There’s no doubt that travellers love eating local food as much as checking out historical landmarks. In fact, dining in at local restaurants can arguably be the highlight of any trip, sometimes even better than seeing tourist spots in itself.
Local restaurants are independent, small dining spots usually owned and managed by local families, in some cases, by farmers themselves. You might have a hard time looking for them because they’re mostly hidden down in narrow back alleys, serving a small neighborhood away from the city.
The easiest way to set them apart from tourist and chain restaurants is through food: local restaurants have cheaper and better-tasting dishes that tend to be seasonal and based on traditional home cooking.
So why go to these? Apart from it being a way to get a taste of the country’s rich history, eating local is a way of keeping small restaurants and local farmers afloat. You will not only get to satisfy your cravings, but support a vital part of the community as well.
Whether you’re on an island in Asia or in the furthest corner of Europe, checking out what local restaurants have to offer will always be an unforgettable experience.
Here’s a list of reasons eating at local restaurants easily trumps all the other aspects of travelling:
Eating at local restaurants is healthier
Local food is undoubtedly cheaper, healthier, and tastes better than chain and fast-food restaurants. That’s because local restaurants often use fresh, local produce to prepare their dishes instead of pre-packed, frozen foodstuff.
As a traveller, it’s also easy to get attracted to convenience store meals as they’re easier to prepare and more budget-friendly. However, if you only eat those while travelling, prepare to gain some weight by the end of your vacation.
What’s more, the freshness of local food is unbeatable because its taste is directly related to how the ingredients were produced and sourced. If the ingredients don’t need to travel hundreds of miles to reach the destination, contamination is less likely to happen.
It’s worth noting that some chain restaurants do use local foodstuff too. But they tend to purchase ingredients from local farmers in bulk to save money, and then store them in large freezers.
While this is an effective way of preserving the freshness of ingredients, there’s no way for us to know how long they’re stored before being served to customers. A properly functioning fridge can keep most vegetables for one week – that’s according to the technicians at Fridge Repair Singapore – but we’ve no guarantee chain restaurants will follow that rule.
This doesn’t usually happen with local restaurants because they aren’t likely to purchase ingredients in bulk, knowing that their customers are only a few locals and a handful of tourists if they’re lucky.
You will discover dishes you’ve never had before
There are thousands of unique dishes from other countries that you’d never get the chance to taste if you don’t eat at local restaurants.
While it’s now possible to export pre-packed, frozen foreign dishes to another country, they will not taste quite the same as going to the country yourself and seeking a local restaurant that serves them.
It’s also worth asking ourselves this question: do we really want our experience of another country’s cuisine to be in the form of pre-packed products filled with food chemicals and preservatives?
Local food benefits the environment
Choosing local restaurants over fast-food chains and convenience store meals does more for the environment than expected.
Since local ingredients travel shorter distances from the farmers to a local’s restaurant’s kitchen, less fuel is used and fewer greenhouse gases are emitted into the environment.
CO2 emissions are reduced if ingredients don’t need to travel all the way to tourist-filled areas. Since the distribution process is shortened as well, less food is wasted and less plastic packaging is used.
Local food promotes diversification of local agriculture too, which reduces the industry’s reliance on monoculture. Instead of growing a single type of crop in a single area, you’re helping farmers cultivate different kinds of crops.
Supporting local food means supporting small businesses and farming communities
Lastly, one of the lasting impacts of eating local food is the support given to small restaurants and local farmers struggling to keep their livelihood.
In cities populated by tourists, large corporations often choose to open fast-food restaurants to cater to the taste of tourists, which drowns out small local restaurants in the process.
An oversaturation of fast-food restaurants can potentially force small restaurants out of business, in fact. That’s why supporting the little guys is vital sometimes if we want to keep true, traditional businesses alive.
The impact of eating local food is huge on local farmers as well. If more local restaurants are directly sourcing their ingredients from farmers, their farming lands will thrive and prevent them from being bought by large companies to redevelop into suburban or commercial properties.
In simpler terms, the small amount of money spent on local food will go a long way to keep local farmers afloat and local restaurants alive.
On top of that, if a country’s local food community is thriving, the higher the chances of its culture surviving… because after all, food and culture is connected.
Choosing to eat at local restaurants can do so much for the country you’re visiting. It benefits the environment and supports the livelihood of farmers and small business owners.
That’s why, if you’re already planning for your next overseas trip, you shouldn’t forget to include some local restaurants in your itinerary! Share their names with us if you’ve already listed a few, actually!