2016 was an incredible year filled with many delicious local and authentic food experiences on our quest. Narrowing down our best authentic food travel experiences was an incredibly difficult task.
We visited 4 continents, 7 countries, and 20+ cities. Our food travel experiences were shaped not only by the delicious food experiences but also by the local people we met on our culinary travels.
Here are our best 16 food travel experiences to inspire you and whet your appetite for your culinary travels in 2017. These experiences are organized in chronological order. We started the year in Peru and ended in Cambodia.
Hungry? Let’s go…
1 – Food from the Peruvian Amazon Jungle in Lima, Peru
Not knowing anything about the food from Peruvian Amazon jungle, we were in for a real treat. The Amazon Jungle of Peru covers nearly two-thirds of the country. As a result, the cuisine and local foods are influenced by the rainforest.
One of the most traditional dishes from the Peruvian Amazon jungle is Juane. This dish is made up of a bowl of rice filled with meat, boiled egg, black olives, and spices. All the ingredients are wrapped up in bijao leaves, native from the jungle (though look like banana leaves) and boiled in clay pots.The combination of black olives, eggs and in our case chicken, was tender and very flavorful. In addition to the traditional dishes, we wrote about 10 strange fruits from the Amazon Jungle you will not believe.
The food from the Amazon Jungle in Peru is definitely worth traveling for.
Address: Av. Ignacio Merino 2051, Lince, Lima, Peru.
Hours: Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 10 pm.
Prices: About 15 – 20 Peruvian Nuevo Sol (PEN) per person, approximately $4.40 – $5.90 USD.
2- Guinea Pig in Cusco, Peru
Cuy (pronounced COOee) or guinea pig is the local delicacy had heard about before going to Cusco. In South America and in the Andes region, Cuy is an important food source among indigenous groups. Peruvians used to supplement their diet with guinea pig and this custom still exists today.
Cuy is prepared either al horno (baked cuy) or chactado (fried cuy). We recommend having the Cuy prepared Chactado, as it is more tasty. The cuy is served with potatoes and Rocoto Relleno (fried stuffed peppers) which are also unique to the region. Be prepared to receive the whole guinea pig with its mouth, teeth and legs.
The best place to have it at a Cuyeria, which is a local restaurant that specializes in Cuy. Recommended to us by locals, this restaurant was off the beaten path and located in a residential area.
While not our favorite, this local delicacy was one of the highlights of the year.
Address: Urb. La Pradera B-1 Puquín, Santiago, Cusco, Peru.
Hours: Monday to Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm.
Prices: About 20 Peruvian Nuevo Sol (PEN) per person, approximately $5.90 USD.
3 – Nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian Cuisine) in Lima, Peru
Before we landed in Peru, we had no idea the country had the second largest population of Japanese in South America. The Japanese migrated to Peru at the end of the 19th century to work as farmers. As they integrated with the Peruvians, they brought their cooking techniques and fused that with Peruvian ingredients. This led to the creation of Nikkei cuisine, a fusion of Japanese recipes and traditions with Peruvian ingredients.
One delightful Amazon Nikkei dish we discovered was De La Selva Lo Nikkei. This dish uses fish from the Peruvian Amazon jungle called Paiche, and is served with a creative blend of Japanese and Peruvian ingredients, including miso causa, chonta salad, cocona & mirin vinaigrette. Incredibly delicious and exquisite, do indulge in Nikkei, the Japanese-Peruvian cuisine that will make you salivate if your travels take you to Peru in 2017.
Address: Calle 21 707, San Isidro, Lima, Peru.
Hours: Monday to Saturday, Lunch from 12:30 pm to 3:30 pm and Dinner from 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm.
Prices: About 15 to 35 Peruvian Nuevo Sol (PEN) per dish, approx. $5 to $10 USD per dish.
