1) Small plates
Bites made for sharing are nothing new (Chinese travelers stopped for dim sum-style snacks on the Silk Road way back in ancient times), but there’s no denying that small plates are having a major moment right now. What better way to experience a destination’s cuisine than ordering a whole host of dishes to sample?
Taste it: Spain
Head to the Iberian Peninsula for the ultimate in leisurely plate-swapping—eateries often provide many morsels totally gratis if you sit at the bar.
2) Molecular gastronomy
Liquid nitrogen flash-freezing, carbon dioxide foams, centrifuges, enzymes and food dehydrators… Maybe it doesn’t sound too appetizing, but chefs are using some pretty high-tech techniques to create avant-garde dishes all over the world. This school of cooking goes way beyond scientific transformations of classic ingredients to challenge the culture and preconceptions around food in general. Pass the savory ice cream!
Taste it: France
Paris is home to Pierre Gagnaire, the eponymous eatery helmed by a disciple of Hervé This, the “Father of Molecular Gastronomy.”
3) Food festivals
Food-centric celebrations are always a good time and there is no shortage of opportunities to join in. New Zealand’s Hokitika Wild Food Festival fetes such off-beat foods as possum and earthworms, while Delhi, India hosts the International Mango Festival each year. Travel to Seoul, South Korea for the International Tteok Fair to celebrate the colorful, soft rice cakes popular in the region, or to Germany for a Spargelfest, the traditional asparagus festival with a name that’s really really fun to say.
Taste it: Germany
If Spargelfest isn’t piquing your appetite, stop off in Munich to get your fill of sausages, pretzels, sauerkraut and other hearty delicacies between swigs of beer.
4) Local cuisine
For us, traveling means eating. A lot. What better way to experience a culture than to eat with the locals? The locavore movement is growing in the U.S., but regional cuisine is a way of life among a huge percentage of cultures globally. Next time you’re away from home, hit up the local green market or ask your waiter to recommend a local specialty. Wineries are also a great place to discover local tastes.
Taste it: Italy
Try a rustic Italian getaway to sample handmade pastas, freshly caught fish and locally produced wine and olive oil.
5) Street food
It could be steamed, fried, frozen or raw. It might be served in a cone, on a stick or with a tiny little spork. Street food is an integral part of a city’s culture, with a reported 2.5 billion people dining on the go every day. Some may shy away from the often bustling stalls citing health concerns, but multiple studies have revealed food safety standards on par with restaurants. Scientists have even found street food in certain regions to be “nutritionally well-balanced.” We say: When in Rome… grab some pizza al taglio.
Taste it: Vietnam
Popular Vietnamese sandwich, Bánh mì, is a global heavyweight that combines French ingredients (a baguette, pate and mayo) with native Vietnamese produce (cilantro, hot peppers and pickled carrots) for an amazing savory crunch that can be found all over the world.
6) Resurgence of tradition
Like the locavore movement (and quite unlike the molecular gastronomy buffs), culinary traditionalists are interested in keeping it simple—but anything but boring. Think fresh-caught cod in northern Italy, perfectly spiced lentils in India and hearty stews in Ireland.
Taste it: Peru
Traditional Peruvian dishes like ceviche and drinks featuring the famous Peruvian brandy, Pisco, have gained popularity in the states, but you’ll most likely have to travel to the South American nation for a taste of cuy (that’s roasted guinea pig).