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Memorable Meals on the Road

Fried Fish Corn Island

I asked four of my favorite travel bloggers one question: What was your most memorable meal on the road? Their answers brought stories of good company, fresh food and enviable locations. And they confirm that everyday meals are key to connecting with people and places.

Fried Fish: Local Caribbean Style – by Jules & Christine from Don’t Forget to Move

Fried Fish Corn Island

Photo Credit (and for the delicious first photograph as well) – Don’t Forget to Move

As traveling vegetarians, especially in Latin America, it was often difficult to come across good food. When things got tough occasionally we’d eat a little fish (which I know technically makes us pescatarians), but we’d only eat it when we knew it came from humane local sources. While spending time on the Corn Islands in Nicaragua we had an amazing opportunity to get involved first hand when our neighbour offered to take us out fishing to catch our own lunch.

Taking a shaky two-man canoe out into shark invested Caribbean waters, a couple of hundred meters off shore, Elton steered us towards an unbelievable fishing spot where we caught enough fish to feed his whole extended family. Once back on shore we prepared everything together and cooked up an absolute feast. Over the next couple of hours we all stuffed our faces with fresh fish deep fried in coconut oil (that his father makes at their house) and fried plantain chips. In the background country music blared from his one good speaker and we washed down the meal with some cold beers and cheap rum.

Street Food in Penang – by Margherita and Nick from The Crowded Planet

Soup - Penang

Photo Credit – The Crowded Planet

Food is a very important component of travel for us; we love sampling local specialties, going to local restaurants and (rarely) to fancy ones. We have a serious weakness for street food, and the place where we’ve had the best street food was Penang, in Malaysia.

One day for lunch, our dear Penangite friend Poay Lum took us to a food court for lunch. We sat down, and he disappeared to order a bunch of local specialties from the stalls. Then, an array of delicious dishes appeared at our table. The first delicacy we tried was char keoy teow, a pan-fried noodle dish with prawns and Chinese sausages. Then we tried asam laksa, very different from every other laksa I had ever had, a deep orange broth tangy with tamarind. Another delicious dish was deep fried oyster omelette, which sounds like heart attack on a plate, but was actually creamy and delicious. There were a couple other soups and some satays, and then it was time for dessert; cendol, a mountain of shaved ice with syrups, coconut milk and sweet beans. On the way back, I couldn’t resist stopping at a durian stand. I am very partial to the king of fruit, and there was no other way to finish the most delicious lunch of my life than a bite of my favourite fruit ever.

Durian Photo

Photo Credit – The Crowded Planet

A Pineapple Curry in the Hills of Sri Lanka – by Jon from Jon is Travelling

Sri Lanka Haputale View

Photo Credit – Jon is Travelling

I can count the number of vegetarian meals I’ve had on one hand, and the number that I actually enjoyed on one finger. That meal was the best I’ve had in Asia and had everyone at the table saying the same. It was pretty simple fare – pineapple curry with rice, poppadoms and a couple of vegetable side dishes. The friendliness of the Sri Lankan Muslim hosts, along with the amazing hill country scenery just outside the front door only added to the delicious food. I was in Haputale, a small town surrounded by tea plantations and home to some of Sri Lanka’s best views. There is some great hiking in the area, but if you just want to relax and eat some unique and memorable food head to Bawa Guesthouse – just make sure you’re hungry!

Dinner at a Ryokan – by Manouk from Bunch of Backpackers

Sumo wrestler blogger Japan

Photo Credit – Bunch of Backpackers

I was sitting on a train to Nikko (Japan) when an old Japanese couple got on board. They looked around for seats and I scooted over so there would be room for them. Thankfully they took the seats. After noticing my Japan guidebook we started talking a bit (didn’t go much further than where are you from, etc.). We both got out in Nikko and I told them I would go find a ‘ryokan’ (Traditional Japanese Inn). To my surprise they hinted that I should go with them. At that moment I didn’t really know what to expect and where we’d go. They were both really old and their English was very limited. However, after a short bus ride we got to a beautiful ryokan in the middle of the mountains and to my surprise they invited me to stay with them. We got dressed in traditional Japanese robes and in the evening we had a beautiful dinner in the ryokan with some of the best Japanese food I ate during my trip. Even though we couldn’t really speak to each other we had a great time during dinner. We even had some sake. I felt so lucky to have met this incredibly sweet couple. By the end of the evening they started calling me ‘Manouk-san, English teacher’. The next morning I visited some sights with them in Nikko and we exchanged emails. Unfortunately, we both traveled different ways after that, but I’ll never forget them.

