Most people who have spent considerable time on the road find themselves longing for a meal from home. Not necessarily home-cooked, but that favorite spot just down the block from you. Is it a good curry, a chile relleno or tasty cannelloni?
Many travelers find that it might be tough to get the taste they are craving when overseas, and in certain places, it can seem like you are searching for a needle in a haystack. While many people eventually give up their search for their favorite “ethnic” cuisine, there are a few tips and tricks for finding that fix when you are traveling.
In larger cities, you will have less of a problem finding any cuisine from all over the world, as the population and tourist traffic is often much more diverse than in rural areas. This is especially true for large cities that were part of colonial expansion in the past hundreds of years and have had traditionally high traffic from visitors of the world. For example, in port cities like New York, you will not have a problem finding all types of food. This becomes less true as you move more inland, however.
Research ahead of time. If you know your cravings, you might know that you crave Indian food at least once a week, you should use your powers of search and find out if there are any Indian restaurants in the city you are going to, or surrounding cities. You can add a trip to that restaurant on your itinerary and make your food part of the trip.
A Slight Adjustment may be Required
Many people do not realize that each country or region has its own “ethnic” food specialties. These foods are based on historical and political ties, on immigration and cultural movement, and on the types of produce, spices, and grains readily available due to climate and growing patterns in the region. For example, if you love a good curry, England is the place for you. Since India was a British colony, England has become one of the largest producers of Indian cuisine, and has one of the highest demands for Indian restaurants and eateries in Europe. If you’re able to adjust your tastes slightly, from say the desire for a great kabob to a good curry, you increase your chances of not just finding your fix, but finding a good fix.
In England, you will find quite a few restaurants and bars serving Spanish food, such as tapas and jamón cerrano, but you will have a very difficult time finding continental Mexican or Tex-Mex food. This is largely because of the area (Europe) and its growing seasons, but also has to do with colonial history. Did the British Empire ever own land in Mexico? Not so much. This is also why you will find great fish and chips, and also more great curries in British Columbia.
Familiarizing yourself with the history of the country you will be going to visit will help you understand what types of foods you are most likely to experience there.
You may have to settle or compromise sometimes. For example, if you really love spicy foods, and you are craving Thai food, you can find a similar spice level, even though the flavor profile and ingredients are slightly different, in many types of Ethiopian cuisine. Finding other foods to tide you over until you can have the “real deal” may be your best bet at times, but it also gives you the chance to branch out and try new types of food that you might not have tried had your first option been available.
Sometimes a craving for our favorite ethnic food can hit suddenly, but knowing the history of your destination and the location of any restaurants ahead of time can give you realistic expectations ahead of time.