Part I of my
Forthcoming Food Education, November 7, 2005 — Sometimes it's
embarrassing to be so food focused. As I've mentioned before, I
really have no qualifications, no education, and no expertise. It's
just that life is short, and there are so many wonderful things to
experience in the world, that there's no reason to waste time on
things that aren't memorable. Often, aspiring chefs (i.e. people who
really do typically have qualifications, education, and expertise)
go through their own period of time where they do things to expand
their perspective and experience when it comes to food. They do
stages (internships) at restaurants, they take classes, and they
travel. We'll see whether I'm able to do all three, but for now,
it's time to do the third - travel.
Part of being employed in the high-tech industry is
dealing with the expansions and contractions of the high tech industry.
I worked at one company that was having a tough time and got laid off. I
can't say I was thrilled about it, but I had always wanted to take a
trip to Asia. I'd only been to Tokyo once for a few days up until that
point and spent almost all of the trip stuck on a trade show floor. I
was pretty confident I could get another job, but I knew that I would
take a month off to travel alone across Asia before I went back to work.
Turns out that my new employer wanted me to start immediately and my
trip would have to wait. That was almost nine years ago. In the coming
months it's time to take that trip.
For me Asia is filled with possibility. I have had a
fascination with Asian culture, and especially Asian food for as long as
I can remember. While I've been all over Europe and spent time in the
Middle East, to date I've been to Tokyo several times, Kyoto once, and
Seoul once for a couple of days. Asia is so rich with diversity and
opportunity to see new things, and eat great food, that even though I
love the time I've spent there, I feel like I've barely scratched the
surface. Actually, I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of the
This is Tokyo after dusk.
I love how because of the high cost of land the city is
built vertically. A friend
said to me once, Tokyo is ready for the day they invent flying cars.
They think nothing of putting a restaurant on the 10th floor of a 50
floor building. I don't know why this is so intriguing for me, but it
is. I guess it's kind of an iconic representation of a different set of
core assumptions about what goes where and how things should be. And
even though the skyline of Tokyo and the markets in Phnom Penh bare
little visual resemblance, the amount of exciting opportunity contained
in every compressed nook and cranny in both cities is what I'm looking
forward to exploring.
So, please consider the suggestion box open. I am
and I need your thoughts. I apologize if this is boring,
but let me remind you. I am not looking for eating experiences that you
enjoyed or found fun. I am looking for food that is simply amazing. I
don't care about atmosphere. Bad service doesn't bother me. I am not
biased to only expensive restaurants - I love street vendors. The only
thing that bothers me is food that isn't memorable. I have way too
little time in each place to waste it eating somewhere that has a great
view or a fantastic atmosphere. Those things are fine, but I'm going for
As an aside, I've been scouring the web for weeks trying
to find recommendations that I can trust for where to eat, and frankly,
I'm super disappointed. It's not that this site is so great or
brilliant. We're not. But the one thing we try to do well is a) have
high standards, b) describe our experiences in detail. That combination
exists in very few places that I have found on the web. I need more
sites to do what we do here. What other way will I find out where to
eat? This is where you come in.
Before you send your suggestions, I'm not going totally
blind, I do have some restaurants and markets cued up in each city, but
I'm not sure yet that I'm really going to be spending my time wisely. I
do have somewhat of a strategy though:
- Hong Kong
- trying to eat at the speakeasys (the "private" restaurants in
people's home kitchens). Dim sum is a priority as well. This might
be the city in which to try an interpretation of another cuisine
like French or Japanese.
- Bangkok -
I think I'm going to focus mostly on street food and one dim sum.
I'd like to eat at one or two restaurants, but I worry about
choosing well. Not sure if I should make time for some Indian food.
- Phnom Penh
- Street food.
- Siem Reap
- Not focusing on authenticity here. The high-end hotels compete on
the food front. I think I will try that.
- Tokyo -
It's going to take everything I've got not to go back to old
favorites here. I have no plan yet.
Don't be swayed by my focus in each city. I am open to
changing my mind based on good advice. Just don't be hurt if I don't
heed your wisdom. I'll do my best to weed through everything I get and
try to choose as best I can. And yes, you can also feel free to tell me
I'm dopey for picking the itinerary I did, and going for as little time
as I'm going.
And no matter where I go, I promise to report back as
best I can, and of course in as much detail as possible. Thanks.