Paris may be the food mecca of the world for as long as any of us can remember, but the world has caught up, if not already surpassed, the culinary expectations offered by a gastronomical fortress. In the realm of gut-fueled travel, the following five culinary destinations around the world may not be the most obvious picks, but they are the cities you'll be glad you visit for the sake of your appetite. From Tokyo to Oaxaca, eat your way through a variety of cuisines in a consistently unique physical backdrop. Bon appetit!
1. Tokyo, Japan
Boasting more Michelin stars in the world than any other city, Tokyo is undeniably a culinary adventure warranted on everyone's bucket list. The city's Tsukiji Fish Market -- the world's largest seafood market -- sells some 5 million pounds of fish per day, most of which is destined to be prepared for sushi. The city caters to both the chic and casual palate, but still be sure to brush up on Japanese dining ettiquette before you venture out and check out some of the city's best restaurants.
2. Cape Town, South Africa
In a city of some 5 million ethnically diverse residents, it's no wonder why Cape Town boasts a rainbow of cuisine. In the days of colonialism, Cape Town was settled by the English, Dutch, French and German and has taken on these influences, alongside those of other cultures, such as Malay and Indian. With surrounding mountains, pristine beaches, a developed wine culture, and unique fauna and flora, Cape Town takes the cake as South Africa's most enjoyable cities for wining and dining.
3. Lyon, France
Food and France have always been synonymous, but Paris isn't the only showstopper in the country for the culinary connoisseurs. Pioneered by chef Paul Bocuse, Lyon has gained reputation as a culinary capital of the world with both budget-friednly and haute-cuisine options. Lyon is the city of charcuterie, a branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, primarily pork. In fact, Lyon is all about enjoying pig in more ways than previously imaginable -- pig fried in pig fat, pig brain dressed in a porky vinaigrette, creamy pig lard salad, pig belly mixed with vinegary lentils, pig intenstines blown up like a balloon and stuffed with none other than pig intestines, pig bladder stuffed with chicken, pig intestines filled with pig blood, pig stuffed with sausage. If you're looking for a salad at a dining establishment, don't expect much. The focus is decidedly on the other side of the gastronomic spectrum.
4. Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is known for its street food culture, but the options in this colorful city that stretches between two continents are endless. From stunning panoramic city views enjoyed over a luxury dinner at the Mamara Hotel in central Taksim to a belly full of kumpir, a street-side baked potato topped with a mountain of self-chosen add-ons, in the idyllic fisherman's neighborhood of Ortakoy, Istanbul accomodates every palate.
The city is famous for its mezze-style dining style, during which restaurant go-ers are approached with a large plate topped with 20-some cold appetizer starters. After picking a handful of their favorites and washing them down with a shared bottle of Raki, they end the meal with a fish dish. But Istanbul can't be fully appreciated unless a kepab night is in the cards as well as a walk through its various markets where fresh vegetables, spices, meats, cheese, and pickled vegetables are routinely sold.
5. Oaxaca, Mexico
Every October, Oaxaca’s culinary prowess is celebrated at the Food of the Gods Festival. Oaxaca is known as the “land of the seven moles.” Mole is a type of sauce that is quite complex to prepare, and Oaxaca boasts more than one of them – negro, rojo, coloradito, amarillo, verde, chichilo, and manchamantel. The best known of these is the mole negro, which includes chocolate, chili peppers, onions, garlic, a plant called hoja santa, and more. Also popular for its chocolate, Oaxaca actually doesn’t grow much cocoa. Most of its beans come from Chiapas and Tabasco, but Oaxaca is one of the best places in Mexico to purchase chocolate alongside a variety of fragrant spices and munch on the mix. And if you are looking for something a bit more adventurous, get into the local practice of eating insects. Oaxacans love their grasshoppers paired with wedges of lime.