Gourmet travel expert tips: Go where the foodies eat

MELISSA LEONG FOOD WRITER AND HOST OF SBS THE CHEF'S LINE

FOOD AND TRAVEL GO PERFECTLY TOGETHER BECAUSE…

Food is the easiest way to dip a toe in the proverbial water when experiencing a new place. It's a historical, emotional connection to the place you're in and it has a great capacity to bring back memories long after you've returned home.  

MY LAST GREAT FOOD AND TRAVEL EXPERIENCE WAS…

My elopement and honeymoon in the US earlier this year, which included eating the best tacos of my life in the back of a Mexican supermarket in the Yucca Valley in California, swilling too many Negronis at a dive bar in LA, and trying turtle Bolognaise in New Orleans. 

MY GREATEST EVER FOOD AND TRAVEL EXPERIENCE WAS…

My first trip to Sri Lanka several years ago. I spent two-and-a-half weeks travelling the island, eating string hoppers and seeni sambol for breakfast, crab curry at sunset in Galle, learning about Ayurvedic food-as-medicine in the jungle, and cooking grilled meats over coconut charcoal. 

MY NEXT FOOD AND TRAVEL TRIP IS TO...

Singapore. My family and heritage is there, but more importantly, so is some of the most exciting food happening in the world right now. 

I KNOW THIS AMAZING LITTLE PLACE IN...

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Rural Tasmania where you can get the best sushi and sashimi. Chef Masaaki at Masaaki's Sushi moved from Japan to Geeveston (about 90 minutes south of Hobart) – he's an avid surfer and fisherman, is always cheerful, and his food is always clean and ocean fresh. Worth the pilgrimage. 

THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD FOR FOOD IS...

A hotly contentious subject! If I had to answer (in no particular order) Italy, France, Spain, Japan, Australia, Singapore and the US.

THE BEST CITY IN THE WORLD FOR FOOD IS...

New York. You could eat too many meals a day for decades and never be able to eat everywhere. The sheer diversity and breadth of cuisine, calibre and genre is mind blowing.

AIRLINE FOOD IS...

Fantastic at the pointy end of the plane, but is always better across the board in Asia.

Saskia Beer.

Saskia Beer.

SASKIA BEER COOK, FOOD PRODUCER AND EDUCATOR

FOOD AND TRAVEL GO PERFECTLY TOGETHER BECAUSE...

Food provides a picture of place, and a view of its identity and culture. 

MY LAST GREAT FOOD AND TRAVEL EXPERIENCE WAS...

In Bali, sitting by the water with the tide coming in eating whole fish wrapped in banana leaves and drinking cocktails. 

MY GREATEST EVER FOOD AND TRAVEL EXPERIENCE WAS...

Travelling through Turkey. Each town, each region was different. I'll never forget eating freshly caught fish on the docks at Kas, stuffed mussels in Antalya, meze in treetop structures overlooking the Mediterranean, and being hosted to feasts in Cappadocia. I still try to recreate the spice rubs I remember from those travels. 

MY NEXT FOOD AND TRAVEL TRIP IS TO...

Greece and Croatia next year. I look forward to slowing down, enjoying the simple things, and the wonderful Mediterranean diet of those countries. 

I KNOW THIS AMAZING LITTLE PLACE IN…

The Barossa, on our family farm. The Eatery is set by our dam and serves our family's produce and the produce of the Barossa and South Australia in season. thefarmeatery.com.au

THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD FOR FOOD IS...

Wherever you are enjoying it at the time. Our enjoyment of food comes as much from the feelings we're having at the time we're eating, the people we're sharing it with, and the beauty of the experience. We should remember that before we get too tricky in the kitchen. 

THE BEST CITY IN THE WORLD FOR FOOD IS…

From what I've heard from my mother [Maggie Beer] whose opinion I trust very much, Tokyo is the food town for me. It's on my bucket list.  

AIRLINE FOOD IS...

