Insider's guide to food and drink

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Take a culinary trip around the world

Exploring different foods from around the world is one of the best ways to get a taste of various cultures. In this guide we reveal unusual foods and national dishes, as well as giving you an insight into wines and different tea-drinking customs.

5 of the world’s weirdest foods we dare you to try

If you thought the combination of pancakes with bacon and maple syrup was an acquired taste, wait until you hear some of these delicacies and strange foods from around the world.

1. Crispy tarantulas, Cambodia

Have you ever seen a tarantula and thought “lunch”? Under the rule of the Khmer Rouge, much of Cambodia's population was left to starve. At the time, one of the easiest options for survival was to eat tarantulas. Still today, this popular deep-fried snack is enjoyed across the country and is surely one of the world's scariest delicacies.

2. Casu marzu, Italy

Do you grate a dusting of parmesan on your pasta? There are a few Italians who like to do something different with their block of parmigiano-reggiano. Casu marzu - or formaggio marcio - translates to rotten cheese. A wheel of parmesan cheese is left to mature beyond its usual fermentation, allowing maggots and the cheese fly to do their thing, giving the cheese a texture and flavour that's one of a kind.

3. Jellied moose nose, Canada

A jellied moose’s nose isn't something that usually springs to mind when your tummy’s rumbling. But in Canada, nasal gastronomy is a time-honoured tradition, documented in the Northern Cookbook of the Ministry of Indian Affairs. Moose noses are de-haired and boiled up with onions and spices, and covered in a broth that sets into a jelly.

4. Haggis, Scotland

This may be considered a strange food to many cultures but haggis is also a must-try when in Scotland. This legendary Scottish sausage is made from sheep's pluck: heart, liver and lungs. It's all minced up with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt, and cooked with stock to create a spicy concoction that has a nutty texture. Haggis is best served with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes) and is widely available at traditional Scottish restaurants.

5. Balut, Philippines

In our opinion, the most shocking out of the five weirdest foods of the world is balut, a common street food in the Philippines. Created by boiling a developing duck embryo, Philippines balut is cooked and served while still in its shell. Eggs are left to fertilise for up to 18 days and the result once cooked (see above picture) is definitely not for the weak-stomached.

Join one of our tours featuring a Be My Guest experience to enjoy real local dishes from different cultures - though we can’t promise anything like these five unusual foods... except maybe Haggis.

5 delicious specialities from around the world

Whether you're in Hawaii or Japan, there are lots of different recipes to sample from around the world, and you could experience the real thing when you book an Insider’s Tour with us.

1. Japanese shochu alcohol

Sake may be the first alcoholic drink you associate with Japan but the Japanese actually prefer to finish their meal with shochu. While sake is brewed in a similar way to beer, shochu is distilled from raw ingredients such as barley, rice, sweet potatoes or buckwheat. You can drink it straight, on the rocks, diluted with cold or hot water or even mix it into a cocktail. It’s one of the more traditionally popular Japanese drinks. Kampai!

2. Dutch chocolate sprinkles

Don’t expect bacon and eggs for your Dutch breakfast. Netherlanders like to start their day with bread and chocolate sprinkles. And it’s not just a treat for kids - many adults also opt to sprinkle their open-faced sandwiches with a generous layer of hagelslag.

Besides chocolate, this national Dutch delicacy comes in different varieties. In particular, aniseed flavoured sprinkles are eaten to celebrate the birth of a new-born; pink for girls, blue for boys.

3. Hawaiian loco moco burger

Loco moco is Hawaii’s answer to the traditional American hamburger. Contrary to the rest of the USA, Hawaiians like to serve their hamburger patties on a mound of white rice, all topped with a fried egg and brown gravy. This traditional dish is extremely popular and available in many restaurants across the Aloha state. Hawaiian loco moco comes in many varieties and can also be served with chili, pork, teriyaki beef or chicken, and even seafood.

4. Brazilian guava paste dessert

Bearing the name of Shakespeare’s famous characters, this Brazilian dessert calledgoiabadamay be simple but trust us - it's delicious. A generous piece of fresh white cheese, usually from the Minas Gerais region, is paired with a slice of guava paste and devoured in one go. The paste may look unappetising but we think it'll win you over after just one bite.

5. German influenced cuisine in France

In contrast to French food from other regions, Alsatian dishes are usually rather heavy and substantial. Pork and sauerkraut are very popular ingredients in this region, which reflect its significant connection with Germany. Other equally German-sounding dishes from the Alsace region include baeckeoffe (a meat, potato and onion stew), flammekueche (Alsace pizza) and fleischnacka (meat rolled in egg pasta).

Do you know what tea means in different countries?

China

Drinking tea in China is about so much more than quenching thirst. Here, having a cup of Chinese tea is a ceremonial event that can have different meanings. Offering a cup of tea to someone can be a sign of respect, or regret and submission. Chinese tea ceremonies are also traditionally part of weddings and involve the bride and groom offering tea to their parents as a sign of gratitude for bringing them up.

