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Top five popular global cuisines you need to try

Travel experiences

6th February, 2019

Food is a major factor in the decision-making process when booking a holiday. In our recent article unique culinary travel experiences for foodies, we explained how food is now the leading hook for travel, according to the World Food Travel Association and we recommended some unusual food experiences that you can enjoy around the world.

In this article, we are looking at the top five cultural cuisines to get your mouth around, according to research from various online sources and food travel reports. We have combined this data with feedback from our own customers, to see what delights are deemed to be most popular. So, without further ado, let our global culinary adventure begin!

Indonesian cuisine

Nasi Goreng with chicken, shrimp and vegetables, topped with a fried egg

Indonesian food is very diverse, combining influences from many countries, including China, Japan, India, Spain and Portugal. Like a lot of Asian cuisines, it incorporates lots of herbs and spices, to create strong, flavoursome dishes that are both punchy and healthy. The staples include vegetables, fruits and nuts, meat, rice and noodles.

Indonesian dishes

Popular dishes in Indonesian cooking include satay – meat skewers which are barbequed and often covered in a rich peanut sauce, nasi goreng which is a dish made from fried rice with meat and vegetables, and the infamous beef rendang – a dry red curry with coconut and slow cooked beef. Many of Indonesia’s dishes are sweet and sour.

Visiting Indonesia

Whether you want to experience the indigenous flavours of Java, or devour something more culturally diverse, you won’t be disappointed with the food of Indonesia.

Islands of Indonesia

Mexican cuisine

Mexican Tacos al Pastor

Think Mexican food and you’ll probably think of spice and colour, but it’s more than that. Its emphasis is on flavour, so although the chilli pepper features heavily, often these are milder chillies used for taste, rather than heat. That’s not to say heat doesn’t feature. Mexico certainly has its blow-your-head off dishes, but your just as likely to find cool refreshing flavours incorporating avocados, sour cream, citrus and beans.

Mexican dishes

Some of the more renowned dishes of Mexico include fajitas, tacos and burritos, which are all versions of meat and/or veg wrapped in a tortilla, and of course there’s the humble chilli con carne, which translates as ‘chilli with meat’. Other dishes you should try include pozole - a traditional soup or stew from Mexico and cochinita pibil - traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from Mayan origin.

Visiting Mexico

Thomasina Miers’ chain of Mexican restaurants Wahaca, opened our minds to the broad range of Mexican dishes available, but for true authenticity, you have to visit, simply because Mexican food is a humble cuisine that is cooked from the heart to please friends and families and you will experience that nowhere better than in Mexico itself.

Treasures of the Yucatan

Turkish cuisine

An assortment of sweet, sticky baklava, made of layers of filo pastry, chopped nuts and honey

There has been a significant increase in the popularity of Turkish food over the years, with restaurants springing up all over the UK. Forget the limited menus of a kebab shop, Turkish food is mouth-watering; a melting pot of Ottomon, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences, delivering rich flavours and delicious pairings of meat and fruit, with pungent spices.

Turkish dishes

Dishes in Turkey are quite regional and depend upon their influence, but some of the must haves include the street food kebab, which simply means charcoal cooked and equates to anything from lamb with tomatoes and yogurt, to roasted chestnuts. For a sweet treat, try baklava, a stack of filo pastry drenched in honey and pistachios. You must also try the coffee which is as much about the making process as it is the flavour. You may even have your fortune read after, from the coffee grounds.

Visiting Turkey

Whether you wish to sit in a Turkish restaurant and sample regional dishes at a laid-back pace, or devour street food messily in Istanbul, your taste buds will be in for a treat.

Jewels of Turkey

Japanese cuisine

Sushi from a fish market in Tokyo, Japan

Japanese food is among some of the healthiest food in the world. It’s light, it’s nutritious and its emphasis is on regional and seasonable produce, which is treated with respect. As such, the dishes are presented like a work of art – a gourmet experience that is just as much about the visual appreciation as it is about the eating.

Japanese dishes

Japanese cookery follows the ‘rule of five’ across two aspects. Firstly, there’s the colours of its food; black, white, red, yellow, and green. Secondly there’s the preparation; raw food, grilling, steaming, boiling, and frying. Sashimi and sushi are popular dishes that are examples of raw food, incorporating all five colours. There is also the ramen; a steaming bowl of noodles with grilled meat, raw vegetables and a miso broth.

Visiting Japan

Nowhere does Japanese food better than Japan itself, in particular the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto. There are near on 4,000 sushi restaurants in Tokyo so you’re pretty spoiled for choice on the gastronomy front.

Japan: Land of the Rising Sun

Thai cuisine

Pad Thai being made in Thailand

Unsurprisingly Thai food is the most popular cuisine for UK holiday-makers. It incorporates four bold elements – salty, sour, sweet and spicy, which are balanced to create a harmonious blend of flavours, although sometimes just two or three of these flavours are used in a dish. Thai food is as hearty as it is healthy, with many of its gastronomical delights mixing fresh and wholesome ingredients, with warm comforting textures.

Thai dishes

Probably the most well-known dishes are the Thai red, green or yellow curry and pad Thai noodles. Thai curry dishes are rich and nourishing, with vibrant chillies, zesty limes, aromatic flavours of lemongrass and galangal and cooling coconut milk. Pad Thai noodles are stir-fried egg noodles with meat and vegetables in tamarind and fish sauce, topped with chopped peanuts. Other popular dishes include Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup) and Som Tam (Spicy Green Papaya Salad).

Visiting Thailand

If you’re planning on taking a trip to Thailand, pay a visit to the Khao San Road, where you will find an abundance of street food vendors, selling everything from the popular dishes above, to fried insects. Further north in Chiang Mai, Chang Pheuak Gate market presents a culinary experience not to be missed.

Thailand Panorama

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.