Have you ever wanted to taste your way around the world but didn’t think it was possible? Travel-bug-bitten food fanatics Renée and JB are here to tell you otherwise. Exploring the world bite by bite and documenting their flavorful experiences into guides, this duo has made it their mission to try every country’s national dish. From dumplings and bratwurst to live octopus and beef testicles, JB from willflyforfood.net gave Sprangled the details on this adventurous, ready-for-anything lifestyle.
It’s Renée and JB from Will Fly for Food! Image source: JB from Will Fly for Food.
S: What is your favorite food in the world?
JB: Mine is sushi. That’s why I enjoy going to Japan so much. I just love the food! Everything is of such high quality. Ren enjoys Japanese food too, but her favorite dish in the world is lamb chops. She loves all types of lamb dishes, but chops – with a good whole grain mustard sauce and roasted potatoes – is her favorite.
Kaisendon. Image source: JB from Will Fly for Food.
Where are each of you from?
We were both born and raised in the Philippines, though we did spend a good portion of our lives in the U.S. I lived there for 13 years and Ren was there for 10. We met and got married here in the Philippines.
What inspired you to start Will Fly for Food?
I’m a web designer who likes to write and we both enjoy food so it seemed like a natural thing to do. Will Fly for Food has always been very personal to me, like an online journal of our life and travels. It’s something I plan on doing for as long as I can.
As for our food-centric focus, nothing excites us more about travel than food. Going to attractions is fun but the thrill of eating new unfamiliar dishes is like no other. We’re both adventurous eaters who enjoy experiencing local cuisine, so it’s always a joy seeking out a destination’s most interesting dishes.
How many countries have you been to? Overall, which country would you say has the best food?
I’ve been to a little over 20 and Ren about the same. I’m partial to the cuisine so for me, it’s Japan. Easily. For Ren, it’s Turkey. Lamb is the most commonly eaten protein there so I guess that has a lot to do with it.
Lamb. Image source: JB from Will Fly for Food.
Was there a place in the world that had surprisingly good food that you weren’t expecting?
Surprisingly, Vietnam. I know a lot of travelers enjoy Vietnamese food but aside from pho and banh mi, we had little experience with the cuisine. It wasn’t until we spent two weeks exploring the country did we get a better appreciation for the food.
Vietnam has a diverse cuisine. Dishes from the north are noticeably different from dishes in central and south Vietnam. In fact, people in the south may not even be familiar with dishes in the north and vice versa. There is so much interesting food to be experienced in Vietnam that goes beyond the ubiquitous pho and banh mi.
What’s the strangest food you’ve both eaten?
We’re adventurous eaters willing to try anything so we’ve eaten many strange things. Sannakji (live octopus) in Korea is one, as are tamilok (woodworms) and beef testicles from the Philippines. We’ve eaten many different types of insects too, like fried scorpions and crickets. We even raised superworms at home and fried them like tempura!
Check out JB’s video below of squiggly octopus! Would you take a bite?
How would you say food and culture tie together?
Food and culture are invariably tied together. You can learn a lot about a culture and its people through their food. In Vietnam for example, Hoi An’s cuisine taught me that Central Vietnam didn’t have as many resources as people in the north, so they were forced to be more creative with their food. They couldn’t afford beef bones to make pho so they used chicken bones instead as the base for local specialties like mi quang.
Ironically, I enjoyed Hoi An’s food more than Hanoi’s. I found it to be tastier and more interesting. As is often the case, working with a limited palette can lead to surprisingly better results.
Mi-quang. Image source: JB from Will Fly for Food.
Can you share a bit about how you’re able to travel often?
I’ve been a location-independent web/graphic designer for over 10 years, so that’s given me the freedom to travel pretty much whenever we please. That’s something I’m very thankful for as I can’t imagine living my life stuck in an office.
I make saving money a priority as well which is important if you want to travel. All the freedom in the world means little if you don’t have the resources to go anywhere. Take this blog for example. Making money was never the primary goal but whatever income it does generate one year is set aside for our travel fund the following year. That way we can keep our spending in check and not eat into our savings.
My grandfather always said, “I won’t be impressed with how much money you make. I’ll be impressed with how much money you save.” That’s something I always think about.
What advice do you have for others wanting to travel the world?
Work hard, save your money, always be curious, and never be entitled. Too often I hear about tourists going to a foreign land and refusing to respect their customs. From small things like not taking their shoes off at temples to more serious offenses like taking nude Instagram photos at sacred sites. I can’t believe people would actually do that.
People forget that travel is a privilege. When you set foot in a new country, you’re like a guest in someone else’s home, so it’s important to be mindful of their customs. You wouldn’t want anyone to be disrespectful in your home now, would you? It’s common sense, really.