Category: Food

Filipino Street Food: Balut (Fertilized Duck Eggs)

The bus rolled with a jerky unease, escalating my debilitating cravings for food. The smoky green fields ceased their race towards the volcanoes as they met the concrete jungle.

Manila has a nasty reputation as a city clouded by the darker aspects of humanity, but traveling’s taught me that colorful cultures tend to create the most exciting and savory dishes.

My host has the pudgy, effeminate features Filipinas are known for. She’s a master caterer and a confident guide on my zealous quest for local delicacies.

She knows the place, and the market seems to fit the bill: barbeque carts, stray dogs, and warm, billowing smoke carrying the rapturing smells of authentic grub. My stomach’s reaching the peak of a howling crescendo, but she assures me we’ve found the remedy.

We’ve come to the right place. The municipality of Pateros is famous for producing balut, a fertilized duck embryo that found its place on Filipino tables after Chinese traders brought it from the north.

After 15 days of gestation, the fertilized eggs are ready to sell. They’ve just popped up from the buckets of sand that conceal their warmth, and I’m shocked.

Through my lens, a fetal duck seems oddly out of place against a backdrop of hot sauce and vinegar, but she consoles my queasiness with the reminder that “it’s more fun in the Philippines!” The locals are ever-happy to see a foreigner try their food, and a small crowd forms to watch.

Now retreat’s as likely as it is for the frontline warrior, so the hatch opens up and finds a surprising medly. The texture’s from an atrociously different world, but the infusion of tastes collaborate to charm my former hunger problem. The congregation’s pleased with my reaction and return to their business.

I’ve tried everything from scorpions to chicken brains during my year in China, but I missed the chance to sample the original Chinese version of fertilized eggs. Now I’ll have at least one clear goal for my next trip to the Middle Kingdom.

To see the search for & battle with balut, click here & watch between 0:22 & 3:44.

Travel to Taiwan! (Video)

I’ve got an odd fetish for poor Asian countries, so I’m not sure if Taiwan ranks as my favorite, but it is a fantastic country with all the order, comforts and general pleasantries that are missing from mainland China. There are a lot of things to do here, and if you’re a native English speaker, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself teaching English and studying Chinese like most of the other expats. It seems like a comfortable, Good Life to me.

Highlights From the Video: A Taipei street party, betel nut girls, Taipei night markets, tasty turtles and snake blood, a Filipino disco, Taroko Gorge, local hot springs and volcanic mud baths.

Places Seen in the Video
Taipei and its night markets, Taoyuan and its dirty Filipino disco (Thai OK), Taroko Gorge and local hot springs.

Best Time to Travel to Taiwan
You can travel somewhat comfortably in Taiwan all year long, but the summer months are especially hot and humid, while the winter months are cool and especially rainy. The spring and fall months have the best temperatures and generally dry weather.

The Taipei MRT (subway system) is very modern and extremely efficient. It’s well connected to Taiwan’s nationaltrain system which again is modern and very timely. The railroads circle the island, cut into the mountains at a couple different cities, and feature some of the world’s best high speed services.

Eats & Drinks
There’s no way to avoid the fact that Taiwanese food is diverse and delicious. You can easily find a number of strange and exotic foods reminiscent of mainland China (can anyone say bull dicks?). If you’re into expensive international dishes, Taipei can suit your needs. But if you want cheaper local delicacies, you can stay on the thrifty side as well, from about 30NT for squid balls to about 150NT for Taiwanese brunches (very similar to English and American breakfasts). Being an island, delectable seafood specialties are never hard to come by.

Travel to Philippines (Video)

Every country shows a different side of its unique beauty with each visit, but my time in the Philippines stood out above the rest. Take a look and find out why:

Highlights From the Video: Eating balut (duck fetus), island hopping and snorkelling in Busuanga, cliff jumping, waterfall swimming, biking, SCUBA wreck diving, transport on top of busses and inside dump trucks

Places Seen in the Video
Manila, Busuanga Island (Busuanga): Concepcion, Salvacion, and nearby islands

Important Notes for Philippine Travel
Manila is a mostly horrid city, but don’t be dismayed because the world’s best islands are only so far away.
Some areas like Manila and Cebu have crazed locals who see foreigners as walking ATM machines. Know where you’re going in these areas and BE AWARE of your surroundings.
English is spoken by nearly everyone, so it’s quite easy to find your way around the country.
Some of the world’s best wreck diving can be found near Busuanga, Palawan.

Best Time to Travel to the Philippines
The best time to travel always depends on what you’re looking for in your trip (do you want to see lots of people or none, for instance). The dry season for most of the Philippines starts in November and ends around April. Since I don’t like constant rains and prefer to see less tourists, the best time for me is in late November/early December when the rains have stopped but the massive crowds of the high season haven’t quite shown up yet.

Manila has a modern train system that’s easy to use, but you’ll have to be careful of your belongings here as thieves are on the prowl. Generally speaking, travel on land isn’t a problem.

Jeepneys and tricycles are always ready for hire.

When it comes to traveling between islands, boats are a little sporadic, oftentimes around one per week. Flights are fairly cheap (only a little more than most boats) and tend to leave about every day.

Most of my time was spent in Busuanga, so I can only recommend two places that I thought were top-notch. Ann & Mike’s in Concepcion is a cheap stay (600 pesos low season/700 pesos high for double capacity). Ann is Filipina and Mike is her Dutch husband. Mike is a very talkative, friendly guy who rearranged his life at 50 years old. He quit the grind, or the mice wheel as he likes to say, and chose to live the Good Life with the business he’s now running. Both Ann and Mike are a delight to stay with.

I have to give my highest recommendation for Al Faro Resort, across from Puerto del Sol, which is 3 km from Concepcion on the way to Coron. Their list price is 3700 pesos for a room, which is well out of the realm of backpacking prices, but you can do much better if you find some roommates and negotiate the price. The atmosphere, food, swimming pool, view and company of Al Faro are incredible.

View from the legendary tower of Al Faro at night.

Eats & Drinks
Like most east Asian destinations, you can spend a lot of money in the Philippines if you want to, or you can spend a little. Fortunately food is fairly cheap here. Street food comes in around 30 to 50 pesos and food is restaurants are in the 80 to 500 peso range. Drinks can be damn cheap if you buy them on the street (~50 pesos for a liter of coke and 80 pesos for a liter of rum), but if you buy in a bar or restaurant they’re going to be much more expensive. Local specialties are balut, adobo and seafood!

Road Trip Through Bali, Indonesia (Video)

One of the best things to do in Bali is get a bike and get the hell outta Kuta / Ubud. The more remote, less crowded areas of the island are truly amazing. Check out my Balinese road trip:

Highlights featured in the video: Babi Guling in Muduk, Denpasar, mountains near Munduk, Bunut Bolong (a tunnel through a tree), fresh coffee at Ngiring Ngewedang, the Hindu Temple Tanah Lot and sunset at Pantai Berawa.

There are tons of busses and ferries to get around Bali and between the neighboring islands. Of course Merpati, Sky Aviation and Lion Air are good choices for flights within Indonesia. I hear Batavia Air has plane crashes on the reg so watch out for them!

If you want to stay in the south, look for places in Seminyak to be close to the clubs or do a homestay in Canggu for a quieter, local experience.

The cheapest place to stay near Ubud is in Bona, at Ketut and Geks House. Their homestay was some of the friendliest hospitality I ever had to pay for and their village life so close to Ubud is really interesting. For 150,000 Rp. you get your own house with a bathroom, kitchen, living room and porch. With three sleeping surfaces, your stay could be quite cheap if you split it.

Ketut and Gek are really friendly hosts, a real pleasure to stay with.

My other recommendation in Bali is close to Negara. Hotel CSB is the “mellow surfers retreat” in the town of Pekutatan. One room with two beds costs 75,000 Rp. The hosts are nice and you can rent a surfboard for 50,000 Rp. a day (better than Kuta’s 50,000 Rp. per hour).

The view from the room: about 100 meters away is an empty beach with nice breakers.

Eats & Drinks
There’s a huge variety of foods in Bali. Areas in and around Kuta have just about anything you can think of, but the prices tend to be pretty high, in the 50,000 Rp.+ range. But the warungs throughout the island offer all kinds of good Indonesia food for about 10,000 Rp.

Babi Guling, a Balinese traditional slow pig roast can’t be missed.

The undisputed king of Babi Guling is Selingsing Cepaka, found in Buduk, just north of Canggu on the way to Tabanan. It’s down some backroads and really hard to describe where it is so you might have to find someone who already knows to reach this place. They open at 4am and close at 6am so get there early before the pig’s devoured.

Indonesian Food: Nasi Babi Guling (Suckling Pig with Rice)

At the core this traditional Balinese plate (or sack) is just a hodgepodge of pig parts. Lawar as it’s called in Indonesian is a mixture of pig meat, skin and blood. Don’t write it off as disgusting till you try it. Somehow these elements wrap around each other to create a surprising fusion of flavor.

It all starts here the night before: a Babi Guling (suckling pig) roast.

If you don’t wake up early enough (or stay up late enough) for the actual pig roast, you can still find Nasi Babi Guling in the morning. Open her up and you’ll find a nice medley of different foods.

My sack revealed rice, lawar, krupuk (pig skin)—the yellow stuff, and spinach and beans.

The roast happens at 4am. The best roast is at Selingsing Cepaka in Buduk, north of Canggu on the way to Tabanan. Check out the video from my Balinese road trip to see more.

Malaysian Food: Indian Banana Leaf

When I first came to Malaysia I didn’t like eating with my hands, but didn’t understand why. My Malaysian friend demanded an explanation, but the best I could come up with was mom and dad telling me not to play with my food while I was growing up. She just shrugged that answer off as ridiculous. Well ok, let’s have a go then:

The restaurant featured here is the most famous banana leaf restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. It’s called Saravanaa Bhavan and centrally located near the Indian market in Masjid Jamet.

Malaysian Food: Roti Cheese

Anyone vaguely familiar with Indian food knows about their delicious breads: Naan, Chapati, Pashti, Tandoori, Roti…The list goes on. It turns out that the Malaysians have adopted Roti as a classic breakfast, and I quickly found myself addicted to this little custom.

And the absolute king of the roti options is roti cheese. The beauty is that you can add anything to the inside that you please, like mushrooms and onions.

Yes it’s such a simple delight, practically a grilled cheese sandwich, but when you get it done by someone who knows what they’re doing, you’re in for a real treat. Make sure to watch the guy toss the dough around: it takes some serious skill to get it just right!

Since this is the classic breakfast, you’ll want all the fixins. A plate of fruit, “Nescafe Ice” and some type of curry, my preference is for Daal Curry.

Roti can be found on every corner of every block, but one place that’s got it down is the restaurant just outside the Wangsa Maju LRT station in Kuala Lumpur. It’s a bit of a haul to get out there, but I think it might even be worth a special trip.

Malaysian Food: Chinese Style (Fried Noodles)

The plethora of Malaysian delicacies tend to take a stylistic twist on the versions you can find in their native lands. Malaysians seem to have a way of making the originals fattier and juicier, or in short, much more delicious. I wanted to try the Malaysian stylings on a dish I’d grown quite accustomed to in China: fried noodles.

Right away, everything looked in proper order: ramen noodles, green beans, cauliflower, lettuce, carrots, and baby corn.

I was intrigued by this little variation though: oyster sauce. Processed oyster sauce is one of a very short list of foods I simply can’t do, so I was a little nervous. After the handsome reward of that first bite I learned there was no need to worry in the first place. I washed this mee hailom with yet another teh ice, that delicious Malaysian milky tea.

You can find fried noodles nearly everywhere, but this particular dish was enjoyed at the restaurant just outside the Wangsa Maju LRT station in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian Food: Middle-Eastern Style

Today I felt like I’d already sampled enough of Malaysia’s big three (Malay, Indian and Chinese) foods, so we decided to take a look at another side of Malaysian eatery: Arabic cuisine.

We figured we might as well go all out for a full Middle-Eastern lunch experience.

A plate of chicken shwarma with a generous portion of Arabic bread to shovel it in, Malaysian Ice Tea (with milk), and a kiwi/mint shisha for full-effect. You can be sure this meal dealt maximum pleasure doses: taking it slow, savoring every flavor, reflecting on the day and enjoying good conversation. This is what eating and the Good Life are all about!

I’ve been on a rigorous mission to get fat in Malaysia. There can’t be too many other places where it’s so damn easy to do so! A good two hours of Arabian bliss pass by, we reach the end of the glorious meal and I check my belly for expansion: maximum capacity, but still a long way to reaching that fatty goal (damn)!

Good Life Rating = 5
Cause they wouldn’t call gluttony a sin if it didn’t feel so good.

Malaysian Food: ABC Special

Malaysians have all kinds of simple culinary wonders, and even the drinks and deserts will rock your world. The ABC drinks can be found all over the place. ABC=air batu campur, translating into mixed ice. Vendors do it anyway they please, and unfortunately this round featured my drink without avocado.

Pictured here we obviously have the shaved ice, with that oh-so-sweet syrup we’re practically addicted to, red beans, peanuts, jelly fruits and vanilla bean ice cream.

Good Life Rating = 4
Since I’ve got a special place in my heart for anything food or drink-related that makes me happy.

Meet Dave

Meet DaveUnfulfilled by consumer lifestyles, I left on a really slow trip around the world. As a 3rd eye traveler on the New American Dream, my aim is to inspire and cultivate conscious living along the way....Read More...

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Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty--his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.
Aldous Huxley



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