After an unexpected hiatus (what can we say—internet access (along with several other things) has been pretty rough here in Indonesia) we’re back with a super-sized edition of Chewing the Fat. If you’ve read through our posts on Taiwan, you probably guessed it was only a matter of time before we featured two of our very favorite bloggers on the planet in this space and finally that time has come. Today I am so happy to share with you our interview with the amazingly kind and adorably kooky Dale Davies and Franca Calabretta of AngloItalian Follow Us!

We first met up with Dale and Franca while in Taiwan back in December 2012 but this traveling twosome has been on the road since June 2012 when they quit their jobs, sold everything they had and left the UK to travel the world searching for Architecture, Art, Design & Music. Happily for us, they have also spent some time searching out tantalizing tastes during their travels and we’ve been lucky enough to share several wonderful meals with them… in several different countries! Read on as we get Franca’s blood boiling over the bastardization of Italian food abroad, find out about Dale’s treacherous tango with the King of Fruits, what prompted them to go vegetarian partway through their travels, and so much more!

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We’re a big fan of “foodcations”—on more than one occasion we’ve taken trips motivated solely by the desire to eat our way through our destination. Of all the places you have visited in your travels, if you were limited to only eating the food from one country, which place would you choose and why?

Franca – Japan. I loved how healthy the food was and, even with simple flavours, it still tasted great and left me wanting more and more of it.

Dale – Malaysia. The multicultural mix of people and their cuisines in places like Kuala Lumpur and Penang made for an incredible range of dishes. Just be prepared for spices—sometimes they’re hiding!

And the flipside: of all the places you’ve visited, which country had your least favorite food? Why was that and were you surprised?

Franca – Laos (apart from their nice French baguettes). I didn’t find it very appetizing or particularly tasty; it was like a very bad copy of Thai food. It didn’t surprise me or not, I simply didn’t have any expectations.

Dale – Again, Laos. For the very same reasons.

Every morning in Laos it's baguettes, baguettes, baguettes
Every morning in Laos it’s baguettes, baguettes, baguettes

What’s the most exotic/adventurous edible you’ve sampled and what did you think about it?

Franca – Durian, the so-called king of the fruits! It was difficult to think that something that smells so bad is actually edible. The first time I had it I didn’t like it at all. Same for the second time, but the third I was completely converted. Now I love it!

Dale – Fried silkworms and crickets. Surprisingly tasty! I can see why the locals love them, but at the same time I can see why slowly the amount of people eating them is shrinking.

Many travelers mention succumbing to McDonald’s or other fastfood cravings while on the road… what is the guilty pleasure food that you indulge in when traveling?

Franca – It is McDonald’s for us too, but only for its ice cream cones! We cannot help having one every now and then, especially when they’re so cheap everywhere we’ve been. That and they have free wifi, too (except Japan).

Dale – That and Magnum ice creams. They’re half the price in Asia as they are in Europe.

Sometimes you don’t know a good thing until it’s gone! If there were one food from back home that you could eat RIGHT NOW, what would it be?

Franca – Taralli, the perfect snack! They are similar in texture to a breadstick but with so much more flavour and they’re small and round like little bitesize bagels. They’re originally from the south of Italy and once you start eating them it’s hard to stop, believe me.

Dale – A good friend of ours makes the most incredible nut roast that I find myself missing a lot now that we’ve gone vegetarian!

If you knew we were coming to visit you in your hometown, what would be the one food you would make sure we tried?

Franca – That’s a tough one, there are so many dishes I’d want you to have. I’d probably start with a real Italian pizza which, believe me, is a very different thing from the ones we had in other countries.

Dale – Even though you would have travelled many miles to try something British, the only place I would take you is my friend’s world tapas restaurant where he takes the food from two countries, mixes them together, and comes out with taste heaven.

The first time we all met back in December 2012 with out great Couchsurfing host in Taiwan
The first time we all met back in December 2012 with our great Couchsurfing host in Taiwan

We know that you guys are big proponents of CouchSurfing, just as we are. One of our favorite aspects of the service is when we get to share a meal with our host, especially when they offer to teach us a local dish. However, sometimes hosts ask you to cook something from your own country… as an international couple, do England & Italy get equal representation in the kitchen? Which dishes from your repertoire have you found are the most portable or easily pulled off in foreign kitchens?

