These 30 Foodie Countries May Surprise You

PHOTO: Chicken Satay skewers (photo via Flickr/Alpha)
Scott Hartbeck
by Scott Hartbeck
Last updated: 7:00 AM ET, Wed February 21, 2018


Malaysia is the definition of a melting pot as Malay, Chinese and Indian culinary traditions mix together with mouthwatering results. Stroll the historic streets of Melaka before sampling satay and simple-yet-delicious chicken rice balls. Then pop to Penang to slurp Assam laksa-a subtly sour fish soup-at a street stall.


The construction of the Panama Canal brought an international population to Panama, only serving to enhance the country's epicurean offerings. Savor a bowl of the sancocho-a meaty stew that will keep you full all day-before finishing up with some fresh lobster and ceviche. After all, legend states that Panama's name means "abundance of fish".


Singapore sits at a busy crossroads in Southeast Asia and thus is stacked with foodie delights. Head to a famous "food hawker" hub to ladle spoonfuls of creamy-yet-spicy seafood laksa as a starter before settling in for a course of chili crab or Hokkien Prawn Mee-a popular combination of stir-fried noodles and prawns.


Peruvian cuisine is definitely going mainstream, but too many are still in the dark about the deliciousness to be found here. Start with ceviche made with local fish (it's said to have been invented in Peru) before rotating in a robust stew or serving of smoky grilled guinea pig-hey, don't knock it until you try it.


Simply put, Portugal can compete with famous neighbor Spain in the food department. First, feast on pasteis de nata-decadent egg tarts-in ever-popular Lisbon before moving to Porto to partake in a francesinha free-for-all. This behemoth sandwich is stacked with pork and beef before being topped with cheese and a fried egg.


The Danes have sent foodie hearts aflutter recently with their take on Nordic cuisine, so get there soon before the scene blows up too big. Warm-up for a Michelin-starred meal with simple-yet-scrumptious open-faced sandwiches called smorrebrod or spoil yourself with the sweet flavors of the famous local pastries known to the world as "danishes".


From the famous injera flatbread to some of the world's best coffee, foodies will find heaven in East Africa. Don't be surprised if you are served injera at every meal in Ethiopia, but you won't be complaining at all when you're using it to scoop up the spicy, succulent strips of meat from local specialty tibs.

Sri Lanka

The "Pearl of the Indian Ocean" has plenty to offer foodies, especially those who covet curries. Two popular ones are parippu-a hearty concoction of red lentils and coconut milk combined with spices-and polos, a jackfruit based version. You'll also get a kick out of kottu, which is a satisfying stir-fry sold by street vendors.


It's all about the khachapuri in this Caucasus country. Khachapuri is freshly baked bread laced with lashings of local cheese and butter. And just in case that wasn't devilish enough for you, the Georgians put an egg in there, too. Wash it down with spectacular Georgian wine, one of wine world's up-and-coming favorites.


In Israel, you can expect to sample a smorgasbord of mouthwatering Mediterranean delights. Falafel is fantastic here as is hummus-a luscious dip with a creamy consistency that blows away North American supermarket varieties. You can expect a wide range of colorful fresh vegetables served on the side of nearly all meals here.


Vietnamese food certainly has a following, but it's still overshadowed by neighbor Thailand. Look no further than pho (pronounced "fur") to whet your appetite as this simple, savory noodle soup is the deserved national dish. Throw in spicy-yet-refreshing bahn mi sandwiches and Banh xeo pancakes, and your taste buds are all set.


While beer dominates many a trip to Belgium, savvy epicureans know that this country brings the goods when it comes to food. Feast on mussels in Brussels (more than just a rhyme, it's a genuine foodie rite of passage) served with fresh-fried Belgian frites before wading into a bowl of waterzooi-a fantastic fish stew.

South Korea

Bibimbap bowls and kimchi are turning up on menus around the world, but many Korean dishes are flying under-the-radar. Sample street food staple dakkochi-skewers of grilled chicken and scallions-before gobbling gimbap-one of the nation's favorite comfort foods. It may look like sushi, but these stuffed seawood rolls hold anything from lunchmeat to tuna.


Bounce between cafes in cosmopolitan Beirut sampling babaganoush-a smoky sister of hummus made with eggplant-before eating something a little more substantial: manakeesh. This is a Lebanese "pizza" made of fresh-baked dough with Mediterranean spices. You can't leave Lebanon without sampling a shawarma either, as this grilled meat offering will melt in your mouth.


