Your guide to the food and culture of the tropics

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7 Travel Apps to Help You Eat Like a Local

Discovering local food treasures in a new country rates as one of the best travel experiences you can have. Yet sometimes, no matter how much research you do, or how clever you think you are at spotting an authentic local eatery, falling victim to a touristy-food-trap happens. Want to know how to eat like a local when traveling the world? Then tuck these nifty apps into your smartphone and take your taste buds on a delectable (and trap-free!) culinary adventure.

  1. Meal Sharing Apps

Committed foodies have been rejoicing ever since virtual peer-to-peer agencies started to pop up on every corner of the globe. With these kinds of unique culinary experiences, you can hook up with a like-minded local who’ll prepare you an authentic local meal in his or her home. Think of it as a private dinner invitation where you pay a modest fee and, in return, you are guaranteed a local feast you’d be hard pressed to enjoy in a restaurant.

There are a ton of meal-sharing apps out there and although most are country or region specific, some are spreading their wings. The most comprehensive of these is EatWith, which has set up services in about 150 countries and now boasts over 500 chefs which have all been vetted. Check out TravelingSpoon to eat-off-the-beaten-path in Southeast Asia and Japan, with hosts offering home cooked meals as well as cooking classes and food tours. Download Cookapp if you’re headed to Argentina (now also includes a few cities in the US) and definitely use Home Food when visiting Italy. The brainchild of an Italian professor keen to help nurture traditional regional cuisine, Home Food encourages the preparation (and enjoyment!) of traditional dishes, the way nonna used to make.

  1. Colunching

A fantastic meet-up service that’s ideal for solo travelers, Colunching is set up in 20 countries worldwide, and lets members organize an informal group dining experience in authentic local eateries. A great way to make new friends and feast like a local when traveling, Colunching lets you tag along and even initiate a group meal out when traveling.

  1. LocalEats

An impressive directory of the best local restaurants on your phone for less than a dollar? Now that’s what we call a fantastic travel app! LocalEats prides itself on recommending only personally vetted independent restaurants that are a world away from your run-of-the-mill chain eateries. From delicious food stands to fine-dining establishments, LocalEats offers every dining experience imaginable all over the US and in over 50 cities abroad, sourcing info from local food bloggers, guides, travel writers, and restaurant critics. The handy GPS feature allows the app to notify you when an authentic dining experience is just around the corner.

  1. Field Trip

Keen to learn fun facts of your chosen destination while enjoying an authentic meal? Then Field Trip is for you. This handy app is a treasure trove of recommendations, from what to see and do, to where you can enjoy your next scrumptious local meal. The app bases its recommendations on your GPS location and sources its info from hidden-secret sites like Atlas Obscura, Zagat, EatOut and Spotted by Locals. You can set up your interest to only include eateries and the app will ping you when something utterly delicious pops up near you. Field Trip was launched by Google in 2013 and has now extended to operate in over 80 countries worldwide.

  1. Vayable

Vayable brings together a host of unique travel experiences and the most popular, by far, are its food-themed tours. From pizza-crawls in Rome to winery tours in Austria and cooking classes in Slovenia, Vayable connects you with local guides running personalized food tours and experiences, all over the world.

  1. Foodict

While Google Translate may come in handy when perusing menus in restaurants abroad, Foodict Gourmet Food Dictionary goes a lot further and includes thousands of food-specific translations of dishes and what they’re all about. The great thing about Foodict is that you can download the content and use it offline no matter where you are.

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  1. Foodspotting

What so many apps and sites offering recommendations for the best restaurants, it’s refreshing to find a service that hones in on specific dishes and where to find the best in town. With Foodspotting, you get personal recommendations, descriptions, and even photos of amazing dishes local foodies enjoy. Time Magazine has rated this one of the 50 best apps to download, and we couldn’t agree more. Foodspotting lets you see the best-rated dish in specific restaurants or entice you to travel far and wide to satisfy a unique craving. Currently, the app works extensively in the US, as well as several destinations in Europe and Asia.

The World’s Most Unique Coffee Experiences

To any coffee obsessed traveler, there’s nothing more rewarding than sitting at a local café — in some far-flung corner of the globe — and enjoying a cup of coffee whilst people watching. There are some coffee experiences, all over the world, that are bona fide travel highlights in their own right. Keen to take your taste buds along for an unforgettable ride? Then you’d be well advised to add the following to your must-drink list.

From the smooth taste of an Italian ice cream coffee to the long and laborious Ethiopian coffee ceremony and some seriously questionable drops in Vietnam, Indonesia and Senegal, the world’s most unique coffee experiences are guaranteed to make you, and your taste buds, stand up to attention.

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Affogato, Italy

Italy is one of those countries where it’s literally impossible to have a bad coffee. You can order the wrong coffee, mind you (ordering a cappuccino after 11am is a cultural faux-pas bar none) but never a bad one. Long considered the world’s original and best coffee mecca, Italy boasts an extensive list of coffee options, including the ubiquitous short black (espresso), with a dash of liquor (caffé corretto) or with a splash of hot milk (macchiato). Our favorite coffee of all, however, would have to be the affogato, which is a shot of espresso poured over a scoop of vanilla gelato. On a hot summer’s day, and after spending hours on end wandering among millennia-old ruins, a sublimely creamy affogato is like a drink sent from the heavens.

Ethiopian

In Ethiopia, drinking coffee it isn’t something you do in an absentminded hurry. This gorgeous African country — the birthplace of coffee —  may indeed boast the most elaborate coffee ceremony in the world. Recognized as an intangible treasure of the local culture, the renowned Ethiopian coffee ceremony is a very social event, one that requires an audience and a lot of patience. The event can take hours from beginning to end and is preceded by a young woman dressed in traditional costume, who’ll wash the raw green coffee beans and roast them in a pan over an open fire, right in front of you. Once blackened, the beans are crushed by hand using a mortar and pestle, and the powder boiled with water in a heavy-based clay pot called a jebena. The resulting liquid is passed through a sieve several times before being finally served to expecting guests. Coffee is poured in small intricately hand-painted cups, and each participant is expected to drink three cups. Interestingly enough, coffee in Ethiopia is usually served alongside crunchy popcorn.

 

Cà Phê Trứng – Vietnam

Firmly in the ‘What the…?’ category of unique coffee experiences, the Vietnamese egg-coffee rates as one of the most unusual blends you could try in all of Southeast Asia. Cà Phê Trứng is a traditional coffee prepared with condensed milk, sugar, and beaten egg yolks, and although this may sound odd at first, you’ll be surprised just how deliciously smooth and rich the taste really is.

In the preparation of this coffee, the egg yolks are beaten vigorously with the condensed milk and sugar, creating a fluffy cream that’s not unlike custard. The cream is then dolloped in a glass and a shot of unsweetened coffee poured over it. Due to the density of the cream, the coffee tends to settle at the bottom, so every sip delivers a mouthful of silky cream mixed with strong coffee. As an after-meal drink, Cà Phê Trứng is simply superb, especially if you’re craving a sweet treat. Cà Phê Trứng was invented in Hanoi in the 1940s and although this variant is nowadays found all over Vietnam, it is still best enjoyed in the country’s capital where you’ll find quite a number of dedicated egg-coffee shops.

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Mazagran – Portugal

Originally from northern Africa, Mazagran is a cold coffee and lemon drink that seems to be taking over most of Western Europe. Legend has it that members of the French Foreign Legion stationed at the Mazagran Fortress in Algeria in the 1840s brought home an impromptu coffee concoction they created, using lemon juice, sugar, ice cubes and rum. Not long after, a few Parisian cafés started serving the refreshingly unique beverage, minus the alcohol. Fast forward a century and a half and it’s next door, in Portugal, where you’ll find Mazagran served and marketed as an iced coffee lemonade, sometimes with the addition of sparkling iced water for added bubbles.

 

Café Touba – Senegal

Need a serious coffee hit to wake up in the morning? Then a shot of Senegalese café touba may be just the morning drink you need. Prepared with a generous serving of freshly ground Guinea black pepper, which is roasted alongside the coffee beans, café touba is swiftly becoming the drink of choice throughout all of Western Africa. It’s become  so popular that Nestle reacted to a drastic decrease in the amount of Nescafe sold there by creating and marketing a ‘spiced coffee’ instant blend in the region.

To prepare a café touba, the coffee beans are roasted alongside a specific type of African black pepper (called djar). The powder mix is then boiled, sweetened, and filtered. In Dakar, you’ll come across a multitude of touba stands and although we urge you to try a cup of the intense, sweet and spicy brew, we also urge you to have a bottle of water at the ready. That first sip can be quite breathtaking! Said to have wonderful medicinal properties, touba is part and parcel of Senegalese culture nowadays and you just can’t visit without trying it at least once.

