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May 6, 2010 11:07 AM

Is the cuisine so boring or just bad that you have to ask for alternatives?

I have done my fair share of traveling in Asia,Europe and Latin America and have found that there was never enough time or resources to fully appreciate the cuisine of any country I visited.
Yet I come across threads weekly asking for the best Tacos in Paris, Southern Fried chicken in Japan,Cheese burgers in Mumbai. Pulled pork in Tel Aviv. Of course I exaggerate for the sake of making my point but my question is , were you so bored or disgusted with the local cuisine that you have to seek out totally foreign food for that country and did you expect it to look and taste even close to what you were used to back home?

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  1. I don't think finding out how Parisians interpret Mexican food = boredom or disgust with the local cuisine. Yes, I *love* learning about local foods when I travel, and trying new things, but I would be interested in trying something that isn't indigenous to that region just for curiosity's sake.

    2 Replies
    1. re: librarianjen

      I would be also...Eventually. But are these posters expats,frequent visitors, political exiles,displaced travelers or all of the above? I jest but am still curious.

      1. re: Duppie

        As someone who travels overseas every summer and spends *significant* time there, I guess I can only echo some of the sentiments already expressed. I don't WANT to eat 'German' food the whole time I am there, especially given the large number of other cuisines not available to me in the boondocks I live in the rest of the year; specifically, great Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Korean, Turkish, etc. come to mind.

        But if I were only visiting a country or region for a week, I'd probably try to sample mostly local foods. I'm not gonna get Chinese food while in Athens for a w/end.

    2. My situation's kinda similar to the situation of people on extended stays overseas. Our restaurant's menu contains -- literally -- over 200 items. They're all Chinese and Japanese. Hey, sometimes I just get the hankering for a burger, mac 'n cheese (recently I made a batch of baked beans and a ham).

      I guess that, as much as I really like Asian food, sometimes the stuff I grew up with shouts my name so loudly I have to answer.

      4 Replies
      1. re: shaogo

        When I travel for 6 weeks, I try to stick to what that country does best, mostly to immerse myself in that culture. I'm usually quite happy to stick to that country's specialties, but occasionally, especially in countries with really meaty cuisines, I'll desperately crave something lighter and more vegetable-oriented. That's when I start hunting down vegetarian or macrobiotic restaurants and buying produce in markets. I never seek out chains that I can find at home or pizza (unless in Italy). Why bother? The only country that offered such bland and bleak cuisine that I broke down and went for their version of Chinese food was in Honduras. It was really bad. I learned my lesson and will never attempt that again in any country that does not have a sizeable Chinese community.

        1. re: 1sweetpea

          I agree that when I travel I do tend to stick with the county's cuisine. (Why would I go for Chinese when I am in Spain??!)
          But normally, I only have at most 2 weeks to spend in one place.

          However, I did have the oppertunity to live in the UK for six years, and I really did find it fascinating to try their versions of other cuisines.
          For instance a standard Chinese menu there is almost completely different to what we would see here in the US.
          My English hubby never heard of an egg roll before he met me!
          And on every Chinese menu in the UK you will find "Crispy Seaweed" -
          Most Americans have never heard of that! (BTW - it's delicious and I LONG for it and wish some English Chinese fellow would move here and start a trend!!)

          Anyway the same thing applies to Italian menus, Greek menus and the like so sometimes now when I travel I do tend to at least look into other cuisines to see what they got! Just out of curiosity...
          I did have some awesome Greek food in Paris one night...and yes it was a bit dfferent than what I am used to.

          1. re: NellyNel

            <And on every Chinese menu in the UK you will find "Crispy Seaweed" -
            Most Americans have never heard of that! (BTW - it's delicious and I LONG for it and wish some English Chinese fellow would move here and start a trend>

            So with you on that. It's been years since I've been to England and I still crave it.

            Sometimes people look for familiar food for comfort.

            1. re: viperlush

              That sounds yummy. i'm going to look for it.