Franca – Depending on if we can get the ingredients or not, so far we have only made Italian dishes like the very simple starter ‘bruschetta’ or some pasta recipes like ‘carbonara’, simply because we can find pasta easily and almost everywhere. Most of dishes that I’d prefer to make are out of the question just because of the lack of similar ingredients.

Dale – I can make a mean scrambled eggs—that’s British, right? Failing that I usual fall upon the great cooking knowledge of Franca who is just one of those people who can usually create something out of nothing. I envy her.

Based on our own completely unscientific and unscientific observations, we would say that the one type of cuisine that seems the most popular wherever we go has to be Italian. You both obviously have your fair share of expertise on the subject, so how accurately would you say Italian food is represented abroad? What are the most glaring issues you’ve encountered with Italian food outside of the motherland?

Franca – We agree with you, Italian cuisine is everywhere. We don’t tend to eat in these restaurants, though, simply because when we are in a foreign country we want to try their specialties so we are always looking for local food.

From my experience of living abroad for almost 7 years, I can tell you that Italian food isn’t made the same as it would be in Italy: the dishes are almost always adapted to local tastes. I’m sure it’s the same for other cuisines, like Mexican, for instance.

I can give you an example: in the UK if you order ‘spaghetti carbonara’ most certainly you will get it with cream. In Italy (at least from where I am from) there is no cream at all.

It’s a shame because people think they are tasting original Italian food but they are not!

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If Dale thought he would never see this photo again, well, he doesn’t know us very well, then, does he?

Some our fondest memories of time spent with you guys involve frolicking and feasting at night markets in various Asian cities—based on your travels thus far, which places have had the best night markets? Is there anything comparable to these that we should keep an eye out for when we make it to Italy and England?

Franca -Taiwanese night markets were great. We loved Melaka’s one on the Tuesday night, the one out of town.

In Italy there are a lot of markets but mainly during the day unless there is a ‘sagra’ which is a food event, often held during the night, dedicated to a particular kind of food typical from the area. On this occasion sometimes there also is local live music and/or performances like dancing or similar. It’s definetely something worth taking part of and not only for the food 🙂

Dale – Night markets aren’t really something you’ll find in the UK, unfortunately (at least not in my town). The closest we have to it is the farmers market that we have in the centre of our town from time to time. It’s small but has been growing in recent years as the trend for buying organic and fresh produce has increased—which I’m really happy to see.

I’d certainly love to see a night market open in my hometown!

You posted an excellent summary on your blog in which you shared that 6 months of travel had cost you roughly £7000/€8000/$10,000US! Obviously the two of you stick to a pretty strict budget, but what priority does food get in your finances? What are some of the best ways you’ve discovered to eat well but not blow through your savings and what has been your best food splurge?

Franca – Our best food splurge was when we went to a raw food restaurant called ‘Giva’ which is in a little side street near the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai. It was a little on the expensive side for our budget, but we opted to treat ourselves and couldn’t have been happier.

Dale – Street food. Whatever you’ve read about street food in Asia is right on the money. It’s cheap, it’s tasty, and the atmosphere and overall feeling of sitting in the street and sharing a meal is fantastic. We are also massive addicts for those dried noodle cups and packs you find in convenience stores—either made with hot water or just dry straight from the bag!

This fruit might be the death of our friendship, but we’ve gotta bring it up anyway: durian! First you (rightly) hated it, but we’ve come to understand that with time and greater experimentation you may be full-blown durian lovers now. Tell us about the evolution of your love affair with it, as well as what makes Thai durian so much more palatable than the Malaysian/Singaporean varieties.

Dale – I think I had the longest way to come from how I felt to how I feel now so allow me to explain.

The first time we tried durian we were staying with a lovely Couchsurfing host in Kuala Lumpur called Pam. Fantastic lady, full of energy, a traveler who never says no and has taken that principle around the world on her travels.

“Today, we’re going to try durian. It’s the KING of the fruits. My husband is more in love with durian than he is with me, okay? Instead of saying ‘oh my God!’ he says ‘oh my DURIAN!’ Because he’s so in love with it, okay?’

“O…kay,” we say with puzzled faces.

First the smell hit us—from 10 feet away. And it’s not a sweet smell either.

You’ll have heard people suggest that it smells like garbage. It does.

You’ll have heard people suggest that it tastes like garbage. It does.

