches and pastries. Middle-Eastern foods, particularly falafel, is another big hit in the area.
These food items cost five to six Euros a piece on the streets but may cost more inside restaurants or bakeries. Recommended restaurants and bakeries include L'As du Falafel, Le Grenier à Pain and Chez Gladines.
Closer to Home: It is hard to find French cuisine in North America without paying a premium price. However, if you have a hankering for wine and cheese, try Napa Valley in California and the Cheese Capital (Monroe) in Wisconsin.
When it comes to street food, Rome and Sicily are two top destinations you should add to your foodie trip itinerary. Of all the dishes foreigners flock there to try, pizza is one of the most popular. There are many different ways to make this, but the traditional way and a tourist-favorite is by using brick ovens.
Once you’ve had the stereotypical favorites of pizza, calzones, pasta and lasagna, it’s time to try arancini. This is a deep-fried risotto filled with meats, peas and cheese. While it’s possible to get this in Rome, the absolute best location to search it out is Sicily. For a sit-down experience, get arancini, pizza and other Italian favorites for $15 or less at Da Cristina - Antica Rosticceria.
Craving something sweet? You haven’t truly experienced Italy until you’ve tried the gelato. Not only does this rich, creamy dessert taste great, but there are hundreds of flavors to choose from if you’re willing to check multiple vendors. They also offer tons of toppings. Get two scoops on the street for around $2.60.
Closer to Home: Philadelphia and New York City have strong Italian roots. You can find pizza, calzones and several other Italian favorites served by food trucks and family restaurants in these cities.
Thai food is one of the most popular ethnic foods in the world. However, actual Thai food may surprise you. In the restaurants abroad, it is noticeably sweeter and less spicy than it is in Thailand, so be sure to build up your tolerance for spice before visiting.
Wherever there is street food in Thailand, there is probably som tam. It is a type of soup that is sour, sweet and spicy all at once. It includes a salty salad made from shrimp, garlic, green papayas, and tomatoes. You can get this for about $1.60 on the streets. Street food in Thailand will rarely cost you more than $3.
A more familiar option is pad thai, a major hit with seafood lovers abroad. However, it is not as popular in Thailand. To find this dish, look for vendors who make any kind of stir fry dish. They usually top this with shrimp, tofu or both with a squeeze of tamarind.
Closer to Home: Being one of the most popular cuisines in America, Thai food can be found just about anywhere. However, the best spots tend to be in California cities, such as Anaheim, San Diego and Sacramento.
South African cuisine is not as well-known throughout the world, but it is nonetheless distinct. If you are a seasoned foodie, then you may notice some similarities with South Asian culture, such as the use of curry and a type of crepe for mopping up meats and gravy.
A favorite among tourists and locals is bunny chow, commonly known as just “bunny” by South Africans. These consist of loaves of bread filled with spiced curry. There are both meat options with pork or chicken and vegetarian options made from just beans and lentils.
Street food in South Africa range in price from about $1.15 to $4. Restaurant meals cost less than in North America and the U.K., but are nonetheless expensive when compared to street food. You may spend $80 on a four-course meal for two with wine.
Closer to Home: Finding South African cuisine in North America is hard, but New York City would be your best bet. Across the pond, bunny chow and other South African dishes are slowly becoming more prevalent in London.
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When traveling abroad, many people choose to stick to fast-food restaurants and food items that they recognize. For the more adventurous, though, dabbling in street food and dancing through vineyards is way more fun. By eating with the locals and learning about their cuisine, travelers can leave with a much better understanding of the culture and people.
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