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:

Continue reading

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

20120327-011855.jpg

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?

Continue reading

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

20120322-024305.jpg

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:
Continue reading

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:

Continue reading

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

20120315-182850.jpg

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.

Continue reading

Dessert Trips: Goin’ bananas in Asia

When it comes to desserts, Southeast Asia has gone bananas!

Text and Photo by Jennifer Ellson

20120314-011147.jpg

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!

Continue reading

New York: Eat & Run in the City

Move over Jamie Oliver and Wolfgang Puck, for here comes New York’s elite street food cart vendors to give the celebrity chefs a run for their money.

Text and Photos by Jennifer Ellson | Additional photos by Zach Brooks
(Originally published in Food & Travel Singapore)

Photos courtesy of Zach Brooks.

Who says the finest food is only served à la carte? In New York City, some of the best foods are served from the cart.

Think of Manhattan and the image of the fast-paced Wall St. and bustling Fifth Ave. sure comes to mind. With the frenzied hustle-and-bustle of city life, a typical lunch hour scenario involves hurried suits and worn-out tourists scurrying to the streets in search of a quick chow that appeals to both their bellies and their pockets. Long queues are not an option, hence, the popularity of street food carts and hotdog vendors that line the streets of Manhattan.

Continue reading

Where in the world is this nudist beach?

Where in the world is this wilderness-like, clothing-optional beach featuring 7 km of sandy stretches of naked beauty? Where women enjoy long… uhm… walks, and where men gets wowed by both small and nice big … waves.

Text and Photos by Jennifer Ellson

20120310-165441.jpg

Everybody’s welcome at the Wreck Beach: small, medium, large, natural or enhanced. In fact, you need not be naked to enjoy the area, but it is considered good etiquette to join in the fun! Bottom line is, everyone gets to enjoy the lush vegetation and the ‘full moon’ on display.

Continue reading

Where in the world is the real X-Men and Luthor Mansion?

Where in the world is this castle?

Where can you find the Hatley Castle, which you might recognize as Xavier Institute/Professor X’s mansion in X-Men films, or the Luthor Mansion in the hit TV show Smallville?

Clue: It is where you can have the classic afternoon tea at the iconic The Empress. It is also home to the second oldest Chinatown in North America – dimsum, anyone?

Answer is below, after the jump.

Continue reading

Munich’s B&B: Beers & BMWs

Ah, what is there to talk about Munich – the land of BMW and Oktoberfest – other than their prized car and ‘liquid gold’, beer?

Text and Photos by Jennifer Ellson

Bavarian weissbier, or wheat beer

Bird's eye view of the BMW museumThe city of München, Munich’s native name, is known for two things: B&Bs, and not of the bed & breakfast variety. If you didn’t know that BMW stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke, or Bavarian Motor Works, well, now you do! Yes, my fast and furious friend, BMW is headquartered in Bavaria’s capital city. In fact, ‘Beemer’ even has an eye-popping museum with hundreds of sexy, sometimes topless cars (and in the summer, topless women as well at the park just across the building!) Enough ‘Bimmer’ motorcycles are also on display to make the Hells Angels say ‘hallelujah!’

Beemers on display at the museumBut this blogzine is not called ‘CarTrips’, or ‘BikeTrips’, is it? So let’s talk about the other thing Bavarians are just as serious about: their beer, of course!

Continue reading