One of the most incredible parts about travelling is the opportunity to experience different cuisines and exotic flavours. Not only do you get to excite your taste buds, but it can give you a real insight to the country and history of the people in some cases. It also often introduces you to many a ‘delicacy’ which you might never even dream of eating. All you need is an adventurous spirit, open mind and, in some instances, a hard stomach!
I think it’s true to a certain extent to say that when you eat a type of cuisine it will often take you back to that country — the smells, tastes, colours around you when you ate the authentic original. I tried to think of my favourite foods from each of the countries I’ve visited, but also found my mind wandering to other meals in other countries which certainly weren’t my favourite but that stick in my mind for one reason or another. Linked in with food, I find it fascinating to get up early and wander around markets in other countries, they are always so fascinating. Whether its the vibrant colour of spices and carpets in Marrakech, or the clucking and snorting from the animal market in Otavalo to a regular fruit and vegetable market in Germany, France or Thailand every weekly food market shows an insight to the daily lives of those around you as well and getting an idea for all the ingredients used within their cooking. Collecting vegetables, spices, rice and fruit for our cooking course in Chaing Mai immediately proved how simple yet delicious Thai food is!
Driving from Quito to the small village I was teaching in Ecuador, we would always need to make a stop off in a town to change buses. Adorning the streets around the ‘bus shelter’ were various street food vendors trying to sell you dried fruits or fish, chicken that had been turning in the sun all day, fried eggs on rice in clear bags and so on, but every time we would (not so surprisingly) skip these and head straight towards the steel drum stand. Not in order to dance off our stiff legs from the four hours in the bus, but to get the doughy deliciousness they were cooking on their drums– a sort of doughnut-type cinnamon, hot, delicious snack. Ecuador’s delicacies, such as bulls penis and guinea pig, didn’t have quite the same pull on me as say a delicious French steak (although the guinea pig wasn’t as bad as imagined).
Included in my list of strange foods would be dog, snake and entrails in Laos (we didn’t know they were entrails until a little too late); road-kill lizard, camel and crocodile in Australia; and chocolate-covered ants.
However, onto the nicer sides of food, I find whenever I delve in a Panang curry I am always transported back to the locals’ cafe in Thailand we were pointed toward. A poutine will always remind me of Canada as well a good old beaver tail (not literally–see picture above). Anybody who is ever in Brisbane, I highly, highly recommend (insist?!) that you go for dinner at the ‘Brekkie Creek Hotel’. Famous throughout Queensland, the steak here is an absolute must. You line and choose the exact cut and piece of beef you would like and how you would like it done-whereupon it joins at least 50 other steaks on the grill all being cooked to perfection and never getting the orders mixed up. After all, you know what your steak looks like before it’s cooked, so they can’t just give you any old steak back!
And of course, what sort of English girl would I be without mentioning a good old fashioned ‘mum-style roast chicken?! Returning home from any trip I am always given a choice as to my first meal back. It gets to the point where weeks before my return I’m already thinking up classic English food I’ve missed while being away-English sausages, shepherds pie, crumpets…but every time the roast chicken will always come out on top. No other food can evoke such homely feelings and give me a sense of surrounding as a roast chicken with everything–bread sauce, roasted potatoes, carrots and parsnips and broccoli!
There are many many other foods and recipes that will forever hold a story and place in my heart but I hope to continue experiencing new cuisines and gathering more tales to go with them.