The first time I put durian in my mouth, I wanted to be sick. The smell was overpowering all possible thoughts of “It’s okay, this is gonna be okay, maybe it just takes a while to…BLEGH!” It was akin to feasting on stale, re-hydrated onions. All I wanted to do was spit it out. Franca was the same.

“It takes three tries to truly appreciate it,” said Pam.

“No way!” I said.

Eventually we moved on from durian to other fruits, but there was no way I was having it again. Once that night was enough, twice for Franca as she was far braver than I could have been after that first taste.

A month or so later whilst Couchsurfing in Pitsanulok in Thailand, our host Dan had that ear to ear smile that I should have recognized as he pulled his bag from his shoulder and began to remove a plastic tub with a huge piece of durian inside.

“Oh god,” I thought, “No chance.”

Before I knew it both Franca and I (Franca being really keen on this occasion, go her!) had pieces in our hands and slowly we put them to our mouths…

…the taste was like heaven.

Vanilla custard. That’s the taste that you unlock after the third try. The aromatic smell becomes as desirable as melted chocolate, the taste better than any ice cream (try durian ice cream, it’s a dream!). The texture is like the soft moist middle of a custard tart. I couldn’t have been more in love, Franca even more so.

Gradually we began to buy durian on our own and tried more and more durian flavoured food and alternatives such as durian crisps, durian ice cream and dried durian dipped in dark chocolate. There is nothing we won’t try and we put it down to the type we were having: mon thong. It has the best flavour out of the entire durian family and is worth hunting out if you can get it. You might pay twice or triple what you might pay for a mango shake, for instance, but it’s worth it after that third try—trust us!

Look at those happy first-time trying durian faces!
Look at those happy first-time trying durian faces!

Many vegetarians and vegans who go traveling find it can be hard to stick to their diets, and it’s not uncommon for individuals to “fall off the wagon” in order to try regional specialties. You guys went the opposite direction, however: you started your trip as omnivores but recently undertook a 1 month vegetarian eating challenge. What prompted you to make this change? Have there been any unanticipated difficulties (or benefits!) that you’ve encountered resulting from your change in diet?

Dale & Franca – When we left Italy in September 2012 we both hopped onto the ferry to Croatia with bellies full of sweet and tender meaty products typical to the south. As we ventured on into Bosnia and Serbia we kept up our meat-eating ways with local specialities such as chavapi, and that’s how we continued for the next 6 months. It wasn’t until we spent a month at Elephant Nature Park Dogs that our diets began to change.

At Elephant Nature Park the food on offer was pure vegetarian and vegan. Using fantastic recipes and the perfect spices, they took all sorts of combinations of vegetables and made food that now we both sometimes dream about eating.

Pair four weeks of eating such delicious food with our surroundings of elephants, cattle, cats, and dogs saved from the illegal dog meat trade; on our return to life in the city in Chiang Mai the first time we had a soup with chicken in, it turned our stomachs. How could we eat animals knowing everything we’d learned from the great people and animal-rights activists at the park?

First, we decided to try a month of vegetarian eating on the road to see how we handled our new diets and new food discovery, but after about ten days we’d both already decided—that’s it, we’re vegetarian. No if’s, no but’s—done.

After that, discovering vegetarian food became a kind of fun challenge, and it’s been exactly that—challenging. All the street food we used to love sitting down to eat? Gone. All those spicy and meaty soups? Off the list. Unfortunately, most street food was off the menu for us, especially once we left the cosmopolitan and quite westernized city of Chiang Mai. For the most part, when we sat down to eat in Thailand it was going to be a plateful of vegetables and rice, and that’s it; thankfully, the vegetables we managed to get hold of were pretty tasty.

It’s not been easy by any stretch of the imagination, but if it means that neither of us contribute to how animals are being treated the whole world over, we can live with that.

And as for ‘unfortunate difficulties’, the biggest one we’ve noticed isn’t for us, but rather for Franca’s mother who’s gone from the ease of making fantastic meaty food everyday for the past forever to having to get really creative in the kitchen. Sorry Maggie!

Website: http://www.angloitalianfollowus.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/angloitalianfollowus

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ai_followus

A huge thanks to Dale & Franca for taking the time to answer our questions and regaling us with a few more of their tales! It’s been far too long since the four of us were on the same continent and we look forward to the day when we can all sit down together once again… let’s just keep durian off the table for the sake of all involved! 😉

Like what you read here and want to be featured in a future installment of Chewing the Fat? Great! We’re always looking for new people to dish about dining with! You don’t have to be a long-term traveler, or even have your own blog to participate; all you need is a healthy appetite and an appreciation for food. Contact Us letting us know that you’re interested in taking part in this series, and we’ll get back to you with all the information you need to get started.

