My secret love affair with food – my favourites in the world (from each destination)

I don’t know about you…but for me, food is absolutely and unequivocally one of the most important things in the world.

I know many people see food purely as a source of fuel…but for me, food is so much more. (and no I can’t date let alone be friends with those sorts of people – jks). For me:

Food = life, love and happiness.

Maybe it’s more accurate to simply say that food = everything.

I’ve always told my friends, “if food was a man, he would be my husband”…and more recently…“If I had to choose between losing enjoyment from sex or food, I’d give up sex”.

That’s how much I LOVE food.

Every single day…almost every hour, food is on my mind. I’m usually thinking about the next meal within 30 minutes of eating breakfast, lunch or dinner.

And traveling is no exception.

In fact, I think my love for food intensifies even more when I’m traveling. From the moment I hop onto the plane, I’m excited to see what will be plated in front of me …and as soon as I land and step foot into the airport, I can’t wait to meet all these different new kinds of foods ~ to learn about them, experience what they taste like, feel their texture…and to get some food-gasms along the way.

Sounds a bit like dating no? lol

I think you get my point and the extent of my love and passion for food.

But in case you haven’t – the point is this:

That food completes my life.

italy aperativo (2)
Aperativo anyone? This is a good illustration of how I feel about food

A while ago…I started thinking about all the different foods I’ve tried in all the different places I’ve traveled to. Quite often, there’s a stand-out dish from a country for me which forms part of the country’s identity. And there’s certainly been foods which I’ve fallen so madly in love with…that I’ve ended up feeling this compulsive need to have it every day (at least while I was in that country anyway).

Once I fell in love, it was impossible for me to let a day pass without experiencing that food.

Sounds a bit like the addiction that love is right?

Pretty much.

I know it’s a bit excessive to go out of your way to have the same piece of food every single day (especially when it’s a fatty and buttery croissant or tart)…but you know what?

I had no idea if or when I would ever have the food again in my life once I left that country.

So…in the end…I think my justification was…well, justified! Maybe not from a health perspective but I knew darn well that once I returned to Australia, I wasn’t going to eat like the way I was in Europe and that I was going to get serious about being healthy (eating habits included).

That’s what inspired me to write this blog ~ I had such a strong connection with certain foods or dishes in certain countries that I needed to document and share them.

I’m so happy I’m finally posting this because I came up with this idea and wanted to write this a pretty long time ago ~ it’s been on my mind for a while…and now, I think the right moment has come for me to write and share this with you.

 

My favourite food(s) from each country

I was SO lucky to be able to explore gastronomical paradises like Peru and Italy but sadly…not all countries are so food-affluent (sometimes it felt impossible to find a mind-blowing dish no matter where I went and everything seemed mediocre at best)…but that’s just life. You win some, you lose some (just like all the different foods you try, buy or make…good, bad, great, sad ~ it’s the variance which lies in the beauty of food! The “bad” food creates space for making amazing food as life-changing as it is ~ even though I think we should all strive for great food all the time. It’s nice to experience it all). In some countries, the food blew my mind and changed my life…in others, the food everywhere was so below average that it was hard to remember anything special (but even in those cases, I’ll try my best to say at least one thing I liked).

If you’ve made it this far, thank you ~ you can now sit back, relax, and read my list of favourite foods from each country 😊

P.S. Sometimes I’ve included more than one when it’s too hard to just pick one (sorry!)

 

South East Asia

VietnamBún chả

When I first arrived in Hanoi, I got lured by some of these ladies working in this random little street-restaurant where they were flame grilling some meat out the front. They waved at me to come in and I followed. I was hungry and it looked local enough. As soon as I sat down, they put down a plate of fried spring rolls ~ delicious. But it was the next dish which blew my mind away ~ the Bún chả: a flame-grilled, caramelised pork dish paired with some meat balls, a light broth, rice noodles and a generous serving of fresh herbs & vegetables. When put together, it almost looks like a noodle-soup but it’s more like a grilled-pork salad, but eaten differently (you dip everything into the sauce and then eat it).

viet bun cha

It was certainly a pleasant, explosive surprise and quickly became my favourite over rice paper rolls and phở.

