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very curious about where the cheese ends in asia

rabidog Feb 23, 2009 05:43 PM

hi hounds,

my two favorite cuisines in the world are indian and thai. i love the paneer and spices and teas of indian food (especially the paneer - love it blackened, and in a spicy curry - http://picasaweb.google.com/rabidog/I... ), and the chilis and seafoods and wide rice noodles and basil and fish sauce of thai food (i love me a pad kee mao basically incorporating all of these things!).

last year i ate my way through a pretty diverse cross-section of india, catching trains, flights and rides at random and going 100% off the word on the street (what words i could interpret, anyways) and it was the best experience of my entire life, hands-down. i had a paneer/vegetable biryani from a local at a small stop on an overnight train from jaipur to ahmedabad that quite possibly changed my life. paneer dosas in an odd back alley restaurant outside of jaipur. unfamiliar dark breakfast curries involving fried egg at a place filled entirely with muslim men... and me (slightly awkward!). more excellent biryani in hyderabad. a goan fish vindaloo dish. paneer tikka masala on a seaside hotel porch. masala tea and sugarcane juice and sweet lime drinks at every turn. amazing amazing amazing food. i was so happy. i want to go back, i loved that country. i could eat paneer and little else for the rest of my life.

anyway, it seems silly (to me) to go back to the same places when so much more of the world remains unexplored by me so i thought of indulging for a few weeks back in some of my favorite spots, benaulim beach in goa for sure (which is total and complete relaxation via: freshly caught fishes in strong curries and indian beer served oceanside by a cute indian waiter, friendly tamed stray puppies in your lap, beautiful and colorful (polluted!) sunsets, and QUIET compared to the rest of the country!), and then possibly heading out (via train?) to some other countries in the area.

then while browsing the map i noticed thailand is not THAT far, via bangladesh and burma. and THAT got me thinking (i've had a lot of time on my hands lately) about how there is NO cheese in thai cuisine. and i wonder where, exactly does the cheese end, between india and thailand? (i also got stuck on a similar tangent about where the last natural palm tree occurs on the US east coast, but that's irrelevant to chow) so what i'm wondering from chowhounds... would that make for an entertaining/delicious/educational/possible travel itinerary? has anyone wondered the same (about the cheese line)? is anyone from this general region who could shed some general light on the cheese situation? has anyone done this or something similar? does anyone have recs about how to travel (i'm open to train, or buying a cheap scooter or bike - i just don't know about the roads)? this is the first place i'm seeking out information and haven't done much research yet, haven't looked into visas, so forgive me if any part of this is totally unfeasible!

some background on me; i'm unemployed right now (who isn't?!), i've saved a bit of money, and i've got a few months to play around with. i'd probably look to spend about six weeks grazing in india and traveling across the continent and maybe back via a different route (open to suggestions). possibly leaving in late april. i'd be traveling solo, i'm 26 (as of tomorrow!) and female. i get around very well on my own (i prefer that style of travel, as i find myself interacting more with locals than if i have a friend to accompany me). i don't speak any other languages but i'm pretty good with communicating in pictures and gestures and via translation books. i travel light, and cheaply, and i don't look for comfort (i looked to spend between $5 and $10 a night on hotels when i was in india last year, and the conversion rates work more in my favor today, at least for india). give me some ideas, hounds! i have an itch to get out of philadelphia for awhile. thanks!

  1. Soop Feb 24, 2009 01:07 AM

    Never done anything like that before, but your post was interesting. Come back and tell us how it went if you do go!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Soop
      t
      ThaiNut Feb 24, 2009 03:14 AM

      I lived in Bangkok for 12 years, and was trained as a Thai linguist before I got there. Thais, and this likely extends to all the Southeast Asians, just don't like cheese. Their biggest complaint is that it smells bad. About the only places you will find cheese being offered is in the larger western-style restaurants. But if you want a wedge of something to munch on during your travels you can get it at the Villa, Big-C or the other supermarkets, and most large department stores will also have western-looking food markets where they'll have imported cheeses. Won't be cheap though.

      For limited budget but adventuresome travel I'd suggest the trains. Second class is quite comfortable for day trips and at night the 2nd class cars make into sleepers which are excellent for overnight rides to the ends of the lines. The name of the main railway station is Bangkok is Hua-Lam-Phong and it is located at the end of one of the subway lines. Busses are even cheaper but can get cramped and they're not very comfortable for long rides.

      April is the hottest month and Dec is the coolest. I'm sure you've picked up from ChowHound that the street food in Thailand is truly awesome and very cheap.

    2. Sam Fujisaka Feb 24, 2009 03:07 AM

      Yo, dog! I always look for cheese. The cheese line is in Burma. Burma used to be a part of India / the Raj; and Indian food and culture co-exists with Burmese there. I've had those similar cheeses / curds / dishes in Tajikistan, Pakistan, Nepal, India, Bhutan, and parts of Burma. I've not had traditional cheeses in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, southern China, Taiwan, Indonesia, or East Timor. The Philippines has a carabao / water buffalo cheese, but that is artisanally produced in small quantities, sold along the highway, and is relatively expensive.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
        alkapal Feb 24, 2009 05:16 AM

        sam,
        how much cattle is there in the "cheese" nations as a proportion of all kinds of livestock? of course, in india, not a lot of beef is eaten, but the dairy cattle are widespread, right? is there a greater proportion of pigs (vs. cattle) in s.e. asia? i'm thinking the cheese "line" has to do with the local terrain and climate, and suitability of the types of animals raised there (and religious taboos).

        we had a similar discussion about the "yogurt trail" on another thread.... http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5883...

        rabid dog,
        i think there are palm trees in coastal north carolina.....certainly south carolina, where a palm is on the flag, of course.

        1. re: alkapal
          Sam Fujisaka Feb 24, 2009 05:38 AM

          Tajikistan has way too many goats and some good goat's milk cheeses. In India and Pakistan, most of the cattle you see roaming about are used for pulling plows (although really good draft oxen are well tended). The diary cattle are out of sight, well cared for, and often supplemented with cut and carry alfalfa / clover. Bhutan's milk animals are also usually kept in stalls and fed by cut-and-carry systems. There is a special small milk cow indigenous to Bali, also largely penned. Families producing milk in south Asia usually have one or two producers, with the rare large herd being maybe 20 head. The case is similar for parts of Burma. Indeed, the no cheese countries have few dairy cattle, but do have cattle for meat and animal draft power. Yes, pigs are more common throughout non-Muslim south and southeast Asia. The challenge in Asia, Central America, and elsewhere is to get proteins into the diets of "dual purpose females" (cows raised for milk and meat). We try to do that by getting forage legumes into the feeding systems. As to breeds for milk production, you see large European / American in more temperate areas like in parts of Pakistan, Nepal, and Bhutan; the Bali cattle there; and heartier Bhrama mixes in much of south Asia - and in Central America.

