Expat Dream Team Series: Food
Food!!! Glorious food! It connects us, excites us, and warp us back to a time in our childhood, a person, or a place that we have traveled to. Food brings us together. It’s rich with tradition and uniquely distinct flavors. We share it, celebrate it, and build communities around it.
In this #ExpatDreamTeam a new panel of expat experts answer these 5 questions:
- What is your favorite traditional dish in your host country?
- What is the most interesting food that you have eaten in your host country?
- What was the worst & why?
- What food and/or drink is a must-try for those who are visiting?
- Any dining customs a visitor would benefit knowing, prior to visiting?
If you’re new to the Expat Dream Team – here’s the skinny. They’re group collab’ posts about expats who are around the world, providing personal observations & experiences about expat life. Think of it, as one part culture immersion, one part expert’s travel guide and an invitation to connect with others around the World.
Let’s Break Bread
On this virtual food tour we are making stops in South Korea, New Zealand, Switzerland, Uganda, Germany, Japan, Scotland and Hong Kong. Be sure to click on each expat’s Instagram link and their website to learn more about their extraordinary lifestyle.
Food in Germany
Emilychughes, ”I’m an American expat who traded New York City for a sleepy surf town in Portugal, and then moved over to Hamburg, Germany where I found the perfect balance of hustle and hygge. Oh! And in between, I lived on a boat for two years working as a headline singer for an international cruise ship. For my expat adventures, be sure to tune in to my blog Loololo.”
1.What is your favorite traditional dish in Germany? ”My favorite German foods are all carb-related and it’s a tie between Semmelknödel and Spätzle. They’re both originally Bavarian dishes, and typically eaten in the chilly winter months, topped with some sort of rich sauce. Semmelknödel is everything you could ever hope for in a dumpling, and crafted from bits of leftover bread. I typically top it with a mushroom sauce (I use coconut milk instead of heavy cream, so don’t tell my German neighbors) and fresh parsley. Spätzle on the other hand is a rustic pasta, of sorts. Topped with cheese, it’s called Käsespätzle and it’s an absolute staple on many beer garden menus. As far as I’m concerned, this is basically the German version of mac and cheese and I am ALL ABOUT IT.”
2. What is the most interesting food that you have eaten in Germany? ”One of the more interesting foods in Germany is the fish sandwiches you’ll see along the coast, especially in port cities like Hamburg, where I live. To be blunt, it looks like they caught a fish, chopped off the head, and stuck it between two pieces of bread. I was very wary to try my first fish sandwich here, but upon closer inspection, I realized the fish are more like smoked filets, and accompanied by relish, remoulade, onion, and whatever other sandwich toppings you desire. And you know what? If you like fish, they’re delicious! A bit disconcerting at first glance, but definitely worth a try.”
3. What was the worst & why? ”Ok, as a pescetarian, I have not tried all of the funky meat offerings in Germany but trust me, there are many. That being said, one of the German foods I just can’t wrap my head around is Fleischsalat. It translates to “meat salad” and that’s exactly what it is. Imagine bologna sliced into strips and mixed with mayonnaise and you’ve landed on fleischsalat. To me, the concept of it is gross, the appearance of it is gross, and the name is even worse. But shhh, don’t tell my boyfriend. It’s a breakfast staple for him.”
4. What food and/or drink is a must-try for those who are visiting Germany? ”Germans are masters of breadmaking. The dark, whole-wheat bread varieties available in Germany are unlike anywhere else in the world. As a result, most baked goods in Germany are superb. I recommend trying a Franzbrötchen, which is a German twist on a cinnamon roll, whenever you’re in Hamburg. And it goes without saying that beer is a staple in every German household. As a beer lover, it took me a while to find a beer variety that I preferred (as I don’t like the lighter beers like pilsner). But when I discovered the Zwickel beer, it was a match made in heaven. 10/10 recommend trying a Zwickel if you’re a beer person.”
5. Any dining customs a visitor would benefit from knowing prior to visiting? ”There honestly isn’t any etiquette in restaurants specific to Germany that I can think of. Things here function like they do in the rest of Europe, with the highlight being weekend breakfast. Germans take breakfast incredibly seriously, and most cafes are judged by their clientele based on their breakfast spread. Waking up with a selection of rolls, cheeses, spreads, meats (if that’s your thing), eggs, and fruit is an essential weekend routine for Germans, accompanied by a strong coffee of course.”
