Our 12 most read food stories in 12 years of Grantourismo include everything from the things Terence learnt working in restaurant kitchens that are useful in home kitchens and his tips to reviewing restaurants like a pro to my love letter to Cambodian food and why it should be the next ‘it’ cuisine and an essay on contemporary Australian cuisine, food worth flying for.
We’re continuing Grantourismo’s 12th birthday celebrations with our series of collections of our 12 most popular all-time posts of the last twelve years of Grantourismo. Today we’ve revealing our 12 most read food stories of the last 12 years and we’ll continue sharing compilations of posts in popular categories.
We kicked off with our top 12 most popular recipes of the last 12 years, shared our 12 most popular Weekend Eggs recipes, our 12 most popular Asian recipes, and your top 12 slow travel experiences. Next up: your top 12 local travel experiences and the most 12 most popular experiential travel posts.
Our 12 most read food stories in 12 years of Grantourismo are the 12 most searched-for, most-visited, and essentially the most popular food posts in the 12 years since we launched Grantourismo with a yearlong global grand tour aimed at promoting slow, local and experiential travel.
If you’re visiting Grantourismo for the first time, back in 2010 we spent a year travelling the world, settling in to places for two weeks at a time, staying in apartment rentals and holiday homes to get an insight into how locals lived their lives. Food was an integral part of that experience.
In each place we settled into, we explored the local food, connected with local cooks and chefs, and learnt to cook dishes from locals, which we shared in a series called The Dish, for which Terence learnt to cook a quintessential dish of each place, and a series called Weekend Eggs (link above), which we rebooted last year.
The most popular posts on Grantourismo have long our been recipes, and after those, our food posts, but before I reveal those, we have a favour to ask. Grantourismo is reader-funded. If you’ve enjoyed our recipes or other content on the site, please consider supporting Grantourismo. You could buy us a coffee and we’ll use that donation to buy cooking ingredients for recipe testing or donate to our epic original Cambodian cuisine history and cookbook on Patreon.
Another option is to use our links to book accommodation, rent a car or campervan or motorhome, buy travel insurance, or book a tour on Klook or Get Your Guide. Or purchase something on Amazon, such as these James Beard award-winning cookbooks, cookbooks by Australian chefs, classic cookbooks for serious cooks, cookbooks for culinary travellers, travel books to inspire wanderlust, or gifts for Asian food lovers, picnic lovers and travellers who love photography. We may earn a small commission but you won’t pay extra.
You could also shop our Grantourismo store on Society6 for gifts for foodies, including fun reusable cloth face masks designed with Terence’s images. Now let’s tell you about our 12 most read food stories of the last twelve years.
12 Most Read Food Stories in 12 Years of Grantourismo – Your All-Time Top 12 Food Posts
These are our all-time 12 most read food stories in 12 years of Grantourismo, the food posts that were most searched-for and most-visited.
Our Favourite Local Noodle Shop In Hoi An in Central Vietnam — Kiss Me, Honey, Honey, Kiss Me
“Kiss Me Honey Honey Kiss Me…” blares at life-threatening volume from a people-carrier that has stopped outside the neighbourhood restaurant we’ve just sat down in. It’s a rather incongruous aural assault in this quiet lane that is home to our favourite local noodle shop in Hoi An in Central Vietnam,” Terence wrote back in mid-2013, in one of our 12 most read food stories.
“This modern people mover, filled to the brim with a well-to-do Vietnamese family, is a rare sight on this alleyway on the edge of the old town,” he continued. “Many wealthy visitors from the nearby city of Da Nang head here on weekends to visit their favourite eateries, but this weekday lunch visit is a little out of character.”
“Shirley Bassey’s 1958 hit song is also as incongruous here as the shop itself, occupying what might have been the modest living room and patio of a typical modern backstreet Hoi An house. Eating here is a very different experience to eating at stalls or dining in restaurants in the old town. This is a fast food restaurant Vietnamese-style and it’s our favourite local noodle shop in Hoi An.”
