Stockholm Sweetheart

Even in the winter, or maybe especially in the winter (unclear on this distinction, frankly), Stockholm is a beautiful city.

It’s a wonderful walking city, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the snow.  Everything’s actually pretty close, and worse case, you’re thirty minutes from the next thing.  And there’s all this water and open sky.  Reflections on ‘flections on ‘flections.

View of Djurgarden from the Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm Sweden View of Djurgarden from Fotografiska, Stockholm Sweden Stockholm, Sweden Look at this badass motherfucker.  Courtesy of a gallery of old school portraits at the Fotografiska.Fat chef, Fotografiska, Stockholm, Sweden Orchid in Kungsholmen, Stockholm SwedenDjurgarden, Stockholm, SwedenDropped by the Vasa Museum, where they have a reconstruction of an actual ship from a bunch of centuries ago when they made ships out of wood.  Also, whoever made this particular ship fucked up real good because it sank after a few miles.  By a few miles, I mean less than five miles.  That’s about as good as those origami boats I used to make in third grade and put it in some sink water.  But it does look like a pretty badass warship.

If it could only float.Vasa Museum, Stockholm, SwedenShipbuilding tools at Vasa Museum, Stockholm, SwedenAnd of course, Stockholm has some cool shops.  Check out this dope poster.  City of champions indeed.Poster in Sodermalm, Stockholm, Sweden

Jinli Walking Street – Chengdu, Sichuan, China

Another popular recreational draw in Chengdu is the ever-crowded Jinli Walking Street, which features a whole bunch of street food vendors selling mouth-watering and sweat-inducing snacks.

House of Haos Jinli Walking Street Chengdu Sichuan China EntranceThe most basic and popular item is the BBQ skewer, which frankly isn’t my favorite.  I realize that’s somewhat blasphemous, the skewer being such an integral part of Chinese street food culture.  The force of the chili powder and cumin is a bit much for me, although it depends on what’s on the skewer as well.  I won’t say no to a bit of crisp chicken wings or some gizzards, but I’m not so motivated by most of the scant strands of nameless white meat.House of Haos Jinli Walking Street Chengdu Sichuan China BBQ SkewersPineapple rice, though, I can 100% get behind.  Especially ones that are basically freshly steamed (one batch every twenty minutes or so), first come first served.  While not as intense in acidic sweetness as the ones I had in Xishuangbanna, they were still pretty tasty, and a welcome diversion from the otherwise ubiquitous taste of chili.House of Haos Jinli Walking Street Chengdu Sichuan China Pineapple Rice House of Haos Jinli Walking Street Chengdu Sichuan China Dumplings House of Haos Jinli Walking Street Chengdu Sichuan China Stuffed Pork PancakesThese mung bean jelly rolls were at once light, refreshing, and deceivingly spicy (partly because of the light and refreshing part, but also because of the vinegary, cilantro-tinged complexity of the spice).  Sort of like a great, cold papaya salad at a good Thai restaurant, where even the intense heat won’t stop you from eating. Continue reading

Mengkuan Market – Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China

As we’re leaving Mengkuan, I stopped to browse the wares at the local market.  The pictures below are actually a mix of the one in Mengkuan and a slightly larger one that we also visited on the trip back to Jinghong.  But they felt similar in spirit, calm despite the crowds, full of supremely fresh produce and live animals and things that were mostly interesting to the outsider passers-by like me, but extremely so.  And a few small, wonderful moments of levity.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village Market Hawker StallsHouse of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village MarketA steamed bun morning snack, with red bean paste brushed onto the rolled dough.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village Market Steamed Red Bean BunThis spread below is what the Dai locals usually eat with sticky rice for breakfast: mashed eggplant, mashed tomatoes, or chicken, with little baggies of fried pork skin.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Menghai Aini Village Market Sticky Rice Continue reading

Jinghong Market – Xishuangbanna, Yunnan

Jinghong’s town market, just off a main corridor called Mengla Road running east-west, is a lively scene of vibrant colors.  Sometimes tropical, sometimes earthy, and sometimes nothing more than a shock of blood red.  So much closer to nature than most places.  And oddly quiet, save for the thud of cleavers on animal bone, the squawk of caged birds, and the watery rustle of fish in their shallow tanks.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Yunnan farmers market skull and bones House of Haos Xishuangbanna Yunnan farmers market pig brainsA tableful of sausages and hams.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Yunnan farmers market sausage House of Haos Xishuangbanna farmers market Yunnan hamPreserved eggs (thousand-year).House of Haos Xishuangbanna Yunnan farmers market thousand-year eggGrilled pork belly.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Yunnan farmers market pork bellyA little shopkeeper and his chili pepper bushels.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Yunnan farmers market chili peppersFresh chanterelles and wood ear mushrooms.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Yunnan farmers market chantarelles House of Haos Xishuangbanna Yunnan farmers market wood ear mushroomBeautiful pink bamboo hearts.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Yunnan farmers market bambooBee larvae, a local delicacy.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Yunnan farmers market bee larvaeA tray of ingredients for cold-mix salad.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Yunnan farmers market cold noodlesPickled things and an array of spices.House of Haos Xishuangbanna Yunnan farmers market pickles House of Haos Xishuangbanna Yunnan farmers market chili peppers spices peppercorns


Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) – Taipei

Shilin Night Market, which was the last one we visited, was also the largest market we went to.  It took us a while to find the food stalls, after walking past row upon row of kitschy t-shirt and jewelry stores.DSC_0257-001There weren’t any big signs (that I remember, anyway) but somehow we made our way to the stalls where all the grilling and frying and searing and queuing and gawking and pointing and drooling and chewing was happening.  Probably on the strength of my nose, frankly.  I definitely lined up for the chicken cutlet, which has a uniquely sweet and peppery seasoning that seems to expand even more with the frying.  The aroma is hard to distinguish from the oiliness, but you don’t really dwell on that when you’re inhaling the crunchy batter and juicy meat.  I couldn’t get through a whole one.

