10 Travel Bloggers Share Their Most Memorable Food Experience Abroad
Posted On April 19, 2018
Most travelers have had a special moment with food that they will never forget. Maybe it was an extravagant dinner at a world renowned restaurant, or the simplest of dishes in the streets of Israel. An unforgettable dish can surprise us when we least expect it.
10 travel bloggers and foodies from around the world share their most memorable food experience abroad. Here are their stories:
Cooking family-style with locals in Thailand
Between travels I would often spend my downtime in the rural rice fields of Isaan, a region known for its incredible cuisine. The one meal I always look forward to most is Moo Krata (a combination of a hot pot and a barbecue). It’s a hugely popular meal for get-togethers and gatherings in rural Thailand. It’s so memorable because of the community aspect. I am often invited by local villagers and families to gather around the flaming charcoal barbecues to share grilled meats, soups, drinks and rural banter (although the language barrier can be tricky).
It is very much hands-on eating, as everyone gets involved in the preparation, cooking and serving of the food. Typically everyone sits on the ground around the skillet, although many of the more popular rural restaurants these days offer barbecues built right into the table and can be interchanged with jim jum (Thai hot pot). Marinated meats are added to the barbecue on the top grill of the skillet, while vegetables, and glass noodles simmer in boiling soup stock on the side. Everything is served with spicy nam jim sauce which can only be described as phenomenal.
Just before sunset, we walked down the long pier from Hurawalhi Maldives. We removed our shoes and descended below the water. Exactly 5.8 meters below the water to be exact. We entered 5.8 Undersea Restaurant for a truly unique dining experience! With room for only 20 diners, it was an exclusive experience as well.
Yes, the food was well prepared, and surprisingly included a lot of fish and seafood during the 7 course dinner. But, what was more memorable, was the location. As the sun set, we watched thousands of fish dart across the glass ceiling. There was no distraction from the outside world seeping into our meal through our mobile phones. The entertainment was the undersea world around us. And, it was breathtaking. Even more so considering how remote Hurawalhi Maldives is, and how much the dinner cost ($280 a person!), it was truly a once in a lifetime dining experience.
Discovering the best paella at a tiny beachside bar
I’ve lived in Spain for years, so I’ve tasted a ton of paellas, but I still can’t stop thinking about one in particular. When I first ate at the tiny beachfront bar Can Margarit in Mataró, a city right outside of Barcelona,I wasn’t expecting much and was caught by surprise at how tasty the rice was. The kitchen itself is just a tiny room with a few burners, but they turn out hundreds of incredible paellas and fideuà (the same dish but with noodles instead of rice) each day.
Customers sit outside in the sunshine and nibble on tapas like grilled sardines, fried cuttlefish, and steamed mussels while waiting for their main dish to arrive— it makes the long wait times a little more manageable. I’ve eaten here many times and the experiences were always memorable ones. The laid-back ambiance, cheap prices, and expertly cooked rice make this small restaurant perfect after a day at the beach. Each paella is cooked in just the right amount of savory homemade broth and has a beautiful crust that only an experienced chef can replicate. Now that I’ve moved back to the U.S., summers just won’t be the same.
Feasting on 15 dishes in a traditional Japanese lodge
For an absolutely unforgettable food experience, we arranged a stay in a ryokan in the onsen (a town built up around hot springs) of Kinosaki, Japan and selected this ryokan specifically for its dining experience. Our ryokan (traditional Japanese accommodation) consisted of tatami matting on the floor, cushions, low chairs, and low tables. Our door screens were delicate paper and we wore the traditional yukata robes during our entire stay.
Kaiseki Ryori is a meal of many dishes that are regional specialities. The presentation of our dinner was elaborate and immaculate, and was served in our room at the low tables. The small dishes were little more than a taste, apart from the crab, which was huge! We had 15 dishes in our Kaiseki Ryori–from sashimi to snail to miso soup. There was tempura, Japanese pickled vegetables, a Japanese hotpot that we cooked on our small tables, grilled fish, and of course, the speciality of the house, crab. The Kaiseki Ryori finished with rice which signaled the end of the meal. We elected to drink traditional Japanese sake during our meal, finished with a tea and then headed out to enjoy the onsens of this magnificent town, while the staff laid out our futons and duvets for the night.
It’s incredible how the simplest food can sometimes be so delicious that it’s unforgettable. One of the most memorable dishes to have during a trip to Israel is hummus. This traditional dish can be found across the Middle East with slight variations to the recipe depending on the region. Hummus is meant to be eaten as soon as it is prepared—there’s no such thing as keeping hummus in the fridge. That’s why places that serve good hummus close at 2:30 pm at the latest.
