The quest for authentic food in 2017 opened us up to new tastes, flavors and food travel experiences. Most our time was spent discovering the exotic flavors of Southeast Asia.
The year started in Siem Reap, Cambodia and ended in Paris, France. In total, we visited six countries including, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, USA, and France. We also made a short stop in Narita, Japan where we indulged in eel, the local favorite.
The highlights of our culinary travels in 2017 centered on the discovery of ‘new tastes and flavors’. We ate a variety of unique dishes full of fresh flavors and unusual textures. While it was difficult narrowing down the list to 10 dishes, we offer these meals as inspiration for your food travels.
Use these 10 best food travel experiences to inspire you to open up to new flavors, tastes and textures in 2018 and beyond.
#1 – Char Koay Teow – Penang, Malaysia
Char Koay Teow, from Penang, the Food Capital of Malaysia is one local specialty that knocked our socks off in 2017.
Char Koay Teow is a deceptively simple dish. The name literally means “stir-fried flat rice noodles strips.” It’s made of flat rice noodle strips stir-fried with shrimp, cockles, eggs, bean sprouts, chives and lap cheons or Chinese dried sausage in a mixture of sauces including soy.
Bursting with flavors, you’ll never forget this meal. It has the perfect mix of savory, sweet and spice. The fresh shrimp, cockles, and Chinese sausage create a unique combination of flavors that marry perfectly with the noodles.
We loved this dish so much that we once waited over 45 minutes in line for Char Koay Teow. This vendor prepared the meal the traditional way, cooking one plate at a time over charcoal. This was one of our best food travel experiences and one worth seeking out your culinary travels.
Siam Road Charcoal Char Koay Teow
Address: Corner of Jalan Anson and Jalan Siam Penang
Hours: Everyday, 3 pm – 9:00 pm, closed on Sundays.
Prices: RM 6.50 per plate (approx $1.52 USD)
#2 – Peranakan Food – Penang, Malaysia
When we first arrived in Penang for our food travel experiences, we didn’t know it was one of the birthplaces of Peranakan culture and Nyonya food.
Peranakan we learned, means “straits born” or the descendants of Chinese immigrants who married and integrated with local Malays. The men are known as “Baba” and the women “Nyonya”.
Nyonya food or Peranakan cooking is a result of blending Chinese ingredients with distinct spices and cooking techniques used by the Malay locals.
The result, is a unique cuisine that is aromatic, spicy, and herbal. Fresh herbs like lemongrass, galangal (wild ginger), turmeric, chilies, shallots, spicy shrimp paste (belacan) are used in most Nyonya dishes.
Discovering this fascinating culture and cuisine has spawned a delicious new style of cooking, that must be experienced.
Perut Rumah Restaurant
Address: 17, Jalan Bawasah, George Town, Penang
Hours: Everyday from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Prices: About 20 to 30 RM per dish ($4.76 to $7.10 USD)
#3 – Khao Soi – Chiang Mai, Thailand
This northern Thai dish quickly became one of our favorite dishes in Thailand. Khao Soi, the most famous dish of Chiang Mai, is a rich and spicy coconut milk based curry served with chicken or beef and two types of noodles.
The dish is found mostly in the north of Thailand as it was brought over by Chinese Yunnanese Muslims on their way through Thailand to Myanmar.
This noodle dish gets its delicious flavors from the use of fresh ingredients like red curry paste, turmeric powder, and curry powder. In Chiang Mai, Khao Soi is accompanied with a fresh lime wedge, a side of shallots, pickled cabbage and roasted chilis. If your travels take you to Thailand, be sure to seek out for a truly delicious food travel experiences.
Khao Soi Mae Sai
Address: 29/1 Ratchaphuek Alley, Mueang Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai
Hours: Monday to Saturday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm
Prices: 40 Baht per bowl, approximately $1.22 USD per bowl
#4 – Hainanese Chicken Rice – Singapore
You will not find a more simple and delicious meal than Hainanese chicken rice. It is one of Singapore’s national dishes and worth seeking out on your culinary travels. This chicken rice dish comes from Chinese immigrants from the province of Hainan in China.
