When you’re on the road, you’ll find some incredible foods along the way. Ian Wright‘s guide to the world’s good & bad food is invaluable advice on tasty morsels not to be missed, and offerings to decline if you can.
Breakfast in bed just isn’t an option when you’re on the road, and unless pack your cornflakes you’ll have to get used to different ways to start the day. In Thailand its just not done to eat lightly in the mornings, and at the floating Damnoen Saduak Market near Bangkok traditional breakfast of fried peanuts, picked vegetables in a hot sauce washed down with a cool beer is the order of the day. The best way to sample a local breakfast in Japan is to stay in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese hotel. A wonderful way to do it in South India is floating down the Kerala waterways with a dish full of dumplings. There are places where breakfast can be a health hazard, however, such as Jamaica where the poisonous ackee fruit is cooked to release its toxins. The fruit is only poisonous if left unopened and eaten directly from the tree – consume with care! Ackee is also the national fruit of Jamaica and ackee with saltfish its national dish.
Finding food that’s tasty and safe isn’t always easy when you are away from home, and while some might prefer to forage in the jungle, you can always find the freshest foods in a local market. In Brazil’s Belem Market in the Amazon basin you can buy almost anything imaginable – monkeys heads, bottled sakes and three toed sloths are all par for the course. Chinese markets also reflect the unique tastes of the people and the meat is so fresh you can even pet it before you purchase!
On occasions there’s really no option but to return to your hunter-gatherer roots, and Neil Gibsonis quite chuffed with the piranha he hooks in Peru. But it’s nothing compared to fishermen’s reports from Alaska’s Salmon River and in Iran’s Caspian Sea you can fish for caviar, an expensive delicacy well beyond the average traveller’s budget. The staple food for the Nomads of Mongolia is a bizarre little rodent called Marmot. Shilpa Mehta risks life and limb in the Philippines to get a taste of a unique regional delicacy – swallow’s saliva which sticks their nests together is a snip in the shops at $100 a gram.
Wherever your travels take you, there’s always somewhere to grab lunch on the go. Justine Shapiro puts healthy eating on hold in South West USA she simply wolfs down a slice of deep fried bread, and hand made toffee prepared on the streets of Ecuador is just too good to be missed. Jonathan Atherton‘s appetite is somewhat spoilt by jellied eels forced on him in London but it’s a consoling thought that even in the Solomon Islands you can find good old traditional fish & chips if you try hard enough.
Sometimes the lunch options aren’t so great. Foul, a dish made from Flava beans is eaten for breakfast, lunch and tea in Syria and in Uzbekistan there’s mutton, mutton or mutton on the menu. In some places you’ll only hit on the hottest grub with the help of a local guide. Agar introduces Andrew Daddo to betelnut in North India, and lassi, a popular beverage made of yogurt, cream and milk. Down South in Madras, Justine is impressed by the thali, surprisingly a safer option than experiencing the unknown in some western countries, as Shilpa Mehta discovers the delights of pig’s snout in Spain.
Food is sometimes eaten not for its taste but for ritual reasons In Argentina, a shocking custom involving the slaughter of a cow each week is common practice, and the beast is hung up for a few days before its eaten. During the religious festival of Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours and feast when the sun goes down. Mouldy shark meat is no less common in Iceland than seal hands and sheep testicles, but that far north you just have to make do with whatever edible options are open to you.
In the Pacific Islands the drinking of kava root is an age old custom, just as tea drinking is an important social ritual not just in China but all around the world. Most countries have an alcoholic beverage of choice – be it Vietnam’s watery draft beer, Hungarian wine or pisco in Chile, which is sure to do the business. In Muslim areas such as the Middle East where alcohol is prohibited there’s a commendable juice bar on most street corners.
Around the world the greatest diversity of food is found at the dinner table – much is delicious, most intriguing, but in his time Ian has tasted some terrible dishes. They don’t get much worse than his top five all time worst meals in the world – including kangaroo tail in Australia, sheep eye in Kirghistan and everybody’s favorite pet, the guinea pig of Ecuador.
Places Mentioned - Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Ecuador, England, Hungary, India, Iran, Jamaica, Japan, Mongolia, Peru, Spain, Syria, Thailand, USA, Uzbekistan, VietnamShare the series