For many of us, food is a big part of our travels. We’re tempted by new flavors and colors. Once we’ve left, food memories become powerful triggers, bringing us careening back to places we’ve visited. In our case, we love to visit local markets and experiment with street food. There’s so much to learn from what people eat, how it’s served, and the origin and history behind traditional meals. Even new food trends tell us something about the ways societies are changing. The Food for Thought series explores these ideas through the eyes of travelers. This week we’re joined by Kach and Johnathan from Two Monkeys Travel Group. Like us, these two intrepid travelers like to take things slow when they can, in order to get to know a place more deeply. One of the ways they do that is through food! This pair has a lot of exciting projects in the pipeline, and we look forward to following along on their adventures.
Meet Kach and Jonathan
Kach and Jonathan Howe are a working-on-the-road couple from the Philippines and UK. Having each decided to quit their jobs and set off around South East Asia to start their new lives, neither imagined they would end up traveling the world with someone they met in a backpackers’ bar in Laos. But that’s what happened! They are both certified Tantra Yoga Teachers, Ayurveda Massage Therapists and TEFL Certified Teachers. Working wherever and whenever they want! Travelling status: 20 months of being on the road and currently based in Arequipa, Peru.. their next major travel goal- Antartica via Argentina. You can follow their website- http://twomonkeystravelgroup.com
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?
Definitely agree. Traditional food tells so much about a place, its people and culture – Climate and availability of ingredients, wealth, history, previous invasions and colonization and even spiritual beliefs. There are often very specific reasons why things are done in a certain way and these are what make food so interesting.
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?
For me, being from the UK but grown up abroad, I don’t really identify home too strongly with food. Besides, I can find roast chicken or pork, potatoes and broccoli anywhere! Kach on the other hand identifies very strongly with Filipino food as it was such a big part of her childhood. There are some very specific dishes, like Adobo and Sinigang, which require certain flavours or spices, and of course rice – there must always be rice!
How has travel affected the way you think about food?
We’ve both always been open to trying just about anything and have always loved street food, so really it’s more about associating food with memories of the places we’ve been and people we’ve met. Stories often revolve around interesting or strange food we found in certain places, rather than the places themselves!
Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)
We don’t have any specific technique, we usually just ask people we meet on the way somewhere, often on buses or trains. The longer that we stay somewhere, the more we learn, like in Arequipa. However, if we breeze through a place quite quickly then we only tend to scratch the surface of what’s available and the stories behind it.
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?
One of our favorite meals was at what looked like a roadside truck stop just outside of Arequipa. We were on the way back from a day road trip with some Peruvian friends, Pepe and Edwin, when Pepe randomly turned into a car park. It really didn’t look like anything special, until we got up close enough to see the whole lamb roasting over a fire and several women poking around in what looked like several blankets covering a hole in the ground. That hole in the ground was in fact, Pachamanca; a traditional form of ‘pit oven’ in parts of Peru, where a large hole is dug in the ground and part filled with rocks, a fire is lit to heat the rocks and when the flames die, pork, chicken, vegetables and potatoes are added. Not only was the meat perfectly cooked, moist, with intense flavor, there was a whole sense of ceremony and occasion to the meal that made it really memorable.
What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?
Like I said before, we’re both open to trying pretty much anything, but when Kach joined a reality TV show in Hanoi, she ended up pushing that to the absolute limits! The show was all about getting foreigners to try as many of the weirdest foods that North Vietnam has offer, including; intestines filled with raw, jellied blood; fertilized duck eggs; dog meat (of course!); snails; frog stuffed with frog and finally, albino rat intestine soup…In her words, ’Yes, it was a pretty gross couple of days! And no, most of it I would probably never eat again!
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?
Indian cuisine! I’m cheating quite a bit with this choice, as the huge variety in culture and cuisine across the country means I would never be stuck with just one type of food, but in my opinion it’s some of the healthiest food in the world, with amazing combinations of taste, flavours and ingredients. However, Kach would probably leave me, because when I eat Indian food every day, I smell like Indian food from every pore on my body!