When you’re traveling, every meal can either be a hit or miss. Back home, you know exactly where you want to go to enjoy a good meal. But when you’re in a strange city or country, even going out to eat can feel like a gamble every time.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t change the fact that food is one of the best parts of traveling. Sure, you may not like every meal that you have, but you get to try new cuisines, new restaurants, and perhaps even new spins on familiar dishes. But don’t worry, there are a lot of ways you can make every meal as enjoyable as it can be, starting with these ones:
If you’re traveling to another country where you have zero familiarity with the dishes and their ingredients, pay extra attention to food safety. This is also important since your stomach won’t be used to the contaminants in foreign foods that you don’t have immunity for, unlike the locals. Here are a few tips to avoid getting sick while eating foreign dishes:
Start simple. Don’t go for the most complex or exotic dish right off the bat. Stick with something simple and familiar
Prepare. Pack anti-diarrhea medication, milk of magnesia, and other things that can help reduce symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea.
Pick the right place. Avoid street food or buffets for now. Choose a clean, reputable restaurant for your first few meals.
Don’t drink the water. Stick to filtered water when dining out and brushing your teeth. Don’t ask for ice for your bottled water when eating at a restaurant.
Exploring the local food scene
Now that you have your food safety knowledge down pat, it’s time to start exploring the local food scene, and the best way to do this is by doing your research. Start by checking out local food blogs centered at your destination. These are often the best sources of information when it comes to the local cuisine, the best restaurants in the area, and where to eat if you have certain dietary restrictions (e.g. halal, vegan, keto, etc.). If you’re on a budget, most blogs also let you know the price range of each restaurant so that you can prepare.
The next best way to research the local food scene is to ask the locals themselves. If you know someone who is at your destination, ask for recommendations based on your preferences. If you don’t personally know anyone there, reach out to the locals through online forums or travel groups. When you finally get there, you can also ask the hotel staff, the store employees, or pretty much any local that you come across. After all, the best way to truly experience the local food is to eat where the locals eat.
Moreover, you can ask the people that make the food directly. If you want to try food from street vendors, ask them what’s in it so that you at least have an idea of what to expect (and if you’re allergic to any of the ingredients). Doing this will also allow you to get to know the place on a deeper level, including what the local ingredients are and how the locals usually prepare their food.
If you’re dining in a restaurant, on the other hand, take some time to analyze the menu or ask the server about the food. It’s also a good idea to let them recommend dishes to you, especially if it’s your first time eating there. Servers usually know what non-locals would enjoy the most, so you’re better off relying on their suggestions than picking what ‘looks’ good based on assumptions only.
Here are some great tips on how to find restaurants and order food:
Look for crowded places. These are usually the best spots to try, especially if they are populated with the locals.
Pick restaurants that specialize in one or two things. They usually have these dishes down pat and the food is likely going to be amazing. Moreover, a smaller menu often means that ingredients spend less time sitting in storage.
Learn basic vocabulary. At the very least, learn how you can order food properly. If you have dietary restrictions, learn the sentences for that as well (better yet, bring a translation card with you).
Eating local food is a great way to get to know the cuisine and culture of your destination. So while these tips can help you make every meal a ‘hit’, don’t let the fear of getting a ‘miss’ prevent you from unraveling the mysteries of the local cuisine.