Dinner Japanese Family Ryokan

Photo Credit – Bunch of Backpackers

And me?
When I think of the term “on the road,” I immediately recall the many road trips I’ve taken across Spain. My favorite way of grabbing a meal or lunch was to pull off the highway in a rural area and pop into the first restaurant I found. Invariably, I would order a Serrano ham bocadillo with Manchego cheese. I would drizzle some olive oil on the bread, take a bite and feel at home in countless unequivocally Spanish joints, with their slot machines dinging in the background.

What was your favorite meal on the road?

The five of us are part of an exciting new travel initiative, the Wednesday Roamers. Look forward to an announcement post with more details!


{ 30 comments… add one }
  • David Ouellette July 16, 2014, 4:18 pm

    Cool post Dave, I think it was interesting to get several different perspectives. I think that the experience of new and strange food enriches travel and brightens memories. I’ll never forget eating cobra and bat for Christmas dinner in Vietnam, or learning from a jungle guide in Borneo to catch bugs and eat them in the rain forest. Cambodian bbq with Kangaroo and Crocodile is also up there…

    • Dave July 20, 2014, 11:38 am

      Thanks, David! The cobra and bat Christmas dinner sounds pretty amazing – certainly a unique experience.

  • Stacey Veikalas July 20, 2014, 7:56 am

    What a great post! One of our fave parts of traveling is also trying the local food! We are currently in Thailand and we are loving the local food! Always fun to hear what other travelers are eating! My husband had scorpion and tarantula me I’m sticking to pad Thai

  • Axelle Lot July 20, 2014, 1:16 pm

    Asian street food never disappoints me and the vegetarian cuisine is full of flavors and spices, something you can on these beautiful pictures!

  • Hannah July 20, 2014, 1:32 pm

    Great post- made me hungry! I love Manouk’s story and how she basically lucked into her best meal by a kind gesture- it’s moments like these that make me love travelling so much! Thanks for sharing

  • Jessica (Barcelona Blonde) July 20, 2014, 5:28 pm

    Great post! Food can tell you a lot about the culture, especially if you sit down and have it with friendly locals. The Caribbean fried fish sounds lovely!

    My favorite food travel event was a calçotada in Barcelona. It’s a late winter or early spring barbecue centered around these onions called calçots, and it’s basically an excuse to go somewhere pretty with all your friends and eat a ton of delicious food.

  • Jameela July 20, 2014, 6:47 pm

    When i read the title i was expecting really funky stuff like grilled crickets or other delicacies people eat around the world. However this is very interesting, indeed sharing a meal abroad is a good way to make friends and discover a part of the culture that is very intimate. I’m always surprised by how something as simple as sitting down for a meal can be so different in other countries. Manouk, i’m jealous of your Japanese encounter, musy have been awesome.

  • Mindi @ 2foodtrippers July 20, 2014, 7:29 pm

    Food is always an integral part of our travels. Thanks for sharing these memories.

  • Elena July 20, 2014, 9:24 pm

    I love your choice Dave! Having lived in Spain for almost 10 years I can´t have enough of jamon serrano. And a good baguette sandwich with olive oil and tomato, jamon serrano and cheese is priceless!

  • Lauren July 20, 2014, 9:46 pm

    That pineapple curry sounds delicious! I loved all of these stories! Food can bring up so many memories of a place, and I know that much of my travels revolves around what I’m going to eat :) Thanks for sharing!

  • Charli July 21, 2014, 12:32 am

    Pineapple curry sounds awesome! We’re heading to the Caribbean next week so I can’t wait to try the fried fish Jules and Christine mentioned, the thought of it is making me hungry!

  • Milosz Zak July 21, 2014, 1:27 am

    I like the laid-back attitude, and the long beard. The first time I tried street food was in Istanbul, and of course I became very sick; however, since those days, I’ve become acclimated to everything from Asia-Minor, the Middle East, and North Africa, as well as Central America. The problem is that you know you can’t afford to get sick, because you have limited time on the road – it’s always such a dilemma, to try or not to try.

  • Sandra @ Tripper July 21, 2014, 5:25 am

    I wish I was more of a foodie, but I have to say: roasted chestnuts in the Lisbon autumns and winters, and pani puri in India.

  • Natasha Amar July 21, 2014, 7:57 am

    Nice post! Like Jon said, the Pineapple and other assorted Curries in Sri Lanka are truly special (and often fiery!).
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Laura July 21, 2014, 9:06 am

    As per usual, I’m hungry now! What a great way to get to know fellow bloggers. Our most memorable meal on the road was probably kangaroo in Australia. mm

  • Margherita @The Crowded Planet July 21, 2014, 9:16 am

    Thanks for featuring us Dave! I’m getting hungry thinking about Jules and Christine’s fried fish and Jon’s pineapple curry… and how amazing Manouk’s adventure was! Food-related memories are definitely my favourites ever!

