There is no better way of experiencing a new culture when traveling than to taste its food. These experiences can be of discovery when you experience a delicious new food or of disgust when you taste something not to your liking. Regardless, these encounters make great stories to share and today we’re sharing some memorable stories of food experienced through travel.
Nathan – Impressions of Singapore’s Hawker Centers
Last summer I traveled to Singapore and Thailand for a month. Everywhere you turned, there were so many different local foods and drinks to try. Especially in Singapore. What really stood out to me were the hawker centers around Singapore. These centers were a hub of activity with tourists, locals and workers alike all out for a quick meal. These hawker centers were everywhere – some were standalone places with others inside air conditioned malls. Despite the lines, hawkers were quick and efficient, sending out dishes steadily. You have to be quick (and early!) – popular places would sell out of their fair before noon and close for the day. Everything you could want from curries to fresh fruit to noodles to shaved ice. It is a food lover’s paradise. And ultimately that is what Asia is – a place for intense flavors that is affordable and delicious.
Jeremy – The Two Most Memorable Meals of My Life
The two most memorable meals of my life have been both while I have been traveling. The first was in Paris at La Truffiere where we had an 11 course tasting menu. Half the dishes had truffles on it which made for a superb meal! Afterwards, I asked my now wife to marry me. The perfect meal to accompany the perfect day.
The second was at the Venetian Hotel in Macau, at a branch of a famous restaurant in Tokyo. We were visiting when the economy wasn’t doing so well and we were the only people in the restaurant our whole visit. We ate some of the freshest seafood with food cooked right in front of us teppanyaki style. It was an expensive meal, but one I won’t forget for a very long time.
Emily – Experiencing the Raw Side of Chicken
On a visit to Tokyo, a Japanese friend of mine suggested that we try a delicious and unique meal at one of her favorite haunts. If only I had known what we were in for. She led us to a small door, which looked like something out of Alice in Wonderland. We had to duck in order to enter the restaurant. What welcomed us was a small room, not much bigger than the average dining room in most houses. This tiny izakaya, was the home of chicken sashimi. Is raw chicken even safe to eat?! My friend assured me that it was. The chicken was very fresh and was handled in a way that prevented salmonella. It came to the table sliced like sashimi, served with a bit of soy sauce. With a dip of the soy sauce, and a bit of a chew, I tasted my first piece of chicken sashimi. The actual chicken didn’t have much flavor, but had that cold and fresh flavor that is associated with other kinds of sashimi. Between sips of sake and other (cooked) chicken dishes, we finished the plate. While it’s not the kind of thing I’m dying to try again, it was truly a unique eating experience I will remember for a long time.
Eric – A Cuttlefish Love Story
My wife and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary in Venice. Dinner was at Antica Trattoria Poste Vecie, a small quaint restaurant located steps away from Venice’s open air fish market. This restaurant’s charm started with the entrance, a tiny bridge over a mini canal was the only way to enter the restaurant. The restaurant itself had indoor seating and an outdoor terrace garden.
A menu filled with seafood – squid, eel, sea bass, lobster, and sole – made for an excellent sharing of plates over wine. In particular we enjoyed the fish risotto from the first courses menu which was rich in flavor. The venetian-style cuttlefish was “memorable” but not necessarily our favorite. The cuttlefish was served with its black ink in the dish of pasta. It tasted bitter, salty, and vinegary. The experience would be likened to having a pen explode in your mouth – a little gritty, an odd taste, yet it was not completely “wrong”.
After dinner was a gondola ride under the Rialto Bridge. An evening to remember …
Rico – The Stranger the Better
Video: anujd89 on Flickr
I have eaten many strange, but delicious things in my travels around the world. In Korea, I was treated to small plates of delicious foods – raw beef offal was one, and raw crab served with a kimchi-like sauce, a surprisingly delicious dish. While in Thailand, I tried live octopus. Their tentacles were still squirming when on the plate and they stuck to the inside of my throat when trying to eat it. In Hong Kong (many years ago), I had fresh abalone, still alive in its shell. It was presented to me whole and after a few skilled slices with a knife, it was cooked before my eyes.
In Turkey, I tried an innocent looking green chili. Conventional knowledge dictates that it’s the red chilies you need to watch out for in terms of spiciness, but in this case, it wasn’t. A small bit of the chili was fine. Mildly spicy, no more than a jalapeno. The seed, on the other hand, was a completely different story. One taste and I was rendered speechless for the rest of the meal, much to the chagrin of my dining companions.
Now it’s your turn. What are some of your most memorable moments involving food when traveling?