Like all of us here at Spoon, we worship food. Then there’s some of us that just want to travel for the sake of making our tummies happy. With a student budget, there’s only so much we can do and being cheap is a must. Forget the Michelin Star restaurants, forget the hefty food prices. Just go to one of these countries and you’ll never be hungry because you’ll find a good meal for USD$7 or less. So for the love of food, where should one travel to?
Peruvian cuisine is unlike any other as the food in Peru draws influences from all of the distinct cultures that have settled there. While it still remains loyal to the local ingredients and cooking style, Peruvian cuisine over the years has transformed itself into a beautiful mixture of European, South American/indigenous and Asian culture. This in turn definitely satisfies people of different taste buds. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, try out the native guinea pig dish that’s a staple in rural Peru.
Moldova is a tiny European country surrounded by Romania and Ukraine. It can be said that many of their foods have been constantly influenced by their neighbours. This tiny country also sits on very fertile land which produces a lot of fruits, vegetables and grain. Hence, much of their cuisine deals with their local produce. Be sure to try sarmale (stuffed cabbage leaves) or Mămăligă (a maize porridge similar to Italian polenta), which are some of the most popular dishes in both Moldova and its neighbouring Romania. As one of the poorest countries in Europe, traveling here for the food will not break the bank.
If you ever ask me why I’m proud to be a Malaysian, I’ll give you a 30-minute lecture on how amazing Malaysian food is. Being a multicultural country, we embrace different ethnic cultures and make them our own. The best part about being a multicultural country is definitely the fusion of amazing ethnic food at cheap prices. I never go hungry in Malaysia as I can literally get a meal here for less than USD$2.
Bolivia, also known as the “Tibet of Americas” is one of the most remote countries in South America. Despite its remoteness, Bolivia is a country that is thriving in the food scene. You’ll surely be able to find amazing traditional delicacies at low prices in the high altitudes of La Paz—the highest administrative capital in the world.
#SpoonTip: Don’t forget to try out the Bolivian locally-cured llama meat when you’re there.
Pakistani cuisine is very similar to North Indian cuisine. Unlike their Southern counterparts, the food is heavily meat-oriented and is derived from Central Asian and the Middle Eastern cultures. Much like Northern Indian cuisine, the food still incorporates yogurt making the flavour of their dishes both sweet and sour. Pakistani cuisine varies on the region, making your trip to Pakistan never boring as each region will surprise you one way or another.
Thailand is also another country too good to ever pass up. Thailand is no stranger to many foreigners as a cheap getaway location but what enchants the taste buds of many foreigners is their delicious Tom Yum Goong. You can find this wonderful spicy dish at almost any corner of the street and the best part of it all, it’s priced at insanely cheap prices. Let’s say USD$2-3 and your stomach filled be filled.
Looking for food at greater heights? Well, Nepal is just the country for you. Besides being a hiker’s paradise, the Nepalese cuisine is a blend of the surrounding culture—Tibetan and Indian—making their usual meal based around lentils and rice. No doubt, their cheap local meals will give you that extra push when trekking the Himalayas.
Cambodian cuisine is often overshadowed by its foodie neighbours such as Thailand and Vietnam. But what makes this country stand out is its love for rice. Unlike the rest of the countries in the region, rice is so significant that Cambodians actually say “Nyam bai howie nov?” (“Have you eaten rice yet?”) as a form of greeting. If that isn’t a reason to travel to Cambodia, I don’t know what is. Cambodia also has plentiful freshwater fish from the Southeast Asia‘s largest lake—Tonle Sap—so you won’t go hungry here.
Having the lowest cost of living in the world, you’ll no doubt find cheap eats in India one way or another. I must say, Indian food is one of the most colourful I’ve ever seen. Known for their heavy usage of spices, the flavours of India will surely captivate your tummy. That means, you have no excuse but to try all the curry.
Amidst the throng of endless motorcycles on the streets, Vietnam is a haven for those who love slurping on amazing rice noodles—Pho—and those whose mouths water over tasty and healthy spring rolls—Goi cuon. Want cheap beer? Look no further as Vietnam’s local beer usually cost no more than USD$3. Do note that you have to be ready to squat on the low stools like the locals because that’s how they do it in Vietnam.
Tunisia is home to a combined delicacy of Mediterranean, desert dwelling food with hints of French influence. Tunisian dishes often include Mediterranean ingredients but you’ll find that their dishes still base themselves off local ingredients such as semolina to make couscous—their national dish—and harissa which is a hot chilli pepper paste. The country’s use of harissa has made Tunisian food known to be the spiciest within the North Africa. So to all my spice-loving friends, you know where to go for cheap spicy food in this region.
Sri Lanka has a long history of being an island-nation placed in between the East and the West. Because of this, it’s been said that various cultures have left a piece of themselves here. The country has taken in all of these influences to make lovely mixtures of curry alongside the island-nation’s essentials—seafood and coconut. This makes Sri Lankan cuisine stand out on its own as it shows a colourful array of food and flavours.
If you’re ever looking for a quiet and isolated place to enjoy good food, Indonesia’s the place. That being said, you’ll have to forego the populated islands like Sumatra and Java. Instead, venture to the less crowded islands from the Lesser Sunda Islands (besides Bali), Western Papua and Sulawesi, where you’ll find an array of local food, distinct from each island.
You’ve probably never of Bhutan unless you’ve heard about its economy that’s based on Gross National Happiness instead of the usual Gross Domestic Product. Regardless, Bhutan is a beautiful country filled with lovely food made out of its local produce. Ema Datshi, the staple dish of Bhutan is a stew that’s too good to pass up as it is tantalising due to its spicy flavour with a cheesy twist.