Saturday, 16 June 2012
Day 83 - Food Critics
South East Asian food is something that as Melbournians, these four guys are pretty familiar with. What is really interesting though is witnessing first hand what South East Asian food is really like in South East Asia. We’ve all got slightly different opinions on the matter, but general consensus (from us, but amongst other travellers we’ve spoken to along the way aswell) is that Cambodian food is pretty outstanding, and Laotian leaves a lot to be desired.
In Cambodia there was quite a variety of dishes. There were Thai type meals such as noodles and rice, with some Vietnamese presence evident with options like rice paper rolls and some of the salads. We noticed a strong French influence prevalent in baguette stands and bakeries, not to mention many French restaurants, along with some really good Western food available that we just haven't found anywhere else. Yet it was still possible to get uniquely Cambodian dishes such as Amok. The thing that made it so outstanding though was the obvious freshness in ingredients, and most importantly there was usually a good deal of effort put into preparation.
The first problem with Laotian food is that in most places it takes a good deal of effort to get somebody's attention just to give you a menu or take an order. They're then often reluctant to let on how much anything costs, and when you eventually do get around to ordering, you then have to wait for a ridiculous amount of time to receive your food. This would probably not be so much of a problem if we were then presented with something filling and/or tasty, but this is rarely the case. It's pretty hard to find anything that’s not noodles or rice cooked in a little bit of soy sauce with a smattering of undercooked veggies and tough meat.
During our time in Malaysia, we mainly ate in Indian restaurants. There was a particular layout that we became pretty accustomed to; inside but open-air, the menu printed along the top of the wall behind some bain-maries and a large open cooking space. Here we could get anything along the lines of curry, naan, chapatti, omelette etc, with a huge selection available, and were usually able to satisfy ourselves pretty well for about 1-3 Ringit (3R = $1).
Most establishments in Thailand offered a pretty standard menu of noodles, noodle soups, and fried rice, although there was often quite a selection of specifics. Western food was available in some places but we never went in for is, as it was always extortionately priced and rarely looked very appetising. Two things though that between the four of us made everyone happy were the brilliant selection of condiments always ready to pour over every meal, and the abundance of fruit shake stalls all over the place; both things that we’ve missed since departing from Thailand.
We’re quite excited about what food we might experience in China, although at the same time it’s also a bit worrying what we could be faced with. Surely we’ve all already eaten dog, cat, monkey, rat and who knows what else so far, but other than once instance of oddly textured sausage and another where some brain was visible in our soup, we’ve been able for the most part to just assume that it is just chicken, pork or beef.