4 – Cubano Sandwich in West Palm Beach, Florida, USA
After coming back from our culinary travels in South America, we spent the Summer in South Florida, near Miami. As usual, we sought out the authentic and local food from the region. In South Florida, the Cuban-American community influences the local food scene. Everyone has an opinion on the best Cubano sandwich, one of the most typical Cuban sandwiches.
The Cubano sandwich is made of two slices of traditional Cuban bread, layered with roasted pork loin, ham, melted swiss cheese, homemade pickles and yellow mustard. Served with rice and black beans, it really makes for a serious meal!
Although we got many comments saying the best ones are in Tampa and not in Miami, we give a mention to this local and casual joint called Capri. Here, business is conducted in Spanish and you will find many local Cubans stopping by to get a quick fix of authentic Cuban food. This is a great place to taste Cuban food in West Palm beach, Florida. For more, see recent article, how to delight yourself with authentic Cuban food in Florida.
5 – Food Town Grocery store in West Palm Beach, Florida, USA
On your travels, shopping at local stores provides a window into the local culture. During our four months stay in Florida house sitting, we had the time to look around for the best food shopping options in town.
With farmers markets closing during the summer, we were left to find grocery stores that would provide interesting and healthy food options.
That’s how we discovered Foodtown, a unique grocery store that carries foods from the different local communities including Asian, African, Caribbean, Indian and Latin American.
This grocery store carries a wide diversity of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as meats and seafood. Wherever you may be, take the time to discover the local food stores and you may be surprised at what you will discover.
6 – Le P’tit Troquet Restaurant in Paris, France
Visiting Paris? Looking for an authentic restaurant experience near the most visited (paid) monument on the planet? How difficult can that be?
You probably already know that finding a nice, affordable and authentic restaurants near the Eiffel Tower can be a challenge.
Recommended to us by locals living in the area, is this hidden gem called Le P’tit Troquet for delicious traditional French food. Tucked away on a little shopping street, this charming, bistro awaits.
Order the menu of the day and to let yourself tempted by the full menu with the dessert.
Made with fresh and seasonal products, you will taste authentic French meals such as Foie Gras or Boeuf Bourguignon in a typical Parisian bistro setting. Try this local delightful restaurant and enjoy a leisurely French meal. See other stunning and affordable authentic restaurants in Paris.
Address: 28 rue de l’Exposition, 75007 Paris, France.
Hours: Monday to Saturday; Lunch from 12 pm to 1 pm; Dinner from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm.
Price: Lunch menu (Entrée + Plat + Dessert) 25€ ($26.50 USD); Dinner menu (Entrée + Plat + Dessert) 35 € ($37 USD).
7 – Chocolate Tour in Paris, France
Are you a chocolate lover? We are as well 🙂 One food travel experiences that topped our list in 2016, was taking a Paris chocolate tour with Context Travel. We learned about the history of chocolates in France, while visiting some of the most reputable chocolatiers.
One that stood out was Patrick Roger, a master chocolatier. Stepping in his store was like entering in an art museum. The lighting, the shelves, the shapes of the boxes and the chocolates are all precisely set to create a unique visual and geometric effect.
The chocolates themselves were divine and included unique flavors like dark chocolate with jasmine or the dark chocolate with basil and lime. Explore Paris through chocolates, the next time you visit the ‘City of Light’.
8 – Lechon in Cebu City, Philippines
Lechon is arguably the most popular dish in the Philippines, but it is certainly one of the national dishes of the country. Lechon is a whole spit-roasted pig and is the culinary centerpiece at every celebration, fiesta, family event (wedding, birthday) in the Philippines.
The best lechon is said to come from Cebu City, and we made it a priority to visit Cebu and discover it firsthand. After eating it at several restaurants in Cebu, our favorite lechon was from Rico’s. Cooked to perfection, the skin is crispy and not fatty. The meat is tender and cooked with a mix of garlic and leeks giving it the slightly tangy and delicious garlicky kick.
If you love pork, it is worth a trip to Cebu to discover why Rico’s Lechon is the best lechon in Cebu.
Address: Mabolo Branch: F. Cabahug Street, Cebu City, Philippines.