I don't mind airline food when it's sensible. I love a sandwich or quiche, or something simple. I hate being served curries and wet dishes with soggy vegetables. Also, being served chardonnay, something bad happens to it at altitude and it tastes revolting.

Christine Manfield, chef and author.

Christine Manfield, chef and author.

CHRISTINE MANFIELD CHEF AND AUTHOR 

FOOD AND TRAVEL GO PERFECTLY TOGETHER BECAUSE…

Food adventures offer a sense of purpose to the travel experience, give greater meaning and significance and a deeper understanding of the culture. They are enriching, natural partners.

MY LAST GREAT FOOD AND TRAVEL EXPERIENCE WAS…

Cambodia and Vietnam, travelling down the Mekong River aboard the luxurious Aqua Mekong boat. I cooked a few dinners for a private charter, stopping off at local riverside markets, engaging with locals, visiting farms and tasting some really wonderful food.

MY GREATEST EVER FOOD AND TRAVEL EXPERIENCE WAS...

Eating sashimi for breakfast at Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market, or making a pilgrimage to Segovia in Spain to eat suckling pig.

MY NEXT FOOD AND TRAVEL TRIP IS TO...

Puglia and the Dolomites in Italy next June, hosting a two-week food safari for an intimate group of 12 guests. We'll stay in gorgeous Masserias, meet local artisan producers, cook from farm gardens and taste local wines.

I KNOW THIS AMAZING LITTLE PLACE IN...

Siem Reap, Cambodia. Happy and Co Farm grows clean, organic fresh vegetables and herbs for the local market, an ethical enterprise gaining real traction in this rapidly expanding town. The farm is an hour outside town and the shop is on Street 26, well worth supporting. happyandcofarm.com 

THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD FOR FOOD IS…

Anywhere that uses chilli in its food – from Asia to India, Africa to South America and southern Italy.

THE BEST CITY IN THE WORLD FOR FOOD IS...

London and Cape Town are both white hot at the moment. Tokyo remains a perennial favourite.

AIRLINE FOOD IS...

I usually don't eat during a flight; drinking water and being able to stretch out, relax and sleep does it for me. Most airline food is inedible, the exception being Qantas in business or first.

Raul Moreno Yague of Osteria Ilaria.

Raul Moreno Yague of Osteria Ilaria. Photo: Simon Schluter

RAUL MORENO YAGUE SOMMELIER, OSTERIA ILARIA, MELBOURNE

FOOD AND TRAVEL GO PERFECTLY TOGETHER BECAUSE...

Each destination speaks about itself through its food. For example, the spices of south-east Asian countries speak of the humid tropical climate, and the purity and simplicity of Scandinavian and Japanese food talks of the precision and focus of their respective cultures. 

MY LAST GREAT FOOD AND TRAVEL EXPERIENCE WAS...

To Morocco with close friends and family. As part of the trip we stayed in a small fishing village called Oualidia, where every day at 5pm the fishermen arrive on the beach in wooden boats and you can buy fresh octopus, sea bass, sardines, mackerel and cockles from them for a handful of dollars a kilo. 

MY GREATEST EVER FOOD AND TRAVEL EXPERIENCE WAS...

Visiting Thailand for the third time when I was 24. I lived with a Thai family in Chiang Mai for three weeks, cooking daily with the head of the family. I'd buy all the ingredients and we'd cook together for the family of 10.

MY NEXT FOOD AND TRAVEL TRIP IS TO...

Portugal. I spend a bit of time there every year, when I make wine in the Dao region. 

I KNOW THIS AMAZING LITTLE PLACE IN...

Tulum, Mexico. I go there every couple of years to dive in the cenotes (sinkholes), and after a long day of diving I go to La Zebra tequila bar on the beach to have ceviche de Pescado y Camarón, a mix of white fish and shrimp. It's the best ceviche I've ever tried in Mexico. lazebratulum.com 

THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD FOR FOOD IS...

I'm emotionally attached to Spain, being Spanish, but it really does have very diverse food, helped by the fact that it has been one of the most colonised countries in the Mediterranean. There's some of the best shellfish in north-west Galicia due to the cold Atlantic waters, the most delicate white fish like Turbot in the Basque country, the richest and deepest stews in Madrid… the list is endless. 

