I don’t know how this was discovered, but apparently coffee beans shit out by a civet (a weasel-like animal) makes for a damn good cup of coffee. Civet coffee, or weasel coffee, is an expensive delicacy that started in Indonesia where it’s known as kopi luwak. In the past few years this delicacy has been rising in popularity in Vietnam. I tried the coffee for myself in the city of Dalat, where the Weasel Coffee farm produces and brews the coffee on site. Here’s how it went.
When it comes to coffee, Cambodia will probably never be able to compete with the scale of neighboring Vietnam’s vast operations. Although Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world, Cambodia has been carving out its own niche with some decent and inexpensive coffee that’s mostly produced in the cooler province of Mondulkiri.
The Harbin Ice Festival attracts millions of people each year, and Coca-Cola is there to provide bizarre hot versions of its soft drink.
For my last dish before leaving Korea, I wanted something distinctively Korean (that wasn’t chicken and beer – as great as that is). My brother’s college friend who lives in the city took us to a modest little restaurant in the trendy Hyehewa theater district. I didn’t realize that the day – April 14 – was a special occasion. We all inadvertently celebrated Black Day, which falls exactly two months after Valentine’s Day and is exclusively for single people.
Food from nearly all the provinces of Cambodia were represented at the annual Cambodian Cuisine Festival in Phnom Penh. Dishes off all kinds were available for around $2 (or less), including many varieties of noodles, grilled seafood, stuffed frogs, steamed fish, curry and just about anything else someone could desire.
Moving from the U.S. to Cambodia wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it’s proven to be a rewarding experience. I tried to come as prepared as possible with some basic language skills and two previous trips to the region. Despite my preparation, there was definitely something of a learning curve.
When my friend Vinti suggested going indoor urban shrimp fishing when we met in Taipei, it sounded like something hipsters in Brooklyn would do (assuming the draconian laws in New York City allows would actually allow such fun). Still, it sounded like a great off-the-beaten-path activity and I looked forward to it. We didn’t know of any shrimp fishing places near the central Daan district, so we took a 20-minute cab ride to a neighborhood chock full of Japanese eateries (I have no idea where it actually was, sorry) and walked inside what appeared to be a low-key restaurant with garish lighting. In the back was a large murky pool. The fun soon began.
We spoke no Chinese, but pantomimed that we wanted to go fishing for an hour. We were given tiny rods and were the only ones sitting there on a weekday night. The employee put a tiny dried shrimp (cannibals!) on the hook and plopped the lure and bobber into the water. Within moments he had a hard bite.
It seems like anywhere you go in Taiwan, it’s impossible not to find a place selling mango shaved ice. This concoction typically involves a bowl full of shaved ice, mangos cut into cubes, some condensed milk to further sweeten the dish. Many places top it off with a couple scoops of ice cream. This is all well and good, but when the mango is perfect, simplicity is preferred.
Down in Tainan County, about four hours from Taipei, farmers grow the most incredible mango I’ve ever tasted. I’d sampled many variations of my favorite fruit in Cambodia, where locals claim there are more than ten kinds. Tainan’s Irwin mangos are on another level and apparently a popular export to Japan. Plus, they’re twice the size of the typical mango. A shaved ice vendor in Tainan gladly told all of this to my brother, who speaks Mandarin.
Avocados haven’t really caught on in Cambodia yet. I don’t think that will stay true for long, as the stuff that’s grown here is excellent and expensive Western food (usually of dubious quality) is catching on in Phnom Penh. These avocados made in Cambodia are huge, fresh, and for the most part, totally under the radar. Read more