Food for Thought with Singapore Foodie

The Food for Thought series explores the complex relationship between food and culture. Traditions, language and environment are all factors that influence the dishes that come to define a place. As we travel, food can open doors. Sharing a meal leads to new friendships, exploring a local market reveals something new to us about the place we’re visiting. Food is not just sustenance. It’s part of the joy we find through travel. Each Food for Thought interview helps us see how others experience culture through food. This week we’re chatting with Victoria from Singapore Foodie. How we wish we’d known about her blog before our visit to Singapore! We can’t wait to try out one of her self-guided food tours next time we’re there! An honest perspective is sometimes hard to find, and we really respect Victoria’s ability provide that. She’s aware of the challenge to remain impartial when getting a meal for free, so she focuses getting the full experience as a regular diner. From the famous Singapore hawker centers to fine dining restaurants, to where to find vegan and other special offerings, Singapore Foodie covers all the bases.

Tori-Tanjong-for-twitterMeet Victoria

A talented and versatile writer specializing in the food and travel sector Victoria has been featured in Expat Living Singapore and many online publications including the new travel app for Singapore, Perfect Day. Victoria is the founder of Singapore Foodie, a website dedicated to finding the best places to eat in Singapore. Victoria’s food journey began in her home town of Melbourne in Australia and has since taken her to Sydney, Salt Lake City, London and now Singapore. Victoria has travelled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the United States and Africa and has developed a love of travel and food that has formed the basis of a new career.

Food for Thought

The underlying idea of the “Food for Thought” series is that to truly experience a culture you must taste it. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

100%. Absolutely. Categorically. Agree. Food is nutrients for the soul, without it we’d be a) hungry and b) miserable. In most cultures food is the centre of everything that is good. Whether it’s family celebrations, enjoying the company of others, nurturing one another or celebrating special times of year, food is always present.

What food do you identify with “home?” Does it reflect something about your own culture or upbringing?  Do you crave it while you’re away?

I’m Australian, I have to say Vegemite ;) Although I’m not one to take it with me when I travel, if I was to see it whilst I happened to be in the wilds of Borneo it would immediately remind me of home and I’d have to have it.

Giant Taiwanese Cake

Giant Taiwanese Cake

How has travel affected the way you think about food?

Trying new foods has always been important to me but it wasn’t until I started extensively travelling that it really turned into an obsession. Having lived in some of the best ‘foodie’ cities in the world (Melbourne, London and Singapore) I’ve always been spoilt for choice. Learning about different cuisines though, particularly in Asia, has been eye opening and has meant that my research before travel now is almost entirely centred upon food related activities. This sometimes means eating more than three meals a day!!

Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)

I don’t have a particular technique. It depends on the place I’m visiting. In big cities it’s usually more about restaurants and markets. In smaller cities, and particularly in Asia, it’s more about street food. I’d say that merely reflects the food culture in those places. And I would always try to enjoy a meal with a local if I have a contact somewhere. Nothing beats sharing food in someone’s home.

no menu buffalo2

Tell us about a memorable meal that was so special it is forever ingrained in your memory. Where was it and what set it apart? What was served, and who shared it with you?

This question is too hard! A few spring to mind but I’m going to say that it was several meals that derived from one slab of meat. In 2010 my husband and I spent 6 months travelling through Europe in a campervan. When we got to the north of Italy we met friends who lived there and they helped us buy a whole Prosciutto (about Euro 250 and 5 kgs or so). Our plan was to spend the next three months eating it! We had hired a house in Calabria and had a series of friends and family visiting so every evening we would take out the Prosciutto and carve the meat for the evening. Usually we’d have it with some melon, or maybe as charcuterie with fresh cheeses or salami that we’d bought. It was a fabulous ritual and I’ll remember it forever. It lasted us right till the very end when my husband gnawed it to the bone ;)

Food for Thought

Buffalo blood and bile

What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?

I recently visited Laos and spent a day visiting the markets and learning to cook Laotian food. One of the common flavourings included in the buffalo meat salad I made was buffalo bile. I was a bit hesitant about including it but figured that if that was customary then I should do. It was merely flavouring and there was no noticeably strong or unpleasant taste from it so I guess I would try it again.

And just for fun, if you had to choose one country’s cuisine to eat for the rest of your life what would it be?

