Manado, Indonesia’s Tinutuan

Working in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, had been an incredible eye-opener to the (understatement of the year) diverse world of Indonesian food.  Specifically, I’m referring to makanan Manado, or food from the mostly Catholic city of Manado on the island of Sulawesi.

My office at the time was a three-minute walk to a Manadonese eatery, which first introduced me to the fiery, no holds-barred cuisine.  It is best known for its smoked cakalang, or skipjack tuna, spicy sambal, or chili pastes, and for cooking basically anything.

After a visit to what is likely one of the world’s more colorful wet markets in Tomohon, Indonesia, I was inconveniently feeling peckish.  I say that because, I went to the market specifically on an empty stomach, but left with an even emptier one.  None of the wet market stalls had anything ready-to-eat, so it was up to visiting neighboring street vendors for a bite.

After a few days of chowing down on a veritable Noah’s Ark, it was time for something…tame.  Enter, tinutuan/bubur Manado, or Manadonese porridge:

OK, so the word tame was used above in somewhat jocular manner.  You see, although tinutuan is a hot watery local rice porridge made with pumpkin, corn, water spinach, and other ingredients less likely to harry PETA worshipers, it is still typically served with a piquant sambal.  Tinutuan, like bubur in other parts of the country, is much more common as a breakfast dish; it’s fast, ingredients are cheap and plentiful, and no street vendor ever has to worry about washing dishes for the next customer.  Whoops, the cat’s out of the bag.

By the way, the Indonesian version of “there’s no use crying over spilled milk” is nasi sudah menjadi bubur.  Which is to say, “the rice has already become porridge.”

Posted in East & Southeast Asia, Food & Drink, Indonesia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Geographically Uninclined, the Holy Edition

Ever end up in the wrong city?  I ask this, because I read a story a few years ago about someone flying to the wrong “Taiwan.”  Which is to say, the passenger meant to go to the rogue state, but ended up in Taiyuan, China instead.  Never mind that the two places are spelled differently – in both English and Chinese – and that the former isn’t “a city,” but I decided to see how common this type of mistake was.  It happens from time to time, but you’ve got to be a real winner to do so.  Just ask them.

On a lighter note, I’ll pose this question to y’all– if someone offered you a trip to Mecca, which would you choose?:

Mecca, population ~ 8500, in California, USA?  Close to the fascinatingly dubious Salton Sea, which I’ll get to in a later post?


Mecca, population ~ 1.5 million, in Saudi Arabia?

I’ll pack the enthusiasm if you remember the suntan lotion.

Posted in Languages, North America (non-NYC), Turkey, Southwest Asia/Middle East & North Africa | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sugar Bombs of the World: Malaysia’s Teh Tarik

Batam, Indonesia - Teh TarikIn fact, I had this drink at an Indian restaurant in Batam, Indonesia, but that island, as close as thirty-five minutes to Singapore by boat,  is so filled with unscrupulous Singaporeans – like the city-state itself – that it remains a valid place to try today’s subject,
teh tarik.

Yes, teh tarik, a sweet drink composed of black tea and sweetened condensed milk, calls Malaysia its home, though it’s nearly as ubiquitous in Singapore.  Though, I have a few bugaboos when it comes to food and drink, and not one is terribly logical.  The one involving teh tarik regards my mostly blanket disapproval of artificially sweetened beverages – does passion fruit juice really need Splenda? – but this Malaysian specialty is a notable AND rare exception.  I mentioned that it’s not a logical gripe, primarily because I have no problem with pairing teh tarik with kaya toast, aka buttery Singaporean joy.

As for the meaning of the name, teh signifies “tea” and tarik is “pull” in Indonesian and Malay.  Pulling tea sounds like an act of torture in that part of the world, and in some respects, it is.  The origin stems from the act of the vendor having to quickly pull the concoction between two vessels, in order to skillfully mix the condensed milk with the tea.  For a clearer example of what that means, check out this video (it’s the same thing on mute).  The allure to some customers is that, while the peddler is preparing the sugary stuffr, not even a drop of it is splashed onto them, even though your expectations lead you to believe you’d become a teh tarik manusia, or human pulled tea.

Have you tried this before?  Feeling bushed after just two sips?

Posted in East & Southeast Asia, Food & Drink | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Best Street Food Nominees: Seafood Vadai in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Clearly, I haven’t thought this through.

What do I mean?  The winner of best street food.  Yikes, that’s never going to happen.  What I mean is… there are myriad candidates for this category, and that’s a good thing.

Today’s entry comes to us all the way from Staten Island Colombo, Sri Lanka.  I think highly of the presence of pumpkin and beets in contemporary Sri Lankan cuisine, and have equally fond memories of strolling along Galle Face Green, a downtown Colombo park.  Though its other selling points include a boardwalk along the Indian Ocean, as well as pick-up cricket matches, the highlight for me was the vadai:

Vadai come in many forms, but these particular snacks are flattened lentil flour patties.  Some enterprising character decided that these weren’t filling enough, so, in a master stroke, decided to top some with fresh crab and prawns.  Slather on lime juice, chili sauce, and mix with chopped onions for an even greater meal.

