Just in time to send you into the weekend in a food-induced coma, we’ve got another installment of Chewing the Fat for you, and this one’s likely to get tongues a wagging! Fresh off of several years of non-stop travel, Erica (also known as Locavorista) from Living If took the time to tell us about the highs & lows in her time eating around the world, a journey that ultimately took her and her husband to all seven continents!
In Erica’s own words, “My husband and I love a good meal, we’ve been eating our way around the world for the last two and a half years and documenting our favorite tastes and travels at our blog, Living If. However, I am the passionate foodie in the partnership and answering the questions below brought me back to some of my favorite food destinations, making it hard not to drool on my keyboard. I hope you enjoy my reminiscing as much as I did!”
I recently read a great quote someone shared on Facebook about how they didn’t want to spend their life looking back thinking, “I should have eaten that!” As you’ll see, Erica left few culinary stones unturned during her jaunt about the globe. Read on as we talk about best food splurges (plus which country is the absolute worst for your budget), why Indian food might actually be better OUTSIDE of the motherland, an adventurous eating submission with a shocking equine element, and so much more!
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?
Singapore. The wide variety of dishes on offer for all price ranges, make this my favorite place to indulge. In fact I liken eating in Singapore to porn! I love having Indian roti with curry for breakfast, duck noodles for lunch and going out for a chili crab dinner. You can eat at cheap food stalls or be served dishes by some of the best chefs in the world!
And the flipside: of all the places you’ve visited, which country had your least favorite food? Why was that and were you surprised?
India disappointed me when it came to food, the ingredients just aren’t very fresh and most dishes lacked the flavor and spice that I associate with Indian food. Not only did most of the food not meet my expectations, but it made me sick, which makes it nearly impossible to enjoy. I did have a few wonderful meals, but for the most part I wasn’t impressed with Indian food.
What’s the most exotic/adventurous edible you’ve sampled and what did you think about it?
The most exotic foods I’ve enjoyed on this trip have definitely been in Asia and more specifically Japan. Raw bull testicles top the list, and while a bit too chewy for my tastes, they were better than expected. The raw horse sashimi we had in Tokyo was new to my palate as well, but quite a treat and one I would highly recommend.
Many travelers mention succumbing to McDonald’s or other fast food cravings while on the road… what is the guilty pleasure food that you indulge in when traveling?
Fried chicken, it’s basically always safe to eat, tastes great and available almost everywhere in the world.
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?
Cheese. I miss cheese something fierce; it’s basically not available in Asia and terrible in most places outside of Europe. If you have ever had “queso fresco” in South America you know what I mean by terrible.
If you knew we were coming to visit you in your hometown, what would be the one food you would make sure we tried?
It would be hard to introduce you to only one of my favorite foods in Minneapolis, but I think it might have to be the Juicy Lucy at Matt’s Bar. This hole in the wall bar is not known for service, but their cheese stuffed hamburger is a greasy delight and goes so well with a pitcher of PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer) that it’s hard not to love!
In the span of your amazing trip, you have managed to live the dream and visit all 7 continents! Limiting yourself to just one adjective per continent, how would you describe each one’s cuisine?
We have been lucky enough to enjoy the flavors of all seven continents and while each varies widely this is how I would describe each continent:
- Asia is savory
- Europe is classy
- North America is casual
- South America is hearty
- Africa is basic
- Antarctica is luxurious (you have to remember we only ate on our cruise ship, which consisted of three course plated dinners.)
- Australia is comfort food
You have said several times on your site that you believe in spending money on experiences you will treasure. What is the most memorable splurge meal that you’ve had during your travels? Also, in your opinion, which country offers the best food:value ratio? Which one offers the worst?
I do strongly believe in spending money on experiences and when it comes to food we tend to splurge often, however the most memorable was the night we spent in a private kitchen in Hong Kong. I had read about the phenomenon of private kitchens in the NY Times, which allow cooks to open a restaurant (often in their own home) to avoid the high commercial rents. Curious, I did some research and that´s how we found ourselves enjoying the culinary delights of Margaret Xu at Yin Yang. The five course, four hour feast offered a variety of new flavors and a unique farm-to-table experience in the heart of one of the most densely populated cities in the world.
For those times I’m not splurging on food I would be content eating in Thailand, which has one of the best food:value ratios. Where else can you enjoy a fresh, heaping plate of pad thai for just a dollar made to order in under three minutes? Then follow it up with a fresh fruit salad for only one dollar more?
On the other hand the worst food:value ratio is Australia. While I loved the comfort foods on offer and getting a taste of items I missed from home, it didn’t come cheap. A hamburger would run you at least $15 in any touristy area and even the grocery stores had much steeper prices than I’m used to.
You have both admitted that prior to leaving on your travels, you were a lot more particular about cleanliness, but your nomadic lifestyle has forced you to make your peace with questionable hygiene practices. What are some of your biggest tips for travelers who like to sample the local food when they travel but are worried about getting sick? Bonus question: what’s the grossest thing you’ve ever seen at a restaurant, and did you still choose to eat there?
The best tip for enjoying local food is to eat where the locals flock, more customers means more turn over and fresher food. Eat where you can see the preparation; then you know your food is made fresh and cooked well—that’s what makes street food so great! For more tips on healthy eating and avoiding the dreaded “Delhi belly” check out this post.
Bonus: the grossest food experience we had was when the woman serving us lunch cleaned her teeth with a towel that she then wiped our plates and silverware with. Yes, we still ate there as it was the only option while hiking in a remote village in Nepal.
One of the things many travelers like to boast about is how international food back home is never as good as eating these dishes in their country of origin. Have you found this to be true, or were there any countries where you found yourself secretly thinking that you preferred the version of the cuisine that you knew from back home? Which country’s food would you say the U.S. does the most faithful rendition of?
Nothing can top the experience of eating pad thai in Thailand or kimchi in Korea—food is inextricably linked to its origin and even if you like the version at home better there is something about eating a dish at the source. In that sense, I think the experience of eating dim sum in China, for example, will always seem more authentic and delicious than eating it at home in a Chinese restaurant.
That being said, I have to say I definitely prefer Indian food at home compared to any I tasted in the motherland. The quality and freshness of the food is just better and I have never been sick from eating at an Indian restaurant at home. I also find the renditions of Indian food found in the U.S. to be pretty true to what you would find on your travels only a higher quality.
Tony & I frequently remark to each other that the nice thing about so many big cities in the U.S. & Canada is how international the dining scene often is. Despite this, we’ve still encountered many dishes and styles of cooking that were completely unknown to us. What’s the one dish or type of food that you’ve discovered on your travels and are surprised hasn’t caught on back home?
I am surprised that the popular Middle Eastern sandwich known as a shwarma is not more popular at home. Maybe it’s just because I come from Minnesota and it takes a lot longer for trends to reach us? But, I love the taste and convenience of the meat-stuffed pita, yet find them lacking in the Midwest.
Thanks so much to Erica for reliving her trip’s culinary highs and lows with us! After eating her way around the world, she’s definitely given us some food for thought. Indian food is one of our favorite cuisines, but we’ve already had some tummy troubles here in Nepal… will we make it out of Mother India alive, or will she devour us whole? I guess only time will tell!
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.