      2. Having lived a substantial number of years out of the US, I can agree w/ some of the sentiments already expressed. But sometimes you just miss an American food, from home, that is not part of the local cuisine. I can remember using lefsa to try and make Mexican food in Norway. We taught our maid, in Bolivia, to make and pronounce Philadelphia cheese steak sandwich. We found a Bolivain BBQ ribs & burgers that "were just like home". In Finland, we'd ask visitors to bring hot Italian sausage because we missed it. The Greek salad at our favorite Greek rest. was made from cabbage, but we got to eat middle eastern style lamb, which we missed.I see you are from Jersey. We bring back to Maine Taylor's Pork Roll, because we miss it. One can not live on lobster alone.
        Our 2 eldest sons work in Seoul. One, who also worked in Thailand, will be back for a visit in October. He can't wait to eat American Chinese and Thai food. All the local Chinese and Thai restaurants in S. Korea, have a very heavy Korean influence, just as our does American.
        Move out of NJ/NYC and see how much you look for NY style pizza in the southwest.
        I've given up trying to find good Mexican food in Maine; we just cook it ourselves.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Passadumkeg

          Passa, you don't get out enough. Take a field trip from Ellsworth, ME to El Cafecito in Grants, NM, for a good fix of green, and sopapillas.

          1. re: Veggo

            The owner is one of my old students. The "Christmas" burritos are great. Sooner than ya think.


          2. re: Passadumkeg

            Oh yes - actually I forgot to write in my above post - what I originally started to!

            There were definitely things that I craved while living abroad... Pizza being numero uno!

            I lived in an area heavily populated by English Italians, and was able to enjoy good pizza - excelllent pizza, in fact...but it wasn't a New York slice!!!
            Man I used to crave it!!
            That ......and a good burger!

            So yes, I know what you mean

            1. re: NellyNel

              Sometimes late at night I too crave a NY slice like the ones in my old Washington Heights hood. and I only moved across the river.

              1. re: NellyNel

                In Norway, mussel and asparagus pizza, in Finland, reindeer 'za and in Bolivia, llama and corn pizza, yum! In Maine, convience store pizza. Gimme reindeer!

            2. I assume that you are talking about Americans and other nationalities that insist on eating their home cuisine to the exclusion of all others. I've certainly seen Americans do it abroad. However, it happens with other nationalities, as well. A friend of mine hosted in Tampa a group of Indians who were being trained to work in an American company with branches in India. While in Tampa, the Indians insisted on eating in the same restaurant every night: an Indian restaurant!

              Certainly, when traveling, you should eat the native cuisine of whereever you happen to be. You've spent a lot of time, energy and money getting to that place, so why wouldn't you immerse yourself in the culture? On the other hand, when you are not just a casual and brief visitor to a country, the situation is a little different. I ate Chinese, Indian, and Malay food continuously for about the first six months I worked in Singapore and it was absolutely delicious! But one day, I felt an overpowering urge for a Burger King Whopper with extra mayonnaise and pickles. I ate one. After that, I found that I had to have an American food fix--one or two meals every two or three weeks.

              2 Replies
              1. re: gfr1111

                Granted, that likely speaks well of the Indian restaurant.

                1. re: gfr1111

                  A month or six weeks abroad, all is well, and then suddenly one day I find myself in McDonald's and then I know it's time to go home.

                2. There's a lot of great food in Paris from all over, especially North or West African, Caribbean, Lebanese, and Vietnamese. Many others, too. But I think seeking out Mexican is pretty wierd.

                  22 Replies
                  1. re: Steve

                    Not if one is from the southwest.
                    What about being an American Bolivian saltena junkie in DC?

                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                      There may very well be good Mexican food in Paris, but as a visitor I think I'll stick with the stuff that is well-represented by a large community. I also think I'll pass on the Parisian BBQ scene.

                      Hey, the Bolivian community here is huge. But I still think they are holding out on me.....

                      1. re: Steve

                        But what if you're a 'Merican from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico and you've been living in Paris for 10 years and you git a craven for a taco or real Q? Foi gras just doesn't cut it any more.

                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                          True, but I think the OP was just talking about people visiting for a normal vacation. Though I could have misunderstood.

                          For folks who are there for an extended period, I imagine anything goes. Except KFC.

                          1. re: Steve

                            Yeah, I remember living in Norway for a couple of years and it dawning on us that we hadn't eaten a hamburger. So we cooked some.

                            1. re: Steve

                              Yes Steve, It amazes me to see obvious vacationers line up in Mc Donalds in Lisbon,Brussels,Paris,Hong Kong and Rio. Cities which IMHO offers some of the best cuisine around while we can't wait to experience our next local meal and was one of the primary reasons we chose to spend our hard won vacation weeks there.
                              I recognize that some people only eat to live,and others don't possess a curious pallet but why would I fly in this day and age to visit an exciting new land and eat something I can get in any suburban strip mall in New Jersey?

