I absolutely love food. No, seriously. And I get to eat it all over the world.
My mom was an amazing cook – and I’m not just saying that because she’s my mom. Growing up, we usually ate a freshly cooked meal almost every night – as I got older she got in the habit of making massive p0rtions and reheating them later. She was a somewhat untraditional Asian mother – she both worked full time and cooked dinner most nights, although my Lola (grandmother) lived with us when I was young and generally helped out with the daily housework. Even so, my mom cooked up a variety of dishes – from typical Filipino fare to worldly recipes on the Food Network. Before the common use of the internet, my mom plucked pages from various magazines and whipped them up and let her children be the guinea pigs, much to the enjoyment of our filled tummies. I can’t remember one meal my mom prepared that wasn’t mildly delicious. And if she felt it was below her standards, it was still a yummy and memorable meal.
That being said, my love for fast food didn’t develop until my teens when I started working part time, going to school full time, adding in extracurricular activities and grabbing quick lunches and dinners on my own. I was the youngest in my family of 4 children, so once I became a bit more independent, the family dinners started to wane. An also important note would be that I became so busy as a teen and young adult I never took an interest in cooking, and even to this day I’m not even embarrassed to admit I can’t cook anything more complicated than spaghetti, so I spent a lot of time around my hometown getting to know fast food joints, mom and pop hotspots and and trendy eateries. The food options around Phoenix were plentiful – although I think it’s best known for its almost authentic Tex-Mex, one of my all-time favorites. But, I have, however, started to find that desire to start learning to cook. 28 isn’t too late, is it?
In general, I love food. I’m most definitely not a health foodie, and sometimes, yes, my eating habits are deplorable, but one of my favorite things to do on layovers is discover the local taste. There’s not much I don’t like. I will admit I’m not an overly adventurous eater, but I try and push my limits wherever my stomach can handle it. I tend to steer clear of any kind of mollusk, and duck, strangely enough. I usually avoid some foods if prepared alone, but will eat them if it’s already mixed in the dish (which most of these would most likely not be prepared alone) like peas, olives, eggplants and squash. And for some reason, I still have weird, sudden urges to try a clam or mussel, even though every time immediately afterwards I regret it. Other than that, I eat mostly anything.
It’s difficult to name a favorite genre of food – I love Thai, Malaysian and Indian food, mostly for the spiciness. Growing up a few hours from the border of Mexico has conditioned me to become addicted to tacos, rice and beans. Sushi was a food that took me a while to enjoy – I was 14 when I was first instructed to stuff a whole roll in my mouth (insert x-rated joke here.. and then feel awkward because I was only 14) and it wasn’t until years later that I developed a love for all things sushi (minus the mollusks, remember) and even led me to a short stint as a waitress in a hip sushi joint in my hometown before leaving for Dubai. The restaurant was a locally owned chain that whipped up awesome sushi and food Japanese style with hints of southwest spiciness.
Most of the time I don’t even know what I’m eating – before I moved to Dubai, I never knew the names of the Indian dishes I’d eaten and only learned them once I got here, since there is a huge Indian community in Dubai. Often times, when I’m in Africa, we go to restaurants with set menus or buffets, but everything available is incredibly delicious. But since moving to Dubai and traveling the world, my palette has been opened to a wide variety of new foods. A new favorite I discovered is the Malaysian Nasi Goreng, a spicy fried rice with seafood (usually shrimp) served up with chicken satay, fried chicken wing, and other little Malaysian snacks. And to add to that, I never fancied steak – that is, until I tried the steak in Johannesburg. The Meat Co, a chain restaurant also available in Dubai, serves up amazing delectable beef steak in varying sizes and forms, straight up with your choice of sides and sauces. No marinating, spicing or masking its original flavor. Africa in general is known to have extra tasty meats.
I seem to be giving a lot of attention to foods in Asia and Africa, but Europe has its fair share of good eats. When in Italy, don’t even waste a thought on the Olive Garden (a mediocre (but still tasty) Italian family restaurant chain in the USA), because real Italian food is nothing like that. And while visiting Germany and nearby countries, it’s always imperative to try the sausages and schnitzels. Don’t forget to wash it down with a beer, of course. The only thing I couldn’t complete stomach was the goulash while in Prague, Czech Republic – although I was told it’s typically a Hungarian dish. It was tasty, but just a bit too heavy for my liking.
I also love it when I find amazing food from one culture in another country. It only makes you realize how big and mixed the world really is. In the US, we know where to find good food from different cultures – Tex-Mex in the Southwest, seafood in Seattle and along the coast, Asian foods in California, Italian in New York… but I found the most delicious Malaysian food in a hole in the wall family owned restaurant in Amsterdam, yummy pizza in a small Italian community in Melbourne, Australia, and tasty Indian food in Kenya. Even Dubai itself is an ultimate melting pot, with most foods from the world at an easy reach. My first taste of Pakistani food was just steps away from my building in an area of downtown Dubai; which left my tastebuds wanting more. To top it off, Dubai is well known for its Friday brunches – no, that’s not omelettes and mimosas at sometime between breakfast and lunch o’clock but instead a midday all you can eat and drink (yes, alcohol included) feast at many restaurants around town. And of course, my latest addiction is chicken shawarma. I eat far too much of it, and unfortunately the restaurant downstairs delivers until pretty late in the evening…
Now, you must be thinking, this girl must waste so much money eating out. But somehow, I manage to be lucky enough to get my amazing friends from all over the world to cook for me. (Hmm, must be that cutesy Asian-American charm! Ha ha ha…..) But tasting a friend’s homecooked food just shows a different take on it, and of course, I am always happy to try it. From dinner parties back in my hometown during visits to helping host my first Thanksgiving abroad (and being the only American in attendance) to trying Iranian food for the first time (and absolutely loving it), having friends that cook well is definitely a blessing, but it does make me feel (um a TAD) guilty not knowing how to cook myself. Well, hopefully that will change soon. Every restaurant in Dubai delivers, and its a habit I just need to break!
And because I’m Asian, you can see I take a lot of photos of food… so here’s some more pictures of worldly foods to get your mouths watering:
Hungry yet? Leave a comment and tell me about your favorite foods!