Wherever you are in the world, you’ve gotta eat. Oh sure, sustenance is important, but that’s not the only reason we eat. We eat for pleasure, for experience and for fun – and all of these even more so while travelling.
There’s arguably no better way to experience a place than by tucking into its grub. If the kitchen is the heart of the home, a culture’s food is its soul. You can’t truly understand the melting pot that is London without dining in one of its thousands of restaurants. Similarly, you will leave Barcelona none the wiser if you don’t tuck into some of its authentic tapas.
The trick is to know how to eat while travelling. And that’s where I come in. I’ve got myself suitably plumped, stuffed and downright satiated – all for the purpose of giving you my top 10 tips on how to eat while travelling. Ain’t no one skipping a meal on my watch.
Arguably the most important tip of all. Food is not something to be afraid of. Even blowfish in Japan, which may or may not kill you, is worth a bite. You aren’t going to learn if you don’t push yourself to grow. This applies to life and to your taste-buds. Have an open-mind, recognise that the familiar is not always the best and hold your breath if you absolutely must. Whatever you do – just open that mouth wide and try.
Normally worst case scenario is a teeny weeny stomach bug if you eat something wrong, but common sense always applies. If it looks unsanitary, unwashed or just plain unpleasant, avoid it. You wouldn’t walk down a dodgy dark road in the middle of Venezuela if your gut told you not to, so why bother eating a bug-infested day-old hot dog from a backstreet seller in New York? Listen to your head as much as your rumbling stomach.
There ain’t no shame in being cheap. The best, and most authentic, foods in most cultures stem from the working class simply making do and getting by. The basic diet of working-class Mexicans relies heavily on corn or wheat tortillas, along with beans, chili peppers, and tomatoes, and we will certainly never say no to a taco. It’s low cost, nutritious and positively lip-smacking stuff. So put your fifties away and take a walk on the cheaper side.
Okay, we don’t recommend squandering your life savings on food, but it is always interesting to try one meal at a nicer place. You get to taste the crème de la crème of a country when you fine-dine. Its best chef and its most unique interpretation of a traditional dish give you and your taste-buds a real variation and a special sort of understanding of a country’s cuisine and its future.
Be a Street Crawler
Markets and street food are, hands down, the best way to really learn about a place’s food scene. Normally filled with small vendors who want nothing more than to showcase what makes their country’s food so great, the streets are a practical goldmine for any adventurous eater. If you don’t recognise the food on display or don’t understand the seller, even better.
Be a Box Ticker
It ain’t so cool to plan every last detail of your travels. We are all for keeping it footloose and fancy free and going wherever the exotic wind may take you. But when it comes to food, it’s okay to have a list of local treats you want to work your way through. Even us braniacs may forget that in China we want to eat Xiao Long Bao, Century Eggs and Mapo Dofu, so making a list and ticking these delicious delicacies off as you go along is more than okay. It’s just good sense.
Be a One A Day-er
Set yourself achievable goals and you are more likely to achieve them. So every day when you wake up, make it your mission to taste one new item of food that day. Look at it this way – in four days in Germany, you could wrap your gnashers around strudel, spätzle, sauerbraten and schnitzel. Not a bad way to spend a long weekend.
Be a Chef
If your accommodation has the facilities, get out the oven mitts and get cooking. There is no better way to get under the skin of a country than to get all over its recipes. Go explore the local markets, buy the freshest, most local ingredients and start sizzling. You don’t need to be a pro. Hey, you don’t even need to follow a recipe. Just cook from your heart and your memory and let the ingredients do the talking. Not Air B&Bing it with a kitchen? Not to worry. Most cities offer fantastic cooking classes, either in one on one or group settings, where you can learn authentic recipes to take home.
Be a Snacker
Ever noticed how the crisp flavours always seem better abroad? Truffle flavour in Italy, Chicken & Waffles in America and Kebab on Charcoal in Africa are just a few of the tempting offers on supermarket displays around the world. So grab a trolley and get to the snack aisle. Added bonus – you can keep snacks with you no matter where you are in the whole hunger-inducing world.
Be a Friend
Travelling is fantastic whether your own your own or not, but eating is so much better with a friend. Go with your partner, friend or family – or just make friends at your hotel or hostel. Dining with someone gives you the chance to talk about the food you’re eating, reflect on it and, most importantly, order more. We don’t need any more convincing than that.