Kopi Luwak – Indonesia

Widely reputed to be the most expensive (and questionable) coffee in the world, kopi Luwak is made using coffee beans which have been eaten, digested and secreted by Asian civet cats, known as Luwaks in Indonesia.

The production of the world-renowned Luwak coffee started in Indonesia in the colonial 1800s when local Indonesians were forbidden from consuming the coffee beans they farmed because all had to be exported to Europe. In their coffee-withdrawal desperation (OK, we all get that!) local farmers resorted to collecting partially-digested coffee seeds which had been eaten and secreted by civets. Soon enough, the Dutch farmers came to taste and enjoy this special brew and the rest, as they say, is coffee history.

Civets love the pulpy flesh inside coffee beans and the seeds pass through their digestive system untouched. Proponents say the digestion process adds a unique taste to the coffee, yet critics say any roasting would surely rid the seeds of that. Instead, it is claimed that the smooth taste of a good cup of Luwak coffee is simply due to the civet’s propensity for only picking the best and juiciest coffee berries in the first place. In Asia, and indeed the rest of the world, Luwak coffee has a dubious reputation. The novelty factor alone would certainly make it worth a try, yet nowadays unscrupulous farming practices in the region – which see civets kept in deplorable caging conditions and force-fed coffee beans – make it difficult to pinpoint an authentic coffee made from beans collected in the wild. Still, as far as crazy coffee experiences go, a cup made from beans pooped out by a wild cat rates right up there among the most unique coffee experiences in the world.  

5 Tropics-Inspired Breakfast Recipes

Breakfast doesn’t have to equal boring. Switch out the toast and try these 5 delicious tropical breakfast recipes to jump-start your day. These delightful breakfast dishes are uncommonly tasty; and as a bonus, they are incredibly healthy too!

 

Breakfast Chilaquiles – Mexico

When thinking of Mexican food and breakfast, you may have visions of a yummy breakfast burrito. While breakfast burritos are delicious, and a favorite of many, the dish was actually created in the United States. There are endless options of tasty breakfast recipes from Mexico, but a time-honored favorite are breakfast chilaquiles.

Breakfast Chilaquiles
 
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon oil of your choice (vegetable, olive, rapeseed etc.)
  • 4 (6 inch) corn or flour tortillas (torn into strips)
  • 1 diced small onion
  • ½ tomato - diced
  • 3 chili peppers - diced
  • 2 eggs
  • add salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat, and fry the tortillas until lightly browned and crisp.
  2. Mix the onion, tomato, and serrano chile peppers into the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook and stir until onions are tender.
  3. Fry eggs to desired consistency (over easy, sunny-side up, etc). Place on top of tortillas and veggies.
 

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Enqulal (Enkulal) Tibs – Ethiopia

An omelette-like dish with a kick, these enqulal tibs are sall on cooking time and big on flavor. This is one of Ethiopa’s breakfast recipes that can be served traditionally (spicy) for a unique breakfast experience or toned down for those who prefer a more mild version.

Enqulal (Enkulal) Tibs
 
Ingredients
  • 6 Eggs
  • 1 Chili pepper
  • 1 onion - diced
  • ½ of a tomato
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt
  • Ethiopian butter (niter kibbeh)
  • Berbere (optional: Berbere is a blend of spices commonly used in Ethiopian dishes. The seasoning can be ordered online, or at African markets, restaurants and specialty food stores.)
Instructions
  1. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a hot frying pan or griddle
  2. Add the onion to the hot oil and cook on medium/high heat
  3. Sprinkle a large pinch of salt onto the onion and stir
  4. Add the diced tomato, stir, cover and reduce heat to medium temp.
  5. Beat eggs with a whisk and add to frying pan - increase to high heat
  6. Add chili peppers and scramble to liking
  7. Serve hot with fresh sliced tomato
 

Gallo Pinto – Costa Rica

Gallo pinto is the national dish of Costa Rica and can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Traditionally gallo pinto that is served for breakfast includes the universal breakfast item – you guessed it –eggs! Although made with simple ingredients, gallo pinto is a breakfast dish from the tropics that is sure to bring warmth to your morning.

