Tucked away in the Balearics, it’s easy to forget that this little island is part of Spain.
Until you walk into the Mercat Olivar produce market in the capital, Palma de Mallorca. One look at the bountiful produce, rows of hanging hams and tapas joints, and memories of Barcelona’s famous Mercado de La Boqueria come flooding back.
This is serious foodie territory.
Rosy red local tomatoes in an assortment of organic shapes
This place is packed with fresh produce, much of it sourced from the island. While my friends are cavorting by the beach, I am frolicking between knobbly tomatoes and mountains of jamón.
Delicious gazpacho with a side of salsa
Before I jump into the serious business of market shopping, I pull up a stool at one of the cafes for a refreshing bowl of gazpacho and side of salsa. I can’t get enough of this chilled tomato concoction, and find that even the pre-packaged versions across Spain are usually damn delicious. Nothing hits the spot better on a hot day.
Tantalising food display
Once revived, I head for the glistening deli goods. Stuffed olives, goat’s cheese, marinated sardines, salami and marinated vegetables are all calling to me. It’s all I can do not to buy a tub of everything and I limit myself to some giant green olives stuffed with almonds.
Locally caught sardines
Rock fish from the region
The fish market branches off the main market and is one of the most sophisticated I’ve come across. Each stand is packed with the fresh catch of the day, from rock fish to sardines (only €3.80 a kilo, so cheap!). Read More
Fresh, hot churros in Mexico City
I’ve written about my favourite sugar highs before, but that was never going to be the end of the story. Given the amount of sweets I eat (in the name of research of course) there was always going to be a follow up. And a follow up of the follow up. The sweetest series of them all.
I’ve had Mado Café on my radar since the days I worked at foodie magazine Australian Table (sadly now closed). I mentally bookmarked a feature about Mado and its unique Turkish ice cream and it only took me a dozen years or so to actually make it to Auburn in Sydney’s west to give it a whirl.
Mado’s famous dondurma
Stepping into Mado is like stepping into a souk; carpets, antiques and trinkets drape every surface. The unassuming ice cream display is right at the front and belies the exotic flavours within. Dad and I stop here for lunch and order some dips and meat but what we’re really after is the famous stretchy ice cream made from wild orchid tubers known as salep and mastic resin. Its Turkish name is dondurma and the café gets its name from this word combined with Maras, the city where the ice cream originated.
Dondurma and Turkish coffee
The white maras ice cream is the signature. Made on site it’s thick (thanks to the salep) and stretchy (due to the mastic) with a slight vanilla flavour. The thick texture means it doesn’t melt and can be eaten with a knife and fork, although habit saw me eat it with a spoon. The sour cherry and pomegranate flavours are imported from Turkey and come in vibrant crimson shades with a delicious tang to them. These flavours work a treat with the intensity of a black Turkish coffee.
Kazandibi, a sticky sweet Turkish milk pudding
There is a long cabinet filled with unusual sweets but it’s the kazandibi that catches my eye. Slabs of this Turkish milk pudding are lined up and oozing with a creamy mass. Kazandibi means “burnt bottom of the pot”, referring to the charred and caramelised crust that appears in the base of the pot during cooking. This sweet is like a stretchy rice pudding (sans rice), thickened with salep. It’s served sprinkled with pistachios and cinnamon and incredibly moreish.
Fresh mango and coconut sticky rice are a perfect match
One of my all-time favourite desserts actually does contain rice and that’s coconut sticky rice with mango or khao niaow ma muang. This ubiquitous northern Thai dessert tastes good just about anywhere but especially when you’re enjoying it at a roadside stand in the depths of Chiang Mai. It’s also delicious when made with black sticky rice and contrasts beautifully with the vibrant orange of the fresh mango. Read More
Dolac market in Zagreb
Food markets are at the top of my list (literally) when I visit a new town or city. Most fall on a Saturday and it’s crushing when my trip is mid-week and I miss out. First world problem I know.
Local lavender or ‘lavanda’ in Croatian
I’ve been to dozens of fantastic food markets recently, each so marvellous that they deserve their own post. This is the start of a series which will see me cover food markets from London to Stockholm, Mallorca to Sydney.
Fresh produce from Zadarska (Zadar)
I’m kicking off with Zagreb because it may not seem like an obvious choice. The stunning Croatian coastline seems to steal the lion’s share of attention and I know few people who detour inland to see the capital. It took three trips to Croatia before I finally made it to the continental part of the country and I’m pleased I did.
All the action is around Zagreb’s main square, Ban Jelačić, and this includes Dolac, the city’s biggest food market. The bright red umbrellas are a stunning contrast against the azure sky and the whole area is one big mass of colour, excitement, endless chatter and negotiations. And that was around lunchtime; my local sources tell me it’s really mental first thing in the morning. Read More
Stunning aubergine at the Kowloon City Market in Hong Kong
Museums, art galleries and walking tours all have their place on any of my travel itineraries, but not before I’ve made a dent in a city’s key foodie hubs. And if I’m fortunate to have time up my sleeve then these are the places I will revisit again and again. They are also the best way to fast track your way into the culinary heartland of a new culture.
Slippery eels at the Kowloon City Market in Hong Kong
1. Food Markets
There are not many cities and towns without a food market of some sort. After all, this was how people shopped before supermarkets came along (not that I’m dissing supermarkets as you’ll see in the next point). Countries like France, Finland and Hong Kong are experts at food markets and even have themed markets for your every gastronomic desire.
Starfish at the Tai Po Hui market in Hong Kong
This is where you will see first-hand what produce and ingredients are in season and sourced locally. You’ll find gems that you won’t find anywhere else. And those gems will likely be cheaper than anywhere else too.
Dried seahorse at a market in Hong Kong
Fave pick: the plethora of wet and dry markets in Hong Kong are an exotic adventure in the making. Wander through produce in a myriad of vivid colours and relish random finds like dried seahorse and starfish.
An eponymous herb range I discovered in a Romanian supermarket
Don’t be fooled into thinking that supermarkets are purely the domain of locals and backpackers looking for cans of tuna. I can (and do) spend HOURS in foreign supermarkets; just ask any of my patient travelling buddies.
Fancy some crap? (the Romanian term for carp)
I love to see what’s stocked on the shelves, the more random the items the better. If I come across something I’ve never seen, that’s grounds enough for me to buy it. I also get a kick out of quirky packaging, unusual names (crap anyone?) and in-store advertising (must be my inner marketing nerd). Read More