Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Favorite Food of 2013

Food for thought! This phrase applies to me completely.

I love to experiment with food and thankfully 2013 was kind to me and she took me to as many as 13 different countries. I am an eggetarian traveler, which puts curbs on the sheer variety of food that I can taste, but it doesn’t limit me in tasting interesting vegetarian and eggatarian foods that please every one of my taste buds. (Note, I consume dairy products and nuts too). I am sure they can even arouse the taste buds of a meat lover too.

The list goes in reverse order from the country I visited most recently and at the very end of this yummy selection, you will find my favorite dish of 2013. So go on and let your mouth water.

Ema Datshi - the national dish of Bhutan
It comes as no surprise that my favorite food in the land of chillies is made from chillies. It is one of the most popular dishes of this Himalayan kingdom and is also the country’s national dish. It is Ema Datshi, a dish made from Bhutan chillies (either red or green) and served in a thick cheesy broth along with red rice. Additionally red chilly sauces and a radish salad is served with this dish. While this is my best food from Bhutan, I also like Kewa Datshi (Potato and Cheese) and Mushroom Datshi (Mushroom and Cheese). Just writing about it is making my mouth wander to the cold climes of Bhutan.

The Yummy Thai Vegetarian Food
Well, we all know the importance of Thai cuisine in international food. After Indian food, my next favorite cuisine has to be Thai. While Maasaman curry makes me forget everything around me, I like Tom Yum ka soup, the bamboo sticky rice and the very famous Pad Thai too. And nothing like a well made Thai iced tea or iced tender coconut water to wash it down. Oh! I was in Thailand 4 times this year and each time I gorged on these foods. I hope 2014 gives me more opportunities to visit this sensational foodie country.

Veg Amok from Cambodia
Cambodian food may not be noted for its vegetarian fare as they specialize in fishes, frogs, crocodiles, insects and more. But, I have favorites here too. The vegetarian version of their traditional Amok dish ranks right on the top. But, I have a sweet spot in my tummy for their milk dessert made out of palm fruit, condensed milk and powdered ice. I liked this dessert so much that I had it after lunch 9 days in a row.

This is one country where the food is so similar to that of India. The Roti Canai (pronounced Chanai) served with plain dal (lentil soup) has to be one of my go-to dishes here. Simple, filling and yet so tasty. And sweet milk tea (hot) is the perfect drink to accompany this simple meal.

To be honest, Philippines as a country doesn’t have a concept of vegetarianism. There are vegetarian only restaurants, but they are few and far between. I did manage to find myself vegetarian dishes, but they were simple and more international in nature. The locals love their meat in everything including vegetables. Since I have to give a favorite, it has to be the rice wine that is surprisingly strong and goes well with a simple meal of plain rice and some veggies at the rice terraces of Batad. The landscapes of this country make up for its lack in vegetarian food!

Chinese vegetarian food from Singapore's chinatown
Singapore is food and food is Singapore. You will get this vibe as soon as you arrive in this country. Food stalls, an urge to eat and conversations revolving around food will not be seen more anywhere else in the world. The people of Singapore love to eat and this can be found everywhere in this island country. Singapore Sling is world famous. While Little India offers a lot of Indian vegetarian food options, I prefer the Pumpkin soup and chinese sauteed vegetables cooked in a Chinese vegetarian kitchen. The Pumpkin soup especially makes me want to fly to Singapore right now.

Gado Gado - favorite vegetarian food of Indonesia
This is one country where I was genuinely surprised with the sheer variety of vegetarian food options. Gado-Gado, Lotek, Tek Tek Surabaya, Nasi with Sayuran and more. If you can handle peanuts, then the peanut sauces of Indonesia will take vegetarian food to a different level altogether. It makes snacking so very healthy and filling and nothing better than Gado Gado in that department. I am sure I had Gado Gado more than 50 times in the 50 odd days that I spent in Indonesia this year. And the warungs of Indonesia totally rock. I would recommend them to all foodies. And the Es Teh Manis is the perfect drink to accompany a spicy local dish.

Pickled tea leaves salad from Burma
Now, this is one more country that offers a great many vegetarian delights owing to its Indian influence, Persian connection and its own local food. I completely dig the pickled tea leaves salad and Hin Tou. These are traditional snacks from the Shan state of Burma and are my absolute favorites as snacks and full meals. In terms of dessert, I like the thick and colourful Falooda that tastes like heaven on a hot day.

Again a fish loving country thanks to the mighty Mekong, but one of my favorite South East Asian foods is from this country. It is the super spicy Bamboo salad. I love chillies, but I remember how much I cried while I had these bamboo salads and in spite of that, I had these salads more than 10 times with sticky rice. I would have had more of them, but unfortunately for me, I couldn’t find them everywhere. My trick to counter the heat factor of this dish is to down it with some locally made rice whiskey. A perfect way to relax and nothing better than Laos in that department. For some reason, I also liked the simple egg sandwiches cooked on the streets of Vang Vieng too.

The pho is the most popular food of Vietnam and I am sure I would have loved it too if it had a lot of vegetables in it, but unfortunately it has a lot of pork and/or beef in it. Apart from the vegetarian restaurants and the ones that sold mock meat, I think I liked the simple morning glory with steamed white rice. I also liked the steamed rice dumplings with panda flavor in it ( found more of these in Hue and Hanoi).

Egg Tarts of Macau
I haven’t been to Portugal as yet, but of all the places I have been to, I think the best egg tarts that I have had are from Macau. My heart nearly stopped with a feeling of déjà vu as these egg tarts melted in my mouth. Macau doesn’t have much in terms of vegetarian food, but these egg tarts make up for this slack with its super taste and texture. The cookies of Macau come a close second.

Hong Kong
Famous hot pots of Hong Kong
I still remember that Egg plant and rice served in a hot pot at Causeway Bay. That dish destroyed my perception that Hong Kong doesn’t have local vegetarian food. As a city of international standards, Hong Kong offers many options to the vegetarian traveler, but those on a budget, even the food streets and night markets of Hong Kong offer a lot of Cantonese vegetarian dishes that are really yummy!

The stinkiest food in the world is also my favorite food of Taiwan. It is stinky tofu. The stench is over-powering, but it tastes great with clear soup and rice. A close second would be the tea leaves fried rice. The curries at Tokyo curry are also good and a dessert at coldstone creamery is also great. But, if you want true local vegetarian food, you have to hit the local night markets that seem to be everywhere. The vegetarian options might be limited, but it is quite an experience and this is where the stinky tofu is found the most.

And my favorite food of 2013 is the very spicy Ema Datshi of Bhutan that is served with red rice and radish salad. The national dish of Bhutan has found its way to the top of my list, but each of the above dishes were a treat for my taste buds. Thank you 2013 for being my foodie year!

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