Food in South Korea
ChristineinKorea_ ”Hello! My name is Christine and I am an expat living in South Korea. I have lived in South Korea since September of 2018 when I decided it was time for a change from the life I had been living in America. Before moving, people were always curious about Korean food, and to be honest, so was I. I have been a vegetarian for nearly four years, and I was wondering just how much Korean food I would be able to eat. And if I’m being honest, it isn’t a lot. Korea is known for Korean BBQ and seafood markets along the beaches of Busan, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been able to find some Korean fare that fits my vegetarian lifestyle.” Find out more about Christine on ABackpackandBirkenstocks.
1. What is your favorite traditional dish in South Korea? ”My favorite traditional Korean dish is Bibim-naengmyeon (비빔냉면). This dish consists of cold noodles served with vegetables, Asian pear, and a hard boiled egg, all slathered in a spicy red pepper sauce. The noodles are similar to udon noodles, so they are thick and chewy, making them perfect for a cold noodle dish. Typically the vegetables used in this dish are cucumbers, carrots, and bean sprouts.”
2. What is the most interesting food that you have eaten in South Korea? ”The most interesting food I have eaten in Korea is red bean ice cream. Typically in America, beans are not used in sweet dishes, but here in Korea red beans are used in all kinds of desserts. Red bean ice cream is surprisingly sweet, and when red beans are incorporated into vanilla ice cream, they’re actually incredibly delicious.”
3. What was the worst & why? ”The worst food I tried in Korea was probably yakgwa, which is a fried honey cookie. Now served up homemade and fresh, these might be good. But the ones from the convenience store have the consistency of crayons and taste like oil with a sprinkle of sugar.”
4. What food and/or drink is a must-try for those who are visiting? ”If you are visiting Korea, you can’t leave without trying hotteok. Hotteok is a sweet pancake filled with honey, nuts, and seeds. These pancakes are sold by street vendors and served up hot. While they’re a bit harder to find in the summer, they’re incredibly popular in the winter and people will line up to get them from vendors frying them up in the street.”
5. Any dining customs a visitor would benefit from knowing prior to visiting? ”If you go to a traditional Korean restaurant, be prepared to take off your shoes and sit on the floor. This style of eating is a traditional dining custom in Korea, and while most restaurants that serve international cuisine are more Westernized with wearing shoes inside and sitting in chairs, a traditional Korean restaurant will often only have floor space, unless you are in a private room for a large group.
Also, if you are visiting Korea, brush up on using your chopsticks! While rice and soup dishes are eaten with a spoon, chopsticks are widely used for everything else, unless of course you are going to an Italian restaurant!”
Food in New Zealand
Magouillenumber1 ”We are a french family who moved in NZ a little over 3 years ago. We used to live in the French Alps and now live in the South Island of New Zealand near the sea.” PS. she has also nailed the #museumchallange on her IG.
1. What is your favorite traditional dish in New Zealand? ”I didn’t feel like any specific savoury dish resonated with me, so I think my favourite specialty in New Zealand is the Pavlova, which is a dessert. It’s made of meringue; whipped cream and berries or fruits (you have different versions): You usually buy the meringue part at the supermarket and make your own whipped cream; then add fresh or frozen fruits.”
2. What is the most interesting food that you have tried in New Zealand? ”New Zealanders love barbecues; and I think the most interesting food I have seen cooked on the barbecue is Mussels ! We picked big-lipped mussels from the rocky seaside areas near our home with our kiwi friends – yes new zealanders are nicknamed kiwis; if they are not maoris; who are native new-zealanders. Our friends then showed us how to cook the mussels on the barbecue. Another shell that can be eaten is the Paua, or Abalon. The shells are absolutely stunning but the snail/sea animal inside is pitch black and very hard to cook ! So peculiar. ”
3. What was the worst & why? ”New Zealand food quality is pretty good; although it is not common or cheap to find organic foods like you would in France.I guess the worst thing ever to me is Vegemite. But that’s not a typical new-zealand food, although we clearly have nothing as foul in France !!Another thing I absolutely hate here is supermarket sausages. New zealanders are proud to have lots of sausage types; and I find them all equally disgusting. We are so far off from our french “chipolata” pork sausages which are so tasty and juicy! Luckily some butchers have edible ones. Same goes with cheese; obviously as a French person I have very high expectations in terms of cheese. The standard supermarket cheese in NZ are 1kg blocks of cheese, the red one is the Tasty Cheese; the yellow one is the Colby Cheese; the blue one is the Mild cheese. They are all tasteless, texture less cheeses… Good cheese is obviously a luxury, which comes at a high price, but there are some quality cheesemongers in New Zealand like Puhoi Valley, Kapiti, Talbot Forest. This is the brands/farm products I would recommend! ”
4. What food and/or drink is a must-try for those who are visiting? ”If you visit New Zealand I would recommend eating Hockey Pockey ice cream, which is a sort of caramel ice cream with crunchy bits. There are a lot of sweet biscuits to be tasted; like the Afghan biscuits, the Belgian biscuits; the Jaffas chocolates, the caramel or ginger slices… Road trip foods include savoury pies, very famous in New Zealand. If you want nice ones, buy them made fresh; not the ones warmed up at gas stations… ”
5. Any dining customs a visitor would benefit from knowing prior to visiting? ”NZ people usually have a savoury breakfast, morning tea, a light lunch (usually a sort of sandwich/hot panini/scone) with a hot drink, which is served at the same time, afternoon tea and dinner around 6pm. I just wouldn’t recommend coming to New Zealand just for the food though because you would be disappointed !One thing I would recommend before visiting is reading about how you like your coffee in “new zealand words” ! There are a hundred ways to order your coffee in NZ and it is perfectly acceptable to be super specific, because that’s how everyone orders !!”
Food in Switzerland
Alexandrapedia, ”I was born in Romania and immigrated to Canada when I was 6 with my family. I grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia and lived there until finishing my undergrad. I then wanted to move back to Europe so I set off to London, UK after university. I spent 8 years in London where I built my career, travelled a lot and met my husband. A job opportunity came up in Basel 3 months after my son was born and I decided to go for it, so we packed up and moved to Basel in October 2019. Been enjoying Swiss life ever since!”
Learn more about Alex and life in Basel, Switzerland on Alexandrapedia.
1. What is your favorite traditional dish in Switzerland? ”Definitely fondue, it’s not difficult to make, you can get prepackaged that you just need a garlic clove for and to add white wine, or you can buy the cheese and grate it yourself, and there are variations on it so you can add certain spices if you want. It tends to be eaten more in fall and winter as it’s warm and comfort food.”
2. What is the most interesting food that you have tried in Switzerland? ”They do a lot of game meats here so wild boar, venison, etc, but most interesting is the meat fondue which I didn’t know existed.”
3. What was the worst & why? ”The thing I didn’t like is these weird dough bitty pieces they serve on the side of meats usually called spätzle or knöpfle containing flour egg salt and water, they’re very bland and strange texture, I guess a sort of pasta esque take, didn’t like them.”
4. What food and/or drink is a must-try for those who are visiting? ”Fondue or raclette definitely, the cheese is everything! Swiss chocolateries are worth it too, laderach is the best one.”
5. Any dining customs a visitor would benefit from knowing prior to visiting? “Apparently there is a fondue rule about never using your normal fork in the fondue pot, always the fondue long sticks they give you.”
Food in Uganda
Diary_of_a_muzungu is Charlotte Beauvoisin is a British expat who moved to Uganda in 2009, initially as a Voluntary Service Overseas volunteer with the Uganda Conservation Foundation. She now lives on the edge of Kibale Forest, a Protected Area that is famous for its chimpanzees. Charlotte is a contributor to the Bradt Uganda Guidebook and has written for Lonely Planet, The Daily Telegraph, Fodor’s Travel and Horizon Guides. Her (award-winning) blog is called Diary of a Muzungu .