Have any other suggestions for Sri Lankan bites that don’t ignore the Hippocratic oath?

Posted in Food & Drink, South Asia | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some of Us Need a Break

Century 21 in Taipei, Taiwan

Because even employees need a break sometimes.  Still, a Taiwanese dream must be second to none.

Posted in East & Southeast Asia, Human Nature | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Best Snacks in the World, Japan Edition

It’s a tough question for the culinary traveler– which country has the best snacks in the world?  Impossible to answer, much like “which country has the best seated outdoor bronze Buddha statue built in 1993?”  (If you said Hong Kong, you’d be wrong, as that’s not a country.)

Back to the food question, ya, I have a few favorites which we might get to in more detail over time.  For now, I’ll leave you with a big one:

Japan, one of the behemoths of the snacking world.  This snapshot of a convenience store in Kyoto covers the gamut of choices on a color chart, and even submerges into the wide world of sexism.  In this instance, we have potato chips, corn chips, and ramen chips.  True gluttons – not unlike myself – would be drawn to the “Hokkaido butter-imbued” (北海度 バター ) flavors, and the sheer of chips will have you replacing jeans on a weekly basis.

The Japanese convenience store merits its own series on BuildingMyBento, but for now, a sneak-peek at some of my favorite snacks will have to suffice.

Posted in East & Southeast Asia, Food & Drink, Japan | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hotel Review: Olissippo Lapa Palace, Lisbon, Portugal

Disclaimer: In exchange for this hotel review, I received a stay in Lisbon, Portugal in one of the Olissippo Lapa Palace’s Garden Wing pool rooms.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Located in the posh embassy-filled Lapa district of Lisbon, the hotel grounds date to 1870, when a local viscount first had the building built for his son.  His son disapproved – perish the thought – so in 1883, it was sold to another count, who turned it into a palace.  The Olissippo Lapa Palace only became a hotel in 1988.

The hotel isn’t close to a Metro station, but it’s near useful (to downtown) buses and trams.  The neighborhood, as mentioned above, is exclusive, and that partially explains why public transport is hit-or-miss.  However, I took both the bus to and the tram from the old downtown, and both were quite fine.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Upon entering the hotel, my first impression of the lobby was that it was clean, variegated, and airy.  However, service was a bit stiff – perhaps even arrogant at times – until staff realized that I was a guest.  Even then, it wasn’t the most hospitable, and responses felt stilted.

A bellhop showed me to my room.  Unnecessary, but my hotel contact was unavailable that day, so he showed me around the hotel.  As welcoming and bright as the room was, there were a few issues. Firstly, the air conditioner was pathetic, and only seemed to cool the area directly in front of it.

Also, there was no universal outlet (I have gadgets from all over the world, so whipping out multiple adapters is always cumbersome).  Not to mention, when you press the master switch, everything but one random light in the room went out.  When I left my phone to charge overnight, because I flipped the master switch, the phone actually lost power.  Oftentimes, certain outlets (e.g. fridges) aren’t on the master switch “grid,” but in this room, they were all taken.

On a positive note, the bathroom had a cool, locally-influenced design (think blue and white tiles), and the room had a terrace which overlooked the outdoor pool and garden.

Portuguese sweets (from left): pastel de nata (egg tart!), and two that aren’t pastel de nata…ok ok, travesseiros (pillows) de Sintra, and pampilhos de Santarém.  They also offered fresh fruit and two bottles of water.  (What, no delicious Douro Valley wine?)

Unique way to say “stay out!”

I wandered down to the indoor pool and spa, at the time open from 08:00-20:00.  Quite relaxing, and never seemed too busy.


Buffet breakfasts are always high on my list of priorities (for certain hotels), and the buffet at the Olissippo Lapa Palace was middle-of-the-line.  At first glance, the spread looked small, but on closer inspection, there were decent offerings, as well as the best mango I’ve had in years.

As it was another beautiful October day in Lisbon, I opted to sit outside.  Again, service was underwhelming, but I was satisfied with the vegetables, salmon, and granola, and a demitasse of Earl Gray tea.  As seems to be a theme at breakfast buffets, obnoxious guests aren’t the fault of the hotel, but good acoustics might be.

Ultimately, whereas the Olissippo Lapa Palace has its regal charm and quiet location, I never felt too welcome at the hotel.  It could have been my age, or unenthusiastic employees, but I might have to get a bit older before paying a repeat visit.  Still, I’d go there for a drink or tea, because the setting and district are pleasant.

Posted in Europe, Food & Drink, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment