For Rishim Sachdeva—Head Chef at Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai—the best way to get a gastronomic high is by experiencing the thrill of unusual flavours at hidden gems around the world. He shares some of his favourite discoveries with us.
Xi Ma Phu (Black Sesame Soup) Hoi An , Vietnam
On a recent trip to Hoi An, a charming, ancient little town, I was told not to miss out on xi ma phu or black sesame sweet soup, a popular post-lunch dessert with Chinese medicinal value. Apparently, there is only one street hawker (100 years old!) who has been selling it for decades at a specific street corner. It took a lot of walking and asking for directions before we finally managed to track him down. Carrying on the family tradition, his granddaughter scooped up a hot bowl of what looked like black gook from a metal pot. Its simple yet divine toasty sesame goodness, however, had us reaching for a second serving, plus a takeaway. They only make enough for daily portions, so get there early to sample this regional delicacy.
Deep-fried Tarantula Phnom Penh, Cambodia
When in Cambodia, eat like the locals—and try not to freak out. While we didn’t have tarantulas in our room, the arachnids were definitely on many local Khmer menus, including at Romdeng restaurant, along with a whole host of other creepy crawlies. Specialising in local country fare, the eatery even let us brave the eightlegged creatures crawling over us as we quickly took selfies. And just as we started getting over our arachnophobia, the giant spiders were whisked away for deep frying in a batter with black pepper and served up with a lime dip. Crunch! Fairly delicious. As for that velvety, slightly fuzzy texture—I can still feel it.
Octopus Pancakes Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok street food is the stuff legends are made of. After a long, tiring day of shopping and sightseeing, we thought we’d have a quick bite at the Siam Square street market, have dinner closer to the hotel, and call it a night. Little did we know we were on the cusp of a lipsmacking discovery. One of the food stalls was serving these tiny pancakes topped with gorgeously grilled, supersoft octopus, further topped with nori and bonito and a very rich, nutty dressing—something like a Kewpie mayonnaise but tastier! One was clearly not enough.
Directions: One of the stalls at In the Box Market, Siam Square. Keep in mind that stalls keep changing, but do ask around to find one that serves this dish.
Family-Run Tapas Bars Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona’s Tapeo del Born eatery—known for itsamazing modern tapas—is a favourite among tourists. We were, however,in the mood for a place with a cosier setup. Over shared sangrias with a bunch of locals, we were redirected to Bodega Biarritz 1881 (Carrer del Vidre, 8), a family-run place, a short distance away. Run by a father-and-daughter duo, this place blew me away with its menu of beautifully rich and spicy homemade chorizo, some fantastic shrimp cakes, and a crisp, Arancini-style version of paella.
Tip: Instead of the usual suspects, always look for the smaller, hole-in-the-wall, family-run establishments. You’ll never be disappointed.
One of the perks of being a chef is having chef friends. On a work trip, a fellow traveller knew Chef Ryan Clift of Tippling Club and convinced him to rustle us up a special tasting menu comprising some outstanding fresh produce from their farm. I was fortunate to try his cured salmon with fresh herbs and a delightful tart emulsion. And the farmto- table setting in this massive, open-concept kitchen and restaurant was unforgettable.
Coffee Cravings Singapore
Group travel is also great for coffee runs as you can divide and conquer, especially when Orchard Road spoils you for choice with its many great cafés. For me, Jewel Coffee at Claymore Connect Mall became a quick fav for its mix of roasts and exquisite breakfast pastries for that much needed sugar kick.