World Streetfood Congress To Be Held In Singapore, May 31-June 9

street food
Laurel Miller, Gadling

Does the mere thought of street food set your stomach to rumbling? If so, you’ll want to get yourself to Singapore– the world’s unofficial street food (or, technically, hawker centre)– capital. The city is hosting the World Streetfood Congress May 31-June 9. Don’t let the stern-sounding name fool you: this 10-day event is all about hedonism, snackie-style.

In addition to a World Streetfood Jamboree featuring the “best street food masters” from all over the world, there are also demos, a first-of-its-kind awards ceremony, discussions on “street food opportunities,” live music, and more.

For those in the F & B industry, a two-day conference, The World Street Food Dialogues, will be held June 3-4. It will feature noted speakers/street food experts such as Anthony Bourdain, Saveur magazine editor-in-chief James Oseland, Brett Burmeister, managing editor and co-owner of Food Carts Portland, and Singapore’s beloved KF Seetoh, chef, food writer, and founder of the Makansutra food centre and “foodbooks.” Makansutra is also the organizer of the World Streetfood Congress.

For details and tickets, click here. Your path to enlightenment via assam laksa, kue pankong, nasi kapau, mee siam, fish tacos, and chuoi nuong awaits.

Video Of The Day: A Taste Of Vietnam

A Taste of Vietnam” from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

For some upbeat and inspiring footage of Vietnam, watch this video. With an emphasis on the food of Vietnam, this video pairs creative music with professionally shot and edited film. This video is just one of many impressive videos from the folks at The Perennial Plate. Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine, the makers of this video, have a knack for capturing the entire culture of a place while still focusing on the food at large. Maybe it’s because food is such an important part of our identity; maybe it’s because food is such an important part of travel. No matter the cause, this video is gorgeous. And now I want to spend some time eating in Vietnam.

Typhoon Son-Tinh Slams Vietnam

‘The Perennial Plate’ Partners With Intrepid Travel For Online Food Documentary Series

food documentariesI’ll be the first to raise my hand and say I despise most of the food shows currently on television and online. That’s why I got so excited when I heard about “The Perennial Plate,” a weekly online documentary series, “dedicated to socially responsible and adventurous eating.”

That angle by virtue does not a good show make. But Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine, the team behind the show, have the ideal background to make this concept work, which it does. Throw in a collaboration with well-regarded Australian adventure company Intrepid Travel, and you have the makings of a cult classic.

In case you’re thinking this is another “No Reservations,” or “Bizarre Foods,” the focus is different in that the duo explores the increasingly connected global food system, minus the machismo. That said, there’s plenty for those more interested in armchair travel.

Klein has an impressive resume as a chef, filmmaker and activist, while “camera girl” Fine has a background in graphic design and writing, and has previously released short, food-based films. Together, the two have completed two seasons. The first took place over the course of a calendar year in their home state of Minnesota. The second was filmed across America, taking viewers on a journey of “where good food comes from, and how to enjoy it.”

Season three, which premieres in October (check their site for dates), is the first since joining with Intrepid Travel. The season kicks off with a tour of Vietnam. Future episodes will include China, Japan, India, Argentina and Italy.


The sushi invasion of Eastern Europe

sushi in eastern europeTraveling through Eastern Europe recently, what stood out to me the most (aside from ultra low prices and varying success with capitalism) is the extreme popularity of sushi. Particularly in Kiev and Warsaw, sushi restaurants are nearly as prolific as the national cuisine and if you find yourself in a fashionable restaurant, odds are raw fish will be on the menu.

My husband and I had differing theories as to the sushi invasion. I figured it was popular as it is the exact opposite of most Eastern European food. After many years of boiled meat, heavy sauces, and pickled vegetables, sushi must make a refreshing palate cleanser and a delicious novelty. My husband, who was born in what was then Leningrad, USSR, had a more subjective theory. He maintains it has to do with a way of thinking that is particular to post-Soviet and developing countries: after the oppression of communism, wealth and status are held in high regard; imported goods once impossible to obtain exemplify status and wealth. In other words, nothing says how far you’ve come from bread lines more than eating fish flown in from another country while wearing Louis Vuitton and texting on your iPhone.

