This week marks the 30th installment in our Food for Thought interview series! Through each interview, we aim to discover more about other travelers’ journeys and the role food plays. We all have some relationship with food. It defines us and it indisputably plays a role in defining the cultures we visit. In our own travels, we’ve found ourselves focusing more and more on local cuisine (be it street food, traditional dishes in local restaurants, or a new dish we learn to cook with local ingredients) as a means to learn about the unique culture of destinations we visit. We like to travel slowly, so high on our list are visiting and shopping in local markets, talking to people and finding out what and how they eat. Food has the ability to break down barriers, and we often form new friendships through sharing a meal. This week we chat with Mansi from Stunning Visits, who is clear in encouraging her readers to “go local” when it comes to food and travel. Stunning Visits is quite new in the blogging scene, and we look forward to seeing more of Mansi’s fresh perspectives.
I have been bitten by the travel bug. When I am not travelling, I am usually planning my next trip. I am a holiday planner by profession. Travel is my passion. I have always been curious about foreign lands, new cultures, different foods, local markets and new perspectives. This hunger to know more pushes me to travel far and wide. I feel travel has made me grow personally and intellectually. I am at my best self when I am travelling. As I wander across different cities and towns, I document my stories, experiences and gastronomic adventures and I love to share them with the world.
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 can’t agree more. A country’s cuisine reflects the essence of its culture. It is interesting to know the origin of dishes and the history attached to it. I believe each traditional dish has a story to tell and gives a deeper insight into the culture and heritage of the place it belongs to. Some dishes also tell tales of foreign invasions and how over the years they have influenced the local food and culture.
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?
Home food for me is North Indian food. Culturally, India is a very diverse nation. Not only does cooking styles change from state to state and town to town but also from suburb to suburb. Born, and bought up in the capital – New Delhi, my soul food is roti and curry – both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. My favorite is Butter Chicken and Garlic Naan. What I crave most is Indian sweets. In India there is no distinction between sweets and desserts and the variety is never ending.
How has travel affected the way you think about food?
Travel has opened my mind and widened my perspective about everything including food. I have become more flexible, and I don’t hesitate to try whatever the local cuisine offers. It amazes me how the same ingredient is cooked differently, yielding absolutely different results. Travel has also helped me get rid of preconceived notions that I had about foods of different countries. To state an example – I had always believed that Turkish food comprises only of meat. After visiting Istanbul, this belief was smashed. I had the most delicious all vegetarian Potato dish in Istanbul – Kumpir.
Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)
I feel the best way to understand local cuisine is to visit a local food market. Not only is it a treat for your senses, but also it gives you valuable insights into what the locals eat. I have always been fond of cooking and travelling to different places which has expanded my culinary repertoire. Attending cooking classes is also a great idea to learn more about the local ingredients and to master a few traditional dishes. I got a chance to learn Thai cooking in Phuket and now I can effortlessly cook a few dishes. Also, I make it a point to carry back a food souvenir, like a local tea, spices or anything related to food. It is just to remind of the delicious memories.
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?
Peking duck in Beijing has been one of my most memorable meals. It is also known as the Beijing roast duck and it is being cooked in Beijing since the Imperial times. The entire roasted duck was bought to us and was sliced with great technique in front of us. Thin, crisp delicious brown slices of duck meat were served with some bread and condiments. I shared this amazing meal with my partner in crime – my husband.
What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?
On my visit to Bangkok, I visited the Chatuchak weekend market. The different sights, smells and sounds of this largest open market in Asia, are fascinating. There were many food stalls selling different Thai foods. The one that caught my eye was selling stewed chicken feet with noodles. A lot of tourists were enjoying the dish. Eating chicken feet immersed in soup was not a very appetizing idea to me. I could not try it then, but hopefully will try the dish next time I visit Bangkok.
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?
This sounds like a punishment. With over 190 countries in this world, there are so many gastronomic treasures waiting to be explored. To choose one country’s cuisine is a tough task. However, if I still have to choose, I would choose Japanese cuisine because it is super healthy, light and delicious.