Links to devour

Dishoom pop-up restaurant (London)

Food trends and new Sydney eats – the SMH Good Food Guide 2012 is out

A Sydney caffeine hit list to drink your way through

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry has posted an excellent round-up of the year’s best new places to drink and eat (yes, Sydney again). The to-do list just got a lot longer!

This pop-up Indian restaurant in London is so colourful and kitsch

Inspirational photo blogger, Louise from 52 Suburbs has an exciting international project planned

So excited to stay out in the rice paddies at Bueng Pai Farm in two months time (in northern Thailand)!

Image courtesy Fast Co. Design via Ivy & Piper

Links to devour

The gorgeous Rice – I want to go! Image via Bright Bazaar

The inspiring story of how LUXE City Guides came to be

These five inventive coffees would be good to try

Cool store tour of London’s Rice via the equally colour crazy Bright Bazaar blog

Anthony Bourdain talks life, writing and food at the Sydney Writer’s Festival (if you have a spare hour to listen!) – fascinating how his life has changed so much in the last 10 years

Art and tea at White Rabbit

Contemporary Chinese art…a teahouse…a converted former knitting factory…a cool backstreet Chippendale location…White Rabbit gallery ticks all the right boxes for a dose of modern Asia in downtown Sydney. It’s a family owned gallery featuring an extensive private collection of Chinese art created since the year 2000 – all for the public’s free viewing pleasure.

The gallery’s current exhibition, A Decade of the Rabbit, features colourful, innovative works by contemporary Chinese artists, from neon Chinese signage to a recreation of a typical doorway found in suburban Chinese cities woven entirely from thread. It’s colourful, intriguing, inspiring, thought provoking, nostalgic yet fresh.

Back on ground level, the birdcage adorned tea house features an extensive menu of loose leaf teas from whites, greens and oolongs to those flavoured with roses, lychees and goji berries. Labelled tins featuring samples of each tea leaf variety are on the centre of each table to smell.

Jin Xuan, a Taiwanese milk oolong with a distinct smooth and sweet flavour, and Yin Zhen (or Silver Needle), a delicate, premium white tea. Both were amazing but I preferred the milk oolong’s more unique taste.

White Rabbit, 30 Balfour Street, Chippendale NSW 2008, +61 (02) 8399 2867, open Thurs-Sun 10am-6pm

White Rabbit Teahouse on Urbanspoon

Obsessed… in Saigon

Mini profiteroles at L’Usine

I love to try new things as much as the next person, but sometimes, I obsess over tried and true favourites I must order, must eat or must buy! In Phnom Penh, I couldn’t get enough of the brownies at The Shop, the Kampot pepper chocolate at Chocolate by the Shop, the lasagne at Pop…the list goes on. Here in Saigon, I’ve also built up a repertoire of regulars I can’t live without (and yes, I realise they’re not exactly ‘Vietnamese’ foods but I think I take commonly available things for granted, seeking out rarer, more craveworthy things!). Current obsessions include:

Fanny icecream – particularly mint and choc chip and vanilla macadamia, and their seasonal Asian flavours like ginger and anise. This might be my overall favourite Vietnamese brand – of anything!
Pacharan – I must have the chorizo at least once a month (I know – so bad for food miles – it’s flown in from Spain). The gambas al pil pil (garlic prawns) are pretty addictive too.
Au Parc – nemisis cake, nemisis cake, nemisis cake – I must have eaten my weight in this decadent chocolate concoction since moving to Saigon. Or maybe even more.
Shang Palace – I’ve always loved yum cha (or dim sum as it’s known here), but Shang Palace has become something of an obsession. Though I’m off to Ocean Palace tomorrow (the one near the zoo) just to mix it up a little!
Da Vinci’s – a home delivered pizza place I’ve somehow only just cottoned onto. So good, and so much better than the other Italian places we’ve tried. My pick – the Greek pizza with olives and feta!
Saigon Square – the city’s answer to Phnom Penh’s Russian Market. I love trawling the crowded stalls for clothing bargains, like a check shirt I just got for a steal. Even better are the kids clothes, should you need them.
Kita Cafe – the coffee here (Lavazza – not Vietnamese, I know!) is the smoothest brew I’ve come across in the city. When I’m over my cafe sua da’s at local places I crave a Kita cappuccino.
L’Usine – any dessert. So far have tried their mini profiteroles with raspberry sauce, chocolate fudge cake and their latest addition – cupcakes! All… so… good!