Rice paper rolls and some other delicious goodness

But also give these dishes a try…and don’t forget to try bananas and pineapple in Vietnam ~ they are EXTRA delicious there and…the egg coffee and banh mi.

The delicious fruits & banh mi – French-style baguette for breakfast, lunch, dinner or supper

Also – the family dinners are a must. Just do it! Cos they’re amazing and Vietnamese food is just the best.

Vietnamese family dinners – simply the best

ThailandGreen curry

This dish has always been one of my favourite Thai dishes in Australia and it did not disappoint in the motherland. I had the pleasure of eating a home-cooked version of this while doing a Workaway in Kalasin and wow, it was so full of flavour and so satisfying. I think it’s just one of those full-proof dishes…I can’t remember ever having a bad green curry in my life.

For those who don’t know what Thai green curry is ~ it’s a curry dish that’s green in colour (lol I’m lame I know)! But obvious truths aside, the curry dish is so full of flavour from all the different herbs in the curry paste in addition to all the sauces, stock, herbs, milk and meat or vegetables. It’s typically got notes of things like coconut milk, coriander, chilli, lemongrass, garlic…and all that fun stuff!

thai green curry

Home cooked Thai green curry

But just because I picked it as my favourite, it doesn’t mean it was the absolute best ~ I also enjoyed the wide variety of dishes I tried in Kalasin and all the buffet food I had in Bangkok. Oh and get your hands on some bananas if you can ~ they are delicious and cheap in Thailand.

Bananas and lots of local food in Kalasin

 

Malaysia – it’s a tie between roti canai, curry puffs or tofu fa and the seafood

If I had to pick only one to have for the rest of my life, it’d be roti canai…probably because it’s just so darn satisfying.

So what is roti canai?

It’s literally bread ~ Indian-Malay style. Roti means bread and canai means “to roll out (dough)” and that’s exactly what it is! I have a serious addiction and love affair to these, especially because I had it every day for breakfast in Malaysia when I was a kid (brings back some nice memories). Even though it’s similar to the naan which I know (more north-Indian style ~ correct me if I’m wrong guys), I keep picturing these to be like a “better version of naan” because it’s got much more of the good stuff in there ~ condensed milk, loads of oil and butter (but actually I recently found out that India has virtually the same type of naan in other areas…just not the ones I visited ☹). The plain roti canai is typically served with 2-3 different curries but when I was a kid, I used to just dip it in sugar. Now it’s evolved to have different fillings.

malaysia roti canai (2)

Curry puffs are a close second – it’s a really flaky, empanada-style dish with curry inside. I’d say it’s like the Malaysian version of an empanada or samosa. The filling typically has peas, carrots, potatoes and some meat cooked in a curry sauce.

malaysia curry puff

To Fu Fa is also a favourite of mine – for non-tofu lovers, sorry, you probably won’t like this one but for all the rest, you’re in for a treat (especially if you’re a sweet-tooth).

What is it?

It’s basically like tofu curd – poached tofu with a sugar syrup poured on top (sometimes infused with ginger or other things).

malaysia tofu

Lastly, the seafood – without question, Malaysia has some of the best seafood I’ve had in my life. I don’t know what it is, but these guys know how to serve fish fresh and it just tastes so darn amazing. My two most memorable experiences was having seafood when I was in the fish market in Kota Kinabalu and when we visited my mum’s home-town, Eng Soon (I don’t know the name in Malay) ~ but it’s a small fisherman’s village where they literally bring in the seafood from the ocean to cook just as you’re about to eat it.

malaysia seafood (2)

Freshly caught and cooked snapper

 

Laos – unfortunately there weren’t many memorable foods for me. As much as I try to think of one, I can’t pinpoint anything.

