From the surprising to the bargainous and the decadent to the crazy, the food experiences we have while travelling the world are certainly memorable.
Whether it’s eating the best food you’ve ever had from a street vendor in South East Asia, trying an infamous crispy fried insect or even feeling flush and splashing out to eat in an iconic restaurant, these experiences stick with us long after we’ve returned home and they’re the stories we share with friends…”Did I tell you about the time I was in South America and tried one of their local delicacies…”
As a company of travellers, here in the Explore office we’ve had more than our fair share of unique and memorable meals and snacks in far flung locations.
Here we share a few of them with you:
Man versus goat
"Not long ago I visited the Dordogne region of France, a place with culinary specialties that include walnuts, wine and duck foie gras - it’s a great place for any food fan. We all have our comfort foods, for some it is the simple ham sandwich, others find a sense of security in Marmite on toast. I happen to find comfort in pizza, so after a long day on the Dordogne River I used my very limited French language skills to order the most pizza-like item on the menu. I was successful in ordering a pizza, but what was on it I did not know, probably duck or walnut or one of those specialities I mentioned earlier. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my pizza and I left the restaurant feeling satisfied with my choice, then started to head back to the campsite. At this point it was getting dark, my fellow travel companions and I were walking down a quiet country road when we realised something… we were being followed by a Goat. “Ooh, I don’t like goats”, I exclaimed. “Really? But you just ate one, Will”, one of the group replied. “What?! B…but I had pizza? Maybe it had Goat’s cheese on it?” I asked in surprise. “Yes, but it also had Goat’s meat”. Oh no. It seemed that the other members of the group had paid more attention in French class back in school and knew what I had on my pizza, but failed to let me in on the fact that I was eating chunks of Goat meat! Was I now an enemy of goat-kind after this blasphemy of pizza based dishes? The goat stared at me, it’s eyes dark like a silent pool in which I was drowning. As I felt a chill run down my spine I quickened my pace to put as big a gap possible between Mr Goat and myself.
I survived that frightful encounter with a Goat, but I must warn you – make sure you know what toppings are on your pizza!"
William Potter, Marketing Services Media Executive
A little warmth in the Siberian snow
“Having finished an exhilarating husky sled ride through the Siberian forest, our group gathered round a trestle table, which had appeared from nowhere, along with a pot of steaming hot potatoes, Siberian broth, grilled fish, bread and last but not least - vodka. We toasted the forest spirits and demolished our Siberian picnic as the fat snowflakes fell around us.”
Melissa Garland, Customer Services Manager
Ducks and deluxe
“On a trip to Thailand I went for a beer with some of the guys at the agency we work with. A plate of snacks was ordered and out came a plate of crispy fried duck bills. From their size I expect they were ducklings. Very tasty, “quack quack!”
On the opposite end of the scale, while on the Amalfi Coast, Italy, I went for a ride on a friend’s boat. It was a perfect sunny day of cloudless skies and turquoise waters. We cruised around the island of Amalfi and along the coast to a small bay to a restaurant only accessible from the sea. A small boat came out to take us ashore and we dined amongst the beautiful people on the most exquisite clam linguine.”
Caroline Phillips, Product Manager
Street food in Thailand
“Before l went backpacking in Thailand, a friend advised me to eat the food from the street markets as it was the yummiest food you could get in Asia. Being a brave traveller out in the big wide world on my own, l decided to ignore this advice and on our first night in Bangkok we ate in a huge restaurant and paid over the odds for what was a soggy tuna sandwich and some crisps.
The next day we walked past a street vendor – the smell was amazing – wafting its way amongst the market stalls enticing us into order something. We decided to venture closer and ordered from the handwritten, cardboard menu hanging above the chef. I chose chicken with rice, my friend – fearing a dodgy tummy – ordered vegetables with rice.
We paid about 60p to the grandson of the chef – and then watched as chicken, rice, vegetables and spices were all thrown into a wok and whirled together until piping hot. The ‘establishment’ we were dining at provided little rickety tables and chairs and you just sat where you could get a space. We were to dine with backpackers, flash packers, the locals and people enjoying a 5 star holiday but wanting a taste of the real Thailand.
