We want to preface this blog by making 2 important notes: 1. We haven’t yet traveled to Africa (that will change in 2020) or large parts of the Middle East and 2. We obviously haven’t been everywhere (so far only to about 40 countries). This limits the blog in one aspect because, for instance, we absolutely love Persian, Moroccan, and Indian food, but considering we haven’t yet visited Iran, Morocco, or India, we will not include them on the list. However, given our extensive travels to almost 40 countries spread across 5 continents, we have had our fair share of incredible culinary experiences. The food in some of these countries is SO good that we, as self-proclaimed foodies, return on a regular basis just to eat! Of all the incredible places we have traveled and eaten, there are the top 10 countries with the best food that we have visited!
Moros y Cristianos (black rice and beans) – or Mormons and Christians as we liked to call them – Cubanos (Cuban sandwiches), tamales, empanadas (think meat pies), cocido de garbanzos (chickpea stew), Boliche (Cuban pot roast), ropa vieja (shredded or pulled beef with veggies), dulce de leche (like a caramel dessert), …the food in Cuba is both unique and delicious. Cuba’s geographic location in the Caribbean Sea meant that history would provide influence to the cuisine from the Spanish, Africans, and other Caribbean countries. Cuba is a must-visit destination for any traveler looking for a unique experience with rich culture and cuisine and wonderfully happy locals.
Perhaps the most unique of the cuisines on this list come from the island archipelago of Indonesia. Few countries in the world offer such unique foods as this chain of islands, whose plates offer spices and flavors reminiscent of Indian, Thai, and other delicious Southeast Asian delights. Sambal (chili sauce/paste) and other chili ridden dishes offer a one-of-a-kind taste that is not only hard to describe but also hard compare in relation to another cuisine. If you’ve never tried Indonesian food, it’s one of those cuisines that you must try to understand. Visit a hole-in-the-wall warung and try dishes like nasi goreng, chicken satay (skewered meat), nasi uduk (steamed rice cooked in coconut milk), mie goreng (fried noodles with chicken beef or fish), nasi campur (a scoop of nasi putih accompanied by small portions of a number of other dishes, which includes meats, vegetables, peanuts, eggs, and fried-shrimp krupuk), and soto ayam (yellow spicy chicken soup with noodles – like an Indonesian chicken noodle soup).
Bali, and other parts of Indo, also cater to Westerners and have a vibrant expat community, so it seems like every time we visit there are new healthy restaurants with vegan and vegetarian options.
The US seriously could be 6 or more distinct countries that just so happen to speak the same language. Take the Southwest, Pacific Northwest, Rockies/Great Plains, Midwest, South, and Northeast and you’ve got a number of areas with vastly different lifestyles, cuisines, and people. Influenced over hundreds of years by immigrants from around the world, each mini melting pot of America has become uniquely distinguishable in 2019.
Many of the best chefs the world has ever known are/were Americans (Thomas Keller, James Beard, Anthony Bourdain, Bobby Flay, Jim Gallagher, the list goes on and on). The US is littered with some of the best Michelin Star restaurants in the world as well as local hole-in-the-wall joints inspired by our strong immigrant communities, and a uniquely American take on making almost anything unnecessarily large, there is no denying that the United States of America is among the greatest culinary countries in the world. In case you think we are biased, the US is 6th on the list of countries with the most Michelin Stars.
Outside of Mexico, the Southwest United States has the best Mexican food in the world. Southern California is essentially a Mexican diaspora. The same is true of San Francisco and many Asian countries, New York and Italy (as well as other European countries), and the South with many Western African countries. As such, be sure to eat regionally in the US: Mexican food in San Diego, Chicago deep-dish pizza in Chicago, Italian food and New York-style pizza in New York, fried chicken, grits, and collard greens in the south, etc. Sure, you can eat an American burger or something stereotypical, but opt for the regional specialties.
While America is the fattest nation on Earth, we also have the best healthy restaurants in the world. With an increasingly larger percentage of the population now placing value on healthy options, the US is a great place for vegans and healthy carnivores. We love the fact that the US is both convenient and that it caters to the broad culinary needs/diets of 320 million people.
Looking holistically at the US, we might argue that the US is the #1 best country in the world for the variety and exquisite meals of vastly disparate cultures. Our home nation only sits at 8 because while the food in America is amazing, it is made amazing by the 7 countries below.
Much of the way we eat, cook, and dine in the Western world can be attributed to the culinary successes of the French. In France, food is everything. Well, food and wine are everything. With 18 regions each boasting unique varietals of wine, every French dish is perfectly escorted to your plate by a bottle of Bordeaux, rose, pinot noir, or syrah. We have been fortunate enough to live in Nice for a month and travel through other areas of the South of France as well as the capital city of Paris.
