I am not talking about national cuisines or styles. Each traveller remembers a particularly superb meal, and to make a meal superb all must be taken into account: atmosphere, taste, emotions, persistence in our memory and so on. It can be Indian street food, a BBQ under the Australian night sky or a bag of southern king crabs exchanged for a pack of fags with a gang of Coloane-style fishermen (my entry)... Let's make a list!
... it's dinner time, must dash...
After finishing a 4-5 week walk through the Bornean highlands, I was famished (literally!). I remember a dinner by firelight (due to no electricity) in a small raised-hut with some indigenous Penan people (For more info on the Penan
). We ate wild boar fat, python, mashed tapioca leaves, and sago. I know that doesn't sound too appetizing, but I was so hungry that I felt very lucky for the food we prepared. That was by far the most satisfying meal of my life!
Map of Region
I spent nine months in Antarctica a few years ago. The last of the supply planes, which, in addition to transporting people to and from McMurdo Station, also brought 'freshies' (fresh fruits and vegetables), left for the winter at the end of February. We had plenty of freshies for about a month and then we went to canned or frozen food - the greenhouse only supplied one lettuce salad per person per week with the occasional cucumber or tomato thrown in. When the first plane returned at the end of August with a large crate of fresh fruit, each of the winter-overs got a bag to fill up with as much fruit as we could fit in and we gorged ourselves with oranges and apples and bananas and pineapples... The meal was wonderful and will always be one of my most memorable - The smell of an orange after six months without one is intense, almost like orange scented cleaners! The aftermath of the meal was less pleasant - Apparently my systems were not ready for all of that fruit after such a long absence!
Baked potato at the Australia Day One Day Cricket at Adelaide Oval. Yiros (thats kebab for interstaters) at 3 am Sunday morning after a big night out. Gyooooozzzzaaa! from the Gyoza man in Shizuoka city (whos shop has been replaced but the hole in my stomach will never be filled), also at 3 am after a big night out. Im sure ill think of more. Foods my thing!
Ok, i shall explain. Gyoza are small crescent shaped parcels of goodness. Minced pork, ginger, garlic and chives (thats the base model) wrapped in pastry and steamed, kind of like a dim sim. Served with soy sauce and pickled ginger. YUM!
I really really liked coconut amok
from Cambodia - all styles... wasn't so keen on Guinea Pig from Ecuador!
I think there are three experiences that have stayed with me--in no particular order. (1) After climbing the second tallest peak of Jiri-san (Jiri Mt.) in South Korea, my hosts, on our way back to our town, stopped in a very small village, in a house/restaurant famous for its black pig. Three hours later and mounds of bbq pork, black pig, "sam gyup sal" (similar to bacon, but tastier), and Korean side dishes, along with soju and beer, the feast was over. We cooked the pork ourselves, and the smells from the food and noises from the climbing party was a great experience. The small restaurant completed a great day. (2) At the end of July the town of Nepopualco, Morelos, Mexico celebrates the Virgin Mary in its church. A weekend festival, where every house you walk in treats you like royalty. Endless amounts of tamales and tequila. Amazing. (3) I would call it Czech Republic's version of the "bandeja paisa". Red and white cabbage, bread dumplings, roast pork, beef, and saussages. I had it in both Olomec, in one of its plaza in the early evening along with a Pilsner Urquell, and in Prague.
Where to start?
As much as I like to sit down in a dimly lit Indian restaurant stuffing myself full on chicken tikka masala with all the extras; daal, naan, papadum, raita, masala tea until I can hardly stand up, I also like just finding some shelter in a hut after a long day's walking in the mountains, just sitting down on the floor for a cup of black tea and some red rice with boiled vegetables.
Or how about after that long and cold winter day spent in the Forbidden City and then on a windy ride through the Beijing hutongs. Me and my friend Kay were dropped off in some random street deep frozen and hungry, and just proceeded to the first place we could find. Since none of us understood any Mandarin I had a glance at what the people were eating and we ordered in the same. They brought us a delicious soup with weird looking meaty rings and strange potatoe-like lumps. Ten minutes into the meal Kay wondered if I had any idea what I was feasting on, of course I did not, and when she explained to me I was eating pig's lungs and colon it kind of took the magic out of the moment, but it was a damned fine meal!
I think for me it was the first time that I got over myself and tried the "bus food" when I was hungover on a 5 am bus ride in Ecuador. It was my first time overseas and I was all worried about the local food, but then some American girls talked me out of that attitude, and it was awesome advice!
Papaya salad off street stalls, eaten out of plastic bags anywhere in Laos or Thailand. Heaven...what I wouldn't do for one right now. Why do no Thai restaurants in Ireland serve papaya salad?
One of my tastiest was my first meal in a Turkish restaurant in Ankara (in the 1960s--a long time ago). It was doner kebab with yoghurt and tomato sauce on pide bread. I'm been trying to match it ever since. I get close (try Ali Baba's in Atlanta, Georgia downtown) or a side street Turkish place in Kowloon, Hong Kong, China. A second unforgettable meal was street food, like others on this list, in Nanjing, China. It was breakfast time and my first day on my own. The next day I would start my job. No food in the apartment except coffee. I bought a wrapped egg, seasonings, bread, etc. and hot soy milk. I've heard Americans call it a breakfast burrito. I forget the Chinese name. It was so delicious. ...Maybe I'll get one tomorrow morning!
Steak at a restaurant called Jaujau in Bariloche, Argentina, is the best I've ever had. Seabass in a small hole in the wall restaurant in Puerto Varas, Chile, is the best cooked seafood I've ever had. Another one of the most memorable meals for me was when my group was deep in the Amazon Jungle, and we were served piranha meat that was prepared inside a hollow bamboo stick. It was delicious too! I'm going to China next year, which I'm expecting to be a culinary heaven!