Cao Lau, the Legendary Noodles of Hoi An in Central Vietnam
“In Vietnam’s historic riverside town of Hoi An, a noodle dish steeped in legend offers unique flavours and textures that only a rich culinary heritage and hours of preparation can produce. The ubiquitous dish, cao lau, is the essence of Hoi An in a bowl — so mysterious and seductive that we stayed three months to discover its secrets,” I wrote of our 2013 stay, in another of our 12 most read food stories.
“Cao lau! Cao lau! cooks and noodle vendors call out continuously from the crowded markets, curbside food stalls and backstreet eateries of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hoi An, an atmospheric riverside town of incense-filled Chinese temples and Japanese-style timber houses, surrounded by rice paddies, in Central Vietnam.”
“As it quickly becomes apparent, cao lau is the historic town’s quintessential must-try dish, partly due to the legend surrounding its making, and partly due to the fact the deliciously light yet complex rice noodle dish is the essence of Hoi An in a bowl.”
“Cao lau! You try my cao lau!” The constant cries fast become as irritating as that other ubiquitous request from the tailors lining the lantern-filled streets to come in and get a suit made. It will drive you crazy — until you actually try it. Then it’s no longer an annoyance but a temptation.”
10 Things I Learnt Working in Restaurant Kitchens That Are Useful in Home Kitchens
“Ten things I learnt working in restaurant kitchens include everything from the value of maths and mise en place to the importance of being clean and organised, why it’s essential to taste, taste and taste again to the value of perfect soffritto. All are incredibly useful in the home kitchen,” Terence wrote in 2020 and you loved his advice in what would become another of our 12 most read food stories in 12 years of Grantourismo.
“I’ve been fascinated by cooking, food and restaurants since I was a child growing up in Australia… This cooking lark was a relaxing pastime until Lara went to South America to do research for her master’s degree…I wanted to be a better cook and I knew that taking this cooking hobby further could be a way to stay grounded while she was away.”
“The drummer in my band, John, was a chef who owned a little Italian joint in Sydney’s Surry Hills that was a café by day that doubled as a pasta restaurant at night, so many a night after finishing my day job running a design department for a publishing company, I’d head to John’s restaurant to learn how to cook in a commercial kitchen.”
What could possibly go wrong with spending my nights at a restaurant run by the madcap drummer of my post-punk pop band? These are the 10 things Terence learnt working in John’s bistro and other restaurant kitchens over the years. If you enjoy this, read his musings on pro chef lessons for home cooks on precision and how working in a real kitchen made me a better home cook.
Cambodian Food – Cooking with Fire, Fermentation, Foraging, and Edible Flowers
“Cambodian food, Southeast Asia’s oldest cuisine, has been on trend since the start, cooking with fire, making use of edible flowers, foraging, fermenting, preserving, and pickling, long before they became fashionable. It’s time for Cambodian cuisine to get more attention,” I wrote in something of a love letter to Cambodian cuisine, which would become another of our 12 most read food stories in 12 years of the site.
“I fell in love with Cambodian food on our first trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital back in 2011. It wasn’t any singular experience, rather a culmination of myriad culinary experiences: tasting a trio of pungent dips made from Cambodia’s beloved fermented fish paste, prahok, at Romdeng restaurant; savouring a luxuriant saraman curry, redolent of dried Indian spices at Malis restaurant; and taking our time to relish a rich, complex amok trei at Sugar Palm.”
“Then there was a heavenly Cambodian curry in Siem Reap, the markets and street food in both Siem Reap and Battambang, where the best Cambodian breakfasts can be had: big bowls of aromatic kuy teav soup, Cambodia’s pho; cold fermented rice noodles in a lemongrass-heavy kroeung-based curry, sprinkled with shredded banana flower and fragrant herbs, called nom banh chok; and smoky slices of succulent barbecue pork on rice, the aromas of which waft down every street and lane where they’re grilled right by the roadside each morning.”
