“Give Me the Meat Feast, Hold the Meat.”

A long time ago, a friend and I were eating at Denny’s when he told me this anecdote about one of the other restaurant patrons.  He said that the other customer said to the waitress “give me the meat feast, hold the meat.”  Although I wasn’t within earshot for this once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence, I unfortunately pay witness to a much less humorous phenomenon: the Manhattan shopper:

Manhattan, New York City, USA - Sushi Raw Fish Sign

How generous of New York City‘s Westside Market to let us know!  It’s in the same vein as a sign in Chinatown declaring “we earn all of our tips.”  On second thought, at least one place there does.

OK, I’ll offer up a short history lesson to sap some of the fun out of this.  Although sushi as we I know it today likely started after vinegar and raw fish were added to rice in Japan in the 1820s, the idea possibly comes from Southeast Asia many centuries ago–the point was originally to preserve food through pickling and fermentation.

So, fellow consumers, which sushi appeals more to you, one with salted fish in plain cooked rice, or the contemporary bastardized versions with deluges of mayonnaise, raw beef and this nasty stuff?

Cardamom’s the Word in Guatemala

Source: https://qtradeteas.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/cardamom/


In spite of the title of this post, truth be told, the way to say cardamom in Spanish is cardamomo.  With a name like that, surely it’s not indigenous to that part of the world.  (Same thing with coffee/café, you know?)

It makes me ponder thus, I’ve known about cardamom for a long time, ever since I started raiding the breath freshener (and carminative) trays at Indian restaurants.  Whereas my usual reason for diving into those trays was for the candy-coated fennel seeds, the inimitable aggressive flavor of cardamom always stood out.  Where else would I find the expensive pods in my food?  Atop biryanis, in milk and as a seasoning for teas.

And in Antigua, Guatemala, in chocolate:

Antigua, Guatemala - Cardamom Chocolate (2)

Prior to World War I, German coffee farmer Oscar Majus Kloeffer introduced cardamom to the fertile soil of Alta Verapáz.  Guatemala is currently the world’s largest exporter of cardamom, though hardly uses it on the domestic front, save for adding it to bars of local chocolate much to the amusement of self-described travel bloggers.  Most of it is shipped to the Middle East and India, the latter of which frequently expressing sour grapes over one of its native crops.  How many more continents can we mention in this paragraph?

Are you a cardamom fan?  Have you been to Guatemala?

Shopping Around Dhaka, Bangladesh

I visited Dhaka, Bangladesh a few years ago – mostly to eat– but also to check out Louis Kahn’s National Assembly Building.  Naturally, I wasn’t allowed in at the time, so I had to stick to plan A, that being food.

In the city of tens of thousands of rickshaws and taxi rides that went for about $1.50 an hour, I still couldn’t help but get into wander mode.  Occasionally, I’d stop at a shopping center for some relief from the chaos, and oh did those malls pay off–

Dhaka, Bangladesh - Weird Shopping Center Signs (4)
The Norwood and Parkchester sections of the Bronx are home to rapidly growing Bangladeshi communities.  Would be something else if Dhaka was home to a rapidly growing Puerto Rican community.

Dhaka, Bangladesh - Weird Shopping Center Signs (3)

While we’re on the topic of New York…I’m kidding, but it still burns a little inside passing by both Domino’s and Papa John’s in Manhattan. But this off-shoot, I’ll let them side.

Dhaka, Bangladesh - Weird Shopping Center Signs (2)


The only question is, do they also have fried chicken?

Dhaka, Bangladesh - Weird Shopping Center Signs (1)

Here’s one for the weird signs collection.  The mannequin on the left doesn’t exactly scream what I typically think of as Western, so maybe they mean West Bengal?

Terrible jokes aside, what’s even more unusual about this is the presence of a saloon right next door.  What country do they think this is?

Have you been to Dhaka?  Do you keep watch for knock-offs/bizarre signage in your travels?

The Jagalchi Market in Busan, South Korea

Jagalchi Market, Busan (Pusan), Republic of Korea (South Korea) (10)

What a 180º shift from the much more well-known yet much less welcoming-to-foreigners’ Tsukiji Market in Tokyo…the ajumma (아줌마, middle-aged/married women) at Jagalchi Market
(자갈치시장), in Busan, South Korea were actually beckoning patrons to feast on shellfish and sea pineapples – more on those later – right at their stalls!

Yep, this place is quality.

Likely established in 1876 and named for the gravel (jagal/자갈) that surrounded the food market/port at the time, it only became a major center in the fishing trade after the Korean War, when many refugees from other parts of the country made it to southerly Busan.

With a bit of the market’s history out of the way, let’s take a short tour of the area:

Jagalchi Market, Busan (Pusan), Republic of Korea (South Korea) (1)

If you hop on line 1 of Busan’s metro, you can easily get to Jagalchi market.  In fact, since Busan’s main train station downtown is also on line 1, you could make an easy day trip from Seoul and other Korean cities using KTX, the national high speed rail.  Or…you could just stay where you are, because if you’re already in South Korea, excellent food already surrounds you.