Gallo Pinto
 
Ingredients
  • 8 eggs - scrambled or over easy
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cooked black beans in ¾ cup reserved cooking liquid
  • ¼ cup Salsa Lizano
  • Link to a delicious Lizano recipe - http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-lizano-style-costa-rican-salsa-176299
  • 3 cups cooked rice, preferably, day-old and refrigerated
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sauté chopped bell pepper and onions until peppers are soft and onions are translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.
  2. Add black beans, reserved cooking liquid, and Salsa Lizano, stirring to combine.
  3. Simmer for 5 minutes, until slightly thickened and little bit of the liquid is evaporated.
  4. Gently stir in cooked rice and cook until heated through and most of the liquid is absorbed, but not dry, about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Stir in chopped cilantro.
  6. Season to taste with additional Salsa Lizano (we added about a tablespoon extra).
 

Labouyi Bannann – Haiti

A healthy way to start your day is with labouyi banann which can be served either hot or cold. It is essentially bananna and plaintain porridge and it is as nutritious as it is delicious. This is a great breakfast dish to serve to a large family or group of guests as a little goes a long way in satisfying hunger.

Labouyi Bannann
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Green Plantain (Washed)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 Star Anise
  • ½ cup of Evaporated Milk
  • ½ cup of Coconut Milk
  • ½ tsp cinnamon Powder of 1 stick
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
Instructions
  1. Peel the skin of the plantain and cut into small 4-8 small pieces. It is ok to leave some of the skin for extra nutrients.
  2. In a blender, puree the plantain and 2 cups of water.
  3. In a 1 quart saucepan, add 1 cup of water, evaporated milk, coconut milk, cinnamon, star anise and bring to boil.
  4. Once the pot is boiling, add the plantain puree to the pot and bring to a boil while stirring continuously for 5 min. The porridge will thicken slightly.
  5. Add the salt, sugar, vanilla and keep stirring for 10 min.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium and keep stirring for another 10 min while tasting porridge to ensure the plantain is thoroughly cooked. The porridge is ready when the texture is creamy.
  7. Serve warm with some Haitian Bread.

Egg Paratha – India

This dish lives a double life. It is known as a common street food in India, but is recognized equally as a breakfast must-eat. Egg paratha has all the qualities of an ideal breakfast meal: delicious, nutritious, fast and easy, but it packs in enough substance and flavor to be eaten any time of day.

Egg Paratha
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup of wheat flour/atta
  • Warm water as needed
  • Oil as needed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 green chilli chopped (optional)
  • Large pinch of pepper powder
  • Tumeric as needed
  • salt to taste
  • add a few coriander leaves finely chopped
  • 2 to 3 tbsp. of finely chopped capsicum or carrot
Instructions
  1. Knead wheat flour with just enough warm water. Add a few drops of oil and knead again to make a soft pliable dough. Cover and set aside for 20 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle flour on clean preparation table, the roll and flatten paratha into a triangular shape.
  3. Heat a tawa or griddle on high heat. Place paratha in pan until golden brown spots appear on each side.
  4. Add Finely chopped vegetables, eggs, salt, pepper powder and tumeric to bowl. Beat the mixture until frothy.
  5. Heat tawa or griddle with oil on high. Pour the egg mixture and cook on a medium flame.
  6. When the egg is almost cooked, but still runny on top, place paratha on top and press gently.
  7. Flip and fry the paratha and egg.
  8. Serve egg paratha with chutney or vegetable salad.

Step-by-Step Guide to the Perfect Crockpot Red Curry

I love curry in all its glorious forms: from India to Japan. That being said, there’s something truly special about its Thai red curry incarnation that utilizes coconut milk, herbs, and aromatic leaves that makes such a great impression on my taste buds.

Traditionally, ingredients were chosen based on regional and seasonal availability like pork, chicken, fish, and shellfish and sometimes frogs, snakes, snails and wild boar. Some of the commonly used vegetables are eggplant, squash, and pumpkin. I share this because I believe it’s important to understand that anything is possible in cooking; that you have to experiment and find what you love to eat.

Naturally, I turn to my crockpot because slow cooking dishes like these brings out the best experience.

Follow this step-by-step guide and enjoy this non-traditional but awesomely delicious Thai red curry and spoiler alert: it’s even better the day after!

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This is all you’ll need:

1 ½ pounds of small potatoes

1 yellow onion

1 red pepper

1 green pepper

1 can of full fat coconut milk

1 cup vegetable stock

¼ cup peanut butter

2 tbsp red curry paste

3 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp chopped garlic

1 tsp lemongrass

½ tsp ground ginger

1 lime

Freshly chopped cilantro

 

First, chop your onion.

Then chop up your potatoes into perfect bite sized pieces.

