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.
If you saw something like this growing in the wild would your first thought be to eat it? Mine wouldn’t be, but I would regret that decision because this here is a dragon fruit. Originally from the Americas, the dragon fruit has somehow become a fruit much more associated with Southeast Asia. And while it is striking on the outside, it’s even more striking what it looks like on the inside.
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.
You know what’s great about being Jewish? No Lent. No Ramadan. Sure, there’s been thousands of years of persecution and an annual fast or two, but nothing that compares to the longevity of the institutionalized pain of those two holidays. Worse still, sometimes Ramadan falls in the summer and you can’t even drink water. With all of these thoughts in mind, I found myself in Malaysia in the summer in the middle of Ramadan. And in Sandakan in Borneo, this meant the nightly Ramadan Market. The most impressive part about it is that observant Muslims somehow manage to walk up and down the market and order food without eating a bite of it until the sun goes down. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait.
While Malaysia is a majority Muslim country, it’s a very mixed country as well. Thus, finding pork is not a problem and, in fact, it is one of the highlights of Sandakan. And that’s because Sandakan has a strong history with a fried pork noodle stall dating back to 1940. Of course, basically the entire city was burned down in World War II so the stall physical stall itself is a bit newer. That, however, doesn’t seem to stop the locals from coming by.
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.
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.
Perched on a corner in what is more neighborhood than retail area in Ventura is a restaurant called Cafe Nouveau. The restaurant boasts a pretty great outdoor eating area, but the wait there was nuts so we went inside to what felt like a home that had been converted into a cafe. I set to work at figuring out what to order, but after a quick look at the menu I had made up my mind.
Could there be a more inviting name for a sausage spot than Bike Jim’s Gourmet Dogs? You’d be hard-pressed to find one, but that only partly explains the rise of this brick and mortar that began as a simple (and yet gourmet) hot dog cart. I went to the location in downtown Denver and struggled to find the right sausage for me.