Travelling domestically or internationally can be a rewarding experience, with sights, smells and flavours from all around the world available for your senses to discover. Whether you’re travelling for pleasure or for business, one of the best experiences available for a traveller is sampling and sampling the local cuisine.
Eating locally is something that many travellers do to get the full experiences of their travels and to gain a better understanding of the culture and people of their destination. In addition to the gustatory pleasure of new and exotic flavours, local dining come with a host of other benefits that travellers should consider.
When travelling in common tourist areas, restaurants often cater mostly to foreign travellers, serving up dishes that are tailored to the tastes of their visitors. While these dishes may be tasty, they may not be as healthy for you as the local cuisine due to the heavy use of trans fats, processed ingredients and unhealthy cooking methods.
By eating locally-grown, in-season produce, you have the opportunity to source fresh, healthy ingredients to make a more nutritious meal. The act of eating local also encourages you to explore around the area and discover fresh daily produce markets and find which local restaurants will offer you natural, healthier ingredients. Plus, eating locally typically leads to lighter, more plant-based meals as they tend to veer away from the heavy-handed use of animal proteins and fats.
One of the advantages of venturing away from the tourist spots and sampling local cuisine is the fact that you’re immersing yourself in the culture of the destination. Eating the same things can be one of the most engaging ways to learn about a destination’s culture. On top of tasting the dishes, understanding the ingredients, traditional preparations and style of cooking can help you gain a greater appreciation for the local culture.
Similarly, visiting a local restaurant in a traditional neighbourhood and meeting the local residents gives you a better sense of the area and culture as opposed to eating in restaurants catering towards tourists. Plus, it helps keep your money in the hands of the local people and away from global chains, helping strengthen their businesses and the vitality of that their neighbourhood.
When selecting ingredients, eating local lessens your environmental impact. Whereas global corporations and industries may have an environmental footprint that extends around the world due to the transport of their products, eating local produces a smaller environmental impact due to the proximity of the ingredient sources.
Moreover, local suppliers tend to deliver fresh produce direct to the restaurant, which is then used to cook the dish, as opposed to companies that provide processed ingredients that have a much bigger carbon footprint. Therefore, eating local helps reduce the food industry’s impact on the environment and helps to support the local farmers and communities.
Value for Money
Eating locally is not only about the benefits for your health, for the environment, and for the local communities, but can also provide good value for your money. That’s because eating in local restaurants, roasting stands and eateries inevitably works out to be much cheaper than big global chains and food companies.
Not to mention, local restaurants tend to provide much more interesting and creative meals too. From tasting exotic fruits to reading the names of dishes on the menu that one could hardly pronounce, the cost saved can typically be reinvested in souvenirs and experiences in your travels.
Local Cuisine Habits Over the Seasons
It’s always smart to check out local resources to find out what food experience to look forward to within the time. For instance, in autumn, many local regions of the world will have certain types of juicy fruits like persimmon, pomegranate, fuyu, and quince that are in season and are often served as part of the traditional cuisine of the area.
In winter, special holiday meals or celebratory dinners will often be served, with traditional dishes from the holiday season. And during the hotter summer months, locals will often enjoy cold soups like gazpacho or chilled vegetable stew.
Best Places to Enjoy Local Cuisine
The best spots to sample and indulge in the local cuisine of any destination depend on the location. In places such as East and Southeast Asia, street vendors are a great way to sample the local flavours for a great value.
In other places such as Europe, Latin America and the US, there will be plenty of local restaurants to choose from. And should you be feeling particularly adventurous, you can even scout out the local markets and talk to farmers and vendors to find out what local fruits, vegetables, meats and condiments are available. As a result, locals may even invite you to their homes to join in their traditional meals.
Tips for Eating Locally
When eating locally, it’s important to be mindful and aware of the environmental and cultural implications of your travel. Read up on the country you’re travelling to and identify the different regions, cultures and cuisines that have shaped the nation’s food.
Before choosing a restaurant, identify which ones use local ingredients and get recommendations from locals, resources or the internet. Understand the etiquette and cultural rules of dining, such as how to use chopsticks or how to order in the local language. Respect the cultural context of food, such as the local beliefs and taboos. Anywhere you go, it’s important to be mindful and respectful of the local culture, regardless of the type of food you choose.
Eating locally is a great way to experience the true culture, food and environment of a destination. Travellers should take the time to explore local produce markets, meet the locals, and sample cuisine from traditional restaurants and eateries to fully understand the local experience. Not only does this provide a more authentic culinary and cultural experience, but it can provide many additional benefits such as improved health and reduced environmental impact, as well as great savings.