Mix the potatoes, onion, coconut milk, vegetable stock, peanut butter, curry paste, fish sauce, garlic, lemongrass, and ginger in the crock pot on low for 2 and ½ hours. A note about fish sauce: it smells awful but will make your curry taste amazing.

While that simmers, cut up both the green and red peppers and add them for 30 minutes. You want them to retain some of the texture.

When it’s finished, squeeze all the lime juice you can into that crock pot and garnish with some freshly chopped cilantro.

This red curry goes great with rice or noodles, but I wouldn’t hold it against you if you just jumped in with a spoon.

Oh, you noticed there’s no meat? I made this for my mother, who happens to be a vegetarian. If you like meat, all you have to do is chop up 1 lb of your preferred animal protein and throw it in the crock pot at the beginning and follow this exact recipe.

5 Coffee Shops Worth Instagramming

Coffee shops are no longer just for those with newspapers in hand looking to relax or to gossip with your friends on the couch like an episode of Friends. Shops today are not only trying to satisfy customers with their product but are looking for the total package appeal. From engaging interior design, beautiful gardens, and unique exterior appeal you can now find some of the most eye catching, photogenic, Instagram worthy spots to have a cup of joe. This article is going to name a few of the best coffee shops worth stopping at to capture unique photos that will have all your coffee enthusiast Instagram followers beaming with envy.

Truth Coffee, Cape Town, South Africa

Truth Coffee has been recognized as one of, if not the best coffee shop in Cape Town, South Africa. Its outdoor scenery might not be at the top of the list, but its indoor charm is one for the books, simply beautiful. It is so unique and detailed in its decor and not lacking one bit in its quality of food and coffee. It has a distinct modern industrial design with exposed piping, beams, and lighting, displayed typewriters and singer sewing machines, and a vintage cast iron drum for hand roasting coffee. The intention of its interior design matching the quality of their coffee is both unique and detailedly magnificent. Many simply state, Truth Coffee, is THE Truth!”.

Salvaged Ring Cafe, Nha Trang City, Vietnam

The Salvaged Ring Cafe was ranked in the top 20 of the world’s best architectures in 2014 at The World Architecture Festival. This economically friendly and all around beautiful cafe is located among the countryside of Nha Trang City in Vietnam. The cafe was eloquently designed by the architects of a21 studio and constructed primarily of scrap wood, coconut leaves, and locally sourced rocks. The circular flowing architecture blends into its natural surroundings and provides a feeling of being one with the outdoor scenery. Its open contoured design encourages refreshing air flow and natural light, and its curves provide a beautiful outpouring from the highway where you arrive down to a flowing river and lush courtyard. The natural allurement of this cafe will help you relax while you enjoy a cup of coffee in a tropical oasis.

Dreamy Camera Cafe, Yangpyeong, South Korea

The Dreamy Camera Cafe in South Korea is a dream Instagram post for the photograph enthusiast. A bold red Rolleiflex camera makes the shape for this unique cafe that sets among the grandiose South Korean landscape that is picturesque in all four seasons. Inside its camera exterior this cafe also provides a museum where you can interact and marvel at evolving photos and technology.

Take a few polaroids to leave behind and enjoy the view of the rolling hills outside of Seoul, South Korea. There’s good reason why this Cafe is ranked #10 by Buzzfeed’s “Coffee Shops Around the World You Have to See Before You Die.”

Fair Folks & Goat, New York City, United States 

An entrepreneur and coffee addict’s paradise, Fair Folks & Goat describes itself as a “membership cafe.” For $25 a month customers can enjoy unlimited coffee and tea including signature cold brew imported from New Orleans. The funky cafe is also a clothing and accessories shop that helps deliver inspiration to the artists, start-up staffers, writers, and other laptop warriors you’ll see in inside. The turquoise exterior is too cute for words. Oh, and the goat-themed items will be a hit on your Instagram feed.

Open Farm Community, Singapore

Among the open air and lush greenery this farm to table restaurant and cafe has so much beauty inside and out. This is not only a quaint spot for lunch or coffee but a total dining experience. If you’re into Instagramming your food — this is your place. Each plate is a work of art almost too beautiful to eat. You can also take a tour of the farm from its local farmers and immerse yourself in herbs and vegetables soon to be transferred to the table through the Open Farm culinary experience. A cafe, gift shops, and kid-friendly exterior houses activities for all ages.  Enjoy a hot mug in the cafe or sit out on the patio and observe the wonderful 35,000 square feet of charming terrain.