A Learned Appreciation of Food

Asia is full of flavor.

 

It’s 8:00 PM in California and I’m rummaging through my room, checking for any last minute items I may have forgotten to pack. It was September 2, 2016, and I was headed to India for four months. People would always ask, “Why India?” I would simply respond with, “Why not?”

I am very lucky to have started traveling at a young age. My first trip outside of the country was to the Dominican Republic in 7th grade. I went with my youth group to help one of the partnered families that live down there. I remember it all so clearly. I can still feel the warm, sticky air on my skin and the taste of homemade guava juice on my tongue. The voices of the children playing echo through my head to this day.

I continued to travel through my high school years and into college. I visited the Dominican Republic again. Then Mexico, Africa, Europe, and Hong Kong.  The trips spent with my church did not grant me the culinary experience my 22 year old self wishes she had. But, when you’re in the middle of Swaziland, unable to drink the water, and visiting with children who have HIV, the last thing on your mind is good food. And European food isn’t so bold when you’re on a budget of 15 euros a day. Say no to escargot. Hong Kong was the same. I was able to branch out and try new foods, but I was still limited financially. I began to really appreciate PB&Js, Clif Bars, and baguettes.

I take one last look around my room. I turn to my dad and say, “I’m ready!” I was off on an adventure. An experience that shaped me into a better, more understanding person. And, a person who can’t stop loving food. Especially Indian food.

After almost 24 hours of travel, I land in Mumbai. I head to my new temporary home, a YWCA, settled in the touristic part of the city. Once I started getting used to it all, I fell in love.

I thought I knew spicy. Being Mexican, I take a natural liking to hot things. But oh boy was my world turned upside down. The spices, the flavors, the variety – it was shocking.

I’m going to walk you through my experience in India, one favorite meal at a time. I was able to appreciate the food more than I have anywhere else I’ve traveled. Here are photos of everything I ate there and in Thailand. I think it’s important to reflect on experiences we’ve had and understand where they bring us today.

Flavors we have here: Spicy, salty, sweet. Tomato, chili and spinach bases, freshly grilled seafood, yogurts with herbs, salty grains, dosa made with coconut, tender chicken, lot’s of onions. Coriander, cumin, mint.

Now let’s discuss the street food. Getting a meal in a restaurant is great and all. But if you really want to challenge yourself and your bowels, you must get street food. And these snacks or light meals are by far the best. My favorites included Pani Puri and a seekh kebab.

 

Okay, street food also comes in the form of chaiwalas and samosa walas.

 

Now let’s talk Thailand. 

I worked at a Thai restaurant for the majority of college. I had a week between the end of my program and Christmas. I knew what I had to do. I booked my flights to Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai. Once again, my world was changed.

Flavors of Thailand: lemongrass, basil, mint, coconut, lime, tamarind, mango, onion, cilantro. Warm soups, hot broths, refreshing and crispy vegetables.

I think I ate soup at least twice a day while there.

Asia’s flavors are bold. They are tangy, spicy, and sweet all at once. Thanks to Asia, I truly understand flavor.

 

 

Thanks for reading!

– Janie

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