If you want to explore our world you can travel, forge new friendships, experience new events, try extreme sports, or simply take a bite of a new cuisine.
What always fascinated me is that despite a small number of basic ingredients, people in various corners of the world have come up with different methods of mixing them to create such an array of dishes with uncommon flavors, textures, and colors.
Another thrilling aspect is that each group has its own unique traditions of eating their national cuisine. In Asia individuals rely on the engineering of chopsticks to transport food from the table to their mouth. Yet, still, most of world prefers the use of knives, forks and spoons, as they provide a more secure structure to move food from point A to point B.
So, when my co-worker invited me to attend a traditional Filipino dinner that would be served on banana leaves and eaten by hand, I jumped at the chance to experience a completely new adventure. The best part was that I didn’t have to travel far to get a taste of a country that is on the other side of the world. Instead, my friends and I drove to a local mall where the restaurant was and got to enjoy a live funk jazz band as we dug into the exotic meal.
The assortment of food was spectacular! Cajun shrimp, fried milk fish, pork bellies, vegetable rolls, eggplant and rice (which served as the glue that kept the yummy ingredients together). For dessert we had purple yam and mango ice cream in a bowl with pumpkin, flan, and other delicious sweets that I couldn’t decipher, all cooled on shaved ice.
Having lived in the Amazon jungle, I was not a stranger to eating on banana leaves, but the food that was served and the ingredients that were presented to me at the restaurant made a huge difference. In the jungle, there is a lack of spices that bring out flavors of the meal and introduce magical notes to your taste buds. In the middle of the green forest, my lunch consisted of cooked yucca and plantain, dipped in salt (a luxury that my team brought from the city), and a piranha fish soup.
Eating the soup with my hands was not easy, especially as I am not good with pulling the bones from a fish bathing in hot water, so I mostly indulged in starch and carbs of the yucca and plantain.
So much of what we do, what we eat and how we eat is determined by nature. In the jungles of the Amazon, as communities let go of their nomadic traditions and built communities, a rise in population makes it difficult for everyone to rely on nature. There is not enough time for the hunted animals to repopulate, and that leaves a shortage of food, leading to malnutrition in kids.
Living in DC I never had imagined that I would relive the experience of eating on banana leaves, but I did and the food that I tried was simply delicious. If we want to expand our knowledge of the world, learning about our food and trying different cuisine is a good option, especially if travel is not.
If you guys have any recommendations about other cuisines and restaurants that are worth giving a try on this gastronomic adventure, please let me know. Until then, I’ll keep looking out for these opportunities and share my experiences with you. If anyone reading this lives in Maryland, you should definitely try the traditional Filipino dinner at Lumpia, Pansit, Atbp.
Happy eating, friends!