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.
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.
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.
For most travelers, Sandakan in Bornean Malaysia is just a stopping off point on the way to see orangutans and other types of wildlife in the jungle. But as for me, I would be spending a couple days in the city and wanted to make the best of it by trying out local foods and getting to know the area. But that would have to wait until after our first meal, at the English Tea House.
Melt It! in Pasadena refers to itself as “A Grilled Cheese Co.” I’m not sure what else would have been expected from a place called Melt It! (except maybe like fondue or a ton of patty melt options, which are basically just grilled cheeses with burgers in them anyway), but I was eager to see what kind of twists this place would make on the old standby.
One thing that will make the transition from Pasadena to Phoenix doable is the fact that La Grande Orange and its family of restaurants originated there. There’s no Luggage Room yet, but hopefully some day…
Nonetheless, there is a spot called Chelsea’s Kitchen that I hoped would please me and ease me. The menu even sported the same font and design as the aforementioned restaurants, almost as though to get me excited about Chelsea’s Kitchen.