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
            rabidog Feb 25, 2009 10:32 AM

            Sam, thank you! this is exactly the information i was looking for. great stuff and very interesting. i can't wait to get planning on this trip. i'd love to expand on my original thoughts and visit some of the other places you mention.

            we have a burmese restaurant here in philadelphia; i've been a couple of times but now i think i'm going to revisit them soon as i do remember a large history of burmese cuisine printed on the menu. and the menu is extensive - it reads like a book. i was fascinated by the cuisine - we had samosa-like pieces and thousand-layer breads that were faintly reminiscent of indian foods, then bean curd salads and red and masaman curry dishes that reminded me of some of my thai favorites. best of both worlds!

            alkapal: that was my guess, too - i've seen the palms in the outer banks. i've also seen them in VA beach, but i wonder if those are naturally occurring or planted. by the time you get to ocean city, MD, they're gone, and the beaches up here in NJ (i'm in philly but they're a quick train ride away) are palmless.

            what can i say - discovering where things end always fascinated me. :) i'll certainly keep the 'hounds on top of whatever itinerary i end up putting together!

            1. re: rabidog
              Sam Fujisaka Feb 25, 2009 11:16 AM

              The Burmese and Indian populations in Burma are different in terms of cuisine. You might or might not find curds/cheese in a Burmese restaurant.

              My first wife and I had a Burmese cat in Oregon. Once years later out in remote rural Burma, I saw a Burmese cat and thought, "Hey, how do these poor people own such an expensive cat?" Doh!!!

              Happy birthday! Keep us all posted.

        2. re: Sam Fujisaka
          ipsedixit Feb 25, 2009 09:18 PM

          I think cheese is pretty prevalent in *modern* Taiwanese and Chinese cooking (esp. in the larger cosmopolitan cities like Beijing, Shanghai etc.). You'll find cheese, or dishes with cheese in just about every other restaurant in Honk Kong and Taipei.

          Certainly cheese is not a traditional ingredient in Chinese cooking, but nowadays it's hardly verboten.

          1. re: ipsedixit
            rabidog Feb 26, 2009 06:27 AM

            very interesting!! do you have any dishes you could name as an example? here in philly i have never seen cheese in our chinatown restaurants (though i will have to thumb through the burmese restaurant's menu in more detail, now). i wonder if we just haven't caught up to the region's trends yet?

            1. re: rabidog
              ipsedixit Feb 26, 2009 07:31 AM

              Well, typical Hong Kong style cafe dishes will include things like baked pasta with a cheese crust (see pic), cream cheese dumplings (or fritters) served with ponzu dipping sauce (see pic), and baked pork chop rice topped with gorgonzola. And, of course, just about every bakery in Taiwan or Hong Kong will have some sort of Asian take on tiramisu.

               
               
              1. re: ipsedixit
                PeterL Feb 26, 2009 07:58 AM

                HK style cafes serves what I would call a fusion cuisine, before the word fusion was fashionable. The cheese dishes came from British and Australia influences. The cheese ingredients in Beijing cuisines came from the western part of China. The strictly Chinese cuisine (Han) don't have any cheese as ingredients.

              2. re: rabidog
                Das Ubergeek Feb 26, 2009 10:20 AM

                Look for Hong Kong-style cafes. They have a lot of throwbacks, like lobster Thermidor.

            2. re: Sam Fujisaka
              mogo Feb 27, 2009 09:58 PM

              I wonder if the cheese ends where the tofu begins?

              1. re: mogo
                r
                Rasam Mar 6, 2009 01:54 AM

                Mogo: I too think it does.

                Dairy use seems to end where the soybean begins. Soybeans were not common in South Asia until very recently (and it still remains an upscale urban ingredient). And the flip side is that dairy products are less common where soy products are more widespread.

                Tofu is basically soymilk paneer......

            3. dkstar1 Feb 27, 2009 06:29 AM

              ever have Camel cheese from the Middle East? It's pretty nasty to be honest with you. I happened to be at a cheese shop in NYC (though it was not Bondgard.com) where the monger just received a gift of the vile stuff. It had an aftertaste similar to lobster. No joke.

              1 Reply
              1. re: dkstar1
                j
                jumpingmonk Mar 1, 2009 02:54 PM

                Sound's interesting. I guess that like cow cheese, camel cheese varies from region to region. From what I understand the version being made in parts of Mauritania (Africa) has many European gourmets in taste orgasms, so much so that they are up in arms that the european goverments pulled out all the stops to ban its importation (to protect the own indegenous cheesemakers)

                Speaking of odd milks when you daw the cheese line in Asia dont forget to incude Tibet and it's yak cheese. Okay it isnt "traditional" to the region (from what I understand some tibetans imported cheesemakers (from holland I think) to teach them how to make cheese, as a way of preserving excess yalk's milk. I've actually had the stuff and while not bad its in my opion nothing really special (tastes a bit like hard sheep cheese but smells even more sheepy)

              2. hill food Feb 27, 2009 11:44 PM

                I'm no help to the OP, but I like the approach "catching trains, flights and rides at random and going 100% off the word on the street (what words i could interpret, anyways)"

                also known as living off the land (as a traveler)

                7 Replies
                1. re: hill food
                  rabidog Feb 28, 2009 04:43 AM

                  haha, that does roll of the tongue much easier! i've always favored that type of travel, but really learned the hard way years ago when we booked a trip (prepaid hotel and ski lift tickets) at killington, VT. and then it rained. for days. we cut our losses, packed up, and drove up to quebec (we'd never been) for some fabulous indian food (at a place whose name it KILLS me i cannot recall) and then all over canada. i will always do my area research in-depth, but i will never, ever pre-book anything ever again. i love the freedom of staying longer in a place that calls to me, or setting off if a place is not my cup of tea!

                  mogo brings up another good point... LOVE the tofu... and i certainly eat a whopping ton of it from our thai and vietnamese restaurants over here. i don't eat any meats other than seafood (and i get a lot of that in my thai food, too). do thai dishes in thailand often use tofu the same way (in place of meats - like a pad kee mao with tofu instead of chicken)? are there a lot of vegetarians?

                  i wrote earlier about the lone burmese restaurant in philly and i went there for an early dinner the other day to read the menu in-depth. alas, no cheese on it, but perhaps they focus more on the southern parts which is where i'm guessing (just guessing) the cheese will end. lots of lentils used on that menu, i did notice. there's a crushed lentil and chilies dish which is then deep-fried (kinda similar to a falafel ball) and served with a spicy peppery diipping sauce. really really good. also had some deep-fried taro root. this restaurant in particular seems to rely heavily on the deep frier. had a salad with tofus, onion, tomato and cilantro as well.

                  i started my research on the logistics and was disappointed to find that burma's borders are closed by land. that's really unfortunate because i would have to fly into and out of rangoon, and take trains around the area from rangoon, which cuts out the continuous flow i was hoping to have from india to thailand. ah well.

                  1. re: rabidog
                    Sam Fujisaka Feb 28, 2009 05:16 AM

                    Three rivers meet at Rangoon, from there it is a short way to the sea. Come by boat.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                      rabidog Mar 1, 2009 09:57 AM

                      interesting - i didn't know i could get there by boat. what's a good place to depart from? (prefer to get there from india rather than thailand, as i wanted to visit thailand after burma if possible). Sam, do you live in asia now?

