“Wait…how did you even know about this place!?”
This seems to be a recurring theme popping up whenever we meet people on the road during our travels. I guess after some years of cooking in the restaurant industry, becoming a food scientist, a well-rounded traveler, and taking food VERY seriously (I mean it’s going into your mouth!), I’ve come up with a few ways of finding places that are say…not always #1 on TripAdvisor.
During our last trip to Southeast-Asia I noticed TripAdvisor only specialized in the fancier restaurants. In a place that is world renowned for their street food why would we humor the idea of sitting in a restaurant simply because it’s the best one in town? With something delicious seemingly everywhere, eating with the locals gives you a chance to enjoy the culture and experiences with the people. What the real food scene should be more about.
I’m not saying not go to a restaurant once in a while during your beach-hopping trip in South-east Asia, but when transported into a world of unknown, pungent aromas, electric green vegetables and herbs, and the utmost enjoyable sensory pleasures possible, one may think why not make the excuse to dive in headfirst.
At the local night market in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Head to the Food Markets
This can’t be stressed enough. Visiting the local food markets will not only be a great indicator as to what to eat but also a place to try incredible high-quality foods. This is where many of the locals enjoy their favorite meals and where you can really immerse yourself in the culture of their cuisine. Socializing with the vendors and locals will give you more of an opportunity to get real recommendations.
Curry puff hot spot! Our new found mate.
Talk to the Locals
When venturing into the streets always stop and ask the locals where and what to eat. Not only will they be able to tell you where to get the freshest grub, but also and most importantly, they can teach you how to eat the dish properly. Traditional ways of eating are critical to engaging in the cuisine. Sitting in a carpeted restaurant eating Bánh Xèo and fried shrimp with a fork and a knife just doesn’t cut it. Learn the techniques, and learn them the right way.
Take a Cooking Class
Yes. Get out there. Try it, I dare you! Everything else will cease to exist in the precious moments you engage in a cooking class in another country. Learning about why and how locals cook the cuisine you’re eating will not only connect you to your food more than you could imagine, but you gain essential skills for life!
Believe it or not, before you head out to your destination of choice get onto YouTube and search in popular foods found there. Couple that with all the other tips and you will find yourself eating foods with flavours beautifully both foreign and familiar.
Recommendations from Friends & Online Community
With all the social media today, it’s become easier to connect with bloggers, chefs, and foodies who spend their entire lives eating globally. Many of them have recommendations however, I would usually leave this as a last resort or something that adds to your other research on where and what to eat since things change with time and places often succumb to an overload of tourists once they get blown up online.
Checking out a supermarket at the pier, Hong Kong
Head to the Grocery Store
Even if you don’t have a long-stay home or a kitchen, an interesting and fun place to visit is the grocery store! If you are lucky enough to have a kitchen you can always pick up some ingredients and try them out for your nightly dinner. Here is where many of the locals will shop, you can ask questions, and just discover new foods you’ve never heard (or even seen) of before!
Being fortunate enough to travel the world, let alone eat local exotic cuisines, is a profound dive into the many textured, cultural flavors, colors, and scents past the ordinary spectrum and will have you praying you have room for more.
Walking the bustling streets of Kuala Lumpur