Saturday, September 26, 2009

24 Hour Beigel People

Fyllemat. A Swedish word that begs for an English equivalent. Roughly, it translates into "food that one eats whilst drunk on a night out". I'm not talking about the Taco Bell fourthmeal grotesqueness; that is more a lifestyle choice made by the severly obese. I'm talking about the 3 am, postclubbing I-am-drunk-and-have-no-self-control food whimsy.

As I spent two weeks interrailing Europe and am therefore wise in the ways of European generalizations, I'd like to take a moment to muse about the best and worst of late night eating. Best drunken meal goes to the kebabs of Berlin. Crispy warm freshly toasted bread, kebab that is slowly roasted and carved on the spot, that pool of orange grease around the crust - kebabgasm. Worst goes to the langos of Budapest. Bland and beige deep fried shit with shit on it. Major disappointment.

Nevermind continental Europe. I'm in London now, let's talk about London's finest - Brick Lane Beigel Bakery. Not only is it open 24 hours, it's also fresh and dirt cheap. The prices start at £0.30 for a buttered bagel, and I bought an egg-mayo bagel for £0.95. A horde of bagel fans ranging from Shoreditch twats to neon-vested builders loiter outside. It's well worth visiting.

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They also sell baked goods, for equally ridiculous prices.

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For being late-night food that isn't deep fried or reheated to the point of nuclear waste, it was pretty fucking fantastic. In fact, all around Brick Lane you will find late night food. Curry houses have very generous opening times, and at 2 am people were still being served. Kebabs, falafels, shawarmas reign supreme at this hour.

I've been hearing a lot of place for a 24-hour diner in Farringdon called Tinseltown, and I'm just dying to check it out. Milkshake at 3 am? YES PLEASE. Alright, so maybe I am making lifestyle choices of the severely obese. But it's alright, eat now diet later.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Party like country folk

House parties in the countryside used to be a-plenty back in the days of häxblandningar (translated: witch-mix, i.e. a cocktail of miscellaneous booze discreetly stolen from the liquor cabinet) and 2.25% proof ciders. Good times. They always involve a trampoline, somebody throwing up, and raiding the fridge at 4 a.m. whilst sobering up.

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Yes, we're obviously having a fantastic time.

Now, I'm off to AMERICA. Stick around for the imminent obesity.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Clothes! Clothes! Clothes!

It's been a bit quiet on the fashion front around here lately, so here's mixing it up with an outfit of the day. Not me, obviously, as I am neither male nor Caucasian.

M.H. explains: "The hat is my dad's, bought on auction. The shirt was tailored in Singapore in the 80s, my dad's as well. The linen jacket is from Dries van Noten. The linen slacks are from Our Legacy and the mint green belt with lots of holes in it is from Acne. Church's monkstrap shoes. The lavender pocket square with cream flower print is my favorite bargain, marked down from $45 to $7, bought in New York."

Well done M.H.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fjording Norway: Day 4, Hurtigruten

We were recently shown pictures of another Chinese family's vacation pictures on board a cruise ship, and it looked like a floating city. So we compared it to our ship in typical Chinese manner. It was decided that our ship was more rustic and homely. Nevermind that M. and D spent their first night completely robbed of their sleep by the ship's engine, which was churning out its environmentally-unfriendly rage directly beneath their cabin. We were nevertheless glad that we were being fed.

norway coastal steamer hurtigruten

Fish for breakfast? I love breakfast far too much to protest.

What do you do on a ship? Essentially, you're waiting for your next meal. To pass the interlude, I read A Picture of Dorian Gray, took pictures, and napped on the deck. A taste of retirement life.

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Lunch time! What you see is just the chilled seafood section; on top of that there were warm fish and meat options. I felt obliged to try everything in minuscule portions until I found my favorites (lamb casserole, smoked halibut, and the caramelized onions that accompanied the fish cakes).

norway hurtigruten lunch buffet

In the afternoon we visited two highly unremarkable coastal towns, and then saw a funny mountain with a penetrating hole.

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We arrived in the restaurant, salivating, five minutes before they had started serving, and had to suffer the teasing smell of ginger and shallots. Then the starters arrived.

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Hurtigruten prides itself on serving local food from whichever port it stops at that day. These beautiful scallops had that tinge of sweetness that only super fresh shellfish have, and when pulled apart...

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Oh my. That's some naughtily fresh scallops. Served with lime and carrot puree. If you haven't lost your scallop virginity, do so now, and experience the full glory of nature's best offerings.

We'll skip the uninspiring main dish (beef sirloin with sauteed vegetables - snore) and skip to the dessert.

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Champagne soup with strawberries, rhubarb and cream. I'm banging my head against the screen trying to get to it again. You have to excuse the cliches that will pile up because I'm getting too excited just looking at it. I had one mouthful of this and was lost in the tangy sweetness of the soup and the smooth, silky cream. The rhubarb fell apart in my mouth without resistance. I had a mental food-pleasure seizure.

So that was the highlight of the day. Afterward we compared cabins to see which one was less noisy, and at 2 am M. and I do a room switch so the poor woman doesn't go sleepless for another night. Yes, at least the food was good.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Chinese eat breakfast

A Chinese breakfast is completely different from the western notion. It's savory, it's warm, and usually involves deep fried dough stick; but don't expect any dairy products or wholemeal. My stomach never agrees with having Chinese breakfasts every single day, but a weekend morning feels tragically incomplete without it.

chinese breakfast

In Hangzhou, miniature dumplings are sold on pretty much every street before midday. It can be assumed therefore that many people eat it for breakfast. Personally I'm not a big fan, as the fillings tend to be mostly gristle and fat. Certainly a feast for a eyes though to see massive a pan filled with rows of sweaty dumplings.

