I have a sneaking suspicion that if I asked you to tell me the first food that you think of when you envision Asia, I would be hearing an awful lot of “noodles” and “rice”, maybe some “fish” and “curry” as well. But, I’ve got to tell you that those are all the wrong answer. It doesn’t take too long here before you realize that by far the culinary craze that is sweeping the continent is a dish that goes by many different names, but which we tend to call hot pot. Involving a simmering cauldron of heavily spiced broth and generally some of the more creative cuts of meats we Westerners are more likely to toss in the trash, you can think of hot pot as Asia’s answer to fondue: diners are responsible for cooking their own dinners—thinly sliced beef, earthy mushrooms, nutty pumpkin, raw eggs, crunchy leafy greens, squishy blood cubes, tofu skin—if you can eat it, into the roiling pot it goes.
Six years ago at the tender age 24, I took my first trip out of the United States. Granted, it was only a trip up to Steph’s hometown of Toronto, Canada, but it was my first stamp in my first passport. Turns out, it was a trip of many firsts, as that was also when I had my very first bubble tea. Before I left for Toronto, Steph had told me about this drink she used to get when she was in university from a shop called Bubble Tease (how much do you want to bet that it was the pun that first got her through the door?): a sweet tea-based concoction that came in lots of different flavors—from lychee to green apple—and had tapioca pearls (or jellies, or both!) at the bottom. I’d never heard of it, but was game to give it a shot.
After one cup I was hooked.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, food was the primary motivating factor behind our unanticipated jaunt to Taiwan. Upon our arrival, we set out to conquer as much of Taipei’s food scene with our mission simply being “eat all the things”. Given the crazy amount of food that we consumed at Taipei’s various night markets, I wouldn’t blame you if you assumed that this is where we did all of our eating and that our mission was a success… Of course, while it’s true that you can dine like royalty at Taipei’s night markets and we definitely overindulged at every single one, there are other “can’t miss” dining experiences to be had and we were determined to explore those as well.
This week on Chewing the Fat, we are so excited to welcome one of our favorite travel writers: Kim of So Many Places. While our own travel blog was still just a glimmer in the milk man’s eye, we followed Kim & her husband Brian on their journey as they saved towards their dream of traveling the world, inspired not only by their journey and commitment, but also by Kim’s passion to discover and hone her writer’s voice. While we certainly read widely in the travel blogosphere when it came to planning our own trip and fueling our dreams, So Many Places is surely one of the sites that pushed us towards documenting our journey on a site of our own.
I like to think I’m a morning person, but the reality is that I always have been, and always will be, a night owl. My parents tell me that even when I was a toddler, I’d stay up late into the evening with my dad, sitting by his side watching late night television with him long after I should have drifted off to the Land of Nod. Tony is pretty much the same and back in Nashville we’d look forward to the weekends when we could stay up late watching movies or playing video games without having to worry about getting up for work the next day. You’d think that given our proclivities that our Big Trip would be nothing but late nights, but, well, we’re both 30 now and we’ve found that in our old age we value getting a full 8 hours of shut-eye in order to make the most of our waking hours and whichever city they happen to find us in. As we’re not really club or bar people (you’re shocked, I know), most nights we’ve been in bed embarrassingly early.
Are adventurous eaters the product of nature or nurture? My own childhood sheds little light on the issue as I grew up in a family with a fairly daring dinnertime table, although whether this was due to my parents having risky palates of their own or arose from sheer necessity is up for debate. I suspect it’s a little bit of both. My parents were no-nonsense when it came to dinnertime [and life — Tony], doing very little to accommodate the random culinary whims of their children and generally refusing to kowtow to picky proclivities: we could eat what was served, and if we didn’t like it then we wouldn’t eat at all, plain and simple.
This week we welcome the wonderful couple behind World Flavor to Chewing the Fat! While in Koh Lanta, Thailand (we know, we know… the blog is horribly behind!), we actually had a chance run-in with these two when they spotted us scoping out snacks in the local 7-11! We shared a great meal with them later that evening and a foodie friendship was born!
While I won’t pretend that this guide is at all exhaustive (as you might expect, there are a lot of bars in El Nido, but being who we are, we went to not a single one of them!), if you ever find yourself in El Nido, we do have some suggestions for places you might wish to seek out. So here is our list of where to eat in El Nido, and what dishes are worth seeking out.
This week we are extremely excited to be Chewing the Fat with a truly inspiring couple, the lovely duo behind Never Ending Voyage!
Erin McNeaney and Simon Fairbairn are a digital nomad couple who sold everything they owned and left the UK in March 2010 to travel the world forever. They write about their slow travels around the world, the tastiest vegetarian eats, and the ups and downs of life as digital nomads at Never Ending Voyage, and create iOS apps that make your travels easier at VoyageTravelApps.com.
In this installment, Erin & Simon hold nothing back as they reveal their best tips on how to get the most culinary bang for your buck when traveling, what’s currently in their fridge, what they really think about tofu, and so much more!
I am hesitant to paint with too broad a brush, but even based on our encounters with internationally-curious individuals, it seems like most people know very little about the Philippines. Instead, we scrounge the dusty corners of our brains, trying to find any morsel of information we may have once heard about the country as proof that we are not wholly ignorant. Of course, most of this information will come from major news sources that are in the business of selling headlines, and so they tend to focus on gloomy, scary bits of news. And yet, the stuff of headlines is generally as far from our daily experiences in the Philippines as you can get; the fact that there is a wide preponderance of shotguns and assault rifles out and about (even the security guards at bakeries have them… and yes, bakeries in the Philippines have security guards) took some getting used to, but honestly, we rarely if ever felt uneasy in the Philippines, never mind like our life was at risk.
We’ll be featuring a new interview every two weeks from people who have as much to say about food as we do, and we are certain it’s going to be a very interesting series! To give you a taste of things to come, we’ve interviewed ourselves first. We’ll kick off the rest of the series in two weeks with a fresh interview from someone new, so stay tuned!
Sans Rival. The name is a whispered hosanna on every Filipino’s lips. Filipinos love to eat, especially sweets, so the walls of Sans Rival, a purveyor of desserts, are nearly as hallowed as the Catholic church that sits proudly in the middle of Dumaguete.
Sans Rival. A French name for a Filipino bakery that was established in 1977, it means “without rival”. It is a statement, a promise, a challenge.
When we decided to start our trip in Asia, the thing we might have been looking forward to the most was the food. From sushi in Japan to bahn mi sandwiches in Vietnam to fragrant and spicy curries in Thailand and India, we could not wait to start eating our way through the continent. And that doesn’t even take into all the new foods we would discover along the way, like Malaysian food, Cambodian cuisine, and… Filipino fare?
Few things during our week in Shanghai were sufficient to tempt us from the cozy little den we created for ourselves in the French Concession—I’ve already recounted our somewhat disastrous foray into traditional sightseeing, an outing that only served to make us less interested in stepping out our front door. Only one curiosity was powerful enough to draw us into the city: the many foods on offer in Shanghai stoked a hunger in our bellies we were powerless to resist. Feast your eyes on what we indulged in during our stay!
This is the time when I would normally run down all the things we ate while in Beijing. Faithful readers know Tony & I love nothing more than posting gratuitous food photos to get you salivating. Heck, these posts often get ME drooling and feeling more than a little bit nostalgic for some of the meals we’ve had while traveling.