Italian

All images provided by Victoria from Singapore Foodie.  Connect with her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

 

 

Cities of the Dead: New Orleans Cemeteries


New Orleans Cemeteries

By TurtlesTravel

  • Saint Roch's Cemetery #1

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  • Saint Roch Chapel

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  • Oddities inside Saint Roch Chapel

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  • Cool camera inside Saint Roch Chapel

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  • One of the stations of the cross

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  • Mausoleums

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  • Statue on top of a mausoleum

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  • Saint Roch's #1

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  • Poor Fella

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  • Saint Louis Cemetery

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    The oldest cemetery in New Orleans

  • Marie Laveau's resting place

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  • Mausoleum Paint

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  • Saint Louis Cemetery Palm

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  • Book left at one mausoleum

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  • Only in New Orleans

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  • Statue in Saint Louis Cemetery

    By TurtlesTravel

The first things that come to mind when thinking of New Orleans are usually Mardi Gras, drinking to excess on Bourbon Street and maybe Jazz Fest or beignets at Cafe du Monde. These may be part of the experience, but there are some interesting places to explore outside the French Quarter too. New Orleans Cemeteries are just such places.

New Orleans Cemeteries

We’re find visiting cemeteries fascinating no matter where we are traveling, and New Orleans cemeteries are truly unique. When a city is built on a swamp, the deceased must be buried in above-ground mausoleums and crypts. This is the case with New Orleans cemeteries. (This also follows French and Spanish tradition) The seemingly endless rows of structures, each decorated a little differently from the last, remind people of neighborhoods. As such, they have come to be referred to as “Cities of the Dead.” While we didn’t have time on this visit to see more than a few, There are some great lists and maps out there to start your own exploration. The non-profit Save Our Cemeteries, which works to promote, preserve and protect New Orleans Cemeteries, offers tours if you’d like a bit more information and guidance.

St Louis #1

St. Louis Cemetery

St. Louis Cemetery #1 is probably the most famous of the New Orleans cemeteries. It’s also the oldest, founded in 1789. Located not far from the French Quarter (walking distance) in the Treme neighborhood, this cemetery is the burial place of the “Voodoo Queen” Marie Laveau. Her crypt is marked with many sets of three X’s made by visitors who have come to pay their respects and ask for favors. There were also small offerings like beads, a tie, plastic figures set up in front of the tomb. Eerie. Many other well-known New Orleans figures are buried here as well, including political and business figures, socialites and entertainers. Keep an eye out for a blue musical note, encircled by a cross atop one tomb for New Orleans musicians. St. Louis Cemetery #1 is also included on the Louisiana African American Heritage trail. The first African American mayor of New Orleans has his final resting place here. Just a few blocks away, St. Louis Cemetery #2 is well worth a visit. A number of famous jazz and blues musicians are buried here. St. Louis Cemetery #3 is about two miles away, but has some of the most elaborate tombs of the three. It was built on a leper colony, and contains over 10,000 burial sites and 3000 wall vaults!

St Roch #1

St. Roch

St. Roch will lure you in with its haunting features. We spent over an hour wandering among the columned crypts, studying the statuary on top of the tombs, looking at dates and names, peering through fences and following the stations of the cross in the cemetery’s corners. One of the most interesting spots is a small room inside the chapel. The floor is lined with bricks inscribed with messages of Thank You and Merci. The room is filled with thank you notes, braces and crutches, and plaster models of hands, feet, brains and other organs.These offerings and remembrances are left in gratitude for answered prayers. We wondered especially about an old camera, decorated with glitter, but well-worn. Also in this room is a heart, set halfway up the wall. On it you can see a distinct line marking how high the water rose after Hurricane Katrina. St. Roch #2 is right across the street and has some cool tiled mosaics of saints around the perimeter.

Also worth a visit:

Lafayette Cemetery #1, located in the Garden District. Non-denominational and non-segregated, this cemetery houses the remains of immigrants from 25 countries and residents of 26 states. There are a number of connections to the Ann Rice Vampire Chronicles series, including some filming that took place here.

Metarie Cemetery, formerly a racetrack, this space was converted into a cemetery after the Civil War. It’s sprawling, and feels more rural than other New Orleans cemeteries.

 

Food for Thought with Mytanfeet

There is an undeniable connection between a culture and its food. Traditions, heritage, language and environment are all ultimately linked to putting food on the table. Food doesn’t just nourish the body. It creates bonds within communities and between individuals. As we travel we are able to eat traditional dishes, learn to cook with ingredients grown in the places we visit, and shop in local markets. In doing so, we build bridges. We gain insight into local culture, and often make new friends in the process! This week’s Food for Thought interview is with Samantha and Yeison from Mytanfeet. While we wish we’d had their in-depth guides to travel and life in Costa Rica before our visit there, we’ve been having a great time following their recent adventures in Asia. As expected, many of these have to do with food (like their interesting trip to the Jalgachi Fish Market in Busan, S. Korea!) Read on to hear more of their perspectives in this week’s interview.

Meet Yeison and Samantha

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We are Yeison and Samantha, an adventurous couple whose home base is Costa Rica. We’re on a quest to take our tan feet around the world while enjoying as many beaches and sunsets as possible.

Food for Thought

The underlying idea of the “Food for Thought” series is that to truly experience a culture you must taste it. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Absolutely agree! Food is one of the most essential parts of culture, if it wasn’t then every person in the world would be eating the same thing! You can learn so much about a country by eating the food. Our philosophy is how can you truly experience traveling like a local or gain any insight into the life of a local if you don’t eat what they eat? Plus there is always a backstory or history to the dish and it’s more than just eating that allows you to get in touch with a culture. You gain a deeper appreciation for the food when you learn what makes a certain dish so special.

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What food do you identify with “home?” Does it reflect something about your own culture or upbringing?  Do you crave it while you’re away?

(Samantha) the food I personally identify with home is Taiwanese food because that is what I ate growing up despite being raised in the United States. In my household, we barely ate anything else! No hamburgers, no pizza or anything American (though we did have the occasional Papa Murphy pizza). While I was living in Costa Rica I craved it everyday since there weren’t any good Taiwanese, let alone Asian restaurants in our town. I sorely missed my tofu!

How has travel affected the way you think about food?

It’s made me realize that I’ve only tasted a tiny part of what’s out there and I’ve actually planned our Malaysia trip around food since I heard there were certain places that were world famous for their food. For me, it’s a part of travel that I absolutely don’t want to miss out on. It’s also interesting to see the variations between dishes. Even something so simple as noodle soup can vary greatly between countries. For me, those differences highlight the uniqueness of each country.

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Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)

We’re not big on cooking classes although that does sound like fun but we like to find the places where the cab drivers eat. Since cab drivers always have to eat out, they know where to get cheap but good local food. We also like to browse the supermarkets and see what kind of food the locals buy. I especially love browsing the spices aisle to find out what kinds of flavors they use.

Tell us about a memorable meal that was so special it is forever ingrained in your memory. Where was it and what set it apart? What was served, and who shared it with you?

During my very first solo trip to Costa Rica to visit Yeison, he found an authentic Taiwanese restaurant in San Jose and took me there as a surprise. It was memorable for me because I was incredibly touched that he took the time to find a place he knew I’d like with food I was familiar with. Even though it was really different for him, he had a great attitude about it, wanting to learn more about the Taiwanese culture and food. That meant a lot to me, especially as it was my first trip there! I don’t exactly remember what we ate and I don’t know the names in English, but it was a vegetarian Taiwanese restaurant that actually had some of my favorite dishes.

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What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?

I haven’t tried too many weird foods on our travels but some food that is normal for me may not be normal for others. Growing up I was used to eating chicken feet, pig feet, pig ears, duck tongue and beak, intestines and cartilage. Poor Yeison has had quite a shock so far in Asia since they don’t eat anything like that in Costa Rica.

And just for fun, if you had to choose one country’s cuisine to eat for the rest of your life what would it be?

Oh that is such a hard one! I haven’t found a cuisine I dislike but I think I might have to go with Taiwanese or Japanese. I love Taiwanese food but I could seriously eat sushi every single day!

