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World Food Day

Lauren Curd

The 16th of October sees the globe celebrate World Food Day, set up to honour the date that the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations was founded in 1945. We love to spread the joy of cuisine so we’ve picked out some great nations where the culinary skills are amongst the best in the world and the food is to die for...

Japan

The cuisine of this island nation mostly revolves around seafood, vegetables cooked in broth and the staple foods of rice and noodles. The majority of Japan’s metropolitan areas are on the coast so it’s quite common to find seafood served in many styles in their restaurants. Japan’s food and drink have become incredibly popular worldwide, with many themed restaurants and bars selling sushi, tempura, soba noodles and the rice wine, sake. Tempt your tastebuds with grilled yakitori, stewed nimono, steamed mushimono, raw sashimi, pickled tsukemono, vinegared su-no-mono, deep-fried agemono, and stir-fried itamemono. Japanese hashi, or chopsticks as we know them, have been used as eating utensils for thousands of years. Sitting on cushions at low tables are the traditional way to eat, but it’s quite common to sit in a kneeling style known as seiza at more formal venues.

Morocco

Moroccan cuisine has been influenced by the diverse landscapes of the country, combining the best of the Mediterranean in the north with the Berbers who reside in the southern mountains. Ingredients usually include fruits, vegetables, common meats, seafood and a wealth of spices, producing meals that are extremely rich in flavour. The midday meal is the main fair, except during the holy month of Ramadan. Moroccans eat with their hands and use bread as a utensil, which is served with every meal. The most well-known foods are couscous and tagine, which is a traditional dish named after the earthenware pot in which it is cooked. Selling fast food in the street has roots in Moroccan culture, most popular in the markets and squares of the big cities. A glass of mint tea is Morocco’s national beverage– a drink of hospitality that is popular throughout North Africa.

Italy

The best-loved Italian foods are pizza and pasta. There are many variants of these dishes, often incorporating specially-made sauces of tomato, basil, pesto and vegetables. Pasta comes in various shapes and sizes, the most popular being spaghetti, penne, lasagne, fusilli and tagliatelle. Other common ingredients in Italian cuisine are cheese (mascarpone, gorgonzola, parmesan, ricotta), meats (salami, prosciutto), bread (ciabatta, panettone), and olive oil, which is used in most dishes, often replacing animals fats or butter. There can be up to 9 courses in a traditional Italian meal: starting with aperitivo, a drink of prosecco for example, to cleanse the palate; antipasto, hot or cold appetisers; primo, first course such as risotto, gnocchi or soup; secondo, second course usually of fish or meat; contorno, a salad or cooked vegetable side dish; formaggio e frutta, cheese and fruits serving as the first dessert; dolce, sweet part of the dessert such as tiramisu; caffé, a warm coffee, which has become an important part of Italian cuisine; and finished with digestivo, usually a liquor such as limoncello.

Vietnam

Vietnamese cuisine is one of the most complex in the world. It features a combination of the five fundamental taste elements and each dish has a distinctive flavour which reflects one or more of these elements. Blending fresh ingredients with minimal use of oil and a reliance on herbs and vegetables; Vietnamese food is a healthy alternative to other Southeast Asian countries. The national dishes of bun bo hue (a spicy lemongrass rice vermicelli noodle soup) and nem cuon (salad rolls) are popular choices for visitors and can be found up and down the country. In the north, a colder climate limits the production and availability of spices, whereas the south has warm weather and fertile soul to grow a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and livestock. The vast shoreline of Vietnam means that fish has also become a staple.

Mexico

With the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, many foods and cooking techniques were brought over to Mexico, eventually fusing with the indigenous ingredients to compose a complex cuisine. Popular foods, such as enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, burritos and jalapeno peppers, have since spread around the world. Mexican food is typically rather spicy, often incorporating chilli peppers of various heats (measured by the Scoville scale) and usually buffered by vegetables, sour cream, guacamole and salsa. The main contributions of the Spanish were meat and cheese, as the Mesoamerican diet contained very little meat and dairy products were completely unknown. Cheesemaking in Mexico has now evolved with popular cheeses being produced in Chihuahua, Oaxaca, Queretaro and Chiapas.

Lapland

The cuisine of this northern territory mostly centres on the Sami - native people who have inhabited the region for thousands of years. The cold weather in Arctic Circle means that food can be hard to source. Therefore the Lappish folk utilise every aspect of the region’s premier livestock – reindeer. The Sami have concocted some delicious recipes, combining this delicious meat with berries, bread and fish. You can find reindeer cooked every which way in Lapland; grilled, roasted, smoked, dried, boiled, and even sautéed. Food is usually preserved over the winter ensuring it is ready for consumption at any time. Dishes to try are slabba (blood pancakes), bierggojubttsa (soup with meat and vegetables), gahkko (soft flatbread), cloudberries (fresh and as a jam) and sallteguolle (salted fish).

New Orleans

Louisiana’s famous ‘Big Easy’ is a historical French-influenced port city on America’s southern coast. New Orleans is famous for its multi-cultural heritage, its music (particularly as the birthplace of jazz), the Mardi Gras festival, and of course, its cuisine. Food here differs from the rest of the United States by some margin and has built up a reputation of unique delicacies. A trip to ‘Nawlins’ isn’t complete without a steaming bowlful of gumbo. Consisting of a variety of meats or shellfish, onions, peppers and rice, it’s a dish that has been created with West European, African, Caribbean and native Indian influences. Also tempt your taste buds with jambalaya, Andouille, crawfish étouffée, shrimp creole, muffuletta, bread pudding, beignets and bananas foster.

India

If you ask someone whether they ‘fancy an Indian tonight?’ you will undoubtedly imply a curry - the spiced dish is so popular that it has taken over a whole country’s food options. The main elements of Indian curries are the herbs and spices which fully bring out the flavours of each dish. The most favoured curries are korma, balti, tikka masala, jalfrezi, madras, and the ever feared, vindaloo. Cuisine differs across India’s diverse regions so be sure to explore the markets for varying dishes based on local culture, geographical location and seasons. Seafood is a big part of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha and Goa, the latter having strong Portuguese influence. A large amount of chili peppers are used in Tamil Nadu and Manipur, and when water is lacking, food is cooked in milk or ghee in Punjab, Sikkim, Rajasthan and Haryana.

Argentina

Argentine people have a reputation for their love of eating. Invitations to dinner are considered a symbol of friendship, while Sunday family dinner is the regarded as the most significant meal of the week. A feature of Argentine cuisine is the preparation of homemade food to celebrate a special occasion; making your own food is a way of showing affection and the tradition is passed down from generation to generation. Many regions of Argentina are known for their beef-oriented diet. Grilled meat from a typical ‘asado’, or barbecue, is a staple food and the most common condiment for asado is chimichurri - a sauce of herbs, garlic and vinegar. When you’re in Argentina, you must try dulce de leche, a national spread used to fill cakes and pancakes, eaten on toast and as an ice cream flavour; empanadas, a pastry stuffed with meat, cheese and/or vegetables; and locro, a hearty thick stew popular in the Andes Mountains.

 

**This blog post was previously published on Medway Leisure Travel, now trading as Pettitts Travel**

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