By Jenna & Oday of Our Edible Journey
“Wait…how did you even know about this place!?” This seems to be a reoccurring topic whenever we meet people abroad during our travels. Frankly, after some years of cooking in the restaurant industry, becoming a food scientist, a well-rounded traveller, and taking food VERY seriously (I mean it’s going into your mouth!), I’ve come up with a few ways of finding places that are say… not always #1 on Tripadvisor, which often specializes in the more fancier restaurants.
In cities world-renowned for their street food, why would we humour the idea of sitting in a restaurant simply because it’s the best one in town? With something delicious seemingly everywhere, eating with the locals gives you a chance to enjoy the culture and experiences of the people. This is what the real food scene should be more about.
When transported into a world of unknown, pungent aromas, electric green vegetables and herbs, and the utmost enjoyable sensory pleasures possible, one may think “why not?” for an excuse to dive-in headfirst.
This can’t be stressed enough. Visiting the local food markets will not only be a great indicator of what to eat, but also a place to try incredible high-quality foods. This is where many of the locals enjoy their favourite meals with seasonal produce, and where you can immerse yourself in the culture of their cuisine. Socializing with the vendors and locals will give you more of an opportunity to get real recommendations and a chance to try amazing local food. It also gives you a sneak peek into how the locals prepare and execute the dishes, which can also really connect you to your food. Another tip we love sharing is to engage in sustainability while on the road is to learn from the locals on how to ask for things without any plastic. Trying our best to eat on plates (or coconut bowls if possible!) and use reusable utensils instead of Styrofoam really helps to not contribute waste in the local communities.
When venturing into the streets always stop and ask the locals where and what to eat. Not only will they be able to tell you where to get the freshest grub, but more importantly can teach you how to eat that dish properly. Traditional ways of eating are critical to engaging in the cuisine. Sitting in a carpeted restaurant eating Bánh Xèo and tofu with a fork and a knife just doesn’t cut it. Learn the techniques, and learn them the right way. Engaging with the locals also gives you the opportunity to seek out dishes for certain food allergies and dietary restrictions! Some of the best authentic dishes tried abroad can easily be adapted to vegan or vegetarian meals. There is often just a language barrier that can easily get in the way.
Yes. Get out there. Try it, I dare you! Everything else will cease to exist in the precious moments you engage in a cooking class in another country. Learning about why and how locals cook the cuisine you’re eating will not only connect you to your food more than you could imagine, but you gain essential skills for life so when you get home you can cook up a storm while adapting what you have learned for your own creations.
Believe it or not, before you head out to your destination of choice get onto YouTube and search in popular foods found there. Couple that with all the other tips and you will find yourself eating flavors both beautifully foreign and familiar.
With all the social hype today, it’s become easier to connect with bloggers, chefs, and people who spend their entire lives eating everywhere. Many of them have recommendations however, I would usually use this in addition to your research in ‘where and what to eat’ as things change with time and places often succumb to an overload of tourists once they blow up online.
Even if you don’t have a long-stay home or a kitchen, an interesting place to visit is the grocery store! If you are lucky enough to have a kitchen you can always pick up some ingredients and try them out for your nightly dinner. Here is where many of the locals will shop. You can ask questions and discover new foods you’ve never heard of!
Jenna (a former chef) and Oday are a travelling couple both completing a PhD in food science while exploring the world. They are in search of never-ending experiences through food and travel, and share their adventures and travel tips through their food and travel blog Our Edible Journey.