6 new food travel books to read this year

This article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

Travel books with a real sense of place are often those you can almost taste. And there’s a tantalising crop of globetrotting food books hitting the shelves this spring. We’ve really enjoyed Cold Kitchen, Caroline Eden’s travel memoir hewn through recipes from as far and wide as Central Asia, Ukraine, the Baltics and Turkey. And Jenny Jefferies’ Islands in a Common Sea, which delves into farming and fishing in countries such as Bhutan, Australia, Nigeria and Argentina, with human stories, recipes and beautiful photography celebrating biodiversity. Along with these tasty titles, here’s our selection of books that will work up your appetite for travel this season.

1. China in Seven Banquets

A ‘flavourful history’ of 500 years of Chinese cuisine via seven storied dinners. Food historian Thomas David DuBois shares his findings from decades of travelling around China, revealing the country’s culinary character through meals including the ‘tail-burning’ banquet of the Tang dynasty, plus insights into food featured in Chinese literature and film, a New Year’s buffet from 1920s Shanghai and a 21st-century delivery menu. Reaktion Books, £18

2. Pocha

Korean-born food writer Su Scott returns to her native Seoul to eat her way around the city’s pocha street stalls. Short for pojangmacha (‘covered wagon’), they include everything from a tarpaulin-covered stall to a makeshift bar where snacks are served. It’s a personal take on this lively destination, rendered through vibrant photography and 80 recipes covering classics such as fried chicken and kimchi pancakes. Quadrille, £27

3. Italian Coastal

Take a culinary tour along Italian shores from Tuscany to Northern Sicily with Amber Guinness. The food writer blends travelogue, memoir and cooking insights, singling out 60 easy-to-make recipes that offer a taste of specific Italian seaside regions — and the stories behind them — including potato and caper salad from the island of Salina and the ultimate Amalfi lemon cream cake. Thames & Hudson, £29.99

4. The Food Adventurers

Professor of food studies and history, David E Bender shows how tourism has shaped our fascination with world cuisines through an examination of travel, from the age of the sailboat to the rise of the jet plane. He looks at how we eat on the road, covering subjects such as Tahitian roast pig in the 1840s, the colonial ‘discoveries’ of fruit like the mangosteen, 1970s hotel restaurants and caviar served on board luxury cruise liners. Reaktion Books, £20

5. Foodie Places

Travel writer Sarah Baxter and illustrator Amy Grimes serve up a guide to 25 food destinations, uncovering local delicacies like pastries handmade by nuns in Portugal, vegan curries in Southern India — where plant-based dishes have been offered to gods and pilgrims for centuries — and paella from its Spanish birthplace in Valencia. Plus, visits to contemporary food capitals Montreal, Osaka and Melbourne, famed for global dishes and fusion food. White Lion Publishing, £14.99

6. At the Table in Paris

Try out the recipes served in Paris’s best bistros, cafes and restaurants in this culinary tour that takes in classic spots along the Seine as well as more local hangouts in hip ’hoods like Belleville. Divided into meals of the day, it includes 40 recipes typically enjoyed in France, including moules frites, coq au vin and creme brulee, plus plenty of practical tips on food shops, markets and more. Hardie Grant, £20

Published in the April 2024 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

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