Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Five to Try

I recently came across quite a number of posts regarding Things to Eat Before you Die by The Traveler’s Lunchbox and thought I’d participate.

However, this turned out much harder than I originally thought and I have been putting off this post in a while now. But after having enjoyed reading so many of the others, I felt compelled to share my Five to Try before you Die.

1. Long lunch at Louis XVI at Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, Monaco

The boy’s parents took us here as a treat and what a treat it was! I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. I had not read up on it and had gone in cold. I had no idea who Alain Ducasse was before I walked in! First of all, they had a stool for my purse. A stool just for my tiny purse!! Secondly, they rolled over a cart of different types of bread. There was bread from all over France!! It was a crazy, fabulous lunch which lasted a good 3 hours or so. By the end, as I was sat on the ‘inside’ facing the centre of the room where all the waiters drifted (I don’t know how they glide like that but it made my most delicate gentle steps seem like a heifer having a fit), I got too scared to look up. The reason being each time one of the gorgeous French waiters with their sexy accents caught my eye, they would drift over with delicious little temptations which they would make impossible to resist. The first time I looked up they gave us madeleines. The second time, home made guimauves (marshmallows!) made with orange water and lavender. The third time it was hand made chocolates. I stared resolutely at the table, which I think they seemed to think was a challenge because they came over with bon bons! I ate so much and was so overwhelmed, I was freakishly close to being violently ill all over the table and making a lasting impression on the boy’s parents whom I had only met 3 days prior to the meal. I took deep breaths and it seemed to help although I almost cried when they presented us with little beautiful boxes of madeleines to take home. In case we didn’t have enough food.

Definitely a once in a lifetime experience and one which I’ll never, ever forget.

2. Durian

Whether you love it or hate it, I think it is worth trying. And not just once either. It has to be tried a handful of times. I recommend at least 6. This is a fruit that my father taught himself to eat and has since become addicted to it. He told me he forced himself to eat it at first despite being horrified by the smell. He said he needed to find out what it is people liked about it and why so many people whose taste he respected loved and craved it. Although he can’t quite tell me what it is, he is most definitely addicted. As is the boy. He says that every single thing about the fruit says “Don’t eat me!” from the spiky hard and tortuous mace-like shell to the pungent lingering odor.

This is a fruit which Anthony Bourdain described as “eating the best custard in the world in the world’s worst public toilet”. With a description like that, how can you not try? Besides, there are differently textured and scented types from the custardy, melty inside to slightly crunchy, white firmer flesh. Watch out for the additive properties though. You may lose friends… or in the boy’s case, win lots of kudos.

3. Impromptu picnic in France after exploring the local market

My memory of this is buying smelly gooey local cheese, anchovy stuffed marinated olives, cornichons, half a loaf of dense pain au levain, cherries and a perfectly ripe peach from Les Halles and sitting the courtyard outside the Palais des Papes in Avignon with my brother and his girlfriend on an early summer backpacking holiday morning, being serenaded by a street performer looking for spare euros from the tourists having their café au lait and croissants at the surrounding little outdoor cafes. The strong smelliness of the cheese, the meatiness of the bread and the salty tang of the olives and the sweet, sweet fruit came together as the perfect food.

4. Beef Carpaccio or Steak Tartar

First time I saw steak tartar, I was horrified. It was during a summer exchange program in France and the little boy of the family I was staying with requested that his hamburger be served to him raw. And his Mother obliged (!!), even giving him a raw egg to mix in with ketchup and mustard. I watched absolutely awed as he ate every last bit of it, even smearing some on bread. This was on the tiny island of Ille de Re. And to think they were beside themselves with excitement when I presented them with cup noodles. Definite culture exchange going on there but I don’t think I did them any favors although they did plenty for me.

Carpaccio done well is magnificent and, to me, very different than beef.

5. A bowl of noodles from the local stand

No matter where you are in Asia, nothing beats a bowl of noodles from your local stand. Be it laksa lemak in Singapore, wonton mein in Hong Kong, pho in Vietnam or hand pulled noodles from Shanghai, local noodles are comfort, refreshment and home in a bowl.

Would love to hear what you consider your Five to Try!

And it is good fun reading what others have posted so I strongly encourage you to check out the other participating blogs at The Traveler's Lunchbox

1 comment:

Hefin said...

I would recommend that everybody try fufu once. It's a West African dish produced by boiling cassava or maize flour and then pounding it with a huge pestle into a sticky, gelatinous lump. It is traditionally served with pepper soup.

The meal is eaten by breaking off small pieces of fufu with your right hand and using it to scoop a small amount of the soup into your mouth. There is no chewing, as it is swallowed at once. It takes a few goes before it can be eaten without leaving soup over your face and running down your arm. Cutlery is cheating (and not that helpful)

To be honest, I did not much enjoy fufu during my time in Africa, preferring other dishes such as Jollof, but it is definately something that everyone should try once