Second, only to Tokyo, Paris is home to an insane amount of Michelin star restaurants, but our favorites were the hole-in-the-wall spots we found both here and in Marseille. Our mouths are watering thinking back to the bœuf bourguignon (beef stew braised in Burgundy wine and beef stock, flavored with carrots, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and bacon), Soupe à l’oignon (French onion soup), Coq au vin (chicken braised with wine, mushrooms, salty pork or bacon (lardons), mushrooms, onions, often garlic and sometimes with a drop of brandy), ratatouille (stewed vegetables that you can eat as a side, meal, or complement to another dish), and pastries/sweets like the Macaron (a sweet, meringue-based cookie invented by Caterina de Medici during the Renaissance), Chocolate soufflé (a sweet, airy, egg-baked dessert), eclair (an oblong doughnut-like pastry filled with creme and topped with chocolate icing), and creme brulee (a rich custard dessert topped with hardened caramelized sugar).
Don’t forget to indulge in some simple delights like French cheeses such as brie, camembert, Epoisses, and Munster and grab a cheap, freshly baked, and wonderfully warm baguette to go with this awesome platter. And yes, it’s appropriate to eat crepes any time of day.
Be adventurous and try some escargot!
This one is all Alex. I’ve had my fair share of Israeli food in LA thanks to the diaspora in the valley, but Alex is the only one of us who has actually visited Israel. Still, she made our list because Israel is every foodies dream.
Israel is only the size of New Jersey and she is geographically isolated in a geopolitical climate that is less than desirable. Regardless, the food that is produced throughout the country is some of the best in the world.
Start your day with a delicious shakshouka (eggs poached in tomato sauce with chili peppers, garlic, and commonly spiced with cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper and nutmeg), then continue on your way as a glutton and spoil yourself with shawarma in a laffa (shaved meat and vegetables wrapped up in a pita-like bread – kinda like an Israeli burrito), hot hummus (either vegan with mushrooms or filled with meat), falafel (fried doughy balls with ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both), Israeli stuffed vine leaves (like Greek dolmades – combo of rice, spices, lemon, olive oil, yogurt, pine nuts – served cold or hot if they have meat in them), Israeli salad (a chopped salad of finely diced tomato, onion, cucumber, and bell or chili peppers – perhaps the most well-known dish in Israel), and breads like Israeli bread and Challah! Oh, and be sure to enjoy some halva (sweet confectionary treat made with sesame tahini).
Man oh, man! The land of spice, flavor, smiles, elephants, and so many things that we love. Thai food is one of those staples in so many parts of the world. Living in LA, Nice, and now Australia, Thai has consistently been a staple in our weekly diet. While the Thai food we enjoy at home is good, it’s not great. The Thai food in Thailand, however, makes our top 5 cuisines in the world. And guess what? You can eat to your heart’s content for $10 – 20 USD.
We traveled all over Thailand and had the opportunity to experience the cuisine of Bangkok, the islands, and the northern region in Chiang Mai. While the flavors are consistent around the country, the dishes vary by region. Chiang Mai and the rest of the northern region have influence from the surrounding countries (Myanmar and Laos).
Our favorite Thai dishes include just about every type of curry (meat, fish, and/or veggies in sauces and spices – green curry, yellow curry Masaman curry, Panang curry, red curry, etc.), coconut rice, Thai coconut soup, pad Thai (Thai style fried noodles), Tom Yum soup (a perfect blend of lemongrass, coconut, and lime, laab (spicy minced meat and salad), papaya salad, pad see eiw (thick noodle dish), Tom Ka Gai (chicken soup)…we could go on ALL day. Literally everything the Thai make is delicious and every dish is, invariably, delivered with a smile. Be sure to get sticky mango rice for dessert!
Japan is littered with incredible restaurants and immediately comes to mind when considering the countries with the best food. Tokyo, alone, has 230 Michelin star restaurants (that’s more than any other city in the world and also more than Spain, the USA, or the UK have in any of their respective countries).
The Japanese not only know how to make food taste good, they also know how to make food that is good for your health and longevity! The Japanese have the longest life expectancy of any nation in the world (excluding Monaco) and live, on average, to the age of 85!
Unfortunately, we only had 3 days in Tokyo, but we made sure to fill it with a TON of amazing food. When you visit, you’ll obviously eat sushi, but we also highly recommend you try: Okonomiyaki (a savory Japanese pancake – just eating at these places is fun because you sit on the flook on pillows, surrounding a small flat iron stovetop and cook the pancakes yourself), ramen (famous noodle dishes that you’ll find all over LA and NYC as well), udon (also a famous noodle dish), soba (you guessed it, another delicious noodle dish), Kare risu (rice with Japanese curry), tempura (fried seafood and vegetables), miso soup, shabu shabu (meat stew with vegetables, cooked in broth and served with ponzu), and katsudon (bowl of rice covered with breaded pork chop, egg and other ingredients).