Hours: Monday to Sunday: from 10 am to 10 pm.
Price: Medium Platter (2-3 people) of lechon: P310 – P340, approx. $6.34 – $7.02 USD.
9 – Pampanga Cuisine in Pampanga, Philippines
One of our most memorable food and travel experiences, was a trip to Pampanga, the Culinary Capital of the Philippines. We took a Gastronomic Heritage Tour of Pampanga, organized by The Philippines Tourism Board when attending the TBEX Asia 2016 conference.
The highlight was a 10-course lunch with Claude Tayag, the most famous chef in the Philippines. In addition to discovering incredible Pampanga foods, we also learned about the history and cultural influences that have shaped the cuisine.
One of our favorite plates from the 10-course meal was the dessert. The dessert called Paradiso, was a yam, coconut, egg yolks in water buffalo milk pudding. This incredibly delightful dessert is similar in texture to a crème brûlée, but with more earthy flavors. It is worth a trip to Pampanga for the cuisine.
10- Mango Sticky Rice at Klong Toei Market, Bangkok, Thailand
We love discovering new fruits and eating the local fruits on our travels. Mango is a native fruit from Southeast Asia. And, sticky rice is one of the main staples of Thailand. The combination of sticky rice and mango was one of our favorite treats in Thailand. This is one of the 12 popular Thai desserts to indulge in.
One of the best places to have mango sticky rice in Bangkok is at Khlong Toei market the largest food market in Bangkok. On the west side of the market, you find a food vendor that prepares a delicious sticky rice.
Mango sticky rice requires a few days to be prepared, but it only takes a few minutes to be eaten. This should be on your culinary travels list for 2017 and beyond.
Address: 1st Alley South of Intersection of Ram 3 & Rama IV Roads, Khlong Toei, Bangkok, Thailand.
Hours: Everyday from 6 am to 2 am.
Price: 50 Thai Baht for mango sticky rice approx. $1.40USD.
11 – Stink Bean Salad in Bangkok, Thailand
Sometimes, one of the best ways to discover local foods is by taking a food tour. When were in Thailand, we took a food tour in Bangkok at night, where we discovered stink bean salad.
Our guide for the night was Expique, a Bangkok based company that focuses on local, off the beaten path experiences. On our tour, we visited Krua Apsorn, restaurant, which is famous not only for the food, but also because the owner used to cook for the Thai Royal family.
It was here where we were introduced to stir-fried stink beans with shrimp and minced pork. This was the first time we had “stink beans” which are popular in Southeast Asia.
Despite the name, the beans are not smelly to taste. Like eating asparagus, the smell comes several hours later. We personally did not notice any residual odors. In fact, we absolutely loved this dish for the unique flavors and textures.
12 – Bun Cha in Hanoi, Vietnam
One classic dish that we could not enough of in Hanoi is the delicacy, Bun Cha. In fact, Bun Cha made the list in our recent article, Top #10 Authentic Vietnamese Food You Must Eat in Hanoi. This quintessential dish is made with marinated pork meatballs and pork belly grilled over a charcoal fire. It is served with rice noodles, a huge serving of herbs and a delicious broth.
While you can find this dish everywhere in Hanoi, our favorite place was Bun Cha Huong Lien, a family restaurant known for having the best bun cha in the city. This is also where President Obama and Anthony Bourdain shared a meal in March 2016. So delicious, this dish must be experienced.
13- Bo Ne in Da Nang, Vietnam
What locals eat for breakfast is one fascinating aspect on the quest to discover the local and authentic dishes of a region. After several days of seeing locals enjoying this sizzling beefsteak before work, we decided to pull up the short stools and join them for breakfast.
Bo Ne is Vietnam’s version of steak and eggs. In a hot cast iron plate and still cooking, is an sunny side up egg dish, with slices of beef, meatballs, onions, scallions and tomatoes. Served with a small bowl of soup, a plate of salad and the delicious Vietnamese baguette.