                      1. re: rabidog
                        Sam Fujisaka Mar 1, 2009 10:13 AM

                        Actually, I have no idea if it is possible for Americans or other travellers. Probably not. Boats did arrive from Thailand, Indonesia, and India; and I travelled by boat on rivers within the delta region. But, overall, it was/is difficult to travel to Burma. I worked there off and on for quite a number of years, but left Asia 15 years ago (for Cali, Colombia). You mentioned trains: I enjoyed the train trip between Rangoon and Mandalay and back.

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                          rabidog Mar 1, 2009 10:20 AM

                          wow! quite a diverse background - that must have been wonderful.

                          i'll definitely check out that train route. one of my favorite things about taking the train in india was all the stops at the little towns, where villagers would walk the platforms with home-cooked biryanis and other goodies - so yummy.

                          1. re: rabidog
                            Sam Fujisaka Mar 1, 2009 11:24 AM

                            Yes, I've been lucky. As an agricultural scientist, I've gotten to work all over the developing world - and in the remotest of places in those countries. We always ask, "What? We're getting paid to do this?"! And my sideline has always been street and market food and the food made by people in their homes in those areas.

                            Yes, the trains in India, Burma, and Thailand are good and fun. Unfortunately, the Thai trains have become so modern, clean, and efficient that the food hawker clamor has been reduced or eliminated. I enjoyed the litter of the crude hand made clay tea cups along the tracks in India after the tea drinkers purchased tea at the stops and tossed the cups out the train windows further down the line.

                    2. re: rabidog
                      t
                      ThaiNut Feb 28, 2009 08:52 AM

                      In December the Thais changed their automatic visa process for Americans. It used to be that whenever you came into Thailand you got an automatic free 30-day visa that got stamped into your passport. But the new law is that you still get the 30 day visa only if you come in via air. If you enter Thailand via any other means (train from Singapore, auto from Malaysia, boat from wherever, you get only a 15 day free visa.

                  2. Delucacheesemonger Mar 1, 2009 12:01 PM

                    Will not comment on cheese aspect as Sam did a great job, but Myanmar is getting more difficult and expensive to visit. There is a minimum that must be spent in country which is not little and visa process is arduous as well. Investigate if Burma/Myanmar as well as Bhutan makes sense to your journey. On the other hand easy to get around the peninsular area of SE Asia. Few years back spent time based in Thailand and went over three months to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Singapore. Nowhere near enough time. The best thing of the trip was time spent in Hanoi, put it on my five favorite world cities, cannot say enough good things about it, food was wonderful. Another option is flying Air Malaysia into Kuala Lumpur and then they give you free flights to 25 cities in region, only rule is you have to fly back to KL each time, so time consuming but certainly inexpensive. And if you are on the Malay peninsula, detour to Korea, another phenomenal place. So, you are leaving Philadelphia just when l am moving back there. Have been reading your posts recently. Have fun on your adventure, it is the best part of life. If you have questions on the individual countries let me know and l will be glad to help. Food in Vietnam, Korea, and Thailand, IMHO, is not like what we get in the states and especially Vietnamese is so good. In one small coffee shop in the highlands, while waiting for your coffee to be brewed, and as you know it takes a long time, they give you a cup of tea while you are waiting. l am smiling with the memories. Easy to stay in Cambodia or Vietnam for $10-20 a day.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                      Sam Fujisaka Mar 1, 2009 02:50 PM

                      Delucacheesemonger, your post makes me smile with happiness. I seem to like the cities and countries that you do. As far as people, my working colleagues from Vietnam, Burma, and Bhutan could not be beat!

                      Dog, do stay in touch with the both of us.

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                        Delucacheesemonger Mar 1, 2009 03:00 PM

                        Here is another memory that may hit home Sam. while just outside Vientiane was making sure did not drink unbottled water, checking each bottle bought to see they were opened by me and not refilled. It was so hot, passed street stand where man was pressing sugar cane on machine, Said have to do this, and did, and after pressing he threw all the juice into a bag of ice. It was so good and never got sick, great memory for me.

                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                          Sam Fujisaka Mar 1, 2009 03:44 PM

                          Great, and, to all, remember that a whole coconut with a hole sliced open is always great - coconut water is always so pure that it can be used as a sterile drip (warning, (slight) exaggeration for hueristic devices here employed).

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                            r
                            Rasam Mar 6, 2009 01:57 AM

                            Coconut water is *the* best.
                            And I recall hearing that coconut contains something that alleviates diarrhea (a radio show in the US by a medical anthropologist was advocating coconut macaroons as a remedy).
                            I wish aid and health workers would promote coconut water as much as ORT salts in areas where coconuts are abundant. I think they're already electrolyte balanced.

                          2. re: Delucacheesemonger
                            rabidog Mar 2, 2009 05:36 AM

                            before going, colleagues and friends from india all gave me advice, and a lot of it was to only eat cooked or peelable foods. while i'm sure that's very sound advice, i am very glad i threw it out the window a couple days in last time! :)

                            ooooh pressed sugarcane was one of THE most delicious things! i found it in the bigger cities for 3 rupees a glass. they were served in real glasses so i chugged them down right at the stands. in a bag of ice- that is a great idea!!

                            it's hard to think of those temps when we just got hit with possibly the biggest snowstorm of the year! ...out to shovel...

                            with such rave reviews of hanoi i'll be sure to check into it! good to know about myanmar. i think it's going to be a challenge for sure but it's one of the top places i want to visit. i can be a stubborn one. :)

                      2. rabidog Mar 17, 2009 05:34 PM

                        aiiiiii! i just returned from new york where i obtained my india and bangladesh visas (the latter is NOT an easy one to apply for... i was sent away something like six times, for a different piece of information each time... ergh!)... but now i know why the large concentration of indian restaurants "to the right of midtown" (no idea what neighborghood that is) must be - it's where all the consulates for those countries are gathered! i had friends that used to live there and i loved chowing down at the lunch buffets there, which i did both days while waiting for my visas.
                        later in the week i'm heading down to DC for myanmar and pakistan visas (still on the fence about pakistan - doing a lot of research on particular areas - i know the reports look bad right now). so i can really explore the cheese demarcation line radiating out from india. a friend whose family is from pakistan says they don't typically cook with a lot of cheese either. in researching the cuisine it looks like a lot of meat (which doesn't do much for this vegetarian) but interesting nonetheless. nepal and thailand are easy and you can get them on arrival (thank goodness!).

                        i am on the fence about china. on one hand, it totally blows my budget; the visa's pretty expensive. but it's such a vast country it's so tempting. though with said budget blown, i'm trying to decide if the cost of a train across would be unfeasible (AND will i simply run out of time - i'm leaving on apr 11 or 12 and returning in early june) - and would i really be able to explore its cuisine to any decent extent. ugh, i hate getting visas because i have such commitment issues! i'm thinking it's worth it to get it, if i don't run out of time before i leave.

