Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Full Year Recap: Favourite Foods

I WANT TO EAT IT ALL!  And I did!  Ok, well, not everything, but a lot of things.  And all was good. Ok, well, some was good.  And there was much rejoicing!  Except for that time I got food poisoning from Nepal and it ruined Malaysia.  Thanks, Nepal.

Here are some lists of bests and favourites and honourable mentions and dishonourable mentions for all things food related.  Note that this entire blog excludes the USA because my time there was basically spent going to all of my old favourite joints so it gives them an unfair advantage.

I thought I’d just start off with a list of animals that I ate.  I’ve had a few questions on this so I’ll just get it out of the way.  There are the usual suspects and some unusual suspects.

- The basics:  cow, sheep (lamb), turkey, duck
- Chicken:  including hearts and hips (Japan).  They were good but I could see the arteries and it just didn’t look pleasant.
- Fish:  various species including swordfish/marlin (Mauritius)
- Ostrich:  in burger form (South Africa)
- Zebra:  a little bit of steak on a skewer (Namibia)
- Various antelope:  oryx, kudu, and springbok prepared various ways (Namibia, South Africa) and impala cooked as a stir-fry (Swaziland)
- Crocodile (Namibia, South Africa)
- Mopane worms:  dried, crunchy, and nutty (Zambia) and fried, greasy, and disgusting (Namibia)
- Red tree ants:  they only tasted like the soup they were in (Cambodia)
- Alpaca:  in various forms (Peru)
- Guinea pig:  I could see its little claws as I brought the leg up to my mouth (Peru)

I also had my first beef steak during my trip (I’m not a huge meat eater and only started eating beef, lamb, and fish in 2013).  I also had ice cream and a latte made using camel’s milk.  The ice cream was fine.  The latte tasted off.

Favourite Overall Cuisines:
1.  Mexican: if you know me or have read one of my past blogs, you know this is obviously my favourite.
2.  Thai: with noodles and curries and stir-frys and street food and mango sticky rice, Thai food provides great variety at affordable prices.
3.  Malaysian: combining local foods with influences from India, China, and beyond, Malaysian food is YUMMY!

Honourable mentions:
- Costa Rican:  the local cuisine was standard boring Latin American food, but Costa Rica’s variety and quality of cafes and other international restaurants was the best in Latin America.
- Japanese and Taiwanese:  I love aspects of both of these countries’ cuisines, but they also eat some weird shit…
- Indian:  Yes, Indian food is delicious, but it didn’t seem to have as much variety as some of the others.  Or maybe I just order the same damn curries all the time.

Dishonourable mentions:
- Cuban:  Being from near Miami, I do love a bit of Cuban food, and Cuban cuisine in Miami is delicious.  But Cuban cuisine in Cuba was terribly disappointing, mainly because they have limited access to most ingredients.  Even if I hadn’t had high expectations, Cuba would have failed miserably.

Favourite Restaurant Experiences:
1.  Cabrera 7 – Mexico City, Mexico:  Mexican food is my favourite cuisine, so it’s only fitting that my favourite restaurant would be in Mexico City.  Dreams are made of mole enchiladas.
2.  Hanamaru – Sapporo, Japan:  Delicious sushi, reasonable prices, mochi dessert on the conveyor belt, and an English menu.  What more could I ask for?
3.  Ba Fang Yun Ji Dumpling – Kaohsiung, Taiwan:  This little chain restaurant serves dumplings and noodles with black sesame sauce and I ate there several times across four cities in Taiwan.
4.  Madam Kwan’s – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:  Madam Kwan is a real person and I think she’s like the Jamie Oliver of Malaysia.  The menu is expansive and has every Malaysian dish ever.
5.  Makphet – Vientiane, Laos:  Part of the Friends International training restaurant network, my friend and I ordered way too much to share and it was all delicious.  We overate for charity.
6.  Sushiroll – Mexico City, Mexico:  This chain restaurant serves up a Mexican twist on sushi, including a manchego roll.  They also have sake sangria!
7.  Cocina Cartel – Phnom Penh, Cambodia:  This is the best Mexican food I’ve had outside of the United States and Mexico.  Who would have thunk?
8.  Crepes & Waffles – Bogota, Colombia:  This fast-growing empire fed me across four countries.  Excellent crepes.  Excellent waffles.  Excellent prices.  Happiness.
9.  Pier 21 – Bangkok, Thailand:  This is really a food court but it counts as a restaurant because there’s only one cashier.  Stir fry, mango sticky rice, and Thai iced tea for $3.  WIN.
10.  Chez Jeanette – Rodrigues, Mauritius:  Huge portions, great flavour, excellent attention, and a lovely setting really let the light shine on a cuisine that is delicious but rather unvaried.

