Ask around the Crooked Compass team of what our most memorable thing about travel is and without a doubt the same answer always pops up – trying the local delicacies! What better way to immerse yourself in the local culture than sampling a dish that has been handed down from generation to generation or made with ingredients only available in that region.
Food awakens the senses – it gets our sense of taste, sight and smells going all at once. And depending what you are eating it could even include hearing and touch – think sizzling Sichuan or spiky Durian. Food is powerful! It has the ability to shape your journey, define memories and is an essential part of life and community as it is what makes us who we are as people.
Read on to learn more about some unique local dishes that are worth travelling for…
Glass of fermented horse milk, anyone? In Mongolia, this isn’t an unusual offer at all. Airag is best described as a type of beer by taking a mare’s milk and letting it ferment into a fizzy, sour and slightly alcoholic liquid. Traditionally served chilled in a bowl-shaped cup; dregs are supposed to be poured back into the main container.
Airag freshens and sparkles softly on the tongue and contains a small amount of carbon dioxide as well as up to 2% alcohol. The taste is slightly sour, but quite agreeable after getting used to it. The exact taste depends both of the characteristics of the pastures and the exact method of production. The beverage is a rich source of vitamins and minerals for the nomad lifestyle of Mongols.
Brik is probably the most famous and traditional Tunisian dish. Most restaurants and hotels have it on their menu, and you will also find street vendors serving this yummy delight. It is a delicate pastry dough called Malsouka, which is fried and stuffed with egg, parsley and tuna then served with lemon. There is a technique to eat it: you take a couple of bites until you are about to reach the egg, and when you are there you need to swallow it, so you don’t spill the egg’s liquid.
Its shape may vary slightly, but you will mostly find it shaped like a triangle (think pizza slice, calzone or samosa). You can find other fillings as well, such as cheese, potatoes or prawn. It is generally served as the second course during Ramadan, which is the main reason behind its popularity.
Sometimes referred to as the Penis Fish, Gaebul is actually a marine worm and gets its nickname from its shape. Definitely on the bizarre food list this local delicacy is usually eaten raw and alive, simply dip the pieces into a salt and sesame oil or a vinegar gochujang sauce and enjoy the mild yet sweet flavor and its pleasantly chewy texture. Not for the faint-hearted this dish is chewed up whilst still moving!
China’s 500 year old snack! Hundreds of years ago, a savoury idea – called the century egg was hatched in rural China. The story goes that a farmer found naturally preserved duck eggs in a muddy pool of water and slaked lime. After surviving a tasting, he set out to replicate them manually, resulting in a delicacy that would endure for centuries as a comfort food in China, Hong Kong, and other parts of Southeast Asia.
Also known as preserved egg, hundred-year egg, thousand-year egg, thousand-year-old egg, millennium egg, skin egg and black egg, are a preserved food product and delicacy made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime, and rice hulls for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing.
Everyone thinks of South East Asia for street food but African towns and cities have some of the most lively and exciting street life in the world, and appropriately, some of the most delicious street food! And one such dish is Grilled Tilapia with Banku. Banku is a pasty, starchy side dish made from corn or cassava dough. It’s the perfect empty carb when you’re looking to indulge, but it also compliments salty grilled tilapia. You can usually find this duo on the streets of Ghana for around $5 a plate. Yum!
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This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.