I love to cook, not just simple meals but extravagant feasts to share with friends, however, when I am traveling in backpacker hostels, I try and keep it very simple. Cooking for yourself saves huge amounts of money in most countries. Sometimes it’s actually cheaper to eat out but you might not like what you get or trust the hygiene of an establishment.
For quick and easy recipes with simple shopping lists, see my book – Backpacker’s Practical and Spiritual Guide to the Universe.
Usually, when I arrive in a foreign country, I will try and eat at a local eatery and ask lots of questions about the different flavours that I find. Once I have checked the ‘free shelf’ at the hostel I then I go to a local market, if it is within walking distance, and buy local foods. If there isn’t a market nearby, I visit a supermarket and try and find the locally grown produce. It is usually cheaper and it will be better for you – less travelled and fresher.
When we are sailing in the islands, I have to modify our menu to suit the availability of foods. I seem to alternate between stir-fries, pastas, omelettes, fritters and curries to make use of the local fare. Trying to get the ingredients to follow a real recipe, other than local, can waste lots of precious time. Salads are sometimes difficult to make due to the lack of fresh produce in an area, although they are my preference. I gave up trying to stick to my favourite ingredients long ago. The key is to be flexible.
When I am backpacking, I carry several items with me to ensure that I have something to eat if there isn’t anything suitable for purchase. These include crackers, peanut butter, cheese and fresh tomatoes (when available), a small bag of plain flour, a small bottle of cooking oil, vegetable stock cubes and any spices that I find. With these, I am able to create flavoursome crepes, stir fries, curries, pastas and fritters out of any local produce that I can get my hands on.
See my page on nutrition for information about healthy eating.