Check out my guest post in LaCure Villas Magazine!

Jennifer eating stinky tofu in Taipei's Shilin Night Market.

Jennifer eating stinky tofu in Taipei’s Shilin Night Market.

Picture this: you are in a foreign land far far away, with a totally different culture, with people speaking a language that sounds very Greek (or Japanese, or Chinese, whatever) to you, and if you’re really lucky, maybe even with food you don’t recognize at all.

Not to worry, my friends, for I am here to guide you on what NOT to do to avoid committing some gaffes when it’s chow time.

Read the rest of this story here, which was entered in LaCure’s Tell A Great Story contest and won me a trip to Florence!

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Vancouver: Japan of North America

Between the peaceful Zen gardens and blossoming cherry trees, Vancouver often reminds me of Japan not only because their climates are almost the same, but also because the sights, sounds, smell, tastes and feel are very similar.

Text and Photos by Jennifer Ellson

Vancouver has an abundance of sushi bars

Vancouver has an abundance of sushi bars

Vancouver: a Canadian coastal city right by the Pacific Ocean, which means an abundance of fresh seafood for the taking. Now, combine this with a large Japanese population and what do you get?

Between its peaceful Zen gardens and blossoming cherry trees, you get a spate of sushi bars which, together with Starbucks, are popping at every street corner in this city.

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Holy Week – It’s more fun in the Philippines

Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a BIG DEAL in the Philippines, which only means it is a great time to visit.

Text and Photos by Jennifer Ellson | Additional Photos by Tourism Philippines

Crucifixion in Pampanga, Philippines, during the Holy Week

Crucifixion in Pampanga, Philippines, during the Holy Week (Photo courtesy of http://www.tourism-philippines.com)

Lent has several names in the PhilippinesSemana Santa, Mahal na Araw, Holy Week – however you call it, one thing is certain: it is a BIG DEAL in the Philippines (but self-flagellation & crucifixion are not!)

For meat lovers, however, a word of warning: it is probably the only time when the Philippines turns vegetarian, or fishetarian for the not-too-religious.

Being a predominantly Catholic country, Lent is a significant religious festival in most parts of the nation’s 7,107 islands. It is elaborately celebrated with gruesome re-enactments of the final hours of Jesus’ life, where real penitents wear makeshift crowns of thorns, whipping themselves in silent processions and ending with crucifixion, for real!

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Is Vienna sausage the same as a Wiener, or a Frankfurter?

The sausage was invented by a butcher from Frankfurt, who had moved to Vienna, which is why in Vienna it’s called a frankfurter, but in Frankfurt it’s called a wiener (Viennese).

Text and Photos by Jennifer Ellson

Frankfurter? Wiener? Vienna sausage? No, they're Bavarian sausages, Münchner Weißwurst!

Frankfurter? Wiener? Vienna sausage? No, they're Bavarian sausages, Münchner Weißwurst!

Try to order a frankfurter in Frankfurt, and you’d most likely get a blank stare. But ask for a wiener or a Vienna sausage, and the Frankfurters — the residents, not the sausages — would know what you’re talking about.

Meanwhile, do the same in Vienna — ask for a Vienna sausage, instead of a frankfurter and you’d probably hear “was is das?” (what is that?). Yes, it happened to me.

Confused yet? Bear with me, as I confuse you even more.

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All Rice!

How can something so simple be this good? Fried, boiled, steamed – brown, white or wild – how much do you know about this most important staple food for a large part of the human population? Here’s what I know about my favorite food – fun trivia I’ve picked up from eating buckets of rice all over the world.

Text and Photo by Jennifer Ellson

In China, one asks “have you had your rice?” (“ni chi fan le ma?”) in lieu of “how are you?”

Meanwhile, rice is so well-loved in Japan that two car brands were named after rice. Toyota means ‘fertile rice paddies’, while Honda means ‘the base rice field’.

Back in China, there is an old wives tale that a girl who doesn’t finish her rice will have a future husband with many pockmarks on his face – as many as the girl’s uneaten grains! Oh how cruel! But there’s also a Chinese belief that leftover rice is a cure for migraines, so I guess there’s the silver lining for her: ugly husband, but migraine-free.

Here are other facts and trivia:

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Where in the world is the real Disney Castle?

It is real, but there’s no enchanted spinning wheel awaiting to prick your finger and lull you to a deep sleep that would last for an eternity.

Text and Photo by Jennifer Ellson

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Indeed, there is a real ‘Disney Castle’ once owned by a real king! It’s called the Neuschwanstein Castle, or Schloss Neuschwanstein in German, and it was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park in California, and at Hong Kong Disneyland.

But instead of Princess Aurora, it was a real Bavarian King, Ludwig II, who occupied the place.

So where is this neo-romanesque castle?

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How to eat xiaolongbao, the Shanghai food you can’t live without

A Shanghai classic, the xiaolongbao is probably the city’s most popular citizen. These mouth-watering steamed buns, a.k.a soup dumplings, look just like your normal dimsum, but they’re not. They are like wontons with a kick – a Bruce Lee kind of kick.

.Text & Photos by Jennifer Ellson | Additional photo by Greg Torres

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These little superstars pack a lot of goodness, cleverly hiding the juicy, flavorful and meaty broth inside the dumpling. From the outside, they look just like your normal dimsum, but they’re not. They are like wontons with a kick – a Bruce Lee kind of kick.

And if you’re not careful, you would literally get a kick! The soup inside is scalding hot and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen novice xiaolongbao eaters burn their mouths and tongues by shoveling the whole thing down their throats! Yes, my friends, this Shanghai native is fierce! You’ve been warned.

Here’s the ultimate trick to savouring these little beauties:
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Montreal bagels, smoked meat & poutine: Bon Appétit!

If New York has its cheesecakes, Philadelphia has its cheese steaks and Chicago has its pizzas, then Montreal has not one but three ‘must try’ specialties: bagels, smoked meat and poutine.

Text and Photos by Jennifer Ellson | Additional photos from Tourism Montreal
(Originally published in Food & Travel Singapore)

Montreal's poutine

Celine Dion is not the only reason why Montreal is on the map, you see. The city is also famous for its delightful culinary offerings. In fact, Celine is putting her money where her mouth is, quite literally, as she has recently become part owner of Montreal’s iconic Schwartz’s Deli.

Yes, my friends, if New York has its cheesecakes, Philadelphia has its cheese steaks and Chicago has its pizzas, then Montreal has not one but three ‘must try’ specialties: bagels, smoked meat and poutine.

Here’s a list of the crème de la crème:

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Take it slow in Slovakia, don’t be a brat in Bratislava

Walk slow and absorb the picturesque views of 18th century rococo buildings in pastel colors, with the backdrop of castles, then sip a cup of hot cocoa at a street corner cafe. Welcome to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

Text and Photos by Jennifer Ellson

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The best thing to do in this capital city, and what Germans still call Pressburg, is to walk around and get lost in maze-like cobblestoned alleys and take in the views.

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