5 Love Stories, 5 Cities, and The Food That Keeps Romance Cooking

5 Love Stories, 5 Cities, and The Food That Keeps Romance Cooking

From Da Lat to Kuching, meet five singles who set off on an epic blind date adventure across Southeast Asia

*Updated: 8 Oct 2020 

5 young city-dwellers from Southeast Asia pack their bags in search of love in big cities. Each destination brings food to eat, locals to meet, and romance to keep. From the steep highlands of Da Lat, Vietnam, to the ancient kingdom of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and rustic rivers of Kuching, Malaysia, let's meet the swinging singles of TLC’s new 10-episode travel-dating series Travel for Love.

1. Tahanee, 23, student-entrepreneur from Kuala Lumpur

"This is gonna sound weird, but crab is my perfect date food"


What's your perfect date food? 

I know this is gonna sound weird, but crab! Being able to be all messy and still being accepted by your date, that’s super heart-warming.  

In Travel for Love, you went to Indonesia, what's the best thing you ate there? 

The best meal I had in Indonesia has got to be the traditional Gulai Ayam & Tempeh. I was served by the locals there before heading for my water adventure at Gua Pindol. Their traditional Gulai Ayam is definitely a must try! I’d defo recommend it! 

Outside of Indonesia, what do you crave for at home? 

I am quite a foodie myself except I don’t eat veggie. I like trying out new food and I’m always saying yes to food hunting with the gang. But If I have to choose my favourite dish it would definitely be my mum’s Seabass Steam with white rice! Favourite ever. 

The best destination ever? 

Haven’t really gotten the privilege to travel outside Southeast Asia, but my favourite so far is Bali. I would go to Bali annually if given the chance. Because, I’m usually working or busy studying at home, I appreciate places that gives me zen. I find peace at the beach and the sunset in Bali is a plus point. 

What's one thing you can't travel without? 

My comfy pants! I can never travel without my comfy pants. They’re my everything hahaha.

2. Tony, 29, tech consultant from New York


What's your perfect date food? 

Spaghetti - Lady And The Tramp style.

In Travel for Love, you went to Vietnam, what's the best thing you ate there?

I'm torn between Pho and Bun Cha.  But when it comes to Pho, southern style Pho for the win.  

You've lived in many cities including your current base in Singapore, what's your best meal ever? 

A slice of good NYC pizza, easily 8th wonder of the world.

The best destination ever? 

My answer for this changes throughout the year, but I just got back from Niseko.  Ending your day with a bowl of ramen after a full day of snowboarding is heavenly. 

What's one thing you can't travel without? 

Munchies.. I’m am THE fanbase of Black Pepper Crab crisps. 

3. Samantha, 27, executive assistant from Manila


“Baked Pork Chops is the most romantic dish for me!” 


What's your perfect date food? 

If anything, I think a meal cooked and prepared with and by your partner will always be romantic. And I want to believe I prepare kick-ass sandwiches that my future boyfriend/husband can take to work for lunch or snacks. I hope he finds that romantic. (HAHAHA!) I remember that one time I was on a second date. He was talking about Baked Pork Chops which he enjoyed preparing. And he was telling me the entire process from preparing the ingredients and the marinade, to the sequence it should be put in the pan, oven temperature and what you should garnish it with. He was so passionate about letting me know how to cook it and how it tasted like, that listening to him made me imagine being in the kitchen with him, sippin' on some wine and laughing and dancing to music while he cooks it for me in his cute little apron and his messy hair. So, I believe that Baked Pork Chops is the most romantic dish for me, even if I haven't tried his cooking yet. (LMAO!) It's the passion he had for food and the process that made it so romantic.

In Travel for Love, you went to Malaysia, what's the best thing you ate there?

I had the chance to try Mee Goreng Mamak. If I can remember correctly, I was in the van while enjoying this savory dish on a warm sunny day. It was so flavorful and spicy! I love spicy food moreso if the spiciness blends well with the taste instead of just it being spicy. YUM! The setting and the Mee Goreng Mamak's taste was a whole experience!