THE BEST CITY IN THE WORLD FOR FOOD IS...

Melbourne, because of the diversity of cultures, the quality of the produce, the people and the colourful restaurants. 

AIRLINE FOOD IS...

Plan B when you're travelling in economy class and forget to BYO your own food.

Sepia chef Martin Benn.

Sepia chef Martin Benn.

MARTIN BENN CHEF AND CO-OWNER, SEPIA RESTAURANT, SYDNEY

FOOD AND TRAVEL GO PERFECTLY TOGETHER BECAUSE...

When you travel, you want to embrace the local culture and food is a big part of that. Dining in another country is always exciting and I love to try new experiences.

MY LAST GREAT FOOD AND TRAVEL EXPERIENCE WAS...

Spain. We experienced wonderful seafood in Andalusia, loved the creativity in Barcelona, and the sophistication of Madrid.

MY GREATEST EVER FOOD AND TRAVEL EXPERIENCE WAS...

My first visit to Japan in 2000. It changed the way I think about food. I believe I became a better cook once I became immersed in Japanese philosophy and culture.

MY NEXT FOOD AND TRAVEL TRIP IS TO...

Scandinavia. I've only been once and have been wanting to return for many years. I'm so looking forward to visiting Rene Redzepi and Bjorn Franzens' new restaurants.

I KNOW THIS AMAZING LITTLE PLACE IN...

Tokyo. A tempura restaurant called Fukamachi run by the Fukamachi family; father and son chefs and the mother is the host. Exquisite.

THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD FOR FOOD IS...

Japan, no question. There's nowhere on earth where the food is so pure and brilliant at every level.

THE BEST CITY IN THE WORLD FOR FOOD IS...

Melbourne. There's a great sense of community and conviviality. It's a city with soul.

AIRLINE FOOD IS...

Very good, considering the limitations. It annoys me when I hear people say it's bad. I've had brilliant meals by Neil Perry on Qantas recently – always super fresh, creative and tasty, all you need for a long flight. Stop the complaining, please!

Chef Benjamin Cooper,

Chef Benjamin Cooper.

BENJAMIN COOPER,  GROUP EXECUTIVE CHEF CHIN CHIN MELBOURNE AND SYDNEY 

FOOD AND TRAVEL GO PERFECTLY TOGETHER BECAUSE...

There's no faster way to immerse yourself in a culture than through food, art and history, but it's food that truly satisfies the soul. 

MY LAST GREAT FOOD AND TRAVEL EXPERIENCE WAS...

Last year, when my wife and I did a trip to New York and London. It was a diverse eating trip and I got to explore two of the great food cities of the world. I'm still dreaming about Pig & Khao in New York. pigandkhao.com

MY GREATEST EVER FOOD AND TRAVEL EXPERIENCE WAS...

My family holiday to Thailand and Vietnam several years ago. It was such a joy to share my love for the food of both those countries with my kids. I loved watching them eating bugs and chicken feet for the first time in Thailand, and trying my favourite Vietnamese dish, Banh Xeo, on Phu Quoc island. 

MY NEXT FOOD AND TRAVEL TRIP IS TO...

Sri Lanka, because it's such an under-explored cuisine and one I'd love learn more about. It shares a lot of similar ingredient profiles with south-east Asian cuisine. 

I KNOW THIS AMAZING LITTLE PLACE IN...

Soho, London, called Kricket. It's set in a really cool shipping container park, and serves amazing, quirky Indian food. kricket.co.uk 

THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD FOR FOOD IS...

Thailand. It represents everything I love about food – simplicity, complexity, taste, texture, colour and vibrancy. It's food that makes me smile. 

THE BEST CITY IN THE WORLD FOR FOOD IS...

London. It's a melting pot of culture and food.   

AIRLINE FOOD IS...

Fun. It has definitely evolved over the years and continues to get better and better.

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