Tag Archives: budget

Cooking for yourself, on the road & on a budget

Visiting local food markets is a favourite pastime of ours when we are in other countries. We could spend hours wandering around, tasting, people watching, asking questions. Our best memories of such times are when we have had a reason to actually shop at the markets rather than simply be a spectator. These are the times when we have had a kitchen to go back to.

Where we can, we’ll book a cheap, self-catering apartment, a guesthouse or a hostel with a shared kitchen. We have been able to join in on the fun of shopping with locals, try some local recipes and save lots of money. These are some of the places we have used our preferred BYO lunch method:

  • Aeolian Islands: We booked a cheap self-catered apartment and bought food such as mince, veges, rice, pasta, chillies, condiments and wine over from the Sicilan mainland. This was much cheaper than purchasing food on the island. We used the plastic bowls and cutlery from the apartment as take-away containers allowing us to eat like kings, on the beach, in front of 50euro/head restaurants, plastic wine glass in hand, smile on face!
  • Dubrovnik: Another expensive place in the summer time. We secured an old apartment that looked like something your Great, Great Grand Mother lived in! That said, it had a fully functioning kitchen and laundry. We made stuffed capsicums and pan fried sardines, (and drank wine in the sun).
  • Cadiz: We were lucky to share an apartment with family during a summer. What impressed us was the surprising amount of quality canned and jarred foods in the area we were in. Of course, we enjoyed cooking fresh foods for the family but a bowl of  glass jarred green beans, corn kernals, Spanish anchovies and boiled eggs were the perfect take-away lunch to have amongst the touristy sites we visited during our days

Our Tips for eating cheap, home-made, local and healthy:

  • Try and book places that have condiments such as olive oil, salt, pepper & vinegar included in the kitchen. This may be difficult but we found that these things were vital (and difficult to carry with you!)
  • If you are heading to an island or somewhere remote, try and bring as much food with you as possible from the nearest city
  • Eat local produce. Buy at the markets. Ask questions.
  • Bring a bottle opener with you and take a bottle of local wine with you on daytrips (or a hipflask) Why not? If you’re going to Asia on a short holiday, pack some decent wine in your check-in luggage. It has been wonderful sipping iced white wine at roadside stalls in Bangkok!
  • Don’t forget to vary what you eat. It’s easy to eat ready-made.
  • If there are no plastic bowls or take-away containers where you are staying, buy one. You can use it as storage for something already in your backpack and then clean and use it for take-away, home-made meals on the road!

Foodies in Syria & Lebanon…on a budget

We had the absolute pleasure of visiting Syria and Lebanon for a month at the beginning of a recent 9 month journey. The overwhelming friendliness of the people blew us away. We had heard their hospitality was second to none, but to experience it first hand was something else.

Much of the hospitality we experienced was, more often than not, centered around food. In fact, Middle Eastern food we had grown up eating in Sydney was the main reason we wanted to travel to this often misunderstood part of the world.

We made a pact to try as much of the food as we could. We did just that and all on a budget of approximately $70AUD/day for the two of us. This included copious amounts of food, decent ‘guesthouse’ accommodations, all transport such as buses, trains, the odd taxi & other expenses such as the all important 50 cups of chai & shishas to match!

Here are a selection of the foods we tried during our cheap but very cheerful journey:

Zaatar Pizza. Found on many-a-corner throughout Syria and Lebanon, these little gems are addictive, cheap and very yummy. Zaatar is a middle eastern spice, a combination of Thyme, Oregano, Sesame seeds and other ingredients. It’s smothered onto a fresh hot base and drizzled with olive oil. Easy to hold and munch on while you take in the sites.

Little surprise packets like this one we found in Latakia are found all over the place. Pistachios are ever-present, in savory dishes and most of the sweet ones too. A few of these little morsels only cost a dollar or so. They would have been great as gifts.

We took a little box of these with us on a trip to the coast in Latakia. The gentleman in the sweet shop told us it was similar to a carrot cake but without all of the sugar and fats. From what we could make out, it was made by stewing carrots, spices, nuts and some sort of binding agent together to produce a big block of the stuff. He sliced portions off for us and popped them into a little box. It tasted like a mix between a spiced carrot cake and a muesli bar. Delicious!

Fuul is a breakfast dish of cooked and mashed fava beans. It’s served with olive oil, often a side of fresh veges, pickles and bread. It’s not very beautiful to look at but it is delicious, healthy and very filling. At about $1 to $2 a pop, it got us through to lunchtime, free of tummy grumbles!

The gentleman holding what looks like a stiff pancake was actually making these delicious rounds out the front of the fuul shop in Lattakia. They were similar to a roti but were almost devoid of oil or grease. It served as the perfect edible spoon – just crisp a portion off and dip in!

The beautiful white balls of goodness below are portions of homemade Shankleesh drying in the sun. Shankleesh is a type of cow or sheep’s milk cheese found throughout the region. We had the privilege of being invited to stay with a family who made their own version. It was crumbly and had the consistency of fetta but with a softer taste. It was a perfect mezze dish that partnered well with most things on the family dinner table.

We often find ourselves missing out on some form of vitamin or vegetable when we travel. Green leafy vegetables were hard to come by in Egypt and beer has definitely replaced Vitamin C replenishment during lengthy stays in the UK. Syria and Lebanon has no shortage of fresh fruit and vegetable juice stalls dotted throughout the country. We kept Mum happy by being able to tell her we were having more than our fair share of fruit and veges a day, on the cheap, on the run & through a straw!

Finally, chai and a’hwa (coffee). We learnt how we liked our coffee and how to properly order it. Sweet, not so sweet, with or without cardamon. For me, the cardamon ahwa was a bit too overpowering.

Drinking chai, a’hwa and smoking a pipe is wonderful way to spend time meeting the locals, checking out the locals, viewing the locality and doing as the locals do! It was one of the less expensive ways to enjoy our time in Abu Dhabi, amongst the skyscapers and minarets.

Where to eat like this in Sydney

  • Traditional Lebanese Breakfast is sold at Hijazi’s Falafel in Arncliffe but only on weekeds. This is when you can try Fuul with a very large side of pickles, olives, veges and Lebanese bread. At $5 a pop, it really is like being back in the Mid East.
  • Cardamon Arabic Coffee can be bought in packets in areas such as Auburn, Lakemba and Punchbowl. It needs to be boiled in the traditional method. You can also order it ready made in Arabic coffee pots at Emma’s on Liberty restaurant in Enmore
  • Middle Eastern Sweets can be found in the usual places such as Greenacre,  Bankstown, Punchbowl and Lakemba. There are also places in Marrickville that sells a selection. Often, if your local corner shop is of Lebanese background, there will be a tray of Baklava for sale on the counter.
  • Zaatar Pizza. Everyone seems to have their favourite. Mine is in Lakemba, in a little bakery across from the Railway Station.  Often, what seems to be simply a bread shop run by middle eastern people will also be a Zaatar Pizza shop.
  • Chai and A’hwa can be tried at many Lebanese restaurants however the most ‘authentic’ experience we have had eating, smoking and drinking with the Lebanese community has been at Gebran Restaurant, Mount Lewis (near Bankstown)

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