My Favorite Meals From 12 Months of Travel

Ok, so I like to eat. A lot. Yes, I know — so does everyone else. But not really. Enjoying a meal is so much more than fueling my body. It’s a communion. A coming together of friends and foes. A ceremony. A meal is more than just food. Although of course, that plays a major role. A meal has a lot of moving parts — the people, the scenery or lack there of, the circumstances, the preparation etc. There’s a story behind each and every meal and while the tastes tend to steal the spotlight, the rest of the actors are important. 

Ok, so what do you think of my nonsense analogy? Are you vibing with me here? If you don’t get what I’m getting at, then you’re likely not going to get why some of the following meals were my absolute favorite. 

I spent 12 months traveling around the world. I didn’t even touch the western hemisphere, so perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I spent 12 months traveling many parts of the Eastern hemisphere. But that’s not the point. I’ve been moving from place to place and eating my heart out simultaneously. I ate Baozi (steamed bun filled with various goodies) and Hokkien (a gooey oyster omelette) in Taiwan, Laab Kai (minced chicken salad with various spices and lemongrass) and Tom Yum Gong in Southern Thailand, all the gelato I could manage and some underwhelming pasta in Italy, salmorejo and chorizo in Spain, croissants and cheese galore in Paris, yogurt and zelevi sarmi (stuffed cabbage rolls) in Bulgaria, cheese filled patties in Macedonia, sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls) in Romania, more dhal bat I’ve ever consumed in Nepal and the list goes on and on. You could say, I’ve been on one hell of an eating tour. You wouldn’t be wrong. Eating various delicious things in sometimes insane quantity has been a highlight of my travels and is easily reflected in the tightness of all my pants. I’m not sorry. 

I’ve loved every bite. Even the not-so-tasty ones, but I’ll keep those to myself. This post is all about my absolute favorite meals while traveling some glorious places. Enjoy my nostalgic memories.xo

Le pique-nique à Paris.

Diana is behind the lens

I’ve had a lot of picnics in my day. They’re by far my favorite way to consume a meal… Whether alone or with friends. It’s always going to be my first pick. And the picnic I shared with a few lovely ladies along the Siene — will forever be remembered as THE PICNIC of them all. I can still taste the French bread and Tarama combo — which by the way I ate on the daily because it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted. Ever. The Seine slowly rippled below my dangling feet as the red, blue and white picnic blanket safely held our incredible spread. And what a spread it was! I was gungho on having a picnic that evening and thankfully my lady friends were totally on board. We took to the bakery to pick up the must-have baguette along with a few random baked goodies that were equally incredible (no surprise there). Some snacking carrots and the mentioned Tarama were picked up at a small grocery prior to attending to the cheese. The lady in the small cheese shop spoke very little English, but our Parisian host, Nina, took care of us. We tasted a few cheeses and were thoroughly impressed until THE cheese came out. This was no ordinary dairy product. It was the most glorious piece of cheese I’ve ever had. I don’t remember the name, but it had layers of truffles in it like the strata in sedimentary rock only way tastier. Seriously — cheese of all the cheeses. This was it. At first we were a bit disappointed that our chosen picnic spot didn’t have the Eiffel tower visible, but shortly after setting up– this shortfall was quickly forgotten. Red wine was flowing, the truffle cheese made us all gasp every few seconds and Diana’s eagerness to wave at every passing ship made for stellar entertainment. Paris was a dream come true and that picnic was the highlight.

The best gelato.

