For the second part of the series, lets ‘be roman in Rome’. Today’s post is all about that variety of cuisines that I have had whilst travelling.
On a principle, I don’t go seek for Indian food while travelling. Why ? For one, I could cook or get a cooked Indian meal and the other is simply that I don’t want to try an outsider’s take on Indian food. It is disappointing. Lastly, enjoying the local food is probably one of the best ways to experience the place. So let’s dig in.
On a personal visit, have travelled to Singapore and Malaysia, and in an official capacity have been to the USA, The Netherlands, France and Germany.
In 2007, I and my elder sis were visiting our eldest in Singapore. What first surprised us in Singapore is the usage of honey in a chicken dish. I mean, we were into Indo-Chinese food and we loved our spicy Chinese that we got in Bangalore. And so, the sweet chicken dish was not so welcomed. I loved Singapore’s food courts that are always around the corner. For $10 SGD we had 2 meat 1 rice combo. The china town’s street food was yet another palate dance. Where we had peanuts and honey and all things sweet into our noodles. That is where I learnt that the Malaysian flat noodles (which I love) was called kway-teow (Here in Chung wah they still end up calling in kothai.. am all???). I was introduced to the Satay which is basically like our kebabs but with sauces. It is a very on-the-go food. Another memory was the food court near Raffles Place (the banking district), that place was just an explosion of smells. They were strong coz most of them serve the meat of choice (chicken, beef, pork) steamed like a soup. Steamed meat has the most pungent smell. I was very eager to get out that place. Another food that I had I do remember is Singapore McDonald’s McSpicy. This is way before it was introduced in India and it didn’t even taste half as good as what was served in Singapore. The McSpicy there is succulent, juicy and flavourful. McD in India still hasn’t captured the taste of the non-veg eaters.
Although we visited Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Genting Island, the most of Malaysia that I remember is Langkawi. The beach – as is always my favourite place, a boat tour of the mangrove, water sports, the bat caves all were amazing sights. But unfortunately, I don’t remember the food as much except one evening that we dined and had some amazing seafood! The crab was just too delicious and I was told by my Brother-in-law that some other foreigner took a picture of me, completely immersed in scooping out every possible ounce of crab meat (I didn’t look around to confirm it, was too happy with the food).
And Now to all my Official travel.
The longest I have stayed out of the country is in the USA. For two whole months, and gastronomically I have tried Mongolian, Thai, Chinese, Highway style diners and breakfast places, Italian, Mexican and of course the all-American Fast Food Joints.
Travel to the US was back in 2010, Mongolian style barbeque was totally new to me (long after I found one such place in Kormangala, but haven’t tried it yet). The concept being, one chooses ‘all’ the ingredients one would want in their dish and have stir-fried with no extra addition by the chef at the counter. From the veggies to the meat, the sauces, the spice powders, main carb- noodles, rice. The catch is if you didn’t know what goes along with what, and how much needs to you go into the meal, you’ll end up with a disaster! but luckily the few of us who had some sense of cooking and ingredient compositions got it right. It became a meal I’d remember after 6 years!
Chinese – The all you could eat buffets with a lot of variety in protein! Apart from the standard chicken, fish, beef, pork they were octopus, squids, and even frog legs 😀 I couldn’t bring myself to eat the octopus but did try the frog legs (they didn’t keep actual frogs there, they looked a lot like chicken wings, so the repulsion factor was a bare minimum). They even had sushi(Japanese) in the Chinese buffet. Go Figure.
Mexican- am not a rajma person. I don’t really enjoy beans and so I didn’t like Mexican. For me, it was basically rajma and paratha (beans and tortillas). Pardon my dumbing-it-down to Indian. Even a chicken dish had beans. Mexican suits the Indian palate. For many who couldn’t relish the other cuisines, they found a close cousin in Mexican food.
Thai – I had some Thai rice and Thai red curry with that. Back then I was not into coconut flavoured food. I clearly remember thinking to myself – Thai is sort of Kerala styled food (Pardon me again for my limited knowledge of the cuisine). For me, anything that had strong coconutty flavour was keralian style! my Punjabi colleague thought I would enjoy Thai as it again seemed to a flavour profile like Indian. The next time she hosted me and took me home, I clearly told, I would love to eat some lasagne and Ceaser salad (she is an exceptional cook).
Italian – For my birthday we dined out at The Olive Garden. That’s the extent of my Italian experience. Frankly, I loved our Little Italy’s take on Italian food (one regret is that it’s vegetarian).
Highway styled diners and breakfast- they were good for the chicken steak, side of veggies and mashed potato. And offcourse pancakes with maple syrup. Loved the breakfast there.
At the extended-stay hotel we were in served us a daily breakfast and weekly 3 days Indian meals. The breakfast was really good spread of oatmeal, scrambled egg, 3 kinds of cereal, muffins- blueberry, choco chip and banana, bread and marmalade, waffles on Thursday, sausages, fruits. We were well fed for the 2 months we stayed.
The dinners, although they served Indian food, we were better off eating their regulars, for Indian food meant read-to-eat precooked meals. On the other days, we had sloppy joes and some hot dogs from the grill. Burger king, Taco bell, and KFC were all walking distances from where we stayed. So we did visit these frequently.
This post has become quite long. So for other countries visited.. stay tuned.
I had a lot of experience with the sights and places of interests- the museums and water worlds, 4th of July fireworks at both Niagara falls and Newyork, Walking all over Chicago and Newyork, and downtown Detroit. Been at the top of some of the world’s tallest buildings – The Sears Tower in Chicago, The Empire State Building in Newyork, The Petronas Tower (twin tower) in Kuala Lumpur, The Eiffel Tower in Paris. These all are part of a treasure trove of memories, maybe someday they might be shared on this blog.