One of the most common questions i get asked as a long term / slow traveller is how i manage to NOT miss home food. I’ll let this post be the answer.
Simply put, i just manage to find new ‘comfort foods’ wherever i’m travelling – and i think this ought to work for just about anyone, as long as one is not cathected to a particular food (a very dangerous thing for a traveler!)
🇹🇭 Thailand: Tom Kha Gai
This simple yet divine soup made of coconut milk, galangal, local herbs and spices and vegetables / chicken / fish (depending on your preferences) is so good that i’m convinced aliens exist and they shared their secret recipe with the Thais – it’s out of the world!
Where to have it:
Literally any random place in Thailand would serve up the perfect tom kha gai.
🇧🇹 Bhutan: Ema Datsi
The staple food of Bhutanese people, ema datsi is another soulful delight made with cheese, potato and chilli as the base ingredients. You could try this with some local red rice or some breads, but it’s best had with the rice.
Where to have it:
Again, a very ubiquitous dish in Bhutan since it’s the staple food. My favorite place is the Druk Hotel at the underrated border town of Phuentsholing.
🇧🇷 Brazil: Açaí
I’ve had a tough time controlling myself from booking the next available flight to Brazil just to satisfy my açaí cravings at numerous occasions. OK yes, i advocate not being cathected to food – but my love for acai is proof that a part of me is Brazilian!
This superfood rich with antooxidants is a fruit pulp of the açaí berry mixed with some sugar and served in dollops topped with granola, banana and honey (and tons of other combinations).
Where to have it:
Although açaí is mainly grown in the Amazon jungle, i’m willing to bet that it’s best served on the beaches of Rio De Janeiro. I’ve also been lucky to find it at a great cafe in Manhattan, New York called ‘O Cafe’. In Mumbai, i’ve tried it at the Sequel cafe but it didn’t feel right.
🇨🇴 Colombia: arroz con frijoles
Believe it or not, the staple food of Colombia (and Brazil) is rajma chawal! That’s right. Rice and beans – and with a multitude of variants of the beans along with the option to add some carne (that’s meat for the non-vegetarians), this is another comfort food that’s easily available across South America. in Brazil, you’d just call it feijao. Remember, feijoada is the pork version of it, so don’t mix up those words.
Footnote: Travel + Food Tips
Bakeries are a great idea if you’re not gluten intolerant
Look for vegan options instead of vegetarian, if you’re worried about being served meat.
Cook your own food in hostels / AirBNB / CouchSurfing (after checking with your hosts). You get to try local food + you save up a lot of money!
Buy and/or eat at local markets. Similar to cooking on your own, this is another great way to explore what the locals eat and also save a ton of money.
As a thumb rule, i avoid any Indian restaurants when travelling abroad – but it can be a great option on your last leg of the trip to enjoy with your new local friends, introduce them to your palate and also prep for your homeward journey!
Buffets / pay by weight restaurants are very common, especially in Brazil. Just ask for a ‘qilo restaurant’.
Salads are excellent around the world. Quote me on that.
Stay curious, stay epicurious!
Do let me know your favorite comfort foods from your travels in the comments below…
Leading an experimental life as a digital nomad, I started traveling in 2007 while choosing to shuttle between Goa and Mumbai as 'home'. An epic life-changing trip to South America an year later gave birth to this blog, Exotic Gringo.