My favorite Chinese breakfast food are the thick, sweet soups with fermented glutinous rice. Usually with a cracked egg and some miniature rice balls, these soups are the ultimate comfort food for me.

chinese breakfast

When glutinous rice (i.e. extra sticky rice) is fermented it turns into very sweet, and is often used in desserts. Ferment it any longer and it turns into rice wine.

Chinese breakfast

This is where we buy our breakfast every morning in China. You'll find everyone from businessmen to school children to construction workers in this very popular alleyway eatery. Its specialty are, of course, deep fried dough sticks.

油条, "oil stick", tastes much better than its direct translation sounds. It's slightly salty with a distinct baking soda flavor. Fresh out of the deep fryer, it's crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside. Not unlike petit choux, actually. It's usually eaten as it is, but is also chopped up into little bits and put into rice porridge, or wrapped in egg pancakes with savory sauces.

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Our homemade versions are somewhat smaller.

Frozen deep fried dough sticks can be bought in most Asian supermarkets, as long as you know what you're looking for.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fjording Norway: Day 3.2, Lofoten

The boat from Vindstad arrived just in the nick of time for our bus connection, and I ended up having to run from the hotel to the bus station carrying one piece of luggage in each arm and sweating like nobody's business. All's well that ends well.

Even as we were leaving the place, Lofoten never ceased to amaze. On the bus, we encountered more strange meteorological phenomena.

What the hell?


For D. and me, it was mist safari time. I worked the camera, as he barked out instructions from his superior window seat. "Wait moment, wait moment, wait moment, NOW!" We worked in collaboration to capture the elusive well-composed-shot-from-a-moving-vehicle.


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Unfortunately, M. slept through the spectacle. Later, we found out from a local that this kind mist happens in Lofoten after a sunny spell. The Norse weather gods have been very kind to us.

After all that excitement on the bus, we were ready for some food. Since we were leaving Lofoten, we thought our meal should consist of a cross-section of Northern Norway produce.


M. had "klippfisk", otherwise known as bacalao. It's a kind of dried, salted cod that is soaked in water for a few days before being cooked. If you're thinking, that doesn't sound very Norwegian, it's not. It's Portugese. Salted cod was made popular after the discovery (or detection) of Newfoundland, and nowadays Norway, with its similar climate, is the major exporter of klippfisk, or bacalao. One piece of trivia richer.


D. had Lofoten lamb. According to the guidebook, Lofoten lamb is supposed to be meatier, more tender and less fatty than the usual lamb, and with a hint of game. My tastebuds aren't trained to the subtleties of game in hints, so I can't tell you whether that's true or not.


I went for whale. Yes, really, whale. Served with salad and chips. It is rather sinewy, and is a bit more tender than beef, but otherwise identical in texture - quite odd to see rare and bloody sea-animal meat. It was served in a pool of peppercorn sauce, so I couldn't distinguish any whale flavor. To be honest, if it were on a menu, I wouldn't choose it again. Nothing wrong with it per say, I'm just not a big fan of bloody meat.

I can't claim to have mentally munched on any ethical arguments whilst eating the oddly beef-like whale meat, but mentioning whale in context of eating should always be backed up with comments on sustainability, so here goes. The quota for minke whales in Norway is 1052 a year, but allegedly only 500 are caught. The whales are DNA marked, to prove its legality. It is claimed that whale hunting in Norway is less for commercial purposes, and more to support its coastal communities. All of this paraphrased from Insight Guides: Norway.


After dinner we say goodbye to Lofoten, and board our ship to Bergen.

Tomorrow: life on a cruise ship, complete with seafood buffets.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fjording Norway: Day 3.1, Lofoten

That morning I woke up to a novel sensation - objectophilia. My sleeping clothes smelled of wood, and the scent lingered like that of a lover for several days. I went down to the patio for breakfast. The patio. I was passionately in love with the patio, the cabin, our wonderful Reine cabin, sitting on the ocean with its view of mountains. Sorry E.B., I think I may have had a love affair with an inanimate object.

lofoten breakfast
Breakfast was eaten the way breakfast should always be eaten: with mountains in the background.

Alas, the love affair was sweet but short, and after breakfast we hopped on a boat to see some arctic beaches. Farewell Reine, farewell!


After racing by some fjords, the boat dropped us off at Vindstad. We begin our hike through beautiful desolation, over the neck of a mountain, to the Norwegian ocean on the other side.


lofoten proper

Look again. I don't think you've quite grasped the proportions. Those ant-like specks in the middle are people. The red speck on the top right is a house.


There were quite a few kids there. They seemed to tumble down to beach with ease, whilst the rest of us old folks had to step carefully. Some adventurous souls were carrying their babies in baby carrier backpacks. The family nodded in collective admiration.


If you can teach your kids to swim in the cold Norwegian sea, they'll swim anywhere.

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Breathtaking, absolutely breathtaking. The journey back was much less impressive. The boat arrives an hour late, and we wait around at the dock "eating the west-north wind", as the Chinese say.


Later: whale meat for dinner.