How to: Shop for culinary souvenirs

I love food shopping on my travels. There are few things that can recreate that holiday feeling than a taste memory! Whether it’s broccoli from Rome, coffee bags (they’re just like tea bags, but with coffee) from Australia, or avocados from Sri Lanka, I’ve bought some of the most unexpected culinary souvenirs over the years. Here are my top tips for bringing back the holiday flavours from your trip:

  • Seasonal specialties – Food shopping doesn’t have to be limited to canned or processed products. I have a habit of doing a grocery shop for small amounts of fresh, local and seasonal fruit and veg, whenever possible, on the day I fly out – even after a long-haul flight, they are probably going to be fresher than what you’d get at your local supermarket in the UAE, and definitely cheaper. Whenever I’m in Europe in the summer, I make it a point to get fresh berries; similarly, with avocados in Australia, and tropical fruits in Thailand, it is definitely do-able! The key is to use it all up quickly.
  • Market watch – Farmers’ markets are the best places to pick up foodie goodies, especially locally made products – whether it’s honey or jams and preserves. If there is a market (farmers’ or otherwise) near my hotel, I always visit it during my trip to make mental notes, and then make a pit-stop there on the way to the airport to do my fresh produce shop as well.
  • Supermarket sweep – Alternatively, my motto is to make like the locals and head to the supermarket. Forget touristy culinary souvenirs, this is where you’ll find the authentic stuff residents eat – from cheeses and cured meats to spice mixes. Even if a product is available back home, if there’s a certain brand I’ve enjoyed eating in a different country (for example, a type of pasta), I’ll pick up a few to bring back.
  • Regional riches – When you’re out and about within a country, do some research and seek out what is unique to a particular region. Sometimes, you will only find certain foods in very specific areas (different cheeses in different parts of Italy or Switzerland, for instance), and if you don’t pick it up then and there, you may not find it at the next town you go to.
  • Useful accessories – I always try and buy things I can use in my day-to-day life, from what is considered local and traditional – whether it’s a mini tagine for dips from Morocco, or a hand embroidered tablecloth from Hong Kong. This way, you are reminded of your happy travel memories when using these things, rather than stowing them away in a forgotten display cupboard somewhere.
A version of this feature was previously published in Gulf News.






    • Thanks for the comment! Yes, many countries don’t allow it, but it’s not really an issue here – as long as you’re mindful of the list of products that are banned of course.


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