Vegan buffet in Laos

 

Bali/Indonesia – the banana pancakes and street satay sticks won my heart here. I don’t know how or why but these guys do pancakes so well (it’s more like a crepe which is the style I like the most). They make it perfectly crispy on the outside but fluffy on the inside with delicious Indonesian bananas topped with yummy syrup. It’s just a delicious way to start the day.

bali pancakes

Delicious banana pancakes with fruit

I also couldn’t go past the satay sticks at a local street vendor – they were just beautifully marinated and flame grilled…perfect with a serving of sticky rice (and cheap too).

bali satay

Street satay

 

Singapore – I also love the roti canai in Singapore

Singapore roti

Roti tissue in Singapore

 

Asia

JapanSOBAAAA…but actually, everything in Japan!

When I first visited Tokyo, my ex and I randomly walked downstairs into this wooden restaurant with a Japanese-only menu on the wall. Each item was showcased on wooden blocks which was hung on the wall ~ the name of each food item carefully carved or printed onto each block. The restaurant was small but cozy. When a lady came to take our order, we had no idea what we could order because we couldn’t read the menu. Luckily, my ex had some knowledge of Japanese cuisine and asked for soba.

At the time, I had no idea what soba was. The lady quietly walked away and within a minute or two, she came back with a noodle dish in a hot broth and then tempura vegetables and prawns. Wow, this was one of the most amazing dishes I’d ever had ~ I couldn’t stop the beautiful party in my mouth. From that moment, my life changed forever and soba was one of my new favourite dishes.

So what actually are soba noodles?

They are buckwheat noodles ~ but they’re usually not 100% buckwheat. They’re a light brown in colour usually and can be served hot or cold, together with lots of different foods. The broth usually takes a long time to cook too. My favourite is my first ~ hot soba with tempura vegetables!

All of the soba in the world :D~~

But just because I’m all about the soba, doesn’t mean I don’t love everything else in Japan. If you’re in Japan at the moment or heading there, please do me and yourself a favour and eat everything that your stomach allows (and more)! Gastronomically, I still think Japan has the BEST food in the world ~ because they embrace a culture of perfection, every food piece, drink or meal you get will be absolutely perfect.

Some amazingly delicious food experiences~ I miss my SLR 😦

Other favourites I had in Japan were Bento boxes, Fuji apples, gyoza (pork dumpling, pan fried on one side), churros (Spanish donut), purple sweet potato cheesecake and all this food I ate at a Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). Basically I loved all the food in Japan and still dream about it.

Other favourites of Japan

 

China – it was a LONG time ago since I visited China but the best food I can remember was at a buffet in Shanghai. It was like bunch of tapas-styled dishes. There wasn’t any one standout dish but I just remembered all the food there tasted really good.

china

When I was in China

 

India – I still dream about the garlic wood-fired naan and chai tea.

To me, NOTHING beats wood-fired bread/dough. It’s just so delicious. End of story.

The best treat in India ~ naan

And chai – nobody does it as well as the Indians do. Wow. It was so good that I swapped my coffee addiction to Chai.

My chai addiction

In case you don’t know what Chai is – it’s a tea commonly drank in India: black tea mixed with a whole bunch of spices, including cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, among other things. The only issue is that in India, they use way too much sugar (but this can be tackled by telling them not to add sugar to your chai).

 

South America

Brazil – without question, Açaí

Ok…on its own, açaí is actually the name of a berry which comes from a açaí palm tree in the Amazon. It kinda looks like a blueberry but it’s not.

When I say açaí, I actually mean the second adopted term in Brazil ~ the name for the açaí-flavoured sorbet. The typical ‘dish’ is the sorbet, topped with whatever you like, including granola, condensed milk, nuts, chocolate, fruit and all that sort of goodness. You can have it as a snack or as a whole meal. Most places sell different quantities ranging from 200ml to 600ml or perhaps more (I didn’t pay attention because I only ordered 200-300ml).

