Will Travel For Food – Where has it taken me…

A few days ago I was invited by my friend and teacher Prof. Kurush Dalal to speak to a class of Travel and Tourism Management students. I was to speak to them about Culinary Travel giving them a writer’s perspective and how to write about food and travel. I don’t know how to teach people to write, but what I know is to tell people the experiences to look for so that they have enough stories to write about. So, as I made the presentation (yes, I HAD to the bit I despise the most!) it started shaping up into what I would do as a culinary travel writer; I spoke about things that I when p keep in mind when planning my trips, stories that I go looking for and the ones that find me instinctively. Places culinary travel has taken me to…

To a humble kitchen in McLeodganj, Himachal Pradesh

After quitting my job in 2016, my first trip was to this dreamy little town in Himachal Pradesh. My only plan here was to eat at the pretty cafes and tiny restaurants and pack-in as many meals as possible in 2 days (also read – Where to eat in McLeodganj). I had another agenda too…to take a cooking/baking class. There are a few Tibetan chefs around and I had read somewhere about Sangye’s Kitchen, a modest little kitchen in the heart of the town. I signed-up for his class to learn Tibetan breads. On that evening, while he taught me to bake using the most baking equipments he had (a gas stove and a pan), Sangye taught me the first lesson of, “start where you are, use what you have.” (also read: Baking bread and learning life’s lessons at Sangye’s Kitchen)

Sangye Tashi

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Obanzai Ryori – My introduction to Kyoto’s home-style cooking

Japanese cooking is a vast universe, way beyond the sushi, sashimi and ramen that we know of. (Read: Going beyond sushi: Eating my way through Japan). While every region has different styles of cooking, the food and cooking style varies within regions too, case in point the three cuisines of Kyoto – Kaiseki (the cuisine that invovles different cooking techniques and has evolved from the tea ceremony culture), Shojin ryori (the no meat, no onion-garlic cooking of the Buddhist monks) and Obanzai ryori (the simple home-style cooking of Kyoto). While the three styles differ from each other, they have a few things in common – using local and seasonal produce, minimal ingredients and simple flavours.

My introduction to Obanzai style of cooking happened at a local’s home in Kyoto, an experience I booked through Traveling Spoon. We drove through the Kamigamo river to reach our host Keiko Morita’s house in Koyama Kamigamo on the outskirts of Kyoto where she lives with her parents.

Kamigamo River, Kyoto

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Kyoto – Visiting Sake museum and going broke at a karaoke bar in Fushimi

Reading travel blogs and travel stories, I often wonder what happens to those unexpected experiences that are not so great, not so perfect and at times leave you broke. I understand that it’s not advisable to share horror travel stories and they might scare the readers off, but they’re still stories worth sharing. A few months ago I remember reading one such story on Shivya Nath’s blog about getting mugged by a cabbie in San Jose. She has written an entire post on the solo travel mishaps. While my story isn’t scary at all (also because Japan is one of the safest countries to travel to), it’s an experience that was definitely not welcomed by my co-traveller and me. However, now we laugh at that particular memory.

Last year I took a 10 day trip to Japan with a friend. We spent the last 4 days of the trip in Kyoto and apart from visiting shrines and temples, the Gekkeikan Okura Sake museum in the Fushimi Ward was on the top of my list along with the famous Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine.

ALSO READ: 7 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW TO PLAN YOUR JAPAN TRIP

Fushimi, Kyoto

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7 things you need to know to plan your Japan trip

Last year I travelled to Japan and I still wonder what made me pick such a difficult country for my first international trip. Difficult not because of food (I love Japanese food), difficult because the communication there isn’t easy. I got some help from friends as I was planning the trip but most of the stuff I learned while I was there. In the past few months a few friends and acquaintances reached out to me asking questions about my Japan trip. So here’s a list of QnA that I have created based on those questions. It’s purely based on my experience and research. I was in Japan for 10 days and travelled to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. There were a lot of things I wish I knew before hand, but then you always learn from your mistakes. I hope these questions help you in planning your trip.

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Kyoto in 20 Pictures

I spent 3 nights and 4 days in Kyoto and checked quite a few things off my list, but still feel I could’ve spend more days roaming and cycling around this beautiful city. Here’s my Kyoto journey in 20 pictures.

House of Geisha in Gion. Kyoto's Geisha District

House of Geisha in Gion. Kyoto’s Geisha District

There was haunting silence when we entered Gion, Kyoto‘s Geisha district in the evening. The streets were dark with tourists stealthily moving around with their cameras on the ready. We were in Hanami-koji street, the most popular area of Gion, lined with traditional wooden machiya merchant houses. According to http://www.japan-guide.com/, due to the fact that property taxes were formerly based upon street frontage, the houses were built with narrow facades only five to six meters wide, but extend up to twenty meters in from the street. Continue reading