‘Get ready to placate your grumbling stomachs (or more likely struggle to hold down your own lunch) as we embark on our most hazardous journey yet. Across plates, bowls and the odd banana leaf, this worldwide expedition will leave you hungry for adventure if nothing else.’
For those that have read the introduction to this little mini series already, welcome to my first official food post (for those who haven’t had the chance, take a look here) I’m super excited to share some of my favourite culinary moments with all of you, so without further ado, read on to learn about my most delicious memories to date!
CoCo Curry House – Asia
It was a humid August day in Nara, Japan that I fell in love for the first time. My feet were aching, my skin peeling and my unsatisfied palate desperate for sustenance that couldn’t be bought from a vending machine, when I saw the tasteful neon sign. With low expectations, we trudged inside the fairly humble establishment and welcomed our free glasses of water with embarrassing enthusiasm. After a quick scan of the menu and a reasonable wait, four bowls of steaming katsu curry were placed in front of us and then and there, my life was changed forever.
I’m not entirely sure how best to go about describing food, ‘yummy’ doesn’t quite seem to do it justice, but the beautiful simplicity, authentic flavours and affordable nature of each and every dish sparked a love affair that I have no doubt will last a life time. My first exposure to this magical hut has led to countless CoCo adventures across Asia, some accompanied with a side of salty fries and more than a few judgemental glances from various waiting staff.
It’s not much fun developing an obsession with a chain that only exists on a continent on the other side of the globe. My friends often kindly offer to visit ‘my favourite restaurant’ when we go out to eat. Unfortunately however, unless dinner comes hand in hand with return tickets to Bangkok, Nandos will have to do. I know of course that it’s the thought that counts, but it is with unabashed sincerity that I can state after a CoCo katsu curry, thought simply won’t cut it. Here’s hoping that the universe (or more helpfully a fellow blogger with contacts in high places) answers my prayers and opens a branch in London because I’m telling you now, I’m not sure I can wait another year for a taste of heaven.
Coolish – Japan
I know what you’re thinking. Drinkable ice-cream, really? In a world so preoccupied with modern conveniences and superfluous quirks, is such a product really necessary? The answer, in no uncertain terms, is yes. For those who’ve read my blog before, you may have already been enlightened as to my philosophy regarding travel. I cannot emphasise enough that it is only through exploration and an open-minded attitude that you stumble across the sites, and indeed food, that will make your adventures truly remarkable. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way claiming that this cheap, convenience store dessert is particularly revolutionary, I would simply offer you a recommendation. Next time you’re in 7/11 or the dodgy looking store outside your hotel, leave that Cornetto in the freezer (no matter how tempting it appears) and steer clear of those Oreos in favour of the questionable looking packet covered in words you can’t read. There’s no denying it’s a risk, but more often than not, it pays off.
Coolish is quite literally a pouch of drinkable ice-cream in a variety of flavours that increases the pleasure of hydration tenfold (albeit doing the same to your calorie intake). These shots of sweet delight are an absolute must when visiting Japan and the addiction they inspire is as dangerous as any other I’ve encountered. In fact, my obsession was so potent in its severity that I even stooped as low to create my very own jingle dedicated to my affection for the frozen treat. I’ll admit, it’s not something I’m proud of, yet my success in encouraging my dear old Dad to accompany me on a midnight stock-up far outweighs the remnants of my embarrassment.
Raffles – Singapore
Ah the elegance! The inexplicable magic of dainty China tea cups, napkins so ornate in their decoration that they’re almost too pretty to touch and an array of delicate little morsels as attractive as they are delectable. Is there really anything better…?
Oops! I do believe there’s been some kind of mistake. In fact, I don’t think I could be much further from a Raffles Girl, even if I was to do the unthinkable and dare to venture into these hallowed halls in my classy elephant harem pants. No. I can safely say that though I’m happy to have ticked this particular destination off my bucket list, I have no desire to return anytime soon, even if my mother still hasn’t managed to cease her fawning at the very mention of afternoon tea.
It was, perhaps, this trip that cemented a fact that I’ve often pondered. I will always be, at heart, more impressed by any street hawker than a waiter with a trip-advisor approved talent for sweet talking. When a restaurant has as many forks as it does stars in a guide book (I remain ignorant as to their purpose), cakes so small my uncivilised table manners manage to squash them before consumption and men, quite literally, employed to pull out your chair for you, I can rest assured I’ve taken a wrong turn. Now, cue the horrified gasps, but I’ll take eating with my fingers, rickety roadside tables and pigeons as fluttery as any respectable hotel waiter, any day.
In light of this (though please do understand that my lack of enthral for this world renowned hotel is an entirely personal opinion, there really is no denying it’s exquisite), the real gem of Singaporean cuisine lies in the hawkers centres that scatter the city. For choice too extensive to comprehend, an authentic lively atmosphere and the odd, but strangely charming, screech of one chef to another, these hidden treasures cannot be missed.
A Final Word
Despite the fact I haven’t actually had the chance to elaborate on my less successful culinary exploits (keep a lookout for a post outlining these very disasters soon), I will leave you with a final handful of tips.
Firstly, there’s no shame in embracing the pot noodle in the hotel room every now and again. Though there’s really no way of figuring out what these instant meals contain, a quick fix in the comfort of your accommodation can be as convenient as it is enjoyable. Secondly, don’t shy away from street food. Whilst I personally wouldn’t recommend munching on a live tarantula anytime soon, there are some real delicacies to be found down a dusty Asian alley, so long as you’re willing to look for them.
Finally, when the creepy crawlies, unpronounceable ingredients and dodgy body parts all get a little too much to bear, the Golden Arches are always there to welcome you home, even if a McSpicey isn’t quite what you had in mind.