Eight Delicious Dishes From Around the World

1. Maine Lobster Roll in Perkins Cove, Maine, USA

Lobster rolls all over New England are delicious, but where better to have a Maine lobster than in Maine? They aren’t cheap, but this one from Perkins Cove was well worth the price and drive to get there.

Maine Lobster Roll

Maine lobster roll in Perkins Cove, Maine, USA

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Visiting Kerala and the Periyar Wildlife Reserve

One of our most popular YouTube videos is of Tara and I riding and bathing an elephant at Elephant Junction in Thekkady, India. The whole experience was extremely memorable, and it was just a puzzle piece in our month-long exploration of the southwestern Indian state of Kerala. It ended up being one of our favorite regions we visited during the two and a half months we traveled around the country.

Tara and Bina share a bath together.

Tara and Bina share a bath together.

Most tourists who visit Kerala choose to sightsee in four cities: Kochi, Alleppey, Thekkady, and Munnar. These are the region’s golden circle of must-visit cities for those visiting the area. We ended up visiting three of the four, skipping out on Munnar simply because it offered mainly the same activities as Thekkady but with higher accommodation costs.

Tara and I started our month-plus visit to Kerala in Kochi. More specifically, we spent about a week relaxing north of Kochi at a remote homestay on Kuzhupilly Beach. We spent our days reading, writing, jogging along the beach and enjoying each other’s company. It was a period of relaxation after a month of quick travel through the north. Continue reading

Vietnamese Recipe: Sugarcane Shrimp (Chao Tom) Spring Roll

Of the many cuisines I encountered around the world, this is one of the rare recipes that I enjoy making as much as I enjoy eating. It is a fun process and a very interactive dish. The end product is a fresh spring roll with shrimp. It takes a bit of work – about an hour – but it is totally worth it! The real recipe calls for pork fat, but since we don’t eat meat we used an egg instead.

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RTW Recovery: Navigating America’s Food Scene

Welcome to our new series, called RTW Recovery Wednesday, in which we tackle topics that have made our transition back to the USA easy or difficult. Posts will offer a candid breakdown of what it’s like to return to what we used to call “home” after living in our own bubble as we traveled around the world for 14 months. Read our first recovery post about reexperiencing “American attitude.”

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KFC in Iceland

KFC in Iceland near Keflavík Airport.

We have experienced many culture shocks since returning but none as great as food. To understand why and how food is a culture shock, you only have to think of the constant interaction you have with it. Three times a day, you eat (this doesn’t even include snacks along the way). Often, the phrase “comfort food” refers to a type of food that brings you back to your childhood or just makes you feel good when you eat it. When you travel internationally for 14 months, your access to comfort food shrinks, and you adapt. What perhaps was easy to get ahold of in the United States is impossible to find on the road. Soon, our feelings toward food began to change—through our palate, our portions, and our loss of desire for Western dishes.

This shift began the second we stepped onto a plane bound for Iceland, our first destination. No matter where we went around the world, there were McDonald’s (except Iceland), Starbucks and Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants. We traveled the world and could not escape American fast food. The same portion, the same flavor. Everything was being churned out with the expectation that if you walked into a McDonald’s in Singapore and ordered a Big Mac, it would taste the same as if you ordered it in New York. This meant access to our American comfort food almost any time we wanted it. There was just one small problem: Years ago, we stopped eating meat and poultry, and all but cut out fast food. So while there was constant access to food from home, fast food restaurants were foreign lands to us.

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Vietnamese Recipe: Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves

This is a delicious fish recipe I learned to cook in Hoi An, Vietnam. Mouthwatering goodness! If you can’t buy ingredients like turmeric and banana leaves at your local grocery store, seek out an Asian grocery store. You can ask them to order the ingredients you can’t find. If you absolutely cannot get banana leaves, try using corn husks (but you will need to soak them in water so they don’t burn on the grill). Wrapping the fish inside banana leaves or corn husks steams the fish and cooks it more evenly. At the bottom of this post I give a short review of the cooking class I attended in case you find yourself in Hoi An. I hope you enjoy the recipe. More to come!

Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves, serves 2

Grilled Fish in Banana Leaf

Delicious Vietnamese-style fish!

Ingredients:
2 pieces, 8 oz each fresh mackerel
2 tbsp lemongrass, chopped finely (tip: smash it first with the knife blade to make it easier to chop)
4 three-inch pieces of lemongrass, smashed with the knife blade
8 thin slices of carrot (optional)
2 tsp shallots, diced finely
2 tsp garlic, diced finely (tip: smash with knife blade first, then dice)
2 tbsp turmeric, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar Continue reading

How to Make Delicious Vietnamese Coffee

What you’ll need:
•1 single-cup coffee filter
•1 tea kettle (or a pot, something to boil water in)
•1 coffee mug
•2 tablespoons bold coffee grounds
•1/2 cup water (you’re boiling more than you’ll use)
•1 tablespoon condensed milk
•3/4 cup of ice

Making Vietnamese Coffee

The coffee filter sits on top of your glass.

Instructions:
Heat water to a boil. While it is heating, grab your coffee mug and pour the condensed milk in. Assemble your filter so it sits on top of the mug. Add the coffee grounds and place the press inside the filter (on top of the grounds). Once the water is boiling, pour 1/3 cup into the filter and quickly cap it. Continue reading

How the Heck Did I Lose 35+ Pounds on This Trip?

Little by little, I have been shedding weight. It was not a dramatic overnight change, but rather a healthy yearlong transformation. I would like to say exercise and a balanced diet were the reasons, but there is more to it. I suppose you could say the additional weight was a literal and metaphorical burden that I left in the United States. A more scientific approach would say that my portion sizes have shrunk and the street, hawker and restaurant food is generally (and surprisingly) healthy and fresh with few or no preservatives.

This is me on my wedding day.

This is me on my wedding day.

Before I address my weight loss, I first have to answer how I got to be overweight. In June 2012, just as Tara and I left the U.S., my weight hovered around 200 pounds, but I was not always this heavy. In high school, I had reached my current height of 5 feet 11 inches, but was a slender 135 pounds. Running track and playing soccer kept me slim, but this was also years before I knew what a pilsner or porter beer was. I maintained this weight throughout high school, and it only slightly increased during my first two years of college. During my junior and senior years, I studied film in the Czech Republic. Over that time I gained roughly 50 pounds. Continue reading