                              1. re: Duppie

                                We went to Seoul last June for 3 weeks to visit family. It dawned on me when we got on the plane and they gave us plastic utensils that I hadn't used a knife and fork in 3 weeks. I don't even eat fast food burgers in the US.

                                1. re: Duppie

                                  I went to the McDonalds in Bangkok almost every day for an ice tea and a chance to use the western style toilet. I never ate any food there, but the bathrooms are dependable.

                                  1. re: lulubelle

                                    Lol, that's too funny and I'll have to keep it mind next time I'm in Asia and looking for a western toilet.

                                    1. re: lulubelle

                                      Oh God, your post made me laugh out loud. How we appreciated McDonald's toilets everywhere we went. God bless McDonald's for their toilets.

                                      1. re: lulubelle

                                        The bathrooms aren't dependable everywhere. Better than most other places, yes, but up to western standards, no. Just saying.

                                        1. re: LMAshton

                                          Well, evidently you haven't been in the low-end restaurant facilities in Kansas City, MO. It's not pretty. Or good-smelling.

                                          1. re: Teague

                                            Nope, never been to MO - Missouri? I'm still willing to bet that bathrooms in Sri Lanka are far worse. They tend to look - and smell - like they haven't been cleaned in quite a few years. The bathrooms at the Dehiwela Zoo can be smelled from 20 feet away.

                                      2. re: Duppie

                                        People travel for lots of reasons , and - strange as it may seem to 'hounds - many of them are not particularly interested in local cuisines, preferring the familiar to the foreign. We here are obviously interested in food; I think we tend to project our own passions onto others.

                                        Indeed, plenty of American tourists come to NYC, where there's a plethora of interesting and varied food choices at all price points - and head straight to Olive Garden or Red Lobster or Applebees. Go figure. :)

                                        1. re: Striver

                                          I am not naive to this fact but coming from a long line of eaters,marrying into another long line of eaters and having eater friends, it still strikes me as strange.
                                          In retrospect there must be quite a lot of these folks because this type of restaurant seems to be proliferating here and overseas. Please, I like a whopper every once in awhile but it never crosses my mind abroad or in North America when I am on vacation,that IMO would just dull the whole idea of Vacation.

                                          1. re: Duppie

                                            Short vacation, probably not (couple days to a couple of weeks) but I've gone traveling for 3 months in Asia and boy, did I need a fix of western food every so often. The irony is that I'm Chinese and grew up eating Chinese food most of the time but what I craved while in Asia...a great steak, burger and eggs benny.

                                            1. re: Duppie

                                              My guess is that you're one of those lucky people who experiences no digestive issues when traveling. There are plenty of people who feel ill from even the slightest change of diet. I know I feel out of sorts all day if I stray too much from my typical breakfast, so it's not worth it to me to try to be more authentic at the expense of my health and enjoyment of the trip. I still try my best to try to enjoy the local food when my stomach allows, but when I'm having issues you can bet I'm going to stick to familiar food.

                                              1. re: queencru

                                                You would be correct, I am blessed with a very forgiving stomach. By familiar food do you mean toast and cereal for breakfast,perhaps salads, pizza or burgers for lunch or dinner?

                                                1. re: Duppie

                                                  I tend to have problems when I go to countries where the food tends to be more rich/heavier than what I'm used to eating at home. As a result I try to eat one lighter meal or two when I am traveling so I don't get overwhelmed. For other people it might be something different that causes issues.

                                                  1. re: queencru

                                                    To be honest I was not entirely immune, while on a contract in Portugal I developed a extreme reaction to their white and green wines after perhaps imbibing a little too much. Even today I tend to stay away from overly acidic wines.However when it comes to acidic prone foods{Thai,Philippino} I have no problems.

                                                2. re: queencru

                                                  I'm like that, too, to a certain extent, as is my mother in law. Real pain in the butt. Pun intended.

                                  2. re: Steve

                                    there was *just* a paris thread seeking tacos. i thought something quite snarky to myself and clicked on it. the op was on an extended stay, perhaps studying, and was thinking to celebrate cinco de mayo. . . so that made sense to me, and i held my snark for a future occasion :)