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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gallivanting around Southeast Asia has taught me that despite their different languages, religions and cultures, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and most Asian countries near the equator share this common trait: they love their dolce banana!
Most restaurants serve the famous Singapore pepper or chilli crab dish using Sri Lankan crab (also called scylla or mud crab), which is actually pretty good. But many foodies have declared the tastiest crab to be Alaskan king crab, probably named because it is the biggest crab in the world and the most dangerous to catch.
And there is a catch, indeed: crustaceans of this variety tend to be very pricey. Expect to pay some US$20/lb. for this seafood — and a single crab usually weighs between 8-12 lbs.!
Alaskan… Singaporean… Sri Lankan… Now who would’ve thunk that racial profiling applies to crabs too?
Alaskan dungeness crab at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA, USA
To whet your appetite, here’s some dungeness crab for you — probably the most abundant crab you will find in the western part of the US/Canada. This photo was taken at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington.
Tune in for more food porn and travel anecdotes! Keep checking this site, as it will get updated regularly with food & travel facts and trivias!