                        shots tomorrow. eek eek eek i am cringing now.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: rabidog
                          Sam Fujisaka Mar 17, 2009 07:22 PM

                          Good on you, Dog. I'd save China for the next trip - have faith that there will be that next trip. Vegetarian? Skip Pakistan. Keep us posted. All the best!

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                            rabidog Mar 21, 2009 12:19 AM

                            i'd recently interrogated a pakistani friend about the cuisine there and he also says it's pretty meat-based, not a lot of cheese. however on a different message board i learned pakistanis often serve meat specifically instead of veggies to guests as it would be considered an insult to NOT serve meat, unless specifically directed. anyone have any insight there? the people from that message board seem to think i'll be OK just so long as i let everyone know prior that i'm vegetarian. for what it's worth, i did visit mexico city a couple years back with hand-drawn signs depicting cows, chickens, pigs with a circle/slash "no" sign drawn around them, and i'm pretty sure they were effective (i hope!). :)

                            booked my flights - decided to fly into and out of thiruvananthapuram, a city whose name i cannot pronounce. i'll be there 7 weeks. probably spending the first 1 or 2 in goa, before heading east towards thailand somehow, then northeast towards pakistan, then south back into india. this way i can explore the eastern AND northern cheese lines! and hey, i made it through my shots without even crying. :)

                            1. re: rabidog
                              r
                              Rasam Mar 21, 2009 03:47 AM

                              Re Thiruvananthapuram: it's not a big deal to pronounce, just say each syllable without any special stress, and then string them all together.
                              Puram is a common place suffix meaning town. It shows up as "pur" often.

                              Or do what the British did and say "Trivandrum".

                              Paneer should be common in Pakistan.

                              Yes, in Pakistan, as in the Middle East, and almost anywhere else in the world really, meat is status food and not serving your best food to a guest would be declasse.

                              So you'll have to make your food ways very clear.

                              Google "vegetarian passport" and learn Urdu phrases for vegetarian :
                              "koi bhi maas-machli nahin" (no meat or fish at all)
                              "murgi nahin" (no chicken)

                              that sort of thing.

                              1. re: rabidog
                                crazyspice Mar 21, 2009 08:59 AM

                                Have a FABULOUS trip! Any way you can blog while you are away? I for one and I am sure many others would love to hear about your journey!

                                1. re: crazyspice
                                  rabidog Mar 24, 2009 09:42 AM

                                  thank you all for all this wonderful advice and well wishes!

                                  i'm not leaving til apr 12, and even afterwards i don't think i'd be able to survive without the occasional internet cafe, so i'll definitely do my best to keep up with this thread and all of CH!

                                  i WISH i could blog while i am away! but then all i'd learn about on my trip are the insides of asia's internet cafes. :) i will write, but it will probably be via a combination of paper journal/dictation thinger/notes on the blackberry which i'll try to compile into some sort of cohesive story upon my return in mid-june. i'm not bringing a laptop, traveling very light... i'm still puzzling over how to store/upload my digital pictures without spending my life savings in memory cards. last year in india i took 10,000 pictures in a two-week span.

                                  i'm in DC right now, killing time at a cafe/bar thing waiting for my pakistan visa to be ready. i totally screwed up the china one yesterday when i got flustered about skirting around my tibetan intentions and checked the wrong box, getting a single-entry visa instead of multiple-entry. so i'll need to do a bit of itinerary reconfiguring... very difficult with the myanmar borders closed by land (mixed reports on that, from what i've found on the internet). looking forward to more shots tomorrow. yesterday while waiting for my visa i ate at one of DC's yummy indian restaurants, heritage... while my paneer makhani wasn't transcendent, the smells of that place definitely were. eek, i can't wait!

                            2. re: rabidog
                              r
                              Rasam Mar 18, 2009 02:09 AM

                              Bon voyage and bon appetit!

                              Look forward to updates and trip reports.

                              Re shots: sigh. Maybe calming visualization, and/or ice (before and after)?

                              1. re: rabidog
                                erica Mar 19, 2009 04:40 AM

                                This ranks with the most fascinating of all threads I've read on CH!

                                I am heading back to Burma for a visit next year, after a very long absence, so I will be waiting word of your adventures there and elsewhere in the region! Take note that there are flights to Kunming from Mandalay, if you decide to peek into SW China where some good eating reportedly awaits. You can also investigate border crossing from the Kengtung area; probably taboo for US citizens, though. But you never know!

                              2. lulubelle Mar 21, 2009 04:56 AM

                                There is cheese in Bangladesh, pretty much like paneer in taste and texture, heck, maybe it *is* paneer. You would htink with the amount of goats that there would be goat cheeses, and in fact I have thought about forming an NGO to teach the Bangladeshi people to make and sell them (greedy spoiled expat that I am) but you need cool, dry storage to age cheeses (think caves) and it is hot and humid here.

                                As for traveling in Bangladesh, it's a lot different that India, even though the food is similar, and there is a common language. As a single woman in a Muslim country, you will be the subject of a lot of curiousity, most of it pretty harmless.

                                1. b
                                  Bigley9 Mar 23, 2009 10:58 AM

                                  Have fun rabidog! We'll look forward to hearing about your trip when you return (or during it if possible! The PA board will miss you!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Bigley9
                                    1sweetpea Mar 23, 2009 03:54 PM

                                    I encountered La Vache Qui Rit/ Laughing Cow cheese (or some similar product) available at most street vendor banh-mi/baguette sandwich stalls in Vietnam and Laos. I must say, though, that it was probably the least interesting of the banh-mi filling options. A better choice, imo, was tuna, with lots of chiles, cilantro, cucumber, carrot, radish and whatever sauces they had on hand. Very tasty. Any cheeses found in Southeast Asian former French colonies are likely to be imported, though.

                                    I did see some cheese in China too, though it was the processed stuff as well. Many stores sold tetra pak boxes of milk and flavoured yogurts. Dairy is starting to make inroads in China, since it is heavily promoted as a source of calcium. If you make it to Tibet, there is yak cheese and butter available. Yak butter is consumed in tea and has a very cheesy smell and taste ... very odd. You might like it. It's definitely an acquired taste.

                                    I haven't been to Korea yet, except for the airport in Seoul, but we spent 12 hours stuck there for a layover and basically grazed on pretty tasty food all day. There was kimbap (similar to futomaki) that had cheese or beef in it. A few other dishes incorporated cheese too, perhaps similar to the dishes now becoming popular in Taiwan and HK, as mentioned by another poster.

                                  2. rabidog Apr 30, 2009 08:51 AM

                                    hey hounds... update from bangkok, where i landed today! i've been in india, tho got a bit sidetracked from my original itinerary. i flew into trivandrum in kerala, where i stayed at a guest house in kovalam beach. the owner, radha, invited me into her home to show me how to make idlii and dosas, which she makes en masse for her husband to go sell on the beach. she makes me the spiciest most delicious sambhar i've ever had. watching the food cooked on the ground my very first day in india it is a little hard to work up an appetite, but i do and so far i've managed to stomach everything without any adverse events. though she does give me a side of sour curd and onion salad that is perhaps the foulest thing i have ever put into my mouth. after kovalam i headed to benaulim beach in goa (after a very interesting/harrowing 18 hour journey spent atop the luggage racks in a second class car) where the plan was to spend 5 days... which somehow turned into 2 weeks. i made friends with nearly everyone at benaulim beach, which is paradise. i go to the same restaurant every day for breakfast, and often lunch and dinner. they show me how to cook paneer and seafood in the tandoor. they teach me how to make aloo paratha (i'm sure my attempts upon returning home will look nothing like their beautiful creations). i befriend a couple of brits and we have the resto owner source a baby shark for us, which they cook in the tandoor. i eat garlic nan nearly every day for lunch, which is crispier than i've ever tasted back home. i fell in love with goa. i rented scooters each day to explore the south and north parts of the state and came back each day to my lovely coco hut at benaulim beach. the food and the people of that state i will never forget. you'll likely find me there again as soon as i can afford another plane ticket to india.

                                    since i got so delayed by the wonders of goa and found myself running way late in my approximate itinerary, i had to give up my train tickets (originally planned on stopping in hampi and vizanagaram (sp?)) and bought a flight to kolkata. spent a day there but other than a deep fried sweet pancake from a bakery (anyone know what that's called?) i wasn't able to find a proper restaurant... was staying in a guest house in a largely residential neighborhood. got a lot of stares walking back to and from the airport. today i arrived in bangkok and am shocked by the culture difference in that measly two-hour flight. the people look different, the food is different (the paneer is definitely gone) and this place looks more like america (miami specifically) than anything i've seen on my trip thus far. i just ate a dish of shrimp and rice with chili and basil. kinda like the dishes that are named ka pow back home except it tastes more like soy sauce. i'm spending two more days here before heading to myanmar for six days, then coming back here for another six days. still unsure of what i'm going to do with that 12 days but i'd like to spend it backtracking over the land i flew over (by plane is the only way to get into myanmar currently, thus all the flights) to hopefully track down said cheese line. after bangkok, i fly back to kolkata and will navigate my way over to bangladesh, then up through nepal, china and pakistan, and finally ending my trip with a series of trains from lahore all the way back to trivandrum (a looooooooooong journey - hopefully not atop the luggage rack of a sold-out train this time!!). i'm keeping a diary of all the food i've eaten along the way which i'll attempt to post in full when i get back. so far my winning meals have been the baby shark, tiger prawns, veg biryani and the garlic nan. oh and goa's answer to moonshine, cashew feni. mixed with limca it makes for an interesting 30 cent cocktail. i love asia.

                                    13 Replies
                                    1. re: rabidog
                                      b
                                      Bigley9 Apr 30, 2009 09:37 AM

                                      great report rabidog! We're keeping bar stools warm for you in Northern Liberties!

                                      1. re: Bigley9
                                        rabidog May 2, 2009 08:59 AM

                                        haha, glad to hear it! from the neighborhood message board, there's been a flurry of development on the restaurant front since i've left. not that i'll have the money to indulge in it once i return!!

                                      2. re: rabidog
                                        lulubelle May 1, 2009 02:15 AM

                                        Try to get to Chiang Mai in Thailand if you can, It's an amazing place, completely different than Bangkok. The food is fabulous, the people are very friendly and it's a beautiful city.

                                        Where are you going to be visiting in Bangladesh?

                                        1. re: lulubelle
                                          rabidog May 2, 2009 09:06 AM

                                          chiang mai is #1 on my itinerary for when i get back to thailand on may 8. i'll spend at least a couple days there... and taking suggestions for anywhere else i should visit in my 6 days there. bangkok proved a little too... eh... miami-ish for the likes of me.

                                          i'm in yangon now, a bit worried i'm going to run out of money as i forgot to exchange my US bills for crisp ones and they won't accept my currency. there are no ATMs here and since it's the weekend i've struck out while trying to withdraw money at all the fancy hotels too. so i'm on a strict budget til monday at the least. this country is weird weird weeeeeird but i think i love it, financial woes aside. everyone is smiling here, all the time. if bangkok reminds me of miami, yangon is a little more laid back key largo feeling. i just ate some prawns and veggies in a sweet and sour sauce with rice. i'm not too sure about the freshness of the prawns but the veggies were excellent. here's hoping i don't feel any after effects of this dinner on my 16-hour bus journey to mandalay tomorrow. :)

                                          the cheese line - from what i can tell; it's west of yangon and i'll confirm once i fly back there on the 14th, but i think it's east of kolkata. narrowing the gap.

                                          1. re: rabidog
                                            Sam Fujisaka May 2, 2009 11:54 AM

                                            Achhh! Did you forget?? The train is the way to go Mandalay!!

                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                              rabidog May 21, 2009 01:35 AM

                                              ah, but i tried to take the train! i tried so hard! it was a total disaster combining miscommunications, old & therefore unacceptable US dollars, and total chaos and confusion at the train station!! i spent a whole day in yangon trying to book a train ticket to mandalay before giving up and taking a bus. i found it very strange that the govt-run railway system will not accept their own currency from a foreigner for a ticket, the kyat. myanmar was a wonderful, fascinating country with some of the friendliest people i'm convinced in the entire world. but the money situation there was very difficult! i didn't heed the warnings about bringing in new US bills and it is very true. i budgeted carefully but still ended up falling short on my last day in myanmar, and spent my last night on a sidewalk outside of the airport. :) ah well, it was memorable to say the least!!! while i loved the country overall, i do have to say i found the food... well, mostly repulsive. i didn't find paneer there. i did find one lovely dosa lady, whom i visited every day for lunch (sometimes two lunches) and studied very carefully how they are made. there were chickpeas, spices, salt, tomatoes, onion, coriander and some curious ingredient that looked and tasted a bit like romano cheese but i couldn't get that one translated so i'm not sure. also indulged nearly every day in the faludi at an ice cream parlor near my guest house in mandalay. faludi is a weird dessert soup featuring condensed milk, ice cream, tapiocas, shredded coconut and various other sweets (for philadelphians: there's something similar on the menu at rangoon). i loved it. aside from these two things, i ate a ton that was downright scary/old/oily. two of the staples of a burmese kitchen seem to be oil and scissors. nearly everything is deep-fried, and the sanitation (or lack thereof) is downright horrifying - this, coming from someone who's spent the last month in india! in pyin-oo-lwin, i visited a market that had me sworn off food for two entire days. it looked like there were mountains of black flies for sale, til you walked close enough to disturb them and have them swarm away to reveal piles of rotting meat and fish in the hot, HOT sun (and more times than not there is no power there, so forget refrigeration). the smell was horrifying. when i decided to return to food, i had an odd deep-fried pastry cut up with scissors, and placed in a bowl with condensed milk. burmese cereal. upon close inspection, i found ants baked into the pastry. i figured there's not much better to be found, so i ate it. later that day i ate a fish curry which was a disaster - the fish tasted downright ancient. i ate two bites, and even though i was just about out of money at this point i gave up on burmese cuisine. i spent my last 20 kyat on the world's best mango at a bus pit stop. i would recommend a diet of mango, faludi, dosas and myanmar lager beer for anyone visiting there.