1.What is your favorite traditional dish in Uganda? ‘‘Katogo is popular, very filling and easy and cheap to prepare. The main ingredient is usually matooke (steamed green banana) or cassava or Irish potatoes with beans or beef. My favorite katogo combination is matooke with ‘g nuts’ (ground nuts or peanuts) and greens. Many Ugandans like breakfast katogo made with “gizzards” (not something I can stomach – no pun intended!) Katogo is served hot, normally in a bowl. It’s my kind of comfort food.”
2. What is the most interesting food that you have eaten in Uganda? ”If you had told me 10 years ago that I would move to Africa and start eating insects, I may never have moved here! Insects – particularly cockroaches – were my biggest fear when I first moved to Uganda but now, I find myself eating – and LOVING – grasshoppers! Twice a year, when the rains are at their peak, the country has a glut of bright green grasshoppers or nsenene. At night, powerful lights attract the grasshoppers who are dazzled by the reflective glare of tin sheets and collected by the thousands.
You know when it’s grasshopper season as you will see huge white sacks
decorating the roofs of cars and vans travelling to Kampala, Uganda’s capital. Nsenene are peeled – just like prawns – by removing their legs and wings and then fried, often with onions. Grasshoppers give off a smoky flavour and once you start eating them, you may not want to stop. They’re delicious with an evening aperitif. They are high in protein and low in fat. I haven’t tried them (yet) but enswa (white ants or termites) and lake flies are other Ugandan delicacies.”
3. What was the worst & why? ”I was a vegetarian for many years and can’t imagine myself ever eating pigs’ trotters. Friends say they are quite a delicacy (“good hangover food”) but the sight of them, whether raw or cooked, is enough to turn my stomach. When I first moved to Kampala, a young Ugandan friend introduced me to the traditional food of Western Uganda. The kalo (millet bread), served in a pretty woven basket, looked like raw dough and was served with a sour sauce derived from ghee.
The dish is “an acquired taste”, shall we say. but even now, I can’t eat it.”
4. What food and/or drink is a must-try for those who are visiting Uganda? “The rolex is probably the country’s most talked about dish, particularly after it appeared on CNN. A rolex (think “rolled eggs”) is simply an omelette wrapped in a chapati, with the addition of sliced tomatoes and cabbage. The rolex was first made popular by Kampala’s university students. Nowadays, you can buy a freshly prepared rolex by any roadside. A few smart café’s in Kampala do ‘posh rolex’ with bacon or avocado but you can’t beat the original combo. Read The rolex: celebrating Uganda’s uniqueness! Another institution is Uganda Waragi, a triple-distilled gin which goes down a treat with tonic. It’s a popular tipple with tourists and expats. Waragi is said to come from the words ‘war gin’ and was an import of the British. Local gin is made of bananas and stored in plastic jerry cans. It can be lethal (and is best avoided). Bushera millet porridge is another popular staple which I tried on Agartha’s Taste of Uganda experience. Millet is a common crop and the porridge is drunk all over the country but at Agartha’s we experienced the whole process from ‘farm to cup.’ Read How to be a Mukiga woman – meet Agartha! When I lived in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, a favorite day out was eating fish (Tilapia or Nile Perch) on Lake Victoria. Sometimes you want somewhere swanky, sometimes you just want to sit at the landing site and eat the freshest fish with your hands. Read A guide to eating fish on Lake Victoria.”
5. Any dining customs a visitor would benefit from knowing prior to visiting? “Many Ugandans eat with their hands so they will make a big show of washing their hands before they sit down to eat lunch. It’s okay for you to eat with cutlery, however. Lunch can sometimes take a long time to arrive, depending on the restaurant. A busy local restaurant will have ready-cooked food that they will quickly plate for you. However, if you make a specific order, expect to wait a long time. Unless you’re eating somewhere fancy in Kampala or at a tourist lodge, it’s good practice to ask “what is in the kitchen” since what is on the menu may have no bearing on what is available! The annoying part is that the waitress may not tell you for 15 minutes that this is the case. This seems to happen a lot outside the capital.