House of Haos Shilin Night Market Taipei Taiwan Chicken Cutlet House of Haos Shilin Night Market Taipei Taiwan Chicken Cutlet FryingWe stopped by a small sitdown shop selling crab soup (螃蟹羹), and though you can’t really see the crab pieces in the picture (they were plentiful), the soup was a wonderful, thickened blend of crunch (bamboo shoots), umami (shiitake mushrooms), and sliminess (black fungus shreds of some sort).House of Haos Shilin Night Market Taipei Taiwan Crab Soup

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Ningxia Night Market (宁夏夜市) – Taipei

On our second night in Taipei, we headed to Ningxia night market, recommended by our friends Winston and Jessica.  This one was much smaller than Raohe and Shilin, the latter of which we went to the next night, and was almost exclusively food.  Which meant it was perfectly up my alley.DSC_0195-001We hadn’t stopped into any of the sit-down places the previous night so we decided to start with a little restaurant making fried oyster omelettes (蚵仔煎) on this streetside griddle.  DSC_0197The griddle is then covered with a potato starch batter, eggs, and some lettuce.DSC_0198-001After a good amount of additional griddlin’, the end result (for us) is a gravy-slathered plate of charred stickiness (from the potato starch) and funky oyster flavor.  I’ve never been huge on cooked oysters, but this version (particularly the gravy and the omelette parts) were pretty tasty – and it also helped that these oysters were plump and fresh and didn’t have a weird aftertaste (trust me on oysters sometimes having weird aftertastes).DSC_0199-001Anyway, so Ningxia has a relatively short (one block length’s worth of) runway of food stalls, but they are delicious (from both visual and gustatory points of view).  Our first stop was a 烧烤 stall, where my sister went to town on some squid:DSC_0201-001I went across the way to this roasted meat skewer stand and grabbed a few helpings of chicken skin, gizzard, and fatty pork.DSC_0202-001A tray of fried chicken bites (I went with the breaded ones): DSC_0204-001A view of the crowds:DSC_0200-001Our last stop of the night was a collection of folding chairs and tables near the night market entrance that served up some mian xian (oyster-and-intestine flour-rice noodle soup), similar to what we had at Ay Chung (but soupier, and less potent in flavor), along with a bowl of offal and blood pudding soup and an order of fried stinky tofu (臭豆腐), a Taiwanese food stall classic.  The mian xian and soup were quite tasty and moderately spicy – I’m a big fan of stewed intestine so long as they still have that chewiness to them.  Stinky tofu is somewhat of an acquired taste.  I did not find it to be addictingly delicious, but it’s definitely worth a try.  Surprisingly, the stinkiness seemed to be mostly in the aroma (maybe it’s the frying oil), because the tofu inside was succulent and only slightly sour.  This was almost a disappointment for me, since I was hoping for something more along the lines of fermented bean curd, especially the spicy version, which sometimes accompanied morning bowls of congee.

But anyway, I digress.  A second night of Taipei’s night markets, and I still felt like there were a million undiscovered things, both within Ningxia and without, in the city’s myriad neighborhood markets.  The beauty of street food.House of Haos Ningxia Night Market Taipei Taiwan Oyster Mian Xian House of Haos Ningxia Night Market Taipei Taiwan Offal Soup House of Haos Ningxia Night Market Taipei Taiwan Stinky Tofu

Ningxia Night Market (宁夏夜市)
Datong District
Taipei City, Taiwan 103

Lamai Street Food – Koh Samui, Thailand

Behold the food porn…

We opted for sit-down restaurants for all of our meals (not on principal or anything, it just happened that way), but Lamai boasts two excellent collections of food stalls.  One is behind one of the many 7-Elevens sprinkled along Road 4169 (there’s a Google Map location at “Lamai Food Center”).

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The other is a night market on a side street adjacent to Had Lamai, the main road of shops.  I wish I had smuggled some of that crispy pork back home with me.

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Nishiki Market – Kyoto

Kyoto’s Nishiki Market runs along a four- or five-block length of pedestrian street fitted with stalls and little shops selling an eye-popping smorgasbord of food and food-related things, from kombu to artisanal knives to mochi to Japanese spices to skewers to seafood.   So much sensory overload from just a thirty-minute stroll down this narrow corridor of heaven.

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L’Usine – Saigon

Another recommendation courtesy of our Shanghai friend Winston, L’Usine is a hip shop and restaurant/coffeeshop in District 1, tucked away in the second-floor of an otherwise unmemorable collection of galleries, boutiques, and scooter parking.  Up a narrow turn of stairs is L’Usine’s corridor, its tiling, color scheme, and signage very reminiscent of a nostalgic French bistro.

DSC_0349 DSC_0352Inside, the space opens up, complementing the murmur and voices and laughter from the late morning flock of coffee-drinkers, brunch-gatherers, and the welcoming expat vibe.  Behind the restaurant sits the retail portion of the space, sporting aged wood and industrial chic, tinged with elements of curious and quirky, like stuffed elephants and billowing ceiling drapery: Continue reading