By BENÉT WILSON
One of the best things about travel for me is the chance to sample local cuisine. I have traveled the world, and I’m amazed at people who fly to Paris and make a beeline to the local McDonald’s.
Not me. I’m all about taking in what the locals eat — and drink.
Back then, the Internet was in its primitive stages, so I bought a “Lonely Planet” guide to get an idea of what I would do in my off time. I’ve always been a big foodie, so I wanted to check out what was available locally.
Singapore is a very modern city that nearly had its ethnicity beaten out of it after decades of British colonial rule. The city is clean, modern and efficient. Unfortunately, it looks like any large north American city, and the restaurant scene is similar.
Lonely Planet told me about the famous Singapore food courts, which focus on local cuisine and delicacies in a basic setting at amazingly reasonable prices.
My boss wanted to have dinner at TGIFriday’s that first night we arrived. I demurred, saying I could go to TGI any day of the week at home. But how often was I going to have the chance to eat foods from China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Indian, sometimes fused together?
Some of the dishes I still remember include chili crabs, fishball noodles, hor fun, shark’s fin and satay bee hoon. The servers are very helpful in navigating the dishes, some of which might be a bit much for some American palates.
I love Paris, and have been many times for work and play. One time, I had a wonderful meal from Michelin-starred chef Guy Savoy — and at a fraction of the price of his usual expensive restaurants. I ate at a tiny six-table bistro across the street from his flagship restaurant, where, on that night, Savoy himself was running across the street between the two eateries, cooking in both kitchens.
I traveled to Sweden several times in the 1990s and fell in love with reindeer, especially a leg loin with a lingonberry sauce. Everything is served with Aquavit (similar to vodka), Sweden’s national drink. I did not, however, develop a taste for herrings in cream.
I could do a whole blog post about the wonderful food of Brazil, some of which is similar to soul food. The national dish is feijoada, a wonderful stew of black beans, beef and pork. It is served with white rice and is eaten with your choice of farofa (made of toasted cassava flour and is similar to corn meal), pork rinds, bananas, fried collard greens and Brazilian pepper sauce. And of course, you MUST drink Brazil’s national drink, the caipirinha, is made with cachaça (Brazilian rum) and two limes, muddled with sugar served over ice.
So when you’re planning that next international trip, take a quick surf on the Internet and see what’s what in local cuisine at your final destination. Food is a key part of the journey and you’ll really miss out if you stick with restaurants you can easily visit when you’re at home.
I’d love to know some of the great places you’ve frequented when traveling internationally.
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