Ugandans add a lot of salt when they cook. Always taste your food before adding any more salt. Ugandans eat big portions of food. Every meal is a big slab of food. By contrast, Brits have smaller plates of food but are more likely to snack between meals. We may also order a starter or a dessert. Ugandans will generally just eat one course. (If fresh fruit is served at a buffet, it is normally piled on top of the other food!). Uganda is a country of 56 tribes. This means that the food culture differs from one part of the country to another. In the central region of Buganda, it is deemed rude to
leave a guest looking at an empty plate so a waitress may rush to remove your plate as soon as you finish eating. Culturally, she is exhibiting good manners, but I don’t like being rushed. (I feel she is clearing the table for the next guest). Ugandan food is plentiful. The country has a wonderful climate meaning that there are at least two harvests per year. It’s perhaps for this reason that Ugandans don’t finish eating everything on their plate.
Ugandan avocados are huge, and the pineapples are the sweetest. Every visitor to Uganda comments on the fantastic fruit and vegetables. However, most Ugandans are happiest eating heavy carbohydrates (which they refer to by the collective name of ‘food’) and meat. Forget the paleo diet, Ugandans will load up their plates with as many as five types of ‘food.’
Vegetables or salads are a ‘by the way’ and associated with poverty for many people. The thinking goes that if you have real food (meat and ‘food’) you don’t need to live on the free stuff (vegetables) that you can grow in your shamba.
When you visit a Ugandan, it is customary to be offered something to eat or drink. Your host may get upset if you don’t accept anything. Sometimes there will be an accompaniment with tea; this is sometimes called an ‘escort.’ (Uglish is a Ugandan version of English that often makes me smile).”
If you enjoy Charlotte’s stories read “Uganda for beginners – an introduction for new expats.”
Food in Japan
Jane_on_the_go is a So Cal gal thriving in Kobe, Japan with husband and 2 furbabies. She is trekking to fantastic summits, cooking healthy foods, and studying up on kanji, katakana and hiragana. Level up your fitness and get motivated on MUV.LIVE
1.What is your favorite traditional dish in Japan? ”My favorite dish here in Japan is sukiyaki. It consists of meat (usually thinly sliced beef), which is slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside vegetables and other ingredients, in a shallow iron pot in a mixture of soy sauce, and mirin. The ingredients are usually dipped in a small bowl of raw, beaten eggs after being cooked in the pot, and then eaten. I had the opportunity to have it with Kobe and Wagyu cut beef. I must say, it was delicious and melted in your mouth. Since Kobe is much more fatty and just melts in your mouth.
Sukiyaki is traditionally eaten during winter time and it is commonly found at bonenkai Japanese year-end parties.”
2. What is the most interesting food that you have eaten in Japan? ”So far, the most interesting food I have eaten is fresh, live UNI (sea urchin). At first, I was a bit nervous to try it, but the curious mind in me said “you only live once”. It was slimy and soft at the same time. The best way to enjoy this is with just a little bit of shoyu (soy sauce) then just pop it in your mouth. The best place to try it is at the Kuramon seafood market in Osaka. You can also try fresh live shrimp, grill your own lobsters, eat raw scallops, and other delicious seafood. It’s never ending!”
3. What was the worst & why? ”I think for me it was the tempura dipped in salt with wasabi. I found out this is how Osakan eat their tempura here, not your typical dipping sauce. It made the tempura too salty. You will find these types of tempura in any izakayas.”
4. What food and/or drink is a must-try for those who are visiting Japan? “Since, I live in Hyogo prefecture. I would suggest Kobe beef, Okonomiyaki (Osaka style), and Takoyaki. These 3 foods are known favorites in the Kobe and Osaka area. For drinks I would recommend sake and Japanese whisky. Sake breweries and Whisky distilleries are very proud of their drinks. Each brewery proudly uses the water in their prefecture which gives their sake and whisky a unique flavor. They have perfected whisky here.”
5. Any dining customs a visitor would benefit from knowing prior to visiting? ”If you are visiting a traditional Japanese restaurant expect to take off your shoes and sit on the floor. Make sure you have strong legs to get down and get up. Hahaha! I’m not joking. My husband is 6’5 Canadian and he had trouble getting down on the floor and getting up. Sitting can be uncomfortable if you are being served several dishes one at a time. Always bow when they serve you without your hands in a prayer position, that’s more of Thai tradition not Japanese. When you receive your food say, “itadakimasu”, that means thank you for the food. When you are done with dinner bow again and say, “gochisosama”, thank you for the food. When you are about to leave the restaurant, bow down before turning your back on them.”
