This past year has been filled with lots of noteworthy eating experiences, new food explorations, and surprising culinary discoveries. As I went through all the photos I took in 2019, it was no surprise that a good 65% of my photos were all of food. Some of them I remember fondly; others I look at and don’t quite know what went through my head to deem the food worthy of squandering a megabyte of my precious iCloud storage.
It was a nice walk down memory lane and it fired up my brain cells to put together this post. I didn’t expect it to get as serious as it did, but in trying to cull down the list into a more digestible fashion, I ended up doing some serious stack ranking, number crunching, and even a bit of emotional bargaining.
Without further ado, I’m proud to present to you my 2019 list of most memorable eats. Each item has been evaluated across a totally legit set of metrics* and have been further categorized to showcase why they belong on the list here.
*Metrics included things such as how surprisingly delicious it was despite how it looked, whether it was a new taste for me or not, level of homemade-ness, overall deliciousness, and how blog-worthy it was. Like I said, a totally legit set of metrics.
Most Deceptively Delicious
Food Item: Fish market poké
Location: Kauai, Hawaii
For my 30th birthday this year, I took a trip to the beautiful Hawaiian island of Kauai with my boyfriend and had the most delicious poké of my life. Contrary to how we often get it in California, it wasn’t mixed together as part of a bento box or served up in small portions on fancy plates. Instead, we went to the local fish and seafood market to buy pre-mixed, pre-seasoned poké in bulk. Admittedly, they don’t look the most appetizing, sitting in large plastic vats underneath glass cases dotted with condensation. But once you buy a 1/2 pound or 1 pound container of it, the poké starts looking a little more delicious. By the time the first taste hits your tongue, you’ve forgotten any and all judgment you might have had about the presentation and are just raring to eat your next bite.
The poké I had in Kauai was unceremonious, unassuming, and highly, highly delicious. We ended our trip with one last poké stop at a seafood market and sat in our rental car, scooping it into our mouths before hitting the airport. It was the perfect way to end the trip.
Most Culturally Informative
Food Item(s): Turkish breakfast
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
I had the great fortune of visiting Istanbul for the first time this summer for a friend’s wedding. Everything about the city was a lesson in culture and history, though of course, my favorite way to learn about a place is through local food. While we had a lot of great meals there, the one that I kept coming back to was the breakfast spread that our hotel served every morning. Almost nothing about it was familiar to me, except for the eggs, and it was a delight.
My biggest takeaways from eating the hotel breakfast every morning (and furtively watching what other guests had on their plates) were that breakfast is a serious affair and half your plate should be filled with cheese. I was initially taken aback by how much cheese other people were putting on their plates, but after following their example, I realized that the cheeses pair very well with the other offerings of breads, spreads, and side dishes. Everything was relatively light and I’d always leave breakfast nicely full, but not too weighed down to get the day started.
Best New Recipe I Made
Food Item: Japanese hamburger steak
Source: Just One Cookbook
I’ve been a fan of Just One Cookbook for a long time now because most of the recipes are easy to follow and yields delicious results. Earlier this year on Valentine’s Day, I decided to try this recipe on my boyfriend. Initially I had my doubts, not about the recipe but my own skills, as I had once tried to make a similar hamburger steak to disastrous results. (You know the kind, bland on the inside and overly charred on the outside.) Despite it being a lot more labor-intensive than my usual type of throw-it-all-in-a-pan-and-sauté cooking, it was surprisingly straightforward to make and absolutely delicious.
It was a big hit for both of us and has since become a special occasion dish that I look forward to making and eating.
Best New Recipe I Was Fed
Food Item: Steak
Source: Gordon Ramsay
I’m fortunate to be with someone who not only loves food as much as I do, but who can also rise to the occasion and cook. On a random weeknight one day, my boyfriend suggested making a steak for dinner. Of course, I’m always happy when someone else wants to take over cooking duty, but I have to admit that steak normally isn’t something I hanker after. Still, after hearing about the successful steak that my boyfriend made for his family when he last visited them, I was curious and wanted to taste it for myself.
As it turned out, that steak was enough to make even a skeptic like me surrender to its power. The crust was seared perfectly while the inside was perfectly juicy and tender. Full disclosure: making that steak did come at the expense of having an apartment that then smelled like meat for a few days, as well as a destroyed pan (R.I.P. cheap Target pan). But it was absolutely worth it and I can’t wait to see how it turns out on some proper stainless steel pans (thank you, Williams Sonoma).
The Ultimate, Most Memorable Thing I Ate
Food Item: Roast goose noodles
Location: Hong Kong
So how exactly did humble roast goose noodles make it to the top of my Most Memorable Eats list? Honestly, I think it was a matter of eating the right thing at the right time. Halfway through my vacation in Hong Kong, I started feeling unwell and just wanted something that was warm, nourishing, and not too heavy. As soon as I took a sip of the broth, I felt like I’d taken some sort magic potion to reinvigorate my soul. It was so comforting in the moment that I couldn’t stop exclaiming how delicious it was with every bite.
Objectively speaking, the roast goose noodles may not have been the best-tasting thing I ate this year. But given the circumstances I was in, it made such a deep and lasting impression on me that there was no question it would take the top spot on this list.
Bonus: Most Memorable Fail
Food Item: Cherry pie
Every year on Thanksgiving morning, my family and I rehash the same pie conversation— should we buy it from the supermarket where we’ll be going to get all our groceries, which is efficient but has less tasty pies, or should we make an extra trip out to another place with better pies? For some reason, I felt extra ambitious this year and proposed that we make our own pie. I’d seen plenty of friends make their own and they all seemed to turn out well. How hard could it be?
Well. To say our pie was a massive fail is an understatement. Even though it looked promising, with thick, gooey cherry juice bubbling out from under the golden-brown crust, it wasn’t baked properly. As soon as I cut into it, liquid spurted out like I’d hit a crucial artery in the pie. Further dissection showed that it hadn’t baked all the way through and was just a sodden mess inside. The cherries we’d bought were also way too sweet, resulting in a cloying filling that was barely edible.
I can’t say I’ll be trying my hand at baking pies again anytime soon, but it was an experience that I’ll definitely remember for Thanksgivings to come.
Despite all the ups and downs in various aspects of my life this year, 2019 has been a great eating year. For 2020, I hope there will be more memorable eats and I wish you all a great start to this new decade.
Special thanks to my sister, who drew and inked the illustrations for me before I added some color to them. She’ll probably be helping me out with some more visuals here on the blog in the future. 🙂