You come from the Philippines, what's a must-eat there?

My favorite Filipino food are Pork Binagoongan, Tortang Talong and Sinigang na Tuna Belly sa Miso. OOHHWEEE! As most Filipinos are, my family enjoys home-cooked meals! My Mom cooks the best Filipino dishes and though her specialty is Adobong Manok, her Pork Binagoongan, Tortang Talong and Sinigang na Belly sa Miso are still my favorite. Pork Binagoongan and Tortang Talong is a match made in heaven as the pork is cooked in a salty mixture while the taste of the eggplant complements it, especially when you eat it with rice and extra rice while you're at it. (WHAT DIET?!) Sinigangs are usually supposed to be sour by nature but when you add miso to it, it balances everything out and the Tuna Belly makes it even better. 

The best destination ever? 

I would always find myself daydreaming about El Nido, Palawan. The whole island-hopping tour was crazy beautiful, we were lucky enough to have gotten a boat with a deck to enjoy the sun and breeze and sharing stories with our boat crew while headed to our next island. Each island had its own charm and I enjoyed every one of them. And the food was nothing short of amazing! I had the freshest seafood that we chose ourselves. We had the crabs cooked in spicy butter garlic, the fish grilled and the shrimps steamed to perfection! I believe that it's always about the whole experience - setting, company and food that make a truly wonderful trip.

What's one thing you can't travel without? 

One thing I always carry in my travel bag is my Maybelline Baby Lips lip balm! I never want to get chapped lips after devouring delicious food or when taking photos with a beautiful view or when meeting new friends at a new place! You'll never know, there might be a moment too where I meet "the one" while traveling. (Fingers crossed, lol!)

  • Samantha frequently rates the food she eats, like the time she went through Taipei’s famed night markets. You can check out those ratings @samnicolexx

4. Honey, 28, costume designer from Penang


“Spaghetti is my perfect date food, we’d be eating either end of a long pasta noodle, and accidentally kiss!” 


What's your perfect date food? 

A big bowl of spaghetti ! I’ve never shared spaghetti before and I think it would be so romantic. I know it’s a little cliche but I dream of the day that I will live my Lady and the Tramp fantasy! We’d both be sharing a plate of pasta and unbeknownst to us, we’re eating either end of a long pasta noodle. This leads us to accidentally (but also on purpose lah) kiss! hahaha!

In Travel for Love, you went to the Philippines, what's the best thing you ate there?

There are so many Filipino cuisines I have yet to try, I probably sampled a tiny percentage of what the country has to offer! For savoury I would recommend Chicken Inasal- it’s this juicy chicken thigh that has been marinated then grilled and its served with lime, soy sauce, vinegar, chicken oil and rice- unlimited rice! So you can heap on as much as you like! I have a big sweet tooth so for something sweet, I’d recommend Turon. Turon is basically a spring roll with banana and jackfruit served with sugar. I never thought of combining jackfruit and banana, but now I have- there’s no going back! For the little more adventurous, I recommend Malunggay Ice cream! It was a first for me at the Bohol Bee Farm- I hadn’t even heard of Malunggay before. The best way to describe it would be that it tasted green- and I know that sounds daunting for some but green in the best way! 

You come from Malaysia, what's a must-eat there?

I am a big fan of Roti Canai (an indian-muslim flatbread) and its many varieties. You can pretty much eat it any time of the day all day. Breakfast? Roti Telur- a roti canai that has an egg. Lunch? Maybe a plain roti canai with some side dishes. Dessert or a snack? Roti Pisang which is the kind with slices of bananas laminated between the layers. (I like to eat my roti pisang with fish curry which everyone finds odd but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, it’s a good blend of sweet-savoury). It’s pretty economical as well. There’s this small stall in an unnamed alley in Penang near where I live that has the BEST roti canai I’ve ever had! Even thinking about it now has got my tummy rumbling.

The best destination ever? 