I spent a week in Italy — far too short to be sure, but I didn’t waste any time with gelato tastings. Have I mentioned I’ve gained some weight? It was totally worth it. I had gelato every day, sometimes more than once (or twice). The thing is, I was really only impressed on one occasion in Venice. And even then it was nothing compared with the gelato from Granada, Spain. My daily gelato intake didn’t stop in Italy (although perhaps it should have). I enjoyed gelato almost daily just about everywhere thereafter. It wasn’t until Granada, however, that I was blown away. There was what appeared to be a regular gelato shop around the corner from my hostel. We were on our way to meet up with other friends for tapas and drinks when I decided it was time I tried out this gelato spot. We dropped by and immediately the range in flavors drew my attention. I don’t remember them, but they were definitely creative. And while I totally believe simplicity in food is always best, this place knew what they were doing. I opted for the some funky named flavor and was instantly sold. It was some sort of a pistachio, caramel and chocolate concoction. And it was glorious. 

Side of the road BBQ

One thing that I’ve learned about food and travel is that street food will almost always be delicious. It’s kind of a given. Have I had bad street food? Probably. But for the most part it’s been pretty damn good in just about every place I’ve been (although I didn’t actually try any in Nepal).

With that said — this favorite meal is from the side of the road in Chiang Mai. I was staying in a hotel/apartment building about 15 minutes away from the main part of the city and about a 10 minute walk from the main road. My Muay Thai gym was 2 minute walk from me so that’s all I cared about (I was there training 2x a day for a month).

Food choice nearby was limited. A friend from the gym mentioned this BBQ joint that was just down the street and it was only open in the evening.

I went there my last few days in Chiang Mai otherwise this would definitely have become my favorite dinner spot — I would totally risk walking through a pack of stray dogs in the dark for this BBQ.

The woman grilling up various kinds of meats had that special Thai smile and served us up some of my favorite meat meals for something like $1.50. I don’t really know what meat was in the sausages, but they were REALLY good. Every time I’d bite in, I was surprised just how tasty they were.

A Macedonian bus stop & a cheesy patty.

Not quite same time as the meal, but same day… We had just crossed the Macedonian border here.

A hitchhiking moment… This one on in Macedonia. We had been hitchhiking all day and were let off near a small bus station. I still don’t really know where we were, but it was somewhere in Macedonia. Our final destination (Shtip) still a ways away, we thought we could just catch the next bus leaving towards that direction. So we took our bags and sat down at the bus stop restaurant. I wasn’t all that hungry, but who knew when we’d be eating so we ordered some food. That was one of the best meals I had in the region. By far. The patty they brought had melted cheese on the inside and the outside was perfectly crispy. It was amazing. There was some sort of party going on next to us (because apparently that bus stop was the place to be) where some glass breaking and drama broke out almost as soon as we sat down.

The Thai sun & the Tom Yum Gong.

The sun was hot, but the Tom Yum Gong was hotter. I was staying at a hostel about 3 minutes walk to the beach on Koh Lanta and it was the first of seven days I would spend there. The walk to the beach was short and along the way I passed several food stalls. One such stall was a little outdoor hut with a stove and some bamboo tables. It was covered so the sun didn’t assault you as you ate, but nevertheless the heat had no trouble invading the space. I didn’t care, obviously — it was paradise, I had nothing to complain about. That first walk to the beach I decided to get some food in me before hitting the sand so I sat down and ordered some Tom Yum Gong — a spicy lemongrass soup with bamboo shoots and prawns. I’ve always favored this dish in Thai restaurants and thought I’d try the real thing in Thailand. Why I decided to order a hot spicy soup in the middle of the devil’s heat is beyond me, but I’m glad I did. After what seemed like an hour — and honestly it probably was — the shade on my table had shifted, leaving me roasting in the sunshine. I was drenched and hot and really hungry. Being the creature of comfort that I am, I’m surprised at how unmoved I was at this point. The little Thai lady that I would soon befriend from my daily walks, brought me the soup. A few drops of my own sweat made it into the giant bowl, but I didn’t care. It smelled like all of my dreams had come true. I dug in immediately — not bothering to wait for the white rice and hot damn was it spicy! Oh, but the flavor! Geez, my taste buds were on fire and working on overload all at once. It was the messiest, sweatiest most delightfully hot meal I’ve ever had (pun totally intended). 

Chickpea leaf salad on stilts.

This day was all around magical in Inle Lake, Myanmar and lunch was no exception. There were all sorts of dishes laid out on the table for us to enjoy, but the one that really stuck out was a green leaf salad that was spicy, salty and all sorts of yummy. The thing is, I’d never seen the leaves before. They were small and still on the main stem — although very soft. After some asking around I found out they were chickpea leafs. How cool!? I’m excited to see if I can find them back home and make a reproduction of that dish!

The side of a mountain highway & food I don’t much remember.

No, that seat was not comfortable.

An assortment of food items we had gathered in the nearest town — a combination of items we hunted around for and pieces we’d had left over in the trunk of our white Fiat. The chances of us finding a non-fast food restaurant became undeniably slim so we decided we’d just have a picnic. The thought never occurred to me, but had I known this was an option I would have definitely gone with the picnic first thing anyway. Picnics are by far the greatest way to eat. Anywhere. Always and forever. We gathered some random veggies and fruits, found the bakery for some bread and took off to look for the next viable picnic spot. It wasn’t long after getting out of town somewhere in Albania (I think) and onto the highway that we found ourselves along the side of a mountain with nothing but the side of the road up ahead. With another mountain that had water trickling down right next to us, we pulled over and began to unload our picnic. It wasn’t the most comfortable, I’ll admit… But who cares. It was a picnic. I’m not even sure what we ate — some cured fish Sveta had brought over from Russia, some of the veggies and I think I recall some cured ham. It was all delightful and beautiful and yummy and all the things. 

Pumpkin gnocchi in the strangest of places.

What makes this strange is the fact that it was so close to home, but in Thailand. Ok, what? I had been eyeing all of the places in Chiang Mai that serve western food — because honestly after almost ten months on the road all I wanted sometimes was something from home. Something like a delicious french toast or a simple kale salad. In this case, it was a bit more creative. As I was saying… I’d been looking for spots that serve western food that I could try here and there when I got tired of Thai food (hard to do, but oh so possible). This place had a slue of good reviews alongside a serious price tag (for Thailand). I avoided it until one day it finally seemed like a good time to go after a short hike up a nearby mountain. I wasn’t alone so it was kind of like enjoying a brunch at home! [I was getting a little homesick.] Anyway. I ordered the pumpkin gnocchi with some apprehension — what in the world will this taste like? [I’ve come to understand that you absolutely cannot expect western food to taste like you’d expect.] What would this even taste like in Thailand? To my absolute delight, it was SO GOOD. Every bite I took, I couldn’t help but exclaim my surprise. The texture was right on point and the flavor was out of this world — pumpkin with a kick of spices and some minced meat on top. Color me impressed!

Ramen sent straight from heaven.

NYC is full of Ramen spots and it’s always been one of my favorite types of food. Can you blame me? It’s a delicious heart warming broth filled with noodles and all sorts of delicious toppings. What’s not to love? I was on my way back to my hostel after spending a couple hours soaking and relaxing in the Budapest baths. An early dinner seemed like a good idea and I was yearning for my comfort food — Japanese food. Honestly, I was looking for sushi, but this place didn’t serve any and I didn’t feel like going back out to find a new spot.  When my order arrived, my hunger had dissipated any regretful feelings I had towards my ramen vs. sushi choice. I went straight for the biggest bowl in front of me and HOT DAMN. It was the greatest ramen I ever tasted. Perfect broth. Perfect noodles. Just perfect. I was mighty surprised.