We made it to the triumvirate of countries with the best food that we have visited so far in our lives. The rich, fresh, delicious ingredients of the Mediterranean mixed with the love and traditions of the Greek make some of the most flavorful and enticing dishes you’ll find on the planet. Dining in Greece is an experience. Take it slow. There is no rush. Just sit back, relax, turn your phone on silent, and enjoy the smorgasbord of food you’ll inevitably devour.
As Greece’s nation spans a large landmass and a number of island chains, each area has dishes that are local and characteristic of the land and sea.
Start your day with a Greek coffee (essentially the same thing as Turkish coffee – small, strong coffee with the grounds at the bottom of the cup) and Greek yogurt with honey and a fruit salad before you explore the Acropolis or sail around the gorgeous coastline of Milos. Fill your day with dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), Greek salads (cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, olive oil, capers, feta cheese, and spices), fried feta with honey, and dishes of the land and sea like grilled Greek-style fish with lemon, olive oil, and spices, lamb cooked to perfection (literally falling off the bone).
Enjoy mezze (selection of small dishes served as appetizers) assortments like fava dip with pita bread, chickpea soup, tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber, and garlic dip with dill and lemon), hummus, and melitzanosalata (eggplant dip). Indulge in moussaka (casserole layered with veggies and meat), souvlaki (skewered kebabs), and a gyro (sliced rotisserie meat with tomatoes, yogurt, potatoes, and onion wrapped in pita bread). And if you try only 1 dessert, be sure to try baklava (pastry made of wafer-thin phyllo dough, a variety of nuts from walnuts and almonds to pistachios, and of course, honey). We have a spot on Milos that we consider the best baklava we have ever had in our lives.
If you’ve never been to Mexico or the Southwest United States, you’ve never had real Mexican food. Mexico is explicit, but what we mean by the Southwest US is Southern California and Arizona. Not New Mexico, and definitely not Texas. Tex Mex is good in its own right, but it is not authentic Mexican food. That, you’ll find in an LA barrio, beach shack in San Diego, or virtually every restaurant across the country of Mexico. Lucky for those of us from Southern California, Mexicans are the dominant ethnicity and Mexican food is an absolute staple of the Californian diet. Still, we as Los Angelenos LOVE to travel to Mexico to indulge in authentic local delights and whatever debauchery may ensue in the nightclubs and beach bars. Mexico is simply one of the countries with the best food in the world.
Mexican food is so much more than tacos and burritos. While there are very few things better than a good carne asada burrito with beans, rice, cilantro, onion, and spicy habanero salsa, what makes Mexican food so incredible is it’s complex simplicity. As a large country with many regions and states, Mexican cuisine varies by the region, but the staples include:
There’s a spot in Cabo called Los Tres Gallos...they have the best seafood tacos we have ever had in our lives.
We have finally arrived. We’ve explored food around the world in search of countries with the best food from the eastern-most parts of Asia to North and Central America and now we return to Europe. You had to know this was coming, right? Anyone who knows anything about food knows that Italians make the best food in the world. We love many foods from around the world, but if we were on death row about to be executed tomorrow, our last meal of choice would be Italian every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
The food in Italy is, well, perfect. Simple ingredients and recipes come together to create complex flavor profiles and dishes that are, 100% uniquely Italian. Most cities around the world have an Italian restaurant, but most fail to even remotely come close to serving food that would be considered “good” in Italy. Similar to Mexican food, if you haven’t been to Italy, you’ve never experienced real Italian food. Sorry, but that $40 plate of pasta you had in Perth or in LA doesn’t even come close to the €6 plate of pasta you’ll get at Da Enzo in Rome. Yes, there are some pretty good spots in New York, and around the world, the diaspora of Italian immigrants have created some great restaurants, but there is just something about the food in Italy that can’t be rivaled.
We aren’t sure if it’s the water, the agriculture, the way the animals are raised, the passion that goes into the cooking, the century-old recipes, or a combination of all of the above. Each of these variables contributes to the fact that Italian food in Italy is the undisputed best cuisine in the world.
As you travel through Italy, you’ll find different types of cuisine in each region. Sure, you’ll have the staples: some form of pizza, pasta, and animal protein, but each region will be unique. In Tuscany, you’ll find heartier, warmer, meals while on the Amalfi Coast or in Sicily, you’ll find seafood-inspired dishes, vegetable options, etc. Without separating these out to be region-specific, here are some of our favorite Italian dishes:
Italians also love fruit, vegetables, and other healthy dishes that they eat throughout the day. Typically, breakfast is nothing more than a cappuccino and cornetto (croissant), but lunch, dinner, and dessert are much bigger occasions in Italy. For dessert try: