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Yeah, popiah, which has yet to be rolled up, together with the spread of condiments and sauces. :-)


Along the lines of having ones ability to enjoy local food questioned... Last week Bordeaux and I found ourselves at a tea house struggling with an all-Chinese menu. Thankfully, Bordeaux knows a small amount of Mandarin, and was able to ask our waitress what was good, in search of some suggestions. Ten minutes later, our food came out: deep-fried tofu, a bag of pop corn, and some microwaved chicken nuggets. I'm sure our waitress thought she was being helpful by picking out food that we'd enjoy. -X


balut :)


Cupcake - hmmm. That seems more of a technical issue. Sambal belacan comes to mind. It's challenging for a lot of non-Malaysian palates.

Xander - hilarious! Of *course* the waitress would assume you wouldn't mean LOCAL food when asking what was good. Sounds like Bordeaux needs to start appending 'and we don't want waiguo ren food' to his requests for recommendations!

drunkenlily - good one! How does one enjoy balut?


how I wish i had friends who can teach me how to enjoy the local cuisine tose years in Saigon . . . .

anyway,learn loads from here. Thx


I don't think I would ever ask someone that question unless they were sitting in front of me clueless and confused. However, the people who are asking you are probably not trying to insult you rather than to make sure you know how to enjoy the food and to eat it in a way that enhances the dish. Do you think someone who drenches their fried rice with soy and duck sauce knows how to eat it? Plus you may know what you're doing but there are so many more people out there who don't know how to use chopsticks, eat chicken with a bone, or speak another language. So it's a legitimate question.

Mike S

Easy. I've seen tourists in NYC get a tutorial on how to eat a slice of Brooklyn Style Pizza. (Fold, tilt head, enjoy).


I'm going to come across as very clueless but when I first came to the US as a student, they served Mexican one evening at the cafetaria. I was completely unfamiliar with Mexican food then and picked up a hard taco shell (I didn't even know that it was a taco shell at that time) and other stuff and proceeded to try to eat the shell, on its own, with a fork and knife. And then worked my way through everything else separately. To this day, I blush at my ignorance.


The no meat banh chung is for people who practice Buddhist, certain days out of the year they are suppose to refrain from eating meat. I'm Vietnamese and I still learning :-D


How to eat pizza? Cold, from the fridge for breakfast :)


Graham, we're obviously kindred spirits. No finer way to start the day!


foodcrazee - you're welcome. As we approach the 3 yr mark here I'd like to note that you have to be one of our longest-time readers. Thanks!

Hi papaya - To me, the question has a different feel in Vietnam than it does in China. To me, anyway. In the latter there seems to be this broad assumption - my opinion, of course - that the country's culture (food, art, language, anything) is ultimately 'unknowable' to outsiders, and a stubborn unwillingness to believe that waiguoren (foreigners) would ever truly be able to eat/speak/live locally, no matter how long they've been there. 'Ni hui chi ma?' is not an attempt to insult, it just reflects this assumption (just like 'can you really use chopstics? can you really eat noodles? can you really ride a bike? can you really use our Shanghai subway? I could go on and on).

The question as posed in Saigon seemed to me to reflect more of a real concernt that I would not know how to ENJOY the local food.

Mike S - I didn't fold my Di Fara's pizza. Did eat it wrong? ;-)

Annie - thanks for that story! Very funny. It makes me think of a Chinese exchange student, a grad student friend of mine, who spent Christmas at my parents' house back in the mid-80s the year I was in Chengdu teaching English. My mom served Christmas breakfast - sweet rolls and bacon etc. and fried eggs. When she laid the plate down my friend Qiao said 'Eggs with eyes!' He didn't know how the heck to tackle them.

Thanks nhbilly - as I note this was on the 1st or 15th of the lunar year, days when otherwise non-veg Buddhists abstain from meat.

Graham - I thought that was only a American college kid thing (Dave introduced me to it at uni).

YM Yap

Robyn - I agree with you on the context of who is asking the question. I was asked the similar question last month while trying the Chineses style ginger milk pudding in a Chinese dessert shop near Singapore Chinatown. I being Chinese was surprised when the Chinese server asked whether I know how to eat the pudding. I realised she was being helpful as she went on to demonstrate that the hot pudding (texture similar to soy bean curd)should be eaten by skimming the top layer with the spoon therefore allowing the next layer to cool down sufficiently before it's scooped up again. Ie not to dive into the pudding with a huge spoonful which may probably burned my tongue!


Re: balut enjoyment, start by peeling a bit of the shell, enough to guzzle the soup inside the boiled egg, then add either salt or spiced vinegar (just a small dash of either condiment), peel back more of the shell, start noshing on each layer of the egg - the yolk, the duck, and the white hard structure that I can't remember if it has a name or not - most folks I know won't eat it, but I'll nibble on it. I add a lot of vinegar when eating the duck baby, but love the yolk with a bit of rock salt. My favorite parts is the soup and the yolk.

How about artichokes? I think a lot of people still don't eat them properly, or enjoy them.


Thanks Mila! If you were by my side I might just consider trying balut. JUST. Maybe it's the 'eating of the duck baby' that puts me off. Clearly I don't know how to enjoy it.
Artichokes ... well, that's a topic with alot of opinions. Depends on how you cook them, and - if you choose to boil or steam them - whether you like the leaves with mayo, lemon, butter, or ....?

Chris R

A hunk of Stilton cheese? It's edible alone, but so much better with pears. Or port wine. Also, Thanksgiving dinner comes to mind: cranberry sauce + turkey. While I grew up in the USA, I'd imagine that I'd have to show my Thai relatives "how to eat" those foods.


loved your presentation at pecha kucha :)
sorry didn't stay longer to chat with you, was a little shy...


Chris - yeah, stilton, good one. That's really of the 'do you know how to ENJOY' it genre. Truth to tell I never did like cranberry sauce with my turkey. I always spooned it (chunky only please) up on it's own for dessert. Before the pie course. ;-)

Hi grace - Yay, someone came! It was good fun, much less nerve-wracking than I had anticipated. Audience reaction was gratifying. Thanks for coming ... but next time please come up and say 'hi'!


I've been thinking this over to almost no avail. Chris R beat me to it with Thanksgiving. I was thinking condiments in general. Although I guess this is the case almost anywhere. American food as a whole doesn't seem to have a lot of rules what with the prevalence of "fusion" food and restaurants. People like their Japanese sushi, but many will also eat it with cream cheese. Many of the most quintessentially American items are ones known outside America as well. Being a nation largely of recent immigrants means fewer things that are totally American.


Robyn and Dave, have you ever encountered Mami and siopao during any of your Philippine visits? Its a match made in heaven-a forkful of noodles and some of the meats for every bite of the siopao. Finished off with a slurp of the hot broth. Heaven.:)


a - yes I'm with you. There must be something American, but I've not been able to think of it.

Hi Reyna - yes! On our first trip to Manila in 2007 our hosts took us to Ma Mon Luk in Qiapo where we ate noodles and siopao, and they told us to dunk our siopao in the noodle broth. It was very tasty.


I was reminded of your question yesterday, sitting in a diner in Berkeley, watching the young Asian student at the next table eating his way thru a plate of pancakes, um, like roti ... tearing off bite-size pieces and dipping them into the tub of "sauce" (i.e., maple syrup) perched next to them on the plate. After my initial double-take I started to think, hmm, maybe that works better ...

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Charlotte King

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That's a great story Jim. Actually it does kinda make sense. I don't like it when my syruped pancakes get overly soaked and mushy. Though if that's what you're looking for dipping won't do. :-)

Charlotte - thanks for the kind words! That's the effect we aim for, with most posts....

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