Thursday, 9 June 2016

An Appetite for Adventure: Expat Foodie Hotspots

When it comes to a move abroad, getting to grips with the local food is one factor which could influence how well you settle in. The 2015 Expat Explorer survey revealed that most expats embrace the change and throw themselves into a new culinary adventure when they move abroad, with over half (58%) agreeing that they enjoy eating or cooking the local cuisine.

Europe emerges as one of the key regions where expats are most likely to broaden their foodie horizons, with those living in Italy (91%), Portugal (81%) and Spain (81%) being the most likely to agree that they enjoy cooking and eating the local cuisine. Outside of Europe, Japan factors highly, with well over three quarters (84%) saying the same thing.


Place
% of expats who say they enjoy cooking and eating the local cuisine
Italy
91%
Japan
84%
Mexico
82%
Portugal
81%
Spain
81%
Thailand
81%

But what is it that defines these destinations as culinary hotspots? We’ve looked into the most interesting food trends and traditions from these countries, to whet your appetite.

Italy
Italy is famous for its traditional dishes passed down from generation to generation. Whilst most locals are quite comfortable with their nation’s staple dishes; some have been spreading their wings and exercising creativity by introducing new ingredients to shake up traditional platters. Guanciale[1], a cured meat taken from pork cheek, is making its way onto the palate of cuisine connoisseurs as an alternative to pancetta. The way the fat melts away as you fry it allows the flavours to blend masterfully with a spaghetti carbonara.


Expat Tips: Most expats in Italy (69%) say they’re integrating well with their new hosts. One key piece of advice is to make sure you do not eat pizza with a knife and fork – Italians are firm believers that a good pizza has to be felt, as well as tasted. And be sure to try a ‘Spaghetti cake’; crispy on the outside but beautifully soft on the inside, cooked in a gorgeous tomato sauce.

Japan
Japanese cuisine tends to follow a fairly strict regime that continues to be a driving force behind healthy living and eating. In fact 50% of expats in Japan said they feel as though they have become physically healthier since moving there. The increasingly popular and now world famous ‘Matcha Tea’[2] makes for a fantastic green tea packed full of antioxidants, whilst the powder can also be used for dips, breads, porridge and grain based dishes.

 

Expat Tip: Good manners over meals are incredibly important. It’s said that the Japanese language has far more words to indicate etiquette, humility and honour than any other language. Try saying “Itadakimasu” (the Japanese equivalent to saying let’s eat or Bon Appetit) at the start of a meal, your host should then respond with “Dozo” (Please go ahead).

Mexico
With fiery flavours from small street stalls spreading in popularity across the globe, it’s unsurprising that 82% of expats in Mexico said they enjoy the local cuisine. It’s said that Mexicans consume more grains of corn per capita than anywhere else in the world[3]. Tortillas feature in a lot of meals, filled with mixtures of beans, rice, tomatoes, chilies and chorizo, providing the opportunity to add whatever your taste buds crave.


Expat Tip: Head down to a street market to truly experience the authentic Mexican food culture. Get creative in the kitchen with empanadas – fill the little handheld pastry pockets with as many flavours as possible. Mexicans tend to see the lengthy food preparation process as a way to maintain social relationships – be accepting of meal invitations and use the opportunity to form new friendships.

Spain
In Spain it’s all about lunch, or ‘Almuerzo’ as they call it. In some places breaks will last up to two hours and take place around 2pm rather than midday. The best way to experience Spanish cuisine is to travel from bar to bar, sampling their best tapas over the counter before moving on to the next place. The cuisine experience is as much about the social aspect as it is the food itself – so be prepared for plenty of great conversation and sharing.


Expat tip: Don’t underestimate the power of ‘Sombremesa’ – this love of good conversations after a meal may be why two-thirds of expats living in Spain told us in our 2015 Expat Explorer survey that they have found it easy to form new friendships.

Thailand
In Thailand, dishes often revolve around rice. Curries combine fiery spices and seasonings but it is crucial that they do not intrude on the overall flavours of the dish – it’s about striking the perfect balance. Many recipes draw on the more unusual flavours of fish sauce, dried shrimp paste and lemon grass. Coconuts also play a vital role in a number of Thai dishes, whether it’s the milk for providing thickness to a curry, or shreddings to give desserts a bit of edge.


Expat tip: Snacking is a big deal in Thailand. You’ll notice large food stalls in many public spaces, offering hundreds of different bites to eat. Use these stalls to explore a huge variety of traditional Thai dishes including fish cakes, egg rolls and noodles served with a wealth of different seasonings.
What’s the most interesting local dish you’ve ever tried? We want to hear all about it, share your stories and images with us on Twitter: @ExpatExplorer

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