about We are Akila and Patrick. Our minds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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Tag: Australasia
the taste of two years

The savor of the last two years lingers on our lips.  We have eaten countless meals at street stalls, restaurants, cafes, cooking classes, and homes in 19 countries but no meal has been the same as any other.  This post collects the most memorable tastes of our travels and we hope that you enjoy this (mostly) salivating journey through the world, as seen by our cameras and remembered by our stomachs.

Drinks outside of Sydney Opera House

The effervescence coating our tongues and minds from our first champagne and beer toast to our round-the-world trip. Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia.

Mamak roti canai

Impossibly light, flaky, and sweet roti canai with vanilla ice cream that we tracked down on three different nights, claiming that we had "photography issues" and needed to take better pictures. Mamak, Sydney, Australia.

Mangoes and papayas

The weeks spent in small towns in Australia where we ate EVERY SINGLE meal with french fries (even my lasagna came with fries), and our relief at finally finding fresh fruit. Port Douglas farmers' market, Port Douglas, Australia.

Charles Melton vineyard

The explosion of strawberry and flowers in the dry 2009 Rose of Virginia wine , which continues to be the best rose we have ever tasted. Charles Melton vineyards, Barossa Valley, Australia.


The creamy, oniony, and healthy mujadara we made with our own hands while camping through New Zealand, a much needed respite after a month eating restaurant food. Our kitchen.

Milford Sound

The fact that we were too exhausted from flipping over our kayak in the frigid Milford Sound to photograph the best meal we had in New Zealand , including a beetroot cream cheese, a basil pesto, and a white bean hummus served with wheat bread on a rustic plank, roasted and stuffed red peppers, and venison with roasted portobello mushrooms. Redcliff Inn, Te Anau, New Zealand.

Blue cheese souffle Wairau River

The sinful smoothness from eating a blue cheese souffle under a deep blue New Zealand sky with fields of vineyards at our feet. Wairau River vineyard, Marlborough region, New Zealand.

St. Joseph's Belgian Tripel

The rich nuttiness of a MOA Barrel Reserve beer, each aged in a wine barrel from the Marlborough region. MOA, Marlborough region, New Zealand.


The wormy appearance and texture of the delicate whitebait , which tasted somewhere between crab and a white fish, and is much sought after in New Zealand. Cafe de Paris, Hokitika, New Zealand.

Hangi sweetpotatoes

Our amazement that noxious sulfur makes vegetables and chicken taste delicious when cooked hangi -style. Cosy Cottage International Holiday Park, Rotorua, New Zealand.


Learning how to make sweet kozhakattai (coconut dumplings) from my grandmother, the woman in whose kitchen I first learned to appreciate food. Patti's house, Chennai, India.

Noodles at Wat Chedi Luang

The generous welcome from the Thai people as we arrived for the feast at the head monk's funeral at Wat Chedi Luang , and ate plate after plate of noodles and rice with masses of Thai people dressed in black and white. Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Red chili paste

The eye-blistering smell of red chilies being mashed for what would become the best Thai curry we have ever eaten. Asia Scenic Cooking Class, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Mushrooms on a stick Lampang

Pulling semi-dried mushrooms off bamboo skewers with our teeth while wandering around the colorful throngs as night fell on Lampang. Weekend night market, Lampang, Thailand.

Bamboo in elephant's mouth

Sharing a meal of vegetarian fare, bananas, and bamboo with our elephant friends --- and, yes, they ate way more than we did. Patara Elephant Farm, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Spring rolls Rice fields
Spring roll dough Rice paper wrappers

Realizing that the rice paper wrappers we use to make simple spring rolls take months of toil in rice fields and hours of back-breaking labor over a fast-spinning stove in Southeast Asia. Rice fields, Sukhothai, Thailand; rice paper wrapper visit, Battambang, Thailand; spring rolls made in our kitchen.


The joy of purposeful charity as we watched Cambodian street children make and serve us amok , a stew of coconut, fish, and curry, as training for future jobs in the hospitality industry. Romdeng and Friends, restaurants run by Mith Samlanh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Introducing our traveling friends to the best vegetarian restaurant we have ever tried ; their mushroom and eggplant dips were akin to the nectar of gods. Chamkar, Siem Reap, Cambodia. (sorry, no picture here)


Tofu fried Tofu flecked with vegetables

Awakening to the power and beauty of tofu , boiled and served with soy sauce, served as cold yuba (tofu skin), grilled with miso paste, flecked with vegetables, or any of the other innumerable ways it may be served. All over Kyoto, Japan.