In order to delve deeper into the sushi explosion, I consulted a few expats familiar with the former Eastern bloc to get their insights and found both of our theories supported.Political consultant, fellow Istanbullu, and Carpetblogger Christy Quirk easily qualifies as an expert in my book on the peculiarities of the FSU (former Soviet Union), with posts like how to tell if you’re in Crapistan (perhaps “many sushi restaurants” should be added to the checklist?) and how to buy a suit in the FSU. She agrees with the post-Soviet (and new money) mindset theory, noting “nothing says ‘I have more money than sense’ more than eating overpriced frozen sushi from Dubai. EVERY self-respecting restaurant in the FSU — especially those that appeal to the Oligarch class or, more accurately, oligarch wannabes — must have a sushi menu.” She adds: “Our favorite ‘Mexican’ restaurant in Kiev had an extensive one (I hold that up as the paragon of ridiculous dining in the FSU but it did have good chips and decent margaritas, for which it deserves praise, not derision).” As a fellow expat, I understand the importance of a place with decent margaritas, even if the menu is a bit geographically confused.

Prague-based food and travel writer Evan Rail has fully experienced the, uh, Prague-ification of the Czech Republic after living in the capital for the past decade, concurs with the novelty theory and adds that food trends tend to take a bit longer to arrive in this part of the world. Sushi became big especially as “most of this region is landlocked, it’s quite noteworthy to encounter the salty, briny flavors of seafood, especially raw seafood. Fines de claire oysters went through a similar vogue in Prague a few years back.”

Evan further reports that in Prague, sushi is no longer the flavor of the month. “After [sushi], it seemed like every restaurant on every cobblestone lane in Old Town was serving Thai soup, but only a weak interpretation of tom kha gai — you couldn’t get tom yum for love or money. Now the vogue seems to be about Vietnamese noodles, which makes more sense given the Czech Republic’s long-term and quite sizable Vietnamese community. I’ve actually had some of the best bun bo hue I’ve ever tasted here, far better than anything I’ve found in Paris or Berlin.
But banh mi? Well, maybe in another five years…”

While all this may be further evidence of globalization, it’s become part of the food culture, for better of for worse. If you travel to Eastern Europe, be sure to try the local food and keep your mind open to what might be “local.”

Do you have another take on the sushification of Eastern Europe? Noticed another foreign food trend abroad? Leave us a comment below.

[Photo by Flickr user quinn anya]

New lizard species discovered…on a menu in Vietnam

A Vietnamese scientist, Ngo Van Tri of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, has discovered a previously unknown species of lizard in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province. While eating at a rural restaurant in this southwestern region of the Mekong Delta, Dr. Van Tri noticed a tank of live lizards awaiting transfer to the grill, after which they would be served with a side of salad.

The Independent reports that the lizard, now known as Leiolepis ngovantrii, is a hybrid of two similar species in the region. The L ngovantrii species are entirely female, and reproduce by parthenogenesis, a form of cloning.

Confirmation of the new species came via two American herpetologists, Lee Grismer of La Sierra University in Riverside, California, and his son Jesse Grismer of Villanova University in Pennsylvania. In a goose chase akin to something out of a “Far Side” cartoon, father and son departed immediately for Vietnam after being emailed photos of the lizards by Dr. Van Tri. Upon arrival, they called the restaurant and asked the owner to hold an order of live lizards, before embarking on a two-day motorbike journey to the establishment.

The senior Grismer told the National Geographic News, “When we finally got there, this crazy guy had gotten drunk and served them all to his customers.” Fortunately, the Grismer’s were able to hire some local boys to find live specimens, and DNA testing confirmed that L ngovantrii is an all-female species. Explains Dr. Lee Grismer,”It’s an entirely new lineage of life that was being eaten and sold in restaurants for food. But it’s something that scientists have missed for hundreds of years. It’s not that they’re not known, locals know all about them. It’s just that they’re not known to scientists.”