For this week I would like to stay away from my usual “reflective topics” and investigate something much simpler: food. I started thinking of travel and food as I stumbled upon this article on Asia’s 10 greatest street food cities. As I am currently in Bulgaria and have seen many countries and sampled much of their cuisines along my way from Asia, I reckon that food, and especially, street food, is unmistakably one of the reasons why I enjoy travelling.
To me, food and street food in particular are essential travel elements: living in Penang – where I can get ultra-cheap, mouthwatering delicacies at every corner 24/7-, food options are able to shape my travel experiences. Do you need a simple example? I would pick the Central Asian region. As I think of every one of the ‘stans I visited, I cannot keep that mutton stew’s smell out of my mind… and my mouth. So, my most obvious Central Asian travel memories will always be drenched in that overcooked sheep’s fat smell; and instead, as I think of Iran, the delicate spiciness of their feta cheeses spread over oven roasted bread paints each and every one of my travel memories.
And as much as I do not really travel to experience food only as others may decide to do, It appears that I mostly remember a place by its smells, its street foods’ colors, shapes and tastes. Some countries may even feel nicer because I had the chance to experience better food. For sure, the food variety definitely makes a destination much more appealing. Honestly, there is nothing wrong against Central Asia or Nepal, but after weeks of the same langman noodles and momos diet, memories kind of jade around the edges and smell like that. They became associated with a taste: the Himalaya tastes like hot, saucy meat buns you will find anywhere and everywhere in different forms and shape… but definitely a similar content. So my dear Himalaya, your peaks smells like those same hot momos in vinegar sauce I had in every village I visited!
Try to close your eyes and remember some of your life’s best trips: now, think better. Can you agree that you probably remember those places because of the quality of the food you indulged in?
If I close my eyes and think of the first memory of a place I may associate with a country, I personally see a much brighter Thailand compared to Uzbekistan. Somehow, the food’s taste is always there, biting at the back of my mind.
Do you agree? Is there any particular place or country that you highly remember because of the taste of foods associated with your own experience? Please comment, I think it is quite interesting.