If you’re a real foodie then you’ve probably already heard about the Cities of Gastronomy. UNESCO has bestowed the honour on four world cities so far, which guarantees that a vibrant gastronomic feast awaits with a real emphasis on good quality local and traditional cuisine.
Jeonju in South Korea – UNESCO City of Gastronomy for 2012
Jeonju, located in southwest South Korea, is known for one of the world’s most delicious foods, Jeonju bimbimbap: A spectacular mix of bean sprouts, spinach, Chinese bellflower, gochujang chili paste, sesame oil, and rice topped with an egg. Local pine wine and vegetarian culinary favourites abound. Try the local ‘Hanjeongsik’ which is a lavish multi-course traditional Korean meal that features a multitude of delicious side dishes or ‘banchan’ and is pictured above.
Visitors should also explore the National Jeonju Museum featuring artifacts of the famous Baekje kingdom, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. The Jeonju Traditional Cultural Center provides the unique experience of living in a “hanok” or traditional house. Discover the Pan Asian Paper Museum: Jeonju hosts an annual fashion show featuring Korean-style clothing made of paper! Jeonju is particularly beautiful in the autumn nestled in the mountains.
Chengdu in China – UNESCO City of Gastronomy for 2010
Enjoy Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province in southwest China, known for its inhabitants’ mellow attitudes (which contrast beautifully with the fiery hot food) and their culinary techniques in Sichuanese cuisine, featuring spicy Sichuan peppers. Chengdu was once the start of the Silk Road, so it is no wonder that the area is famous for its centuries old tea culture, traditional spicy hotpot, wheat noodles ‘liangpi’ which are Sichuan style (pictured left), sweet dumplings and soy milk.
Other cultural hotspots in Chengdu include the very first center dedicated to the preservation of the giant panda. There are also several impressive monasteries are in the area. The Qingyang Temple, the largest Taoist temple in the region, features a rare copy of Taoist scriptures and is said to be where the philosopher, Laozi, taught the Dao De Jing.
Östersund is famous for its Swedish National Centre for Small Scale Artisan Food Processing which promotes sustainable agriculture and artisanal businesses. Visitors indulge in its numerous cafes, pastry shops, and bakeries. The most well-known, the Wedenmarks Konditori, has been open since 1924 and is famous for its spectacular layer-cake sandwich. And yes the ubiquitous Swedish meatballs are to be found, with regional twists (pictured left).
Östersund, in central Sweden, is delightfully on the shore of Lake Storsjon. A steamboat, S/S Thomée, sails from Östersund’s harbour. Sightseers must visit Jamtli, an open air museum dedicated to the preservation of historic Sweden. Visitors experience historic old houses, pet farm animals, and see life as it was in Sweden’s earlier days.
Popayan hosts an annual National Gastronomy Congress featuring the culinary talents of nations from South America and Europe. Food here are a gourmet’s dream with specialties such as pipian, a spicy sauce made of pumpkin seeds, chilli used with local tamales and empanadas and the local speciality Bandeja paisa which literally means ‘platter’ (pictured left).
Popayan, known as the “white city” for the colour of its architecture, lies southwest of Bogota. Visitors come to admire the history and culture of the Historic Center featuring colonial-style architecture and many fine churches such as San Francisco and La Ermita. Also enjoyable are the January Fiestas de Pubenza in celebration of multicultural diversity and musical chirimias (oboe) competitions.
By Julie Bowman