Food I Ate in Asia

Food I ate in Japan:

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acai bowl

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deep taste ramen

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ramen 2x

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something from “E-Fish Cafe”

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these did not taste good.

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green tea froyo

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okonomiyaki

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last call for all-you-can-drink? may I please have the rest of your alcohol supply

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mos burger

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shabu shabu

Food I ate in Indonesia:

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I remembered this place to be 10x better than it ever really was

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a really cool restaurant in Jakarta

Food I ate in Malaysia:

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nasi lemak

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puffed coconut rice flour

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fried things + a peep of veggies/something green

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ais kachang = red bean, jelly, coconut milk, corn, etc etc

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char koay teow

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best asam laksa in Penang

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taro puff

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chicken rendang

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Still lost 12 sizes

that phrase we used to say

November 29, 2013, San Francisco, 10am.

I did an internship in Jakarta 2 summers ago and often refer to that time period as “the best months of my life.” Recently I found an excuse to go back. One of my best friends has a sacred gift from my mom, former airline stewardess. Every year she has a buddy pass to give away. It’s actually a buddy pass on steroids, permitting unlimited travel on her airline for the year for free/>$20 to-london-and-back type of rates, something the vast majority of 9-5 yuppies daydream about at their desks. Jakarta is really far and complicated to get to, not a single US carrier flies there, but I think it’s fantastic so convinced my friend it was a can’t miss for her year of travel. In a word, Jakarta is a chaotic overpopulated mess. Who isn’t sold? I love it. I love the swift ojek rides, the cheap massages, the smiling people. I love rent. For $300/month I lived with better ethernet and maid service than Larry Ellison ever will. Through this compassion I welled my chosen friend into coming with me to relive the dream life I had back in summer 2011. You become delusional when excited to relive things, so delusional that you somehow morph all the miserable memories into positive ones. The ants crawling over our breakfast each morning were nothing but spicy protein powder, and sweating off deodorant 5 minutes after walking outside meant you fit right in. I probably talked it up to make it sound like it was going to be the #1 stop on her world tour. One of my articulate sales pitches like “Yeah girl, Jakarta. It’s where its at.” We were traveling all the way to SE Asia. Forget about all the pristine beaches, the palm tree islands, majestic volcano hikes, coffee plantations and jungle yoga retreats. Let’s go sit in traffic in Jakarta, then jump over some potholes and high five a few hawkers missing teeth.

We went for 5 days.

I think she was slightly put off by the experience. I incurred a hint of her sentiments when she told me she booked her ticket back to SF a week earlier and would skip Malaysia altogether. In the morning on day 4 when we were locked inside my friend’s compound (and I mean fortress. Her place in Benhil locked from the inside, too) while she was at work, sweating through the last of clothes from our suitcases, and all we could do was look at each other and laugh. Everything about the situation was bizarre, and with each breath of pungent durian air there was no answer to who what where when why and how. I remembered that phrase we used to say: fuckin’ Jakarta.  As a courtesy I have to write this down, so that I remember not to drag anyone but my delusional self there again. (I still so love fuckin’ Jakarta and would go back in a heartbeat.)

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I slept next to a panda for a week

November 16, 2013, 2pm, Jakarta.

Well it was only 4 nights. It is totally possible to sleep next to a Panda. In Asia I would say the chances of it increase at least 50%. I hear there are even certain places like Chengdu where its impossible not to, at least that’s what the travel brochures say. Panda should be capitalized in this post because the Panda I slept next to is a VIP. Generally pandas require a lot of space to do whatever it is that they do. Probably why she lives in Jakarta where you can rent a big bedroom with king bed and a deck in a marble floored house that has a 30 foot fountain/waterfall in the living room for under $300/month. The deck even has a decent view of the city once you gaze past the empty garbage-filled lot below. Anyways, San Francisco for example would be an expensive place for a panda.

