Although eating out when you’re traveling is exotic, thrilling and a critical part of the on-the-road experience, it’s not something your stomach, wallet or waistline can necessarily afford every day. Many backpackers make do by skipping meals or eating peanut butter and jelly from the grocery store every lunch for a month. However, eating on the road doesn’t have to be such a sticky situation. There are a number of recipes that allow you to still absorb the culture of the area – without taking in the cost.
The first thing to look for when you’re on the road is a good hostel kitchen. You’d think that for all their culinary wonders, hostels in Paris would have excellent kitchens. However, this is not always the case. Don’t rely on the reputation of a city to find you a good place to cook – you’ll have to do that yourself. Check out the kitchen before you agree on a room. See if it is fully stocked with the essentials – it’s even better if some nice backpackers have left a shelf of spices (this means the kitchen has more than one pan and a set of salt and pepper shakers).
Once you’ve found a good kitchen, ask around for local marketplaces. The CBD hostels in Sydney Australia are all close to fresh food markets on the weekend. Take a walk around and see what exotic fruits and vegetables are available. Decide on one that looks good and ask the proprietor for a good recipe, or an appropriate way to use the item in a dish. Determine what you want to make for your meal – simple sides work well, as they generally do not require a lot of skill or ingredients.
Back at the hostel, stake out your area in the kitchen. It’s best to get in there early if you plan on making a big mess, or need a lot of room. If you have other willing chefs, consider getting having a potluck meal, where each person attempts to make a local recipe. It may or may not taste like you had planned, but more often than not, you’ll have picked up a new dish and saved yourself some dough in the process.