It was a cool day in Helsinki, and the atmosphere was casual at the open-air market. But this food vendor was intensely serious. Her restaurant may have canvas walls, but obviously, she understands the best way to sell food. There was nothing on her carefully arranged grill that wasn’t eye candy, and the fresh, grilled salmon proved to taste as excellent as it looked.
For most international travelers, a primary motivation for globe trotting is to experience new cultures. And unique foods are the cultural spice that make travel fun.
But, it’s not just the food … it’s the adventure as well.
A small restaurant near our hotel in Ubud, Bali served this wonderful meal of chicken satay, curried vegetables, steamed rice, and prawn crackers. The food was tasty, but it was only part of the experience. Covered by a deep thatch-roof porch, our table sat inches above a lush green rice paddy. During lunch, a drenching, violent rainstorm blew across the paddy. On this day we ate with all five senses.
Our B&B in Ella, Sri Lanka introduced us to tea plantations and string hoppers. These oddly named, crepe-like bread bowls are filled with yummy vegetarian concoctions. This day’s breakfast menu was curried lentils, coconut sambal, and onion chutney, which provided a great kick-start to the day. We sat on a large outdoor terrace overlooking a gravel road into the village and the town recreation field. This breakfast view provided an endless stream of workmen, crisply-uniformed school children, wandering cows, and a marvelous tuk-tuk lesson.
And the Hashem Restaurant in Amman, Jordan demonstrated that food doesn’t have to be complex to be delicious. This internationally famous hole-in-the-wall serves some of the finest falafel and hummus that we’ve had. Restaurant staff hustle through like well-oiled machines, as food pops out of the kitchen at an amazing pace. The people watching is top-notch, as well-dressed businessmen rub elbows with workmen, college students, young families, and a few intrepid travelers. Rumor has it that the Jordanian Royal Family drops by periodically.
Deep fried, chicken-stuffed lemongrass was a speciality at a small, riverside cafe in Luang Prabang, Laos. The traffic-free street, peaceful river view, and parade of aspiring Buddhist Monks kept us entertained between courses.
These McDonald’s Cappuccinos from Sarajevo, Bosnia hardly qualify as “ethnic food,” but they bring to mind an interesting and sometimes funny food discussion in the RTW travel community. Namely, is it OK, or definitely NOT OK to eat American fast food while overseas. The forum discussions are humorous because some respondents get quite passionate, and opinions are a pendulum swing.
As for us, McDonalds serves two primary functions abroad: a clean, reliable place to pee … and free wifi. Both of these benefits are a traveler’s friend, and for this, we don’t mind the periodic cappo.