“As we’ve been researching our Cambodian cookbook over the years, discovering new dishes and ingredients every day, I’ve wondered when Cambodian food would get its time in the spotlight, when it might become the next ‘it’ cuisine. Cambodian cuisine certainly has what it takes to be the next big thing. Cambodians have been cooking with fire, making use of edible flowers, foraging, fermenting, and sharing plates long before any of those things were fashionable. I think it’s time and here’s why…”
Food Street, Tong Duy Tan – Karaoke Like Clockwork at our Hanoi Home in the Vietnamese Capital
“Food Street, Tong Duy Tan was our Hanoi home for three months. Lined with boisterous shophouse eateries, busy food stalls and rowdy late-night local bars, the street noise didn’t bother us. The daily karaoke like clockwork on the other side of our apartment wall drove us absolutely mad” Terence wrote in early 2013. “But who wouldn’t sacrifice a little sleep and sanity to have an address like ‘Food Street’?”
“”You won’t hear anything – they’re soundproofed,” the Hanoi real estate agent lies to us about the karaoke bars adjacent to the fifth-floor apartment Lara and I were about to rent for three months on Food Street, Tong Duy Tan, in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.”
“The immensity of this fib will be demonstrated like clockwork every day at 2.15pm when a karaoke bar staff member proceeds to strangle to death a Vietnamese ballad with his bare voice, only occasionally hitting a note by accident in passing.”
Sourdough Baking is Easy, Cheap and Deeply Satisfying – Ignore the Sourdough Backlash
“Sourdough baking is easy, making sourdough bread at home is cheaper than buying sourdough loaves at a bakery, you don’t need expensive equipment or high-level baking skills, contrary to what sourdough detractors say, and sourdough baking is deeply satisfying. Ignore the sourdough backlash,” Terence advised in May 2020, in another of our 12 most read food stories in 12 years.
“Since the start of the spread of the coronavirus and we all began self-isolating and social distancing, people around the world have been learning new skills and taking up hobbies that they didn’t have time for when working full-time. Quarantine baking – also referred to as iso baking and stress baking – has gone from trend to global phenomenon in the last two months and making a sourdough starter and baking sourdough bread has become one of the most popular pandemic pursuits.”
“Home bakers now drop ‘banneton’ and ‘boule’ into everyday online cooking conversations, trade tips on everything from the best flour for sourdough starters to what to do with sourdough discard, and share their scoring patterns and crumbs on social media. I’m no exception, however, I’ve been making sourdough for two years. Before the global pandemic I shared my simple sourdough starter recipe, a beginner’s guide to baking sourdough, and a no-knead sourdough pizza recipe…”
“Now, everybody is baking sourdough it seems… that’s fantastic to see. Sourdough baking is not only therapeutic, it’s a deeply satisfying process, creating something so delicious and healthy from nothing. There are few things more rewarding… Of course, every trend that becomes a phenomenon faces a backlash and a sourdough backlash has begun…here’s why you need to disregard the discouraging nonsense.”
Contemporary Australian Cuisine, Food Worth Getting On a Plane For
“Contemporary Australian cuisine is best exemplified in the inventive dishes served in its best restaurants, where in recent decades a unique form of fusion cuisine has emerged, rooted in Australia’s multicultural heritage, global flavours and techniques, and beautiful home-grown produce,” I wrote some years ago, initially for a magazine story that I expanded upon and republished here.
“It all starts with a sublime sashimi of Corner Inlet rock flathead, Tasmanian trumpeter, salt cured wild oyster cream, black lipped abalone, raw sea cabbage, nasturtiums, warrigal greens, and periwinkles, presented prettily on an elegant white ceramic plate. It only takes one mouthful. I close my eyes and see a montage of scratched Super 8-style home movie images of building sandcastles by the sea on a scorching summer’s day, collecting oysters from the sandy floor of a shallow lake, fishing for flathead from the beach, picking flowers in my grandmother’s garden.”
“Yet this dish that tastes so distinctly Australian that it evokes such strong childhood memories, is all-at-once Asian and European – as are the next enchanting dishes on the ten-course tasting menu at Chef Peter Gilmore’s Quay, one of Australia’s most celebrated restaurants, overlooking Sydney’s sparkling harbour and iconic Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.”
