Tag Archives: beer

Asian Beer Label Table

Although I don’t really enjoy beer that much, I’m a fan of the commercial artwork on beer labels across the world.  They are also a cheap and light souvenir, so I’ve begun collecting beer labels from each country that I’ve visited since moving to Asia.  It’s always been my goal to make some sort of table or bar out of the collection, and I’ve finally amassed enough to put together my “beer label table.”

How many countries can you find?

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Ahan Lao…Saep Lai!

As my one year anniversary of life in Laos quickly approaches (this week!), I’ve been trying to take some small moments (and with final reports due and an upcoming trip to prepare, the moments are indeed small) to reflect on the things that I’ve grown to appreciate and love in the past year.  Very high on the list, of course, is food.  Food is always an important aspect of anywhere I visit, and luckily Laos has not disappointed in the culinary department.  While Lao cuisine doesn’t traditionally include some of my favorite ingredients (read: cheese, bread), there are a whole new array of spices and flavors now in my palate.  (And luckily there are some excellent Western restaurants in town to indulge my taste for cheese when I really need some).

Some of my favorite “go-to” Lao foods… (Some of these are not exclusively Lao, but also found in Thailand.  However, it’s in the Lao context that I’ve come to know and love them.)

Morning Glory (paak bung)

The spinach of Southeast Asia–a water weed (which I’ve recently learned is illegal to import, possess, or sell in the USA) that I like best fried with garlic, chilis, and fish sauce, as pictured.

Broken Rice (nem khao)

Fried rice, rolled into a ball and deep fried.  The ball is broken apart and then tossed with herbs, peanuts, and pig skin (the spagetti-like pieces).  Pick some up with your vegetable of choice and then dip into a slightly spicy peanut sauce. (Pictured here with spring rolls).

Chicken with Cashews

Fried chicken pieces mixed with onions, chilis, cashews, and a delicious sweet and sour sauce.  (After numerous taste tests, I’ve determined Lao Garden restaurant to have one of the best places of gai pad med mak muang in town, pictured above).

Chicken Laap (laap gai) with Sticky Rice (khao niaow)
Laap, or meat salad, is one of the most common Lao foods, and certainly my favorite.  I prefer the gai (chicken) variety, although it also comes with bpaa (fish), muu (pork), ngua (beef), or kouai (buffalo).  Diced meat with onions, chilis, mint, and other herbs, served with sticky rice.  Saep lai! It’s the only Lao food I’ve attempted to cook, with some success.

Chili peppers (mak phet)

Well, chilis might not really be one of my favorite foods yet, but they’re so ubiquitous that I’ve learned to love them in greater quantity than before.  However, I still ask for food bo phet (not spicy) whenever I order it.  This guarantees that it will just barely be on the tolerable side of uncomfortably spicy.

Beerlao

…And how could I leave out Beerlao, staple of Lao cuisine?  Though some might say it’s not a food, you use the verb “to eat,” kin, for beer consumption as well as eating food, which seems to reflect its centrality in celebrations, and most meals for some.  The most palatable, and enjoyable, of the regional beers, in my opinion.  Nyok!

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Brussels

Yesterday I spent the day exploring Brussels, after a late arrival on the bus the night before.  My friend Lise, from high school, joined me from Lille, where she is studying abroad for a year, and where I am staying with her for the next few days (only a 30 minute train ride from Brussels).  I had heard that Brussels was an “ugly” city, mainly in comparison to the more touristed Belgian cities of Bruges and Ghent, because there aren’t a lot of old buildings remaining, and some bizarre modern structures (like the Atomium, a giant atom-shaped structure that is now one of the Belgian icons) have taken their place.  With this in mind, I was surprised to find Brussels actually very charming.  Old buildings remain in the Grand Place/Groote Markt (most everything is bilingual Dutch/French here, which gets confusing when the map lists one name for a street and the street sign lists the other), a favorite stop for tourists.  The 360 degree view from here is dizzying, with lots of gold detailing and ornate buildings.

The Grand Place/Gros Markt of Brussels

The Grand Place/Groote Markt of Brussels

But perhaps some of Brussels’ other best-known sights reflect its quirky sense of humor, which seems like an inside joke on the tourists.  There’s bizarre fascination with urination here.  The city’s icon, Manneken Pis, is a statue of the little boy, peeing into a fountain.  He wears special costumes for holidays and the city has a museum with hundreds of his costumes from over the years.  And in more recent years the Manneken has acquired a family: Jeanneke, a squatting little girl, and Zinneke, a bronze dog with his leg lifted.  I’ve never seen so many tourists crowded around craning their necks to get photos of a little girl peeing.  And the fascination continues beyond the statues.  St. Catherine’s Cathedral, an old church, run-down in a beautiful way, with plants poking through bits of the wall, has a set of outdoor urinals on the side.  Why they decided the side of a church was the best place to install public urinals, I have no idea.

He's everywhere!  Sculptures of the Manneken Pis in a chocolate shop.

He's everywhere! Sculptures of the Manneken Pis in a chocolate shop.

Of course, if Brussels lacks the number of spectacular sights of a city like Paris, it makes up for it with the “must-try” foods…lots of work for the stomach when you’re only spending a few hours in the city.  First, the “French” fry, Belgium’s national snack, which is sold on every street corner, with an incredible collection of sauces and dips (ketchup is for the boring here, we tried the andalouse, a slightly spicy, creamy pink sauce).  Next, Belgian beer, which is equally abundant, since Belgium is one of the world’s largest beer consumers per capita.  We tried the local brew at Delerium, a bar that’s in the Guinness Book of World Records for serving the most varieties of beer (2004 different kinds, and counting, with 27 on tap at a time).  And finally, dessert!  The Belgian waffle here is square, very light (nothing like Eggo waffles), and coated in nothing but powdered sugar.  The kinds with ice cream, strawberries, etc are apparently for the tourists only.  And the chocolate is everywhere: in the grocery stores, in the shop windows cascading in fountains, in my stomach…mmm.  But unfortunately the fame has made it quite expensive as well.  A note: I’m having some trouble with my internet at the moment, so these are the only photos that are up for now, but hopefully the rest will be coming sometime soon.

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