My healthy addiction to acai in Brazil

I absolutely love the flavour of açaí – it’s just got the right balance of sweet and bitter (however, this depends on how much sugar a seller adds to the mixture). I loved having it every day with granola and nuts…but it wasn’t just the flavour…it was the perfect snack for the heat in Brazil…together with the culture which went with açaí. When you went to the beach, you got açaí. If you wanted dessert after dinner, you could get açaí. And there was undoubtedly an açaí-stall or shop around every corner of the streets and the beach. Açaí made my life in Brazil…oh how I miss it!

It’s also worth trying the pão de queijo (cheese bread), self-service restaurants and churrascos (barbeque meat).

Other foods worth trying in Brazil

 

Colombiathe pineapples

colombian food - pina

The amazing pineapple in Colombia

Like I mentioned above, there’s some countries which just don’t really have much good food – sadly, Colombia was one of those places. Not much food appealed to me there but there were some small exceptions ~ I loved the home cooked food and enjoyed the street empanadas…but my absolute favourite were the pineapples. They were so sweet and juicy ~ unlike any pineapples I’ve ever had in my life. It made me realise that pineapples in Australia suck and that’s why I never liked pineapples for most my life…because Australia is doing it wrong (thanks mr climate!). They were so good that it was my ritual to eat pineapple every single day.

Other Colombian foods…

 

Boliviathe bread

bolivian bread

I really appreciated the bread in Bolivia because the bread in South America sucks (well the countries I visited anyway)…but for some reason, Bolivia had pretty darn amazing French-style bread. When you’re deprived of good bread after such a long time, any properly made bread tastes amazing. Even French people approved of the bread. They definitely got it right in Bolivia!

 

Peru – I have a bunch of favourites but I guess the one I enjoyed the most in Peru was the ceviche.

What is ceviche?

peru ceviche 3

Traditional ceviche, found in Cusco

I think it’s best explained as raw and cured fish or seafood. You usually get the raw fish which is cooked in a citrus sauce or just raw fish in a sauce. It’s delicious and full of flavour! The only problem is, it’s hard to have as a whole meal by yourself because it can get quite overpowering after a while, especially if it’s a citrus dressing.

Other foods to try – picarones (donut), anticuchos (beef heart skewers), causa (like a meat and potato burger), the various grilled meats, suspiro de limeña (lemon dessert) and tres leches (three-milk sponge cake). It’s also worthwhile to try the fruits like maracuya ~ they have a whole bunch of fruits which I didn’t even know existed. Apparently Chinese-Peruvian fusion is delicious too and if you’re daring enough, try Quy (guinea pig). Lastly, definitely finish the day off with a Pisco Sour.

Other Peruvian foods worth trying, including causa of course!

 

Europe

England –  sadly, there was no one particular food which actually stood out for me but the best meal I had in England was at a Jordanian restaurant with my friend.

Even though there aren’t that many impressive English-unique foods (maybe fish and chips or a roast?), England is so multi-cultural that you can have any type of cuisine you want at your fingertips. Apparently curry is really good in England but I can’t attest to that because the only time I tried Indian curry, I got mild food poisoning and when an Englishman cooked Indian curry for me, it also wasn’t that impressive.

 

PortugalPastel de nata (Portuguese Tart)

portugal - pastel 3

Because four pastels a day keeps the doctor away

Now THIS precious little pastry was life-changing! The heavenly custard tart was so flaky and perfectly creamy that every time I ate it, my body and mind melted into an other-wordly state…especially once I found my favourite stores.

When I was in Portugal, this was basically all I needed in life.

