So, here is a bit of a list of some of my more interesting eating experiences on my travels so far…
Random Kotthu Shack in Dambulla, Sri Lanka
For those of you who did not know, Sri Lanka is home to one of the best traditional dishes out there. Known as Kotthu or Kotthu Roti, it is a delicious combination of strips of roti, veg, meat (if you’re brave enough), and a spicy gravy/sauce. Upon discovering this insanely cheap and marvellously tasty Sri Lankan dish, I went about eating about as much of it as I could stuff in my greedy mouth.
My favourite experience eating Kotthu was in the most unsuspecting place – well for anyone who was travelled the Indian subcontinent, maybe not that unsuspecting. Whilst visiting the somewhat uneventful town of Dambulla in central Sri Lanka (home to the Dambulla Cave Temples, and not much else), Soph and I were wandering the streets looking for something interesting to do/eat – this has been quite a regular occurrence thus far on our travels.
We stumbled across what could only really be described as a shack on the corner of two quiet roads. The shack was dark and dingy, but lively and smelling mighty fine! Jammed full of locals, who greeted us with a host of extremely inquisitive stares, we set up camp on the only free plastic garden table and chair set remaining. No English to be spoken, just a good old point at the adjacent table’s food and say “Kotthu”. For under 200 rupees (about £1) for a supersized 2 person portion, we got without doubt the most authentic Kotthu we have eaten, and more importantly, more than we could eat… you’re damn right – that’s my kind of meal right there!
Salvation Burger at Blue Reef, Jambiani, Zanzibar
Salvation was not the name of the burger, the name comes from how it made me feel… Saved!
After almost a full week of eating almost nothing solid, nothing fun, nothing interesting… just soup, I was seriously hankering for something to save me from what I can only describe as a food nightmare. Before contracting “The Great Sickness of 2015” (fucking Tanzanian scotch egg, I will never forgive you!) and self medicating myself with only soup to eat for 5 days, I always thought soup was shit, like really shit – when I eat, I want to eat, not drink my food. When it saves you from almost certain death (sort of… maybe a slight exaggeration), you tend to allow soup to become my friend. But dear lord, it gets boring after almost a week straight.
My salvation and the turning point of “The Sickness” was gobbling down an extremely western, not very adventurous, actually come to think of it, fairly average burger at a nearby beach bar called Blue Reef. It may well have been average, but it tasted like heaven to a mouth so deprived of chewing I was beginning to get a saggy face from muscle atrophy (again, maybe a slight exaggeration, haha). Anyway, there you have it, the Salvation Burger! When you have an intestinal parasite, soup is driving you mad, and the world appears to be failing you (apart from the view)… eat a burger!
Café Italiano on the North Cliff, Varkala, India
Perched invitingly on one of the rugged corners of Varkala’s North Cliff, surrounded by a whole host of other restaurants, touristy tat stalls, and strange Indian men ogling the scantily clad western women as they catch some rays on Papanasham Beach – you will find Café Italiano.
In absolutely no way Italian, this little gem of a restaurant invites you in every evening with the luring sight of copious amounts of dead fish, and their strangely curious googly eyes, lying on a blanket of ice on the North Cliff path. From Kingfish, Tuna and Red Snapper, to Sailfish and even Swordfish, the selection of freshly caught haul was just too much for my greedy eyes and grumbling stomach to handle. I never actually realised how big a Tuna really is! Shit, that is some serious fish. And watch out for Swordfish, even when they are dead, that sword is a real weapon. Note to self: After a few cocktails, and taking a stroll along Vakala’s North Cliff, be on guard for stray swords…
The fish at Café Italiano was the best I have ever eaten… hands down. Extravagant cuisine was certainly not the order of the day here. Fish and chips, fish and veg, fish and salad… Those were the options, but with fish that good, who needs the fluff.
Kerala Rice at an Unknown “Hotel” in Munnar, India
Kerala Rice… on the menu for 60 rupees (£0.60), I mean what are you meant to expect. A bowl of rice, right? Wrong!
On another of our daily missions to discover something interesting to eat, Soph and I wandered unknowingly into a bustling “hotel” (restaurant, to me and you) in downtown Munnar – a hill station town in Kerala. Amongst another host of unblinking stares from the local people who were settling into far too much food for their lunches – Indians eat fucking loads (if they can afford to eat that is)! – we pulled up a pew and looked in awe at sweaty Indian men with pot-bellies polishing off an unholy amount of rice with a wild array of curries, pickles, sauces and papadums, whilst the servers walked round continuously topping up any empty plate they could find. “I want that what they’ve got…”
We asked the waiter – “What is that?” He explained – “Kerala Rice, Sir, you get plate of rice, papadum and all curry, Sir.” “60 rupees?” “Yes 60 rupees, Sir.” “2 please…” Let the eating commence. I literally had to cover my plate and ask the server to stop topping it up come the end – I was fit to burst and still had to roll home. This is, as I have learned, the standard affair when you visit any local restaurant in India or Sri Lanka – in India order the local “Rice” dish and in Sri Lanka order the local “Rice & Curry” dish and you will be winning, or should I say waddling.
Oh India with your insane amount of food for barely any money. Oh how I miss you. You are extremely hard work, but you do have some real treats lurking if I can deal with all your bullshit!
CF Food Court in George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Penang, commonly known within the travellers’ circuit to have some of the “best food in the World”, with culinary delights stemming from a cultural history and heritage combining, Indian, Chinese, Thai and Indonesian – the food options here have taken a twist and turn and become a truly eclectic mix of tasty treats.
Penang is home to an array of wonderful food spots, from the hawkers’ street stalls that pop up in the evenings on random streets, hidden cafes on the waterfront and HUGE food courts which showcase up to 50 different vendors. It was pretty difficult to choose my favourite eats in Penang as the selection was endless, but CF Food Court took the biscuit…
With pretty average to poor reviews online, and looking a bit on the grubby side, this seemed the ideal place for Soph and I to get our fill. With table beer service, and a selection of, quite frankly, too many vendors it took a while to figure out what to have. CF stands out for providing me with the spiciest meal I have eaten on my travels so far – a humble bowl of Laksa. It serves me right really for asking the little Malayasian lady for “Malaysian Spicy”… pure fire in a bowl, but who knew fire could be so delicious.
Nearly made the list:
The Rock Restaurant, Zanzibar
If it wasn’t extremely overpriced, this tiny island restaurant would have been right up there – a real experience
Rice & Curry Restaurant, Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka
A small, family run restaurant in the heart of Hikkaduwa with beautiful food. Nothing out of the ordinary though, hence it could not make the list.
Ramesh’s, Anjuna, Goa, India
Really well tucked away in the dirt tracks of old Anjuna, this place is run by a friend of a friend. Quite simply, Ramesh is the best restaurant host in the world! No bullshit, just unadulterated fun and games, with some exceptional fish dishes to boot – cooked by Ramesh’s brother and prepared by his wife, then served by the man himself. Would have definitely made the list if Café Italiano hadn’t trumped his Tuna.
And there we have it. An eating odyssey of a hungry traveller.