Green oranges, liver sausage, guavas: The foods Irish people abroad eat

Green oranges, liver sausage, guavas: The foods Irish people abroad eat
To mark the beginning of The Irish Times’ Food Month 2021 we asked some readers around the world to tell us about the food they eat, how they shop and the food culture where they live. Here, they show us 10 things that are always in their shopping basket

VIETNAM

Sarah Clayton-Lea (28) from Ashbourne, Co Meath, has been based between Vietnam and Thailand for the last three years. She is the founder of Big 7 Travel and currently lives in Ho Chi Minh City with her two foster dogs.

Sarah Clayton-Lea’s shopping in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

1. Cam sành (Vietnamese green oranges) (1kg, €1.14/30,000 VND) The lady at my local launderette recently started selling Cam sành from her provincial hometown, so I buy a few whenever I stop by.
2. Red dragon fruit (€0.95/25,000 VND for 1kg) The variety of fruit is one of my favourite things about living here, and dragon fruit is always in my fridge.
3. Fresh coriander (€0.38/10,000 VND for 50g) 
4. Fresh chillies (€0.30/8,000 VND for 50g) Fresh herbs and chillies are an essential part of Vietnamese cuisine, so I throw them in most dishes for extra flavour.
5. King prawns (€3.03/80,000 VND for 500g) I cook a lot of fish (my housemate is pescatarian), so I don’t usually buy meat to cook at home, unless as a treat for our dogs.
6. Salmon (€8.25/218,000 VND for 865g) I like local king prawns but buy imported Norwegian salmon as I find it’s better quality. It’s more than double the price of local Vietnamese salmon but it’s worth it.
7. Eggs (€1.06/28,000 VND for six)
8. Avonmore salted butter (€4.13/ 109,000 VND for 200g) I can’t live without butter and am convinced Ireland has the best dairy products in the world.
9. Reed avocado (€1.14/30,000 VND for 1kg) I like the Reed avocado, which is larger and rounder than the typical Hass avocado found in Ireland, and has a much creamier and smoother texture.
10. Pizza 4Ps scamorza cheese (€2.65/ 70,000 VND for 115g) This speciality cheese is made by a local brand. I like to eat it sprinkled on top of scrambled eggs.

Sarah Clayton-Lea

The main difference between grocery shopping in Ireland and Vietnam is there is no such thing as a “big shop” here. I buy items as and when I need them, going several times a week to various stores and street stalls.

You never know what you’ll find when you’re out and about so I often end up getting some pretty random fruits or vegetables. On my street alone, neighbours sell fresh seafood, star fruit (from their own tree), eggs and avocados, which they buy early in the morning from a wholesale market and then resell. People here tend to go food shopping daily, pulling up beside the stalls on their motorbikes to buy what they need for each meal.

I love Ton That Dam Market, the oldest wet market in Ho Chi Minh’s city centre, for fish, fruits and vegetables. Anan Restaurant, named among Asia’s 50 best restaurants, is right in the middle of it and it’s where chef Peter Cuong Franklin sources his ingredients. The market is on prime real estate and is a stark contrast to the modern Bitexco Tower that looms over it, but this traditional trading won’t last forever, as the city administration has plans to demolish it.

For more items such as cheese, butter and imported fish, I shop at Annam Gourmet, a French-Vietnamese delicatessen chain. In general, cheese and butter are more expensive here than in Ireland, as they’re not so commonly used in Vietnamese cooking. The flavour of fruit like mangoes, guava, mangosteens and dragon fruit doesn’t compare to any I’ve tried back in Ireland. Vietnam produces several varieties of avocado too. Avocados are cheap here, about €1 per kg, so as a millennial I guess I’ve no excuse for not being able to afford a house.

I used to either eat out or order delivery for almost every meal, but since restaurants are closed for dine-in here with lockdown, I’ve been cooking almost every day. Street food is so cheap and fast here that it never made much sense to cook at home before but I’ve been enjoying cooking more with Vietnamese ingredients. Local restaurants here also add sugar (and sometimes MSG, or bot ngot in Vietnamese which translates to “sweet powder”) to everything, so it’s healthier to cook at home. The only food items I miss are Irish pork products such as rashers, sausages and black pudding, so I’ll be eating my body weight in those when I visit Ireland in December.

AUSTRALIA

Aoife Richardson (40) from Tramore has been living in Australia for 12 years, where she is operations manager for a company specialising in training for mental health professionals. She lives in Byron Bay with her daughters Grace (9) and Georgia (7).