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Sleeping next to this Panda was an overall positive experience. She did not snore too much, and the AC in her room was just loud enough to mask the raucous symphony of 4am mosque prayers. But it wasn’t loud enough to overcome the clanks of the soup man. I thought we were being robbed in the middle of the night on Wednesday. The stark noise of 3 loud ass clanks on the metal gate woke me. Then the 3-clank rhythm repeated again and again. Why is there someone banging on the gate in the middle of the night? It was scary but at least I had a Panda to protect me. She had a rude awakening too but then verified it was just the neighborhood soup man selling his soup door to door in the middle of the night. Obviously soup is a casual late night snack. Panda and I went back to sleep after, we didn’t buy any soup.

On to the next pair

November 16, 2013, 10am, Jakarta.

Anne Franks are my charismatic kicks. Like a flaite’s Jordans. My second pair is currently, at least I think, sitting just inside my friend’s front door at Bendungan Jatiluhur IV in Benhil, Jakarta. She may never realize it because the funny thing about Indonesia is that it is in Asia. All the countries share, if nothing else, the expectation to remove your shoes upon entry. My Anne Franks therefore may blend in the front door pile. Potentially could be a few months, or maybe until the next flood, or when the group of bules (my friend and her friends) moves out, which could be a year or so but not much more. Another way this could play out is that tomorrow I will get a message from Rachel saying “ew wtf we threw out your shoes” However they go they will go with grandeur.

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I bought them at Fallabella in Santiago 8 months ago. I went by myself to a rather seedy area of the city, and it’s hard to dissuade attention to my blonde hair in these types of situations. There was an overzealous salesman at the front of the store whose eye I caught so I was instantly a goner. Latinos are already hyper so give them a microphone and it’s worse. He spoke English and patronized me for 2 minutes, then pulled a jote pickup line: “By the way do you work at McDonalds?” Jesus now he doesn’t just speak English but knows how to insult in English. “Because you’re mcnificent!” ah, didn’t see that coming.

Still left with a new pair. They were similar to my first. Same slight sophistication same color same wood soles, only difference was they had elastic on the sides of the ankles. With my second pair the ratio of compliments to judgmental looks went favorably in the compliment direction. I think it had less to do with style, more with place and time. I took them to Atacama, I wore them to class almost every day and even some interviews. When I was leaving for Asia this month I recalled my first pair of Anne Franks. Those guys beasted a year in China, by the time I went to Turkey in March they had holes, and by Korea in May one of the shoelaces was in two pieces tied together. So I left them in Seoul at my friend’s brothers’ house, the front door pile. They had definitely added to my swag. Otherwise I wouldn’t have gone for a second pair.

Anne Franks are not so conducive to Asia. Taking them on and off requires significantly longer than a pair of flip flops or Toms. They are worse than sneakers because the high ankle is somewhat formfitting, so you really have to force them on, especially before they are broken in. Leaving the house is most stressful. When you come back to the house you basically have unlimited time to remove them, but when leaving, chances are you have to be somewhere, or are with others who have Toms, while you are tugging and wobbling for minutes trying to get the AFs on. Sometimes you have to sit if you’re hungover and balance is lacking. It gets worse when your friends are lingering a few feet past the doorway in silence. If they could just talk it would be less stressful. I’m really looking forward to the next pair.

So this guy showed us the way to Mos

November 10, 2013, 2pm, Tokyo.

Gold pants do no harm. No, actually, I think they do the opposite. You might be hesitant to buy a pair thinking they will be a one time wear. That’s what I thought when I bought them. My friend and I were hungry again after shuffling through Takeshita Street in Tokyo. It has, undeniably, the world’s best people watching. It was one of those Sunday funday moments when fast food is appropriate, but at the same time, we’re in Japan. We did not fly 5,136 miles across the Pacific to eat a happy meal. It doesn’t do anybody a favor to let the American asshole hang out, not you nor them. The good thing is that there is a compromise. Pseudo fast food, or maybe cultured fast food sounds better. We were determined to find a Mos Burger. The pursuit encapsulated our motivation because when these girls hungry game over. We were by ourselves and didn’t know our way through Tokyo, just hoped to stumble upon a Mos somewhere in the city, or ask a local. It took approaching three strangers in the street before one was willing to show us the way to Mos using his high tech mapping device. It’s true what they say about Japanese technology. He was very bubbly, conveniently bubbly given he spoke no English, and the fact that he took our offer on a half-drunk can of Asahi at 2 o’clock in the afternoon made him a star.

