Sunday 22 December 2013

Around the World on a Plate

One of the most wonderful things about travelling is the opportunity to try new and exciting food. The vibrancy of street food, the explosion of flavour and colour in tropical fruits and the sizzle and crackle of meats prepared and marinated in every way imaginable. 

I've worked in my parent's Thai restaurant for over ten years and I've developed a genuine appreciation for good food and for trying new things. I love street food, I have a sweet tooth and I believe that some of the cheapest food you can buy is the most rustic and delicious. 

This blog page will highlight the culinary journey that comes with travelling, one plate at a time. From living on posho (maize flour) to melt in the mouth pasta in Sicily, I believe there is so much out there to explore with our sense of taste. Let us always remember that variety is the spice of life. 


Thai Food from my parent's restaurant!
I'll start with my roots. You can call me bias but I believe that Thai food is up there with some of the world's best cuisines. The infusion of different flavours and the limitless variety of dishes is incomparable to other international cuisines. From sharp and tangy tom yum soup to the famous subtle and creamy green chicken curry, there is so much choice to be had whether your preference is sour, spicy or sweet. Typical dishes include Pad Thai, Mussamun curry and Satay chicken. With a visit to Thailand, 30 baht (70p) can you buy a wonderful array of food from barbequed meat to big bowls of soup noodles. 

The Netherlands

Dutch Pancake/pannenkoek

Crisp, soft and delicate yet filling, dutch pancakes are a must-try in The Netherlands. They are served both sweet and savoury and in a portion large enough to satisfy any big appetites out there. It's cheap and cheerful dining at it's best! Other quirky popularities in the Netherlands are chips with mayonaise and hagelslag (colourful chocolate/fruit flavoured sprinkles on bread/toast!). Restaurants in The Netherlands are characteristic and unique, with very few chain shops dominating the high street. 

Bread in a Tunisian Market 

Served in a little basket, fresh rolls of home-made bread are normally served as a accompaniment with breakfast, lunch and dinner in Tunisia. Soft, round floury baps line carts in markets and it is a common staple food in the home. It's the perfect pre-dinner appetite primer! Other Tunisian delicacies include the inventive use of eggs and tuna in a variety of dishes and small, sweet nutty pastries (similar to Baklava).


Momos (Nepalese dumplings)  & Daal Bhaat.
Photos from Google, but all the other
pictures are taken by me! :)
'Daal Bhaat' is the national dish of Nepal. A plate of white rice served with black, soft lentils in a salty soup. I loved the metal plates used everywhere in Nepal. I loved eating with my thumb and right hand. I ate daal bhaat everyday, twice a day for over a month and I never got bored of it. In Thamel, I particularly enjoyed trying to find the best restaurants that served momos. Ranging from 30 - 150 rupees (20p - £1.00), the famous Nepalese dumplings are served with a spicy sauce accompaniment, filled with either meat or vegetables. I remember being the only woman eating in Everest momo, a little cafe buzzing with locals, serving momos at only 30 rupees for a plate of 10. I highly recommend it if you pay a visit to Thamel!

Sicily, Italy
Fresh pasta!

You haven't sampled how incredible ice-cream or pasta can be unless you've been to Sicily or Italy. The most simplistic and fresh ingredients make the most tastiest, melt in the mouth dishes. Eating out doesn't cost the earth in Sicily (around 10 euros). In many establishments, you are presented with a little basket of crackers/bread/breadsticks before your meal. Other typical Sicilian delicacies include aranchini (fried rice balls, normally filled with cheese) and granita (sweet crushed ice).  

Kerala, India
Sadya: normally served on a banana leaf

During a 2 week Geography field-trip to Kerala, we attended a welcome festival and we were served a unique array of pickles, crushed daal, rice and vegetables such as fried chilli and onions. There are a  mish-mash of flavours, textures and spices. It is fun, exotic dining at it's best! Other Keralite specialities include Thalis and dosa pancakes. 

Big hearty portions after construction work

I stayed with a Ghanaian host family, sampling genuine home-cooked dishes such as 'red red' (fried beans with onion), boiled and fried plantains, cassava and fufu. Another sweet delicacy I tried was 'kelewele (pronounced killy willy!), which is small cubes of fried plantain with sugar. Ghana is famous for importing products such as cocoa beans and coffee. 

Northern Italy

Travelling around the regions of Venice, Verona, Bologna and Lake Garda, a lot of the Italian restaurants were aimed at tourists, serving the usual fayre such as carbonara and spaghetti. As a general rule of thumb, we'd glanced into the establishment to see if there were more local people dining in the restaurant. It was a bit of hit and miss dining, where we were served the most delicious lasagne in Venice then a soggy overly tomato-ey pizza in Verona. Nevertheless, with just a few key ingredients such as olive oil, fresh pasta and pesto, Italian cuisine is simplistic dining full of amazing flavours. 


3 fish main course for 8 euros: sword-fish,
salmon and another mysterious fish.
Cheap/fresh and tasty!

A tiny but beautiful island just 17 miles long, Malta is where I had the #1 yummiest mussels I've ever tried and the #1 yummiest calzone. My sister and I went to Gillieru's Restaurant in St Paul's Bay (recommended by a shopkeeper), where we were dished up octopus/calamari stew, fishermans soup and fresh, caught on the day mussels. The meal came to 25 euros each, but there was so much food leftover we had the stew the next day for dinner too. Seafood is aplenty and cheap in Malta with meals starting at around seven euros. There are also little kiosks all over Malta selling crisp and deliciously moreish pastizzi's: flakey pastries filled to the brim with peas or cheese. Rabbit meat is also common in Malta. 

