• Matthew Waters

Foodie on Tour

So I think I have finally come to terms with what I have become.

A ‘foodie.’ At first I was horrified, I always look at people who wave that label around like a badge of honour and use it to be picky, snobby and basically judge what people eat. That isn’t me. If you want to dip chips in strawberry milkshakes, go for it, if your idea of a perfect meal out is a trip to Nando's or Spoons then you do you, probably a high chance of me joining you if you ever ask. But what I’ve realised is whenever I tell stories of the places I’ve been to, I always end up fixating on the food, and this is what a foodie should be, simply someone who loves food and wants to try it all.

Now I set up this blog as a way for me to look into other cultures and let anyone who is interested know as well, so this isn’t turning into a food blog. But, isn’t food a massive part of culture and who you are. Food is an excellent window to view what a country or group of people have gone through in their history. For example the food can often show what influences colonisers had on an area, like Pastel De Natas from Portugal in former colonial city Macau in modern day China, and Baguettes from France in former French colony French IndoChina, modern day Vietnam and Cambodia. It can also show the hardships the country has faced and how it worked through it to create something great, like the use of insects in South East Asia, in Cambodia they turned to insects during the Khmer Rouge and in China during the Mao years, and having tasted bugs in China, they aren’t as bad as you think. Food is also a way for minorities to hold onto their routes, like the middle eastern food in Guangzhou that tasted amazing. So as you can see food is a massive part of understanding a country you travel to as well as being one of the best ways to enjoy it. Nothing better than order loads of different food from a region and getting to taste new flavours.

And finally, after the longest introduction to a blog ever written, we get on to the purpose of this blog and that is to break down my TOP FIVE favourite foods in the countries that I have travelled. A lot of this is going to be based on the story and setting behind them as well as the taste of the food, so hope you enjoy it.

In no particular order!

Tapas in Barcelona

Okay so it's a pretty familiar one first up and that’s Tapas. A massive favourite of mine to eat and cook in the UK, you just can’t beat a good tomato sauce with some Spanish flavours, chicken and Chorizo, followed by a plate of Patatas Bravas, followed by some prawns, then some Albongies and more and more and more. Think you get the idea. But that in essence is my favourite thing about Tapas the amount of flavours you can try and there's nothing better than having it in Spain itself. Sitting with a glass of beer, or a few, at the bar and just ordering whatever you fancy next, sharing with a few friends and having a chat, honestly I could do it for hours. Now I don’t think I have had a bad experience with Tapas yet but I think my favourite is the tapas bar by the Arc triomphe in Barcelona, not Paris. In this particular bar you can see all the fresh produce hanging from the walls, like the iberian ham or fresh vegetables, or the fresh fully formed fish kept in the fridges right in front of your face. It may not be everyone's idea of a good time but for me being able to see the produce you are eating gives it an authentic feeling and then being surrounded by the buzzing atmosphere in Barcelona really tops of the experience when eating tapas. Shout out to seafood paella in Barcelona as well.

Cichetti in Venice

Now sticking to a very similar vibe and for those of you who read my blogs on Venice you will have seen me write about this already. I had never heard of this stuff until going to Venice.I was expecting pasta and pizza galore but then I got there and got told not to eat that stuff, it's all just for tourists, but to head to bars and get Cichetti. It is basically Venetian Tapas with loads of different flavours to try, all served on Crustinis. The creamy Monkfish really blew my mind. There are bars all over Venice that serve Cichetti and they are often the only places in the city where you can avoid tourists because they are all looking for pasta and pizza. Eating Cichetti, drinking beer in the sun sitting on the banks of a Venetian canal, that’s the stuff dreams are made of.

Pizza in Ljubljana

Another iconic dish but maybe not from the place you expect. Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, was probably one of the most surprising and therefore one of my favourite cities when I went interrailing in 2016. I always remember this pizza from there, when I talk about food we had when we were away. Sat in the gardens opposite the university, listening to cricket, eating a stunning slice of Margherita pizza in the sun, bliss. I always like to get a margarita whenever I am trying pizza from a new place as it gives a fair platform to judge it against other pizza you have had, and this slice is always the one I compare other pizzas too. I remember the rich tomato sauce oozing out from underneath the perfect potion Mozzarella, with a few basil leaves on the top, and all of this for 50 cents a slice! Now I have had pizza in Italy and would always like to give an honourable mention to all the pizza I had in Rome and Palermo, as well as a pizza house just off La Rambla in Barcelona, but this Slovenian Slice takes the crown. Unfortunately I have forgotten the name but if you are ever in Ljubljana, just head to the University Gardens and look for a singular window selling pizza, you will not regret the search.

Dumpling man in Chenghai

Hidden deep in the rundown, sleepy district of Chenghai in Shantou is dumpling man. A mysterious figure who will be difficult to find unless you know where to look, often

rolling Gyoza all day whilst watching violent Chinese TV shows. You would never think this humble man’s derelict shop would be home to such wonderful delights, but if you ever travel to China you will learn that you have to enter these kind of buildings to get the best food and dumpling man is no exception. A bowl of his warming beef noodle broth, is like tasting the real Chinese flavours that you can’t get at home, then add about four baskets of Gyoza and you are in Chinese food heaven. It was just down the road from the school I was teaching in, BOB foreign languages school, which meant I was there at least once every two days, but one day I ended up there four times it was all so good and cheap. At 40p for a basket of Gyoza and 80p for a bowl of Noodle broth, you can’t say no to those prices! With stiff competition from food cart man (a story for another time) he just edges it out for my favourite food experiences whilst in China. Warning, don't expect good food hygiene in China, you won't have any fun if you worry about food poisoning.

Goulash in Budapest

Now I am probably going to finish off with the least exotic in my top five and it’s just cling on to that spot, beating out Pinto Gallo in Costa Rica and anything with Apple and Horseradish sauce from Lido in Riga. I think what separates this from the others is the tradition behind it and how you can almost taste that tradition in every bite. Goulash was created in Medieval Hungary as a way for large families under the feudal system to feed themselves on the cheap, and is a great example of how people have taken a terrible situation and created great food from it. In essence it is just like a British stew that your Nana or Mum would make in the winter, pretty innocuous right? Well what boosts it into the top five is the spice, every mouthful, you get hit with the meaty gravy and then a blast of paprika. It is incredible how much flavour they manage to get from this seemingly boring stew. Now I did know about Goulash before heading interrailing but was very eager to try it in it’s homeland of Hungary, and the cafe in Budapest train station delivered! I was sceptical about how good train station food could be but this was immense. A great meal to have after a 14 hour train journey with no sleep.

That is my list of favourite foods from around the world and I am missing out some strong candidates and no doubt will be revisiting food in later blogs. But, this is just my food list, you should start making your own, try to discover different flavours everywhere you go, there may be even some great things you’ve never tried just on your doorstep. If you have any suggestions or want to find out more about my food experiences, please don’t hesitate to message us on Instagram or Facebook.

Thank you for reading. Goodbye.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, I was to busy eating the food.

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