Bo Ne is served only in the mornings. It is definitely worth getting up early to start your day with this dish.
Bo Ne Street Vendor
Address: 292 Dong Da, Danang, Vietnam.
Hours: Everyday from 7 am to 10 am.
Price: 25,000 Vietnamese Dong (VND), approx. $1.10 USD.
14- Bánh Mì Sandwich in Hoi An, Vietnam
This Vietnamese sandwich gets its origin from the French influence on Vietnam. The baguette was introduced by the French, but appropriated by the Vietnamese in the 1950s when they started calling it the bánh mì or wheat bread. Bánh Mì is an airy Vietnamese baguette made with a combination of wheat and rice flours with a thin crispy crust.
The Bánh Mì sandwich is generally stuffed with pork, pâté, cured ham, a mélange of Vietnamese herbs and vegetables like coriander, cucumber, carrot, slices, radish and more depending on what part of the country you are in.
Our favorite bánh mì sandwich was from Madam Khanh, the Bánh Mì Queen, in Hoi An. This sandwich is a culinary journey filled with a wealth of textures, flavors from spicy to sweet, and aromatic tastes. Don’t miss the bánh mì, if your travels take you to Hoi An, Vietnam.
15- Grilled Frogs with Chili in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Khmer barbecue restaurants abound in Cambodia. The most common staples put on the grill are seafood, fish, meat, and frogs! Yes, don’t be surprised to find frogs on the grills. Frogs are popular in Cambodia and used in everyday dishes.
At Sovanna, a popular BBQ restaurant with locals, we had the chance to experience grilled frogs with chili. Surprisingly, the frog legs were actually delicious and the main highlight of our meal. The flesh of the frog tastes like a firm fish and the chile sauce adds a nice spicy bite to the meal.
It was a pleasant surprise and we would easily recommend having a frog dish over beef in Cambodia.
Address: Street 21 between Preah Sihanouk blvd st. 274 and 294 , Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Hours: Everyday from 6 am to 11 am and 3 pm to 11 pm.
Price: 13,500 Cambodian Riel or $3.37USD for one plate.
16 – Cooking Class (Amok) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
To understand the local cuisine of Cambodia, we took a cooking class in Phnom Penh, the capital. At La Table Khmere Cooking School, we learned how to make, Amok, the national dish of Cambodia.
Amok is a fish coconut curry, steamed and served in banana leaves. There is more that goes into this dish and we will be writing about the experience shortly. What made this a particularly unique experience for 2016, was the opportunity to take a hands-on cooking class and learn how to make the national dish of Cambodia.
Cooking classes are a great way to understand the local food culture. Consider adding them to your culinary travels in 2017 and beyond.
Address: 11B street 278, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Hours: Cooking classes everyday at 9 am and 3 pm.
Prices: Cooking class including market visit (duration 3h30) Price: US$ 20 per person. Cooking class without a market visit (duration 3 hours) Price: US$ 19 per person.
We hope this list of our best food travel experiences inspires you for 2017 and beyond. In addition to tasting the food, take cooking classes, food tours and visit local food stores and markets. Travel deeper through food and create memorable and delicious food experiences.
We’d like to thank you for your support in 2016. We’ve loved receiving your recommendations, thoughts about the food and hearing about your own experiences. Let’s keep the conversation going as we highlight new authentic food travel experiences in 2017.
Now, please tell us, what were your favorite food and travel experiences of 2016? Share your comments below.
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Rosemary, ex-marketing and advertising strategist, is a digital nomad and content creator at Authentic Food Quest. Since 2015, with her partner, Claire, they travel the world in search of the best local food experiences. Their mission is to help you enjoy the best local specialties on your travels or via recipes in your home kitchen. Favorite country for food: Peru. Favorite local dish: Bacalhau. Favorite way to keep fit: Running. Rosemary is the chief content writer and strategist on Authentic Food Quest. She is also co-author of Authentic Food Quest Argentina and Authentic Food Quest Peru, available on Amazon.