We believe that to truly experience a culture, you must taste it. When we experience the cuisine of another place, we make meaningful connections that we never would otherwise. Through the Food for Thought series, we hope to learn more about the role food plays in other travelers’ journeys. A new installment will be published each Friday. Our third interview is with Agness and Cez from eTramping. The posts on eTramping are always fun to read, with great insight and a fresh perspective, and this interview is no different. These guys are true foodies, and a great example of how you don’t have to break the bank to find amazing eats on the road.
Meet Agness and Cez
We are Agness and Cez – best friends and travel companions, bloggers and world explorers from Poland. We call ourselves tramps because we live without a permanent home and for under 25 bucks a day, since 2011. One day, after we both graduated from university, we decided to leave our comfort zones and start a nomadic life. I decided to set off for my first solo adventure to China, and Cez joined me 6 months later, after he quit his 9 to 5 job as a banker. While travelling the world, working and living in different countries all over Asia (so far), we still find the time to write about it, share tricks on how to do it cheaply and even help other people do the same on our blog. If you would like to read more about China, you can check out my “Add the Brick to the Great Wall:” Experience-based Advice for China from Expats” e-book which sums up my two-year experience of teaching, living and travelling in the Land of Dragons.
Food For Thought
The underlying idea of the “Food for Thought” series is that to truly experience a culture you must taste it. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
I absolutely agree with you. To my understanding, we do travel blogging to learn, explore and experience different cultures. Food is part of culture. Communities have different cultures thus different types of foods. To add on, we have to taste that food. Moreover, food is an essential part of our travels and almost all travelers love to try different dishes, experiment with new foods, mix flavours and spices to see what new food combinations they can discover. We travel bloggers are foodies and we seem to be curious about foreign cuisines and there is nothing better than indulging in a Belgium waffle, Italian pizza, Chinese baozi, Japanese sushi, Polish pierogi, Czech trdelnik or Indian curry, right?
As Julia Child said “People who love to eat are always the best people.”
What food do you identify with “home?” Does it reflect something about your own culture or upbringing? Do you crave it while you’re away?
Although I am keen on trying new food when travelling around Asia, there are still some Polish meals I miss when being so far away from my home country. I even created a list of top 10 favourite Polish dishes I crave all the time. Some of them are Polish pierogi (dumplings) stuffed with meat (beef), sauerkraut and mushrooms, bigos (hunter’s stew) made from shredded sauerkraut and cabbage plus dried mushrooms with some chopped sausages, tastes just delicious enough to go for seconds. These two dishes remind me of my childhood I spent in a small town in Poland.
I love cooking and baking. I try to cook some Polish food in my apartment here in Dongguan, but the taste is never the same. Besides, some ingredients such as bread crumbs, proper cheese and pasta are not available at Chinese supermarkets.
How has travel affected the way you think about food?
I started traveling for the love of traveling and food was an afterthought. It didn’t take long until I was tired of the prepackaged chain restaurant food and started seeking out new foods. I quickly became a “foodie blogger” and “foodie traveler.” I started obsessively taking pictures of food before and after each meal (at least 10 different photos of the same food item) and I have my daily food binges when travelling (we can’t just take pictures of food, we need to try it all for the sake of “food research” for our blog). Moreover, I have a list of favourite foods around the world (the list is getting bigger and bigger every day) and I became such a coffee lover!
Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)
We definitely spend most of the time hunting the best street food when visiting certain places. We always pick one or two local markets and food centers and go there for a whole afternoon just eating an enormous amount of different food – from grilled meat to local cookies and fried dumplings. We take some photos, ask locals for recipes and write down the prices so we can recommend some dishes on our blog afterwards.
As for the cooking classes, we took one in Thailand and Jakarta, Indonesia. It was a great experience I must admit. There were some other foreigners with us enjoying buying and cooking different Asian dishes. We shared experience and cooking knowledge, mixed different herbs and spices and came up with some yummy dishes!
Tell us about a memorable meal that was so special it is forever ingrained in your memory. Where was it and what set it apart? What was served, and who shared it with you?
The most memorable meal was baozi – Chinese dumplings I tried in Huayuan, Hunan province in China in August 2011 when I firstly came to the Land of Dragons. That was love at first bite! I was offered a plate of dumplings by one of local people in the street one afternoon.
Chinese dumplings go with various fillings. They are steamed or fried. They are usually stuffed with pork, beef and vegetables, and in addition provides a variety of Asian sauces such as soy-based sauce, chili, vinegar and sesame oil. You can find them at every food vendor. They usually have the same size, but the taste is different. Some of them are extremely oily and don’t look very appealing. Make sure they are hot when served -cold aren’t as tasty.
Since that day baozi are my favourite breakfast option in China on the cheap and I could literally eat them all day long with no regrets!
What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?
China, when it comes to food, might be an extreme country for those who are not adventurous eaters. Why? There is a common saying that “The Chinese eat everything with four legs except tables—and everything that flies except airplanes” and it seems to be true. Chinese do really eat everything and they do not even get disgusted by cat or dog meat. After living in China for nearly 2 years I got used to local delicacies such as spicy chicken feet, crunchy bees and spicy cockroaches and yes, they were all yummy so I would not mind having them once again!
My favourite “weird-looking” food was a plate of snails. They tasted surprisingly good with the texture close to minced beef. Probably, the biggest issue people have with them, is that they are served in shells. It also makes it very hard to eat – especially to those who try it for the first time. The best snails are served in Guilin, Guangxi Province.
And just for fun, if you had to choose one country’s cuisine to eat for the rest of your life what would it be?
I really enjoy Greek cuisine as it is based on fresh fruits, veggies, feta cheese and olives. It’s healthy and light, yet delicious and sophisticated. Greek people know how to present food nicely on the plate and I like it a lot!