Bohol has to be my favourite right now. I honestly cannot wait to go back to the pristine beaches (and maybe even explore the islands close by). I think going to the Loboc river is a must! The water there is a gorgeous turquoise and I have never seen anything like it before. You can paddle board on the river (which is my personal favourite activity) or even take a river cruise! Snorkelling is also a great activity you can do in Bohol- I didn’t have enough time to swim with dolphins at Balicasag but it’s definitely on my list when I go back. And the Tarsiers! Oh! The Tarsiers! You must see these tiny tiny little animals with the biggest eyes! I reckon a week in Bohol would be perfect for anyone keen to experience the island.

What's one thing you can't travel without? 

I think anti bacterial wipes are very important! I always have them with me, especially since I am a mild germaphobe. I gotta wipe everything, the seats / trays on a plane, remotes at the hotel, door handles, and if you get food safe wipes you can use it to wipe down your cutlery. People used to look at me a little odd when I used to do it but I think in this day and age of mutant viruses, one can never be too safe.

  • Find out more about Honey here, and tell her what other Filipino eats are worth trying @HoneyKhanum

5. Mariska, 29, musician from Surabaya


"There's something about sharing a packed cold meal in the middle of nowhere with someone you love"


What's your perfect date food? 

Any meal that I get to eat together with a love interest, out in an adventure. My typical adventures are amusement parks, the zoo, botanic gardens, hikes, or the beach, so it's usually messy, dirty, tiring, with no table and proper cutlery. But there's something about sharing a packed cold meal in the middle of nowhere with someone you love. Those experiences can bring out the best in people. 

In Travel for Love, you went to Malaysia, what's the best thing you ate there?

Not food, but I love drinking tuak! I tried a couple while I was in Iban, Sarawak, the traditionally made ones. I'm fascinated by how the locals brew their own tuak, every household has their own way of doing it, resulting in unique taste and color that differs from the other. A little story, I wanted to bring some tuak home from the Sarawak trip but couldn't, so I googled recipes and did a little research and experimented with brewing my own tuak at home, totally moonshine style. It was quite succesful, I didn't die, my friends also didn't die, it tasted nice and Ive already made my second batch. 

You come from Indonesia, what's a must-eat there?

There is this God gift to mankind that is called Ote-ote Porong. It's some beautiful, round, golden brown, greasy, pork and oyster dipped in batter and fried to perfection. I don't really find this beauty out of my hometown Surabaya. Actually Porong is a little area just outside Surabaya and apparently God himself went there to bless us with this exotic sexy dish. Yes. 

The best destination ever? 

Salzburg is probably one of my favorite place in the world. It's Mozart's birthplace and basically Mecca for classical musicians. Went there twice for a summer course and it was really like a dream. The scenery is straight out of a calendar, houses so colorful and all the important buildings (government, universities, museums, concert halls) are literally castles built in the 1800s. Everywhere you go you hear high quality classical music; many students from the Mozarteum (one of the best uni in the world for classical music) even play in parks, by the river, on the street, on the bridge, everywhere. Such a small, beautiful, educated and super clean town seemingly frozen in time since the 18s. Everyone rides a bike and are super chill and nice. I love to lay on the grass anywhere by the Salzach river or just sitting on a bench in a field near Schloss Frohnburg (a rather small castle now used as a dormitory for Mozarteum students, also one of many locations for the Sound Of Music). I made so many beautiful memories and some really good friends there. 

What's one thing you can't travel without? 

I don't leave the house without my books. I have 1 for everything. 1 for journaling, 1 for sketching, 1 for planning, and 1 fiction / non-fiction to read. I'm not good at taking pictures with my phone, all the pictures I take are bad. So I document everything by writing and sketching them. It takes a lot of time but I really enjoy doing it. I feel like the memory sticks around much longer that way. Also my lipsticks. I look dead without them. Use it also for blush and eyeshadow. 

Find out more about Mariska here, and share your must-go place with her @mariska.setiawan

  • For more Travel For Love, watch here. And, what meal would make a perfect zoom date? These stars tell you their most romantic recipe
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