Why I Write About Food 011: Sarah Lawrie and Laura Turner of Wandercooks

How far would you go for the love of food? These two food enthusiasts travel the world to discover cuisines from different cultures, and invite us to tag along on their global cooking adventure. In addition to sharing an impressive collection of recipes, Sarah and Laura amuse us with tales of eating on the road, cooking in strange kitchens and learning to work with new ingredients. 

Tell us about Wandercooks.
Wandercooks is the destination for curious foodies to discover authentic and creative flavours from around the world. We love learning everything we can about new cuisines, ingredients and techniques from local people everywhere we go, not to mention exciting, bizarre and delicious recipes. We've been to over 30 countries throughout Europe and Asia over the last 12 months. Wandercooks has grown as much as we have along the journey. What started as having some fun in the kitchen has turned into a new business that we will continue to grow when we are back in Australia. We just released our first e-cookbook; it’s called Vietnam: Discover. Cook. Eat and we’re so excited to share this freebie with our readers. This trip was just the beginning, and now we are armed with enough recipe ammunition to cook for years! Not that it would stop us from going on any other trips in the future. We would love to explore North and South America, as well as the Middle East. We can only imagine the incredible food we will find there.

How do you juggle the process of learning new recipes, photographing them and writing about them to share on your blog in the middle of all the traveling? 
This trip was as much a personal challenge as it was to explore local food and recipes. We didn't know what to expect but we knew there would be challenges along the way that would push our comfort zones, our pre-conceived ideas of places, people and of course the food. We ended up
learning just as much about ourselves as the world around us. We like to think of this wandering adventure of ours as more of a ‘research project’ than a holiday. So when we travel to a new destination we’re already in the mindset to seek out new cooking opportunities, whether that’s cooking in the kitchen with new friends, checking out local markets, or getting our hands dirty in a few cooking classes. Plus we’re usually hungry, and that always helps! We’re learning something new every day, be it discovering new recipes or scouring for the perfect spice or a pinch of salt in an unknown kitchen. 

What have you learned from cooking in unknown kitchens?
What we found really interesting is that pretty much every kitchen we’ve cooked in around the world has been set up exactly the same! So we always know where to find the plates, the utensil drawer or that essential fry pan. We can usually tell within the first five minutes of entering someone’s home if they are a foodie or not. We’ve grown a lot as cooks over the past year, and gained a lot of courageespecially when it comes to making ourselves at home in a stranger’s kitchen. In case you were wondering, we do travel with our own cutlery set and a bag full of spices. You never know when they will come in handy! And Laura has been known to pack the odd cheap saucepan in her bag. 

Tell us about the most exotic ingredient you've cooked with during your travels.
Two spring to mind, and both come from Japan. Gobo (known as burdock root in English) has become one of our favourites. It’s like a really long skinny brown carrot, but a bit chewy with a unique earthy taste that literally soaks up every drop of flavour. The next is bofu, but this one doesn’t seem to have an English name. We harvested fresh bofu leaves from the shore with Jiho-san, the head monk of the temple we stayed at for a few nights for Sarah’s birthday. It’s a bit like mint with that tangy, cooling sensation but tastes like nothing else in the world.

Why do you write about food? Why have you chosen to focus on food out of the many aspects of long-term travel?
For the love of food sharing! We want others to enjoy new experiences surrounding food as much as we do. We've always loved cooking together and experimenting with new flavours, so Wandercooks is like a natural extension of that. Plus, we continually find that mouth-watering new recipes are usually so much easier than you first expect. So we want to help people overcome their inhibitions and have fun trying new cuisines from around the world.

What are you currently reading?
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. An awesome recommendation from a blogging friend. If you’re struggling with the creative process and need a new friend to come along and set you straight, well, this book is that friend! Sarah just finished Helene Dujardin’s awesome Plate to Pixel and is currently loving Two Loves Studio blog. Laura just started reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and already appreciating the world-wise advice on being a writer. Keen to finish The War of Art by Steven Pressfield but keeps getting distracted by A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) by George R. R. Martin.

What's your favorite recipe on Wandercooks?
Ohhh this is such a hard question! But if we have to choose, then the Slow Cooked Sticky Soy Mushrooms would top today’s list. It’s one of the first recipes we ever cooked together, a fantastic starter (or cooking snack, which is what we often do) and makes for a great topic of conversation with new friends at the dinner table.

Question from Bonnie of Thirsty for Tea: How long does it take for you to create a recipe post from start to finish? Tell us the one that took the longest amount of time and the shortest. (Click here to read Bonnie's interview)
That's a tough one to quantify. We'd say it usually takes anything from three to four hours up to a full day. It depends on many factors for us at the moment though, and we'll have a better idea when we are working from home. At the moment it all depends on how much travelling we are doing in between, how reliable our internet is, the ingredients we can find and if we have access to a kitchen. It can be very tricky trying to balance the work and travel at times!

Visit Sarah and Laura's website at www.wandercooks.com
Recommended Recipes:
Japanese Burdock and Carrot Stir Fry (Kinpira Gobo)
Slow Cooked Sticky Soy Mushrooms

Banh Xeo (Crispy Rice Flour Pancakes)