Chef’s guide to food, travel and an extra dose of inspiration
There’s so much to be learned from travelling to new places across the globe, and the culture you’ll experience is something that cannot be described. There’s only so much you can learn from a recipe book and some travel guides, so being there in person really broadens your cooking horizons.
My favourite place to visit so far has been New Zealand. I’m really into sport and I spent five weeks travelling around both the north and south islands, backpacking from town to town.
One day we travelled as far north as possible and ended up at Cape Reinga. On the way back to town we stopped off at a local beach and harvested fresh mussels with some locals. Later in the evening when we were back at the hostel, we cleaned up the mussels and all chipped in to cook up a nice mussel stew. These fresh mussels were delightful and a memory that I don’t think I will ever forget. They’re also cheap and cheerful which is perfect if you’re travelling on a budget.
Japan – When my brother moved to China I decided to meet up with him and we took a trip to Tokyo; the buzzing town which has so much to offer. I spent four days in Tokyo and we went from place to place, eating our way around the city. With the difficult language barrier, you never quite knew what you were going to get, but I did know that the fresh noodle soups were so flavoursome (and often spicy). I also loved the irresistible dumplings, but no matter how much I try to recreate them, I can’t seem to do it. They came in all shapes and sizes with all sorts of fillings, but the light doughy texture was always cooked to perfection and filled with flavours that kept me wanting more and more.
China – I went to Beijing in China while passing by on a tour of Asia, and I must admit it’s not a place I particularly enjoyed, however the street food was something that interested me. I was walking down the main street and passed a little alleyway, my nose dragging me back a few paces and leaving me inquisitive about what it is I was smelling. My advice would be to take the plunge and go down the side alleyways and roads, you will be amazed by the many street stalls. Often you will be overwhelmed by the stench of rotting fish, with the juices all over the streets never washed away. Once you’re past this, you will see street sellers creating some weird and wonderful food – not to everyone’s taste – which varies from squid to spiders… the big hairy legged ones! (Bear Grylls, I commend you) I did however try some BBQ scorpions, and to my surprise they had a bit of a buttery and crunchy taste. Out of all the places I’ve visited, Beijing certainly opened up my mind to different types of food, and I tasted things there that I never thought I would try.
Creating new dishes can be a challenging task. Something you see on the street might give you inspiration to try a different twist on something or deconstruct a popular item to create a new product. Your specific demographic is also very important. Often when I’m creating new dishes it’s for a larger audience so I have to be mindful of what I’m making. The fun side of creating dishes is when they’re for a special event such as a wedding. The bride and groom will always want a day to remember so when it comes to menus you have a bit more freedom and can experiment more with food. Offering the couple a tasting session to gain their initial feedback is always helpful, and this way you can tweak the menu or sneak in an ingredient in a way that is personal to them.
By Richard Webb, Head Chef at Kudos Delivered