Morocco

In Morocco, drinking tea has a deeper meaning. The heavily sweetened mint tea is offered as a sign of hospitality when receiving guests and the head of the family will prepare the tea by adding boiling water to spearmint leaves and lots of sugar. He will then serve guests three cups of tea each of which has a different meaning, representing life, love and death. As a guest it is considered impolite to refuse tea in this circumstance.

Britain

Millions of cups of tea are consumed each day in Great Britain. Many Brits enjoy a builder's style - a strong brew with milk and sugar - but some like to enjoy it with a bit more pomp and ceremony. High-end hotels and tea rooms will serve afternoon or high tea which comprises a pot of British tea accompanied by a variety of finger sandwiches, pastries and scones.

Are you up to scratch on the best New Zealand wines?

By Angus Sanders

Wine is grown along the length of both of New Zealand's islands which have become a respected player on the world’s wine stage, starting with its famed sauvignon blanc, and more recently the pinot noirs, followed closely by syrah.

Let’s take a tour of the wine regions to give you a better understanding.

Pinot noir from Otago, South Island

With haunting beauty (think Lord of the Rings), this young region produces world-renowned pinot noir. Pinot is arguably the king of grapes, providing us with some of the most expensive wines in the world. Much is made of the fact that Otago sits on the same latitude as Burgundy, meaning climate and temperature - perhaps the most important factor when growing this grape - is very similar. Otago is the only other major wine region that can claim this.

Whilst nowhere near similar in price, the Otago wines have structure, power and finesse one wants to see from Burgundy. There are many very good examples, including wines from actor Sam Neill’s Two Paddocks, but my personal favourites here are Felton Road, Peregrine (named after the local falcons) and Amisfield, which has a popular restaurant overlooking Lake Hayes.

Pinot noir from Waipara, South Island

North of Christchurch is a little-known region called Waipara. Here the pinot noir has an elegant fruitiness and structure, and the flinty, bone-dry Riesling is some of the best in New Zealand. Leading wineries for both are Pegasus Bay, Muddy Water and Mountford Estate.

Sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, South Island

Around 20 years ago, sauvignon blanc was only really known by its French producers - Sancerre and white Bordeaux. But to many these days the wine is synonymous with New Zealand, and more specifically Marlborough wines. Cloudy Bay is one of the leaders and its sauvignon is grassy, fresh and crisp. Try having a fresh oyster with this wine - it's the perfect food match. Other outstanding wineries include Grovemill and Seresin.

Pinot noir from Martinborough, North Island

Just an hour’s drive from Wellington you’ll find the best Martinborough pinot noir wines, packed full of fruit and power. It was here New Zealand first discovered it could make great pinot, thanks to Ata Rangi. It has since been joined by a plethora of other great wineries including Te Kairanga and Escarpment.

Syrah from Hawkes Bay, North Island

Hawkes Bay is big farming land, with a few large towns and small cities, the most famous being Napier. Just up the road is Clearview which is home to amazing views across Cape Kidnapper’s spit and some the best cabernet sauvignon, merlot and power-packed chardonnay.

In recent years, syrah - which produces Shiraz - has become more popular. The area between the towns of Havelock North and Hastings has very specific stony soils. Keep an eye out for Craggy Range, Stonecroft and Trinity Hills when looking into Hawkes Bay wine.

Enjoy the insider experience

  • Maori culture is deeply rooted in New Zealand, and one of the best ways to experience it is through Hangi food. Chicken, kumara and other produce is placed in an underground pit and is steam-cooked for 2-3 hours. You can enjoy the unique flavours of this custom, including a performance of the Haka, on our Contrasts of New Zealand tour.

  • If you want to get a true taste of life from the Japanese monasteries, we recommend sampling traditional monk’s food. Buddhists believe in non-violence so all meals are either vegetarian or vegan, and dishes are simple and made from fresh, seasonal ingredients. Join us on our Splendours of Japan trip and you’ll discover how the monks live a life free of frivolity.

  • The caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail but you can enjoy it anywhere in the world. Drop some chopped lime and sugar into a glass, mash it all together and top the glass with crushed ice and Cachaça. Or you can learn how to mix the best of Brazilian cocktails in the place it was born on our Impressions of South America tour.

Local food and drinks stories from our Trafalgar Travel Directors

Our Travel Directors are the local friend you’d wish for in every destination you visit. Whether it’s recommending a restaurant or revealing a Hidden Treasure, they’re your ultimate insiders. Here, they offer up their favourite local food and drink tips and tales.

“I love taking guests to local French food markets, to interact with the vendors, try different foods and explain where the products are from.”

Pascal Lecrivain, Trafalgar Travel Director

“In Florence, Italy, I love to show my guests the little wine holes that were used to sell wine in small quantities across the city during the 12th Century.”

Patrizia Tocco, Trafalgar Travel Director

“Chocolate and churros in Avila, Spain, is a real local treat. Guests don’t expect it when I let them try this speciality and they all love it.”

David Nadal, Trafalgar Travel Director

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Picture credits

1. Mohafiz M.H - main image; 2. Tavallai  - Hawaiian loco moco burger; 3. Ryan McBride - Japanese shochu alcohol; 4. Gabriel Li - Drinking tea in China; 5. Matthew Wild – tea cups chinese; 6. Nickestamp – wine glasses; rest of images - Shutterstock.


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