One of the things I love to do when I travel is to check out the different street foods and cool dishes that a destination has to offer.
Gaining insight into what and how the locals of a particular city or country eat, is as fascinating to me as visiting a landmark or picking up phrases in a new language. You get to learn so much about a region’s unique culture and lifestyle through its dietary customs, and it opens your eyes to the possibilities of a world beyond international chains and global hipsterism.
On the other hand, traveling so much over the years has also made me appreciate the amazing culinary offerings of my home city that much more. I have become so partial to Cantonese food in the eight years since I’ve relocated back to Hong Kong, in fact, that I now literally cannot go without a bowl of rice or a plate of stir-fried leafy greens for more than a week at a time.
I still remember my trip with hubby to London and the UK two Christmases ago, where I had booked us into the coolest friends-approved restaurants, and scheduled trips to all the local food markets, pretty much every single day.
By the time we drove our way up to the Lake District for New Year’s Eve, more than a week into our trip, I was seriously hankering for some wok-fried noodles.
We ended up at a small Thai restaurant that night — it wasn’t exactly Chinese, but considering we were in the middle of a sleepy, quiet English town, it was close enough for comfort. We were more than happy to pay the exorbitant New Year’s premium for a pretty average meal, but my tastebuds were thankful for something familiar.
And all of a sudden, I also understood why brands like McDonald’s or KFC — brands that I held in contempt and vowed never to patronize when I traveled to foreign land — do so well all over the world. For many travelers, whether they’re originally from America or have grown up frequenting these ubiquitous chains, it’s a reminder of “home,” with all the strings attached.
Next time I crave some dumplings in a country not particularly known for dumplings, I’ll remember not to look down on others scrambling to get into the Starbucks next door.
A mouthy soliloquy by Adele Wong. See more Food for Thought columns here.