This week on Culture With Travel, we talk to travel and food blogger, Aditi from Lyf&Spice. In this interview, Aditi shares about some of her favorite dishes, and how she goes about exploring local culture through food.
Food can say a lot about a country’s culture. What’s a dish that you think represents where you’re from the best?
Since I am currently residing in Malaysia, it’s got to be Nasi Dagang. Trader’s rice with its brownish-red grains is cooked in coconut milk and served with fish curry. The accompaniments include shaved coconut, pickled vegetables, and a boiled egg. While it can be eaten anytime during the day, at Kota Bharu, Kelantan, it is usually had for breakfast. I particularly love the Terengganu style Nasi Dagang that is made with glutinous (almost sticky) rice.
Share a picture or story about a unique dish you’ve come across during your travels. What made it so special?
I recently had Bun Cha at Hanoi, Vietnam. This dish was really unique in its preparation and serving style. Bun cha is a dish made of grilled pork (cha) wrapped in betel leaves. It is cooked in a broth till the pieces become tender, and is served with thin rice noodles that are white in color (bun) along with a heap of mint leaves and assorted herbs. It is divine! It tastes really meaty and slightly pungent, with the mint leaves neutralizing the sharpness of its taste.
Sharing a meal can bring people together. Where was your most memorable food-related experience with locals or fellow travelers while traveling? Why?
That’s right, sharing a meal sure can bring people together. On my trip to Luang Prabang, Laos, I was lucky to mingle with the locals and observe how fishermen by the forest and Tad Sae river side cooked lunch. While chatting with them, I found out that they caught fresh fish daily and cooked it by lighting a small fire with stones and sticks.
The fish fry, what they commonly call baby fish, were put in wooden sticks before being smoked. They waited for a few minutes until the fish was cooked. They then dipped each bite into a pod of salt and munched the crispy fry happily. The local women, however, preferred a ball of sticky rice along with the dry fish.
Have you ever taken a cooking class or learned to cook a local dish on a trip? Where and what was it?
We had a goi cuon (Vietnamese spring roll) cooking class a part of our cruise at Halong Bay. I tried my hands at mixing the ingredients and rolling the filled sheet, but I don’t know if I’ll ever try making that myself.
Do you ever try to replicate a meal after travels? Share a favorite foreign dish.
No, never. I’m not into cooking.
Since I have a sweet tooth, here’s a picture of my favorite foreign dish: mango with sticky rice, which I eat every day when I go to Thailand.
What’s a comfort food you turn to (maybe it has a symbolic meaning or maybe it was a family dish passed on)?
My Mom’s chicken biryani. She makes the best biryani in the world! My friends plead me to invite them home just to get a taste of that heavenly goodness.
About Aditi: A content writer and editor by profession, and travel and food blogger by passion, Aditi Shukla documents her travel tales on her blog Lyf&Spice. She loves exploring the culture and food of cities she travels to. In her free time, you will find her planning her next trip, eating or chilling out with friends. For more on her adventures, check out her Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.