The 12 most food-obsessed cities in the world

Some cities have terrible food. Some cities have mediocre food. Some cities have great food.

And then there are those cities where food is an all-pervading obsession, where everyone is eating it, talking about it, writing about it, photographing it. These are the cities where lunch plans are being discussed over breakfast, and dinner plans during the middle of the day.

No one wants to know how you are – they want to know what you've eaten. Food isn't just for sustenance; it's not even just for enjoyment. It's life.

If you're similarly obsessed with what you eat, these are the cities you should visit.

Singapore, Singapore

This is a city utterly bonkers about food – everyone has their favourite hawker centre, their favourite vendor, their favourite dish. Each meal is dissected while the next one is being planned. Whether you're in Little India, Chinatown, Tiong Bahru, Bukit Timah or the colossal Marina Bay Sands, you'll always find the best food you've ever tasted. And someone to advise you on what to order.

Bangkok, Thailand

The giveaway is in the Thai greeting, "Have you eaten rice yet?" Not, "How are you?" Or, "What's up?" It's, "Have you eaten rice?" The Thais like to eat, and the residents of Bangkok have got it down to a fine art. It won't be fancy and it won't be expensive – it'll be served on the street in a plastic container and wolfed down where you stand. As it should be.

Lima, Peru

There are a colossal amount of restaurants in the Peruvian capital, everything from "chifas", the cheap Chinese-style eateries, to traditional neighbourhood cafes, takeaway shops, mid-priced family joints, to some of the best restaurants in the world. Limenas love to eat out, and once you get them started on their favourite places to do that, you'll be there for a while.

Osaka, Japan

Japan's foodie capital is undoubtedly Osaka, where people queue on the street for hours for their favourite takoyaki – fried octopus balls – or sit down for okonomiyaki, or zealously guard their local yakitori joint. There are whole city blocks dedicated to shops selling kitchen products; there's a word, "kuidaore", that means "eat until you drop". Say no more.

Lyon, France

As Osaka is to Japan, so Lyon is to France: the standout foodie city in a nation collectively obsessed with cuisine. The Lyonnais love food, and they love the fact that they're so good at producing it. They cook parts of pigs that you've never thought could be cooked; there are more Michelin stars here than there are actual stars. From the traditional to the haute, this is a city with great food.

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San Sebastian, Spain

Every single bar in San Seb – every one – does amazing food, from simple prawns on skewers to painstakingly created dishes. Why? Because they're passionate about their produce, and their customers demand it. Now leave the bars and head out to the restaurants – there are more Michelin stars per capita here than anywhere else in the world – and you're really starting to understand the obsession.

Bologna, Italy

This is the home of aperitivi, the custom of serving pre-dinner drinks with a free plate of tasty snacks. Snacks that include prosciutto de Parma, and chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano. There's also some sort of pasta dish that originates from Bologna, but I can't remember what it is. Anyway, this city is known in Italy as "La Grassa", or "the fat one", which is what you'll be after spending some time there.

Sydney/Melbourne, Australia

It's hard to split these two. It used to be that Melburians were Australia's biggest food nuts, but Sydney has caught up in recent years. There's a collective obsession within our two biggest cities for cuisine – from inventive local dishes to authentic flavours from around the world. You can always eat well in Sydney and Melbourne.

Georgetown, Malaysia

The largest town on the island of Penang is all about food, from the street stands selling assam laksa – the sour, fishy version of the more familiar curry soup – to the, er, street stands than specialise in bak kut teh, or "pork tea". The best food is dished up by the dodgiest-looking vendors, and everyone in the city will be able to point you towards their favourite.

Montreal, Canada

There aren't many cities in which people will drive an hour to get the best bagels (Fairmont Bagel), or line up for an hour to get smoked meat in a sandwich (Schwart's). But Montreal residents do this, often on a regular basis, because they love food, and they love the people who do it best. Must be the French influence.

Hong Kong, China

Sometimes it feels like it's impossible to get a bad meal in Hong Kong. From dim sum to duck, noodles to nouvelle cuisine, there's always something good to eat, and there are 7 million food critics who will be happy to tell you the best (and worst) place to eat it. This is one of the world's great dining-out cultures.

Mumbai, India

For a physical sign of Mumbaikars' obsession with good food, look no further than the hundreds of thousands of "dabbawalas", the people whose job it is to ferry food from workers' homes to their offices so they can enjoy a home-cooked meal every lunchtime. The city is filled with these guys, usually on bikes, sometimes on trains. Mumbaikars will go a long way for a good meal.

Which cities do you think are obsessed with food? Leave a comment below

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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