  • Chris Boothman July 21, 2014, 3:26 pm

    I have to admit that a few of these delicacies appear to be a little to much for me but I would definitely look forward to sampling the fish Caribbean Style. We have just booked a trip to Jamaica over Thanksgiving this year so will definitely try some of the local fresh fish. Thanks for sharing this great collaboration with us.

  • Ben @ Road Affair July 21, 2014, 5:39 pm

    umm pineapple curry rice sounds delicious. I love the story from Bunch of Backpackers. It just shows how helpful most people are, and going to a local restaurant with locals is always nice because they usually know what’s good and what’s not.

  • Claudia July 21, 2014, 6:59 pm

    Why did I read this? Now i am HUNGRY.

  • antonette - we12travel July 22, 2014, 5:45 am

    The pineapple curry sounds like the best option for me, esp since I love pineapple and the surroundings look pretty good, too. When traveling in Asia I always miss western food after a while so I’m glad to grab a burger every now and then. Not the real thing a traveler would do, I know…

  • Bob R July 22, 2014, 7:31 am

    Without a doubt the meals that conjure the finest memories involved freshly caught fish. From the actual catch to the on-table preparation and de-boning ceremonies.

  • Brianna July 23, 2014, 1:22 am

    Food is one of the best ways to explore a destination, and I’ve had many memorable meals on the road. Out of this bunch I’d love to try the pineapple curry!
    Brianna recently posted…The Ice Caves of Werfen, AustriaMy Profile

  • Karisa July 23, 2014, 3:16 am

    I agree with Margherita and Nick-food in Penang was DELICIOUS!! <3
    Karisa recently posted…Rustic Elegance at Chateau MorrisetteMy Profile

  • Christina July 23, 2014, 7:25 am

    I would definitely go for the pineapple curry with rice, poppadoms and a couple of vegetable side dishes. 😀
    I can´t remember which food I liked best while traveling. What I saw but didn´t (want to) try was fried buffalo skin in Laos or fried snake and tarantula in Cambodia.
    Christina recently posted…Ghent: World Class Culture and CuisineMy Profile

  • Kristen Sarra July 23, 2014, 3:37 pm

    Great post! It’s so hard to pick a best meal but I think the most memorable was in Ho Chi Minh City where we motorbiked around at night to many of the districts outside Saigon and sampled a variety of local street food in total non touristy areas (not one of us got sick despite several warnings not to do that). Our best meal came from the poorest district where we had amazing crab, goat, frog, and balut.
    Kristen Sarra recently posted…Saying Goodbye (sort of) to the Whitney Museum: A Day of Jeff KoonsMy Profile

  • armchairtoreality July 23, 2014, 7:53 pm

    I pondered this for a while and have had so many good ones to choose from but most unique was the garlic rose restaurant in San Francisco – every course had garlic in it, including garlic ice cream! I love garlic and it was such a fun place to dine :-)
    armchairtoreality recently posted…Armchair to Reality: Making the most of 2 days in FlorenceMy Profile

  • Shannon July 24, 2014, 3:46 am

    Love this post, though I feel so sheltered. I haven’t heard of most of these foods! Someday I’ll get out of the American bubble!
    Shannon recently posted…Thrills and Chills at Raging Waters – Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, NJMy Profile

  • Pedro July 24, 2014, 9:23 am

    Great post! It’s really interesting. Sometimes while traveling and looking for food we get some surprises, some positive others not so great… I remember in Estonia when tried their famous bloody saussages and even if I ate a couple of times before, it was too much for me :)
    Pedro recently posted…Lake Ohrid, Balkan SapphireMy Profile

  • Karen Warren July 24, 2014, 11:46 am

    I think my most memorable meals have been in cheap back street places with no other foreigners around. Like the tiny street side stall in Belem, Brazil where I used sign language to indicate that we wanted something to eat and drink and ended up with a plate of chicken, black beans and side dishes and a glass of fruit juice (still couldn’t tell you what fruit it was). It was all delicious – and very cheap!
    Karen Warren recently posted…Exploring San Francisco’s ChinatownMy Profile

  • Marie-Carmen July 27, 2014, 3:36 am

    The ryokan meal looks awesome!

    If I had to choose one meal on the road… Gosh I wouldn’t be able to! We had some great hotpot diners in Vietnam/China and some gorgeous food in many places but recently I’d just love to get back for a weekend in the UK and get a Fish&Chips with Mushy peas and gravy on the North coast of the country.
    Marie-Carmen recently posted…5 must-have apps for ChinaMy Profile

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