Have a soft spot in your heart for moist dumplings filled with meat? Then head for the Himalayas. In Nepal, you can feast on momos to your heart's content, and you will find these mushy little pockets filled with a divine-and dizzyingly diverse-range of local meats and cheeses.

South Africa

Located at the bottom of the continent, South Africa sits near the top of the African food rankings. Medallions of meat are mixed with dried fruit and spices before the addition of a baked egg to make bobotie, a comforting national favorite. Don't leave without trying Potjiekos-a savory stew whose ingredients vary from cook-to-cook.


Exploring the wild landscapes of Wales is one of the best British experiences, but rest assured, you are also in good hands when it's time for a meal. Whet your appetite with Welsh cakes-sweet treats loaded with spices and dried fruit-but save room for rarebit: a specialty that features globs of bubbling cheese baked on bread.


From street stalls serving up fresh-grilled sardines to baked pots of pleasure called tagines, Morocco will more than make foodies happy. Expect couscous, lamb and even camel to turn up on menus. Chances are, you will be washing it all down with refreshing mint tea: the national drink.


Taiwanese food and drink are finally getting their due. While waiting for the trend to hit your town, go there and tour the night markets to get an authentic sample of the flavor. Oyster omelet and squid-on-a-stick are two dishes to look out for in addition to numerous types of noodle bowls.


Home to hundreds of miles of coastline on the Adriatic Sea, seafood is among the many foodie finds in Croatia. On the Dalmatian Islands, they will grill it up for you at al fresco restaurants and serve it with local wine. Head inland for hearty pasta with truffles foraged in the nation's verdant hills.


Many travelers to Ecuador are content to simply see the gorgeous Galapagos Islands and go home, but culinary adventurers who stay a while will be rewarded. Bollos de pescado is a fine example, as this delicacy is a combination of fish from the waters offshore mixed with peanuts and baked in plantain.


Spend time in Stone Town on the island of Zanzibar burying your fork into biryani-rice cooked with spices paired up with curried fish or meat-and fried octopus. Move inland to sink your teeth into ugali (a polenta-like dish served with sauce) or nyama choma, which are skewers full of flavorful grilled meats.


The nation that gave us zesty sambal sauce, Indonesia's thousands of islands are filled with flavor. Rendang is ridiculously tasty, as this dish features tender meats that have been slow-cooked in coconut milk. Nasi Goreng-a fantastic Indonesian version of fried rice-is another favorite alongside sticky-sweet satay.


Sharing a border with Italy definitely has its advantages. Food is definitely one of the reasons people are flocking to Slovenia in droves. Enjoy rustic plates of pasta here alongside some seriously-underrated wine. Add into the mix tasty traditional meat dishes and some fine local cheese and you've got a foodie fairytale come true.

New Zealand

New Zealand knows how to cook. In between exploring breathtaking landscapes, fuel up with a gourmet burger topped with beetroot and fried egg or a serving of fresh-caught mussels-complemented by local wine. Then, sink your teeth into succulent lamb; The Kiwi variety is known the world over as the standard of quality.


While you simply must visit the Great Pyramids and take a cruise down the Nile, nothing will teach you more about Egypt than sampling its delicacies. Kushary-a combination of macaroni, rice, lentils, chickpeas in a tomato sauce-is arguably the national dish, but locals also love their flavorful liver dish called kebda.


When it comes to gastronomy, Canada can compete with anybody. In addition to the ubiquitous poutine (fries slathered in gravy and covered in cheese curds), make for Montreal to eat great bagels and melt-in-your-mouth smoked meats. Wash it all down with craft beer or a caesar-the Canadian version of a bloody mary featuring clam juice.


Adventurous travelers have long adored Armenia for its majestic mountains and the ancient cultural sites, but many people end up falling for the wonderful food, too. No journey there should end without a helping of grilled meat-filled dumplings called mante or a tear of sweet local bread called gata.


Start your day here with an acai bowl (acai being one of the many Amazonian fruits you can only find in Brazil) before sampling feijoada-a bountiful bean and meat stew-at a homestyle venue. Then move on to a churrascaría, where you will be served succulent barbecued meats-sliced off a skewer and straight on to your plate.


Restaurants in stunning rural settings can be found in nooks and crannies all over the country, including one venue that was recently declared the best in the world. The English love their fish & chips, sure, but the roast dinner is revered above all else. This simple-yet-spectacular spread consists of roasted meats and crispy potatoes alongside tender veggies.

Did you know that these nations were known for great food?

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Scott Hartbeck

Scott Hartbeck

Born in the USA but now based in England, Scott has been writing about travel for over 10 years. He specializes in Europe, rail...

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