                                              after myanmar i did another week in thailand: bangkok, ko samet, baen sang and chon buri. got distracted by the clear waters and delicious squid of ko samet and ended up running out of time and not visiting chiang mai. thailand on the whole has been my least favorite country of the trip so far, which is surprising because i'd assumed it would be my favorite. not that thais aren't nice, but compared to the other countries i visited i found them colder. things were expensive, and there are so many dishonest people there. taxi drivers trying to change their fares on you halfway through the trip, that sort of crap. one cab driver insists and when i refuse, he kicks me out of his cab in a totally unfamiliar neighborhood. bangkok was the worst experience for me; i ended up abandoning my guest house and catching a bus to ko samet. i rented a little tent and a scooter in ko samet and steered clear of people for 3 days and spent my time eating squid and mangoes. nearly every place i went, though not terribly expensive, really skimped on the seafood portions. in chon buri (really not any sort of vacation destination! an industrial thai city) i had one of my best meals at a wok stand next to the bus terminal - a sort of pad kee mao with squid and egg. also had an odd egg/rice/cucumber/chili pepper/peanut sauce dish from a place with no menu (you just point at stuff). in baen sang (sp?), a filthy little beach / popular thai weekend spot which reminds me of atlantic city in NJ had some more pretty yummy seafood + egg + rice + cucumber from people w/ woks set up under the palm trees on the beach. also had some fabulous mango and pineapple in thailand. and fruit shakes. carrot + banana + strawberry reminded me of the juice stand back at the reading terminal market in philadelphia. :)

                                              after thailand i headed back to kolkata, a city i ended up falling in love with (so much so i have extended my return to the USA out another 5 weeks til mid-july in order to spend some more time there). the people were charming, the city was very easy to navigate via mini-bus and train, and the food was excellent. there is paneer!!! my best meal: a mysterious paneer paratha-burrito thinger from a street stand for Rs/20. i have no idea what that is called (they didn't speak english) but it was so so good. i think this was on or near park street near the subway stop.

                                              from kolkata i caught a series of buses through bangladesh, which is in the running for my favorite country of this whole trip. there's a TON of meat in this country, so i haven't found much i can eat other than dal and roti, but it's been damn good dal and roti. no alcohol (at least not readily available) in this country, and with nothing to take the edge off it can be a difficult place to travel through at times because the poverty/working conditions/pollution can be pretty shocking - not to mention the crowd of people that gather around you any time you open your mouth in bangladesh. return a hello to a passerby, and 40-some people will swarm around you in a circle, staring, waiting for you to make your next move. i felt like the circus in bangladesh. but that weirdness aside, those that could speak english (or at least could communicate via sign language) could not possibly be friendlier. it's seriously a country that takes care of its tourists and expects nothing in return. i was in awe. cab drivers don't rip you off, there's no need to negotiate prices at the guest houses, and it's downright impossible to spend any money there because at every turn, a stranger will step up to buy you pineapples, a cup of tea, dinner, pay your cab fare back to the hotel --- and they insist. the bus assistants will take you on cabs thru town to catch your connecting bus, then relay instructions to the next bus assistant. though my phone's gps doesn't work here, it's virtually impossible to get lost. as charming as the people are, travel is so intense thru bangladesh and i don't think i stayed in dhaka or chittagong really long enough to get a feel for the cuisine. if i feel up to it, i might try to return now at the end of my trip for a few more days.

                                              i dipped back into india, thru darjeeling, and ended up in kathmandu, nepal, where i am right now. lots and lots of cauliflower here. some excellent chaat and pani puri and salted hard boiled eggs. some chow mein and curries and an odd but good spicy lentil soup. but i learned you'd better eat by 8 or 9, because the city virtually shuts down soon afterwards and actually becomes fairly scary (this coming from a philadelphian!). i found out why they lock the gates of my guest house after dark! i have not managed to have a momo yet, but i'm going to track that down for a late lunch today before catching a 5-day series of buses and trains that in a roundabout way (skirting tibet) will eventually leave me in kashgar, china (i really want to take the karakoram highway to islamabad; crossing my fingers all those borders are open).

                                              1. re: rabidog
                                                lulubelle May 21, 2009 02:38 AM

                                                I am SO glad you had such a nice experience in Bangladesh! it is a hard country to live in, in many ways. I live in Dhaka and as an expat have a lot of perks, car and driver etc, I can't even begin to fathom how you managed the transportation. The people are amazingly friendly and kind. They treat the tourists so well because there are only like 10 of them in the country at any given time. The rest of us are here working. I am curious as to how you felt as a single woman in this country. I know that even in the diplomatic zone in Dhaka I am stared at frequently, even though I dress in what would be extremely modest clothes back in the States.

                                                As a non-Bangladeshi, you can buy alcohol here, usually only in higher end hotels or in duty-paid shops with your passport. Most of us figure out a way to get a hold of booze through embassy contacts though, as duty paid is pretty expensive.

                                                1. re: rabidog
                                                  Sam Fujisaka May 21, 2009 08:26 AM

                                                  Oh, rabidog, what a wonderful, detailed, heartfelt account above - with both the highs and lows. You handle the lows so well; and I'm sure you bring on the highs by being you. Congratulations!!! You are a true traveler! But now I feel really bad and owe you big time for the train to Mandalay fiasco. I hope that good eating around Lahore will be all that I have experienced and will make up a bit for the train bit. And I really agree - the people in Myanmar are wonderful. Great that you extended your stay. Keep us all posted. All hte best!

                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                    rabidog Jun 6, 2009 04:07 AM

                                                    thanks for the kind words Sam! It's truly been a trip i'm never going to forget. NO worries about the trains - a good part of my entertainment on the road comes from figuring out the odd policies of various gov'ts and what i can and can't do. the trains in myanmar were nothing compared to arriving at the end of the line in j&k india, which is udhampur - a train station situated in the mountains with NOTHING around - and finding my way to the nearest bus stand to try to catch a bus north to china, and after three hours of pointing at maps and trying to communicate in very limited hindi finding out you can't get there from here. so then i backtracked to jammu, where i was stranded for a few days when the trains were shut down because of violence in punjab, and ended up getting to china via pakistan therefore now having to shell out another $150USD for a new pakistan visa on my return, since my existing visa was only single-entry... whew!! you could say this entire trip has been an experience in getting totally lost, which i have actually come to enjoy!

                                                    lulubelle - it must be an amazing experience to live in bangladesh. i wasn't too bothered by any of the stares, and all the people that talked to me were so nice. i suppose it's not a place for a shy person to visit, because you will certainly be the center of attention there, as a westerner! i'd actually love to go back and visit cox's bazar, if i find extra time on my way back thru india.

                                            2. re: lulubelle
                                              rabidog May 2, 2009 09:09 AM

                                              oh! and i'm heading to bangladesh from kolkata... somewhere around may 15/16ish. quickly running out of time before my flight from trivandrum back to NYC and i still have yet to visit bangladesh, nepal, china and pakistan (and i obtained all those visas so i'm going to make damn sure i at least set foot in each of those countries!!) before flying back home out of trivandrum (veeeeeeeeeeery southern tip of india) on june 4. methinks i overscheduled myself just a lil bit!

                                              1. re: rabidog
                                                Sam Fujisaka May 2, 2009 11:56 AM

                                                Pakistan! You must go to Lahore and the area around Lahore.

                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                  rabidog May 21, 2009 01:36 AM

                                                  yep, going there! actually meeting up with someone there who runs a foodie blog accessible thru lahore's wikitravel page, i think. i'm getting the proper lahore food tour! so excited to get there.

                                              2. re: lulubelle
                                                chicgail Jul 4, 2009 04:08 PM

                                                Totally agree about Chiang Mai. Wish we had scheduled more time there when we visited.

                                                But no cheese.

                                            3. d
                                              danieljdwyer May 21, 2009 11:26 AM

                                              Is there also a cheese line to the north? I've seen horse cheese in Mongolia, but don't know enough about regional Chinese food to know if cheese eating extends south of Mongolia or east into Mancuria. Do they eat cheese in any of the other non-Indo-European cultures north of China, like the Ainu or the various indigenous peoples of the Russian Far East?

                                              12 Replies
                                              1. re: danieljdwyer
                                                Das Ubergeek May 22, 2009 08:46 AM

                                                Yak cheese is very common in Tibet and the national dish of Bhutan is ema datse -- spicy chiles with cheese. I think it's very much an east-west divide.

                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                  d
                                                  danieljdwyer May 22, 2009 08:55 AM

                                                  So is the line is sort of a C shape or backwards question mark shape? Or is it more of a straight line from Burma to Mongolia, and only the easternmost third of China doesn't eat cheese?

                                                  1. re: danieljdwyer
                                                    rabidog Jun 6, 2009 03:57 AM

                                                    yea, while cheese of varying types seems available pretty much everywhere i've been, i'm finding the traditional indian-style paneer makes a pretty clear cut line tracing the india border. i spent a week in lahore pakistan but didn't find any traditional paneer. as a vegetarian, the most fabulous thing about lahore has been the ICE CREAM! something i will admit to my chow friends only: on one particularly hot day in lahore, i had ice cream for breakfast, lunch AND a late dinner. my guest house there (the regal internet inn - highly recommended) was just across from 'ice cream street' home of the famous chaman's ice cream parlor. it's packed even at 3am. had some lovely peach sundaes there, as well as date milkshakes and pineapple juices and a very weird fruit juice that starts with an 'f' (can't recall its full name) whose first notes taste like sulfur, and then transition into a sugary-sweet berry taste. in my entire week there i didn't even manage to make it to 'food street' but i plan on heading back thru lahore in about 2 weeks and spending a few more days, and that will be first on my itinerary. i adore lahore!

                                                    currently i'm in kashgar china, after a looooong and mostly foodless bus journey up the karakoram highway. here i find myself a little sick from the altitude so i've only been able to stomach a tomato cucumber salad and some fried bananas. earlier, at a china border town i had a spaghetti-like noodle dish served up with some squash, green pepper and spicy oil. a few days before that i had stopped in gilgit, a lovely little mountain town where my guest house's menu was largely vegetarian (thank goodness! i've had enough dhal and chapati to last a lifetime) and i had a egg/tomato/onion curry with a chapati, and some tomatoes and cucumber with vinegar (very surprised at the abundance of cucumber in all of these countries).

                                                    at this point in my travel i think i've nearly hit the end of new places (everywhere between here and trivandrum, india where i catch my flight in mid-july will be more or less backtracking through places i've visited previously) so i think it's fairly safe to summarize my food experiences. my biggest surprise/regret of the trip is how little i've actually managed to eat. and i haven't even been unlucky enough to experience delhi belly! a combination of altitude sickness, violently rocky bus rides and weakness from the blazing heat of some of these places has rendered me unable to eat for in some cases days at a time. and at one point, after drinking well water for 3 days thru northern india i had a blazing hot fever and couldn't manage to eat anything but fruit for a week. at best i'm usually only able to get through one big meal a day (or lots of little ice cream meals!), so while i may be totally culturally overloaded, i'm really disappointed i didn't get to eat as much as i'd hoped. additionally, with the unavailability of land border crossings, pinpointing the cheese line has been virtually impossible. i couldn't get into myanmar by land, therefore had to fly from india to thailand to myanmar, back to thailand and back to india. and though i wasted many days dearly trying, i couldn't get from nepal to tibet or from jammu & kashmir india to china by land, either. tracing the india border is about as close as i could get. perhaps that IS the cheese line, then; perhaps merchants can't get their paneer across either. i was surprised by how drastically the culture and cuisine seems to change right at the borders i was able to cross, particularly from darjeeling into nepal and then nepal to northern india (i think uttar pradesh is where i entered back into india?).

                                                    cheese aside, on the food front as a whole i think my best meals were the tandoor baby shark in goa, the squid + cucumber + egg + rice dishes made in woks by the street vendors in ban saen (sp?) thailand, the fresh fruit (particularly mangoes, and a golf-ball sized sweet fruit whose name i can't recall) in myanmar and thailand, the chana masala at the makeshift bus rest stops through uttar pradesh, a really spicy cauliflower curry in jammu, the ice creams and shakes in lahore, the cherries in the hunza valley (the apricots aren't quite ripe yet but that didn't stop me from eating a kilo on the road where no other food was available!). and the tea pretty much everywhere. the less memorable meals: definitely most things i ate in pyin-oo-lwin myanmar, where i wasn't really able to find any fresh ingredients, most of the dumbed-down thai food in the khao san road (touristy) area of bangkok, and though not untasty by any means, i'm definitely a bit through with the oily dhal dishes throughout the muslim areas. i think this beer-loving vegetarian has found the ultimate diet - a couple weeks in pakistan!! though it turned out to be my favorite country of the trip for non-culinary reasons (the music, the late nights, the beautiful mountains and rivers, the friendly people and most certainly the prices, which are dirt-cheap), i seem to have lost enough weight here to warrant a whole new wardrobe of tailored salwaar kameez!

                                                    first things i want upon returning to the states in mid-july: a mock-chicken-cheesesteak from govindas, a proper pizza (one that does not consist of a roti topped with masala paste and a handful of potato chips), salt-baked shrimp (yea, i know i'm in china, but in this western part of the country i can't seem to find it, and even if i did, this place is so landlocked i'm not sure if eating it would be such a good idea), and a yards ESA (philly beer) ...or six!!! i'd also like to find or make one of these little dosa grills i keep seeing over here (a large slightly concave metal surface atop a little terra cotta pot housing a fire pit, or in some cases gas piping for the fire), and set it up in my backyard for some interesting summer picnics!

                                                    1. re: rabidog
                                                      Sam Fujisaka Jun 6, 2009 06:42 AM

                                                      Beautiful!!!!! Hugs!

                                                      1. re: rabidog
                                                        adirao Jun 6, 2009 07:01 AM

                                                        Wow, amazing to read about your trip! Do you have another one planned? Or a blog where you post your accounts? Would be fabulous to read.
                                                        I'm Indian but I don't think I could have helped you at all with traveling tips...not that you seem to need them!

                                                        1. re: adirao
                                                          rabidog Jun 18, 2009 02:20 AM

                                                          thanks!! no, no blog yet... just a handritten journal (actually on to vol. 2 now!) of my traveling stories. and oh, some of the stories!! if i ever make a blog of them i'll post a link here.

                                                          though it took me forever and a few tears i fiiiinally was able to tear myself away from pakistan, particularly lahore, the city who won my heart with their chaman ice cream. i am back in india now - in pushkar, even though the lake is dry. the "special" lassi here is really quite special indeed... whew!!! tonight i'm celebrating the return to the land of all things vegetarian with a proper feast. think i'm up for some seriously garlicky naan and a nice paneer tikka masala! and a special lassi or two.

                                                          1. re: rabidog
                                                            j
                                                            juv Jun 18, 2009 03:36 AM

                                                            really exciting to read about your trip. i'm so glad that you were able to and chose to visit pakistan. i live in karachi so it's always great to hear about foreigners who have chosen not restrict their travels despite negative media portrayal. hope you realized that in that context, things generally sound much worse than they actually are.

                                                            1. re: juv
                                                              Sam Fujisaka Jun 18, 2009 05:30 AM

                                                              As mentioned above, Lahore - and the area around it - is one of my favorite places. It was one of many sites where we did work on the rice - wheat system.

                                                              1. re: juv
                                                                rabidog Jul 4, 2009 04:43 AM

                                                                absolutely agree! in america, the bad is all we hear about but i'm not all too trusting of the media. for a million reasons, pakistan was definitely one of my top places and lahore one of my favorite cities ever - it truly IS the city that never sleeps; i think it even outdoes NYC. i found the food and arts scene there really vibrant. it was totally safe there and it's a shame many people in my country don't realize that... not to get off the food track too much, but statistically speaking i definitely feel safer there than in my own neighborhood in philadelphia, where the murder rate is astronomical, not to mention all the other crime! the country is so amazingly diverse - at least the parts i visited, from lahore to islamabad/rawalpindi, and then up the karakoram highway - where you can find apricot soup (did i write about that earlier? what a strange and tasty thing!) and some spectacular cherries. it's all so interesting, the people so friendly, i really with the US state dept would take down that little nastygram about discouraging all non-essential travel from their website. very glad i chose to ignore their advice. :)

                                                                in jodhpur, india, i got lost on my way to a bookstore and ended up at an omelette shop which apparently was turned into an omelette shop after being misrepresented in a lonely planet guide; it was previously a hotel (not sure how they mixed those two things up!). anyway, for years the guy's been making omelette sandwiches. i was wary at first, as i am of anything in the lonely planets, but surely enough it was a fabulous omelette sandwich. if anyone happens upon jodhpur they should make it a point to visit there! i signed their guestbook on 23 jun, which they'll make you do as well. :) the masala cheese omelette is really quite tasty and spicy... definitely one of the more memorable meals in india. i went back three times, twice in one day!!

                                                                i've found that i've actually sort of tired of paneer by now, so i've mostly switched over to lighter snack foods - pani puri, bhel puri and papads. i've had some decent things on the trains - here in the south (i'm now in mysore) you can get these odd chile-relleno-type things, served in a banana leaf and topped with an off-white curry sauce with black dots that i see often in the south. what is that?

                                                                today everything in india seems to be on strike due to hindu/muslim tensions but apparently it all reopens in a few hours... or at least i hope, because i'm starving. it'll be one of my last meals here... the next few days will mostly be spent on trains to trivandrum, where i'll fly home on the 9th. can't believe it's been 3 months already...!!! i promise i'll post back with food pictures shortly... towards the beginning of my trip i was really good about taking a picture of nearly every meal! lately i've been slacking off a bit.

                                                                1. re: rabidog
                                                                  Sam Fujisaka Jul 4, 2009 05:05 AM

                                                                  Whoopie! Happy 4th of July. I'm really pleased that one of my fave cities, Lahore, is now one of yours!

                                                                  1. re: rabidog
                                                                    adirao Jul 5, 2009 09:25 AM

                                                                    I think the off-white curry sauce you are referring to is coconut chutney (that you also eat with idli and dosa, right?). The black dots are mustard seeds and it's not so green because they added less (or didn't add) coriander leaves. The fritters themselves are called mirchi bajji.

                                                                    1. re: adirao
                                                                      rabidog Jul 15, 2009 06:38 AM

                                                                      ah ha! good to know - thanks. yep, what you describe sounds EXACTLY like what i had.

                                                                      ah, i'm home now, and taking the train from NYC back to philly was NOTHING like the indian rails. how i am going to miss extending an arm out the window and retracting it with a fistful of yummy treats. nothing like it on an amtrak. the bar car, though i do appreciate it for what it is, would definitely benefit from a little spicing up of the menu!

                                                    2. rabidog Nov 3, 2009 10:38 AM

                                                      after MUCH procrastination, i've finally finished my pictures from the trip. though they're not separate from the rest, there are plenty of food pix peppered in this set! http://picasaweb.google.com/rabidog/A...

                                                      ...now i wanna go back. :( the thai food pictures make me miss my trip the most. i am totally a squid addict now.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: rabidog
                                                        bushwickgirl Nov 3, 2009 03:17 PM

                                                        And they are beautiful photos! The food and most of all, the faces!

                                                      2. kubasd Nov 3, 2009 05:58 PM

                                                        ok rabidog, I am so insanely jealous of you right now! Those pictures are amazing, those people seem to make the trip, and the food (except for myanmar, lol) sounds delicious. I love indian, goan, thai, and malaysian food. If i had the money to do the trip you did I would in a heartbeat. I've done el salvador, guatemala and costa rica, but i'd love to get to asia. I just wanted to tell you how lucky i think you are, and you take amazing photos. My hat is off to you

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: kubasd
                                                          rabidog Nov 3, 2009 08:29 PM

                                                          wow, many thanks!!!

                                                          for what it's worth - if you can get the time off, it's a totally do-able trip - most days through pakistan, bangladesh and myanmar, it was hard to spend $4 a day. china, thailand, nepal and india were a bit more expensive, but for the most part i was averaging between $2 and $10 USD per day, and that includes EVERYthing (granted, i looked for bottom-of-the-barrel lodging and transportation, and ate mostly street food). flights and visas aside it was a fairly sustainable trip, renting out rooms in my house to cover my expenses. it was SO worth it. the food in thailand --- well, i can't find anything here remotely like it. not even in the same ballpark. that squid... i can taste it like it was yesterday!!!

                                                          really want to do central and south america next year!

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