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Best and Worst International Cities for Food

I asked this question a while ago on the International board, but I didn't get much response so I thought I'd try again here. My apologies if this is not kosher.

I recently passed the U.S. Foreign Service Exam, and while I wait for my clearances to come through I'm engaging in the fascinating pastime of speculating on my future foreign postings. Being a chowhound, availability of delicious food is very important to my happiness. So, if you had to choose a world city to live in based solely on the food, where would you go? Where would you avoid? I'm especially interested in your thoughts on non-Western Europe areas of the world.

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  1. Congratulations on passing the exam.

    This isn't non-Western Europe, but here's the link to a blog written by the wife of a guy posted to the American Embassy in Mexico City - http://www.midwesternerinmexico.com/ . They're young, under 30, and she's done a number of posts on food, eating, drinking and food habits. It's sometimes a fun read. And good old D.F. is a great food town.

    2 Replies
    1. re: DiningDiva

      Just came across this link-back, and as the aforementioned Midwesterner in Mexico, let me second the vote for Mexico City as a foodie town!! I will back this up with an article from WSJ: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12321... and NY Times: http://travel.nytimes.com/2010/01/24/.... We are heading back to DC in October, and whine on a daily basis how much we will miss the amazing, cheap food here in DF. It truly runs the gamut from delicious 10-peso street tacos at 4AM to elegant 4-course meals that while expensive, are still a steal compared to the US.

      Additionally, we have been living like pigs in sh*t with all the fruit and veg here that is practically free-- if you love avocados and mangoes and fresh-squeezed OJ but can't handle the prices in the US, you will never run the risk of scurvy here in DF.

      While I certainly support the various Asian cities proposed below, Mexico City offers an amazing breadth of Mexican food that you've never seen in the States, plus cultural & travel opps a-go-go, but you're still close enough to make a trip back for some Carolina BBQ. :) Good luck!!

      1. re: beefight

        Good luck on your new posting this Fall. I shall miss reading your Mexican blog entries. Having spent time in D.F. I usually got a chuckle out of your escapades

    2. Tokyo is quite a great city for eating out. There is a very broad selection, though many choices would not be considered very authentic. Service is generally among the best, and there is no custom of tipping.

      1. First choice is easy: Singapore. Second choice. . . oh, dear, that could be any number of places. As someone who will be living in a certain city for several years, your point of view will be different from the average tourist's. Much will depend on hooking up with local chowhounds, and even more will depend on your determination to find and enjoy what's around you. If you want to get an idea of the breadth and depth of a true, well-traveled chowhound life, you can (if you haven't already) go through some of the posts of the late, much-loved Sam Fujisaka.

        1. I agree with pilinut's nomination of Singapore. The Singaporeans are obsessed with food in a good way. Talking about who has the best chicken rice or chili crab is a national passion. For any food in southeast asia, Singapore is the place to be.

          Since the population is Chinese, Malay, and Indian, the best food comes from those ethnic groups, but excellent Korean, Japanese, Indonesian (similar to Malaysian) are available, as well. There are plenty of places in Singapore for western food, too, but, not surprisingly, you can get better western food in (duh) the western hemisphere.

          The profusion of tropical vegetables, fruits and spices, combined with the availability of temperate climate Australian ingredients make for quite a choice of ingredients. And the fusion of the cooking techniques of the three cultures makes for an interesting mix.

          1. Worst: Cairo. Pray you don't end up there, or if you do, try to fly to Beirut as often as possible to get something decent to eat!

            I haven't been to SIngapore, which I'm sure is fantastic, but in my opinion Istanbul is a great food town too.

            3 Replies
              1. re: mordacity

                The food.


                No, really. It is extremely difficult to get a decent meal there unless you are at the Four Seasons. When I am in Cairo I generally end up eating at the food court in the mall, because the pickings are so ridiculously slim and the food quality is generally so poor. Note that I am talking about restaurants, not home-cooked meals.

                1. re: mordacity

                  Worst I have experienced is Malta. Great fresh fish to buy, but they cook it and vegetables to death. Their spaghetti bolognese tastes as if it is canned-- I tasted multiple versions, as my daughter only ate this, and all were equally bad. A pilot I knew used to fill his suitcase with fresh vegetables when he flew to Malta. Otherwise, a nice place, but not for a long posting.

              2. I enjoyed eating in any of the Asian cities, from Bangkok to Beijing. The countries' least enjoyed were India and Arabic cuisines. Just a personal food preferance!

                1. I think it depends on your preferred cuisine. Singapore is great, but if you prefer Japanese food to Chinese, Tokyo is better. And if you really like Thai food, it would be hard to beat Bangkok.

                  You can get decent international cuisine in all 3 of those cities, but it's the local food that really shines.

                  1. I third Singapore. You can get any type of food there -- from top rated french food to hole in the wall hawker food. I've been suffering withdrawal recently as it's been months since I've gone to visit (extended family is there). Singporeans are big foodies, and food plays a big part in daily life.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: boogiebaby

                      The thing about Singapore is you can go to an outdoor food court, order absolutely fresh fish, grilled, a bowl of rice, and stir-fried veggies (gai lan with oyster sauce was a favorite), and then get an absolutely fresh mixed tropical fruit plate for dessert and pay a fraction of what you would have had to pay in a sit-down formal restaurant, which would likely not be as good. Or you can get wonderful SE Asian street food, without the slightest worry that you're going to get sick. Murtabak, roti canai, dim sum, chicken rice, mee pok, laksa, oyster omelets, etc. etc. Do I miss it! But then if you wanted bagels and Starbucks, you could get that too.

                      1. re: PAO

                        And not to forget the indigenous Malay cooking, as well as Singapore style Nyona (which is different from nyona cooking in Penang and Malacca).

                    2. For worst is it cheeky to say most cities in the US...? So working in the Foriegn Service should be an improvemet ;-)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: PhilD

                        North America is the only part of the non-European world that I've visited. So it would have to score as both best and worst :-)

                      2. For the best variety of authentic Asian cuisine in the US, it has to be Los Angeles. There are huge populations of Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese etc living in southern California which makes for a fantastic and diverse array of restaurants and regional cuisines at very good prices without having to live in/travel to Asia.

                        If you're asking for non-US and non -European choices, it depends on the type of cuisine you like. I did not particularly enjoy the food in Moscow - I found it to be very bland, little fresh vegetables or fruit and everything was heavily brined or pickled. I understand why the cuisine is that because of their long winters etc but even so, I found myself craving fresh fruit or a nice green salad after a few days. Although the vodka was fab! lol! :)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: SeoulQueen

                          Puebla, Mexico offers some fine cooking. Same goes for Buenos Aires.....

                        2. I used to have a friend on another message board who was a foodie living in Luanda, Angola. And while, it's definitely not Singapore, and there are always going to be things that frustratingly can't be found, even on a weekend trip to South Africa, I was always impressed at what she did manage to both find and cook while she was living there.