What l ate was a plate of the most amazing food l have EVER eaten. It was so good that over the next few days whilst in Bangkok and months later when transiting through the capital myself and my friend would make a beeline for this particular stall. On some occasions, l would go there alone but would never really be alone – l would sit and chat to someone different every time and for a short while have a new best friend. Sharing stories about where we had been so far and where we planned to head next.
Even when l ventured onto Laos and Cambodia – where the food was equally as amazing – this particular stall in Bangkok sticks in my memory – not just for the fantastic food but because every time l ate there l took another little piece of the back packer experience away with me. And now if anyone says their off to Bangkok l insist on them visiting this stall – l truly hope one day l can return and visit the Grandson and his Grandma the chef again.”
Cat Morrissey, Commercial Executive
What am I eating? - Japan
“Japan was an incredible culinary experience – I would venture off and eat almost randomly – everything was a new experience (and largely unrecognisable!). So I started taking photos to show our guide so they could tell me what I had eaten!”
John Telfer, Operations Director (Photos)
Bargain in Bangladesh
“My most memorable experience with food is very simple - buying the most delicious curry and bread for lunch in Bangladesh. 30p for 2 people!”
Hannah Methven, Product Manager
Vegetarian in India
“As a fairly strict vegetarian, travelling the world can sometimes prove problematic when it comes to eating out. The somewhat limited options of omelette or spaghetti with tomato sauce in Madagascar got a little boring after two weeks while the salty cabbage dish in Bulgaria was hard to stomach. In France the waiters generally look utterly bewildered by the notion of eating a meal which doesn’t contain meat or fish while in South Africa the ‘vegetarian risotto’ tasted distinctly of chicken stock.
It was therefore a huge delight to travel to northern India and enter a land where they know exactly what vegetarianism is all about. Every dish bursts with flavour and colour; I had at last found veggie heaven. Vegetarian food is not only everywhere but is absolutely delicious too. Already a curry fan, I looked forward to every mealtime with excited anticipation. Chana masala, tadka dahl, naan breads, pokhara, pilau rice all tempted me back for second helpings. The sumptuous selection of dishes on offer each evening ensured that even the meat eaters were happy too. To top it all my fears about the infamous ‘Delhi Belly’ were completely unfounded.”
Louisa Richardson, Direct Marketing Officer
Adventurous in China
“When I was a tour leading in China I used to take the group to a night market in Yangshou. Here I would order a variety of dishes from the rather normal noodle stir-fry to the more exotic bamboo rat and cockroach kebabs. We would also have a few local beers (Tsingtao) and by the end of the evening everyone was a little more adventurous! It was always a fantastic evening and the day of the tour I looked forward to the most.”
Ali Butler, Product Manager
A surprise in Costa Rica
“In Costa Rica I said to the waiter ‘surprise me’ – I like everything so wanted to see what they’d bring me. They brought out a plate heaped full with things in shells and a tool set. The entire group laughed at me and I had no idea where to start. Over an hour later and most of the group were on their desserts ready to pay bills I was still starving and trying to get things out of shells. There was nothing but shells that I could see. About an hour and half later, when some of the group had paid up and were planning to leave, the waiter said “how is your fish?” I said “What fish?” He explained that the shellfish were only really for decoration – they were covering a wonderful fillet of sea bass with lemon sauce…ahhhhhhhhhhhh I nearly died laughing as did those of the group who were still there.”
Yvonne Ramsey, Operations Manager
“Peru’s quirky dishes of roast guinea gig and alpaca steaks were something different but ceviche was the real highlight - a dish that I still find myself longing for and one I would always eat on every return to Lima while working as a tour leader. Chunks of raw fish (and or seafood) are tossed in freshly squeezed lime juice as you wait, a little red chilli is added and it is instantly ready and incredibly fresh. The flavours are always complemented by mild onion, sweet potato and corn on the cob and it is typically only eaten in the morning or lunchtime, prepared in front of you at one of the millions of cevicherias that line the coast of Peru. While you can find ceviche along the coast of many South and Central American countries none can compare to the original Peruvian ceviche”
James Adkin, Product Executive
“Argentina is renowned for its steak and in fact has the world’s second highest consumption rate of beef! I am not a big steak eater but when in Argentina…and I am glad I did, the beef there is amazing! It is cooked on a barbecue which is known as an asado and often served with chimichurri sauce and salad, but don’t expect too many accompaniments, in Argentina it is all about the beef!”
