I’ve eaten many a great meal while travelling and living in different countries over the past few years and, while I write a lot about food in Thailand in particular, plenty of dishes from other countries have also left a lasting impression on me. Food plays a larger part in my travel experiences than just about anything else, so what I eat forms a big part of the memories I have of the places I’ve been (I’m just as likely to remember Prachuap Kiri Khan for somtum puu maa papaya salad or Khon Kaen for great pork satay at the night market, for example). But here are six meals that I still salivate over even now – and there’s plenty more still where they came from!
It’s fatty, it’s unhealthy and there’s not a vegetable in sight – but Currywurst DEFINES Berlin. The fast food of the German gods, it is made with a steamed and fried pork sausage doused in a sauce made from tomato ketchup and curry powder, and adorned with plenty of French fries. Dirt cheap and served at street stalls and fast food joints all over the city, and of course elsewhere in Germany too.
Full English Breakfast, Bath
There are full English breakfasts and there are full English breakfasts – and this one, my friends, is king of them all. From the modest surrounds of the Green Park Express, a hut in the old Green Park train station in the city of Bath in the south of England, views while tucking into this masterpiece include a giant Sainsbury’s supermarket and at the weekend a bustling farmers’ market. But forget the views – it’s all about the sausages, bacon, beans, mushrooms, fried egg, fried bread (toast is for cowards!), tomato and more, all piled unceremoniously yet unbeatably onto a plate that heaves under the pressure. It’ll set you back £6, an absolute steal. www.greenparkexpress.co.uk
Seafood feast, Hua Hin
After my family narrowly missed their flight back to the UK after a three-week holiday with me in Thailand, they were forced to stay another week (hard life!) With my younger siblings getting frustrated by being ‘cooped up’ in Bangkok, we made for Hua Hin – my first visit to this seaside resort. And while the picture doesn’t do it much justice, we enjoyed one of the best meals I’ve ever had in Thailand – a total and enormous feast of fish and seafood including fresh, raw oysters (difficult to find done well, still in their shells rather than blasphemously scooped out and served over ice) and some ace fried fish. Tho whole spread for five of us, at a sprawling restaurant set over Hua Hin’s squid piers, came to around 1,500 baht.
Vegetarian buffet, Berlin
Another mention for Berlin – but something about as far removed from Currywurst as possible. We had no expectation of finding a restaurant like this while exploring the city one evening during a short visit in 2010, but boy am I glad we did. It became one of the highlights of the trip and we still talk about the meal today. Run by a friendly couple, the joint was a simple enough affair and amounted to choosing two or three portions from an overflowing buffet of all-vegetarian deliciousness. Topped off with a Radler Bavarian shandy, just how much better could it get?
Somtum thai and laab moo, Mahachai
Yes, another Thai dish (and particularly papaya salad) had to creep in somewhere. On the face of it there ought to have been nothing special about this meal – it was just a pit-stop at the most appealing looking of a bunch of street-side restaurants in Mahachai, after a day-trip with a holidaying friend to the Mae Klong railway market in the summer of 2013 got disrupted by train schedules that chose that day to play up. But somehow – I don’t know if it was sheer hunger, the surroundings and company or whether the food really was above average – this simple lunch of Thai papaya salad and northeastern pork salad (a combination which I eat all too frequently anyway) has stayed close in my mind since. I think I need to get back to Mahachai pretty soon, just to eat this there again.
Another tip-off from that holidaying friend (she’s good), this has become a real favourite and the subject of a couple of return visits. In a less than obvious location in Paris, relatively centrally located but managing to avoid the tourist hordes, L’Ecurie is as attractive for the atmosphere and for the passion that so obviously goes into the excellent service, as for the amazing food. It’s not silver service, no – but if perfectly cooked steak and thick-cut chips with a choice of delectable sauces is likely to bring a smile to your face, then you’ll feel at home here. It’s often very busy and it can be difficult to get a table at first, but that’s all part of the charm – while you’re waiting, expect to be plied with free sangria and plates of salami. Other dishes include excellent terrines and salads, and an incredible trio of fruit sorbets that you just can’t miss for dessert. Did I mention that there’s sangria? L’Ecurie, 2 Rue Laplace, 75005 Paris; (00 33) 01 46 33 68 49