Aoife Richardson’s food shop in Byron Bay, Australia

1. Bread Social Sourdough (€5.18/8 AUD)from a local bakery. It’s the best sourdough in town and we love it. Sourdough is really popular here, so it’s easy to find. I’d love to make my own, and have tried, but I don’t have the patience or the time for it.
2. The Bay Smokehouse Smoked Fish Rillettes (€9.70/14.99 AUD) Admittedly this is not a weekly buy, it’s a treat from the farmers’ market or a special grocery store. It’s delicious on fresh bread or crackers. 
3. Avocado (€3.24/5 AUD for eight) It’s avocado season so they’re really cheap. We bought a bag from a street stall with an honesty box on our way home from school.
4. Mango (€1.29/1.99 AUD) I bought this at the supermarket, but soon they’ll be in season. Our friends have mango trees at their place and each year a group of us will pick as many as we can. What we don’t eat, we’ll freeze for later in the year. 
5. Lettuce (€1.20/2 AUD) from the local farmers’ market. There’s a market in this area seven days a week. Nothing beats fresh fruit and veggies grown locally. I’ve just planted lettuce, rocket and spinach in our garden. We’ll have greens with every meal then through summer.
6. Strawberries (€1.62/2.50 AUD) from the supermarket. These have gone up in price as the seasons change. A few weeks ago you could get a punnet for $1 (€0.65). I have such fond memories of Irish summers when strawberries and new potatoes were sold at stalls on the side of the road. 
7. Potatoes (€3.24/5 AUD per kg) These are consistently cheap and always taste better from the farmers’ market, but never as good as back home. As an Irish woman I love potatoes and am often teased for it here. My potato salad has become legendary at our friends’ barbecues. I can’t take any credit though, my father is a wonderful cook and the recipe I have is handwritten by me observing him make it. I use potatoes a lot. In winter I make potato and leek soup often, again from my father’s recipe. I’ll often message him to ask advice about an ingredient or a dish I’m planning. 
8. Cheeses Loves You Queen of the Squeek (€7.77/12 AUD) A local woman runs a dairy here and makes the most amazing cheeses, cultured butter and milk kefir. This one is halloumi, lip-smackingly salty and absolutely gorgeous. The kids love it, and we’ll fry it and serve with a big salad.
9. Tomatoes (€2.26/3.50 AUD) from the farmers’ market. A staple in the kids’ lunch boxes along with strawberries, blueberries and carrot sticks. 
10. Scrubby Gully Free Range Eggs (€5.17/7.99 AUD) I buy free-range and organic eggs whenever possible. There are lots of roadside stalls that sell eggs, but some weeks I’ll buy at the local Spar. We eat eggs a lot; one of my favourite sandwiches is egg, mayo and lettuce. We had our own chickens, but we’ve since moved. One day I hope to have a bigger property here where I’ll grow as much of our own veggies and fruit as I can and have a menagerie of animals to look after.

Aoife Richardson

We eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, I’ve made sure the kids eat most things and at least try everything they’re given, though they hate pumpkin and love Brussels sprouts. We live in an area that is abundant with fresh produce. It’s easy to grow most things in this climate, hot but often wet through summer too. Byron Bay is a town that is extremely popular, even more so since the pandemic. There are so many cafes in town and coffee is hugely popular, with a selection of milks – cow, soy, almond, oat, macadamia, hemp and I even saw camel milk offered once!

We often pop into the local bakery for a coffee and croissant on the weekends but don’t often eat out. On the rare occasion I get out with friends we’ll try a new place, there’s always somewhere new opening here. I grew up watching my father grow his own veggies and cooking strange and unusual things. He was vegetarian and we ate lots of curries, dahls, stir-frys with amazing flavours, never bland. I’ve definitely taken that on board and have a great love for cooking. I’m often found in the kitchen, particularly on a Sunday afternoon, with a few pots bubbling and the oven going.

SOUTH AFRICA

Gavin Pollock (48), originally from Coleraine, Co Derry, has spent the last 30 years living in England, India and South Africa. He now works in arts education in Durban, South Africa.

