Thursday, June 29, 2017

Rice to the challenge

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I love rice. In all its forms, whether as fluffy grains in a bowl, or heaped up on a banana leaf. There are rice cakes boiled in coconut leaves, and glutinous rice cakes with savory filling in bamboo leaves There are desserts comprising glutinous rice cakes that are steamed in banana leaves, and drizzled with sweet coconut cream.

I can start the day with a breakfast of steamed coconut rice, a simple anchovy sambal and boiled eggs. I love fried rice, whether in spicy Southeast Asian style, or garlicky Japanese style. I also am a fan of rice porridge or congee, whether plain and eaten with a variety of dishes, Teochew style, or in a rich stock with bits of meat or flecks of fish in it. There's also rice cooked in a claypot, or in a gigantic pan like paella. Heck, give me a glass of sweet rice wine, whether as expensive sake, or as moonshine from an earthenware jar, and I'll be your friend.

I can be dining at fancy restaurants in Europe and gorging myself silly on the best Italian, Spanish or French cuisine, but after a few days of that, I'm longing for some rice. I'll go out of my way to look for a Chinese or Japanese restaurant to get my fix, even if the restaurant is serving really bad Asian food that is catering to the European palate.

That's why I feel so much more at home when visiting Asian countries, because you can be sure that a meal will always consist of rice. I guess it's just a matter of what you grow up eating, like the Americans who usually order a burger, even when abroad. Even after a few days at home of going without rice, I'll be hankering for some of it. It's only something that other Asians can understand. Which is why when I came across this video, I had to smile, nod and agree with all the sentiments expressed in it. Watch it and enjoy!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

To market, to market …

Every time I visit a new city, one of the first places I want to scope out is the neighborhood market. Nothing helps me to get to know a place as quickly as checking out where the locals shop for their meat, vegetables and provisions. I learn what they like to eat, shop for and cook. And because it’s a local market, frequented by fussy housewives, it has the best produce. When I’m at home, it’s the  same. Sure, I’ll pop by the nearest supermarket, because I can swing by and pick most things in a jiffy, but when it comes to shopping for fresh fruit or vegetables, or even freshly ground curry paste or deboned chicken thighs, I have to go to what the locals in my hometown call a “wet” market.