Hainanese chicken rice is exceptionally fragrant and full of flavor. Thin slices of juicy poached chicken are served alongside fragrant rice. The dish is topped with cilantro and sesame oil and accompanied with a garlic chili secret sauce. The rice is cooked with ginger and pandan leaves giving it a unique fragrance.
When you bite into the depth of flavors of this dish, you understand immediately what makes it a local and international favorite.
Address: Maxwell Food Center, 1 Kadayanallur St, Singapore.
Hours: Everyday, 8:00 am – 11:00 pm
Prices: About SGD 3.50, approx $2.50 USD
#5: Floribbean Cuisine, Conch Fritters, Florida, USA
While house sitting in South Florida, we discovered Floribbean cuisine, one of America’s most innovative regional cooking styles.
Floribbean food represents cuisines that evolved in Florida, migrated to Florida or immigrated to Florida. Floribbean cuisine takes elements from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and Asia. Its roots can be traced back to the exploration of the New World by the Spanish and it is very popular in South Florida.
While on a food tour with Taste History Culinary Tours in Delray Beach and Boynton Beach, Florida, we visited several off the beaten path local restaurants, featuring cuisines that have influenced Florida’s culinary landscape.
It was on the tour where we discovered conch fritters at Troy’s Barbecue, a local restaurant serving Floribbean style barbecue. The dish has it origins from the Bahamas, where conch, a shellfish, is mixed in a spicy batter and then deep fried. Served as a soft patty, these little fritters melt in your mouth. Indulge in the amazing food travel experiences that are all around us.
Address: 1920 S. Federal Highway. Boynton Beach, Florida
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 am- 9:00 pm Or until sold out
Price: $6.00 per platter
#6 – Kuyteav – Siem Reap, Cambodia
Kuyteav was one of the most unusual and surprisingly delicious breakfast dishes we discovered on our culinary travels.
This is a popular and typical Cambodian breakfast dish.
It is a rich broth made from pork bones, vermicelli noodles, dried squid and a generous amount of herbs, vegetables, and condiments.
In Phnom Penh, the capital, Kuyteav is the undisputed leader. There is even a local version that takes the dish to the next level by adding beef offal and giant prawns from the Mekong River.
The depth of flavors are outstanding. Kuyteav is an experience to savor on your culinary travels.
Outdoor Food Stall at Pho Langka Market, Siem Reap
This is a very local market where you will not find any tourists. Don’t hesitate to pull up a chair next to the locals and savor this traditional Khmer breakfast dish.
Address: Pho Langka Market, Siem Reap
Hours: Every day from 7 am to 12 pm
Price: 3000 Riel per dish (approx $0.75 USD)
#7 – Crab Claypot Crab Bee Hoon, Singapore
To taste Singapore is to taste Singapore’s iconic food in Singapore. This dish was ranked #35 as one of the World’s 50 Best Foods in a 2011 CNN Travel poll.
While there are many ways to cook up the delicious crab, the two most famous styles are Singapore crab with a spicy tomato chili sauce and Singapore crab cooked with black pepper sauce.
Our favorite was the Singapore crab cooked with black pepper also known as Claypot Crab Bee Hoon. You’ll find huge meaty pieces of crab in an aromatic broth tempting you at every bite. When you combine the crab with the vermicelli noodles in the broth, the delightful flavors will take you straight to culinary heaven. Don’t miss this dish if your culinary travels take you to Singapore.
Mellben Seafood TPY
Address: Blk 211 Toa Payoh Lorong 8 #01-11/15, Singapore 310211
Price: About S$45 per crab (approx $33.96 USD)
#8 – Roti Canai, Penang, Malaysia
This beloved Malaysian dish quickly became one of our favorite foods in Malaysia. We first discovered it in Penang, and happily ate it throughout our stay in Malaysia.