While hummus is found pretty much everywhere across the country, one of my favorite restaurants to have it is Abu Shukri, a tiny, modest place—think three tables and no room to move around—in Jerusalem’s Old City Souq. The hummus is prepared using simple cheap ingredients typical of the region: chickpeas, quality olive oil, garlic, lemon, and tahini. It’s served with pita bread, fresh tomatoes, olives, and onions. The texture is creamy, its flavor simply heaven. For the really daring, order a serving of homemade falafel too. There’s no point in trying this cheap dish at a fancy restaurant, it should be eaten at a no frills, local dig—the ones where the owner will make jokes about you that you’ll likely not get, but hey, everyone around you is laughing so you’ll have a laugh too.
It was a long day on the road, during which our driver Sisay maneuvered himself successfully along the bumpy roads without signs. We found our way to the very South of Ethiopia and had a big adventure ahead of us: visiting the Mursi tribe that lives in the middle of nowhere close to the Kenyan border. But first: food. Eating in Ethiopia is something special. As most of the population is very religious—predominately Ethiopian Orthodox—some days of the week are fasting days. On those days, all animal products are forbidden. So when not fasting, meat and fish are truly worshipped and celebrated.
We opted for a traditional meal in one of the busy restaurants, full of locals there for business or for the same reason as us: visiting a remote part of the country. The basis of every Ethiopian dish is injera. This bread is made out of teff flour and is used not only to fill, but also as utensils. We started our feast by washing our hands—Ethiopians eat with their right hand. Each piece of injera is dipped into one of the spicy delicious sauces, and filled with some meat. Injera covers the entire plate and on top, the chef put a mix of veggies, sauces and meat. We shared the meal with our local driver, which was a nice experience since he really supported the conversation at the table. Before we headed back on the road, we finished our meal with Ethiopian coffee—small, strong and super delicious.
Located in the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel is the 2 Michelin starred Japanese restaurant, Waku Ghin, which offers a set menu featuring a lot of very unique, exclusive and expensive seafood dishes. The experience is unique from the moment you walk in. Diners are split into 10 intimate rooms, each containing only two couples seated at a bar facing a chef who will cook most of the dishes right in front of you.
The menu is made from premium ingredients, mostly from the sea, but also an unforgettable dish of absolutely delicious Wagyu beef with wasabi and citrus soy sauce—it is still the most incredible meat dish I have ever eaten. Though perhaps the most remarkable dish of the evening was the signature marinated Botan shrimp with sea urchin and Oscietra caviar served in a sea urchin shell, the perfect representation of the restaurant and the chef’s philosophy.
In my first day in Malaysia, I came upon a nondescript restaurant near my hotel and went inside to eat. I ordered nasi lemak, one of the cheapest things on the menu, and the country’s national dish which I wasn’t aware of at the time. I found the combinations a bit weird—fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk, cucumber slices, fried anchovies and roasted peanuts, as well as a hard-boiled egg. Although it seems like a strange mashup, it is a complete meal by itself. Locals like to also add fried or rendang chicken to the mix. The mix of ingredients work together to create a very flavorful meal. Nasi lemak is actually delicious!
It was remarkable to eat such a great dish in an average neighborhood restaurant. I later learned that the best, most authentic meals in Malaysia are all found in these local, non-fancy eateries. It was the first of my many gastronomic adventure in this foodie paradise.
My most unique and memorable food experience was in Dubai—sitting at a dining table with my feet hanging freely in the air, lifted 50 meters (over 160 feet) high by a crane. Yes, it was not the most relaxed dinner, or to be more precise afternoon tea, but if you book a “Dinner in the Sky” experience, you know food is important but even more so the thrill.
The afternoon tea was catered by the luxurious Westin Hotel, so the food is very high quality. They offered some deserts, finger food, scones, tea, coffee, and soft drinks. While the setting was not as opulent as you might be used to for an afternoon tea (thankfully we didn’t have to deal with an étagère at this height), the view was amazing. Music was played and the friendly staff helped us take pictures. On one side you see the beach, and on the other is the incredible skyscrapers of Dubai Marina. After about an hour we were back to feeling the earth under our feet. It was such an interesting experience.
A boodle fight is not a specific dish, but rather a way of eating. The Philippinesis known for their beautiful islands and very warm and hospitable people. I highly recommend trying a boodle fight with locals for a memorable food experience. It was originally a way of eating done by soldiers, but later became a large part of the Filipino culture.
Everyone who is joining the meal will cook at least five dishes together—those without sauce are preferred, you’ll see why. All the dishes are placed together on one big leaf that acts as a clean surface covering the table. Diners then eat standing around the table using only their bare hands and no utensils or plates. Experiencing a boodle fight has truly shown me how welcoming and generous the local people are.