Discovering that though okonomiyaki --- a light pancake filled with cabbage, cheese, meat, barbeque sauce, and mayonnaise --- may sound disgusting, it is actually one of the most delicious food finds in this world. Okonomiyaki joints, Hiroshima, Japan.

Sashimi bowl

Eating the best sushi ever in a bar with laminated countertops and stools that could fit no more than 20 people at any given time, right outside the Tokyo Fish Market. Tokyo Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan.

Kaiseki dinner

Indulging in a kaiseki dinner , the ultimate Japanese meal, at a traditional ryokan after spending the day relaxing in mineral baths. Kamesei Ryokan, Chikuma City, Japan.


Adjusting to the sweet and squishy world of Japanese desserts . All over Japan.

South Korean food

Ordering four items that appeared to be vegetarian in order to find one Korean vegetarian dish because vegetarianism simply does not exist in South Korea. Busan and Seoul, South Korean.

Pizza Hut South Korea

Our ninth anniversary meal: an amazingly delicious Pizza Hut pizza , with a crust ringed by cheese and sweet potato puree, found in a South Korean subway station after five exhausting hours spent on a bus. Seoul, South Korea.

Lays potato chips

The bag of potato chips and Coke that burst all over my lap on our worst travel day ever in China. On the way to Hohhot, China.

Fake Peking duck

Peking duck
Discovering the beauty of mock meats and Chinese ingenuity, as we tried flavorful "Peking duck" and crackling Peking duck , both two of the best meals we had in China. Beihai restaurant, Peking Duck restaurant, Beijing, China.


Savoring jiaozi (dumplings) whether made by tiny wrinkled men with swift moving hands or by our own much slower fingers. Hutong Cuisine, Beijing, China.

Nausea sauce park

Laughing every time we opened a Chinese menu with English translations ( nausea sauce pork , anyone?). All over China.

Bunny chow

Believing that discrimination, division, and dissimilarities can be overcome by experiencing the unity of food --- especially bunny chow --- in South Africa. Oriental Restaurant, Durban, South Africa.

Beetroot tart La Colombe Risotto La Colombe
Beef La Colombe Chocolates La Colombe
Reveling in our first experience in a top 100 restaurant in the world by eating far more than any one person should eat at a single sitting. La Colombe, Constantia Uitsig, Constantia, South Africa.

Village Bistro

Discovering one of the most beautiful (and tasty) desserts we have ever seen --- a thick chocolate mousse in a peanut brittle pot held up by chocolate stands with spun sugar curls and baskets --- in a local restaurant with little fanfare and a humble name. Village Bistro , Bergvliet, Constantia, South Africa.

Cake Africa-in-Focus

Delighting in the puddings made over a campfire by our Africa-in-Focus cook and then grumbling over having to wash those pudding dishes afterwards. Africa-in-Focus overland expedition.

Chopping vegetables like a Zambian

Chopping vegetables like a Zambian, without a cutting board and a single knife, and eating greens and vegetables with circles of creamy soft nsima. Zambian cooking class, Victoria Falls, Zambia.

Chocolate chip cookie dough cupcake

Biting into a soft chocolate cupcake and finding a thick fudgy layer of chocolate chip cookie dough at the bottom. Mabel Francis Potter's Cupcake Emporium, Savannah, Georgia.

Mrs. Wilke's

Sitting with eight strangers at a table groaning under true Southern fare , with at least twenty different platters of vegetables, three types of meats, biscuits and cornbread, and as much sweet tea as a man could consume. Mrs. Wilke's Dining Room, Savannah, Georgia, United States.

Fig vegetable plate

Discovering the beauty of the Jerusalem artichokes , a vegetable we had never tried, fried with butter and salt, in one of the best vegetable plates I have ever tried. FIG, Charleston, South Carolina, United States.

Kulfi chocolate Sipping chocolate
Indulging nearly every other day in the best sipping chocolate we have ever tasted, flavored like kulfi with rose water, pistachio, and cardamom. French Broad Chocolate Lounge, Asheville, North Carolina, USA.

Sunny Point cafe Sunny Point cafe
Papa's Papa's
Putting away our credit cards and relishing cheap and phenomenal cuisine : huevos rancheros that I would go and stand in line for every weekend, and Tex-Mex so good that we would have sworn we were in the Southwest. Sunny Point Cafe, and Papa's, Asheville, North Carolina.

Being surprised when a waiter brought me a gold anklet wrapped around an orchid-strewn napkin with a bottle of champagne at a nice restaurant for our tenth anniversary. Couples San Souci, Jamaica.

Fruitcake on QM2

The best fruitcake we have ever tasted --- which would surely convert any fruitcake naysayer --- at high tea served by white-gloved waiter. Queen Mary 2 cruise ship.

