At the end of 2015 my boyfriend Adam and I decided to pack up our London lives and leave our careers behind. We had one plan to make our way around the world from Brazil to Burma (Myanmar) over nine months. Although doubts raced through our minds about leaving the security of our jobs, once flights were booked there was no turning back! We met some of the loveliest people, tasted some incredible (and strange) food and came across some of the best sights in the world.
Adam and I visited a total of 13 countries. I felt the greatest affinity for the cultures which are pillared around the importance of food and everything it represents. Each country had something new to offer, a taste or texture I'd never tried before, and I felt it gave me a greater understanding of the place, its history and the people.
As hard as it is to choose, Mexico and Vietnam top my list for the most incredible eats, weird and wonderful ingredients and varied cuisines. Ambling though the colourful streets of Oaxaca, located in southern Mexico, using the two domes of the Church of Santo Domingo as a guide, my highlight was visiting the renowned indigenous market, 20 de Noviembre Market. It was jam-packed with women in colourful dress selling everything from textiles and sombreros to traditional moles - dark, play-dough like sauces for tortillas - mescals, chillies and baskets brimming with the local delicacy, fried grasshoppers. Those crunchy critters were hard to stomach at first but in the end became more like an alternative salty snack!
The wonderfully refined definition of happiness to the Vietnamese is: ‘something to eat, somewhere to live, someone to love and something to do’. From frothy egg coffee; - prepared with egg yolk, sugar and condensed milk - to the famous Bánh Mì, a Vietnamese twist on the much-loved baguette brought over by the French during its colonial time, the country is a food lover’s dream. Stuffed with meatballs, shaved pork or pork loin, served with sliced radish, carrot, pickles, cucumber, fresh herbs and drizzled with Hoi An chilli dip, the sandwich is up there with the best thing I’ve ever eaten. For recreations in London visit, Banh Mi Bay, located on Rathbone Street.
Other weird and wonderful eats worth mentioning - perhaps yet to be the next big trend - include the healthy Colombian street-side snack, slices of unripe mango sprinkled with salt, lime and chilli; Colombian grilled female cutter-ants topped with salt; Mexican orange powder made with crushed worm and chilli for you to dip your lime into after a shot of tequila or mescal; and coconut custard pies considered a speciality of Los Baños in the Philippines.
Food tells you so much about a country's culture, what they eat, when they eat and how they eat it. I was pleasantly surprised by the amazing array of flavours I came across and the pride that came with preparing each dish, not just in restaurants but street food stalls, locals; houses, beaches and road-side shacks. I feel as though I not only expanded my mind on my trip away, but my tastebuds too!