This morning I received a text from a friend who is currently in India – telling me how fantastic the food is there. (I was immediately very envious). And experiencing local food when you travel can mean much more than just looking through the various restaurant guides. Here are some additional ideas to try.
VISIT LOCAL MARKETS
Every area and region has its own specialities and these are usually available at local markets. Even in your vacation isn’t very far from home, you’ll still find local foods to try. And the stallholders at markets tend to be a friendly bunch – they’ll be happy to tell you about the food and how best to prepare it.
They will often have free samples available too and you’ll be able to try before you buy. When visiting a market, why not plan a picnic lunch comprising the foods you buy there? The vendors will more than likely be able to suggest some great places to eat too.
DINE WITH THE LOCALS
Thee are several online services that offer this facility. One of my favourites is EatWith which you can read more about here. You’re sure to enjoy a great mean and you’ll be eating in your chef’s own home. These chefs organise dinner parties, usually for about four to eight paying guests so you’ll be in good company.
Often these guests are a mix of local people and vacationers so food is bound to be a hot topic. It’s likely that you’ll get more tips on great places to eat and markets and stores to visit.
STAY IN A LOCAL HOME
When you stay in a hotel, you might ask the concierge for local restaurant recommendations. Or follow the advice in the various tourist literature that’s available in your room or in the lobby. But these not necessarily going to be places where the locals go themselves to eat and enjoy dinner.
If you’re enjoying a home stay, for example Airbnb, then your host will be able to point you in the direction of the places the locals go. Some hosts are happy to cook for their guests as part of the hospitality they offer. If you’re lucky enough to stay with one of these hosts, be sure to reciprocate by washing the dishes or providing the wine!
VISIT THE LOCAL GROCERY STORES
Sure, if you live in Miami and are visiting West Palm Beach there might not be any differences but if you’re in Mumbai, Madrid or Marrakesh then you’re going to see a variety of unfamiliar foods. Smaller stores will be like markets in that the staff are likely to have the time to advise you about purchases or food preparation.
Unless you’re vegetarian, try visiting local butchers and fishmongers too. If you’re staying somewhere on the coast is there a local fishing fleet? Will you be able to buy freshly caught fish right from the jetty? That’s a perfect way of eating local and fresh fish is so unlike what we’re used to at home.
TRY A FARM STAY
There are several websites that advertise vacations on working farms in the USA and further afield. The farm types vary but they are a great idea for families. You’ll also find some accommodation on working farms on Airbnb. The facilities vary considerably but many include meals – products of the farm
Sometimes breakfast is included in the price. With other locals, all meals are provided and you’ll also find accommodation that has farm shops where you can buy the ingredients you need to cook your meals in your self-catering room or apartment (or yurt in some cases!)
TAKE A COOKING CLASS
These are popular worldwide but are especially so in the UK, France, Italy and Spain. Many of these classes rely exclusively on local ingredients. In some cases, shopping at the local market is part of the experience offered. Classes are usually small and your instructor will have plenty of time to help you.
Ad added advantage of these classes is that you’ll be able to reproduce the meals when you get home. There are also specialist classes such as chocolate making (popular in the UK) or pasts making (guess where that’s popular!)