The poppy seed ice cream.

taken from my Instagram Stories

There’s not much of a story here. I was in Belgrade — feeling completely and utterly exhausted from traveling — for about two weeks. In those two weeks I did little exploration and a lot of relaxing. I took to a lot of coffee shops, something Belgrade knows a thing or two about, and took care of myself. One of my later days in Belgrade I decided it was about time I tried some ice cream (it had probably been more than a week at that point since my last cold treat). After one of my coffee shop sessions I googled the nearest shop and boy did I luck out! I walked around the corner and there it was — a line well outside the front door and onto the block filled with googleyed folks ready for their sweet tooth to be satisfied. Eventually I made it to the front of the line, completely overwhelmed by the flavors and options — if I had it my way, I’d eat them all — I chose what popped out first: their poppy seed and matcha/strawberry flavors. Seemed like a good combo. Holy shit, you guys… This ice cream was no joke. Aside from the aforementioned Gelato, this cold treat has surpassed any I’ve ever had. Way to go Belgrade!

The most perfect chili fries in all of the Himalayas (and the world).

Who in the world would have thought that one of the most incredible dishes of chili fries would be found in Gurung — a small village in the Himalayas. I’m not exaggerating. We had been trekking for several days before reaching Gurung and it was one of our shortest days of the trek. The guest house we stayed at had a chef that’s worthy of more praise than my words are capable of giving. It was there that I discovered Garlic soup is a thing — why have I never thought of doing this? A simple broth of garlic. It was the most perfect broth I’d ever had. After we’d left for the rest of our trek, I continued to order Garlic soup at other guest/tea houses only to be very much disappointed. It was one of a kind. But the main event — the chili fries — were really the dish that completely knocked it out of the Himalayas. They quite literally took my breathe away. I couldn’t breathe out of my nose (thanks to a lovely congestion I’d developed) and I couldn’t eat the potatoes quick enough — completely blocking air passage to my lungs. Kind of sounds like a savage. I know. And it wouldn’t be completely wrong to call my behavior during this dinner as anything less, but I’m telling you — it was the greatest bowl of chili fries I’d ever had the privilege of enjoying. Our group of eight loved them so much we literally ate all of their potatoes. Not something I’m proud of, but surely something that speaks to the tastey-ness. The potatoes were spicy, garlic-y, covered in some sort of homemade-flavor-explode-in-your-mouth-sauce. That meal in Gurung was one of many highlights along the Annapurna trail. 

A Newari specialty in Kathmandu, Nepal.

taken from my Instagram Stories

I spent four weeks in Nepal altogether. Two of those weeks were spent in the capital — Kathmandu. A bustling, chaotic, dirty and old masterpiece. If it wasn’t for the terrible air pollution, I would have gladly spent another month or so in the city. I loved it. Walking around Patan (a Newari neighborhood) felt like my eyes had acquired a vintage filter. Every building I looked at appeared to have a bronze-ish hue. It was stunning. Many buildings had intricate wood work on them and although most of the hustle and bustle died down with the sun, every so often a motorbike would zoom past. It all felt like walking through a scene in a movie. I loved it. The best part, of course, was the food. I had a lot of Nepali food during my time in the Himalayas, but Newari food proved to be my favorite food there… Possibly anywhere. It’s SO good. Newari is an ethnic group in Nepal — and to be honest that’s about as much as I know about this group of people. Other than their cuisine is to die for. Every dish is bursting with flavor. My favorite was unsurprisingly the Aloo Mee (potatoes). After we returned from our week of trekking the first meal we had was Newari at a place Selena and I frequented during our stay in Patan. The dish is made up of pan friend potatoes covered in some blend of powerful spices all working in harmony to make the most melodious flavor. The best part were the heap of spicy tiny seedlings that were likely roasted prior to the potatoes and then mixed in — as they were still crunchy. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Newari food as an option anywhere and I can’t say that it tastes a whole lot like anything else I’ve had, but if I ever have the chance to eat this cuisine again — I won’t let it slide. 

Soup from Supa Star in Sofia.

