Street food (our favorite kind) in Saigon, Vietnam
A few months ago in the middle of a crazy, deadline-packed week I sat down at 11:30pm (you should know that when we're here at home in Kuala Lumpur we're usually in bed by 10) with a can of Diet Coke and took a phone call from Lynne Rosetto Kaspar, host of the American Public Radio show 'The Splendid Table'.
This was pretty thrilling for several reasons, not least of which is that Lynne's book The Italian Country Table is one of the most well-worn in my cookbook collection. She's a wonderful storyteller and an ace recipe writer, and that book inspired our first trip to Italy, in 2001. Its binding has dissolved, pages are falling out, and the text is stained with sauce and grease splatters. I love that book and if you adore Italian food you should have it on your shelf. Three words: Tyrolean Pot Roast. And two more: Potato Gatto.
At any rate, the interview is airing on this weekend's episode. If you'd like to listen to me wax rhapsodic about eating in Malaysia -- Penang, mostly -- you can do so via this link. And if you're here via that 'Splendid Table' episode, Welcome!
We've got almost 5 years' worth of archives so I thought I might make getting to know us, and the way we eat (and write and photograph), a bit easier, by linking our last year's food and travel highlights:
In April 2009 we swooned over a new menu item -- rolled and stuffed, cracklin'-encased pork roast -- at our favorite old-style Kuala Lumpur coffee shop and tried two street versions of Indonesian rujak (fruit salad) in Jakarta.
May saw us in Taiwan for the first time (second time for Dave the photographer). There, we tried and honestly loved chou dofu, the infamous 'stinky bean curd' and discovered a tandoor oven-cooked meat pie worth traveling for.
In June we extended our stay in Taipei once, and once again. This gave us time to check out Hsinchu, a wonderful and often-overlooked little town just an hour from Taipei by train. Back home in Malaysia we road tripped to George Town, Penang, which we love for many things, including long-established food businesses with interesting histories, like Kwongtuck Sundries.
The photographer took off for northern India in July while I stayed behind and ruminated on Islam, Politics, and Hidden Pork Stalls (incidentally that post quickly became the most commented-on in all the years we've been blogging).
After several years of cancelled trips we finally made it to the Toraja region of Sulawesi, Indonesia, where we ate freshly harvested white and black rice at a homestay in an idyllic setting and visited a coffee roastery Back in KL, we posted Cholon (Chinatown)-focused supplement to a walking tour of Saigon we wrote and photographed for Wall Street Journal Asia.
Memories of one the best Malay meals we've ever eaten -- on Langkawi Island -- made for blog fodder in September. We also coined a new name for the over-the-top double-cooked pork dish served at one of George Town, Penang's finest old Chinese restaurants.
In October we headed back to the U.S. and, on a cold and rainy morning in the Berkshires we virtually revisited a tasty charcoal-cooked egg-and-rice street food treat in Jakarta.
November found us attending a fascinating conference on World Street Food at Culinary Institute of America in California's Napa Valley, where I spoke with CIA's head chef about what it's like to cook authentic street food for hundreds of people, jotted down bon mots uttered by Roy Choi of Los Angeles-based Kogi Korean taco fame (yes, the tacos really are worthy of the hype), and interviewed Turkish chef and fantastically nice guy Musa Dagdeviren.
We remembered making piong ayam -- chicken and banana tree stem cooked in bamboo, a Torajaan specialty -- and eating homemade ulang sa gata, an unctuous prawn-and-coconut-milk dish, several Christmases ago in Pampanga province, the Philippines.
This last January was all about Sichuan province, China -- and mostly about Chengdu, where the photographer and I taught English way back in the eighties. The power of food memories was brought home to us during that trip. I'm proud of all our posts from Sichuan, but it was this one, about the glories of one-man wokkery, that received the most comments. You might also want to check out the photographer's gallery of images -- food and otherwise -- from Sichuan.
We are proud to contribute to writers' collective / food and wine website Zester Daily. One of our favorite pieces for the Zester so far is one we researched while in Sichuan, a combination text-slideshow about an organic farm outside of Chengdu, that was published in February. I also maintained what I consider to be an admirably neutral tone while reporting the proposed ban on the sale of dog and cat meat in China.
In March we took off for Chiang Mai, where we were introduced to an exceptional grilled pork stall, and northern Laos, where we visited Luang Prabang for the first time in 15 years and discovered a nifty, natural alternative to plastic bags. I also penned a piece urging travelers to venture outside their comfort zone for the day's first meal.
We've just returned from a quick trip to Saigon, and in less than three weeks we're off on a long jaunt to Turkey.
So it goes. Stay tuned.