The smell, sight, and taste of travel are finely meshed with the food you experience along the way, inspiring your fondest travel food memories.
One of my earliest recollections of food, that was different from what mum made, was from my home town. We had one small Chinese restaurant, complete with beaded curtains and the ubiquitous Chinese brush paintings. Between my three siblings, we had our favorite dishes. After living in Singapore for many years and frequently travelling to various parts of China, I realized the food from my childish memories had been greatly adulterated to suit the unaccustomed Australian palate. Still, amongst my all-time favorites were prawn cutlets, chicken omelet, which I ate repetitively, curried prawns and rice… my sister’s favorite, and chicken chop suey. My brother only ever wanted tomato soup, which the elderly Chinese gentleman, who always took our order, magically supplied. It was years later I sadly discovered that very few of our chosen dishes originated out of China, but were westernized versions hailing from America.
Singapore is foodie heaven! As new expats we were keen to try it all, fish head curry at Banana Leaf Apollo, Chili Crab at Pongol Point, in the early days we even took our own baguettes to soak up the sauce, Chicken rice in China town, Satay at the Satay Club and Hokkien Mee, BBQ Sambal Stingray, and white radish carrot cake at Newton Circus…at the time the best place in town to eat! Our taste buds were just about to blossom, Anthony Bourdain, renowned chef and author, maintains Singapore is the best place on earth for a true foodie.
On my first trip to Bangkok, I was introduced to a fiery concoction that at first resembled a bowl of water from the infamous waterway, Chao Phraya River. But after just one sip, once my tongue stopped protesting, I was hooked; Tom Yum Goong, the combination of hot, spicy, sweet, sour is so delicious, absolutely addictive! While we are on the subject of soup, another memorable little number was in Monterey, Cannery Row, on a blustery winter’s night. It was a bit slow along the boardwalk so the restaurateurs were handing out steaming paper cups of clam chowder… so good, creamy with lots of juicy clams and moreish potatoes, black pepper and just a hint of vinegar, unforgettable.
While traveling in Kyoto in Japan we had the pleasure of staying in an authentic Ryokan. A traditional Japanese inn, complete with tatami matting and rice paper walls, seated on the floor, we were treated to a traditional Japanese banquet, served by a beautiful elderly Geisha. The food and presentation was stunning, it was like eating a piece of priceless artwork. I don’t know what we ate, some of the dishes were totally bizarre, but we were so overawed by the experience we ate every dish the Geisha brought, without question!
Another memorable food experience was The French Laundry in Napa Valley; we had heard and read so much of this movable feast, just to get a booking was magical in itself. On the day, in preparation, we went without lunch, for we had been warned of the number of multiple delicious offerings. The restaurant itself is unpretentious, but charming. The food, once again can be likened to a priceless work of art, color, texture, shape and the emotion it evoked long after we had finished.
Russians have a real love affair with Vodka, after visiting St Petersburg I too have a new respect for the iconic drink….beware of its potency! What I really loved about Russia is the caviar, it’s everywhere, in cafes, room service, bar snacks, tubs of little black eggs are available wherever you go. I adored it so much I bought some off the street from a dodgy gypsy, and not quite as exciting, from the supermarket. I took home the precious little tins and ate it on toast for breakfast for weeks; until it all ran out ….now I can only crave those delicious little black eggs.
Often, it is the most simple of foods that evoke the strongest memory, a delicious Croque Monsieur when you are low on funds in France, cheese and onion flaky pastry, straight from the oven from a family-run bakery in Mykonos, or a piece of fresh coconut after a morning of snorkeling in the Maldives’ Islands. Oysters, fresh from the rocks, wrapped in newspaper and ice at a small fisherman’s co-operative on the Australian central coast, or perhaps a bucket of sweet prawns and a cold bottle of wine on the beach in Queensland.
Closer to home, I will never forget early winter mornings, mushroom spotting. Picked directly from the field, my mother sautéed the pale pink buttons in butter and we ate them on toast for breakfast, scrumptious. The memory of my first mango will always be on the tip of my tongue, the taste of summer sunshine, so juicy it’s best eaten in the bath naked!
Do tell, what evokes your fondest food memory?