How to Be a World Traveler in Your Own City
International Food is the Way to Go
What do most world travellers talk about when they come home? Maybe a beach or a funny looking building but for sure, they'll talk about the top cuisine of that country, the most delicious food they ate and the menus they saw.
But you know what? You don't have to leave Cleveland or Hamilton to have the same stories. And remember, food is a cornerstone of culture. Today, there are so many restaurants in almost every city which offer food from places you don't even know exist.So, here are your best chances to experience what your friends had on their last trip:
- Explore the international restaurants in your own city.
- Eat food you have not tried before
- Shop in ethnic stores
- Use exotic spices
Experience the World through Cuisine in Your City
In the picture above is a very delicious Octopus Salad which I had in Dubrovnik but I definitely know that I can get this dish in Danforth, Toronto.
Somewhere in your city is a Thai restaurant that really wants you to have a great food experience. Not the local rice mill that last week was the Heart of Korea and next week will be the Soul of Harbin but a real Thai restaurant with at least one Thai in the kitchen and a menu that looks at Pad Thai as just a minor dish.
You are what you eat and even more importantly, what you eat tells the world something about who you are. Get up, go out and follow the wafting aroma in the air. Ask around especially among the immigrant community where they go if they want some comfort food from the country they came from.
Eat food you have not tried before
Twenty years ago, the only Chinese restaurant in town sold greasy chop suey and other definitely not Chinese dishes. Today, you'll find Sichuanese restaurant, certainly one from the south, and if you're lucky a Mongolian restaurant (Inner Mongolia), with someone in the kitchen who really understands local cuisine. Or French or Italian (not a pizza house) or a Greek or Turkish Palace with smells that began in the streets of Athens and Angkora. Part of this is just attitude.
Jump into Wikipedia and spend ten minutes about the cuisine of your chosen country. Whip up Trip Advisor and get a sense of some of the culinary highlights people are enjoying in the country. Get in the mood and then off you go.
If you did this once every two weeks all winter long, you might still live in Destin but your tongue has got more air miles than the bosses' ex wife. Then, let your tongue do the talkin as the true world traveler of your body.
Shop in Ethnic Stores
But if restaurants are not your thing, you still can be a world traveler in your own city. Check out ethnic stores, special gastronomic stores, or ethnic aisles in the grocery you shop at.
I bet you there's one selling Italian food or a Vietnamese grocery shop in your area. If not, you can always order online. I ordered some Spanish food from an online retailer in the United States called La Tienda and sent these as Christmas gifts to people. they had fun sampling some of the sweets, cheese and jamon.
When you visit these specialty food stores, sample some of the dishes unfamiliar to you. You will be surprised at how much you learn of other cultures when you do so. Taste the intercultural nuances in particular cultures. I always enjoy tapas and mezzeh and find out how these two came to be so much alike and yet so uniquely different.
Use some exotic spices
Try out some exotic spices you have not yet used in your kitchen. See what it does to some of your everyday dishes. We just got some paprika and saffron from Turkey but even there, the merchants claim that the best saffron comes from Iran. Persian cooking at its best. so if you find an Iranian restaurant around, go in and taste some of the best in Persian food.
Exotic spices of the world - Delight your palette with a few
Cuisine and Culture - A Meaningful Relationship
Read this book and let your imagination go so you can let the food you are tasting tell you of the culture in the place it came from. You will be surprised.
This book shows how events in history have influenced the different culinary traditions in the world. Most of the cuisines now are rightly really fusion except for some of the ethnic food that are still made from local ingredients in traditional cooking pots and following the same age old recipes.
Food has changed and this book shows how events in history brought about the similarity of tastes we now have all over the world.
Some Specialty Food from other Countries to Try Out
Just to help you, here are really good regional dishes to go for so you get a real smell and taste and feel for the country. Please break down and have a bottle of the national wine along with the meal. It's all part of the package.
And for heaven's sake, don't go all pinched lipped when the dessert menu comes around. Some of these are really distinctive from the countries you visit and they're part of the world traveler package. And if you show an interest in what you're eating, you will be amazed at who might pop out in the kitchen for a chat.
1. Artisanal Cheese Made in French Villages
For me, the cheeses of France have no equal in the culinary world. The variety give you so many to choose from, mostly the best you have ever eaten. If you have a chance, go for the local markets in French villages and sample their best artisanal cheeses.
You can also get a few of these in some specialty stores in your city. So, don't despair and head to these places. Some of the French hotels may have a small store where they sell some of these cheeses, foie gras, and baguettes.
More on Cheeses - Try a different one each week
2. Spanish Jamon and Chorizo with Olives
Who wouldn't enjoy chorizo or olives marinated as only the Spaniards know how, little meat balls and Iberico ham?
You can start your Spanish experience with a sip of one of the best Tio Pepes or a Rioja.
3. Parmigiano in Fresh Italian Pasta
With Parmigiano in fresh Italian pasta, Parma ham is so distinctively the best especially when sliced paper thin that you can read the newspaper through it will blow you to an explosion of flavours that only only the people of Parma can explain.
4. Soba Noodles and Tempura that Melts in your Mouth
Made from really fresh ingredients so typical of the Japanese and the best Japanese sushi rice, these tiny delights. For tempura, this is often my measure of a good Japanese chef when they can make a very good tempura it melts in your mouth.
5. Indian dishes
Indian spices are not hard to find as there are many Indian stores all over the world that carry them. Many standard groceries also stock them so learning how to cook Indian food is not a big challenge.
North Indian Thali Meal
6. Turk Ikmegi and beautifully spiced kebobs
Not Donaire definitely. Eat this with Turkish bread, Turk Ikmegi, and your mouth will water at the kebob spices. Try the mezzeh, too. Often, we just choose the mezzeh they have in the menu and we can't anymore eat after tasting all these.
Eat these in the heady atmosphere of Turkish coffee and you'll transport yourself to the ancient palaces smelling of myrrh and frankincense.
Turkish Dessert - Kunefe
7. Thai Tom Yum
Am coughing or choking perhaps from the hot spicy soup made from tamarind base. After a cough or two, you get into this soup and just delight in its exotic flavour. Just so exotic with its blend of lemon grass, galanga leaves and other spices. I love this with shrimp that makes me taste a bit of the ocean.
How to Prepare Tom Yam and other Thai Dishes - From the best Thai cooks
So, what is the top world cuisine for you? - Vote for your favourite
Which is your top world cuisine?
Which of the three great cuisines has made the best contribution to our menu today?
In 2010, French cuisine was included in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage, a recognition of its value to the world's culinary wealth. And guess what's the other one that got such distinction? Mexican Cuisine.
It is said, however, that there are only 3 great cuisines in the world and all the rest are just derivatives of these three. Of these 3, which do you think has contributed the most to the human menu?
Traveling the World through Food
There are so many other ways of traveling the world without leaving your city but there is nothing like food to attract many of us to sample something of a particular culture. There is also nothing like food to really make us know a culture. Food easily binds us no matter how different we are.
So, start your world travel by sampling some of these dishes from other countries.
© 2013 Mary Norton