Written by: Stephenie Harrison


In another life, I moved from Toronto, Canada to Nashville, TN to pursue my doctoral degree in Psychology. That chapter of my life is now finished, but I did earn the right to demand you call me Dr. Steph (though I respond just as well to plain old Steph). I am an avid reader whose book collection is rivaled only by my many pairs of cute shoes. I also like to knit, hold impromptu karaoke parties, and try new and unusual foods. Generally not all at the same time. I also really love to learn languages, which may explain why I took 3 years of Latin in highschool. I'm turning over a new leaf, so instead of looking forward, I'm going to work on enjoying the present, so the country I'm most looking forward to is whichever one we're in right now!

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Read comments (12)

  1. September 13, 2013 at 11:30 am
    Sep. 13, '13

    Thank you so much guys for having interviewed us. We loved answering your questions, it was fun!
    We also like the photos of us you chose to put on, Dale is especially happy about the one of him ‘making love’ with the burger 🙂

    • September 16, 2013 at 11:55 am
      Sep. 16, '13

      Thank you so much for taking part! It was so good to “reminisce” with the two of you, and of course we’ve just been waiting for the chance to use that blackmail photo of Dale… 😉

  2. September 14, 2013 at 5:37 pm
    Sep. 14, '13

    See! I knew there were other dry ramen eaters out there 🙂 Great interview!

    • September 15, 2013 at 2:54 am
      Sep. 15, '13

      Thanks Rika! In some cases dry ramen saved us, in fact when we couldn’t find anything to our liking to eat and our tummies started to cry for food, they were the easiest and quickest choice. 🙂

  3. September 17, 2013 at 4:18 am
    Sep. 17, '13

    Interesting to see that you became vegetarians. Chris has been one for years, and I have been living the life as a flexotarian for about 6 months now. It is mainly because I don’t like the way animals are treated here in Cambodia. When I was still living in Germany or the UK I always used to buy free-range and organic meat, but that is not possible here. So whilst I am in Cambodia I am a vegetarian, but when I am elsewhere I eat meat every now and then. Maybe once every three months or so). Maybe I will turn fully vegetarian in future. Who knows.

    • September 18, 2013 at 10:13 am
      Sep. 18, '13

      Thanks Tammy. We were in Asia when we decided we weren’t going to eat meat and fish anymore, I understand what you mean you were vegetarian when you were in Cambodia. I cannot go back to eat meat again though, I believe my choice is going to be for life!

  4. September 17, 2013 at 9:50 am
    Sep. 17, '13

    I think Dale And Franca are top of my wishlist to meet too. I’m a family travel blogger, we do things differently, but these guys sound cool. I have to disagree about Laos, it doesn’t have it’s own distinct cuisine and we weren’t expecting it to, but the food we had there was cooked with love and pride and was good quality. ( Vang Vieng, where we stayed for 3 weeks, was way better than Luang Prabang, LP mostly sucked!) You just have to find the right places, I’ll never forget those wild mushrooms! Unlike a lot of Thailand, where it’s churned out knowing that customers won’t return.

    • September 18, 2013 at 10:22 am
      Sep. 18, '13

      Thank you Alyson! You’re probably right about Lao food, we must have been terribly unlucky and ended up in not so nice places. Our opinion about the Laos cuisine is simply based on our own experience and we really wish it would have been different. Next time perhaps? 🙂

  5. September 18, 2013 at 4:43 am
    Sep. 18, '13

    wow durian sounds interesting. I struggled with the insects sold in bangkok and never managed to brave them…. I agree about Italian food having lived in rome for 9 months. It has to be done properly or it just isn’t the same. Italians pride themselves on their cuisine with good cause too in my opinion..

    • September 18, 2013 at 10:24 am
      Sep. 18, '13

      Becki, have you ever tried durian while in Bangkok? It’s one of this food that you either love or hate, you should definitely give it a go despite it’s smelly, it’s so worth it! 🙂

  6. September 28, 2013 at 3:22 am
    Sep. 28, '13

    Totally agree on the carbonara…cream has no place there. I’m not even Italian!

    They sound like a fun couple to travel with! I’m sure our time will come to try durian…

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