All images provided by Yeison and Samantha  from Mytanfeet.  Connect with them on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

 

 

Hmongtown Marketplace: SE Asia in Minnesota

hmongtown marketplace farmers market

So many veggies and fruits at the Hmongtown Marketplace Farmer’s Market

Minnesota’s Diversity

Minneapolis and St. Paul are much more diverse than we imagined. When we visited a couple of years ago, we learned that Minneapolis has the largest Somali population in the US and the second largest Ethiopian and Vietnamese populations. It turns out that the Hmong population here is the largest outside Laos! The 2010 census reported 66,000 ethnic Hmong in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. There’s even a business/cultural district in St. Paul called “Little Mekong” located between Mackubin and Galtier streets along University Avenue. This district, of course, is named for the Mekong River that runs from China through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, connecting the cultures of Southeast Asia.

hmongtown marketplace

Hmongtown Marketplace

The Hmong people arrived in the area mostly as refugees. Many came during the late 1970s and early 1980s, but there are new waves arriving from time to time. There is a Hmong Cultural Center near the main concentration of shops. Then, there are two main Hmong markets: Hmong Village (located on Johnson Street) and Hmongtown Marketplace. We read up on each and decided to visit the latter. We’ll have to save the delights of Hmong Village for another trip. Located just north of “Little Mekong” on Como Avenue, Hmongtown Marketplace is the perfect place to explore this side of St. Paul, and satisfy your cravings for good Hmong food, shop for traditional clothing, grab some Hmong videos and load up on fresh fruits and veggies! We spent an afternoon at Hmongtown Marketplace doing just that.

Sausage and Purple Rice

Hmong Sausage and Purple Sticky Rice

Coconut Chicken Curry

Coconut Curry Chicken Noodle Soup

Keep an eye out for these dishes!

Not to be outdone by Andrew Zimmern on his visit to St. Paul, we had to explore what Hmongtown had to EAT. Hmong curry noodles are similar to those found in Cambodia or Thailand. The balance of sweetness and spiciness of the Hmong version is, for us, just right. Papaya Salad is made as you watch with a giant mortar and pestle. Spice levels are authentic for Southeast Asia, so ask for medium unless you’re feeling bold. Juicy, meaty Hmong sausage was delicious accompanied by purple sticky rice. Don’t forget to try some of that famous tri-color Nab Vam (Nava) drink too. There’s one whole stall dedicated to every bubble tea flavor you can think of. Rose milk tea is highly recommended (by me)! We went home with a package of spring rolls and a bunch of unidentified colorful snacks. Prices in the food court area were all very reasonable, but you’ll be better off bringing cash. Some vendors are cash only.

peppers

Colorful peppers at the Farmer’s Market

Farmer’s Market

The Farmer’s Market section is filled with all sorts of fresh fruits and veggies. We recognized some from past travels in Southeast Asia, while we had no idea what many other items were. Vendors speak varying levels of English, but are more than willing to try and help or explain. We got a huge piece of fresh ginger at a great price, plus some rambutans and lychees. If you know your herbs, you’re likely to be able to find whatever Southeast Asian variety you’re looking for here. They’re all tied up in bundles, and some seemed to be grouped together, ready for use in preparing specific dishes.

Vegetables

Hmongtown Marketplace clothing selection

Traditional Hmong clothing

Traditional Clothing, Medicine, Housewares and More

Hmongtown Marketplace has many stalls dedicated to traditional Hmong clothing items: hats, skirts, shirts, etc. The embroidery is amazing. Other vendors specialize in medicines, very interesting to browse.

The Hmong Cultural Center, located nearby, has an extensive collection of Hmong literature, research and materials. You can walk in any time they’re open and learn something of Hmong history, culture and the US experience.

Medicines and roots at the market

Medicines, roots and beauty products at the market

Food for Thought with Heart of a Vagabond

The Food for Thought series explores the intricate relationship between food and culture as seen through the eyes of travelers. As we travel, visiting a local market, sharing a meal, or learning to cook with new ingredients are great ways to get to know a new destination. We forge new relationships, and make new friends based on this basic human need. We all have to eat! This week we meet Yara from the blog Heart of a Vagabond. Yara’s blog reminds readers that different eating habits or beliefs don’t need to hold you back when it comes to travel. With a little flexibility and an open mind, you might find your travels are enhanced as you discover new dishes that broaden your palate.  Check out Heart of a Vagabond for some great tips on finding vegan options around the world, as well as articles on eco-tourism and Ayurvedic and other traditional medicines.

