There are many good reasons for choosing one holiday destination over another, from sunshine and sandy beaches to cities teeming with culture. But, for many of us, one key criteria is always cuisine. For foodies, great food makes for a great holiday. Culinary traditions provide a uniquely intimate insight into the soul of a nation. Here are seven delicious holiday ideas that will whet any food lover’s appetite.
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You can go to Thailand for the sandy beaches and Full-Moon parties, but also for a cuisine that goes way beyond the green and red curries that you find in the ready meal aisle in your local supermarket. A holiday in Thailand is a culinary adventure. You might know tom yam, a wonderful sour soup brimming with flavour, but you probably don’t know laap, a northern Thai speciality combining minced meat with lime juice, fish sauce and herbs. There are many, many more, with every region boasting specialities of its own. Happily, cookery schools are common and can show you how to reproduce Thailand’s unique and fragrant flavours when you get home.
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Many visitors assume that Sri Lankan food is simply a regional variation of its Indian counterpart. Far from it. After a day touring one of Sri Lanka’s many World Heritage sites or lazing on its endless sandy beaches, you can refuel on familiar hearty dals and curries made with a distinctive Sri Lankan twist. But Sri Lankan cuisine is, like its culture, a mouth-watering melting pot of east and west, featuring unique dishes such as lamprais – a European-influenced dish of eggs, aubergine and meatballs infused with local spices and roasted in banana leaves – and hoppers, crepe-like rice flour pancakes.
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Thanks to its growing popularity as a holiday destination, Cuba’s simple, earthy cuisine is finding a wide and appreciative audience. As a general rule, Cuban food isn’t fancy, but it is hearty. Rich stews such as ropa vieja – a slow cooked medley of shredded meat with tomatoes, garlic, onions and peppers – are popular; and, rice and beans tend to come as standard. Portions are often huge, but what Cuban cuisine lacks in sophistication it makes up for in freshness. Fish comes straight from the ocean; and, with little industrial farming in Cuba, meat and vegetables are generally fresh and full of flavour.
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To many of us, Japanese cuisine means sushi and the ubiquitous circles of fish wrapped in rice and seaweed have become supermarket staples. But Japanese sushi is far more varied than that and the same can be said for Japanese cuisine in general. Deep-fried seafood tempura is fresh and light, while shabu-shabu, a hotpot of finely sliced meats delicately cooked in deeply flavoured broth, is delicious and unique. For visitors, the beautiful presentation of wholesome ingredients can be as magical a part of the Japanese experience as stunning landscapes and enchanting wooden temples.
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With beautiful beaches stretching along two coastlines, a diverse landscape and the fascinating remains of a colourful pre-colonial history, it’s no wonder Mexico is a favourite holiday destination. Its exciting cuisine is one more reason to visit. Delicious dishes based on corn tortillas are popular, but there are plenty of alternatives. Try elote, Mexican corn-on-the-cob served with chilli powder, cheese mayonnaise or sour cream. Pozole, meanwhile, is a rich chicken or pork stew dating from pre-colonial times, slow cooked in an assortment of herbs and spices and then sprinkled with lettuce, radish, onion, lime and chilli.
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Mauritius is an island nation 2000km off the south-east coast of Africa. It is a unique holiday destination that blends exotic flora and fauna with hints of Asia and a distinctly European feel. The same could be said of Mauritian cuisine, which makes excellent use of the Indian Ocean’s wonderfully diverse harvest in everything from French-inspired fine dining to Indian-style curries. Street food is cheap and delicious. Taro root fritters and gateaux piments (deep friend lentil and chilli balls) are two of the many roadside delicacies visitors - and locals - find hard to resist.
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Morocco’s bustling bazaars, majestic mountains and stark desert landscapes have attracted visitors for decades and another highlight is the country’s surprising and inventive cuisine. Moroccan food takes influences from Africa, the Middle East and Europe and blends them into something entirely original. Delicately flavoured clay-pot stews called tagines are everywhere in Morocco; and every version is deliciously different. Harira, meanwhile, is a rich soup of lamb, lentils and tomatoes, finished with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of chopped coriander. Fast food in Morocco means kebabs, grilled sardines and succulent lamb-cheek meat, washed down with sweet mint tea.