One of the coolest things about older cities is that they aren’t perfectly planned. Roads aren’t necessarily straight lines and newer buildings stand next to buildings that have stood for more than 100 years. These features add character to a place. Yet, when it’s 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity and you’re looking for breakfast first thing in the morning, it can be a bit frustrating when you find yourself walking down a residential street to find breakfast at a place with a name that is only written in Chinese. Yet, that only made finding 丰盛号 in that alley over on the left all the better.
The scallion pancake may be one of the greatest culinary creations of the Far East. It comes in different forms, but is delicious on its own and also makes up the base of the beef rolls that are super popular in authentic Chinese restaurants around LA. But perhaps the greatest take on the scallion pancake can be found at the Shilin Night Market in Taipei, Taiwan.
Here, the scallion pancake is the more flaky variety, but starts like all others on a griddle with some oil. After that, it takes a turn towards greatness by adding a fried egg. In itself this is not so revolutionary because scallion pancakes with eggs have existed for about as long as scallion pancakes. What’s big here is the addition of a slice of cheese. Yes, cheese!
As with nearly every dish, cheese can always make it better, but what is more significant is that cheese is simply not an ingredient in really any traditional Asian dishes. Therefore, embracing cheese as a complement to something traditional as opposed to relegating it to Western-style food is pretty fantastic. With a touch of spicy sauce, this was truly a transcendent bit of street food.
Sometimes life gives you a difficult decision. And sometimes there is no “right” choice. Case in point: On what felt like basically the hottest day ever in Hue, Vietnam, we were given the choice of eating in a somewhat touristy restaurant with air conditioning or an “off the beaten path” restaurant without. We chose the former and found ourselves at Y Thao Garden Restaurant. And of course, within minutes of setting food, having not eaten a bite, we all felt like we had made the right decision.
Hoi An might be one of the coolest little towns in the world. It reminded me of the water towns not far from Shanghai, except with a modern touch that seems to blend seamlessly with the old. And like any cool little town worth its salt, Hoi An has a couple of dishes that claim to be indigenous to the town. As such, we made our way to Green Heaven in Hoi An to try out the goods.
The historical interrelationships of Southeast Asian countries is fascinating, especially for those in the Indochina parts. Amazingly, they have each maintained such strong individual cultures and that is no more apparent than in the food. You see, after some time in Vietnam a few of us were tired of Vietnamese food. So, obviously we wanted a burger or a burrito or pizza? Right? Wrong. We went for Thai food at a place called Tuk Tuk.
Look, I’ve already confessed to not being the biggest banh mi guy, but that doesn’t mean I was not eager to find the most badass banh mi that Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) had to offer. Therefore, I knew I had to make my way to Banh Mi Huynh Hoa. The internet informed me that the lines could often be massive, but that they would mostly be filled with locals. But I had a little trick in my back pocket.
Fast food is an amazing thing. And what’s more amazing is that soup is kind of the original fast food. Sure, it has to be prepared way in advance, but once that is done a meal is just a scoop away. Pho 24 has elevated the combination of fast food and soup to an art. It can be found in Vietnam, a number of Asian countries and even as far away as Australia and I paid a visit to one in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).
I have a confession to make: I don’t understand why people love banh mis so much. Maybe it’s because they are one of the only options out there where people can eat Asian food and sandwiches at the same time. Thus, when I took a stroll over to My Banh Mi in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), I opted for something a little different instead.
Let’s be real here. When you go to Sandakan, you don’t go for the food. The food is really a side benefit to the local adventures. Our local adventure was seeing orangutans. But of course, you can’t simply spend all day watching the world’s largest arboreal primates without eating some food, so we went next door to the Banana Cafe in the Sepilok Jungle Resort.
While there is undoubtedly a confluence of cultures in Sandakan, classic Malaysian cuisine seems a little hard to find, especially when you can only eat so much street food. San Da Gen Kopitiam offers just that. The look and feel is clean and resembles a coffee shop much more than a restaurant. Yet, on a blackboard there is a menu filled with all kinds of foods to order.