The world’s best foodie breaks

Dreaming of a palatable escape? From taking a vegetarian tour of Cape Town to following a spice trail through Morocco, we’ve eaten our way through some amazing foodie destinations, bringing home fragrant memories that still make our mouths water. Wherever you travel to next, we’ve got you and your stomach sorted.

Babylonstoren, Cape Town (Image: Babylonstoren)

Babylonstoren, Cape Town. Image: Babylonstoren

Laura Jean Sargent’s Cape Town

I’m a vegetarian, so I had prepared to spend my three weeks in Cape Town, South Africa, dodging game-heavy joints and citing a few favourites to frequent. However, the reality was quite different. When it comes to dining, Cape Town represents the globe, with a climate that affords fresh, seasonal produce much of the year round and a sustainability scene that sees projects such as Abalimi enabling the townships to get a meaningful look in too.

The café culture here has up-and-come, with a healthy scattering across the city’s different neighbourhoods; Tribe Coffee Café in Woodstock invites customers on a journey through its roastery, Loading Bay in De Waterkant sells an irresistible blend alongside international menswear labels, and Los Muertos Motorcycles in Bo-Kaap doubles as a biker shop – you get the picture. Meanwhile, the city’s eating options are just as eclectic; a menu of menus at an 18th-century hunting lodge at RThe oundhouse in Camps Bay, grab a balcony seat for a memorable Mexican at El Burro in Green Point or opt for full-on veggie in the former home of the first Chief Justice of the Cape at Aubergine.

It’s easy to follow your food back to its source here, too. Hire a car and head into the surrounding winelands to sample cheeses, chocolate and, of course, wine. You’ve your pick of the bunch when it comes to vineyard visits, with certified organic and biodynamic viticulture peppering the blanket of growing estates. Be sure to stop off for a bite at Babylonstoren, one of the Cape’s oldest Dutch farms which uses a simple, authentic basis for some seriously creative cuisine at its sleek restaurants, the Greenhouse and Babel.

Kerala fruits. Image: Meena Kadri

Kerala fruits. Image: Meena Kadri

Holly Turner’s Southern India

The flavours of Kerala give you a taste of just how lush and green the landscape is in India’s slumberous southern tip. Walk through Munnar’s spice plantations and you’ll see ginger, cardamom, pepper, cinnamon and vanilla growing all around you; endless Palm Trees provide coconut milk to sweeten rich creamy curries; brackish backwaters and dreamy lagoons are where locals fish for prawns, crab and both fresh and saltwater fish, which are often soaked in spicy masala sauce and baked in banana leaves (known as Meen Pollichathu).

If it’s fruit you’re after, you won’t have to hunt for long – it’s mostly above your head. Try the juicy green mangos, sweet bubble gum-flavoured jackfruit and tiny plump bananas, which you can have for breakfast, accompanied by rice pancakes (appam) and chickpea stew (surprisingly delicious, even at eight o’clock in the morning). Vegetarians will fare well here, as most of the dishes are meat-free. A stand-out favourite was masala dosa, a crispy crêpe made with rice batter and served on a plantain leaf with chutneys and dhal – the best part? You can get truly messy and eat it with your hands. For a real treat, try Fort House Hotel in Fort Cochin where you’ll find a tropical garden and glowing lanterns that line the path to the pier. Here you can eat fragrant seafood and red Keralan rice served in clay pots, and sip homemade ginger beer as you gaze out over the water and drifting lotus flowers.

Penang hawker food. Photographs: www.instagram.com/raehong

Penang hawker food. Image: Rae Hong

Abbie Cohen’s Penang

Swapping glamour for fantastic flavours, Penang brings Chinese, Malay, Indian and Nyonya cuisines together – a mixture that places it at the very heart of Malaysia’s diverse cultural background and food scene. Set by the Straits of Malacca, the state thrives on unpretentious food served in its many hawker centres – chaotic and compelling hubs where food stalls sizzle, steam and fry up most intriguing dishes (for a particularly satiating night out, head to New Lane Hawker Centre in the capital of George Town). Local noodle-based favourites include the soupy hokkien mee and fiery Penang laksa, as well as the fried char koay teow. Cool your palate off with nutmeg juice or an icy bowl of cendol, featuring rice flour jelly, coconut milk and a sugary syrup.

You can get to know Penang’s hip and rising coffeeshop scene, by spending an afternoon in the capital at The Mugshot Café; as well as their refreshing and generous iced latte, sample a bacon and egg bagel followed by honey-topped yoghurt packed into a quaint glass jar. The more playful 55 Café is a shoe-in for kids at heart, what with their adorable, three-dimensional coffee art. Still, nothing quite beats being served up a more traditional experience: head to your nearest kopitiam, a go-to place for mamak food (tasty Halal comfort fare from the local Muslim community) as well as black kopi-o and teh tarik milk tea (when served cold, this makes a particularly refreshing treat with which to beat the heat). Never mind the city’s bars and clubs – your late evenings will be best spent inside these corner coffee shops, drink-sipping and chit-chattering under a cooling fan.

Marrakech market. Image: Martin Fisch

Marrakech market. Image: Martin Fisch

Emma McWhinney’s Morocco

Shrouded in mystery and perched at the end of Africa’s spice route, Morocco has made a culinary name for itself thanks to its eclectic and aromatic flavours. With the Andalusian influences of peppers and saffron in the North, Berber dishes of pomegranate-flecked couscous and pulses in the South, juicy fruit and fresh seafood along the coast and delicate rosewater and almonds in the Atlas Mountains, Moroccan food is the stuff of Arabian nights: exotic and unknown.

For a whistle-stop tour of Morocco’s tapestry of cuisine, Marrakech is the place to go. A fragrant labyrinthine jungle of spice markets, fresh orange juice vendors and steaming street food stalls, it has an intoxicating effect on the senses. Start the day with freshly-squeezed orange juice from Agadir’s groves and a baghrir (a crumpet-pancake to you and me) with lashings of sticky date syrup; or, for an authentic Moroccan petit déjeuner, tuck into a filling bowl of bessara – a white bean soup flavoured with cumin and chilli.

No trip to Marrakech is complete without a visit to the open air stalls and brightly coloured towers of the spice market, where everything from turmeric and orange blossom oil to preserved lemons and olives are worth haggling for. Other culinary cravings include crispy yet tender sardin mraqad (fried sardines stuffed with chermoula marinade) for lunch and a silver teapot of refreshing mint tea and flaky pastries for afternoon sustenance. For dinner, Djemaa El Fna, the culinary heartbeat of the city, provides aplenty with steaming stalls and charismatic vendors. Settle down to soft Moroccan flatbreads, fiery chilli sauce, slow-cooked tagines and a hearty bowl of cinnamon-dusted rice pudding – each at the essence of Moroccan cooking.

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  1. Pingback: 10 Unmistakable Signs That You Love Singapore's Local Food!

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