As a lot of you already know, I love food. Right up there with sightseeing and a nice hotel, I think good, local food is vital to an excellent travel experience.
For me, There isn’t anything much better than treating yourself to a meal in a foreign country. Perhaps ordering something you’ve read about in the guide books, or taking a local’s recommendation, or even just pointing to something at the menu and seeing what they bring to you!
Simple things seem to taste better as the quality of the ingredients are different to what we’re used to. I couldn’t believe how delicious a plain pesto pasta tasted in Italy! Other dishes are jam-packed full of intricate flavours that you know you’d never be able to recreate at home.
One other great thing about food overseas – you’ve (hopefully) left your diet behind because everyone knows calories don’t count while you’re overseas!
Here are my top 5 local foodie experiences I’ve had overseas:
Local pancakes, Hoi An, Vietnam
My sister and I were told about this ‘restaurant’ by our local Guide. When we sat down on our plastic chairs in a shabby courtyard, we were immediately handed food. As it turns out, they only offer one thing, a fixed menu, which is fantastic as it eliminates all decision-making! Piles and piles of food were placed in front of us – spring rolls, pork skewers, local savory pancakes, plus a mountain of crisp lettuce cups and fresh, fragrant herbs. We got through it all, washed down with a local beer, and as we finished, the waitress presented us with a chocolate ‘yogo’ each – dessert! It was daggy, cheap but absolutely delicious.
On our Mosaic tours to Croatia, I take guests into the countryside on Hvar island for the day. After stopping to look at the picturesque vistas, the famous lavender, and wild herbs, we visit my friends the Dubocovic family, who own a small restaurant and winery in a village. Mr Dubocovic cooks the same thing each year for us, Peka. Peka in Croatian means ‘under the bell.’ It is slow-cooked lamb and potatoes cooked on a wood fire, covered with an iron ‘bell.’ We eat in their garden overlooking rolling hills, and tasting their home-made wine.
It’s so simple, but the quality of the ingredients, the surroundings and the friendliness of the Dubocovic family make it unforgettable!
This one was a dare! Walking through the vibrant, colourful night markets of Siem Reap, I saw a cart selling deep-fried bugs. They offered everything, from garden-variety crickets, to cockroaches, small spiders to big, hairy tarantulas!
In order to prove myself an intrepid traveller, I bought a bag full of crickets to munch on. They were quite nice, crunchy and tasting of salt, oil and garlic. The only thing that stopped me eating more than one was the texture, and getting those long antennae stuck in your teeth!
Midye dolma, Turkey
The best ones are found by the Galata Bridge, and in ‘fish market street’ Beyoglu, both in Istanbul. They’re mussels stuffed with spiced rice. They’re plump, juicy, delicate and full of intricate flavour. The best way to eat them is straight from the shell, while standing up next to the midye dolma cart. When you’re finished, the midye dolmaci (the seller) will count your empty shells and charge you (about 50 cents per mussel) accordingly.
Portuguese Tart, Portugal
I wasn’t all that exciting about trying this custard delicacy when I visited Portugal the first time. But of course, being such a famous dessert, we were all given one by our tour guide after a morning walking tour of Lisbon. Wow! It was the smell that sucked me in first – still slightly warm, buttery, with a light hint of cinnamon. Then the first bite was magic. The pastry made a perfect ‘crunch’ sound like in the movies, and as you bit through the flakiness, you arrived the soft, sweet custard inside. Just heaven! (And remember, calories don’t count when you’re on holiday)
What’s your favourite local foodie experience?0