“There’s a congee – the ubiquitous Asian rice porridge – of Northern Australian mud crab, fresh palm heart and egg yolk emulsion; a roasted partridge breast with steamed truffle brioche, confit egg yolk, new season white walnuts, and fumet of Vin Jaune; and there’s a luscious black-lipped abalone and rare breed pig belly, served with shitake mushrooms, warrigal greens, ginger milk curd, earth and sea consommé, and wasabi flowers.”
Pro Chef Lessons for Home Cooks – Precision in the Kitchen and Why Size Matters
“Pro chef lessons for home cooks – or travelling cooks if you’re cooking in a holiday house or apartment rental kitchen – is a subject I’ve been mulling over,” Terence wrote last year. “So I thought I’d share some of the cooking tips I’ve picked up from the experts, starting with a lesson about precision.”
“Over the years, during the course of our work as travel and food writers, I’ve spent a lot of time with chefs in their restaurants, observing them at work, photographing their food, sitting down to do interviews, and even cooking in their kitchens. I can’t recall who was the first chef we got to chew the fat with, because chatting to chefs after a meal was just something that Lara and I found ourselves naturally doing, often over a glass of wine or three, well before we began writing professionally about travel and food.”
“But some stand out: the night our fly-in-the-wall reporting at Reflets in Dubai resulted in me cooking dinner for chef Pierre Gagnaire (and learning the secret to his Côte de Bœuf); a couple of days spent with Rene Redzepi and his chefs Beau Clugston and Thomas Frebel in the kitchen at Nahm, Bangkok; the chef in Jordan who ended up taking us on a street food tour of Amman; and an afternoon spent with a Zen vegetarian chef in the calmest Michelin-starred kitchen ever in Milan.”
“I’ve always left those experiences and interviews, informal or otherwise, with a few pro chef lessons for home cooks that have stayed with me – expert tips that I’ve been able to put to use in our various home kitchens over the years. I thought it time to share some of those pearls of cooking wisdom with you,” Terence wrote in another of our 12 most read food stories in 12 years of Grantourismo, “Starting with a lesson in precision in the kitchen and why size matters from chef Dan Hunter, one of the finest chefs cooking contemporary Australian cuisine.”
Hoi An Chilli Sauce – The Illustrious Ot Tuong Trieu Phat
“Hoi An chilli sauce or Hội An tương ớt is an indispensable condiment in Central Vietnam’s UNESCO World Heritage listed town, used on Hoi An specialties, from the charming port’s legendary cao lau noodles to its famous banh mi Vietnamese sandwich,” I wrote in mid-2013 originally for a story for the now defunct Australian food magazine called Feast.
“Found amongst the ubiquitous condiments in the caddies on the plastic and stainless steel tables of Hoi An’s street food vendors, market stalls and modest local eateries is the red-capped jar for which the spice-loving central Vietnam town is renowned – Hoi An chilli sauce or Hoi An Tuong Ot.”
“Spooned over Hoi An’s cao lầu noodles or spread across the town’s famous Vietnamese sandwich, banh mi, the chilli sauce attests to the culinary force that is the compact UNESCO World Heritage listed town of Hoi An, our home for three months before we moved to Siem Reap…”
“Sometimes the colour takes the form of a mailbox-red sauce. At other times, it resembles a thick claret-coloured chutney. Its texture can range from anything from a light relish to a chunky chilli jam. Whatever its form, it always contains the chilli pepper seeds that give the sauce its kick.
“Vietnamese travel from far and wide specifically to buy Hoi An chilli sauce direct from the source, and few Vietnamese holidaymakers would think of visiting Hoi An without taking a few jars home. The brand that they’ll most likely be packing in their bag is the most celebrated Hoi An chilli sauce, Ớt Tương Triều Phát.”
