Stop Being Such a Tourist – Tips to Help You Eat Like a Local Wherever You Go
Licking the mixture of ketchup, mayonnaise and satay sauce of Dutch ‘war fries’ off your hands in a small town in The Netherlands; picking mangoes, avocados and coconuts for lunch on a tiny Caribbean island; pinching your nose on a Malaysian street in the hope that the durian you’re about to try will taste better than its rotten-meat smell suggests … Some of the best travel memories often involve food.
You’re actually doing yourself a disservice if you’re one of those tourists who will only eat familiar dishes at the hotel or in tourist restaurants, because one of the best ways to really get to know a country is to try its food. Here are some tips on how to taste your way around the world:
Get out there
If you never leave the confines of your hotel or your resort unless it’s on an organised trip, you’re missing out on most of what the destination has to offer. So, do some research about the different neighbourhoods and attractions at your destination and hit the streets and get out of the tourist zones. If you’re nervous about the public transport system, you may want to hire a car from a company like Alamo Car Hire. Then go exploring and if you spot an eatery that looks appealing, throw caution to the wind and try it!
Follow the locals
The locals have an insider’s knowledge about the best places to eat. They know where to find the best deals and the best quality and they also know which places to avoid. If you want to eat like a local, be on the lookout for places that they seem to frequent, whether it’s that packed restaurant or the street stall with the longest queue of people waiting to buy the dishes on offer.
Read up on local cuisine
When you research your destination to find out what to see and do there, take some time to read up on the local cuisine and regional specialties too. Start with a general introduction to world cuisines and then check the section about food in your guide book too. If you have an idea of what to expect, it will be easier to find dishes that you might like to try.
Once you’re at your destination, ask around for advice on those must-try dishes or the best places to find local specialties. Ask people from all walks of life, from the concierge at your hotel to the person who cleans your room or the stall owners at the local food market. In fact, market stall owners may let you try those strange-looking fruit or explain to you how to prepare unfamiliar vegetables too. You’ll also find that fellow travellers will be happy to tell you about their culinary discoveries. If you’re unsure about their recommendations, check travellers’ online reviews so you can make a more informed decision.
The first law of travel states that sooner or later you’ll suffer from a bout of traveller’s diarrhea, even if you eat only at the best restaurants. Don’t let this make you too scared to try anything new, though. Simply use your common sense: Avoid places that look positively unsanitary and that don’t seem to have many customers. If the locals don’t want to eat there, you probably shouldn’t either.
Eating, like travelling, is an adventure if you allow it to be. Who knows, you might discover a new favourite food that you’ll want to try and recreate in your own kitchen too!