WASHINGTON — Italy is famous for its pizza and pasta, and cheese and pastry put France on the map — b ut they aren’t the only countries that offer visitors a great gastronomic experience.
Neha Khullar, author of “ Palate Passport” and founder of foodmoodz.com, has spent her life traveling the globe in search of the best dishes, and some of her favorite meals were savored in countries that aren’t necessarily notorious culinary destinations.
Hungry for an adventure? Here are Khullar’s top five vacation picks for food lovers:
“Words don’t do it justice.”
That’s how Khullar described the food in Portugal. With influences from India, South Africa and neighboring Spain, Portuguese cuisine makes use of everything from curry powders to chili peppers.
“And then you fuse that with the whole Mediterranean cuisine — a lot of seafood, good olive oil and Port wine. It’s just amazing,” Khullar said.
Best of all, dining out in Portugal won’t break the bank. Khullar said it’s one country where your money will go a long way.
“You see a huge difference between going to Portugal and going to Spain. You can have the same dish and it will be significantly different in terms of what you’re paying for that dish,” she added.
If you plan to eat your way through the country, make sure you add a stop in Lisbon to your itinerary. Your pants will thank you.
Khullar said, “It’s such a hilly city that you’ll be able to work off the food.” (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)
(AP/Beth J. Harpaz)
Beautiful beaches aren’t the only thing visitors will find in Belize. Khullar said its cuisine makes the Central American country a must for food lovers. The Caribbean Sea supplies some of the freshest seafood, and its deep rain forest grows an abundance of cacao beans.
Khullar also said neighboring countries have heavy influences on the food. Expect to see pupusas, curry dishes and lots of coconut.
“It’s a huge fusion of different cuisines,” she added. (AP Photo/The Belize Tourist Board)
Pack your parka and your appetite if you’re headed to Iceland. Khuller said the country has some of the best food in the world.
Topping her list of favorites is Iceland’s langoustine, which she described as a cross between lobster and shrimp, “but sweeter.”
Arctic char is another standout meal from her travels — especially when it’s simply seasoned with salt and pepper and not overpowered with complicated sides.
“You might have some risotto with it, you might have some vegetables with it. They really allow the flavor of that fish to stand out, and it’s really good,” Khuller said.
Hot dogs made from a combination of lamb, beef and pork are a popular dish in Iceland. Visitors can find them on almost every street corner. And Icelandic yogurt, called skyr, shows up everywhere — from the breakfast table to the bread basket (Icelanders mix the yogurt into butter).
“Greek yogurt has this tartness to it, and skyr is just sweet. You don’t feel like you’re having yogurt; you feel like you’re having something that’s like a dessert,” Khuller said. (AP Photo/Rene Rossignaud, File)
The large country offers seemingly endless options when it comes to food. Some regions are known for their hearty, meaty dishes, while others keep to a vegetarian diet. Coconut is a popular ingredient in the southern part of the country, and coastal towns take advantage of fresh seafood.
“There’s just an abundance of culture to learn. There’s an abundance of colors and flavors and history to just absorb and take in,” said Khullar, who includes recipes for shredded pork vindaloo and tomato chutney in her cookbook.
“Because of the geography and history of India, you’re just able to really taste history. Each dish has a story behind it.” (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
(AP/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
New Zealand is known for its beautiful scenery, but Khullar said the country’s cuisine is just as breathtaking as its views.
Waiheke Island, just off the coast of Auckland, is famous for its vineyards and olive groves. Tropical fruits are aplenty, as are macadamia nuts and kumaras, which Khullar compares to sweet potatoes. The country is also known for its lamb.
“To have [lamb] in New Zealand — it’s just a whole different taste. It’s so fresh, so tender,” Khullar said.
Fresh seafood and ancient methods of cooking, namely hangi, are a few other things visitors will find on the Southwestern Pacific island country. (AP Photo/Kathy Matheson)
(ASSOCIATED PRESS/Kathy Matheson)
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