Via Food: How To Travel the World Without Leaving Town

Anyone who frequents ethnic grocery stores knows that you don't need an international vacation to be whisked away to another place. Food can transport us, passport-free and on the cheap. Here are a few ways I find faraway trips even when I'm close to home:

In addition to ethnic supermarkets, I seek out farmers markets and butcher shops for a peek at another culture. Farmers markets in neighborhoods with a large immigrant population are almost always full of unusual produce not sold elsewhere. And butchers catering to foreign tastes will often have unusual cuts of meat — even unusual types of meat. There's nothing like packages of strange innards to make you feel like you are somewhere else.

I also look for foreign food festivals, especially those hosted by a place of worship. People who move to a new country and hold strong to their religious beliefs also seem to keep their passion for perfect dosas or knockout pozole. I have no official data to back that up, only fond memories of standout meals eaten at church- or temple-hosted festivals.

Most importantly, I ask around. If I meet someone who is originally from another country, I ask her where she eats, which food shops she recommends, how she cooks her favorite dish from home. Anyone you meet is fair game; years ago my mom found our family's favorite pho restaurant when she asked her Vietnamese American gynecologist for noodle shop recommendations! (The place is wallpapered with giant pastel-tinted photos of 1950s Vietnam and totally feels like it's from another place and time.)

What kinds of places do you seek out for a taste of another country?

Related: Here To Eat: Ever Visited a City Just for the Food?

(Images: Dylan Ho, used by permission)

3 Comments