Cream tea

The joy of clotted cream , which I would put on just about anything if I had my way in this world.  As far as I can tell, it's the only good reason to brew a cup of tea. Cornwall and Devon, England, United Kingdom.

Cheese festival

Stumbling upon a cheese festival where we tried sheep's milk, cow's milk, and goat's milk cheese aged traditionally and produced by farmers. Tavistock, Devon, England.

Chocolate con churros

Reminiscing about being in Spain fourteen years ago on my first night in Bilbao as I indulged in my favorite Spanish dessert, chocolate con churros , and introduced Patrick to the same. Cafe del Arenal, Bilbao, Spain.

Patatas bravas

Rediscovering the joy of tapas, pintxos, and two hour dinners spent lingering over slow-cooked food and good conversation in the pleasant evening air. All over Madrid and Barcelona, Spain.

Jamon iberico

Stumbling upon jamon iberico , cured meat from acorn-fed black-hoofed pigs, which left Patrick saying for weeks on end, 'Man, that jamon literally melted in my mouth.' Mercat de San Miguel, Madrid, Spain.


And there you have it: forty-five tastes of the last two years.  Thank you for joining our journey to find great and memorable food all across the world.

the pride of new zealand: blog4nz
March 22, 2011

Christchurch flowers

View of Christchurch flowers last year

"Sydney?," the gap-toothed, sun-blistered Kiwi asked me as he loaded his taxi with our luggage.  "Too bad.  Nothin's better there.  Not enough fresh air."  He shook his head, regretting our departure from New Zealand, convinced that nowhere could be more beautiful than the Land of the Long White Cloud.

View of New Zealand

A random point where we stopped driving, got out of the car, and ogled

When we planned our trip to New Zealand 18 months ago, we knew it would be beautiful; after all, like nearly every other living being on the planet, we had seen Lord of the Rings .  We expected green fields, cliffs, and rollicking ocean waves.  We knew there would be sheep and we knew there would be adventure sports.


Moeraki boulders

We did not account for the pride of New Zealanders in their country.


Christchurch last year

Last month, as you know, Christchurch suffered a devastating earthquake and, quick to action, Kiwi travel bloggers organized Blog4NZ , a community project intending to highlight travel bloggers' favorite spots, activities, adventures, and food of New Zealand to encourage tourism to that country.  Since I heard about this project, the words foremost in my thoughts have been the pride in which New Zealanders place in their country.

New Zealand view

Another spot where we stopped by the side of the road and took pictures

We heard over and over again while we were there, "It's a little country.  But, it's the best."  We sat patiently through many a speech about the glory of the All Blacks.  We listened to Kiwis complain about water (yes, water) everywhere else in the world, because their water tastes the best of anywhere, they said.  (Actually, on that point, we don't disagree with them.  Their water is really darn good because it is pure and mountain-fed.)

Yellow eyed penguin Yellow eyed penguin

Yellow-eyed penguin

That pride is apparent everywhere but, most notably, in the tourism industry itself.  New Zealand's tourism industry is a reflection of the respect and inventiveness Kiwis share for their country.

Near Milford Sound

The Key Summit hike at Milford Sound

The stunning natural parks, hikes, and reserves remain that way because littering is next to a sin.  On the weekends, the New Zealanders flee their cities and hike through their natural parks , thinking nothing of multi-day Great Walks, part of the national pasttime of tramping.  A "short walk" in New Zealanders' parlance is, after all, a 30-minute longer walk than in the United States.

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier

Adventure sports ---- canyon swinging , bungy jumping, Zorbing, and glacier hiking ---- are offered to the tourists as a laid-back alternative to the wild activities in which many Kiwis take part; our glacier hiking guide jogged up and down the glaciers when he wasn't carving out the ice stairs for us cossetted tourists and, in the spring, thrilled in white-water kayaking.

Drive to Milford Sound

Drive to Milford Sound

When we spoke to the people of Maori heritage , though they continued to hope and request certain accomodations and reparations, they took pride that their culture lived on in the schooling of the nation's children which requires teaching the Maori language to all Kiwis.


Marlborough wines

Forty years ago, when French and Italian wineries were considered to produce the only wines suitable for drinking, an upstart winery began producing wines in the Marlborough region .  Today, New Zealand produces what is widely considered to be the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world.

Near Hokitika

Hokitika beaches

Pride . . . . pride can be a bad thing, a sin that leaves us committing so many others, and one that we should avoid in ourselves.  But, pride in a country can lead to beautiful, bountiful successes that results in something better for the nation as a whole.  It is that same pride that allowed New Zealanders to work together and recover from a devastating disaster.

