Since coming back to Sydney, I’ve been devouring the cuisine that I’ve been craving the most whilst travelling through Latin America: Asian. I didn’t realise how much I’d miss it and not a day went by when I didn’t think about a nourishing Pho Bo, spicy laksa, comforting chicken rice or a refreshing noodle salad. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate a steak in Argentina or Tacos in Mexico, it took a an extended trip away from Australia to realise that I missed the food that I spent the best part of my life eating. The fragrant soup broths, fresh herbs, crunchy textures and the pungent smell of fish sauce is what I craved all the time.
You can eat it every day
I’ve been fortunate enough with my previous job to have eaten at some fine restaurants in Sydney. However, I’ve never associated Asian cuisine to be that of something that should be over the top and seen as something that should be elevated to three hat/star quality. Of course there are many restaurants who have achieved such success in modernising their cuisine and fusing traditional traditional flavours with foams, gels and stabilisers whilst having it served from a bowl of liquid nitrogen by a gentleman wearing white gloves. However, like most high end cuisine, you just can’t eat that kind of grub everyday.
Call me old fashioned but I enjoy slurping away at my bowl of noodles inside a restaurant or a food court that’s brightly light up in a fluorescent haze and seated on a portable fold up chair at a table with a plastic table cloth.These down to earth places do not discriminate as. From trendy teenagers with spiked fringes to high rolling bankers, you’ll see them pile in during lunch breaks or after work, hunched over their bowls or plates of food before or after a post work drink. On many occasions I’ve taken my friends to foodcourts and they’ve been blown away at the selection of food from all over Asia. Prior to leaving on my trip, I was having all of my farewell catchups here for the same reason as to why I still come: The cost. They even have a bar there serving cheap alcohol for the budget conscious.
The perfect sandwich
Earlier last year, I spent the best part of a month travelling all over Sydney finding where the best Vietnamese pork roll is. I was searching for the perfect combination of the perfect crunchy bread roll, meat to pickled vegetable ratio as well as the seasoned soy sauce. My search took me to 10 hot bread shops and over 100km across four weekends. I only told a few people about it but now, I make no qualms about hiding the fact that I am addicted to these bad boys. Some people travel across cities to pick up drugs. I’d go for a sandwich.
It should be fun and exciting
I love to hear the slurping of noodles, the sizzle of the wok and smell of pork belly over a bbq at the table. I didn’t come for fine dining service or a romantic occasion. There is no language barrier because you can always point to the picture or the corresponding number on the menu, it’s so simple. Despite the numerous dishes on the menu, more often than not I will refer back to of favourites. Dishes that made you fall in love with a particular place in the first place . All that matters is that it’s hot, delicious and comes out within a few minutes of being handed a raffle ticket stub or an electronic beeper to let you know when it’s ready. Yes, sometimes it may have some MSG in it, but YOLO!
Waste not, want not
Over the years I’ve fallen back in love with eating all different parts of the animal. As a kid I’d happily eat anything including the animals including chickens that we raised at home. I can still recall holding onto my feathery friend whilst the hairs around its neck were plucked, throat slit and then the blood drained for use in my parent’s “Vietnamese Pizza”. All of a sudden I stopped eating those cute little chickens from home at around 17 years old. It’s only now that I’ve come around and have a deeper sense of respect and appreciation for all parts of the animal. From the head, to the blood jelly, brisket, tripe and tendons. Not much is wasted by some of these crafty chefs but it’s these parts that I find inject texture and carry the most flavour.
So my friends, next time you’re hungry and with some friends or even by yourself. If you walk past a food court or a pokey hole in the wall establishment that only serves a couple of things with a long queue out the door, or a restaurant just soberingly lit up in fluorescent lighting with occupied by an eclectic mix of people, just walk in your appetite and a sense of adventure. You tastebuds won’t regret it.
Do you share the same enthusiasm about Asian food as I do? Which foods do you miss the most from home when travelling?