Travel Tuesday: memorable meals around the world

I love food. My days revolve around when and what I am going to eat, and as I’ve travelled more I’ve discovered that my happiness comes not from tours and entry to attractions, but from what I eat when exploring a new place. I could name a unique dish I’ve eaten in almost every country I’ve visited: ostrich pie in South Africa, kangaroo steak in Australia, roast reindeer for Christmas in Finland, macarons in France, fondue in Switzerland, Japadog in Canada…the list could go on forever, but to save you reading through a novel-length blog post I’ve narrowed it down to the five most memorable meals I’ve ever eaten (in no particular order). The reasons are not always the amazing food, but whatever led me to choose these five, I know that they will stick in my memory forever.

1. Sushi for breakfast; Tokyo, Japan:

top: my breakfast. bottom: the markets it came from

When Brendan and I stopped in Tokyo for two nights in 2008, we only had two things on our to-do list: cross the road at Shibuya, the world’s busiest intersection, and visit Tsukiji fish market. We’d read that it was an impressive spectacle, and that the sushi served for breakfast in the small restaurants around the market was second to none. We woke up at around 5am (late by market standards) and arrived at Tsukiji just as things were winding down. I’d love to see it in full swing, as even at the tail end there was activity everywhere: we nearly got hit multiple times by little carts whizzing by, fish were still twitching in their buckets and wheelbarrows were transporting some of the biggest fish I’d ever seen. It was a sight to behold. We found a small restaurant in one of the alleys around the market and ate the best sushi of my life. It was just so fresh, it practically melted in my mouth. I was so glad I tried a breakfast of sushi, although my stomach wasn’t so happy later in the day!

2. Stefano’s; Mildura, Australia:

I was surprised when this restaurant sprang to mind as one of my top five, as it was a long time ago and the company was dismal. I was 21 and travelling around Australia with my boss (who wasn’t my favourite person) to visit all of the wineries we looked after. One of them was in the rural city of Mildura, and my boss booked us a table at Stefano’s, a renowned Australian restaurant run by a self-taught Italian chef. At that point I liked food but my love affair with it had not yet begun, and I hadn’t eaten at many nice restaurants before. At Stefano’s we were served a 5 course set menu which featured, among other delicious dishes, gnocchi and pork belly. The gnocchi melted in my mouth, and it was the first time I had ever actually enjoyed a pork dish. Despite the poor company and random location, Stefano’s has stuck with me, I think because it was my first foray into fine dining!

3. Le Poulbot; Paris, France:

I’ve written about this restaurant here and here already, but that’s just because Le Poulbot is amazing. Not only is it in my favourite part of Paris (Montmartre), but the food is divine. Try the escargot and the boeuf bourguignon¬†– you will fall in love with French food, I promise!

top: escargot. bottom: boeuf bourguignon

4. Paella on the beach; near Alicante, Spain:

When I was 16 I travelled with my parents and brother to Spain to visit my Aunt and her family in a small town near Alicante. I don’t remember exactly where it was, but one night we drove down to a beach where there was a small tin shed and some plastic chairs and tables set up right there on the sand. We sat at this makeshift restaurant and were served the most delicious paella as we ran our toes through the sand and watched the sun set over the ocean, and the lights of Alicante come on in the distance. It was magical! Unfortunately, the last time we returned to my Aunt’s house we discovered that the beach shed has been shut down due to health & safety (booo), but it’s a memory I’ll always love.

5. Meal, interrupted; Nice, France:

When my sister finished high school, my Mum took her on a day trip to Sydney to celebrate. So when I finished high school in London, it was my turn to be taken away, and Mum chose Nice on the French Riviera for a weekend away together. We spent two days relaxing in the sun and strolling through the beautiful streets, and on our last night we found a small restaurant in a narrow alley to eat our dinner. I honestly can’t remember what I ate, although knowing Mum and I it was probably heavy with seafood, but one thing I will never forget is having to shift our table aside every few minutes to allow cars to pass us in the narrow road. It was comical; we literally had to stand up and lift our table, shuffling it as close as we could to the building before placing it back down and continuing with our meals. I didn’t mind though; to me, it was so European, so quaint, and so unique that it’s stayed with me as one of my favourite meals of all time!

What is your most memorable meal?

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