The Hungry Cyclist – A Cycle Tourists Kitchen/Cooking Kit

Food and cycling are a perfect couple. As cyclist our bodies are our engines, our food and drink our fuel. I am any thing but a competitive cyclist, and I certainly don’t consider myself an athlete, but as a long-distance cycle tourist, fascinated by food, I completely understand that eating is an intrinsic part of any bike ride.

The food and drink we consume provides fuel for our muscles, repairs tissue and muscle damage and replaces lost electrolytes and other nutrients. Get your food intake wrong and it doesn’t matter how fit you are, you are going nowhere and are well on your way to experiencing the dreaded bonk.

Cycling touring can be especially demanding. Long distances are covered day after day in often-unfamiliar surrounds. Food and water can be hard to come by and for those with a delicate constitution that all-important fuel may not stay in your tank very long. However, with your bike laden down with the weight of the gear needed to be self sufficient on the road, all those panniers and bags provide a space for a few cooking essentials and supplies that mean you never need to go hungry for long.

When out on the road food is often cooked over a small fire or stove and having a few basic essentials will mean you have the ability to cook up superb campfire feasts that will provide sustenance and comfort. As a food obsessed cycle tourist who rarely gets in the saddle unless there is a promise of food at the other end here are a few tips for what to pack in a cycle tourists kitchen.

Whether it’s a peasant pig farmer in the south of France or an immaculate Sushi Chef in London, a good cook anywhere where in the world will tell you that to cook well you need a good knife. I’m afraid anything that folds back into itself wont cut the mustard. Your hinge will fill with gunge, you your fingers will shorten and it wont just be the sulfenic acid in your onions making you cry. Invest in a good knife and keep it sharp.

Unless you are my mother 35 mm film is a thing of the past. However the trusty 35mm film cases are just the thing for packing spices. Compact and water-tight they are perfect for keeping a few essential spices and seasonings in. These can be refilled along the way if you find anything in interesting in markets along the way. Sea Salt, black pepper, dried chile flakes, ground cumin, paprika and cardamom pods are always in my panniers. Always have a head of garlic too!

It doesn’t have to be a cold pressed extra-virgin, but having a little bottle of oil in your panniers is well worth the weight. Oil is essential if, like me, you like to go to work on an egg in the morning and it also makes pasta and rice fare more palatable. Oil in a pan will also save you hours of washing up time. Take one small bottle with you and you will find local restaurants and homes more than happy to top you up as you go.

When cycle touring size and weight matters. Spare space on a bicycle is a premium and on those long uphill struggles you systematically go through every item in your panniers trying to justify their relative necessity. Any thing small that gives you pleasure stays and stock cubes come into this category. Perfect for livening up a bowl or rice or a bean stew, a packet of sock cubes can be found in the smallest of shops all over the world, they take up little to no space but provide plenty of well needed flavour.

I have a lot of weaknesses, but the black liquid is right at the top of the list. After a heavy nights sleep, and a previous days ride, getting going in the morning is never easy. Being able to brew up a mug of the ‘good stuff’ not only jump-starts the system but also helps brew some enthusiasm for the day ahead. Flicking a little cold water on a pan of hot coffee will settle most of the grounds, and your teeth will catch the rest. I take a special brewing pot. (If you like it strong make sure to carry loo roll)

You cycle with a chopping board! I’m afraid so. But hear me out. Its not a sanded down tree chunk favored by TV chefs but a lightweight piece of durable plastic that is alos the lid of a Tupperware box I store food in. Over the years it took some time to warrant its space on board but now it has a regular seat. Too many evenings were spent loosely hacking at onions and garlic in pans and bowls. And being able to prepare your ingredients on a clean, flat surface saves time and patience. It also doubles as a great fan for a fire.

Rice is the staple of the world eaten from Colombia to China, Egypt to Indonesia. Cheap, easy to store, long-lasting, healthy and filling, when cycle touring the merits of this small grain are easy to understand. A cup of rice is more than enough to fill you up at the end of a long days cycling and cooking it could not be more simple. While cycling with an Israeli friend in Central America he taught me just how rice should be cooked. Here is the recipe.

1. Finley chop three cloves of fresh garlic.
2. Dice half an onion
3. Add the onion and garlic to a good size pan and sweat off with a good glug of oil. Cardamom, chile or any other dry flavours should be added now.
4. Once the onion and garlic has softened and begun to brown add one cup of plain rice.
5. Allow the rice to fry in the oil onion garlic mix so all the grains are coated with oil and a few are starting town.
6. Now add two cups of cold water and let the rice come to the boil.
7. Once all the water has been absorbed or evaporated leave to cool and your rice is ready to serve. Add the juice of a few limes and some finely chopped coriander for a real treat.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 at 17:51 and is filed under Cycle Touring, Cycle Trips, mekong journal, Mekong Posts, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed or trackback from your own site. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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