I’m Traveling, What Should I Pick Up?

Part (I): Pantry Items

While I’m a big advocate for eating local, I can’t lie about my obsession with European health shops. On a daily basis, I’m consuming common food items including rice, legumes, fruits and vegetables, but I still love quinoa, chia seeds and many other items that were not only recently introduced to the Egyptian market but are now grown and processed in Egypt.

Some items, though, are never regulars on the shelves. Vanilla pods come and go, I never spotted any matcha tea and nutritional yeast has completely disappeared!

Here are some items that I consider essentials and always stock up on when I’m abroad.

Matcha tea

What is Matcha? Matcha is basically high quality green tea that comes from Japan. It is finely ground and therefore it dissolves in water or milk. It is definitely more beneficial because consuming the whole leaf means you’re consuming more antioxidants.

Now, don’t get too excited and go buy yourself 100 gm of matcha (yes, that’s considered a lot!). Matcha is an acquired taste. Most people don’t like it when they first try it. It took me close to 2 years to really like it. I now can’t live without matcha.

Buy the ceremonial grade to use as tea or for making lattes and buy the culinary grade if you’d like to use in cooking. Available in all health shops in Europe, in any Asia town around the world, widely available in Asia, the U.S. and Canada. My favorite brand in Europe is Matcha 108 but definitely pick it up in Japan if you have the chance.

Hemp seeds

Hemp is often associated with cannabis, for a good reason. Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant. If you believe in the medicinal qualities of cannabis then there you have it, another healthy way to consume it. If not, then let me tell you this. The hemp plant is all around awesome. It grows extremely fast, you can make endless products from it’s leaves or fiber and its use is sustainable. Hemp seeds are basically the seeds of the hemp plant and are packed with protein, minerals and vitamin E.

They can be used in smoothies, to sprinkle on salads, in porridge or even for baking.

Available in most health shops in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

Gluten-free Pasta

I do not eat gluten-free but trust me, gluten-free pastas are life changing. Unrefined, unprocessed and packed with nutrients. My favorites are buckwheat, brown or black rice, quinoa and chickpea pasta.

No bloat post pasta is definitely the way to go!

Widely available in Asia, Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

Nutritional Yeast

Often referred to as the thing that adds the “cheezy” flavor to any vegan dish, nutritional yeast is a gem for a whole other reason. Most nutritional yeast is fortified with vitamin B12. If you’re like me and would rather not bother with supplements, then fortified nutritional yeast is for you.

Rumor has it, nutritional yeast originated in Egypt. You can’t find it in modern day Egypt though!

Available in health shops in Europe, Asia, US and Canada.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar is the perfect replacement for refined white or brown sugar. To be honest, I rarely reach for it but I use a whooping full cup to make caramel sauce. I would say buy it online in a larger quantities (1 kg is ideal) to get the best price.

Available in Asia, especially coconut producing countries such as Indonesia as well as Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

Liquid Sweeteners

Going to Canada? Stock on maple syrup. Going to Mexico? Buy your agave.

Neither? Natural Liquid sweeteners are widely available all over the world. You can choose from rice malt, barely malt, brown rice, maple, carob, date syrups or coconut nectar. They’re all slightly different in taste and consistency so their uses are different. You need to experiment to discover what you like and how you like to use it.

A lot of these are currently available in Cairo but they fly off the shelves and usually don’t make a come back for months and months.


Every once in a while I’ll pick up things like vegan marshmallows, spirulina or an ombar. Those aren’t staples for me by any means though. What pantry items do you pick up when you travel?