The Trials and Tribulations of Hostel Cooking 

While eating out and not cooking is fun for a while… After some time you start to feel, well, not so great. 

The temptation to eat the most delicious sounding (and likely not healthiest) foods in every place you visit and may not return to is strong.

Picking a hostel with a kitchen (or renting an apartment) is essential, but even then its not so easy. They’re usually super basic (sometimes they only have microwaves, not stoves) with blunt knives and limited supplies. First thing on arrival is to scout out the kitchen. What equipment do they have? Do they provide cooking oil, butter, spices and milk? Often the answer is only oil, salt and pepper. So you better learn to use those 3 ingredients to maximum effect! Step 2, head to the supermarket on your first day to stock up on supplies for your stay. While you can buy pre prepared meals, this isn’t really the cheapest way to eat, and maybe not that healthy either.

Go for convenience: One of the easiest meals is cold cuts (e.g. ham and salami), cheese and bread, but that’s not the best way to eat long term either. A cold board can easily be extended with salads, raw vegetables and fruit. Tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, capsicum and even cauliflower make good raw snacking vegetables.

Top tip for salad: buy jars of roasted peppers and/or sundries tomato. Not only can they easily be added to salad or basic rice and pasta dishes, the oil they are preserved in makes a way better dressing for your salad than the cheap cooking oil most places provide. Avocado can also add flavour and moisture.

Consider carrying your own spices in zip lock bags, as well as a small campers set of salt and pepper. But be wary with leafy herbs and airport security…

Take your own knife: If you have check in baggage it can be handy to have your own small kitchen knife – many of these come with their own plastic sheaf and are perfect for picnics (and hostels)

Go pre-made? While pre-made supermarket food isn’t the best, many local fresh produce markets also have vendors selling pre-prepared meals which exceed supermarket quality and are cheaper than going to a restaurant. These usually include pastas, stews, various salads, antipasto dishes and sometimes different kinds of meat and roasted vegetables that only need to be reheated.

Get friendly with your microwave: In the absence of a stove, pasta, rice and even poached eggs can all be cooked in the microwave with just a bowl of clean water. Simple sauces like pesto can be tossed through pasta without needing to use a stove.

Grill differently: Is there aluminium foil and a sandwich press? You can grill a steak by folding the foil into an envelope around the meat and pressing it like a sandwich.

Got some top hostel cooking tips? I’d love to hear them!

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