Ruining Amok, The Corruption of Cambodia’s National Dish Amok Trei or Fish Amok
“Amok trei or fish amok is a Cambodian steamed fish curry with an almost mousse-like texture when cooked properly. Travellers to Cambodia are told by tour guides and hotel and restaurant staff that fish amok is the national dish and must-try specialty when visiting the Kingdom.” Terence wrote in 2016 in another of our 12 most read food stories. “But how do you know that what you’re eating is an ‘authentic’ rendition? And does it matter?”
“Most versions of amok trei or fish amok that you’ll find in restaurants are not what Cambodian chefs, especially older Cambodian cooks, would consider a true amok trei. The ancient Khmer word ‘amok’ means to steam in banana leaf; ‘trei’ means fish. Yet most ‘amoks’ are little more than curries and are often not even made with the correct kroeung (herb and spice paste), let alone steamed and having rise like a soufflé.”
“So what is amok trei or fish amok? And what does it matter if it’s not always served the old way? Cuisines evolve, right? Right. But food, and particularly an ancient dish so beloved by its people — especially its older cooks, from a lost time — is imbued with meaning and is so much more than a dish to be consumed by tourists.”
Make Rice Not War, A Celebration of Rice Diversity to Inspire Curiosity and Connection
“Make Rice Not War is my call to rice lovers to open their minds to different ways of cooking rice other than their own,” I wrote in 2020. It’s a celebration of the diversity of rice dishes and the countless ways rice is cooked around the world. It’s intended to inspire curiosity in how others cook rice in their homes, on the streets, in restaurants, and in communities, in their countries of origin and adoption, and in diasporas around the world.”
“Make Rice Not War is my message of peace to rice lovers around the world who believe their way of steaming rice or frying rice, even measuring rice, is the only way and the right way of cooking rice, to put down their… um, fingers… pick up a pot, and try their hand at cooking rice dishes other than their own.”
“In my pursuit of peace, (rice) love and understanding, I reached out to 50 rice experts from around the world, including chefs, street food cooks, home cooks, cooking school instructors, cookbook authors, food writers, culinary guides, hosts of pop-ups, supper-clubs and market stalls, and even an ex-MasterChef contestant or two… to share their favourite 50 rice dishes and rice cooking tips. But before I share their rice dishes, advice, anecdotes and stories… let me tell you how this came about and why I’m on a mission to share the rice love around the world.”
“To ask “how are you?” in much of Asia is to ask someone if they’ve eaten yet and specifically “have you eaten rice?”. “Sok sa-bai teh? Nahm bai?” my Khmer-speaking friends ask me here in Cambodia, where I’ve lived for seven years. ‘Bai’ means rice. “Sok sa-bai! Nahm bai,” I respond cheerily, as if to say: I’m good, I’ve eaten, I’m happy. Rice equals happiness here in Cambodia, as it does in much of Southeast Asia, where there’s rarely a meal without rice.”
“But my friend, Sokin Nou, a 24-year-old tour guide specialising in Cambodian archaeology, history and food, was not happy when she messaged me one late July morning with a link to a viral YouTube video and a “have you seen this?” Everyone in Asia appeared to have seen Malaysian comedian Nigel Ng’s review of British-Indian BBC food presenter Hersha Patel’s egg fried rice…”
How to Review Restaurants Like a Professional Restaurant Critic
“How to review restaurants like a professional restaurant critic isn’t a post I envisaged ever writing here,” Terence wrote back in 2017, in a post that would turn out to be one of our 12 most read food stories in the life of Grantourismo. “It’s the sort of thing Lara covers in our food and travel writing retreats, however, comments by a journalist and foodies we met on our recent Melbourne trip demonstrated there was a need.”
“Everyone’s a critic these days when it comes to food. We know people who seem to work as hard on their reviews for sites like Zomato, Yelp and Trip Advisor as we do on a writing gig for which we’re getting paid. But reviewing food with a level of sophistication requires knowledge that only comes with years of continually eating out, cooking, researching, and learning how to evaluate food.”
Have you read any of our all-time 12 most read food stories in 12 years of Grantourismo? Please do let us know in the comments below, as we’d love to get your feedback.