Food in Hong Kong
GoingTheWrongWayHK is Team Wong in Hong Kong. Dan, Gloria, Malachi and Timothy are a Canadian family thriving at the expat life in Hong Kong. They are exploring and experiencing many fun adventures. Follow their journey on GoingtheWongWayHK
1.What is your favorite traditional dish in Hong Kong? ”Okay … there so many dishes here in Hong Kong that we haven’t really been able to nail down a favorite. We love steamed egg, Dim Sum, Chaa Chaan Tan, Hong Kong street food. Hong Kong also has Thai, Indian as well as Western food. However, if we were to choose one, it would be fresh seafood cooked in a variety of ways. For example, we love steamed fish. It’s cooked with fresh green onions, scallions, ginger as well as some soy sauce. Usually we steam our fish for about 10 minutes it’s sooo good. We also enjoy fresh crab, lobster and shrimp. Sometimes we have our seafood steamed and other times it’s deep fried. Our boys actually do have one favorite, and no, it’s not McDonald’s. Our boys love Peking Duck. They love the crispy skin, hoisin sauce, green onions and the wrap. We sometimes affectionately call Peking Duck, Chinese soft tacos. There’s so much here … I could probably go on and on.”
2. What is the most interesting food that you have eaten in Hong Kong? ”Well one of the most interesting dishes we have had is called Poon Choi. It’s basically a traditional Cantonese communal dish. People who live in the New Territories of Hong Kong, and who live in villages will eat this as a celebratory dish. Weddings, birthdays, New Year … basically when they celebrate they will eat this. Our family experienced this a couple of years ago. It’s a huge pot, and we mean huge, and the pot will have seafood, pork, beef, some chicken as well as veggies. It takes quite a long time to eat this dish.”
3. What was the worst & why? ”We have to think about this one … we have been thankful for all the many different dishes here … it’s difficult to choose a worst.”
4. What food and/or drink is a must-try for those who are visiting Hong Kong? ”So a must -try when visiting Hong Kong: drinks – Lai Cha which is milk tea as well as Yuen Yeung which half coffee half tea. As far as food: Dim Sum at a local establishment, BBQ pork, roast pork, roast goose. People should also try Street Food too. This could include fish balls, cow stomach, internal organs of a cow or pork (yes, eww) but so good.”
5. Any dining customs a visitor would benefit from knowing prior to visiting? ”Finish your food. Don’t waste any food. Be thankful. Don’t leave anything on your dish. Try everything when someone offers you something.”
Food in Scotland
Maaham.Ahmad is Dr. Maaham living in Glasgow, Scotland with her husband and two children. Originally from Pakistan, Maaham and her family are thriving at the expat lifestyle. Maaham’s IG will have you drooling at all the delish dishes she and her family are enjoying.
1.What is your favorite traditional dish in Scotland?
”My favourite traditional dish would have to be the ‘cullen skink’.This classic Scottish soup is make with smoked haddock potatoes and leek.They do a really great one at one of my favourite restaurants here in glasgow called “two fat ladies”.Rich,comforting and wholesome.As someone once said its like a hug in a bowl!and I agree!”
2. What is the most interesting food that you have eaten in Scotland? ”For me the most interesting would be the “Sticky toffee pudding”.It is a decadent dessert consisting of a very moist sponge cake, covered in a toffee sauce and often served with a vanilla custard or vanilla ice-cream.”
3. What was the worst & why? ”Worst one for me would be haggis.Although a very popular dish I do not like the idea of it.It is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s heart liver and lungs minced with onion oatmeal suet spices and salt,mixed with sock and cooked traditionally encased in the animals stomach!”
4. What food and/or drink is a must-try for those who are visiting Scotland? ” I would say it would be fish and chips,the cullen skink,sticky toffee pudding and shortbread cookies!”
5. Any dining customs a visitor would benefit from knowing prior to visiting? ”There’s no special dining customs specific to the country,general dining etiquettes apply.”
What type of dishes are you putting together?