What food stuff do you travel with?

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I just spent a month in France and while it was an amazing experience to have access to foods I could never find here in the U.S., it was a bit of a nightmare trying to find certain spices, and having to work with sub-par equipment, dull knives etc.... 

I was thinking that next time I travel, I'll pack my chef knife, or maybe another, smaller good/sharp knife if I decide to buy one, and small quantities of some of the spices I use the most like coriander, cumin, peppercorns, smoked paprika, oregano, saffron, turmeric, etc..... (of course you can find those spices in France but who wants to go shopping for spices every time you want to make a single dish). 

BTW anyone else noticed that most people don't have a single useable sharp knife in their kitchen? At some point I felt like I was trying to fabricate a chicken with a fork handle. 

Meanwhile... I'm back! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif
 

phatch

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I think if I were flying over seas for that length of time I'd just pick up a knife there. The risk of theft from luggage is high for anything of quality or value plus the hassles of customs/security. Get one locally and make a gift of it at the end to your hosts. It will be available next time you visit.  Maybe pack an Idahone or some wetdry sandpaper for simple cheap lightweight sharpening. None of which is likely to be stolen or difficult to replace if lost or damaged. 

The Ikea Slitbar knife line is a surprisingly good steel for the price. Bit of a bulldog look in design...

With my preference for Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine, most of the seasonings are liquid and difficult to pack for a flight.

Unless you know ahead of time you're cooking a specific meal to ship specialty ingredients ahead of time, cook within the limits of what's available. Make a list of dishes you had wished to demonstrate and you can make a plan for your next visit. 

This is also a good chance to discover fusion cuisines. Many countries now have immigrants from just about everywhere anymore. Try and discover how these immigrants have adapted their cuisines to their new homes in light of scarce ingredients and new substitutes. Grace Young wrote an interesting cookbook looking at how Chinese have adapted favorite and traditional dishes to their new locales: Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge. 

In a similar Chinese vein is an early book by Kenneth Lo  in 1974: Step-by-Step Guide to Chinese Cooking. Outside of China-Towns, there was very little specialty ingredients available in the US then. La Choy soy sauce was king. The recipes in this book are very different from anything else I've seen in Chinese cookbooks and engineered to use what could be found and substituted with. Recipes tend to use soy sauce, sherry, chicken bouillon cubes (chicken msg) and mainstream american ingredients (ketchup). And the dishes work because Kenneth Lo knew what he was doing and selected menus with extreme care. Kenneth Lo's numerous other books are deep and detailed in Chinese cooking. Grace Young even uses him in her first book, Breath of a Wok.
 
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phatch

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I enjoy Ken HOM too, but I consider Lo better. Assuming you were speaking of Hom of course. 
 
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Yes I was. so you read minds as good as you read postings!!!! Both are under appreciated but I agree on their relative importance in the annals of culinary history. Don't forget Mrs Lo too!!!!!
 
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Interesting ideas.... we certainly have a fair amount of immigrants as well... from Maghreb but also from Cambodia/Laos/Vietnam, so there's no shortage of spices to be honest, but it's just hard to justify buying a bunch of spices when I would need only a couple of tablespoons each at the most. Finding Nuoc Mam in small quantities, or even ready made Nuoc Cham is not an issue. No palm sugar anywhere around though, the Cambodian girl I asked didn't even seem to know what I was talking about. Time is also of the essence when I travel, and I rarely have the luxury to stroll around.... 

Not too worried about theft, maybe I'm lucky but after years of traveling I've never had anything stolen from my bags??

I'm thinking that next time I'll probably bring: 

- one sharp knife, maybe my Victorinox boning knife with plastic handle (good for anything, low value, low weight) - or maybe I'll buy a new knife that can handle all tasks but is smaller than a chef knife. I think I'm just looking for an excuse to buy a new knife I don't really need though. 

- small amounts of: saffron, turmeric, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, oregano, ginger, fennel seeds, black and white peppercorns, palm sugar.

Things I'll still be missing:

- a mortar and pestle (too heavy to carry)
 
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Good to think about, thanks.  We may rent a house for a month in europe somewhere to use as a home base this summer.

Off the point but I always travel with coffee and either a cone I can use with the hotel coffee maker hot water or my small stove top espresso maker there is a stove.  Otherwise I may die.

And god yes to the dull knives.  I finally bought my niece and nephew a sharpener because we often stay with them when visiting family and they like when I cook.  

Don't cringe, it works well and is practical for them.

 
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I have something like that but also has a rod for serrated knives.  Really what it does is rip chunks of metal out, much more metal than a stone would.  I wouldn't use it on anything more than say $40, but it works well enough on the soft stainless stuff you find in people's homes. 

 

cerise

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I just spent a month in France and while it was an amazing experience to have access to foods I could never find here in the U.S., it was a bit of a nightmare trying to find certain spices, and having to work with sub-par equipment, dull knives etc.... 

I was thinking that next time I travel, I'll pack my chef knife, or maybe another, smaller good/sharp knife if I decide to buy one, and small quantities of some of the spices I use the most like coriander, cumin, peppercorns, smoked paprika, oregano, saffron, turmeric, etc..... (of course you can find those spices in France but who wants to go shopping for spices every time you want to make a single dish). 

BTW anyone else noticed that most people don't have a single useable sharp knife in their kitchen? At some point I felt like I was trying to fabricate a chicken with a fork handle. 

Meanwhile... I'm back! :)

Recently there was a thread about travelling to New York. Gave my input there.

Depends on where I am staying, and familiar with the country/region.

Staying for a month... With friends, in a hotel, time share, or pro cooking?

Eta - glad you're back home. Difficult to comprehend the events over the last month.
 
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I stay with family when I travel to Greece and I'm there for long periods of time.  Every year I "gift" my family with things that I need like knives, cutting boards, microplanes, peelers, utensils etc.  I bring with me spices like cumin, coriander and other things that I know I can't find there easily and it's there when I go back every year.  I now have quite a collection of things there.  My mother tends to use a low quality table steak knife to do all her cutting over the pan, uses no cutting boards at all.  This year I have to bring miso paste and a pepper grinder... and peppercorns probably.
 
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Seriously? Does your mother and mine know each other? 

Of course they are both friends with my mother. She hit 60 and went from home made pasta and never buying mayonnaise to the early bird special at old country buffet in a day. God help me as I head into my AARP years.
 
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Wait it gets better........... Me: This expired 3 months ago........Them: It's still good, leave it be. That's just the date it  has to be sold by.

                                        Me: This stuff was cooked two weeks ago and has a bit of nasty growing on it. Them: It's still good, I have never gotten sick from eating something like that.

                                        Me: What's in the take out box?........Them: A piece of toast and a half eaten packet of jam, I'll eat it tomorrow....... Me: When was this from? Them: Last week.

My biggest fear is that my folks will kill themselves with food poisoning, they just don't get it.
 
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My mom learned it from her mom I suppose.  To be fair she does try to learn and I go over knife skills with her everytime I see her but she doesn't keep it up on her own.  
 

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