Best places to go in 2019 for food: Top countries for foodies

You've probably done the hits. If you love to travel and you love to eat, then you've probably already visited the world's most famous foodie destinations, the likes of Italy, France, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Spain.

Those are fine destinations that are definitely worth visiting – and revisiting. However, that's not where good food begins and ends. Next year, it's time to spread your gastronomic wings, to move past the darlings of the 50 Best and Michelin set and look towards some of the world's more underappreciated culinary destinations.

If you love to travel and you love to eat, this should be your 2019 hit list.

Portugal

A Lisbon-style bifana.

A bifana. Photo: William Meppem

This country is so often overshadowed by big-name neighbours like Spain and France, but now is Portugal's time to shine. The cuisine here is, after all, delicious, if occasionally unsubtle. For dude-food excellence, look no further than "bifanas", or pork rolls, "pregos", or steak sandwiches, and "Francesinhas", or colossal ham and cheese toasties. For something a little more refined, try the petisco bars of Lisbon, which serve Portugal's answer to tapas, or call past one of the country's growing band of fine-dining restaurants.

Israel and the Palestinian Territories

Machneyuda restaurant in Israel images for Good Food online feature April 2018. Editorial use only.

Machneyuda restaurant in Israel. Photo: Shutterstock

I'm a huge fan of the food of the Levant – dishes such as falafel, shawarma, fattoush, hummus, mujaddara, makdous, kanafeh and more – and both Israel and the Palestinian Territories are filled with places that do this cuisine extremely well. Gorge yourself on traditional and modern food at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, visit centuries-old restaurants in Jerusalem's Old City, eat street food in Nablus, dine on kebabs in Bethlehem, check out the shawarma in Nazareth … You can't go wrong.

Japan

Obviously, Japan is already on the radar for food-obsessed travellers (and Michelin guides), but most people tend to stick to the well-known cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. The truth about Japan, however, is that there is delicious and extremely regional food throughout the country, all of which is worth exploring and discovering. In 2019, get off the beaten track and check out the "soup curry" in Sapporo, the fish-based ramen in Sakata, the sake from Akita prefecture, the "sakura" udon from Kyushu, the eel from Hamamatsu, and the boozy awamori in Okinawa.

Chile

A dish at Chile's Borago.

A dish at Chile's Borago. Photo: Borago/Facebook

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Chile has never been known for its cuisine – at least, not in a good way. While neighbours like Peru and Argentina are famous for their food, Chile has been plodding along with hamburgers and hotdogs, and a cocktail of white wine and pineapple ice-cream called a "terremoto" that should never really have become a thing. But the country is changing, and now's the time to check it out. Santiago in particular has a whole slew of restaurants that are making 50 Best judges take notice, with Borago now rated the 27th best in the world.

South Africa

This is not a place for vegetarians. South Africans like to eat meat – big, intimidating slabs of meat. From the most casual braai to the most expensive fine-diner, you'll probably find your meat served by the kilo. If that's your idea of a good time then this is the perfect country to check out, from celebrity chef Luke Dale-Roberts' portfolio of fancy restaurants, to the increasing collection of hipster cafes and eateries in Jo'burg, to the biltong butchers who peddle their addictively salty wares across the country.

Mexico

If you're still associating Mexican cuisine with tasteless, Old El Paso-style tacos and burritos, then you need to get to Mexico, pronto. Food here is good – it's spectacularly good. Sure, it's tacos, but it's Baja-style tacos with deep-fried fish and slaw, or it's Oaxaca-style with meat stripped from a cow's head, or it's Mexico City style using pork soaked in pineapple juice. It's also a whole huge range of dishes you've probably never heard of; spicy, tangy, zingy dishes that you'll be pining for long after you get home.

Sri Lanka

Even now, more than a year after I last visited Sri Lanka, I still regularly make the almost two-hour round trip to the Sydney suburb of Toongabbie to get my hands on that country's authentic cuisine. It's just so good. It's so peppery and complex, so textural, so delicious. The dhal in Sri Lanka – plain old dhal – is spectacularly good. And then you've got the crab curries, the dhosas, the fish curries, the sambols, the deep-fried treats, the hoppers, the kottus … If any of those words don't make sense to you, get to Sri Lanka in 2019.

Ethiopia

The African continent is usually ignored by foodies, and that's often reasonable. However, in the case of Ethiopia it's most definitely not. This is a country people still associate with a long-passed famine, and yet it's actually home to some of the world's best food. Injera, a sour, fluffy pancake, is the base for almost all of the dishes in Ethiopia – literally, given the food is piled on top – and it's extremely tasty. Add to that a few "wats", or stews, and "tibs", or stir-fries, and you have a meal fit for a king.

Australia

Cape Moreton Scarlet prawns at Orana Adelaide SatNov17Cover - Hot Food 100 - text Terry Durack
Image supplied for use in Traveller via journalist
RESTAURANT: NEXT-LEVEL INDIGENOUS HAUTE CUISINE AT ORANA, ADELAIDE

Cape Moreton Scarlet prawns at Orana.

So often when Australians want to travel to eat good food they look outside of their home country. But, don't. Set aside time in 2019 to explore Australia, because pretty much every city here has some serious destination dining. Adelaide might have the country's most exciting scene right now, with Orana, Africola and Parwana leading the way. Hobart has Franklin, Ettie's, and Templo. Melbourne has Attica and Minamishima. Sydney has Sixpenny and Quay. Even the Gold Coast has Iku, the Fish House, and Lupo.

Where is next on your foodie hit list? What do you want to eat in 2019?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: Instagram.com/bengroundwater

See also: World's top dishes and where to eat them named by Australia's top chefs

See also: The world's best national dishes named and taste tested

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