Jagalchi Market, Busan (Pusan), Republic of Korea (South Korea) (2)
Unlike the coy version in Shinjuku, Tokyo, this nearby crab specialty restaurant isn’t ashamed in the least to remind you that you’re in Jagalchi town.

Jagalchi Market, Busan (Pusan), Republic of Korea (South Korea) (7)
A boat by a seafood market?  No way.

Jagalchi Market, Busan (Pusan), Republic of Korea (South Korea) (3)
I suppose the market motif is way too 21st century Chinese airport – that is, boring and uninspired – but unlike Chinese airports, edible food lies within.  Come to think of it, that makes it years ahead of US airports too.

Jagalchi Market, Busan (Pusan), Republic of Korea (South Korea) (8)
See, I visited this place in 2009, long before I could read Korean.  Even though I can read it now, that doesn’t mean I understand it.  Thus, at the time, I thought this was a statue of a (male) Korean pilot.

But what sense does that make???  Looking up the words now, it reads “Jagalchi Grandma.”

Jagalchi Market, Busan (Pusan), Republic of Korea (South Korea) (9)

Dried squid…and now I’ve pinpointed the exact moment I lost the attention of half of the voters in NYC and south Florida.

Jagalchi Market, Busan (Pusan), Republic of Korea (South Korea) (6)
From the polychromatic family of sea squirts comes 멍게 (meong ge) or in Japanese 真海鞘 (マボヤ/maboya), less commonly known as sea pineapples.  They’re hermaphroditic, spontaneously expel water and are apparently best served raw or pickled.  I didn’t get to try them, and I wouldn’t suggest calling someone a sea squirt either.

Jagalchi Market, Busan (Pusan), Republic of Korea (South Korea) (5)
Seafood.  Count me in.

Jagalchi Market, Busan (Pusan), Republic of Korea (South Korea) (4)

Pretty sure this sign reads something to the effect of “if it’s raw, dig in.”  But don’t quote me on that.

Jagalchi Market, Busan (Pusan), Republic of Korea (South Korea) (11)
The main event.  Oyster.  Soy sauce and wasabi.  Garlic and green chilies.  Some kind of wonderful fermented bean paste.  Ubiquitous carafe of water.


Have you been to Busan and/or Jagalchi Market?

One-Child Policy: The Ride

I’ve been to Los Angeles a few times, but I still don’t know it as well as other equally food-crazed, architecturally-curious cities.  All the better, since that spells greater motivation to explore the massive LA-Long Beach-Catalina-Pomona metropolis.

No matter where I am, when walking isn’t an option, public transit is my usual ride for getting around.  And no matter where I go, I generally seem to end up in a Chinatown.

Just as New York City has a few Chinatowns, so does the LA-area.  The official one is close to downtown right by Union Station, and apparently just like Manhattan’s nearly obsolete Little Italy, this one also sprang up from an older Italian neighborhood.  (Side note: What’s the big idea, China?  Italy had a relatively small sphere of influence in China at the turn of the 20th century)

Anyway, after reaching that Chinatown, the first thing to catch my attention wasn’t a gate, or a restaurant or even someone yelling on a phone.  Rather, it was a lonely amusement park throwaway:

One-Child Policy Ride, Los Angeles, California, USA

Yes, many of us have probably seen those small 25¢ rides for children outside of supermarkets and other stores.  This one looks a tad more unnerving.  I am however, tickled by the presence of influences by both the West (a big top and a clown) and the East (the color yellow and a red dragon).  Not to mention, from whose car were those lights stolen?

Taiwan, What Are You?

Taiwan is an island in the East China Sea.  That game was fun.

But is Taiwan a country?  That’s still under debate, and not just by China.

OK, I’ll pose the question another way…which of their colonial occupiers do you think this driver prefers?  Any from Asia?  Japan’s a possibility, but strictly judging by a Chiayi license plate, let’s take a wild guess:

Chiayi, Taiwan- EU License Plate

Yes, the Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish, and very briefly the French all rolled into town between the early 1600s and the late 1800s, in addition to the Japanese, Hakka and Han.

Wouldn’t it add more insult to injury if I told you that this was in the Turkish Tibetan part of town? That “T” could stand for anything.

What do actual member states of the EU think?  They probably don’t care, seeing as it’s quite easy to make one of these plates.  Ah, as long as the majority doesn’t start charging to use restrooms à la much of the European Union, I also don’t care.

In what ways have you seen soft nationalism represented in your travels?

Fifty Shades of Wrong: A Pharmacy a Day in Queens, New York

When you’re in Queens, New York, you’re bound to come across something weird at any given moment.  Well…weird is fine, but one southern Flushing pharmacy likely went too far:

S&M Pharmacy, Flushing, Queens, New York

“We Influence Parents’ Nightmares”

There are plenty of distinct – and sometimes offensivesigns out in Queens that have earned a place on BuildingMyBento, but I, hmm, haven’t gotten to them yet.

Of course, the two initials represent the names Shalom and Mecheieh, but if only they made one slight change to the order in which they’re written…it’s not like they’re competing for top billing in a movie either.

Or, it could be that my mind isn’t quite right.  Here, let’s set it right once again.