One of the best things about visiting new places the chance to combine sampling the local food and travel. One single country can offer an enormous variety of dishes. Indian cuisine is very sophisticated, though often we don’t know its diversity because the food in most Indian restaurants comes from the Punjabi region of northern India. The other great Indian styles of southern, eastern and western cookery are largely vegetarian, though some include lamb, chicken, fish and even goat.
French cooking represents one of the greatest cuisines on the planet. Many of the dishes are rich with their use of cream and alcohol. ‘Escargots’ (snails) cooked in garlic butter might, along with ‘frogs’ legs, ‘ put you off your dinner. France also specialises in exquisite pastries (‘patisseries’). Liqueurs, spirits and a marvellous choice of wines also greet you when you visit France.
Most of the Mediterranean countries have a cuisine worth trying and Spain is no exception. Well-known for its tasty snacks or starters called ‘tapas, ‘ Spanish seafood dishes can also be very tasty. As well as many excellent wines, you might like to sample one of the most famous national drinks – sherry, traditionally made in Jerez from wine fortified with brandy. ‘Sangria’ is a bit like punch, made from inexpensive red wine with added spices, spirits and fruit.
In Mexico, Aztec cookery blended with Spanish ideas to create characteristic dishes wrapped in tacos or tortillas made from flour-based flat breads. Guacamole, a creamy dip made from avocado mashed with oil and garlic, is a favourite Mexican dish.
Italy is famous for pasta and pizza. Pizza is equivalent to our word ‘pie’ and was the traditional lunchtime food for labourers in the fields. Every village used to have its open brickwork pizza oven and you could see women returning from the woods with baskets laden with a variety of mushrooms, to make the delicious ‘pizza ai funghi.’ Italian cooking is one of most ancient cuisines in the world, with over 300 varieties of sausage to choose from and 400 cheeses, any traveller is spoilt for choice.
Middle Eastern cookery reflects something of the Mediterranean combined with more eastern accents, with its emphasis on warming spices, like cinnamon. As in Greece, ‘mezzes’ or appetizers, dips, pickles, are eaten with delicious breads. This cookery style uses a lot of pulses, like lentils and chick peas, with plenty of fresh and interesting salads, and maybe a little less meat.
Thai cooking uses lime juice and lemon grass, to create delicate and subtle flavours. Recipes blend bitter, sweet, hot and sour flavours. Well-known for its fish sauce, Thai cooking also uses a lot of noodles. ‘Sushi’ rice and fish dishes may come to mind when you think of Japanese cooking. Developed over many historical periods, Japanese cookery includes a variety of sweets as well as rice-based dishes and many soya bean products and recipes. Chinese food has carved out a worldwide niche because of its adaptability. China also produces a dazzling array of green, black, white and scented teas.
In modern folk legend, the English would be the cooks in hell. Despite England’s terrible culinary reputation, their classic dish of ‘fish and chips, ‘ shouldn’t be missed. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding (which is not a dessert, but a savoury accompaniment) can’t be bettered on a cold day.