My travels in ...
Or the penis restaurant in Beijing...
People who know me also know that I consider myself fairly adventurous when it comes to eating. In addition to spiders which I've mentioned in a previous post, I have also eaten snails, entire frogs (and not just the legs), chicken sashimi, whale bacon, duck beaks, crocodile skewers, ostrich hamburgers, as well as the more usual delicacies that one can find growing up as a French born Chinese-Cambodian, such as smelly cheeses, shark's fins, stinky fermented fish or pickled raw crab.
It is also well known that the Chinese will eat anything, absolutely anything that has four legs (and even two or zero) except for chairs and tables. Chinese cuisine is incredibly diverse, employing a wide variety of ingredients and cooking techniques. But what I want to talk about here is something that is quite unique, even for the most daring Chinese: penis eating.
I stumbled upon this video today and thought it was quite hilarious. Watch as Adam Yamaguchi samples a variety of penises (including goat, ox and donkey) at this Beijing restaurant that specializes in penis, all kinds of penis. I had heard of this restaurant when I lived in Beijing but never tried it - and don't know if I ever will frankly!
And as an added bonus, here's a picture of the frog dish I ate two years ago in Harbin, China - known to me as the coldest place on Earth. Appetizing, isn't it?
Do you recognize what's in the picture above? Yup, they are lovely little Brussels sprouts on their stalk! I'd never seen Brussels sprouts stalk until I purchased this at Trader Joe's a few days ago. Isn't it cute?
I am a big fan of Brussels sprouts and unlike most people, I was never forced to eat them as a kid, so I don't possess any awful childhood memories of having to eat overcooked smelly Brussels sprouts. Because they are actually *not* smelly, that is, if you cook them right. These little cabbages are especially delicious roasted, or lightly sauteed shredded.
They're a little hard to fit in the fridge, but would look wonderful as a table centerpiece! =)
Supporting the UN World Food Programme
Remember when I talked about having dinner with Karen Coates thanks to a gift I had won through a raffle called Menu for Hope?
Well, Menu for Hope 6 is now up and running! You can find more information as well as the entire list of gifts at Chez Pim, if you're interested in donating some money and entering the raffle.
The first time I donated, I won the dinner with Karen Coates, and the second time, I won one-night at the boutique hotel Be Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia (valued at more than $200), which I gladly donated to my friend Jeremy who was going on vacation there to visit Angkor Wat. Jeremy said that the hotel was great and the service impeccable and warm.
Each $10 donation will get you one raffle ticket that you can put towards any gift of your choice. Gifts range widely from cookbooks, dinners at Michelin-starred restaurants, food tours, to chocolate, wine, and other food items. Strategically speaking, I like to wait until the end so that I have a better idea of which gifts received the least bids as to improve my chances of winning! Yup yup, it's for charity, but it's still nice to receive a gift!
The raffle is open now until December 25th.
Happy holidays everybody!
I was reminded today that the 5th anniversary of the tsunami that devastated Indian ocean coasts is fast approaching. I received an email from Reuters with this new website that uses multimedia to tell stories of tsunami survivors, as well as an article which features the picture of the iconic ship that was moved 5km inland by the force of the tsunami.
This ship... I have been meaning to post pictures about this ship actually. I visited it at the very end of my stay in Banda Aceh. The ship and its surrounding areas have been transformed into a monument and educational museum in memory of the tsunami and its victims. Houses have been rebuilt all around the ship. It is quite a sight, such a massive ship in the middle of the city, when a few years ago it was still sitting on the shore of the ocean.
The ship when I visited in July, and a photo of the ship taken right after the tsunami.
Another photo of the devastation in Banda Aceh taken after the tsunami.
A park now surrounds the ship.
In addition to that ship, I also visited another historical less well-known site of the tsunami. A boat that got stuck on the roof of a house and which saved 59 people. My friends and I motorbiked across the city until we found the boat. It was late afternoon and the sun was just beginning to set, giving the boat a light warm glow.
View from a railing that goes all the way to the top of the house and from which you can 'admire' the boat from a different angle.
Reminders of what happened.
It is no secret that I love Japan. Love the people, the food, the culture. A recent incident reminded me again of why I love this country so much.
Last week, maybe Tuesday or Wednesday night, I was working at my dad's restaurant, a Japanese restaurant in the center of Paris. I'm on the phone taking an order for delivery (by the way, when deliveries are free, please please tip your delivery man! Can't believe how many of our customers don't even have the decency to tip our delivery people. Plain greedy. Especially when some deliveries are on the other side of Paris!). A man comes in looking for Japanese-speaking people. My dad tells him that noone speaks Japanese here. He's surprised and exclaims "we're in a Japanese restaurant and noone speaks Japanese?!" (but really, do you always expect to find Italian-speaking people in an Italian restaurant?) I get off the phone just as he's about to walk out the door and ask what's going on. My dad calls the man back and tells him I speak some Japanese - my dad had forgotten about me.