Tell me that wasn’t a mouthful. I stayed in Sofia, Bulgaria for about two weeks directly after Paris. I didn’t feel like looking for yet another new place to eat. Sofia offers an awesome free food walking tour that I happily partook in and which also served as a stepping stone to being my food guide in the city. The dishes we tried were good, but for the most part it was so so. Except for one place — Supa Star. This place was a small little soup shop and it served one of my new favorite dishes. Tarator. A cold Bulgarian yogurt soup. It’s kind of like tzaziki only in soup form and lots more garlic. After having tasted the soup in the walking tour, I came back to the shop almost on the daily. It was cheap, delicious and healthy. After spending a week living off of french bread, cheese and wine I thought it was wise to give my body some needed nutrients. But even so, the soup was incredibly yummy. Refreshing in the heat, too. I also had some of the ‘bacon’ added into the soup.

Fresh fish market along the southern coast of Taiwan.

taken from my Instagram Stories

I like to eat. I think this list makes that quite clear. And one of my all time favorite foods is sushi. You can’t beat the yummyness of fresh fish. One of my favorite meals actually took place during my first (maybe second) week on the road. We were amidst a three week motorbike trip around Taiwan, when we stopped at the southern edge of the island where a fresh fish market took place on the daily. It was massive and actually one of the biggest fresh fish markets in the world (after Japan’s which recently closed). Aisles and aisles of fresh fish — some of which I wouldn’t even know to call fish. It was incredible. After walking around for a while we decided to sit down at one of the stalls. We pointed out the fish we wanted from behind the glass (my brother’s Chinese was more than enough to help fill the gaps) and set to eating the freshest sushi I’d ever eat. It was glorious. And cheap as all hell. We ate until we simply couldn’t eat any more (with seconds or thirds) and paid something equivalent to $21 for the both of us. It doesn’t get better. 

The Bourek in Granada.

I didn’t know this kind of savory satisfaction existed. Light and fluffy dough on the outside with a juicy savory inside filled with beef and spinach.

The local staff at my hostel insisted I visit this little hole in the wall and I’m definitely not sorry that I did.

A pie in Pai — and by pie I mean donut.

I love donuts. The good kind, but I wouldn’t say they’re all that impressive. Sweet? Sure, they always satisfy my sweet tooth. I prefer the donuts that are the traditional kind where the dough is light and fluffy — not the cakey ones (otherwise I feel like they’re just cakes in the shape of donuts, you know?). 

Anyway, this donut was different from any I’ve had. It was both light and fluffy like traditional donuts AND a bit cake-y. It was perfect. A simple glaze, nothing fancy. Each bite surprised me — I’ve had a lot of donuts, but nothing like this.

I spent a great deal of time in the same coffee shop in Pai working on my computer (hell, I’m writing this as I enjoy said donut).

Black sticky rice surprise.

I love mango sticky rice, but I don’t think it deserves a spot on this list. It’s good, but it isn’t THAT good. You know? It’s a hard distinction to make, but I feel like everything else on this list was truly magic.

With that said — the black sticky rice and sesame dessert I tried (and tried and tried) at the Pai night market was THAT good. And I call it a surprise because I honestly didn’t know what to expect. The uncooked version just looks like a flat black tortilla and I wasn’t even sure if it was going to be sweet or savory. I had gotten in a routine where I just ate the items I’d grown to love (bacon wrapped Enoki mushrooms were YUM), but decided I should continue trying things.

That’s when I went for it. The man took the sticky tortilla and placed it on the grill where the patty or tortilla (I keep calling it this because that’s what it looked like to me) started to bubble. He kept turning over and over — presumably to avoid burning it — until it looked all puffy. He sprinkled some crushed sesame and some sugar cane syrup and folded the patty. He cut the folded patty into bite sized pieces, placed it on a banana leaf and handed me the ‘plate’. One bite and I was HOOKED. Holy moly. It’s my favorite thing I had in Thailand. Sweet. Gooey. Crunchy. All the goods.

The best goddamn cookie I ever had the privilege of tasting.

