Born in Rhode Island and later brought up in her native Taiwan, Dottie Schrock is a passionate foodie and the mastermind behind Dots on a Map, a culture and food blog dedicated to some of the most interesting eats around the globe. Growing up in Taiwan led to not just a reconnection with her roots and culture, but also a deep love for food and its relation to how we experience our families, our traditions and the world as a whole. Inevitably, it also led to her still-going-strong love for Taiwanese beef noodle soup.
Currently, Dottie’s based in sunny San Francisco with her Brazilian husband where they continuously work together to tell stories of travel and food. Think traditional Brazilian liquor infused with shellfish, pre-Columbian dishes in Oaxaca, classic cajun eats in the Big Easy, and so much more.
What inspired you to create Dots on a Map?
Fair disclaimer, the version you see now of Dots on a Map is actually on its third life – hey, third time’s a charm right? I’ve wanted to travel and explore the world for as long as I can remember, but that dream always felt far out of reach. During the pandemic, I had a lot of time to think about my life and what I wanted to make of it (I think all of us had more time to be quiet with ourselves!), and something clicked. I’ve always loved travel and food, but somehow had never linked them together as a niche to explore. My husband and I had been scratching our heads for years on how to make long-term travel work for both of us. Celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and Padma Lakshmi legitimized travel and food as a career, and YouTubers make a viable living creating video content on these subjects to a growing and engaged audience. At the same time, I’d built up years of experience working in content marketing and would no longer be starting with a blank slate.
That’s it, I thought. I would rebuild my blog and my husband and I will create video content about travel and food and post it on YouTube. Not only will we both develop new skills, we’d be able to travel the world together and hopefully make a living while doing it.
Now my husband is diving into photography and videography from scratch (and doing a great job at it), we have been filming food around the globe, and Dots on a Map is once again live and growing.
What inspired your love for adventurous foods?
I am, and always have been, an adventurous and voracious eater. Food brings me a lot of joy, so much joy in fact, I once refused to go home from school even when I was sick because I didn’t want to miss lunch – school lunches in Taiwan are excellent and had me hooked from a young age.
Since I grew up in both Taiwan and America, and was exposed to all kinds of foods at a young age — spicy hot pot, chewy tendon and offals, flavors ranging from sweet to sour to savory — my palate is pretty broad. I’ll try most things at least once and will likely enjoy it.
These days, I’m curious about food and its link with culture and history. How did this ingredient get to this part of the world? What are the influences of this dish? I discovered a few years ago that chili peppers — an ingredient so integral to Sichuan cuisine — are not native to Sichuan but to South America, and that tomatoes are not native to Italy. Recently I was in Mexico and learned about the mestizo of indigenous Mexican dishes with ingredients introduced by the conquistadors. It’s just a fascinating subject to me. And obviously delicious.
On that note, how do you think your cultural background has influenced your relationship with food?
I stay in touch with my Taiwanese side largely via food. As a biracial Asian-American currently living in the United States, it sometimes feels like I live in a constant state of nostalgia. Seeking out Asian foods and recreating familiar dishes in my kitchen has been a way to bridge that longing.
When I take a bite of something like beef noodle soup, it doesn’t just taste good, it transports me back to my childhood when going to the noodle stall around the corner of our apartment was something I looked forward to so much.
Food is also a way for me to show my loved ones about who I am and where I came from without physically bringing them there. I love introducing my husband to new Chinese foods, and he loves introducing me to Brazilian foods. Before he actually visited Taiwan, it was his only connection with the country and vice versa. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about each other by sharing food, and it’s something I’ll forever cherish.
I often throw hot pot parties at my house for friends. Across China and Taiwan, bustling all-you-can-eat hot pot restaurants are a fixture of everyday life. At home, families gather around the dining table to enjoy their own array of ingredients. It’s a deeply communal way of eating and a beloved part of Chinese culture. I love sharing that part of me and my story.
Where is your favorite foodie destination thus far? And why?
China because it is an ancient and complex food culture with thousands of years of history and so many diverse flavors. From the titillating spice of Sichuan and noodles and dumplings of the north to the sweetness of Shanghainese cuisine, everywhere you go in China offers something unique. Even though I’ve spent a combined year-and-a-half in China as an adult I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’m so excited to discover and learn more about its food in the next few years.
Taiwanese cuisine has influences from its indigenous population, migrants from all corners of China, and years of Japanese occupation. Taiwan is a foodie country. Street food and night market culture thrives, and restaurants are packed at all hours of the day. Then, of course, there’s the nostalgia factor. Taiwanese food tastes like home to me, and brings me back to some of the happiest years of my life. It’s hard to compete with that.
I recently spent two months in Mexico, and the cuisine is so diverse. Fresh seafood, the indigenous influences of Oaxacan cuisine, tacos with all the meats you can fathom, bustling marketplaces with fruits, vegetables, and spices that you can only dream of. And the mestizo of indigenous dishes with flavors and ingredients introduced by the conquistadors (like goat meat, beef, and pork for example!). Food tradition runs deep in Mexico, and it was not uncommon to find street stalls and restaurants that have been in the same family for generations — sometimes for over 100 years. I wax poetic on Mexican food a lot in my blog.
What is the most interesting or adventurous food you’ve eaten recently?
I recently tried a Madasgascan cockroach at Mercado de San Juan in Mexico City. It was crunchy and tasted a bit like bacon.
Where is a destination you’ve been dying to visit?
Honestly everywhere! I’m dying to go trekking in Mongolia and see more of Central Asia to experience food culture in those places. The prospect of learning more about food on a nomadic level is fascinating to me and something I know I’d enjoy diving into not just on a cuisine level, but a cultural one too.