How; how goes the rhetorical cry from the studio audience more a wail of exasperation than a question. This year long reality TV show style procession of food stop to food stop thinly veiled as a travel experience has taken place in much of the worlds more underwhelming food locations. Until now. There has been dashes of good food, even great food along the way but with the exception of Mexico, latin America and Africa has set the bar pretty low. Our measure of a good food culture remains that if a standard unrecommended cheap dish is invariably good you’re onto a winner. Through the mire we waded, past soggy pasta, abundant cheese and an allergy to seasoning we finally come to the oasis like the first beams of light through dense stormy clouds, Asia. Yes there’s the stomach bugs that are par for the course but we get them anywhere, besides, they’re great for the waistline in a very indulgent year. As the great line from ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ goes: I’m one stomach bug away from my goal weight; a silver lining to every stormy cloud.
Having our eyes set on China for the starters gun on this metaphorical eat-a-thon we were pleasantly surprised by the premature ejaculation that was Nepal, the PG rated TV show just got ‘late night’, step aside Nigella Lawson. Throwing into a blender simple but tasty Tibetan food, spicy rich north Indian and the local winners like dal bhat and dumpling momo’s the resultant puree is lickable. Like a great musical mash up from Glee, it’s all the best bits from all the stuff you love but without the cheesy over confident little snots in their Tommy Hilfiger jumpsuits and rehearsed bitchy one liners. What elevates Nepal even further is the simple understanding and connection to food of the local people. No recipe books, no kitchens, no worries; just wander past your guests to your garden that is five days walk from anywhere and in no time dish up food that beats most dishes in nice restaurants in Latin America. Bravo, the audience gasps.
After the awkward excitement that came too soon, pun intended, we touched down in China and a second beginning to the saucy food journey, again pun intended. Actually they’re all intended, lets move on. As we were told many times, in China they eat anything, and we were up to the challenge scoffing down bamboo worms, every part of a chicken we could name and some we couldn’t along with whole cicadas, yes the cute little things we collected as kids; surprisingly delicious. The soups, the fresh vegetables, the minty beef mince, the tea omelettes and all else made up a smorgasbord of deliciousness, and here in lies the China food gem. Like a nymphomaniac who doesn’t know when to stop and took too many lecithin pills (Google it if you dare) the food just kept coming, and coming. And coming. There was nothing individual in the communal tables, an orgy of food was as social and visual as it was tasty we invoked the safe sex mantra that voyeurism is participation in the best possible way. In China the food was good but sharing the love made it all the better and like all good unrestrained group sessions we collected a few bugs along the way and all with Charlie’s mum watching on; ok take the foot off the pun pedal for that bit.
After the mega group session that was China we needed a break, the metaphorical post coital cuddle while we draped ourselves over the chase, ok it wasn’t a chase, more like a bus on the way to Laos but lets not get hung up on details. A good screaming match in the hot Laos night with a tuk-tuk driver over the price signalled our arrival into Laos, nothing like a bit of aggressive sweaty agro to get you in the mood again right? When I think of Asian food I think of south east Asia and Laos immediately quelled any fears that we couldn’t have a quick turnaround repeat performance.After getting us all sweaty and fired up Laos exploded in our mouths with all its hot, salty, sour goodness. A sour Luang Prabang salad aroused us, the spicy green curry got us hot and the chicken soup sated the beast bringing savoury warmth to our bellies. Spicy larb mince, wickedly hot tom yum soup, curries, fish, salads and of course sausage, can’t forget the pork sausage stuffed us good once again rising to the sexy heights; and we took them all licking our lips and staring into the camera afterwards. Yes this gastronomy journey is positively catholic; such prudish restraint, such abatement ending in an indulgently uninhibited bender that can only be described as sinful. As the director calls a break we retreat to our private rooms quietly wondering how we can keep this up but with the incentives on offer we know we will always rise to the challenge again. Asia, give us all you got, we can take it.