I snuck out of my dorm room for a bathroom break (I was knee deep in a nighttime Netflix binge) when my new french friend signaled me to pause while he himself snuck away to his room. 

Upon returning he carried a box of sweets beckoning me to pick one. [The last 5 days I’d grown to be known as the girl with the sweet treats— always sharing my day’s winnings from the streets of Chefchauoen.] 

My choice– a cookie with what looked like a chocolate filling, was promptly protested against. “No, go for this one… it’s special.”

Oookkayyy. 
I don’t do cookies. 
Arrest me, but cookies have never been my favorite (or even close).

I snuck back into my room (my dorm mates already fast asleep) to enjoy my treat in the glowing light of my iPhone. 

D a m n

It’s like someone took the purest peanut butter and turned it into the most moist, light & fluffy sugary delight on the plant. What is this sorcery?

Is it crunchy?
Is it gooey? 
Is it a macaroon?!

It is special.

Seaweed & Sea Bass Salad and A Sashimi Platter.

Ok so I’ve had a lot of good food over the course of my twelve months of travel, but the meal I had in Lisboa (pronounced Lee-sh-boh-ah) aka Lisbon was out of this world.

The salad was chock full of raw Sea Bass sashimi pieces mixed with the most delicious sea weed slices. And not the thin noodle-like sea weed that you often get served (which I can’t deny that I enjoy), but the thick dark green leaves filled with the taste of the sea.

The dressing resembled something of a siracha, but very thin and citrus-y. I don’t know how to describe it. It was perfect — my favorite thing I think I’ve ever eaten. Ever.

Taken from my Instagram — @itsreginapo

The sashimi platter I ordered along side it was an adventure in itself.

Each roe a tiny burst of sticky salty sea-y sensation. I know what’s coming and yet as I pierce the lining and the gooey ball bursts sending the flavor of love into my mouth I am filled with joy all over again.

I’ve never tasted a raw scallop until today. How can something be so damn delicate, I wonder. Should I soak the little bits in my soy soaked wasabi or should I taste the purity of this bit of seafood. I did both. And each time I’m taken aback by the softness.

The white wine — my second glass by now— gently warms my chest. 

What to taste next from my sashimi playground? I feel like I’m eating fish for the first time. The thin smell of the sea enticing me to just dive in and yet this experience keeps me from devouring my plate… I want to slow this down. Effortlessly becoming surprised with each bite. 

Songlike Portuguese being sung all around me, but I can only focus on the tiny black dots staring back at me. 

Oh caviar. How I love thee. 

The tiny black dots— surprisingly sweet—are fun to eat with my chopsticks. Each one the size of a giant period at the end of a very large sentence.

Next up— squid. 
Oh boy. I’m not a fan. 

Can it be? 
Yes.

It’s chewy which is normally a welcomed sensation. But as I invite a new piece in and begin to chew— a strange chalk like residue is released. I’m not into it. 

It’s ok. Wine to the rescue. 

Ahhh the sea bass. We meet again. I think you’re my favorite. Easily forgettable with your middle of the road chewiness texture and your low lying flavor. It’s easy to forget, but remembering is no trouble. 

The mackerel — the bartender’s favorite— is chewy (in the best way possible) and topped with shredded ginger & good vibes. 

Tuna. Fresh & colorful. The trusty fish I know I’ll love. 

A piece of salmon— the bed of the already finished salmon roe. Damn. Feels like a warm hug from an old friend. Jesus, that’s good. 

Who am I kidding? 
Salmon is king.

My god. 
I have no words. 

There’s no contest. The contest is won. 

Saffron Cream

Not much of a story here. I hadn’t really eaten anything that has BLOWN me away in Morocco and then we ordered this dessert.

It’s exactly what it sounds like — a little slice of flavored creamy heaven.

Saffron cream with a date compote at the bottom. YUM

What’s been your favorite meal while traveling this beautiful planet of ours?
Tell me in the comments!
xox

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