Roti Canai is the Malaysian adaptation of the Indian paratha roti or Indian flatbread. This dish made its way to Malaysia, under colonialism, when the British brought South Indians to work in British Malaya. The Indians brought their food and culture with them including their savory flatbreads.
Roti Canai is typically served with daal (a soupy lentil curry) and kari ayam (chicken curry without the pieces of chicken).
Everything about Roti Canai is an experience. From the delicious tastes and flavors to the impressive preparation process. Like pizza dough, roti canai dough is thrown and spun in the air and slapped continuously until it becomes almost paper-thin. It is then cooked on a hot and well-oiled surface.
This is an enjoyable dish not to miss in Malaysia. To try Roti Canai in India, where the dish is originally from, book a culinary tour with Kerala Tourism Packages to Kerala, the “Queen of the Malabar Coast.”
Penang Transfer Road Roti Canai
Transfer road roti canai is famous for roti canai in Penang. This stall has a history for over 90 years and has been passed down to four generations.
Address: 56, Jalan Transfer Penan
Hours: Everyday, 6.30 am-1:00 pm, 3.30 pm-7:00 pm
Prices: Roti Canai RM1.0 (approx $0.23 USD)
#9 – French Crêpes, Brittany, France
Although French crêpes are popular all over the world, there is no better place to have them than in France. Our favorites are the savory crêpes or buckwheat crêpes, known as “galette de sarrasin” from Brittany region of France.
The dough made of buckwheat, salt, and water, is cooked on a round and flat stove which makes the crêpes light and crispy. Savory crepes can be filled with many different kinds of ingredients. The most typical savory crepes are prepared with ham, egg, and Emmental cheese.
Best is to have them with a side salad and a glass of cider. Bon Appetit!
You will find many creperies in France. L’artisan crepier is an innovative crepes concept in Paris which was awarded the best Creperie in Paris in 2014. There are now four locations in Paris where you can savor these delicious crepes.
Address: 3 Rue Commandant-Rivière, 75008, Paris
Hours: Monday to Friday from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm to 10:30 pm
Price: About €10 euros (approx $12.20 USD) per crepe.
#10 – Bamboo Sticky Rice – Chiang Mai, Thailand
In Southeast Asia, we discovered sticky rice and loved it. Sticky rice is a very particular staple of Asian cuisine. It is grown mainly in Southeast Asia and from a specific variety of rice (with opaque grains) that once cooked stick!
Many Asian desserts are made using sticky rice. The most original is Bamboo Sticky Rice. Bamboo sticky rice is a type of sticky rice roasted in bamboo sticks. It is made of sticky rice mixed with black beans grated coconut and coconut milk. The mixture is packed into a bamboo stick and slowly roasted over a charcoal fire until cooked.
To eat bamboo sticky rice, you need to peel the bamboo to get to the rice. If your culinary travels take you to Thailand or Cambodia, this is one fun food travel experience not to miss.
It is not easy to find this unique dessert. The best places to find it is at street fairs or certain markets. In Thailand, we had it at Warorot market in Chiang Mai, near the sweets section.
Price: Depends on size from 50 baht to 80 baht (approx $0.143 USD to $2.28 USD)
2017 was a year of new tastes and unique flavors. Some of the new flavors we discovered on our culinary travels, while others in our own home country in the U.S. This is a reminder that you can explore the local flavors away or close to home. The key is opening up to new food travel experiences.
We hope this list inspires you to seek out new dishes in 2018. Try some of the dishes mentioned above or new cuisines close to home.
Thank you for all your support in 2017 and we wish you delicious food travel experiences in 2018 and beyond.
To discover more unique spices, oils, sauces, wines we found on travels, visit the Authentic Food Quest Store for more.
In the comments below, tell us, what new food or cuisine do you want to discover in 2018?
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Rosemary is a writer and culinary explorer. Together with her partner, Claire, they created Authentic Food Quest to inspire people to travel deeper through authentic food. Through food, they believe, people can have more meaningful connections on their travels. Prior to creating Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary worked as a director of strategy in advertising for over 15 years. Take the quiz and find out your Food Traveler Profile.
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