I finally had a mid-winter break! A return trip to Jamaica in February had me thinking of the food I enjoyed on my first visit here. With my renewed quest to declutter and an interest in regional food I decided that the only souvenirs I would get are food items. I shopped at grocery stores and some touristy places and ended up with guinea hen weed tea (very strong taste and not related to the cannabis plant), soursop and ginger tea, candied sorrel, June plum jelly, sorrel jam, breadfruit flour, tamarind jam, Blue Mountain coffee, sorrel wine, soursop wine, ackee wine and of course a few versions of jerk sauce. These ingredients and mixtures are iconic of Jamaica and were all locally produced.
If you are a travelling vegetarian/vegan foodie, the items most commonly found are jam/jellies (non-gelatine), sauces, honey, chocolate, alcohol, baking products, coffee, dried herbs and spices and cookbooks and recipe ideas. When returning home using these items in your cooking and baking can lend itself to some creativity in the kitchen and help extend the experience of your trip.
Make sure the item is packaged well (for sanitary and health reasons) and is bought from a reputable seller (to avoid fakes and/or contamination). Also check with customs regulations in your home country and any other country you will be transiting through/visiting on your travels to make sure you can indeed bring the item with you. And if you’re not sure if that item is truly vegetarian/vegan, check the label (no label, no thanks) and translate into your language if necessary, research how the product is made and take a factory tour and ask questions.
Here is just a sample of things I have purposely looked out for when travelling:
- Dried spices and herbs (eg. za’atar, cardamom, saffron) from the Middle East and India
- Coffee and rum from Jamaica and Cuba
- Chocolate from Ecuador and Mexico
- Honey from New Zealand
- Dried coconut from Thailand and the Cook Islands
- Vanilla from Mexico