Twippers of the Week: Rosemary and Claire from  Authentic Food Quest.

Current city: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Age: The number is not important, what matters is the life and experiences that we are living.

Total countries visited: 33 countries and counting.

What makes you interesting: We are 2 women, 1 couple, who left our corporate careers to travel the world and experience authentic foods.  We’re on a mission to inspire others to travel through authentic food. By traveling through food, we believe, people can have more meaningful and deeper connections to the local culture, people and place.

What brands do you love: We travel with Apple laptops and iPhones. Patagonia is a brand of clothing that we love. Not only for the great clothes, but their approach to sustainability. Our favorite retailer is REI. We love REI for the range of products carried, the friendly and personalized service and their great rewards program.

What does “Travel” mean to you: Travel means connections. For us, travel is about connecting to the local people and culture through food. With food, you engage all the senses. You learn to open up to new taste and flavors. You learn to connect with the locals and you learn to connect with your inner self. Travel is a journey of self-discovery.

What is the most interesting food you have ever tried and where: Given that we travel through food, we’ve eaten many unique and interesting dishes. For us, the most important criteria is if “the dish is local and authentic to the region.” As a result, we don’t seek out interesting foods, just to say we’ve eaten unusual dishes. The interesting foods we’ve eaten also have some cultural significance to the region. That said, we’ve had guinea pig or cuy in Cusco, Peru, where it’s an important source of protein dating back to the Inca period. We’ve enjoyed llama meat in the north of Argentina, where llamas are used domestically for transportation and also appreciated for their lean meat. In the Philippines, we tried balut, a popular street food. Eating the developing duck embryo is one experience we are not eager to have again. We recently had ants and worms in Cambodia, which are a popular source of protein.

What’s your favorite beverage to start the day with while on vacation: The beverage to start a perfect day for Rosemary is a great cup of coffee. When traveling, it’s not always easy to find a good cup of coffee. So anytime Rosemary can find a delicious latte on her travels, she’s happy. Claire is not a coffee or tea drinker, so her perfect beverage to start the day is a full-glass of water. Ideally, this is followed by a cup of soy or almond milk.

What is your most favorite travel memory: We were in Da Nang, central Vietnam during the rainy season. One evening after a day of non-stop rain, we went out looking for a specific restaurant that had a local specialty, Thịt Nướng (Vietnamese grilled pork). It was humid and dark, and after walking down a couple of streets, we walked into the restaurant.  We didn’t realize we were in the wrong place until we saw the pictures on the menu written in Vietnamese. When the server came over to take our order, we could not communicate. She spoke no English and we don’t speak Vietnamese. We pointed at a dish on the menu and asked what it was. She misinterpreted our questions, and thought we were ordering the dish. A few minutes later, she came back with a heaping plate of Vietnamese snails called Oc. We were in shock and very surprised. With nothing to lose, we decided to try them and we ended up enjoying the snails very much. Only later did we realize that snail eating was a popular pastime in Vietnam and we had actually stumbled into a quán ốc, or restaurant that specializes in snails. This was a fun discovery of things lost in translation.

Where and when were you the most culture shocked: Our recent trip to Cambodia really surprised us. When we crossed the border by bus from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Phnom Penh.  We were immediately struck by the level of poverty. Driving on the road next to us to our air-conditioned bus was an open truck, jam-packed with people standing up, like cattle with no safety or protection. Another unexpected surprise in Cambodia was the use of the U.S. dollar alongside the local currency Cambodia Riel (KHR). With this, we found there to be 3 levels of pricing. One price for the locals in local currency. A middle price for expats and an inflated price for tourists in USD. For every purchase, we always had to “haggle” and negotiate. Cambodia was surprising on many levels.

Next travel destination: We are currently traveling through Southeast Asia on our quest for authentic food. After Chiang Mai, our next stop is Malaysia where will visit Penang and Kuala Lumpur.