10 Countries to Visit Just for the Food

Most people travel the world because they want to see new places and learn about different societies. However, one of the very best ways to experience other cultures isn’t through your eyes – it’s through your tastebuds. For instance, the only thing that would make your first trip to Hanoi even more memorable is taking in the crowded streetscape with a bowl of steaming pho under your nose. If you live to eat (and we all do), you should bring your appetite to one of these 10 flavorful foreign lands:

Italy

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Italy | If you’ve ever eaten a heaping plate of cheesy cacio e pepe in Rome or the visually striking Venetian dish, nero di seppie, you know that Italy’s reputation for a delectable food is completely deserved. The same can be said after devouring a cream-filled cannoli. Sure, there’s pizza and spaghetti, but this country’s eclectic mix of pastas, seafood and straight up delicious seasonings make it a gastronome’s paradise. Read more about Italy’s cuisine.

Churros

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Mexico | Margaritas and beaches aren’t the only vacation-worthy attractions in Mexico. If you’ve never had authentic Mexican cuisine, you’re in for a treat. If you have, you know that you’re in for a treat when travel south of the border. Stuffed tacos from Mexico City food stands, tender Chihuahua cheese, Oaxaca’s smoky mole – no matter where you are in Mexico, you’ll have a chance to literally taste the culture. Mexico’s sweets – like caramel flan and cinnamon churros – are also worth a bite. FYI – you won’t find fried ice cream in Mexico. It is an American creation.

Thailand

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Thailand | Spicy, sweet, sour, salty – these words are often used to describe Thai cuisine. Depending on what corner of the country you’re in, you’ll be eating dishes influenced by the surrounding countries. That means you might try coconut-infused Thai curry from the south, Laos-inspired som tam (green papaya salad) and a Central Thailand specialty, tom yam (hot and sour soup with meat), all during one vacation! And for adventurous foodies, Thailand features food stalls serving deep-fried insects, like grasshoppers, bee larvae and termites.

India

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India | Some of the world’s best finger foods hail from India. Here, you’ll find that many of this exceptionally noshable nation’s most famous plates have been influenced by the country’s dominant religions (such as Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism) and foreign influences. From the recognizable vegetarian dish, palak paneer (pureed spinach and cheese), to the more exotic seafood-based platters in Goa, India’s food can be considered an edible history. Make sure to check out Delhi’s street food scene to get a taste of the many iterations of the savory snacks known as chaat.

Vietnam

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Vietnam | One of the great street food meccas of the world, Vietnam is the place to go to fill up on some of the yummiest noodle dishes around. While Southern Vietnamese-style pho is more common in the U.S., Northern Vietnamese pho is definitely worth sampling, too. Head to Hanoi for mouthwatering bun cha – a dish containing grilled pork patties and slices in a bowl of broth with green papayas and vegetable accoutrement, with a side of rice noodles for dipping – usually found at street stalls. And if you like fish, dine at Cha Ca La Vong for a taste of their signature cha ca (turmeric fish with dill). Learn more about exploring the Indochina Peninsula.

Crawfish Boil

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U.S. | Although the U.S. is a melting pot of flavors from around the globe, there’s nowhere else in the world where you can find pan-fried chicken, boiled crawfish and buttermilk biscuits smothered in gravy  like in the country’s southern region. Unleash your inner glutton and dig in to the dishes influenced by European, African American and Native American cuisine. The best part? No one will judge you for wearing a bib when you are gnawing on a pork rib dripping with barbeque sauce.

Greece

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Greece | Even if you aren’t a fan of olives, popular Mediterranean dishes like spinach-filled spanakopita and flaky baklava are likely to make your mouth water. A blend of olive oil, fresh veggies, grains and herbs (such as mint, garlic, oregano, etc.) are common ingredients found in the majority of Greek platters.  The bean soup fasolada is considered a traditional Greek dish, while other specialties can only be found in certain areas of the country, including Santorini’s chloro cheese (fresh, mild goat cheese). Athens is also known for its yummy street food, like tyropitta (cheese pies).

France

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France | Nothing pairs better with centuries-old architecture and gondola-specked canals than France’s savory and sophisticated cuisine. Succulent sea bass, scallops and other seafood reign in Normandy and the surrounding coastal territories, while foie gras is a Bordeaux-area delicacy. Your three- or four-course French meal will no doubt showcase a variety of locally grown vegetables and fungi (like truffles), as well as in-season selections, such as oysters and game fowl. Fortunately, you can find most regional delicacies in Paris – as well as France’s famed baked goods, like crusty baguettes and melt-in-your-mouth croissants and macaroons.

Spain

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Spain | While Spain’s Basque region draws global gourmands from near and far, it’s not the only region known for unforgettable Spanish cuisine. Travelers in search of spice head to the Canary Islands, where mojo (made of olive oil, garlic, paprika and cumin) is locally produced. One bite of Valencian paella – a rice-based dish with meats and vegetables – and you’ll know why this dish is a Sunday brunch staple. For a taste of the freshest regional selections, check out some of Spain’s best food markets.

Dim Sum

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China | It’s hard to pinpoint a specific Chinese cuisine, considering the country’s sheer size and diversity in class and ethnic background. This makes visiting the country even more exciting, considering your food options are basically endless! Rice, noodles, soybeans (and their by-products like tofu) and vegetables are considered Chinese food staples. Some of the most popular culinary styles include Cantonese, Szechuan and Hunan cuisine. And with a name that translates to “touch your heart,” it’s no surprise that dim sum – a southern Chinese specialty that involves choosing small steamer baskets of foods, like dumplings, meatballs and cakes – has become a favorite around the world.


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Lauren Elizondo

Autumn foliage, architectural decay, that feeling you get in your stomach when you speed over a dip in the road – these are just a few of Lauren Elizondo’s favorite things she’s had the chance to experience while traveling. When Lauren’s not writing abo