The Club’s guide to finding the best local food on holiday

One of the best ways to get to the heart of a country is through its food. But how do you avoid the tourist traps and find the real deal? We share some expert tips on how to eat like a local

Do your research

It’s often in places renowned for fabulous food that you end up consuming mediocre fare, wondering where it all went wrong. While we love the fantasy of stumbling upon a neighbourhood gem, most people who nail eating well on holiday do lots of pre-trip prep. So, start by asking well-travelled foodie mates for tips; glean inside info from food and travel sections of newspapers; and read local or globetrotting food bloggers, such as That’s What She Had, and follow them on Instagram. 

01 Research

Ask the locals

It pays to get an insider’s perspective, so ask any locals you know to reveal their favourite food haunts. If you don’t know any, get chatting to some, from the cab driver to the bartender. Be specific about what you’re looking for and make it clear you want to know where they go, not where they think tourists might like. 

02 Ask the locals

Avoid the tourist traps

If in doubt, swerve any restaurant with a far-ranging ‘international’ menu. Likewise those with menus displayed inside a lightbox, special English menus and ones with lurid photographs. And most regular travellers will know it’s wise to hot foot it away from places with overly eager staff touting for business.

03 Avoid

Try the street food

Often the most authentic food is found on the streets. Whether it’s panelle (chickpea fritters) in Palermovada pav (potato sandwiches) in Mumbai or noodle dish char kway teow in Penang, shabby-looking street food stalls are where you’ll get to the heart of a region’s food culture. It pays to have a sense of adventure, but choose your stalls carefully – those with the biggest queues. While you wait, ask your neighbour where else they love to eat.

04 Street food

Go on a food tour

Food tours are a brilliant way to discover a place’s must-eats – you’ll be taken down unlikely-looking side streets and whisked off to little-known neighbourhoods. In Spain, you can seek out San Sebastián’s pintxo culture with the excellent Mimo. It’s also just opened a cookery school in London’s Borough Market and will run expert-led market tours. Uncover the differences between Cajun and Creole cuisine with New Orleans Culinary History Tours, or squirrel out secret tea parlours on a foray with Little Adventures in Hong Kong

06 Food tour

Go shopping

Markets, delis, bakeries and even supermarkets are all good places to get an insight into a destination’s food culture and sample local produce. If you’re self-catering, you could try recreating local classics or simply pick up some cheeses, cured meats, breads and fruit for an entirely local feast, at a fraction of the cost in a restaurant.

05 Shopping

Home-cooked food

Of course, by far the best place to experience authentic cooking is in the home. Short of cadging an invite to your trusty bartender’s humble abode, eating in family-run guesthouses and homestays is a great way to try some classics. Or look up online via networks such as Le Cesarine, which connects tourists with home cooks around Italy. Hosts will show you around their local markets, impart age-old regional recipes and cook for you in their home.

07 Home

This article has been tagged Food + Drink, Travel Tips