Become the Foodie who Enjoys Local Food in Your Travels
If you are looking for an article listing the fifteen weirdest things to eat around the world, this isn’t it. But I will give you simple tips how to become an a more adventurous foodie in your travels.
I didn’t grow up eating sushi, and I was in college when I tasted my first avocado, but I have become an adventurous foodie. It doesn’t always mean that I hunt for the “weirdest” food experiences when I travel. I highly recommend getting out of your comfort zone with food during your travels – even the bad experiences (like the time I ate liver soup in Germany…) just become great travel stories you will remember a lifetime.
But it’s possible to discover great new foods when traveling, even without having to stretch far out of your culinary comfort zone. Here are my tips!
Foodie at home is a foodie when traveling
Start your culinary adventures at home. I always say that the best way to travel around the world during dinner time on a school night is via food.
You can train your culinary palate – the same way you can train yourself to eat with the chopsticks. Even when you are in your hometown, go eat at a Thai, Greek, German, or whatever-is-exotic-to-you restaurant. Look for non-chain restaurants, preferably one run by an immigrant who wanted to move to your country to share their native cuisine. For example, we love to eat at many of the great Indian restaurants in Helsinki.
You can also slowly develop a lifestyle where global cuisine is part of your everyday life by learning to cook foods from different cultures. Take cooking classes on your travels, and then recreate the dishes at home. This will not just enrich your everyday life, but also gradually make you a more adventurous eater on your travels.
This is especially great to do with the kids, because then they learn to cook too! Our daughter Isabella has been making us French crêpes since she was 12-years-old.
Ask the local foodies for recommendations
One of the reasons I love connecting with people on social media, and reading blogs before I travel is to connect with locals and get their recommendations.
People also like to share their food recommendations, so I encourage you to discover authentic local foods on your travels by asking locals for restaurant recommendations, or even eating at their homes if possible.
Anyone can be a “travel expert” on social media and I often get the best tips from people who are passionate about their hometowns, even if they don’t travel much. This especially applies to food!
Local food at the right season
I have taken many cooking classes on my travels, and many of them start with the same thing: a trip to a local food market. Most food markets are not as fancy as my favorite food market, the Östermalm Saluhall in Stockholm, Sweden, where even the butcher shop has a chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Local food markets, even if they’re not as exciting, always offer a mix of seasonal local foods.
Nothing tastes better than local seasonal food! Even the winery owners in France claim that their wine doesn’t taste the same when it is exported. I’m not sure if that’s really true, but it is a fact that fruits and vegetables taste different around the world.
Who knew that orange juice tastes the best in Morocco? I don’t know why, but the freshly squeezed orange juice, with nothing added to it, tastes much better at the Jemaa El-Fna markets in Marrakech than anywhere else. Same thing with melons in Bali – the watermelon juice in Bali is simply amazing. And the best strawberries in the world? They are in Scandinavia, where the long summer days and midnight sun gives extra sweetness to the berries – but only buy the local strawberries during summer, they are imported from the other side of Europe during winters.
I always long to eat artichokes in Rome, and white asparagus in Germany during spring time. I like early August in Finland (or Nova Scotia, Canada), when the blueberries are ripe for picking. And I don’t even like bananas that much, but the small bananas only available on the Madeira island in Portugal… well, those are some tasty bananas!
In addition to seasonal farmer’s market offering, there are also seasonal dishes you don’t want to miss. Christmas-time isn’t the same in Europe without mulled wine, Glüchwein in Germany and glögi in Finland. On Shrove Tuesday you can find local delicacies – sweet buns with cream in Sweden and Finland and pancakes in UK and other European countries.
Always when you travel, don’t look just for local foods, but seasonal foods and dishes, you can find something truly unique that even locals only eat a few times a year!
Exotic food is good, simple local fare is better
I understand that while traveling people often want to eat Pasta Bolognese in Bologne, or the best pizza in Venice, or try the exotic dishes with names they won’t even remember when they get back home. I’m guilty of that too, but I think it is equally important on your culinary travels to try simple local dishes, fresh local foods, or even taste how familiar things can taste so different when eaten halfway around the world.
I love fine dining, and have eaten in many Michelin rated restaurants, but some of my fondest travel memories come from trying local comfort foods, like poutine in Canada (french fries smothered with cheese curds and gravy), or eating street food, like crêpes (thin pancakes) bought from a window in a small shop in Le Marais in Paris. So, when you plan your culinary travels and research the “top ten restaurants” in town, make sure to save some appetite for the foods that the locals adore.