 

Italy – ok…it’s almost impossible to choose just one. It’s kind of a tie between pizza, sfoglia, sfogliatella, cannoli, lasagne, gelato…but if I absolutely had to choose one. It would be pizza.

italy pizza 3

Life-changing shit

I know for a fact everyone knows what pizza is…but what I don’t understand is how the Italians managed to do it so right (along with everything else). I never knew the meaning of pizza until I went to Italy (especially in Napoli, OMG)! From the fluffiness of the dough, to the full-flavour of the pasata they use…to the light but perfectly creamy and flavourful buffalo mozzarella…how could it not be mind blowing? To top it off, the beautiful woody smell and roasted texture from the burning of the 400 degree wood-fired ovens. Once I had a napolitana pizza, I could never go back.

Even though these are my favourites, I LOVE all the pasta, risotto and everything that’s made well.

Carbaliciousness

Be sure to also try tiramisu, lots of seafood, fried polenta, arancini, charcuterie boards, all the cheese, wine, coffee and the Aperitivo all around Italy too ~ it’s such a treat because the cuisine in each region differs so much! What a food-lover’s paradise.

Italy = food heaven

Last but not least, make sure you eat all the bread you can !

italy bread

 

Francecroissants…or tarts

Like pizza, croissants have also taken the world by storm to the point where everyone knows what it is. I’m not sure if they were invented in France but they sure have been dominated by the French…and rightfully so ~ these guys have perfected this beautiful buttery, flaky, crescent-shaped delight. It’s so good on its own that you don’t need anything else, not even marmalade, chocolate or cheese…but of course it’s always welcome (I mean, nobody ever said no to a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant)).

french croissant

The best of the French

But it’s not only what the French have perfected. They’ve perfected anything sweet and lots of food in general. I would have to say that as a life-long sweet-tooth, I think the French make the best pastries and desserts in the world. I gobbled up as many tarts, crepes, macarons and as much sweetness as humanly possible.

French pastries and desserts = a god send (the best in the world!)

It’s also worthwhile trying all their savoury foods (including savoury crepes), like duck confit, snails or their perfectly cooked steaks.

Don’t forget to take advantage of all the amazing wine, fresh produce, bread and cheese.

Basically, just eat everything.

 

Spain – Actually nothing really stood out to me either but if I had to choose, it’d probably be croquettes.

 

Netherlands – nothing really stood out to me in Amsterdam either but I did enjoy the wide vegetarian and vegan options they had…however, I didn’t like the price I had to pay. I did have a pretty good soup, salad there and pastry too!

Apparently they have a famous apple pie you can buy from Winkel 43 and they also do really good pancakes but I never got the chance to try these unfortunately (perhaps a blessing in disguise for my belly).

 

Norway – the salmon: definitely some of the freshest seafood I’ve had in my life. I’d pay for it and eat it all the time again and again if I could.

If you want to try something different and are daring enough, try some deer or moose and definitely give the brown cheese a chance too (it’s more-ish).

 

Germany – I actually can’t remember much of the food there but the best food I remember having was a breakfast or a tart which I had in Berlin. Again, Germany is one of the places which is highly multicultural so you’ll be able to find a huge range of different cuisines here. As for German cuisine, I know they have unique food items but I haven’t sampled anything worth remembering yet (especially because I was touring around with a girl who only wanted to eat McDonalds at the time). I know that Germans claim that their bread is the best in the world, so it would probably be worthwhile going around to sample as much German bread as you can.

 

Czech republic – I also can’t remember anything memorable there but I do remember having these dumplings in gravy which were unique and interesting.

czech republic

Svickova – photo supplied by Bohemian Kitchen

 

And there you have it – my long, extended, detailed list of foods I loved and foods I experienced throughout the world.

To be honest it’s been a very lengthy write-up but an amazing journey for me ~ to travel back in time to all the places I’ve visited. I’m not going to lie, my mouth watered only about 50 times hahaha.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these foods or what your favourite foods are in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

Have a wonderful day, night, week or weekend…and until we meet again.

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