Hokitika beaches

Sunset at Hokitika

If you are planning on visiting New Zealand, we hope that you won't be put off by last month's earthquake.  New Zealand is open for business.

*Read more of the #Blog4NZ posts at their Facebook Fan page . [And, if you're wondering why this is supporting New Zealand given all that is happening in Japan right now, I expect that once Japan recovers more, we will be participating in something similar.]

weekly photo: a tree in christchurch
March 4, 2011

Tree in Christchurch

A tree in Christchurch

World politics and events matter more to us when the tragedies and situations occur in the world that we have personally experienced rather than the world we visit through the media.  Though our sympathies lie with any victim of a tragedy, when we have been in that place, we care more deeply.  Last year, for example, when the riots hit Bangkok, we obsessively watched the news reports because we had been there just months before, had friends in the city, and cared about what happened to the wonderful Thai people.

When the earthquakes hit Christchurch last week, we were shocked and then saddened.  We spent several days in Christchurch last year before we drove through the awesomeness that is the South Island of New Zealand.  I never put up the pictures we took of the city because I was too distracted by the gorgeous photos we took of Milford Sound , Fox Glacier , and my canyon swinging adventure.  When we visited, Christchurch was in the first blush of spring . . . people sat in the many parks that wove through the city and we played with a little cockapoo at one of the bridges.  The tree above was a riot of colors amidst the Victorian buildings and churches in the city area.

Today, hundreds of people are still missing or confirmed dead and pictures like those from last week's Big Picture reveal the devastation caused by the massive earthquakes.  Buildings have been smashed to the ground and trees like these were uprooted and strewn about the roadways.  Our thoughts are with the people of Christchurch as they recover from this tragedy.

* The Weekly Photo is an ongoing series where we post one of our favorite photos every Friday.  Join in the fun at Photo Fridays at DeliciousBaby .

** And, have you entered to win our 5-night giveaway from Aqua Hotels in Waikiki Beach, Hawaii?  Hurry - there's only one week left to enter!

the perfect vista

"I can't do it."  I hunched over, hugging my arms around my chest, as my lungs called wearily for air.  We were on the Key Summit hike in Milford Sound and my respiratory system felt the combination of a fast ascent on an uphill climb and the pollen blowing from the spring wildflowers that dotted the lush ferns and trees.  As we sat on a log, debating whether we should continue, a backpack laden Kiwi stopped by us.  “Keep going.  You have another 45 minutes to the top and the sky is clear.”

I remember resting more than hiking.  I scrutinized the seconds on my watch like I did on my final days of high school.  “It's been five minutes.  Let's rest,” I called.  We stopped and unscrewed the top to our plastic bottle and dipped it into the glacier-fed streams against the obsidian walls.  We drank and wiped sweat from our brows.  Patrick heaved the pack over his shoulders and we kept climbing.  “Five minutes,” I called, and we rested again, climbing and resting, until we reached that hard-fought overlook.

We stood in the center of a circle of snow-capped mountains and wondered if we had wandered into an eternal place.  The lake reflected white peaks that jutted into the snowy clouds that drifted through the deep blue sky.  The perspiration on my forehead grew cold from the glacial winds but my heart rate did not slow until Patrick turned to me and smiled.  “Breathtaking,” he said.

This post has been entered into the June Grantourismo and HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition.

January 2010

hangi in rotorua
geothermal steam and mud baths
January 5, 2010

December 2009

hobbit hunting
across new zealand
December 29, 2009

spiced chocolate + glacier hiking
December 24, 2009

jaded in hokitika
power tools and jewelry
December 21, 2009

marlborough wines
why did we leave?
December 18, 2009

canyon swinging
queenstown adrenaline junkies
December 4, 2009

milford sound
and the fury
December 2, 2009

November 2009

November 19, 2009

the low-down
a wrap up
November 15, 2009

the great ocean road
not just the 12 apostles
November 10, 2009

barossa valley
wined and dined
November 1, 2009

October 2009

the red centre
shadows and movement
October 29, 2009

grilled carrot and avocado salad
October 23, 2009

canon wp-dc29 underwater camera
October 20, 2009

koala lovin'
on magnetic island
October 14, 2009

the whitsunday magic
October 13, 2009

wordless whitsundays
stunning islands
October 7, 2009

sydney by foot, part 2
circular quay to darling harbour
October 3, 2009

sydney by foot
hyde park to circular quay
October 2, 2009

September 2009

cheap sydney eats
mamak, fish market, and more
September 30, 2009

July 2009

how to plan a trip to australia online
July 23, 2009