Tops and flops – food

Last time I wrote about places to god for food and drink in Krakow and today I’ll share some memories regarding the best and worst food I’ve ever had on my travels. There will be a mouth-watering, juicy and tender steak, amazing seafood but also some smelly food which in Asia is a delicacy but not that hugely appreciated by western taste buds, plus a four-time disappointment.

Tops

1.       Brazil

Mercado publico is in Sao Paulo. Isn’t that a beautiful view?
Meat in Brazil is definitely one of the best I’ve ever had

OMG even after seven years I perfectly remember the taste of that steak with garlic oil in Porto Alegre. In the search for food, I went to the local market place – mercado publico to see what’s there. Going from stall to stall and checking out the restaurants next to the market I found a sad looking restaurant. It was a gloomy insight, walls covered with dark wood, actually not many guests’ insight.  However, the restaurant had something mysterious in it… it was the smell, hence I went in. After looking at the menu the choice was obvious – steak, medium rare please.

What I got was beyond my imagination. A big piece of beef covered with rich garlic oil. After cutting through it the meat was perfectly done as the juices were leaking from the meat. The first bite was like reaching beef heaven. The second bit was like staying in heaven listening to angels singing hallelujah. The third bite was ultimate, indescribable pleasure. After a couple of days went there again to enjoy that meaty goodness. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of that restaurant but would definitely recognise it if in Porto Alegre.

2.       South Korea

The place for Korean grill, all sorts and variety of noodles, many many types of street food, ginseng chicken and ofcoz pancakes. It was my last day in Seoul and sadly many places were closed because it was the Mid-Autumn Festival, a holiday in many Asian countries. I was walking around the Dongdaemun area but couldn’t find anything I particularly fancy. Though oh well, I will start walking towards my hotel and hope to find an open nice local restaurant, if not there was always the small place opposite my hotel where I ate the evening before. Suddenly a small brightly lit alley caught my eye and started walking that direction. There was a very local place packed with people. Though OK it’s good enough. Sat down in lotus posture behind a low table and started looking at the menu. Judging by neighbouring tables the portions were huge – huge even for me and my appetite. My choice fell on the seafood pancake. Well, that pancake looked like a very proper sized pizza. On top of that I got many side dishes like kimchi, soybean sprouts or marinated radish. After getting though half of the pancake I had enough but with just enough space to eat the seafood and leave the rest. Like my Dad used to say – when you are full eat the meat leave the potatoes. Let me tell you, that was a very very good piece of seafood pancake… would love to have it one more time!

All that food just for me!!!

3.       Thailand

If you watched the Pixar animation Ratatouille there is a quote that goes something like this: French cuisine is the best in the world. Parisian cuisine is the best in France and the best in Paris is Auguste Gusteau  cuisine. I would slightly modify it to say the best cuisine is Thai. The best cuisine in Thailand is in Bangkok and the best place in Bangkok is China Town where you can get fresh seafood from the grill. Tiger shrimps, octopus, calamari, scallops, snails, crabs and so on. Whatever your heart desires on seafood is there. It can be grilled, steamed, cooked, sautéed, fried, boiled etc. For me, going to Chinatown in Bangkok to have a seafood dinner is like having birthday, Christmas and Easter on the same day. It would probably take me some time to try everything on the different menus. Did I mention that in most cases you sit outside and enjoy the food while looking at busy Bangkok life and people passing by? Sitting outside creates a unique atmosphere as not only you sit wherever you can find a spot, you can also make new friends while having dinner. For example, someone next to you ordered something that you don’t know. You ask what it is, the person replies and before you notice you are having a second beer with your new friend. That wouldn’t happen in most western countries.

Flops

1.       Durian

I can only imagine the wave of hatred from my friends who live in Asia and love durian. Sorry guys but I’m not a big fan. I tried, I know how it tastes but I still don’t like it. The first time I tried durian it was in Singapore with PRS. We were curious how it tastes so we bought a peeled durian, wrapped it in like three plastic bags but as we were on the bus you could still smell it… so we pretended it’s not ours. Point is that durian has a very strong, characteristic smell and it’s forbidden to have it with you while using public transport.

What’s more, some hotels forbid bringing durian into the hotel building. So you got the idea how smelly it is. What does it taste like? Ammmm weird. It’s something like rotten potatoes, camembert and dirt socks. The texture is also odd. It’s not liquid nor solid, it’s something in the middle. After the first bite it was kinda OK but after the second and third it was difficult to swallow. Although I’m not a fan of the taste I really do like the smell. Every time I smell durian I think Southeast Asia and all those nice memories hit me, which is sweet. 

Durian, that you can buy on nearly every market across Southeast Asia
You can get a fine if you bring durian into a hotel building

2.       Stinky tofu

No, No and one more time No. Tried it as it’s a big thing in Taiwan, at least stinky tofu can be bought all over Taipei, even in the railway station passages. While walking down one of those passages I thought, what is the terrible smell… bleh… smells like rotten meat. It was stinky tofu. So why did I try it? Firstly, out of pure curiosity. Secondly, just because something smells disgusting it doesn’t mean it tastes disgusting. Intestines for example. Preparing them stinks as hell but in the end they are delicious. Not stinky tofu, it tastes as horrible as it smells. It’s like a sewer exploding in your mouth. After the first bite I had enough. Luckily there was a 7/11 close by – haha those who have been to Taipei know that it’s the city with a 7/11 at every corner) so I could buy a beer and wash the disgusting taste away… actually needed two beers to get rid of the taste from my mouth.

Even the chilli didn’t kill the sewer like taste of stinky tofu

3.       Egypt all-inclusive hotels

Four times in Egypt, four times dreadful food in the hotel and not sure which one was the worst. You might ask, when the food is uneatable, why did you go four times to Egypt? First time, because I was unaware and wanted to see the pyramids, remaining times for diving! Egypt does have incredible diving sites so it’s either or. Go enjoy great diving and have not so great food for a week or don’t go at all. So what was so dreadful about the food? First time I ate only soup and models for two weeks as the meat looked, smelled and tasted like nothing. No seasoning, burned or undercooked. Remaining times, the same. The beef resembled coal and the grilled fish was closer to sushi than to grilled fish. Even the eggs tasted like paper. Luckily the salads were OK. Blehhh, just blehhhh. Would I go again to Egypt, most probably for diving but this time I would take some snacks with me.

Writing this I remembered a story from a summer camp in Italy. I was 13 and it was my first time abroad without my parents. I was staying with a group of other kids in a FIAT factory that was transformed into a hostel like facility. Food was dreadful – I wonder why, it was Italy after all. Anyhow, I refused to eat what was served in the canteen, instead I was getting pizza from a pizzeria in the city. The caregiver threatened that she will call my Mum if I don’t start eating the canteen food. Told her to go ahead, as my Mum would support me in not touching disgusting food. In your face!

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