oking while travelling is a hard thing to do well. Combine the difficulty of having none of your regular staples, spices, or ingredients on hand with the notoriously unpredictable – and often barely adequate – cooking facilities to be found in hostels, and most meals will end up being an elaboration on boxed macaroni and cheese. However, if one gets a little creative with the resources on hand there are ways to make delicious (and even classy) meals to keep you eating well on the move.
The two most essential things to remember when cooking while travelling are to keep it simple and be flexible. Wherever you are, it might not be possible or practical (especially for your budget) to make those delicious but complicated recipes with extensive ingredient lists that you prefer at home. However, this doesn’t mean you need to stick to packaged meals or plain pasta.
Keeping It Simple
First of all, if you can, stay away from recipes. If you are someone who prefers to follow a recipe, pick very simple ones that highlight the main ingredients without extensive use of other spices or items. The trick to cooking on the go is to get a few good ingredients and let them speak for themselves – food is full of flavour that can be emphasized and enjoyed without getting complicated. If you’re able to stay away from recipes, keep a few good, basic, foolproof ideas for dishes in your head that can be adapted and built upon depending on what is at hand, in terms of both ingredients and cooking equipment.
Be prepared that you will not always be able to find those ingredients you normally depend upon at home. Have a look around the local market and experiment with what you find – this can be an exciting experience itself that allows you to sample the local food without spending tons of money at restaurants.
Aside from these general guidelines, keep in mind these basic tips for easily adaptable and delicious hostel meals:
– buy cured meats. Regardless of your cooking facilities, you won’t have to worry about making sure it is adequately cooked, and, if you buy smoked or spicy meats they can add a lot of flavour to your dishes without having to add any extra spices.
– red pepper flakes. If you are going to splurge for one spice other than salt and pepper (perhaps even instead of salt and pepper), get red pepper flakes. They are available almost everywhere, and, used in moderation, a touch of red pepper flakes will help to accentuate the flavours of any dish, making it just darn tasty. Plus, if you like spicy food you need only add a little more to get a heat kick.
– veggies. If you don’t already, learn to love your veggies. Not only are they readily available in all parts of the world, but they can easily be added to most dishes adding substance, variety, flavour, and nutrition. Not only are there many different kinds to choose from, but they are all incredibly versatile and flexible, allowing you to incorporate them into a myriad of recipes while maximizing on whatever equipment is at hand. Plus, in a pinch, most can be eaten raw (and are still super tasty).
– rice, pasta, eggs. Get to know these three basics well. They are available in most places around the world in some form or another, are easy to cook (even with a microwave!), and can be built upon in an endless variety of ways with a myriad of delicious results. If you have eggs, for example, there are huge number of options: hard boiled, scrambled, fried, frittata, omelette, huevos rancheros, hash, shakshuka, fried rice, many variations of sandwiches. In fact, when in doubt about the protein content or substance in a meal, just put an egg on it and voilà! It becomes a meal.
– learn to cook in a microwave. Those that enjoy cooking at home rarely think of cooking an entire meal in a microwave as a good option (although I have heard that the best way to cook fish is in a microwave). However, at hostels there is sometimes no other option. Most of the things I have mentioned here, including veggies, rice, pasta, and eggs, can all be cooked in a microwave. For more microwave recipe ideas and tips, take a look at this delicious post from GoEuro’s blog.