Ask the experts: Taiwanese tea, street food in Delhi and island-hopping in the Hebrides

Our panel answers your culinary questions, from what to eat in Delhi to Europe's best food-focussed yoga retreat.Wednesday, 21 August 2019

By National Geographic Traveller Food

I want to book a short-haul yoga trip with a focus on food. What would you recommend?

I love Chaya Retreats’ Ibiza holidays — the food is as amazing as the yoga. Plant-based menus use mostly organic, seasonal produce from Can Muson, a local farm, and are designed for maximum nutrition and taste. Expect dishes like white gazpacho with Ibizan almonds, and savoury flapjacks with olives and zucchini. There’s also a nutrition and wellbeing workshop. Retreat from £1,441 a week. For somewhere a little unusual, try Akasha Retreat in the mountains of Transylvania, Romania. Two specialist doctors are involved in creating seasonal, organic, vegan menus, including creative smoothies and dishes like carob and quinoa porridge. Options include yoga and cooking retreats, with lessons in everything from gluten-free baking to making nut milks. For something more indulgent, try its wine tasting and yoga retreat. From £658 for five days. In Turkey, Huzur Vadisi Yoga Retreats serves exquisite food. It’s tucked away in a peaceful valley close to the coast, with accommodation in yurts surrounded by olive groves. Chef Sevgi serves fresh, nutrient-packed traditional recipes with a twist; the vegetarian buffets are a feast of healthy dishes like imam bayildi (stuffed aubergine) and mücver (courgette fritters). Pick up the cookbook to recreate recipes at home. Retreat from £645 a week. Jane Dunford, travel editor of The Guardian

What kind of street food should I try in Delhi?
Street food is woven into Delhi’s DNA; this cosmopolitan megacity bursts with budget-friendly bites. And while certain dishes are available citywide, some neighbourhoods specialise in specific cuisines. For example, Tibetan in the refugee colony of Majnu-ka-tilla, Afghan in Lajpat Nagar’s ‘Little Kabul’, flame-grilled Mughlai meats at Nizamuddin, and Bengali in Chittaranjan Park. Dilli Haat, an open-air craft bazaar and food plaza, is the ideal place for an introduction to regional dishes, while the university district of Kamla Nagar is also a great spot, home to two great restaurants — Chache di Hatti and Vaishno Chat Bhandar. The undeniable street food epicentre, though, remains Old Delhi, where you’ll find everything from kebabs to sweets. Quintessential Delhi dishes include chole bhature, fried bread with spiced chickpeas. Then there are momos, Nepali/Tibetan stuffed dumplings (the real magic is in the accompanying chutney). Look out also for winter meals such as nihari (slow-cooked buffalo stew), summer treats like kulfi, and student favourites including kathi rolls. The kebabs are a wonder (Alkauser serves my favourite), but the emperor of street food is chaat, the term for a range of snacks in which the common denominator is fried dough, served with the likes of spiced potato, tamarind, chutney and curd. Chaat dishes include aloo tiki, papri chaat and kachori. A word on avoiding ‘Delhi belly’: approach anything raw with caution, visit busy stalls with just-prepared food, and favour chaat vendors wearing plastic gloves. Deepti Kapoor, freelance writer

I’m planning an island-hopping trip to the Hebrides. Can you suggest some dining ideas?
Things have changed when it comes to eating out in the Hebrides, where it’s now possible to find some superb hyper-local initiatives and innovative cooking. Start at The Boathouse, on the Isle of Gigha. This family-owned, shoreside restaurant serves fresh shellfish and seafood, caught by local fishermen and divers. Try the monkfish, snapper, scallop and king prawn curry with a local beer while watching the gannets dive. Further north in Islay, The Lochindaal Hotel in Port Charlotte serves a seafood platter for two, as well as other fresh, local catches. Elsewhere, Mull’s capital, Tobermory, has several good places to eat, including Cafe Fish, and be sure to try Ninth Wave Restaurant, further south. Canada-born Carla cooks, while Mull-born Jonny does front of house — plus hunting and fishing — at their traditional croft home, close to Iona. Over to Skye — a gastronomic paradise — where chef-patron Michael Smith’s Lochbay has gained the island’s only Michelin star. He uses classic French techniques to create his Scottish dishes, which showcase local venison, vegetables and, of course, seafood (try the bourride). Then, head across to Leverburgh, on Lewis and Harris, to The Anchorage Restaurant for fab ocean views and creations showcasing island produce. These include lamb and Minch-caught langoustines, as well as a plant-based menu. Up the road at Northton, there’s Croft 36, a roadside food shack whose signature dish is a stew of locally caught rabbit. Cate Devine, food writer

I’ve heard Taiwanese tea is some of the best in the world. I want to bring some home from my trip to Taipei. What do I need to know? Taiwan’s misty mountain slopes are ideal for the production of oolong and black tea. Thin air and moist oceanic winds explain why ‘high-mountain teas’ (a term unique to Taiwan) have such concentrated and remarkable flavour. However, most is consumed domestically, so it’s difficult to come by abroad. Unlike green tea, oolong and black teas are exposed to air before being roasted. The longer a tea is oxidised, the darker its liquor. Baozhong is one of the lighter oolong teas, with a refreshing melon scent. Alishan High Mountain tea is medium oxidised and has a long, sweet aftertaste. Oriental Beauty is amber hued and known as the ‘champagne oolong’, with a honey-like flavour. For toastier, more heavily roasted teas, look out for Iron Goddess or Dong Ding. When it comes to black tea, nothing beats Ruby Red. A cross between assamica (Indian) black tea and rare, native Taiwanese tea, it has distinct notes of cinnamon and mint. For some of the oldest and best tea shops in Taipei, head to the Dadaocheng neighbourhood. Lin Mao Sen and Lin Hua Tai offer all the main varieties in a range of qualities, costing from £10 to £100 per jin (600g). Nearby, Wang Tea is the only remaining shop in Taipei that roasts leaves over charcoals. And for the ultimate traditional tea house experience, head to Wistaria Tea House in Da’an District, with bags of loose leaf for sale. Nick Kembel, travel writer and photographer

Published in Issue 6 of National Geographic Traveller Food. 

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