Gavin Pollock’s shopping in Durban, South Africa

1. Mustard Oil (€1.45/25 ZAR) Having lived in Kolkata, this is the flavour of West Bengal, the way coconut is used in south India. Strong and pungent, it takes some getting used to but then becomes strangely addictive.
2. Onions (€0.70/12 ZAR per kg) After civil unrest and looting in the city in July, weirdly onions became the most sought-after commodity. I vowed never to run out again.
3. Can of guavas (€1.75/30 ZAR) Trish Deseine’s tropical fruit crumble recipe is a staple for entertaining here – the canned guavas are my secret weapon.
4. Bag of bagels (€2.90/50 ZAR) Because life is too short to boil a bagel – and I did try during lockdown. These are produced in Cape Town and are excellent.
5. Vegan butter (€3.60/62 ZAR) Relatively new on the market here and gives a better result over margarine.
6. Macadamia Nuts (€3/52 ZAR per 500g) Locally grown here in KwaZulu-Natal province, and a less extravagant option than pine nuts.
7. Lentils (€1.15/20 ZAR per 500g) Available from any corner shop in Durban and an essential store cupboard ingredient.
8. Avocados (€2.33/40 ZAR per kg) Some of the best avocados grow locally and when in season are available at rock-bottom prices. Many think Nigella invented avocado on toast but it’s been a staple here for decades.
9. Curry Leaves (Free) Delightful herb, adding freshness to Indian food. It even grows in the garden.
10. Marmite (€3.15/54 ZAR) Essential to a vegan household for adding umami, it’s often associated with scare stories here that stock is running out. I also have an extra jar in the cupboard.

Gavin Pollock

My partner, Duncan, has been vegan since we went into lockdown and since I do most of the cooking, it made sense for me to follow suit. I resisted the changeover to veganism for some time. As a keen baker, I was concerned about having to use complicated, expensive substitutes, but it’s been surprisingly straightforward. My mother’s old Women’s Institute cookbooks are a fount of knowledge on vegan baking without the authors even realising – frugality was important then and not every recipe was filled with eggs, butter and cream.

Tropical Durban has the largest Indian population in South Africa and ingredients from the sub-continent are easy to come by, with regional Indian restaurants widespread and great value for money. We also have numerous sushi bars with vegan options. Eating out is such an affordable option here that we eat out quite a lot. 

Food shopping can be as diverse as you want it to be, from traditional African markets to the swankiest of delis. Anything imported is generally very expensive but South Africans have become adept in producing their own versions of international ingredients. South Africa has many climates which means we have a lot of choice each season, and what doesn’t get imported is sold at very reasonable prices. When in season, produce such as local avocados or bananas are at give-away prices – it’s one reason that jam and preserve making is such a tradition here. 

With such a diverse mix of nationalities you can pretty much find anything that you need. With lockdown, the drive behind internet shopping took off and it has become very simple to source previously difficult-to-find items.

The one thing I still struggle with living in the southern hemisphere is our Christmas times are hot and it can be a bit incongruous trying to whip up traditional festive treats, but I still carry on. Over the years a bowl of champ has become the most requested item from friends here.

I miss a proper yellow turnip/swede as you can’t get them. Nor those lovely little home bakeries filled with potato bread and soda farls. I have a sweet tooth so I also long for tray bakes and the daffodil yellow, iced pineapple tart. On occasion the call of a wee curried chip is too much . . . making your own is never the same.

GERMANY

Mary Kelly (44) is an actress and playwright who has lived in Berlin since 2011. She is also a Dubs (GAA) fan.

Mary Kelly’s groceries in Berlin, Germany

To feed yourself regularly in Berlin, you need to know that all supermarkets close on Sundays, and to bring cash when eating out because most restaurants and cafes don’t take cards. Remembering helps, I’m here 10 years, so you’d think I would.

I live in Kreuzberg with my partner. He does the main grocery shop every week and I pick up a few other things along my way. 

1. Leberwurst (liver sausage) (€1.50) Leberwurst (which I eat on bread) looks like white pudding but is more like a softer, salty pate. Real Berliners say my leberwurst habit and my time spent here are what bring me closest to receiving the Berliner title.
2. Ayran (0.25 per pot) This is a salty, sour yogurt drink that sounds awful but is incredibly refreshing. I buy it in Turkish shops. We go through about five a week.
3. Haribo (0.89 per bag in Lidl) Haribo is a German company, and I grazed on them long before I got here, but the advantage of inhaling Haribo in its homeland is there’s more of it to choose from. I don’t remember any these pico-balla sweets back in Ireland.
4. Chestnuts (Esskastanien) (0.80 per 100g) Chestnuts start showing up in supermarkets in October each year and can also be purchased hot at the Christmas markets. I roast them in the oven and they’re just as soft and tasty as the Christmas market ones, which cost about ¤4 for 100g. They make the apartment smell Christmassy too.

Mary Kelly

5. Yfood yoghurt drink (3.95) During the summer I was rehearsing by day and teaching at night, and then performing at night and teaching by day, and regularly tearing the heads off those around me when my blood sugar plummeted. Yfood received investment from the German version of The Apprentice, and claims their Yop-like drinks are a meal. They’re 500 calories so not a meal by my standards, but also not a Yop. they help mind my manners when I’m too busy to eat a meal.
6. Chilli and lemon feta cheese spread (1) The Turkish community here is the largest outside Turkey. Some of my German friends who only eat typical German food refer to meals containing garlic as “scharf” (sharp/hot/spicy) so to find something that’s actually hot or spicy, I go to the Turkish market or to one of the many Turkish supermarkets close by. This cheese spread ends up on my bread most weeks. 
7. Quark (0.59 per carton) This is a fresh acid-set cheese. Germans love it and so do I. It tastes like a less-sour natural yogurt and is lovely with muesli and fruit or with soup in winter. It’s apparently good for your gut but I’ve also witnessed Berliners spread it on mosquito bites and sunburn to reduce inflammation. We get two cartons a week.
8, 9. Gluten-free granola and bread (9.30) I’m gluten intolerant and Berlin didn’t care until this year when Aera, a gluten-free bakery, opened up in two locations. Every week I pick up a freshly baked, gluten-free spelt loaf and a packet of granola. They cost 9.30 in total but I’d pay 90. 
10. Susucaru (2019) natural wine (15 for 750ml) Markthalle Neun, a historic Kreuzberg indoor market, built at the end of the 19th century is home to wine shop and bar, Drunk by Nature. They sell delicious natural wines yet to give me a hangover.

Eating out and eating in is a lot cheaper in Berlin than Dublin, and yet there are days I’d not only ditch its weird dairy products but Berlin itself for a single vinegar-soaked bag of proper chipper chips, ideally from the Roma takeaway in Rathfarnham. Remembering helps.

UNITED STATES

Stephen Cass (47) has lived in the US since 1998. He is a science and technology journalist, co-author of the Hollyweird Science books, and occasional science fiction editor. He lives in Queens with his wife and their cat.

Stephen Cass’s food shopping in New York

1. Purina Pro Plan dry cat food (€11.19/$13) We feed our own kitten plus multiple cats from a feline colony behind our block. We know several other neighbours also feed them, so we try to balance their nutrition as best we can.
2. Barilla Protein+ Angel Hair spaghetti (€3.01/$3.50) My wife, Annie, likes pasta a lot, so we always have some on hand.
3. Quest protein bar (€3.01/$3.50) We’re on a diet plan, which means lots of high-protein foods and lean meats, such as a protein bar or turkey slices.
4. Hillshire Farm turkey slices (€3/61/$4.19) The turkey is for us and our adopted kitten, Nugget.
5. Fresh, toasted and buttered bagel (€1.08-¤2.58/$1.25-$3) I have this for breakfast every day, from a local cafe.
6, 7, 8, 9. Freshly microwavable meals (about €8.61/$10 per meal) These are part of a subscription service that delivers healthy meals to your door.
10. Barry’s decaffeinated tea (about €7.75/$9 a box) Fortunately, in recent years Barry’s has become a common sight in city supermarkets, saving me from special online ordering.

Stephen Cass

“What weekly grocery shopping trip?” I thought, as I read the invitation to contribute to this article. Like many New Yorkers, our kitchen is somewhat underused – it’s a running joke here that many apartment ovens are used for valuable extra storage instead of baking. Why cook in a city where you can get every type of cuisine delivered to your door, or rarely have to walk more than five or 10 minutes to find a restaurant, cafe or even just a 24-hour bodega deli counter?

That’s certainly the case at breakfast time, where my day starts with a bagel and coffee, nearly always from the Cypress Cafe around the corner from our apartment. During the darkest days of the pandemic lockdown, when refrigerated trucks had to be parked outside nearby Wyckoff hospital to act as temporary morgues, walking to get my bagel was a rare and welcome taste of normal life – albeit one served via one of the cafe’s windows.

When we do eat at home, meals tend to be quick and easy to cook. Microwaveable meals are, of course, the ultimate in convenience, but we wanted something healthier than regular frozen television dinners. So we joined the Freshly subscription service, which prepares fresh microwavable meals and delivers them to our door once a week. We usually choose lower-calorie meals, as the sedentary life of the pandemic meant putting on extra kilos, which we are taking off with the help of a trainer and a diet programme. This involves lots of protein bars and turkey slices.

The turkey is also a favourite treat of our kitten, Nugget, whom we adopted from the feline colony that lives in the backyards of our block. We became aware of the colony when we started spending a lot more time at home during the pandemic. Soon we noticed the furry shapes strolling along fences and flitting behind the fig trees out back. At first we just put out some water, but now we feed from three to eight cats, twice a day. Even more important than the food, once the cats were used to us, we were able to TNR (trap, neuter and release) most of them, which is the approach recommended for managing cat colonies humanely.

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