By Andrés Muñoz

Studies say that we can remember smells and tastes more than anything else. Why not return to a place you visited in the past (or discover a new one) by cooking the local cuisine?

Even though there might be travel restrictions right now, we can always head into the kitchen and go on a foodie trip. Here are five destinations that you can “visit” with your friends next time you are in the mood to cook and explore. 

Mexico – Taco Al Pastor

The nation where the taco was born, Mexico always tops the rankings as one of the premier foodie destinations in the world. There is an infinite variety of dishes like chiles en nogada, pozole, and chilaquiles, but the taco reigns supreme. It is one of the simplest recipes that you can make at home. While some elements are harder to replicate, like the classic “trompo” that you see in Mexico City, as long as you have the right ingredients, you should be able to create one of the most traditional taco types: tacos al pastor. 

A variation of shawarma brought by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico, this type of taco generally uses pork meat. Cut the roasted pork, place in a corn tortilla along with chopped cilantro, onions, and a small amount of pineapple for an authentic Mexico City experience. Mouthwatering!

Switzerland – Fondue

Make sure to invite vaccinated and/or COVID-free guests for this one! This dish comes from the Swiss Alps and gathers people around. Popularised in the 1960s in the United States, the French word “fondue” means “melted”. It features a communal pot of melted cheese for people to baste pieces of food in. 

The original recipe demands grated cheese, bits of garlic and white wine, all put together in a pot and heated until the mixture is in liquid form. You can dip many types of food in the cheese mix, but the most popular is chunks of bread. Some nice additions to the table could be small, cooked potatoes, diced apples, carrots, bits of cooked meat and cherry-sized tomatoes. 

Ethiopia – Injera

First, some religious context: Ethiopian Christianity dates back to 600 AD and currently, over half of the country’s population is Christian. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians don’t eat animal-based products on Wednesdays and Fridays. This makes Ethiopian food one of the healthiest types out there, catering to vegetarians/vegans and people who are on special diets. 

The most popular dish is a spongy sourdough bread called injera. Like a crepe, but smaller, you use the injera to scoop various foods like lentils, cabbage, and pieces of meat (on non-religious days). Combine injera with shiro, a thick chickpea stew that mixes garlic, onions, and other spices like ground cardamom, cumin powder and berbere powder for a true taste explosion. 

Spain – Paella And Jamón 

Hailing from the autonomous community of Valencia, paella is one of the most recognisable Spanish meals. It is a rice dish that infuses saffron, chicken, vegetables, and seafood in a large, shallow pan over a fire. While some place paella’s birth during the Moorish occupation of Spain, its real origins date to the mid-nineteenth century, where field workers near Valencia would mix all sorts of elements in a pan and cook them on an open fire. 

Another delicacy of the Iberian peninsula is Spanish ham, generally available in your nearest supermarket. While Jamón Serrano can be obtained from pigs anywhere in the world, Jamón Ibérico is the real deal, coming exclusively from Spanish-bred pigs. This dry-cured ham is a central element in tapas, a Spanish type of appetiser and finger food.

Peru – Ceviche

Ceviche is a staple of Peruvian cuisine. It either comes from the northwestern Moche region or was brought by Spanish women to the country during colonial times, or, perhaps, a mixture of both! Consisting of a bowl of raw fish cured in fruit juices—usually, lemon, lime, or orange—the citrus in the juice firms the fish, giving it a cooked texture in a process known as denaturing

Usually spiced with tomatoes, chilli peppers, onions, japaleños, or any combination of those, you can serve it as an appetiser with tortillas or salted crackers. Add some Pisco sour to the mix, and you’ll be in the streets of Lima in a matter of seconds!

There you have it, five delicious plates from exotic locations that you can prepare in the comfort of your home. While the experience won’t be the same as having a real street taco in Mexico City, enjoying a warm fondue in the Swiss Alps aprés ski, or may lack the authenticity of the other places mentioned, it will tickle your travel tastebuds and make the real deal taste all the better when you’re actually there! What other plates and destinations would you like to explore? Are there other foods you miss from your travels? Let us know in the comments below!