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Your map to any destination’s best food

It’s Instagram that seems to give travellers major foodie FOMO. If you follow any chefs or other culinary obsessives on the photo sharing app, then you’re always checking out where they go on their travels, looking to see what they eat, desperate to know what they’ve found.

And it’s good. It’s always good. Chefs have the hook-ups. They find the best food. Follow the likes of Dan Hong, the executive chef at Sydney restaurant Mr Wong, or Automata’s Clayton Wells, or chef extraordinaire Christine Manfield, or any of the host of international cooks out there on the ‘Gram, and you’ll be salivating at the sort of cuisine they just seem to luck upon when they leave home shores.

How do they do it? How do they avoid the tourist traps and the rip-off merchants and find authentic, high-quality food in places they’re unfamiliar with? How do they tap into the local food scene and dine like an expert? And more importantly, how can you do it too?

The answer is surprisingly simple – obvious, even. It’s all about research, over as many different media as you can get your hands on.

“The first thing I do is see if I know someone in that city to show me around,” says Dan Hong, who appeared on the Traveller podcast Flight of Fancy to talk about his food experiences overseas. “But if not, I just use Google. Google the best places to eat certain dishes. I check local bloggers, and [Instagram accounts] of food-centric tourists that like to travel the world just to eat.”

The idea is to go with as many sources of information as you can. While traditional guidebooks are great for some things – tourist attractions, maps and other basics – they don’t always excel in the food department, mostly because culinary scenes change so rapidly, and restaurants that gain an entry into Lonely Planet can so easily rest on their laurels.

New media is much more likely to be up with the latest trends, as well as fill you in on the traditional local favourites. Start with some of the stories you’ll find here on – they’ve been well researched by passionate foodies who’ve visited destinations in the recent past.

Photo: Shutterstock

Next, take Dan Hong’s advice and head to Google. Plug in the name of your destination and do some reading on the local specialties, to see what you should be looking for, bearing in mind that these could be highly localised – for example, if you’re going to Italy you’ll want to order carbonara in Rome, but you won’t want to order it just a few hundred kilometres away in Florence. The reverse applies for a bistecca alla Fiorentina.

Once you have the basics down, search for locally based food bloggers and check out their sites to see where they’ve been eating in their hometown – see what’s new, see what’s considered a classic. Often it’s the locals who have the best idea of what to eat in their own city, and once you find a blogger whose tastes match yours, you’re on your way to some tasty cuisine.

There are, of course, also travelling food bloggers who might have visited your destination and will have already done a lot of the research for you. American foodie Mark Wiens has some top-quality tips on his blog Migrationology (, while Eat Like A Girl (, Our Tasty Travels (, plus many more culinary travel bloggers have some great food tips from around the world.

Once you’ve done your Googling, it’s time to hit social media. Get on Instagram and search hashtags for your destination (for example #mumbaifood, #moroccofood etc), as well as for the particular dishes you want to try. Search geo-locations as well. See where everyone is eating there; see what the food actually looks like.

And don’t be afraid to make contact with strangers over Instagram to see if they have any specific tips for you – people who love food are usually only too happy to help like-minded souls find the good stuff.

Next, utilise your own hivemind on Facebook and Twitter. Put a call out to all of your friends and followers asking for tips. You’ll be amazed at how much you get back from people you didn’t even realise liked to eat.

And finally, it’s time to travel. Even when you arrive and your holiday begins, there are tricks to making sure you eat well. When it comes to street food, wander around and check out which stalls have the longest queues of people who look like they live in the city. Those are your go-to joints. Ask the vendors what they do best – there’s every chance they’ll be proud to tell you of their specialty.

Talk to locals. Chat to the people you’re queuing up with for street food. Ask anyone you meet where they like to eat. Talk to cab drivers and tuk-tuk drivers and everyone else. This won’t always meet with success, but it’s a start.

And lastly, take a few educated guesses. You’ve done all your research, you know what people eat, you know what’s good. Keep an eye out for restaurants you think will fit the bill, and take a punt on it.

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