My kind of Foodie

Up until this point, I have explained my love for travel quite clearly. But my other great passion in life is food. I LOVE food. Food is the only art to touch every one of the human senses. Even if that moment of actually eating is short and fleeting, it has the power to excite, to comfort, to seduce and to create powerful memories that will last a lifetime.

Today, it has become really trendy to refer to one’s self as a “foodie”. For those that don’t know, a foodie is someone that loves food and (claims to?) knows a lot about food. Around the world there is a growing culture of food fans that worship famous chefs like sports fans worship championship athletes. In big cities like New York and London, “foodies” pour out big bucks to get the chance to eat dishes made my superstar chefs like Gordon Ramsey and Eric Riper. And given the chance, I would join them.

High end foodie party

But there is another aspect about the culinary experience that these big city, local foodies are missing out on. Besides delighting all the senses, food has one more gift to offer, if you are willing to take it. Food holds the keys to thousands of cultures across the planet. Cultures vary from country to country, province to province, city to city, neighborhood to neighborhood. The best and most enjoyable way to learn about these varying cultures is via your pallet. In my opinion, when traveling, having an open mind and an empty stomach is almost as important as having a passport.

foodie map
Foodie map of the world

Some of my best travel experiences revolve around eating local dishes. I will never forget the wonderful taste of bistecca fiorentina in Florence, or of bun bo Hue in Hue, or of pork miso ramen in Tokyo.

Bistecca Fiorentina in Florence


Whenever possible, I avoid the restaurants that are designed for tourists and try and find where the locals eat. This practice has two advantages. First you will generally find the best tasting and most authentic food this way. Second, it is often the cheaper way to eat. And it is an exciting adventure. A number of times, I have walked into local eateries in a country that I don’t speak the language and when the server asked me what I wanted, I simply pointed at a dish I saw someone else eating. It almost never fails to satisfy.

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Bun Bo Hue being sold on the street side in Hue

I am sure someone from a city like New York will read this and think to themselves that they live in a city that has food from all over the world and that they have any culinary experiences available with a simple call and a take out menu. But sadly they would only be getting the tiniest part of the experiences.

Firstly, while all kinds of foods are available in major cosmopolitan cities, the choices are extremely minimal. Sure you can find the classic Vietnamese “phở” in New York, but could you find any of the amazing dishes from the central and northern regions of Vietnam? Not really. And even if you could, the experience of paying $15 for a bowl of mediocre “phở” in some restaurant in New York, will never come close to the experience of siting on a small stool, in a tinny street shop in Hanoi, eating freshly cooked “phở” that only costs $2, while watching the city go by.

Eating on the street
Eating on the street in Vietnam

So to all the food lovers out there, make sure you have your passports. If you really want to experiences the best food the world has to offer, much of it is far away, in amazingly exotic destinations. And to all you travel lovers out there, make sure you go with an open mind and an empty stomach. If you are one of those travelers that goes to Florence and eats at McDonalds, I promise you that you are missing out on some the best experiences out there.

Spice map
Spice map of the world




A Wonderful Surprise in Hue

This past weekend, I went to Hue, in central Vietnam. Hue is a small town, with lots of history, a unique culture, and wonderful food. When I am looking to get away from the big city for a bit, Hue is my go to destination. This past weekend, I was looking forward to seeing my local friends that I hadn’t seen in some time, enjoying some of my favorite foods, and relaxing in the quiet royal city.

I arrived Friday afternoon, but my friends were busy until the evening. So I decided to take a nice walk along the beautiful Perfume River that splits Hue in half.

View of the Perfume River in Hue
View of the Perfume River in Hue

About 2 minutes into my walk, I was approached by some local students who were sitting in the park that is around the river. They asked if I would take some time to speak with them so that they could practice their English skills with a native speaker. I was a bit cautious and wary that it might be some sort of scheme, but I agreed to talk with them for a few minutes.

The group of students that quickly became my new friends
The group of students that quickly became my new friends

I was pleasantly surprised by this group of wonderful people. They were students studying in all different fields, including medicine, law, economics and tourism. The few minutes that I had promised them, quickly became an hour. They asked me about life in the US, and about how I saw in Vietnam. Every time I said something nice about Vietnam, I could see the happiness in their eyes, as if I had just complimented them personally.

At one point in the conversation, it came out that I speak a very decent Vietnamese. They were all quite surprised and said that none of them had ever met a foreigner capable of holding a conversation in Vietnamese, because so few foreigners live in Hue. We switched to talking in Vietnamese and the conversation continued for another hour and change.

Around 7pm, most of the group excused themselves and went home to eat dinner. But a few remaining people invited me to eat at some of their favorite student eateries and introduce me to some new foods. I assured them, that I had been to Hue many times, and there was probably no local food that I had yet to try. But of course, I was wrong.

Going out for dinner
Going out for dinner

They took me to two different food stalls, and showed me 4 different dishes that I had never had before. All 4 were quite tasty. But the real fun was the conversation with my new friends. It turns out, that before that day, they only knew each other’s faces, but had never talked. But after that day, everything changed, and now we were all friends.

After we finished eating, we went to a drink stall and sat and talked. At each place, my new friends couldn’t wait to introduce their new foreign friend to whoever was near by. After we were done drinking, we all exchanged Facebook contact information, and one of them drove me back to my hotel on his motorbike.

The interesting things is, that when they initially approached me, I came very close to saying no. Many times, while walking around Hanoi, I have been approached in similar fashion, and it often turns out to be an attempt to try and get money out of me. It was getting to a point that I was becoming quite cynical. But for whatever reason, I decided to give this group a chance, and I am glad I did. I had a great evening, and now have more friends. Sometimes in life, you just have to put yourself out there, especially when traveling alone. If you do, life often has pleasant surprises waiting for you.