Sunday, June 20, 2010

Food & Travel ASIA

A numerable travels to some countries in ASIA have widen my appreciation of its culture and all the more of its cuisine. Food in this territory is arguably among the most interesting in the world. The abundance of aromatics, spices and herbs that go with its dishes, proves no wrong that every morsel in its steaming pot promises to bring a lasting gastronomic memory. Perhaps, so much so that I can recall vividly how my taste buds were romanced many times over with wonderful sensory experiences. If I could borrow the paradox of one writer, indeed, "like all foodies who travel, I have tasted more than I remember and remembered more than I have tasted."
In this post, I intend to walk down memory lane and relive my best foodie finds in the countries that truly left a conspicuous ensemble of culinary mirth in me. The first country that I set foot into outside of my birthplace is home to the finest fermented bean paste and the genuinely, fiery spiced Kimchi, South Korea. I have been and always will be fascinated by the festivity of korean cuisine. I have never seen a dining table as busy as the koreans'. I am usually in awe whenever I sat at a dining table in a korean restaurant. I oftentimes got bemused yet enticed by the seemingly endless flow of dishes to be had. For an unforgettable meat taste, nothing compares to the juicy, succulent, meat superiority of their Beef Bulgogi. This is supreme beef dish to relish especially when wrapped with leafy vegetables. I've tasted the best authentic in Shilla Hotel. Other must try dishes are Galbisal, Bibimbap, Topokki and Champong Noodles. Likewise, there are notable snacking treats like Jwipo or Dried Squids and Dried seaweeds. These are the must grabs in streets and expressway stops.


My next destination was Singapore, the country which little did I know will be my second homeland years after. A multifarious culinary cauldron is what best describe this island estate. It is only in this country where a mix and match of flavors and a quest to the familiar and unusual are all possible. From the historical fusions of Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Tamil and Western cultures, the food fare is made into a mixture of old and new. My early favorites upon relocating here are the classics Hainanese Chicken Rice, Laksa, Bak Kut Teh, Nasi Lemak, Satay and of course the world famous Chili Crab. I am looking forward to that day when I can duplicate the same lip smacking goodness of this dish in my own kitchen.



Next, the land of the rising sun is the haven of my favorite asian eats. When asked what cuisine I love, the outright answer I normally give is Japanese. Subtle yet sophisticated, light yet rich, elegant yet simple, the juxtaposition of these flavor elements is something distinctively japanese. Japanese food is something to emulate but hardly equaled. It exudes paramount freshness and elegance. From steaming hot noodles to cold salads, to exquisite hand rolls Sushi and Maki, to deep fried stuffs Tempura and Karaage, to pan-fried Gyoza, Teriyaki and Okonomiyaki and to the well praised Kobe Beef, the list of the finest can go on and on. But the clear cut definition of a well deserved Michelin Stars is undoubtedly right in the alleys of this country. I will never forget how a bowl of noodles can actually transcend a real comforting treat. Each slurp is like heaven on earth.



Further down Japan, another booming vessel of great feasts awaits food enthusiasts. Not too long ago, my wandering palate found its way to the capital city of Taiwan and enjoyed more than a slice of its food heritage. Street foods, food court meals and night market gourmand treasures left a truly memorable mark from my visit here. In fact, 4 posts have been made about it in this blog. Adventurous, daring and odd yet tasty, intriguing and equally satisfying are its gustatory offering. The Stinky Tofu experience alone is already an unforgettable taste throwdown. What more, dining in a one of a kind Toilet Restaurant? That's by far one of the most out of the ordinary experiences I had.


Talk about well labored meals and cooking, the next country (that's also dear to me) is well known for this. By and large, Thailand is considered one of the most spice-wealthy in culinary. I will lose count if I try to give a run down of the spices typically used in their cooking. If only for the number of ingredients used, a Thai dish actually fits for a royalty. Where else can you find a food that tastes salty, sweet, sour and spicy all at the same time? This trademark is markedly embedded in Thai Cuisine. Wether the food is prepared from a lavish restaurant or from a humble food cart, the same balance of taste is guaranteed down to the last gulp. While I've yet to stir up a more satisfying Pad Thai, the best that I had was still the one that's served in the street side. Further, finding the right place to dine for the most talked about dishes like Tom Yum, Curry, Phat si-io, Som tam is never a problem at all, much less in searching for the best tasting local delicacies as food mementos. Food is everywhere. Good food for that matter.


And last but definitely not the least, China hold the pit stop of my Food Safari. If I would make an apt descriptor for each of the provinces I have visited in the mainland, Chengdu will definitely speaks of chili and high level of hotness. Ma Po Dou Fu and Sichuan Chicken are standard examples of fiery eats from this region. Shanghai on the other hand is known for its "wine or alcohol cooking". Anything that's fresh and live is practically drunken. Apart from that, I have tasted the best Chow Mein and Yang Chow Fried Rice somewhere in Pudong area. Since it's written in Chinese, it's a pity that I forgot the name of the restaurant. Guangzhou, is surprisingly the most daring of Chinese Cuisines. I was introduced to exotic eats here. Much to any foreigner's surprise yet questionable delight, meats initially perceived as familiar would turn out to be no less some ill-favored snakes, dogs and rabbits. This is the place where anything that literally walks, swims, crawls and flies is captivated into the heated pot. On the whole, the essential element in Chinese Cooking is largely influenced by heat and fire. These flavor notes are delicately and tirelessly incorporated into the dish through the manner of cooking. Thus far, any dish that goes to the palate is a culinary surrender.

"The world is like a book and those who do not travel read only a page. Those who do not sample the food, hold only the cover." For what I had so far, I'm exultant that I've started flipping through the pages. I simply look forward to go over the rest.

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