Immersing yourself in the local culture can be very rewarding, especially when it comes to food. Whether you’re visiting a foodie destination or not, eating like a local by trying specialty foods and regional produce is one the best ways to learn about the history, traditions, and customs of a place.
Do Your Research
A bit of online investigation is a good idea before you travel. You can get a broad idea of what the city or country’s food culture is like and an idea of what dishes you should try while you’re there.
Food and travel blogs can be a great resources for this, and give you an idea of local dishes and where the locals actually go, whether it’s a hole-in-the-wall bar or Crepe World. You can also use these guides to get an idea of what you can expect to send, which is very useful if you want a more affordable trip.
If you’re heading somewhere known for it’s food, then travel shows with a focus on food can be an excellent way to get some ideas. Watch a few episodes Rick Stein or Anthony Bourdian, and jot down some ideas.
Start At The Produce Market
There’s a reason that so many cooking classes start out by walking around the local market. If you want to get a feel for what raw ingredients are local, what produce is in season, and what the locals use in their home cooking, then the market is the best place to start.
Whether you walk through the morning market in Asia or a food hall in Europe, visit the biggest market early on in your trip. Do some research to find out when people usually do their shopping, so you can go when the market is bustling. You can see the widest range of fresh produce and see what people are buying.
You can buy some things to try, or you can just observe. It’s a great way to get your appetite going and get an idea of the best local ingredients to look out for when you’re perusing a menu.
Prioritize Restaurants That Specialize In One Or Two Things
This is very true in Asia, where a lot of street food stalls and sidewalk food options will specialize in one particular special dish or one or two versions of a regional dish. If the chef only prepares one or two things and has managed to make a successful business out of that, then whatever they are making has to be really good.
You can often get a clue of what they make from the name of the venue. This is where your online research will come in handy. If you haven’t done much research, walk around the neighborhood and look at what sort of queues the different stalls or small eateries have. If people are lining up around the block, this is probably a good place to go. If you’re on a budget, look at where the students are going.