Be it the classic Nordic dishes of Copenhagen or the famous egg tarts of Lisbon, every city has a cuisine shaped by its history and local environment. Here are 10 cities around the world that will wow you with their food culture and iconic cuisines. By Rashima Nagpal
The streets of Marrakech brim with stalls and restaurants dishing out different flavours of Moroccan cuisine. Traditional specialities such as berkoukesh (handmade pasta with herb and tomato sauce), tride (shredded pancakes with lentils, chicken, and saffron) and tihane (offal stuffed with spiced kefta, olives, and lemons) at James Wix’s restaurant Le Trou au Mur are the very best of Moroccan home cooking. One of the medina’s most sought-after spots, Nomad, is a rooftop restaurant and bar with sunset views. Amal Centre, a restaurant that serves traditional Moroccan cuisine, also doubles as a social cooperative that supports and trains disadvantaged women. The Jemaa el-Fna stalls are the place to be for an evening feast of kebabs, tagines, and skewered hearts.
From traditional Nordic cuisine to avant-garde techniques, hole-in-the-wall eateries to farm-to-table outlets, Copenhagen is home to some of the best restaurants in the world. Try classics such as smørrebrød (open-faced rye bread sandwiches) and homemade schnapps at Aamanns Etablissement, a Michelin Guide-recommended restaurant. La Glace is famously known as Denmark’s oldest pastry shop and serves sweet dishes, including a rich hot chocolate. Sample local spirits such as gløgg and mjød among other artisanal products at Omegn, an urban farmers’ market. Finish it off with a reservation (made well in advance) at Noma or its contemporaries such as Amass, Alouette, Geranium, or Kong Hans Kælder.
Tel Aviv, Israel
A hearty breakfast of shakshuka and shawarma at Dr Shakshuka, in Jaffa Flea Market, is one of the best ways to start your day in Tel Aviv. The atmospheric town offers fast food outlets as well as sophisticated dining options. One of the country’s well-known chefs, Chef Ran Shmueli, puts the spotlight on fresh local produce at his farm-to-table restaurant Claro. Dok is an intimate spot on Ibn Gvirol that takes pride in local products including an impressive selection of wine. Veteran Chef Haim Cohen’s Yaffo-Tel Aviv is the place to be if you want refined Israeli cuisine, a mélange of the old and the new.
Mexico City, Mexico
The list of must-try dishes in Mexico City is endless, from tacos to tamales to mole to pambazos. For a plate of frijos con huevos (eggs and beans), go to Fonda Margarita, a no-frills breakfast joint. Have rol de guayaba (guava rolls) at Panaderia Rosetta, a bakery that is also an Instagram favourite.
The restaurants Taquería Samuel and Molino “El Pujol” must be part of your taco tour. Masala y Maíz, a comida corrida joint highlighting the Indian African heritage of Mexico is a great place to try out the city’s contemporary dining scene.
Start your food tour in the capital city of Portugal on a sweet note with the famous pasteis de nata (egg tarts); those at Pastéis de Belém or the 100-year-old Pastelaria Versailles come highly recommended. Family-owned O Frade offers a taste of the country’s Alentejo region in an intimate setting. Tucked in Belém, Michelin-starred Feitoria brings Portugal’s best produce to its patrons. Pigmeu is a pork lover’s heaven—each dish here features pork, an ubiquitous Portuguese ingredient. Celebrity chef Vítor Sobral recreates iconic dishes such as bacalhau à brás (salted cod mixed with fried onion and potato) at his restaurant Tasca da Esquina in Campo de Ourique. Don’t miss the piri-piri chicken at A Valenciana, a local favourite.
A visit to the French capital of Canada must begin with bagels at St-Viateur Bagel. Another hot seller is the poutine made with São Jorge cheese, grilled chicken, and chorizo at Ma Poule Mouillée. The falafels at Falafel St. Jacques, an all-vegetarian Middle Eastern restaurant, are not to be missed. Chalet Bar-B-Q has been impressing generations with its charcoal-broiled bird and gravy. Forty-year-old Restaurant Paulo & Suzanne is a Quebec-style snack shop you should stop at.
Chicago, United States
Move beyond the stereotypical deep-dish pizza to sample the thriving dining scene and iconic cuisines of Chicago. Superdawg, at the intersection of Devon, Nagle, and Milwaukee, is a popular drive-in for hot dogs. Chef Darnell Reed’s cosy Lincoln Square restaurant, Luella’s Southern Kitchen, dedicated to his great-grandma Luella, serves some of the city’s best Southern food, including cream shrimp and grits, chicken gumbo, and a mighty platter of fried chicken and waffles. Honey Butter Fried Chicken is a North side favourite. Legendary pizza maker Burt Katz’s legacy lives on at his Morton Grove restaurant, Burt’s Place, that Anthony Bourdain famously visited in 2009.
Start with street dosas, chaat, fresh juices, and dabeli at the 1960s business district of Nariman Point. The Goan sausage at New Martin Hotel in Colaba is a favourite among locals. So is the humble South Indian fare at Cafe Madras in Matunga. The sandwiches at 40-year-old Sai Ganesh Sandwich Stall outside St Xavier’s College are bucket-list material. For a taste of the city’s Parsi heritage, head to Britannia & Co. Ankur restaurant in Fort is famous for its mild, home-style cooking from the coastal city of Mangaluru. The nalli nihari at Noor Mohammedi on Mohammad Ali Road near Chor Bazaar is a fast seller!
Singapore’s eclectic food scene and iconic cuisines need no introduction. From kaya toast at the iconic Tong Ah Eating House to the biryani at Allauddin’s, Singaporean cuisine is a melting pot of cultures. Choose from over 50 varieties of nasi padang (rice from Padang) at Rumah Makan Minang. Keng Eng Kee, a tze char (food stall) run by third-generation owners. It sees long queues for its wok-fried dishes such as coffee pork ribs, flat noodles with raw egg, and claypot pork liver. Candlenut, a chic Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant helmed by Chef Malcom Lee, is a must-visit. Go to Smoke & Mirrors, the rooftop bar at the National Gallery Singapore, for innovative cocktails.
Seoul, South Korea
The iconic cuisines of South Korea are best sampled in its capital, Seoul. Head straight to the heart of the city, Gwangjang Market, to sample authentic dishes such as ttokbokki (a chewy rice cake dish served in a variety of ways), bindaetteeok (mung bean pancake), kalguksu (hand-cut noodles), and san-nakji (baby octopus). Soondae (pork belly sausage) and potato dumplings at Neungra Bapsang are also popular. A communal meal of Korean Army Stew (budae jjigae), kimchi dumplings, spicy squid, and walnut soup at Samcheongdong Jukkumi Kalguksu is an experience unlike any other. In a quaint Hanok setting, Michelin-starred chef Tony Yoo puts the spotlight on a vegetable-oriented cuisine that originated in Korea’s Buddhist temples.