Honourble mentions:
-  Villa Mon Tresor – Rodrigues, Mauritius:  It’s not a restaurant, but breakfast and dinner were included at this guesthouse and the proprietor, Marie Louise, is an extraordinary chef.
-  African cooking by Jess – Livingstone, Zambia to Cape Town, South Africa:  our trusty guide, Jess, somehow created delicious meals for us while camping even in the middle of the desert.
- Neighbourgoods Market (Cape Town, South Africa) and Borough Market (London, England):  these were the top 2 fancy market visits of my gap year.  Many options.  Much joy.

Favourite Cheap Eats:
1.  Taiwan’s night markets:  every Taiwanese city has a ton of night markets offering cheap eats of all sorts, including some western options and the ubiquitous soft-serve machines.
2.  Thailand’s fried noodle stands:  cheap pad see ew or other noodles are available from little stands all around the cities.  You can feast for 40 baht (under $2).
3.  Vietnam’s banh mi:  The best was hole-in-the-wall Banh My Phoung in Hoi An.  It serves glorious banh mi at CHEAP prices despite being made famous by Anthony Bourdain.
4.  Mauritius’ curry wraps:  faratas and dholl puri are two types meals consisting of Indian flatbread filled with vegetable curry and rolled up.  They cost about $1 each and are everywhere.
5.  Chile’s empanadas:  Originally from Chile but found all over Latin America, this fried or baked stuffed pastry fills you up like a full meal… for couch change.

Favourite Dessert Restaurant Experiences:
1.  Ice Monster – Taipei, Taiwan:  the most well-known Taiwanese shaved ice chain provides heaping portions (probably meant to be shared but I would never share dessert) in all flavours.
2.  Brunch – Salento, Colombia:  famous for their chocolate peanut butter brownie a la mode.  I don’t need to say anything more.
3.  Takano – Tokyo, Japan:  this “fruit parlour” serves up a long menu of desserts incorporating fruits. I normally go for chocolate or caramel, but my strawberry dessert was sinfully good.
4.  The 2nd Delicious Melonpan Ice Cream in the World! – Osaka, Japan:  I don’t know if this is the actual name, but it was so on the sign.  If this was 2nd, I’d surely like to taste the 1st!
5.  Granclement – Panama City, Panama:  On reflection, I think this was one of the best gelatos of my trip.  It’s not Gelato Messina in Sydney, but it hit the spot on a hot day.

Honourable mentions:
- Mango Sticky Rice – Thailand and Laos:  My love for mango sticky rice was cemented as soon as I entered Thailand.  I had it all across Thailand and Laos.  PUT IT IN MY MOUTH!
- Soft Serve – Taiwan and Japan:  wherever you turn, there’s an old Asian couple with a lucrative soft serve ice cream machine, always serving vanilla, matcha, and black sesame.  FEED ME!
- Churros – Latin America:  This isn’t a place, it’s just churros.  Street vendors sell them in Mexico and all over Latin America.  I LOVE THEM!
-  Crepes & Waffles – Colombia and beyond:  Obviously the above-mentioned place has desserts too and they even have ice cream shops in addition to their restaurants.  I went a lot.
- Emporio La Rosa and Heladeria Mo – Santiago, Chile:  I had a hard time choosing which of these two famous Santiago ice creameries was best so I ended up trying them a lot just to confirm…
- San Giorgio Trattoria – Bogota, Colombia:  This is more of a proper Italian restaurant, but they have a takeaway ice cream counter and their Limoncello gelato was unreal.

And that’s a wrap on food!  Months later and I’m still digesting… Here are some food-related maps.  I’ve eaten Mexican food in 35 countries… that’s exactly half the number of countries that I’ve been to.

And because sometimes we all get desperate, here’s a map of countries where I’ve eaten McDonald’s (13) and Burger King (only 1).  To justify this, I’ve had McDonald’s only twice in Australia – once when I was super hungover away from the city and once when I first arrived and was tipsy and just wanted to eat and go to bed.  In Morocco, the McDonald’s had just opened and it was the first and only restaurant in Fes to have air conditioning.  In Mexico, it was late and I hadn’t had dinner and I didn’t feel like walking too far at night on dodgy streets.  So sometimes it’s necessary or an appropriate spectacle.  For Burger King, I’ve only eaten there at the Saigon Airport because the food options were terrible and that’s all I could afford with my leftover dong.

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