Food we ate at school: corn with a
bean stock soup

Posho (maize flour mixed with water), matoke and beans! I stayed with a host family and I enjoyed helping the family with cooking. I particularly liked 'ground-nuts' a peanut butter like flavouring cooked with pumpkin leaves. Chapati was a treat (1000 USH - 30p) which was fried flat bread, cut into quarters and sold on the street side. Uganda has AMAZING, large, succulent avocados. Meals are normally served with a small pile of salt on the side to accompany posho or matoke.


I was only in Germany for 1 - 2 days, as a quick visit during a European roadtrip. Currywurst is tasty comfort food and a famous German speciality. It consists of a large sausage served with a sprinkle of curry powder and sometimes a accompanying crusty bread roll. It's cheap, at around 4 euros and filling on-the-go food. Other German delicacies include soft, massive, floury pretzels. 


Cheese Fondue - 20 euros per person
Probably the culinary capital of Europe, France embodies crisp, delicious bread, croissants, amazing cheese, French onion soup. and macaroons! I stayed with a Parisian friend during my trip and we sampled snails, fondue, crepes and numerous bakeries daily. Although eating out can be expensive, the French set menu is normally good value (around 15 euros per person) and the choices consist of French traditional dishes such as confit duck. 

Algarve, Portugal

The best kept secret in Lagos,
Escondidinho Restaurant
After a dolphin watching tour, my sister and I were highly tempted by the cheap array of tourist orientated restaurants along the seafront. We decided against it and instead continued in pursuit of finding a infamous seafood restaurant recommended to us by a local. 

We strolled up a steel hill, winding streets and pass a cemetery. The restaurant was tucked away in a corner on a very quiet residential street. The food was definitely worth the search! We ordered a tuna steak and sea bream and the fish practically fell apart on the cutlery. At around 12 euros each, the meal did not break the bank.
Other popular delicacies that are definitely worth a try in Portugal are pastel de nata (egg tarts) and piri-piri chicken. 


Chicken Tagine
Meat infused with a citrus tang, olives and herbs: tagines are a sensation of flavours. Morocco is also known as the land of spices. With simple ingredients such as aubergine and couscous combined with spices, these dishes become a taste experience. Morocco is also famous for it's sweet, mint tea. With a visit to Marrakech, I would definitely recommend the fresh orange juice stalls (only 4DH, 30p) a glass and the fruit and nut stalls that  sell fresh dates for a decent price. 

Korean BBQ at a restaurant -'Kobi'
South Korea

It is the lovely, little accompanying side dishes that makes Korean meals such a pleasure to consume. With lunch and dinner, alongside rice, you are normally served a watery tofu based soup, a meat or egg stir fry, vegetables and kimchi. Korean BBQ's have also become popular internationally. Other korean dishes that are definitely worth a try are patbingsu (shaved ice with red bean and crunchy toppings) and bibimbap (rice with chilli sauce, egg, vegetables and meat).


Shopping centre: plastic
food displays to show
what the food looks like!
Typical Korean meal: Rice,
 soup, veg and fish. 

Typical breakfast

10 weeks in Nicaragua! Gallo pinto for breakfast (rice & beans mixed together), rice & beans for lunch, and beans & rice for dinner. It is the staple food in Nicaragua that I did begin to grow fond of after a week of traveller's diarrhoea. I stayed in a rural community where other delicacies included cuajada (cheese, kind of), tortillas and lots of sugary Nicaraguan coffee. 

Lifeboat Restaurant,
#1 Fish and Chips in Hastings!

I think the keywords for British food are hearty and comforting. From the Full English, to a Sunday roast to good old fish and chips. 
For two summers, I worked at a chippie on the Hastings seafront, serving up massive portions of cod and chips to pensioners and families. Tea warms the soul. Pubs are rooted in history and in most cases, good places to socialise. Other typical British dishes include sausage & mash and pie.


Borough Market: Foodie paradise 
Home is where the heart is! I genuinely love living in London due to the diverse, ever-changing and countless restaurants you can go to. With diversity comes variety, you can find authentic restaurants all over. 

There are markets brimming with food stalls from Europe to Ethiopia and speciality shops where you can pick up international herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables. Some of my favourite restaurants in London are:

  • Mirch Masala (Tooting, Indian)
  • Al Forno (Wimbledon, Italian) 
  • Joy King Lau (Soho, Chinese). 
  • The Chicken Shop (Kentish Town, Chicken)
  • Wahaca (Covent Garden, Mexican)

Round up 

  • I only chose 1 - 2 dishes from each country, sorry to any natives out there if I missed out something worthy of a mention.
  • I dine on a studenty budget. All the places where I eat out normally cost under £15 a head. I know this eradicates a big portion of the restaurants out there e.g. michelin starred dining but I do believe that unpretentious dining and even street side stalls provide some of the most delicious/authentic foods out there.  
  • I try to avoid dining at chain restaurant establishments, there is so much fun to be had finding the hidden gems and supporting independent businesses.
  •  Name and shame: I really dislike Wagamama and Fire & Stone. One thing these restaurants have in common is the marketing gimmick  of 'fusion cuisine'. Countries have such a unique array of dishes, I think it's completely unnecessary to blend different cuisines together. 
  • For cheap European holidays, I always pick self-catering. It gives you the freedom to explore the culinary delights of a country without time restricting/standard hotel meals. 
  • Chilli becomes the tastiest thing in the world if you give it a chance you will develop a palate for it :).

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