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Our new Sunday funday pal. He led us for 20 minutes to the nearest Mos. So nice. My friend tried offering to buy him a burger but that was where the reciprocation process concluded. No need for Mos for this guy. We enjoyed the food, but sometimes food is secondary. I think our group photo says it all: manners and swag get you where you want.

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Deep Taste

November 7, 2013, 10pm, Kyoto.

Have you heard about the Kyoto deep taste? If you have, great. If not, I will talk about it here so you can be enlightened about a great thing, or discover that you knew of the concept but never realized it was called deep taste. If you don’t know already, it’s not what you’re thinking. There are plenty of reasons to go to Kyoto.  Temples, shrines, okonomiyaki (which is good but nothing to get ballistic for), bamboo forests. I hear the city has really cool ninjas but are hard to find. Their main train station looks like a giant ship. This is real Japan. Tokyo is cool, but sometimes you should go out and see the real side. We got to Tokyo on a Tuesday evening, Kyoto was obviously the best option for a two day cultural affair. On Wednesday we rocked on up to Shinagawa station to catch the fast train down to K city. It was a 2 hour journey, but planning activities in this country is so easy it’s a joke. The train runs every ten minutes. Japan is too cool and efficient for the rest of the world, hence removed on their neat little island. When we got there we had to pick a hostel. So many options on hostelworld. What’ll it be? Hana Hostel? Nope, sold out. We looked up one or two others neither had a room available. Santiago Hostel it was. But hostel shmostel unless they could tell us a good ramen recommendation. Traveling inevitably turns me into a hungry hippo. Hungry for culture, even hungrier for snacks. My friend is the same way. So together, it becomes a ravenous duo of two girls who just love to eat. Snacks on snacks on snacks all day baby. All the temples and shrines in Kyoto had virtually unlimited snacks. Nuts, fruits, mochi, we grabbed at all the sample bowls. Japanese people are so polite, they probably concealed their judgments and didn’t say a word.

Tragically we didn’t have time to get snacks for the train so when we got to Kyoto we were starving. It all went down like this: homeboy at the front desk of Santiago Hostel was so stoked we ask him for a ramen suggestion. He knew exactly how to react, busted out a custom blank map of Kyoto pretty much with two things marked on it: our hostel and the ramen place. “So, you like-a the dip taste?” Excuse me? I could not understand what he was saying but he was definitely extra stimulated about whatever “dipa taste” was. “Very nice the deepa taste. Here, I write for you and you show to waiter.” Sounds great. So on the walk we realized he meant “rich flavor”, but just as well we like our taste deep. Two deepa tastes please (indicated in Japanese on the little paper he wrote).

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Wow, this ramen really brought new meaning to deep taste. I don’t think I’ve had any taste deeper. Talk about thick soup. We came hungry, and almost fell asleep at the table when we finished. The deep taste for sure makes you drowzy. We left and swore we would never have ramen again. Yeah right. I bet you can guess what we had for dinner on our second night in Kyoto. Out of 900 Japanese restaurants to choose from we went back to ramen. Actually, it was a ramen place one block away from the first that had the exact same menu. My friend got the deep taste again. I didn’t want deep taste again so I got “classic”. Described on the menu as recovering mom’s good old recipe from the 70s. Classic. We’re quite certain they put codeine in our food because we nearly fell asleep at the restaurant again. Kyoto stomped us out of our chomp. I swore I would never eat it again, but must admit – getting hungry for deep taste as I write about it.