Time is fast running out for getting my favourite food (and shopping) fixes here as I’m soon moving back to Sydney, where a whole world of gastronomic temptation awaits (yay!). In the meantime, I need to make the most of what I like best about Saigon (and block out the rest!).

Image courtesy of L’Usine

Friday fun – AGIA in words

What’s A Girl in Asia all about? According to Wordle, mostly food (yes!), with a bit of love, people and blogs thrown in for good measure. Glad coffee, travel and Muji are there too, but not sure how ‘dog’ made the cut! What does your blog say about you?!

Wordle: A Girl in Asia
(Click here to enlarge)

{Behind the Blog} Marie of Shantiwallah

Marie in Laos

Shantiwallah has been one of my must-read blogs for some time now, so I’m happy to introduce you to its author, Marie. Her time living in Asia has had an obvious impact on her life, which is reflected so beautifully in this recent blog post. She’s also a freelance writer and finds the time to maintain a food focussed blog called Five Flavours. Here’s more on Marie:

Where have you lived, and where are you now?
I lived in various parts of the United States until I was 18. Since then I’ve lived in England, Vietnam, Japan and New Zealand, which is where I am now. I’ve also spent a lot of time in Thailand including some short term work. I am a US/NZ dual national.

Why do you blog?
Like many people, I started blogging to keep in touch with friends and family. Since then it has really become a place for me to practice my writing and put it in front of real live people (before that it was all in books made of paper that stay on my shelves) and to connect with like-minded souls of which, it seems, there are many. That’s what I love about the internet.

Where did the name ‘Shantiwallah’ come from? What does it mean?
It’s about how I see others as my teachers. I’ve written about it in more detail here.

Can you tell us about Five Flavours, your food website? 
I started my food blog in order to talk about the connections between food, people and culture. I’ve always loved how people use food to connect and enjoy finding out the story behind a particular recipe or way of cooking. If you ask anyone what their favourite food is, even if they just tell you the name of it, they will have a story in their mind as to why they like that particular thing. Very often these stories are connected to other people.

What are you currently…

The Poisonwood Bible. It’s been on my shelf for ages from one of my English language book binges that I used to go on when I lived in Asia and came across a sale. I know now there are Kindle readers, but as far as I know Kindles still don’t have that new book smell, so…

…listening to?
I’m rediscovering my old CDs (remember CDs?) that I stored while I was in Asia. They are all 6+ years old so it’s like a time warp. I’m slowly uploading or ditching them. I’d love some new music!

Not a lot at the moment. New Zealand TV goes through phases of good and bad which is good for me because I’d rather not suck up my evenings with addictive TV. There are a lot of awesome docos on the Maori Channel and they also play really good foreign films. I did watch the Chilean miner rescue. Oh my God, humans are amazing!

I’m into Central Asian food at the moment from old Silk Route places. I love how the recipes change through the various countries with local additions to ingredients or a slight change in name but you can still recognize them as being related.

At the moment it is starting to get a wee bit more spring-like so my husband and I have been overindulging on lighter summery Japanese food such as zaru soba and other cold noodles and salads.

This week it was something we really miss from living in a specialty region of Japan, sake! My husband, who is an ex-scientist, writes a tongue in cheek blog called the Journal of Applied Drinks Studies International where he reviews random drinks we find in our local supermarket and small shops. I am one of his “research assistants” so we try to do a tasting at least once a week. We also drink a lot of New Zealand wines, and on a different note, I am pretty much obsessed with tea of all kinds.

It’s been so cold that I’ve been I’ve mostly been wearing jeans and hoodies, But now that it’s warming up I’m looking forward to wearing something with a bit more style to it.

More short escapes around New Zealand. Last month my husband took 6 days off work and we drove down to the Hawke’s Bay wine country. It was the first time we’d been down there and it was fantastic. They’ve got a wonderful local food and wine scene. Long term we’d like to save enough money to go abroad again, but since I’m still pretty new at the freelance writing game our income is limiting.

…obsessed with?
Nostalgia for travelling. I’m still getting my business going and it’s a wee bit hard for me to be grounded in one place. It’s all good though!

Thanks Marie!

{Behind the Blog} Xander from Primitive Culture // Taiwan Famous

Primitive Culture is one of the most inspiring blogs I read, with food, travel and style insights from globetrotter Xander. He has also just started another blog, Taiwan Famous, chronicling food exploits in his new home. Not only does Xander have a penchant for street eats and local produce, but he seeks out cool cafes wherever he travels, making him something of a kindred blogging spirit of mine! Here’s more about Xander:

Where do you live/where are you now?
I have just moved to Hsinchu, Taiwan. It’s about an hour South of Taipei (though only half an hour by high speed rail), with some big city benefits, but a nicely relaxed pace of life.

Hsinchu Night Market

What are you currently…

I’ve just started reading “This Side of Paradise”, which will, sadly, be the last new F. Scott Fitzgerald novel for me.

…listening to?
I’ve always had a fondness for old music—I love Big Band. Lately I’ve been playing a lot of goofy happy songs by Doris Day, and moody latin numbers by Xavier Cugat. I’m also just now getting into Podcasts—I love how a relaxed hour of listening can fill me up with so many new ideas. I especially love This American Life and The Splendid Table.

While I was in the States recently I finally caught up on watching the rest of Six Feet Under—I still can’t get over what an amazing show it was. It might have ruined me for TV forever—no show could ever be as good.

With so much great, cheap street food around in Taiwan, I’m not cooking too much lately. But I’m excited to be getting a new kitchen soon (we’re still apartment hopping), and to start stocking it with produce from local markets and shops.

Hsinchu is a great city for eating local Taiwanese food—it’s especially famous for xiao chi (“little eats”). We’ve discovered some great spots recently—we just found two different places that make delicious duck noodles. My favorite snacks right now are zhua bing, flaky pancakes studded with scallions, and baotze, steamed buns filled with pork.

Not enough, really. With summer in full force I’d love to be mixing some gin and bitters, or maybe a gin fizz, but no apartment means no bar yet!

We were in the states for a few months before moving to Taiwan, and I loaded up at some of my favorite stores. I really miss American Apparel, J. Crew, and H&M—but at least I brought a heavy suitcase with me from the states. I mainly loaded up on clothes in shades of peacock and navy blue. Wearing navy blue is a new thing for me—I used to have to wear navy blue as part of a uniform at Catholic school, so for years I hated the color.

We’ve been traveling since January, and I’m getting excited about the idea of having an apartment of our own again, so I’m already figuring how I want to decorate it, what we need to get, what the layout will be… We might have found a place that is just what we were looking for, so we’re hoping to sign a lease soon. It’s a really funky old ‘60s Chinese style place—it looks like something out of a Wong Kar Wai movie.

…obsessed with?
Muji! I wish I had a salary high enough stock my entire apartment with streamlined Muji furniture, but as it is I’m making do with some new Muji bags and clothes. I’m also dreaming of a trip to Japan, partly so I can visit one of the mythically huge Muji stores…

My other obsession right now is my new dog, Japie (an Afrikaans name said like Yaw-pie). Neither my husband or I are dog people, but we’ve always talked about getting a French bull dog some day. Then just after we got to Taiwan, we met someone who was trying to find a home for one… we met him, totally fell for him, and now he’s my sole topic of conversation.

Favourite cuisines?
We found a great Vietnamese place today, a total hole in the wall, and I was once again reminded of what an amazing cuisine that country has. The cool, herby flavors are especially fantastic for summer—a banana flower salad and a glass of lime and soda sounds like the ideal lunch to me. Conversely, I have some very American tastebuds—well made pizza and hamburgers are two of my favorite foods.

Fresh produce in Vietnam

Favourite travel destinations?
Hanoi is one of my favorite cities—great for shopping, eating, taking in culture, and relaxing in cafes. I also think Cape Town might be one of the best destinations in the world. After living there for a year, I don’t think I want to go back full-time, but as a get-away it’s perfect: beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and some excellent cafes.


Next trip planned?
My parents are coming to visit soon, and we’ll be heading off for a few days in Bali, then heading back here so I can show them a little of Taiwan. I’ve never been to Bali, but I might actually be more excited about Taiwan—it’s a fascinating island, and there’s still so much of it I haven’t seen.

If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where and why?
I’m so eager to try living in the US again, especially LA, my favorite city in the world. But I’m also vaguely curious to try living in the South for a while, to explore some swamps and learn more about the fantastic food…

Who/what inspires you?
I am definitely a city person, and the closer to downtown I can live the happier I am. But I’m also really inspired by nature—right now the lush greens of Taiwan’s bamboo forests are filling up my sketchbooks. I love studying the forms and shapes of animals and plants.

3 of your must-read blogs?
Despite sort of being a ‘travel blogger’ I don’t actually read many travel blogs, unless they have a focus on food or style. More than just reading about people going places, I love reading about what people are eating, where they’re enjoying coffee, or what they’re wearing or making.

I love Readymade Magazine, and they have a fantastic set of blogs—my favorite is their food blog, Feast, which always has great ideas for what you should be eating.

I’m also really into David Lebovitz lately. I know he lives in Paris, which is obviously quite a bit different from Taiwan, but reading the culinary explorations of a fellow expatriate make me want to get up and go search out some interesting local ingredients and dishes.

And though its admittedly a little girly, Design*Sponge is one of my favorite daily reads—especially now that food and entertaining seems to be getting expanded coverage on their blog.

Thanks for inviting me to participate!


Thanks Xander!

At the moment I’m…

…visiting iberry waaaay too often!

….in one of my favourite cities in the world – Bangkok – for up to two months! Am here waiting to have baby number 2 – but I’ll save the ins and outs of that for another post. I get so many emails from random readers asking me for more details about having a baby in Asia so I’ll do a FAQ post about it soon (that the non-baby minded among you can choose to skip over – I don’t want to bore you to death!). In the meantime, here’s what I’m:

Old episodes of Entourage (playing catch-up) and downloaded TED talks
Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert, the follow up novel to Eat Pray Love where she delves into the history and concept of marriage while contemplating her own impending 2nd wedding (which she was basically forced into to allow her Brazilian partner to stay in the US). I’m about halfway through, and so far, it’s a pretty interesting read, albeit a little textbook like in parts. I’m hoping for more about her travels in SE Asia and chats with people there about their culture’s attitudes towards relationships and marriage, which is meant to be covered but hasn’t really been – yet!
Lots of Japanese, Thai and desserts (everything chocolate and everything ice-cream – I’m still so in love with iberry!)
Too much coffee for a pregnant chick(!) but Bangkok is a world of temptation, in every way!
My new iPod Touch! Still figuring it all out, and welcome any suggestions on good apps to download! So far I have epicurious and Facebook, and that’s about it!
Looking forward to…
More Bangkok eats while I still have the chance! On my radar – a chocolate cafe, a taqueria, and some amazing sounding Thai restaurants, including one with a 7-course Thai meets French degustation menu, can’t wait!
…how about you?

{Behind the Blog} Vivian from Lost in Translation

That’s Vivian on the left!