Meet Yara

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Yara’s Heart of a Vagabond is a mindful, sustainable, vegan-friendly travel and lifestyle design blog. As a long-time solo female traveler, Yara Coelho’s coverage is steeped with experience and a depth of knowledge few others can match.

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Food for Thought

Ayurvedic food

Ayurvedic food

The underlying idea of the “Food for Thought” series is that to truly experience a culture you must taste it. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

I totally agree with it. Traditional foods express not only the history of a country, but they’re part of the identity of a culture as a whole.  Religion, believes, and other factors shape the identity of foods around the world.

I studied Ayurvedic and Classical Chinese medicines, where food is basically the number one pillar of these holistic medicines.  In china a doctor will prescribe certain foods as medicine and integral part of a treatment.  There are restaurants specialized in medicinal food.

The Ayurvedic Medicine, has very precise “rules” on matching the foods we eat with out constitutional types to prevent and treat diseases. While in India studying this ancient art, I ate foods recommended for my constitutional type, which helped me overcome a food poison crisis that lasted 20 days.

The concept of food changes so much from culture to culture and includes herbs, spices, roots.

ayurveda

What food do you identify with “home?” Does it reflect something about your own culture or upbringing?  Do you crave it while you’re away?

I was not a “normal” child as far as eating, to be honest with you. Since I was a tiny child I always refused to eat meat, and basically all Portuguese traditional foods contain either meat or fish. So I never had any typical Portuguese food. My mother always made special food for me, mostly vegetable soups.

There are a couple of things I do crave when I’m away. One of them is Portuguese bread soaked in olive oil which is something very Mediterranean. I remember buying a small bottle of olive oil while I was in Thailand, just because I craved it too much. It cost me a little fortune, but it gave me a lot of pleasure.

How has travel affected the way you think about food?

Traveling really broadened the way I eat. It revolutionized everything for me.  Being a vegetarian in a country where meat is very present, and vegetarianism was totally unknown back then, I was limited to very little options. When I started traveling, I was finally exposed to so many cultures and food varieties. I found out there are countries that are mostly vegetarian. I tasted flavors, textures and combinations that really changed the way I eat on a daily basis.

I have a rule of trying all vegan based dishes of the countries I visit. Every country has at least one, others can be “veganized”.

Thailand

Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)

I love visiting local markets! I think that’s something I’ve learned with my father who was a fanatic for international markets. I have fun looking at the different varieties I can’t find back home. I love finding fruits and vegetables I can barely identify, because later on, I can enter a restaurant and order them.

I started taking food tours when I visited Switzerland. My first food tour was a chocolate tour and all my old perceptions of what a good chocolate was changed forever.  In Philadelphia I took a food tour through the old Italian market, tasted different foods and olive oils, trying to compare them to the ones I’ve tried in Italy.

I have a couple of food tours booked for my next two trips already  I love street food as well, unfortunately Europe doesn’t have a big street food culture.  Asia is a paradise for street food lovers like me.

 

Tell us about a memorable meal that was so special it is forever ingrained in your memory. Where was it and what set it apart? What was served, and who shared it with you?

There were so many memorable meals.  One of them was Aloo Paratha, a potato filled bread dish from India. I got so obsessed with it, I ate it for 6 months on a daily basis! I tried the Aloo Parathas from basically all Indian cities and states I crossed and had fun with the little regional variations. Some added onions, some added garlic.  Some would be very thick, others make it very thin.  When I crossed the border to Nepal I carried my Aloo Paratha obsession with me and noticed how the colder weather of Nepal required a more filling dish with a richer sauce.

My travel mate used to joke about my obsession, but I had other ones, like the Korma curry dish from India. I ate it till I got sick and tired of it.

What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?

Hard to shock someone with a vegan dish, ahahaha.

Nepali Food

Nepali Food

 

And just for fun, if you had to choose one country’s cuisine to eat for the rest of your life what would it be?

 

Hmmm, let’s see. I think I’d stick with the Nepali food. Nepali food combines the best of the Indian food (less spicy, thank god!) with the rich and filling Tibetan foods. I love how rich and delicious Nepali food is and even though I absolutely love Indian food, after 5  months of continuous spicy dishes (while visiting India), Nepal was a well deserved rest.

 

Unfortunately, it’s hard to find Nepali food easily. I could live on Nepali food forever I guess.

 

All images provided by Yara from Heart of a Vagabond.  Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter