What to Eat in Kunming: Across the Bridge Noodle Soup

January 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

Yunnan-Eats.jpgCredits: JSprague Digi In Deeper Course Material

This noodle soup dish has a typical Yunnan local flavor that could only be had in some parts of Yunnan and carries with it a love story. A scholar, preparing for the imperial exams retreated to an island in a lake. The wife delivers lunch to him daily, crossing a long wooden bridge. Dismayed that she couldn’t keep it warm, figured out that adding a thin layer of fat on top prevents the heat from escaping. And by doing this, she discovered that she could bring the broth across the bridge and cook the rest of her Noodle Soup there.

And with that, I had our driver bring us to Qiao Xiang Yuan, a restaurant chain famous for its Guo Qiao Mi Xian, which translates to Across the Bridge or Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle.

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Driver Wang ordered for us. Minutes later an attractive mix of ingredients laid before us. There were slices of lightly cooked (some raw) meats, Yunnan ham, strips of bean curd sheets, mushrooms, vegetables, rice noodles (of course) and a piping hot broth with a layer of chicken fat and oil glistening on top, the key to this noodle soup. The meat sliced wafer thin so that it will cook almost immediately when added to the broth. Once the vegetables and noodles are added, stir it a bit, and the Guo Qiao Mi Xian is ready to eat.

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A must try when in Kunming.

To read more about Kunming and Yunnan, read this and this.

Qiao Xiang Yuan: Shulin Jie, Wenhua District, near Jinbi Guang Cheng

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Where to Eat in HK: Under the Bridge Spicy Crab

April 12, 2016 § 1 Comment

Work will bring me to Hong Kong in a few weeks and I am reminded of the last dish I had a few years ago in Wan Chai. We walked from Gloucester to Lockhart Road to look for Hong Kong’s famous Under the Bridge Spicy Crab Restaurant. Known for their authentic and mouth-watering typhoon shelter crabs.

Back in the day before modern HK, there lived a community of fishermen living in typhoon shelters. Within this community rose a distinct culinary culture that centered on freshly caught seafood. As Hong Kong’s status as a fishing city decline, this community started moving to land, the younger generation trading up for better jobs.

Under-Bridge-Spicy-Crab

We found the modest restaurant with staff that hardly speaks English. With an atmosphere like this, it almost always promises an authentic meal. The star of the show is the bits of garlic, chili peppers, and spring onion stir-fried till crisp then tossed with the deep-fried mud crab—insanely addictive. I love this version because I prefer fried or just steamed crabs sans any sauce, which sometimes masks the sweetness of the crab.  The dry chill-garlic bits, albeit on the oily side, adds just the right flavour and heat to the crabs.  A must-try when in the area.

See you in a few weeks Hong Kong. I hope to devour your impressive crab dish once again. And hopefully, introduce you to the people traveling with me.

Shop 6-9, G/F, 423 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai

Vietnam Eats

September 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

If you’re thinking of visiting any part of Vietnam, the first thing you need to know about is that food is an integral part of their culture and livelihood. Anyone who has traveled to Vietnam will tell you that it is one of the major attractions. You can’t go to Vietnam and not have a taste of their cuisine.

food-cartsMore often than not, the street is its stage – street food stalls can be found anywhere from the main roads to the alleyways. Small plastic stools and a table taking up the sidewalk is a common scene.

small-tables-and-chairs

So what is Vietnamese food? It has a distinct flavor yet it is almost universally accepted palate-wise. The taste comes from fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, and fresh herbs such as mint, cilantro, and lemongrass – think spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet when combined. Influenced much by the Chinese and French, Vietnamese love their noodles and bread. Theirs is a cuisine that is light and refreshing, which is probably why it is easy on the palate. Their taste for fresh ingredients and simple methods has actually placed their cuisine on the map of the foodies.

On my recent visit to Hanoi, I rediscovered favorites and got introduced to new staples. So without further ado, here are a few staples and must-haves when in Vietnam, in my opinion.

Pho – THE staple of Vietnam, available all day and night long.

phoThe national food is a steaming, fragrant broth of rice noodle with chicken or beef topped with bean sprouts, mint, and a few more herbs. Squeeze a wedge of lime into it and the freshness of this simple noodle soup raises the bar for all noodle soups. It’s impossible to walk a block without bumping into a hungry crowd slurping noodles in a makeshift pho stand on a sidewalk.

Banh Mi – The French has stamped its mark on Vietnam through its baguette and has since been given a Vietnamese spin.

banh-miThis Vietnamese sandwich (more commonly called Banh Mi) is a heavenly concoction of crusty baguette filled with pork, pâté, butter, and an array of local ingredients (cilantro, cucumber, jalapeño and pickled carrots and daikon). Indeed a product of cultural and culinary blend that managed to put Vietnamese cuisine on the map.

Bun Cha – If Pho is Vietnam’s most famous dish Bun Cha (ubiquitous in the North) is what everyone prefers over lunch in Hanoi.

bun-cha-up-closeIt’s charcoal grilled patties and sliced pork belly served with a basket of herbs, cold vermicelli noodles, a bowl of nuoc cham (fish sauce, sugar, and rice vinegar mixture).bun-cha

Nem Cua BeBun Cha lovers normally order a side dish of this spring roll filled with small amounts of crab meat, minced pork, garlic, herbs, mushrooms, and glass noodles, then deep-fried to juicy/crisp perfection.

nem-cua-beDipped in the same Bun Cha sauce, this spring roll has become a favorite. Ah, Nem Cua Be! I’m dreaming of you now.

Goi Cuon – Fresh spring rolls, light and healthier version of Vietnam’s many spring rolls.

Goi-Cuon-Spring-RollIt is definitely a wholesome choice especially if indulging too much on the fried ones. Dip it in peanut sauce and your taste buds will be jumping for joy.

Nem Nuong Xa – Grilled minced meat on lemongrass skewers.

Nem-Nuong-XaI’ve always loved these and have long been one of the familiar Vietnamese dishes on my side of the world. It’s meat patties wrapped around lemongrass stalks/skewers then grilled. Simple yet so satisfying.

Ngo Chien Bo – It’s sweet corn kernels fried in butter. Introduced to us by the locals we befriended at the beer corner.

ngo chiem bo buttery cornThe one served to us had salty dried fish added to it. Crunchy, buttery, sweet and salty goodness… so definitely addictive, this little kernel of heaven.

Bo Bia Ngot – a dessert so intriguing though it didn’t call out to us at first sight until some kids on a night out convinced us to buy some.

bo-bia-ngotIt’s a rolled up crêpe made up of shredded coconut, sesame seeds, and light sugary candy pieces (sometimes just sugar). Made to order at a food stall. Another simple concoction that delivered a sensation of complex textures and flavor.

And because I have caffeine running through my veins, all meals end with coffee,

coffeeVietnamese style of course.

Ubud Eats

June 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

Ubud. The heartland of Bali where gently rolling rice paddies and volcanic hillsides offer a cinematic backdrop to a land steeped in culture.

Ubud-culture

Add to this a vibrant dining scene and you can’t keep me away for long. In this wonderland of art and culture, one can eat extremely well whether it be in fine dining spots, warungs or roadside eateries. Global or local, the choice is likewise abundant. Barely scratching the surface on our last visit to Ubud (last year), here’s sharing with you some delightful new discoveries and old favorites.

Bridges

Campuhan Bridge, Jalan Campuhan, Ubud. +62(0) 361 970 095

Bridges

Our Ubud escapade started here. Fine dining without the steep price tag tucked neatly along Ubud’s famed Campuhan Bridge.

Campuhan-Bridge

The elegant multi-level white veranda overlooks the tumbling river through lush greenery. A few small nooks at the corner of the upper dining hall offer uninterrupted views of the river, so I recommend calling ahead for these corners.

Bridges-tables-with-a-view

The menu is a mix of modern continental with local dishes thrown in, beautifully executed.

Open-Mushroom-RavioliOpen Mushroom Ravioli

Bridges-creme-bruleeCinnamon Creme Brûlée

Bridges-lemon-slice-strawberry-basil-sorbetLemon Slice with Strawberry Basil Sorbet

Bridges-PavlovaLemon Scented Pavlova

Expect salads, pasta, meat dishes and an array of imaginative desserts.

Naughty Nuri’s

Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Ubud +62(0) 361 977 547

Naughty-Nuri's

A simple shack this place may be, but the irresistible aroma of pork ribs grilling by the roadside is what will lure you in.

Naughty-Nuri's-grill

This grill house located halfway along Jalan Raya Sanggingan (and luckily, a stone’s throw away from our wonderful boutique hotel) has as main highlight its pork ribs—succulent and fall-off-the-bone tender.

Naughty-Nuri's-Pork-RibsNaught-Nuri's-sauceSauce To Die For

So pleased with the ribs, we forewent exploring more restaurants for a last bite here before heading to the airport. This might indeed be the best ribs in Bali.

Bebek Bengil

Jalan Hanoman, Padang Tegal, Ubud _62(0) 361 975 489

Bebek-BengilBebek-Bengil-Accompaniments

Bali is known for its duck. Set in beautiful, relaxed surroundings, Bebek Bengil (also known as the Dirty Duck Diner) serves a wonderfully tender and flavorful dirty duck with skin so crispy. Steamed in Balinese spices then deep-fried to crispy perfection.

Balinese-Smoked-Duck

Another specialty is the Balinese Smoked Duck. This needs to be ordered one day in advance. The duck is smothered with Balinese spices, wrapped in betel nut leaf then slowly smoked the traditional way, which is the whole day.

 Warung Pulau Kelapa

Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Lungsiakan, Ubud +62(0) 361 821 5502

Warung-Pulau-Kelapa

This came highly recommended by our guide instead of Bali Guling (Balinese Suckling Pig). I can’t say though that this is a better choice as I have not tried Ibu Oka’s famous suckling roast pig, but I can say that this was one of the best recommendation one can give.

Warung-Pulau-Kelapa-entranceWarung-Pulau-Kepala-interiors

First of the all, the warung is a beautiful, original Javanese village teak wood house with a beautiful herb and vegetable garden at the back.

Warung-Pulau-Ayam-Bumbu-Rujak

Ayam Bumbu Rujak: Stewed roasted chicken cooked in a mixture of coconut milk, Indonesian spices, and mild chilis. An East Javanese dish.

Warung-Pulau-dessertsDesserts of Banana in Coconut Cream and Red Rice Pudding in Coconut Milk

The menu is an extensive array of authentic Indonesian dishes taken from different islands cooked without MSG—Bali, Borneo, Sumatra… No disappointment there.

Cafe-at-Warung-Kelapa

At the back, behind the restroom area is a café where they serve excellent Indonesian coffee. They were test-running and invited us for a free taste of their coffee. We returned the next day to enjoy another round of coffee and dessert, this time we insisted on paying.

Coffee break at Café Angsa

Jalan Hanoman 43, Ubud

Cafe-Angsa-coffee-and-dessertBanana Fritters and Coffee

All over Ubud, coffee shops with scenic views of the paddy fields abound. Walk into any along Ubud’s three main roads, JL Monkey Forest Road, JL Hanoman, and JL Raya Ubud and enjoy a break from shopping or walking around town. In between shopping, we came across Café Angsa along JL Hanoman.

Cafe-Angsa-rice-fieldsCafe-Angsa-lounge

A cute little café with views of the rice paddies, cushions on the platform makes for a beautiful relaxing rest.

Where To Eat in Puerto Princesa: La Terrasse

March 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

For the last few years, I’ve wanted without success to try La Terrasse that it has somehow become an obsession.

breadstick

My first attempt was in 2012; they were closed for the Easter holiday (seriously, on one of the busiest week?). It is, to me, a sign that they don’t really need the tourist patronage.

cozy-atmosphere

Suffice to say that when we were planning our trip to Puerto Princesa last January, I had my mind set on this cozy, open-aired restaurant-cafe. And the truth be told, it was our first agenda after touching down. Straight from the airport with bags in tow, there we were at their doorstep.

tranquil-vibes

From the idyllic vibe to the service, appetizer to dessert, La Terrasse did not disappoint.

fresh-oystersFresh Oysters. Our appetiser.

The duck was superb.

Duck-Roll

Crispy minced duck in a Hoisin-based sauce combined with cucumber sticks and leeks wrapped in a soft thin pancake adapted from the very popular Peking Duck. We loved it and went back for it on our last day before heading to the airport.

Another memorable dish was the Adobo Overload.

adobo-overload

Adobo fried rice served with fried chicken and pork adobo and topped with pork adobo flakes. Now that’s overload in a good way. More importantly, the flavor of the sauce is how I prefer my adobo to be, not too acidic but very flavorful from the blend of soy and garlic. Started serving my adobo the same way. Love the idea of serving the rice already flavored with the adobo sauce.

The killer. Their Palawan nougat made with wild honey and cashew nuts

Honey-Nougat

and their Candied Orange Peel.

candied-orange-peelTo die for.

It’s really more of a “pasalubong”, something you take home, but we had it for dessert and I was floored, blown-away. I, of course, had to bring back some of these babies for when I need a pick-me-up.  That good.

Highly recommended when in Puerto Princesa, do make it a point to drop by La Terrasse. It’s on Rizal Avenue and a hop away from the airport.

Seville’s Good Eats

August 30, 2014 § 3 Comments

“Where can we go for paella?” we asked the front desk guy at our hostel. He looked at us, bewildered. “Valencia?” he finally replied. Obviously, Seville isn’t the place to have this famous Spanish rice dish… so much for that, I guess. A self-proclaimed tapas capital of the world though, some of Spain’s most imaginative tapas can be found here.

plaza-dona-elvira

The most popular way to eat in Seville is to ir de tapas, go out for tapas. You can’t be in this city and not do a tapeo, bar crawling. A humble tradition turned international phenomenon.

manchego-and-olives

The simple bread and cheese (used only to cover the glass to prevent flies from entering) has evolved to fancier feasts of foie gras and truffles. What used to go with the drink for free could actually be the star these days.

La Flor de Toranza

la flor de toranza

So instead, front desk guy pointed us to the Arenal district, a few meters away from our hostel, and there we found La Flor de Toranza (also called Casa Trifon after the founder, Don Trifon Gomez Ortiz). They had a traditional menu with specialty tapas of the fancier kind—foie gras, premium sausages, marinated turkey breast, anchovy rolls…

Toranza-montaditos-

Anchoas con leche condensada (Anchovies with condensed milk), a curious combination caught our eyes on the menu, and so did the lomo y mansanas (salt cured pork loin and apple sandwiches). Interesting play of salty and sweet on crusty bread, the anchovy sandwich came out a winner although the ham and apples didn’t disappoint either. A restaurant with a pleasant atmosphere and friendly staff—a Filipino wait staff even got out to chat with us when they found out we were Filipinos. Close to Plaza Nuevo and Avenida de la Constitucion.

Sierra de Sevilla

sierra-de-seville

Then we moved on to a few bars down. Sierra de Sevilla had Jamon Iberico (cured ham of the Huelva sierras) hanging at the rafters and that sealed the deal for us.

jamon-iberico

We found ourselves a table and ordered a raciones (a full plateful and not a small snack size) of this nutty cured ham sliced thin enough to melt in your mouth and a plate of Quezo Manchego from the La Mancha region.

Being a hot region of Spain, Seville is home to gazpacho but instead of the famous chilled tomato soup now popular all around Europe, I was introduced to Salmorejo, gazpacho’s richer and thicker cousin.

salmorejo

Topped with egg and Jamon Serrano, this creamy soup is sometimes used as a dip but is a lovely starter or even a light meal. I instantly fell in love with the fresh flavors of tomatoes, a hint of garlic and the fruity taste of olive oil blended together in this gloriously creamy cold soup.

Eating and socializing is embedded in the Spanish way of life and mealtimes here needs a bit of getting used to. A simple toast and café con leche are good enough to start their day, but they will need a pick-me-up at 10 in the morning, then lunch somewhere between 1-4pm. Most bars or restaurants close between 4-8pm for the essential siesta. And so lunch ended on our 2nd bar hop.

Confiteria Filella

Adriatico-Bldg

Walking out to Avenida de la Constitucion, we came across the gorgeous Adriatico building that housed Confiteria Filella.

confiteria-filella

Practically an institution, this confectionary shop serves exquisite traditional cakes and pastries. We walked in and were overwhelmed with a plethora of sweet goodies. We walked out with these:

filella-our-pick

Unfortunately, on April 5, Filella Isabel Gomez passed on at 74 and with it this historical shop, hopefully temporarily because if it indeed shut its doors forever, what a loss this will be for the Sevillanos and its visitors.

Bodega Santa Cruz

Bodega-Santa-Cruz

If you’re looking for a typical tavern where your orders are tabulated in chalk on the bar, look no further. On the corner leading up to the Giralda and just steps off the Alcazar, is Bodega Santa Cruz. When a bar spills out onto the street, you know that this is where you want to be.

pringas-sta.-cruz

With dishes such as Berrenjenas con miel (deep-fried aubergines with swirls of honey), Pringa, Lomo Chipiona and Alitas de pollo, you will not be disappointed.

mushroom-tapas-sta.-cruz

These were tapas that satisfied not only our palate but the pocket too. A good place to end after a tour of the Alcazar or the Giralda.

Restaurante Café Alianza

Cafe-Alianza

We chanced upon this by accident looking to rest in between a few hours spent meandering the alleyways of Barrio Santa Cruz. We thought to sit in the shadows of orange trees and bougainvillaea and enjoy the sweets from Filella with coffee.

tapas-alianza

Then we ordered some tapas and before we knew it, it was time for dinner. It was a good place to be lazy and watch the crowds. Café Alianza is in a charming hidden square of the same name.

rabo-de-toro

They boast of having the best Rabo de Toro in town. Falling off the bone soft, flavored wonderfully with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and wine, this oxtail dish could indeed be what the owner claims it to be.

Gago 6 Tapas Bar

gago-6-menu

Now, who says you can’t find good paella in Seville? Along Calle Mateos Gago, we saw this menu board and decided, what the heck… we’ve been craving.

paella

Maybe Seville isn’t the best place for paella and this may not be the best paella but it sure did satisfy that craving—it was nice, moist and crusty. With this plate of grilled meats (beef, lamb and chicken), our meal definitely did not disappoint.

One of the many joys of traveling in Spain is the food. Seville being the heart of Andalusia has an abundance of bars and restaurants to choose from. There is no lack of recommendation, the list is plentiful but the fun is in the discovery.   Walk around and go with the flow, you’ll never know what you might find.

La Flor de Toranza
Calle Jimios, 1-3
+34 954 22 93 15
 
Sierra de Sevilla
Joaquin Guichot. 5
+34 954 56 12 10
 
Confiteria Filella
Av. de la Constitucion, 2
+34 954 22 46 40
 
Bodega Santa Cruz
Calle de Rodrigo Caro, 1A
+34 954 21 32 46
 
Restaurante Cafe Alianza
Calle de Rodrigo Caro, 9
+34 954 21 76 35
 
Gago 6 Tapas Bar
Calle Mateos Gago, 6
+34 658 75 22 19

What to Eat in Cadiz

June 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

Freiduria-Las-FloresCredits:  Quickpage created by Roshni Patel.

Occupying a tiny peninsula on the south of Spain with five coastal provinces, Cadiz is blessed with some of the best and freshest fish and shellfish provided daily by the Mediterranean Sea.  Although its cuisine is typical Andalusian in character, subtle influences from the Romans, Phoenicians and the Moors spawned an exquisite regional cuisine with flavors unique to Cadiz.

Yes, the gaditanos (native of Cadiz) are meat lovers too, the pastures of the province keep it supplied with Iberico pork, goat, the local Retinto beef; however fish, fried fish, is the star.

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Dredge in flour (only) and then fried in a large amount of hot olive oil.  So simple yet so ridiculously addicting.  Sea bream, Dover soles, sea bass, cuttlefish, dogfish, and monkfish are usually what is used for this staple.

And the place to have a taste of this fried fish is at Freiduria Las Flores, a traditional fried fish restaurant, almost an institution in Cadiz.

IMG_1643A must try: Cazon en adobo–marinated fried fish usually dogfish or monkfish.

This fry shop serves excellent fried fish without the frills.  Ordered from a counter and served in a cartucho, paper funnels.  And like the dishes it serves, this shop is simple and functional.  Be prepared to wait for a table especially at peak hours.  Most locals order to take away.

I always leave room for dessert and if you are like me, you will love the pasteleria across the Freiduria Las Flores 2 in Calle Brasil.

antonia-butron

Antonia Butron is famous for her savory pastries, but the empanada filled with dates comes highly recommended, and so are their cakes and roscones (sweet bread loaf).

Or how about this delicious dessert common and renowned in this part of Spain?  Tocino del cielo, which means “bacon from heaven”, is so true to its name.

tocino-del-cielo

Traditionally made with the egg yolks that are discarded in the process of making sherry, this rich and creamy egg custard truly is a slice of heaven and a perfect way to end any meal.  Definitely a must have.

Freiduria Las Flores
Plaza de Topete, 4
+34 956 226 112
 
Freiduria Las Flores II
Calle Brasil, 5
+34 956 289 378
 
Obrado Antonia Butron
Plaza Jesus Nazarino, 5, Chiclana
+34 956 401 094
 
Av. Ana de Viya, 16, Cadiz
+34 956 284 260
 

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