Few experiences are as exhilarating (or terrifying) as eating while abroad. Your plate may look like a gruesome crime scene and smell like heaven, or your host is describing the delicate texture and nuanced flavor of the main course while it attempts to crawl off your plate.
Whatever the experience, eating while abroad is an adventure. (Unless you find the only McDonald’s in the country and refuse to eat anywhere else. Even then, McDonald’s in a different country definitely has its own spin. Broccoli pie anyone?)
We asked the staff at WE to tell us their best (and worst) “eating while abroad” stories, and we’ve shared them here with you.
“Sticky Toffee Pudding. Hot molten chocolate cake, with warm toffee, and then heavy cream. I had it for the first time in the Lake District of the UK when I was visiting a friend’s extended family. I know that British food typically has a bad rap but this is amazing. It makes up for all of the bland food that is native to the UK.” – Whitney
“A food I have loved discovering while abroad is quince. In Turkey, it is called ayva, and is often soaked in syrup as a dessert or made into jam. In Portugal it is made into a sweet paste called marmelada (quince is marmelo in Portuguese). It can be eaten plain, or cut it into slices and eaten with bread or cheese. In Brazil I discovered a similar fruit paste called goiabada, which is just like marmelada but made out of guava!” – Lydia
” The worst food I ate abroad was also one of the best foods. Our cafeteria at school would make us this veggie chicken curry with rice. It always tasted really good, but the curry sauce was a glowing highlighter yellow. It was super disturbing the first time they set it down on the table (our school was tiny so we would all sit down together at these long tables), but after trying it the first time I always looked forward to it.” – Taylor
” Just below my apartment in Jordan was a tiny little restaurant where we would stop for lunch almost every day. You could get a giant, fresh, falafel pita for about 20 cents. I still drool thinking about it.” – Elizabeth
“Paella in a village outside Madrid. We were sitting out back with our Spanish ‘family’ and extended family, when all of a sudden we hear unveiling sounds (a la ‘ta da’ but the Spanish equivalent). We look over and two of the men are carrying and enormous pan of beautiful golden paella. Our (the visitors’) mouths dropped open and our eyes got really big. It was, of course, delicious.” – Adia
“Green Curry in Thailand. Why? Because my Midwestern palate couldn’t take the onslaught of Northern-Thai spice levels, and it’s probably one of the most acute sensations of pain I’ve ever felt. To complicate matters, I was trying to be very open to everything and I didn’t want to give the impression of ignorance when ordering (ha, fail) or that I was weak and picky. (I may be secretly wimpy, but I’m not picky!) I also didn’t have a solve-all glass of milk nearby – I was drinking Sprite, and I think the bubbles magnified the painful sensations in my mouth. Let’s just say I spent the meal trying not to cry too much, shoveling rice and any mild food on the table in my mouth to attempt calm down the fire, and trying to be sociable through the pain. It was an interesting lesson in adventurous cuisine, biting off more than I could chew (so to speak), and learning how to keep open through a painful experience. Also, I really admire the people of Northern Thailand for their strong palates.” – Kjerstin
“On my last day of traveling at Jeju Island (South Korea), I just wanted to eat something refreshing and filling. I thought, what a better way to end this trip than to eat local food? I was starving by noon and decided to check out this restaurant that seemed open and welcoming. I ordered fish and the taste was a bit dry and old, not what I expected. Today is just not my day, I thought to myself. My girlfriend and I were on a taxi to the airport when I started feeling nauseous and hyperventilating. Fresh air didn’t help and I felt like I could vomit or die at any moment. I kept yelling at the taxi driver, “Ajusshi! Hwang Jang shi!,” which translates to “Mister, bathroom!” (Thank God for one semester of Korean! ) I wobbled to the small bathroom next to a convenience store. Nothing came out. I was breathing really hard and feeling nauseous but I did not die. My friend calmly explained that this was simply a case of food poising and I would get better. I didn’t believe her. I lived, contrary to my belief. This, however, became my worst meal abroad.” – Mai Cha