Food

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Eating in Siem Reap

Khmer cuisine is a curious thing, as it sits on the crossroads between Thai and Vietnamese dishes, though the dishes are slightly more sweetish, minus the stomach-burning heat yet still bursting with flavour with the abundance of herbs used in each one. Steven, our guide for the local food tour that we are taking of Siem Reap—and an ex-Scottish chef in a previous life—thinks that the cuisine in this region generally evolved at the same time, only with slight but distinct regional variations as national boundaries changed over the years. The tuk-tuk we pile on goes around the corner from where we stay and into a fairly large shop where...

Dollars & Sense: 10 things to note when budgeting for a trip

The problem of trying to figure out how much cash to bring on a holiday is something that typically doesn’t have a good solution. Overdo it and there’s so much excess cash that sometimes tempts you to spend it on things you don’t need just so you don’t have to convert them back to your own currency. Under do it and you’ll be searching out another money exchange counter in no time, which frankly, wastes precious time. When I used to do bi-annual 2-week trips to Europe about a decade ago, I went on a strict budget and told myself that no matter what, this fixed amount – do or...

Beyond the culinary

The crowds and the smells always indicate that something food-related is near. Well, it’s certainly true of the legendary night markets in Taipei – there’re 14 of them at least, some lesser known to the tourists which locals frequent – that are noisy, bustling affairs of smoke, dirt and well, some delicious finds. We managed only 3 here and if the plan was to eat our way through the streets lined with stores and persistent sellers, there’s really only so much I could stomach when it comes to fried chicken, bubble tea and starchy oyster omelette, let alone consecutive days of this stuff. More traditional dishes do tend to be...

Taipei Eats: A food tour

It’s difficult to know where to begin with the mind-boggling food of Taiwan but one thing I knew when I planned this trip was that it would be near impossible to get around to the places the locals like without having an English-speaking local to bring us around. Going with Taipei Eats for a few hours of walking and eating traditional Taiwanese dishes was a god-send, as was the lovely guide Jean who took us through the maze of streets and wet markets – and straight into the heart of Taipei where shops could be holes in the wall with untranslated menus. The philosophy of Taipei Eats, as Jean explained,...

The Path of Peace

In Ryukyuan legend, Nirai Kanai is the mythical realm across the sea where deities dwell and when invited, bring blessings into the home of the villagers. However seductive that imagery really is, present day Okinawa still styles itself as the island paradise (there’s even a bridge here named after this place), if the tree-lined paths, the beautiful coastal roads, the constant warm sea-breeze and the island vibes are any indications of what’s plastered on tourist sign boards. After days of driving along the coast and staring at Okinawa’s turquoise waters, it is beyond difficult to go back to the cramped streets and buildings of Naha and not feel somewhat claustrophobic. The place I’m putting up...

The comfort zone

Copenhagen’s sheen has stayed fresh for a few years now and really shows no quick sign of abating, which is primarily the reason TC and I chose to end our 2-week jaunt there…once again. To visit our favourite haunts, walk our favourite streets and simply take in the stylish and sophisticated Danish interior and furniture design that continues keep my mouth dropping open. We finally went back to Höst, tried out The Olive Bar & Kitchen and then walked straight back into Cafe Alma in Islands Brygge like bosses of the place. We ate, drank and essentially, stayed merry as we staggered around. And got drunk, in TC’s case. I don’t have much else...

Flavour of the far north

I think I fell helplessly in love with the world’s northernmost capital as the plane approached the large island from the southeast, even though it signalled the start of what is probably a gruelling journey of packed tours exacerbated by a persistent flu. Its notoriously changeable weather was in full force out of Keflavik airport, snowing small flakes as we queued like squashed illegal migrants on a tug-boat tussling for a space on the city shuttle. Coming in winter means spending one’s days in near-darkness with slivers of daylight, cloudy skies, hail and snow, but the prettily-lit streets and white surfaces makes it a classy Santa-land. Apartment K is cosy...

Noodles, rice fields and a side trip

Long before we left for Bali, I had a (stupid) dream. It was to buy Super-mi (a type of instant noodles produced in Indonesia) ever since I last ate them while visiting a friend in Melbourne in 2003. It was a silvery packet with a road-duck flavour, and since tasting them, I was completely lost and raged against the dying light and the dawning day when I simply couldn’t find them anywhere else. Weeks before we departed, I dreamt again that TC had already bought his box, while I struggled to buy my own. I related this very earnestly to TC, explained that I really needed the noodles after those years of...

A hive of (in)activity

The bus journey to Korcula runs daily at 3pm from the bus terminal and seeing that the check-out time at Pension Stankovich is at 10am, the morning was spent wandering about in the sweltering heat and finally into the Taj Mahal, a small konoba off the Stradun that serves strangely, Bosnian rather than Indian food. Bosnian sweets and strong coffee at 11am in the morning couldn’t possibly go wrong. Thus came the tufahijia, a dessert dish made from baked apples, chocolate and walnuts, then topped with a layer of cream. It was then back to the Pension begging for much needed relief found in a glass of cold water, Mac’s...

The Brouhaha of Brugge

Yet another day trip to Brugge, and as the travel guides promised, that place is overhyped and insanely touristy. I reached there smack in the mid-morning of the weekend and a bustling market was already in place selling mostly old women’ clothing, lace, hardware and other bric-a-bracs. The lace shops are undoubtedly tourist traps but also hark back to the era when Brugge was a textile powerhouse, and lace was one of the many materials that merchants dabbled in during its heyday. I was momentarily outraged that I had to pay a good dollar for a map, but the soothing nature of the girl in the tourist office helped take...