My family and I love to travel – both for business and pleasure – and experiencing authentic food, fresh produce and the dining culture of our destination is always a priority. As a self-confessed barbecue tragic, I love to check out what the locals are barbecuing, and I’m always amazed by the different types and interpretations of ‘barbecue’ that we see on our travels – everything from rudimentary wire racks over coals to shiny, flat-plate barbecues and mobile set-ups on wheels.
But the best thing about experiencing a barbecue on foreign shores is that it provides an insight into how the locals live and an opportunity to eat how they do. I find the best way to discover a country’s barbecue culture, particularly in Asia, is to head for the nearest market. Here you’ll find all sorts of barbecuing going on, often at ridiculously cheap prices, and using all manner of ingredients and techniques. Check out what’s on offer, ask the locals for recommendations and enjoy.
Seeing how barbecues are used in other countries also reminds me just how versatile these handy devices can be, and provides amazing inspiration for our home barbecue. Whether it’s whipping up a stir-fry, cooking crepes and flat breads, or even steaming fish and seafood, the barbecue is arguably the most versatile cooking appliance in most homes.
To follow is a list of some of our most memorable barbecue adventures. I hope it provides inspiration for your next barbie – whether it’s at home or abroad.
China – in Shanghai we discovered the tastiest breakfast ever. The cook used a flat-plate barbecue (like Heatlie’s Island Gourmet Elite) and spread a thin crepe mixture on it to make a large circular shape. He then sprinkled on a few herbs – think spring onion, parsley and coriander – and chilli paste, then topped this with a crunchy wonton and wrapped up the crepe.
Cambodia – we couldn’t pass up delicious beef skewers which had been freshly cooked over coals after resting in a marinade of chilli and fish sauce. Once cooked, the meat was placed into a crunchy Vietnamese roll and topped with coriander; the wooden skewer was then skilfully removed.
Vietnam – we enjoyed delicately grilled plantains, also on skewers for easy handling, which were sweet and delicious. Try at home with unripe bananas.
Los Angeles – the birthplace of the Food Truck phenomenon, where a variety of dishes are cooked on a barbecue, usually located in the back of a van. Our favourites were freshly-made soft tacos filled with barbecue pork, salad and topped with red onion and guacamole.
LA Food Truck Tacos
- 400g chicken thighs
- 1/4 small red cabbage
- 1 carrot
- bunch coriander
- 1 lime
- Guacamole – bought or homemade
- Sour cream
- 6 corn tortillas – bought (or try making these at home with masa harina as they do in Mexico – these work beautifully on the Heatlie Island Gourmet Elite.)
- Heat the barbecue plate and cook the chicken thighs. Allow to rest and cool slightly, then pull apart ready to serve in tacos.
- Finely shred the cabbage and mix with the grated carrot, coriander and juice of the lime.
- Heat the tortillas on the barbecue flat-plate. Warm through for about 20 seconds, then remove from heat and pile with chicken, salad, jalapenos, guacamole and sour cream.