Keep it Simple
Now, it’s tough cooking, even tougher cooking ingredients you’ve never seen, and even more difficult doing all that with cruddy utensils. True. But not impossible.
You don’t need to resort to the same 5 old recipes going around all travel blogs and college freshman forums. You know them, the tacos, the paellas, the boring pastas, none of which usually incorporate local ingredients.
Having the right tools helps, but knowing to use the tools at hand to whip up some gourmet-type-shit, that’s ninja.
In the kitchen you rarely NEED more than a paring knife, wooden spoon, and kitchen knife. Sure, it’s nice to have a garlic press, but let me tell you, crushing that little clove between your kitchen knife and the cutting board, and mincing it a bit, makes the doing dishes a heck of a lot easier.
Yeah, at first using a paring knife to peel your potatoes is going to take twice as long, but after a bit of practice you’ll be much faster at it!
Cooking rice without a rice cooker isn’t really that much harder than with: 1 portion rice to 1 1/2 water, high heat until it boils, then cover and turn down the heat as much as possible (see our previous post.) Cook until the water’s gone, or about 15 minutes. Brown rice will take 2-3 portions of water and 45 minutes, but it’s much better for you.
Just cut your lime in half, stick a fork in it, and crush that lime until you’ve juiced it dry.
Don’t have a salad spinner? Wash your lettuce in a bowl, shake the excess water off, place it in a kitchen towel, pull the corners of the towel together and grab them, pretend the whole thing’s a hammer and you’re pounding a nail, tada! Your lettuce is dry!
I still don’t know how to use a lighter to open a beer bottle, but I know lots of people who can. I’m just lacking practice.
Use your imagination. There’s a interesting study done about people being faster at solving a problem where they needed to use a screwdriver to hammer something if the screwdriver was referred to as a tool instead of a “screwdriver.” In short, get creative.
Ok, there’s no real way to get around a carrot salad without a grater, fine, but try to limit your meals to 3 or 4 utensils. This will mean other people in the hostel will be more likely to be able to prepare their meals at the same time as you, and it’ll cut you dishes in half. Also, when you run across a kitchen that isn’t well stocked, you’ll be ready.
On the same note, don’t take home a million ingredients.
Learn how things go together by pairing them and incorporate new ingredients once you’re more familiar with everything. (if ever)
Here’s a wonderful resource to help you get creative: A website full of yummy and simple 3 ingredient recipes, with stuff you’re probably already familiar with.
Also, Jacqui from Roaming Cooking put together a wonderful pocket-sized cookbook just for travelers which will definitely help you if you’re new to the world of cooking. It’ll take you from “what the heck am I doing?” to “I totally got this” in about as long as it takes to unpack your toothbrush.
Starting simple will allow you to understand each ingredient’s particular textures and taste and how both change when heated or paired with something else.
Do you have kitchen recipe horror stories? Or tips I’ve forgotten?
If you missed any, check them out right here: