What’s the Best Country In Asia For Eating?

From the 17th to 19th century, Grand Tourists (usually from England) would set out on a journey of discovery. This excursion had a near-cemented itinerary, a list of places a young man (it was almost always a man) would have to visit to have a well-rounded education. Paris, Geneva, Venice, Bologna Rome, Vienna were all must-sees. The travelers weren’t really traveling to eat or try new foods but we could guess they probably ate well.

If there was a grand tour of eating in the 21st century and we had to corner it to one continent only, it probably wouldn’t be Europe. It would most likely be Asia, which has a tremendous diversity of flavors and ingredients and seems more and more clear that 21st-century eating habits are adopting Asian cuisine as its own.

There was no better place to explore this idea than at the annual Lucky Rice Festival. At the Grand Feast, housed in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City, I asked a slew of well-known chefs what the best country in Asia is for eating.

Here’s what they had to say:DANIELLE CHANG
Founder and organizer of the Lucky Rice Festival
Taipei. There are so many great places to go. I’ve actually had better Japanese food in Taipei than in Japan. Just as I’ve had better Szechuan food there than in China.

Chef at Cherrywood Kitchen, New York City
Taishan, China. It’s where the first wave of immigrants in New York came from. There’s a fish and pork sausage there that is really great. My grandma made it especially well.

Chef at Public, New York City
Singapore or Vietnam. I’ve been to both places and they’re both the highlights of any trip to Asia, in terms of eating. Singapore does all Asian cuisine very well. Vietnam is especially great for freshness and seaside deliciousness.

Chef at Catch and The General, New York City
Vietnam. Specifically, Saigon. We have the finest and freshest flavors there. It’s not too sour, not too sweet. Just right.

Chef at Lee, Toronto
Chengdu. I ate so well there. The food is robust. The people are robust. The best thing I ate there was this hot and sour glass noodle dish. The balance of sweet and sour was so good. I just couldn’t stop eating it. I also ate an entire rack of lamb. It was six years ago and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Chef at Mehtaphor, New York City
Bombay. I know it well because I grew up there. But also have to say Tokyo is great, too. My sister worked there for a long time and I would often visit and eat everything I saw.

Chef at Morimoto, New York City and Philadelphia
I don’t know.

Chef at Ngam, New York City
Chiang Mai. It’s my heart and soul. I often crave kanom jeen from the Warorot Market at night. It’s a fermented rice noodle with gravy on top. The sauces are variations on curry.

Chef at Toy, New York City
Singapore. It’s so diverse. You’ve got Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, Indian. Plus, the local cuisine. And the weather is so great there, too.

Chef at Perry St., New York City
Tokyo. I was there four years ago and was blown away by the high quality of everything I ate. The flavor combinations of the food are amazing there. If I get the chance, I really want to go to Singapore, as well.

Chef at Rhong-Tiam, New York City
Hong Kong. I really love the Asian flavors blended with a French and English influence. There are such exotic ingredients there. I’d specifically eat a lot of street food there.

600 People Evacuated After Explosives Found On Taiwanese Train

Planes are often the first thing to come to mind when we think of terrorist attacks, but this morning in Taiwan a bomb hidden in a train bathroom nearly detonated.

Passengers reported smelling gas on a high-speed train Zuoying to Taipei. Upon further investigation, a piece of luggage emitting white smoke with five liters of gasoline and an activated timer trigger device was found. More than 600 people were evacuated, and police so far aren’t releasing any information on a potential suspect.

The truth is, there have been dozens of terrorist incidents onboard trains since the 1970s, far more than have been documented on planes. For now, all we can do as passengers is remember to take the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign seriously. These Taiwanese passengers did, and it saved many lives.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Haziq Noor Ariff]

Better Know A Holiday: Tomb-Sweeping Day

AKA: Qingming Festival, Pure Brightness Festival, Ancestors Day

When? 15th day after the vernal equinox (in 2013: April 4)

Public holiday in: China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan

Who died? Generations of ancestors.

Origin story: Unclear. However, Tomb-Sweeping Day did originate as the Cold Food Festival. In the seventh century B.C., a former prince named Chong’er and his followers were in exile. Food was scarce. One extremely loyal follower, named Jie, cut a chunk of flesh from his leg to make broth, which was used to feed Chong’er. Moved by this show of loyalty and sacrifice, Chong’er vowed to repay Jie. However, when Chong’er finally became king and rewards were being dished out, he somehow overlooked the guy with half a leg. Jie, understandably disappointed, moved into the forest.

Once he realized his mistake, Chong’er sought out Jie, and when he couldn’t find him in the dense forest, he burned it to the ground to flush him out. No good deed goes unpunished. Poor Jie didn’t have a leg to stand on and was found dead under a willow tree, burned to death. The king was filled with remorse. He declared three days of remembrance for his acolyte and forbade fires for those three days. The name Qingming (“pure bright”) stems from a note that was found declaring that Jie had a clear conscience in the after life.

The Cold Food Festival gradually merged with other traditions to the point where it became the annual time to pay tribute to one’s departed relatives.How is it celebrated? Tomb-Sweeping Day is less of a festival and more of a sincere celebration of family. Chinese travel to their hometowns for large family reunions. On the day proper, the family heads to the cemetery to pay respects to their deceased loved ones. This involves kowtowing to the graves of their ancestors, presenting food offerings, burning joss paper and generally tidying up the surroundings. Then, families will sit around, maybe have a picnic at the gravesite, and talk about – what else – family.

Associated food: Spring rolls are popular, but anything cold to recall the origins of the festival.

Associated commercialism: Even the dead can be commercialized. Part of the Qingming celebration involves burning fake money and paper replicas of consumer goods, and the memorial merchandise business is booming. Chinese spent over $1.5 billion – that’s with a “B” – on fake money, fake property deeds and papier mâché iPhones, sports cars and castles in 2012. These items are sacrificially burned to venerate the dead and contribute to their welfare in the afterlife. That’s a lot of money and paper that is literally going up in smoke, which given China’s current pollution woes, is not good news for the still breathing.

Other ways to celebrate: Planting willows, flying kites, tug-of-wars, paying homage to revolutionary martyrs.

[Photo Credit: istolethetv, bfishadow]

Camera Lost While Scuba Diving In Hawaii Washes Ashore In Taiwan 5 Years Later

When Lindsay Scallan of Newnan, Georgia lost her camera during a 2007 scuba dive in Maui, she swallowed the hard pill of realizing that her vacation photos would be gone forever.

As it turns out, in a story recently published by Hawaii News Now, the Canon camera (which was in an underwater case) was found 6,200 miles away on the shores of Taiwan by a China Airlines employee who was taking a walk down the beach.

Despite the fact that the camera was covered in barnacles, the memory card was still intact and contained all of the photos that Scallan had snapped on her Hawaiian vacation nearly five and a half years prior.

Hoping to reunite the camera with its unknown owner, a story was published on the Hawaii News now site on March 22, which included photos from the memory card of a woman who was presumed to be the owner.

Thanks to the power of social media sites and online sharing, by March 24, Scallan had received news of her camera’s re-appearance.

Not only does Scallan get her photos back, but China Airlines has offered to fly Scallan to Taiwan to be reunited with her camera in person. The only trouble, however, is that Scallan has just started a new job and doesn’t know if she can get time off to fly halfway around the world to pick up her long-lost photos.

[Photo Credit: Hawaii News Now]

Video Of The Day: New Year’s Celebrations Around The World

As the year comes to a close, here’s a look back on how the world rang in 2012. From Sydney to Cape Town, these impressive fireworks displays highlight some of the most famous cities and landmarks throughout the world – whether that be the London Eye or the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Tonight’s celebrations are sure to be just as impressive, so circle back to Gadling tomorrow for some photos from the start of 2013.