Five out of the Top Ten Cities for Foodies are in Asia, with Tokyo and Beijing in the top two places! What is your favourite?
This isn’t number one by random chance, it’s number one. Head and shoulders. The Japanese capital now has more three-Michelin-starred restaurants than any city in the world, but it’s the amazing casual dining that should have you salivating. From ramen noodles to tempura to soba to sushi to the small plates of awesomeness dished out by any dodgy neighbourhood izakaya every day of the week, Tokyo rules.
You can wow your friends by eating sheep testicles on a stick at Wangfujing Snack Street if you want, but the truly great Chinese dining is elsewhere. Peking duck is a favourite, obviously, but if you’re all about the dumpling then you won’t be disappointed. Even shopping mall food courts turn out great fare.
New York, USA
New York food is good – Gray’s Papaya hotdogs, L&B pizzas, any bagel – but it’s the variety of world cuisines that puts the city onto any foodie list. You can have a Mexican-style breakfast, a Korean lunch and a French dinner and it will have been three of the best meals of your life. And you haven’t even scratched the surface.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Angels chorus when you touch down in BA; foodie gods beam their lights upon you. Or something like that. Anyway, the pastries are awesome. Alfajores (a sort of caramel sandwich) should be illegal, they’re that sugary and good. Streetside choripan rocks my world, while the pizzas and pastas show a handy legacy of Italian immigration. And apparently Portenos do a reasonable steak.
This is one of the cities like New York that does have its own cuisine, but it’s the imported stuff that you really come for. Hawker food in Singapore spanks the pants off any restaurant in most Western countries, as vendors lovingly pump out the one dish they’ve become famous for over decades. Chinese, Indian, Malay, Indonesian… It’s all here, and it’s all good.
By now, you know Vietnamese food. You’ve slurped pho, you’ve fumbled about with rice-paper rolls, you might have even tried banh mi, the Vietnamese baguettes. But it’s not until you’ve done it sitting on a tiny plastic seat on a Hanoi pavement, surrounded by scooters and bustling foot traffic, washing it down with a local bia hoi, that Vietnamese food really makes sense.
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexican food gets a bad rap, but I assume that’s from people who haven’t been there. Try tacos al pastor – shredded pork with chunks of pineapple and other goodness wrapped in a fresh tortilla – from any old street vendor and tell me this isn’t a great place to eat. And make sure you try chilaquiles: shredded chicken with tortillas, queso fresco and a spicy salsa. Breakfast of champions.
Mysore’s already famous, but that’s because of the whopping great palace in the middle of it, not for what’s on the plate. But it should be the food that people rave about. Mysore is home to the best of South Indian cuisine, and that’s saying something. I had the sort of thali there that can change your life, followed up with a great coffee and an artery-clogging galub jamun. Take me back there, now.
The city is nicknamed “La Grassa”, meaning “The Fat One”, which is exactly what you’ll be after a few days in Bologna. It’s the home of tagliatelle Bolognese, sure, but there’s so much more going for it. Just have aperitivo, the free snacks most bars serve with happy-hour drinks – it always changes, but my last one had hunks of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, lumps of mortadella, slices of bruschetta, marinated olives and a pizza. And that’s before dinner.
San Sebastian, Spain
I’ve written about San Seb before, and there’s little more to say. A night of bar-hopping in the Old Town, feasting on pintxos – the Basque-style tapas – and drinking local wine is just about the best experience you can have. Anywhere.