If you’re not already familiar with Lost in Translation (the blog, not the movie!), I highly suggest you take a little trip over. Canadian Vivian is living the good life in Japan, jaunting around cool cities and countryside, shopping at Muji (lucky!) and getting her karaoke on. Here’s what’s inspiring Vivian at the moment:

Where do you live/where are you now? 

I am currently living and working in Japan. I live on Shikoku island, a beautiful and traditional area located in the southern part of the country. It’s my first time living in the countryside, and I love being surrounded by mountains, beaches, and temples.

What are you currently…

These days, all my reading material is about learning Japanese! I’m still struggling with a few kana characters I constantly mix up, and I’m trying to memorize new Kanji on a daily basis. Japanese is a challenging yet fascinating language to learn, and knowing the basics definitely makes my life easier.

…listening to?
Thievery Corporation for lounging around at cafés. MGMT and Shout Out Louds for running. Charlotte Gainsbourg when I bake. Handsome Furs when I miss Montreal. Neutral Milk Hotel for long train rides. Sonic Youth… just all the time.

I still watch and re-watch every single episode of Friends. It’s such a comforting series, and it makes me feel better when I get lonely. In fact, I cannot fall asleep without an episode in the background.

I’m actually baking a lot, and getting pretty creative in my little toaster oven: vanilla cupcakes, banana muffins, scones and brownies.

Cold udon noodles! Udon is famous in my prefecture, and it’s very filling, cheap, and refreshing on hot summer days. I love the lemon slice and green onion toppings.

Iced Royal milk tea. I got addicted to milk tea upon my arrival in Japan. It’s very popular here, although it’s basically just tea mixed with milk, with a hint of cinnamon.

Floral mini skirt and a simple tank. Right now I’m loving florals and stripes paired together.

A weekend of fun in Osaka. Osaka is pretty close to me, and my friends and I frequently hop on the bus for a much needed escape… a few days filled with shopping, nightlife and great foods.

…obsessed with? 
Sofia Coppola. I just saw the trailer for her latest film “Somewhere”, and I cannot wait to see it. And as always, her style, sophistication and creativity never cease to amaze me and inspire me to do more.

Favourite cuisines?
As much as I love Japanese food, I would have to say Mexican cuisine is my favourite. It’s also the most difficult to find in Japan, so every time I go to the import food store I make sure to stock up on spices to cook it at home. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I will travel as far as Osaka for a Mexican meal!

Favourite travel destinations?
Lately I’ve been focusing on exploring all of Japan, and it’s been so exciting. I love the traditional places like Kyoto and Nara, full of history and temples. Tokyo and Osaka are great for getting lost in translation. I fell in love with Hiroshima, so sad yet wonderful and peaceful. Fukuoka is a beautiful coastal city, and I enjoy all of Shikoku for its wild and rugged natural beauty.

Next trip planned?
Korea this summer. I actually really miss living in Seoul, as it was such an exciting, big metropolis, and I miss my friends dearly. It will be lovely to revisit my old stomping grounds, and catch up with friends.

If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where and why?
Living in Tokyo is still one of my dreams. I think it would be amazing to experience living in one of the biggest cities in the world, and Tokyo is pretty crazy and hectic, yet livable. It would be some kind of achievement for me!

Who or what inspires you?
Anyone who pursue their dreams. Many people tell me about how lucky I am to be able to live abroad and such. I don’t think it’s luck at all – it’s a choice I made. I admire people who make things happen, even though it’s on a small scale.

3 of your must-read blogs?
Sending Postcards – Alex and Mina’s around-the-world travel diaries, filled with fantastic pictures.
A Girl in Asia – Makes me dream about visiting Vietnam, and I love the pictures of beautiful little cafés. [AGIA: I should have specified ‘except mine!’ but thank you!]
Style Scrapbook – I think Andy is gorgeous and stylish, and everything she wears is delightful and inspires me so much.


I hope you enjoyed this little window into Vivian’s world as much as I did!