It turns out that an old Japanese lady was with him. She had gotten lost, and he was trying to help her find her way but could not communicate with her. I thought it was really nice of him to take the time to find someone else who could speak Japanese. As you may have heard, not all Parisians are nice. The lady, probably over 60 years old, did not have the name of her hotel, nor the phone number, nor the address. Absolutely nothing that could help us locate where she needed to go. She told me to tell the man that he should go and that she was sorry she took so much of his time. When he left, I asked her a few more questions, "do you know the hotel's metro station? is it very far from the metro? can you remember the name of the hotel?"
Despite my broken Japanese (I have not practiced for more than 2 years), I gathered that it was very near our restaurant. She apologized again and said that she would go out on her own and try to find it. But I felt so bad for her. An old lady, all alone, who cannot speak any French nor English. I wasn't sure how long it would take her to find her hotel. So we ventured out together. I took her to another hotel first to ask if they had a list of hotels in the neighborhood, without any luck. She was explaining to me where she thought the hotel was. So I figured she must just have taken the wrong exit. After walking around for a little bit, she finally recognized a bakery where she had bought water that morning. The hotel was right around the corner!
She was so grateful for my help, and to my dad for letting me go even though I was working. Tears swelled in her eyes as she thanked me again and again. And again and again. Bowing to the waist, her forehead almost touching the ground.
Then, a few days later, on Saturday night, that old lady came back to the restaurant! At least she was not lost this time. No, she wanted to have dinner, and to give me a thank-you gift (although she first apologized because they were not "good" gifts). I ordered her some sushi and sashimi, got her miso soup. She, in turn, gave me two bags of gifts. One with Japanese instant noodles, rice, and matcha. Another with some Japanese handkerchiefs, as you can see in the picture below. It was way too much. This time, I was the one bowing to the waist.
This is why I love Japanese people. When I lived in Japan, I had been continuously impressed with their thoughtfulness and kindness ... and I obviously still am today.
Some Japanese instant noodles, imported from Japan no less. Some handkerchiefs with Japanese prints. Little toothpick umbrellas. And more, that we've already eaten or drunk.
40 Filipinos kidnapped and 21 dead in election-related violence, the New York Times reports.
You will remember my love for South Central Mindanao's peacefulness. Unfortunately, the violence in other parts of Mindanao is real, as evidenced by these recent killings in Maguindanao province, which borders Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato provinces where I used to work. Forty kidnapped, 21 dead and many beheaded. There are no words to describe such terrible acts.
The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is turning 20 this week.
Three years ago, when I was still living in Japan, I participated in an online raffle organized by the food blog Chez Pim. Ten dollars gets you one raffle ticket that you can put towards a price of your choice, prizes which are all graciously donated by other food bloggers and food professionals. All funds raised are then donated to the UN World Food Programme.
That year, the raffle, called Menu for Hope raised more than $67,000. I had myself purchased tickets for a prize that I thought I would easily win: a dinner with food blogger Karen Coates from Rambling Spoon in Phnom Penh to take place in February 2007. "What are the chances that someone else might be in Cambodia in February and would bid on that prize??" I thought. Sure enough, I was probably the only one (or maybe one of two).
I had dinner with Karen, her husband Jerry and their friend Andy, at Romdeng (a non-profit restaurant that takes in street children and gives them livelihood skills). It was a fabulous dinner with great company. It was also a memorable dinner for another reason: I ate spiders for the first time.
But I cherish this meal because it allowed me to meet a great journalist who not only writes about food as a commodity to be eaten, but also writes about all that comes with food and the food industry, its history, its culture, its politics and its consequences on the lives of people.
Her most recent article embodies just that. It reminds me of why I am doing what I am doing, and of what remains to be done. I invite all of you to read it. The pictures are all taken by her husband, photographer Jerry Redfern. The article can be found right here.
I may not have had the time to visit the touristy parts of Manila, like Binondo (Chinatown, where I breezed through for a nice dimsum meal) or Intramuros (the old town), but I did have the opportunity to visit a few art exhibits! I like going to hole-in-the-walls underground places because it allows me to feel connected to a city in a very different way than mainstream tourism, and to observe a segment of life hidden to many.
The first was a tiny exhibit called "The Museum of Broken Relationships" set in the oh so trendy Greenbelt mall. The idea started in Croatia and goes like this: What do you do with all those gifts your ex gave you? Why not donate it to a museum! It contained interesting pieces, from broken stuffed animals, to an old wedding dress, to love letters and cards.
I also passed through the gift shop of the Ayala museum (which coincidentally is also in Greenbelt). Some Filipino collage-type art was on display.
My friend Helen who used to live in Manila and now lives in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, came to visit for a few days. She is very connected into the art world in Manila and I happily tagged along! Here are some paintings by friends of friends of hers, at the Blanc gallery in Makati (also not too far from Greenbelt... you see a trend here?).
Finally a picture from Silverlens gallery where I attended an art opening with a rock band. This is very close to Magallanes Village where one of the SC offices is located.
How about you? Have you been to any interesting art exhibits lately?