For me, food has always played a huge part in my travel experiences. It has been a way to discover the unknown, to fall in love with the unexpected, to connect with others, and often, a way to step out of my comfort zone. Every day that I spend on the road comes with 3 (or more) distinct chances to experience local culture and to do as the locals do. These, of course, are breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
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Not every meal is a hit, and some even come with their fair share of issues (hello, Delhi Belly!). But more often then not, I’m surprised to find myself falling in love with dishes from every country that I visit. So here are some of my favourites!
Thailand: Mango Sticky Rice
I’ll be honest with you. I really don’t like rice. It’s boring, flavourless, and pretty much the least exciting part of every rice meal. But there is something about that sticky Thai dessert that makes rice very acceptable in my books.
The delicious combination of sticky rice (a.k.a. glutinous rice), covered in sweet coconut milk and perfectly ripe mangos creates the best desert I have ever tried in Thailand. I was introduced to Mango Sticky Rice during my Thai Cooking Class in Chiang Mai and it’s been my choice of dessert or snack ever since!
China: Hot Pot
A hot pot is exactly what you think it is: a pot of hot stock, often flavoured with various spices and seasoning. It’s placed at your table and used as cooking base for all other ingredients. A typical Chinese hot pot menu will include thinly sliced meat, seafood, veggies, noodles, and other erm… delicacies, that can be dunked into the hot stock for cooking. Once cooked the food is eaten with a dipping sauce, like hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, etc.
It’s a perfect “warm me up” meal to have on a chilly winter evening and is an ideal meal to share with others.
Switzerland: Cheese Fondue
Cheese is one of my favourite things in the world. It’s right up there with tea and kittens, so it’s no surprise that the Swiss Cheese Fondue made its way onto my list of favourite foods. The recipe is simple: melted cheese is blended with wine and seasoning and served in a communal pot over a portable stove. To consume the goodness, simply dip pieces of bread on long forks into the pot and enjoy!
The story behind the popularity of Swiss fondue is quite entertaining. Apparently it all started with a simple marketing campaign by the Swiss Cheese Union back in 1930s, created to increase cheese consumption in Switzerland. The campaign was a huge success and the slogan of “fondue is good and creates a good mood” was remembered for many more decades to come.
Germany: Pork Knuckles
For me, this dish dates back to Oktoberfest 2008, when I first savoured this massively delicious German specialty at the Hofbräuhau tent in Munich. Pork Knuckle, known locally as Schweinshaxe, is an over roasted ham hock, often served with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. It’s a hearty and delicious Bavarian style meal best accompanied with a stein of beer on the side.
The food in Greece needs its own list. It is right up there, occupying the spot of one of my favourite cuisines in the world. The Greek Gyro’s are to die for, the crepes are amazing, the Greek salad is exquisite, but moussaka… ahhhh the Greek moussaka is heavenly.
It’s a dish that dates back to the Ottaman Empire and thus can be found not just in Greece, but also in the Balkans, in Turkey, and some middle-eastern countries. In Greece, Moussaka consists of three layers: meat, aubergine (eggplant) and white butter/milk sauce. Each layer is prepared separately and combined in the casserole only for the final baking. Moussaka is served warm as a main course or with a side of salad.
A savoury traditional Turkish pasty dish, makes a perfect snack or a light meal. It was served at every gas station, every rest stop, and on every street corner in Turkey. But the best part about this dish is that it has a million and one varieties, so you will never get tired of eating the same old thing. Gözleme is essentially a dough pocket, made from hand rolled dough, filled with various toppings, sealed, and cooked over a griddle. The fillings can include a variety of meats, vegetables, cheese, and spices. Some also include egg. Gözleme is frequently consumed with ayran, a cold salty yogurt-like drink.
Sri Lanka: Kothu Roti
Kothu Roti is a Sri Lankan dish that originated in the Eastern part of Sri Lanka, and is often enjoyed by the local Muslim and Tamil people. It is made by combining Sri Lankan roti with vegetables, egg, meat, and spices. The ingredients are then cooked on a heated iron sheet, while being chopped and tossed using two metal blades.
The distinct clinking sound of the metal blades travels well beyond the restaurant premises, serving as an invite to those passing by.
Dahl, a simple mixture of lentils, peas, chickpeas, kidney beans and so on, boiled into a stew or soup with some salt, turmeric, and other spices/ seasoning. Fat free, full of protein, fibre, and other nutrients, it’s one of the healthiest dishes you can get in India.
In Southern India, it is often eaten with rice, while in the North it is also common to eat dahl with roti, a wheat flatbread popular in this area.
Linguiça calabresa, a type of smoked pork sausage that has made its way into Brazilian cuisine with the help of Italian immigrants, quickly became my favourite dish in Brazil. It’s probably one of the simplest dishes we came across in Brazil and in my opinion the most delicious!
Most of the time linguiça calabresa is simply served with some fried onions, a few spices, and a loaf of white bread.
This list would most definitely be incomplete without the quintessential Canadian dish – poutine. Originally from Quebec, this fast food can now be found across Canada and even some places in Northern US. Poutine is a perfectly balanced mix of French fries with cheese curds (cheese chunks) and hot gravy, found in greasy diners, late night joins, roadside chip trucks. It is almost always served in a cardboard box with a plastic fork, that often breaks under the immense pressure of the gooeyness goodness of melted cheese.
Enjoyed best after a night out, while sitting on the curb in company of good friends and great laughs.
My Australian followers, I have good news for you. While nothing is as good as the poutine back in Canada, there is a new food van in Brisbane, called ChipTease and it delivers something really close! ChipTease, started a few months ago by my good friend Mandy, is now serving delicious hot chips at festivals, events and markets all over Queensland! And you guessed it right, their Canadian Chips with Cheese and Gravy are a little reminder of home right here in Australia! You can check out their upcoming events on the ChipTease Facebook Page.
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Now let’s hear of some of your favourite dished from around the world!