Round the world in 80 flavours
When hubby and I decided to leave the UK in 2006 to sample life in Latin America we knew we were in for an interesting gastronomic event. However, as our one year gap year stretched into nearly 5 years of living and traveling in different countries our eyes were opened (and often closed as we politely ate a local dish lovingly prepared by new friends) to new tastes, textures and ingredients so here’s a whistle-stop tour of some of my favourite treats and eats.
Argentina: The paradilla’s or BBQ’s in Argentina are legendary and with good reason. Excellent cuts of succulent meat coupled with sumptuous local wine made for a winning dinner every time.
Exotic fruits. My favourite was the custard apples we ate in Brazil.
Ecuador: patacones are fried plantain served with cheese and mayonnaise. Simple yet delicious. My mouth is literally watering as I remember these!
Breakfast in Brazil. Truly this is something which needs to be seen to be believed but nearly everywhere we stayed in Brazil breakfast was treated with great ceremony and would often take well over an hour to eat. There would be cake, fruit, cereals, eggs and more. It would set you up for the day!
I hate to say it but we ate Skippy. Kangaroo meat is being pushed as the latest ‘healthy’ meat by the Australian government. I suppose there are a number of health and environmental benefits: kangaroos need less water than cows and don’t damage the land like cow’s hooves. They also produce less methane while having less cholesterol than beef. It had an earthy taste which took a little getting used too but was tasty.
South East Asia:
Every country we visited offered something new to our palates and in many ways I’m doing it a disservice trying to put it into words but here goes.
Thailand: pad thai is the famous dish and we’d frequently enjoy it made from the vendors who pushed their carts along the streets. We also tempted (and burned) our taste buds with the spicy curries Thailand is famous for.
Malaysia: A fusion of cultures greets the traveller in Malaysia, with influences from China, India and the West and we enjoyed them all. However, my favourite place was tea at the Boh tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands. Delicious!
Laos: So impressed were we with the local cuisine in Laos that we actually took a cookery course there where we learned to stuff lemon grass, make stew and a local dish from raw buffalo meat. It was also our first taste of insects as we ate fried grubs (they tasted like scrambled eggs!).
People always assume that sushi is the only thing people eat in Japan, but with a husband who’s allergic to seafood, we got to sample some of the other delicious food here. Japanese curry became a firm favourite for us and I never thought I would eat curry topped with cheese but trust me, it’s amazing. There was also chicken, pork and beef BBQ’s with special sauces. However, it’s true, the strangest thing I ate (hubby bowed out) was a shellfish that looked like a slug, bought for me by a local we met at the Fukouka night market. Too polite to decline, I’m still traumatised at the sight of it!
We were so lucky to live in La Rioja, the wine region of Spain. The city in which we lived, Logrono, is famous for having ‘the street of 100 restaurants’. These often tiny stores would sell one type of tapas only, the wine being chosen to compliment the food to perfection. When the tapas ran out, the restaurant would close for the evening so we would have to get to our favourite places early to make sure we could enjoy our treats. There’s too many delicious tapas to choose only one and everyone has their favourite (my students would spend entire lessons arguing over where sold the best tortilla) so here’s a selection.
Welsh cakes were an instant hit for us when we moved to Cardiff but I also discovered laver bread, made from seaweed. It’s an unusual taste, but mixed in with scrambled eggs I felt very virtuous with those extra healthy vitamins and minerals.