Linda Harris, Product Manager
Africa and Middle East
“Mssawa in Eritrea sits on the Red Sea and was decimated during the war with Ethiopia. However, among the crumbling buildings of the old city there is a small kitchen which was where I ate one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had. The menu has the grand total of one dish - freshly cooked fish with homemade bread, cooked in a tube oven. It is not the most likely looking place for such a memorable meal - the only place to sit was outside on plastic chairs in the street, and a flock of local cats do their best to get a piece of the action, but it was heaven on my tastebuds!”
Megan Freese, Operations Manager
Mensaf in Jordan
“I would have to say one of my favourite foods recently was Mensaf, a traditional meal from Petra, Jordan. It consists of a huge piece of thin bread similar to a chapatti, covered with rice and goat meat. The goat had been cooked for hours in a runny yoghurt, with lots of fresh herbs. When serving, the waiter poured more yoghurt over the dish, it was very runny and oily, and by itself had a very strange, bitter taste, but over the dish it was lovely. It was by far, the group’s favourite meal of the whole trip, and great way to get everyone involved. We ate with our hands and were all a bit of a mess by the end!”
Hannah Cuss, Senior Customer Service Executive
"I would question whether there is a better breakfast anywhere in the world than Egyptian foul. It is said that foul is to the Egyptians what pasta is to the Italians. The dish is a mouth watering mix of fava beans, tomatoes, onions, spices and lemon juice – finished off with raw chillies. Foul sellers ply their trade in the cities, serving the dish piping hot from huge drums. Best served with warm pitta bread, the Egyptian equivalent of beans on toast is not only delicious but won’t break the bank – street sellers charge as little as 30p for this superb breakfast. It can also be easily cooked at home, bring back memories of an Egyptian holiday."
Simon Grove, Head of Product
South Africa – legendary roti
“If you really want to experience what Durban has to offer on a low budget, then do yourself a favour and head over to the Sunrise Chip and Ranch aka Johnny’s Roti. This place has become a legend in its own right – not only amongst locals but also for those international visitors lucky enough to stumble onto its secret. Of course there are many options to choose from – like the bunny chow – a delicious half or quarter loaf of white bread, with the centre scooped out and filled with either mutton or chicken curry. Beware the heat of these bad boys - it can make a grown man cry. However it is not this particular item of food that has made Johnny’s so infamous – oh no my friends – it is the Chip and Double Cheese (triple if you dare) Roti. This amazing piece of grub will satisfy Bear Grylls on a return trip from surviving the Kalahari Desert. Yes it is that phenomenal.
The final step on your voyage through gourmet heaven is to choose your gravy - mutton or chicken - and your pint of milk. Please do not penny pinch on the pint of milk, believe me the pint of milk will become your saviour. As you wait for your meal to arrive you think ‘is this Roti going to be worth the visit to what can only be described as the dodgiest looking take away spot ever?’
However your Roti arrives, you have to hold it with two hands – it’s too heavy for one. The length is as long as my forearm. As you hurriedly scuttle to your car – the warmth of the Roti burning in your hand, you cannot get the car door open fast enough. Your sudden erratic movements to anyone that was not a local would undoubtedly result in a call, a police van and a night in a cold cell.
You finally get in the door open you sit down and unwrap your treasure. The first bite – the flavour explodes – never would you have thought that chips, cheese and curry gravy could taste so good in an oversized pancake.
But as each bite goes by – it all starts to make sense. This is the solution to world hunger and you are holding it in your hand, because no matter how big your appetite you will not finish the entire Roti.
If you feel the above might be a bit too much of living on the edge – then upgrade your experience and visit Sunrise House of Curries – it’s much more upmarket. This is situated in an lovely part of Durban and is rated for its relaxed vibe and friendly atmosphere. You can sit and enjoy your Roti on the deck whilst catching the Rugby game on the big screen TV and sinking a Lion Larger and catching up with old friends or making new.”
Caryn Darley-Waddilove, Customer Support Executive