Brown Rice: Food adventures in Southeast Asia

Fresh from our graduation robes, we are heading to Southeast Asia to explore the region's rich cultural, political and culinary diversity.

Food plays a crucial role in cultural identity, helping to define who we are as individuals and as communities. As the world becomes smaller and boundaries disappear, individual nations work to maintain aspects of their unique cultures. Food is one of the defining features of a culture. It allows us to understand the rich complexities of a country and its inhabitants. Through food, we gain a lens into family customs, local traditions and personal stories. On our travels through Southeast Asia, we plan to investigate how each nation’s cultural, political and economic development is reflected in its cuisine.

 

Join us as we eat our way through Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore this summer! 

 

— Emmy Liss & Chaz Kelsh

Locations

Hong Kong S.A.R., China
Singapore
Bangkok
Thailand
  • Chaz Kelsh | July 11th, 2011
    Of the places we visited, Singapore struck me as having perhaps both the least and the most sense of historical memory. On the one hand, the tiny city-state pays the past no mind, forging ahead as a free agent economically and politically. On the...
  • Emmy Liss | July 10th, 2011
    I’ve been back in New York for over a week, and I have finally adjusted to the time difference and to the fact that everything I eat is not nose-running eyes-tearing mouth-numbing spicy. I’ve been catching up with all my family and friends and the...
  • Chaz Kelsh | July 5th, 2011
    And so it arrived: our last full day in Asia. Faced with the prospect of a 5:50 a.m. flight the next morning, we had planned to stay out all night and then head to the airport, so we allowed ourselves to sleep in on Wednesday to enable late-night...
  • Chaz Kelsh | July 5th, 2011
    Since our arrival in Singapore — actually, since even before that — Vernie had been promoting this mythical Singaporean food item: chicken rice. Is it chicken? Is it rice? Neither? Both? What is it? On our last evening in Singapore, we went with...
  • Emmy Liss | July 5th, 2011
    When you walk through fruit markets in Asia, something smells. The first few times, it's a scent that's hard to identify. It always smells the same, but the particular odor is difficult to pin down. After a few trips, you begin to realize that...
  • Emmy Liss | July 5th, 2011
    Food plays a very large role in Singaporean culture. (What, have you not been able to tell thus far?) When locals want to do quality eating, they head to hawker centers. A hawker center (pronounced "hawka centah" in Singlish...
  • Chaz Kelsh | July 5th, 2011
    We began Tuesday, our third day in Singapore, with one of my favorite foods we had on our trip: mee siam, a spicy noodle dish. Vernie explained that, unlike in the United States, any food can be eaten at any meal. Back home, I might have cereal for...
  • Chaz Kelsh | July 4th, 2011
    After our wonderful day at the beach, we alighted from the cable car at the Harbourfront station of the MRT and took the train to Vernie and Dhiviya’s favorite place to get roti prata. Though Vernie had hyped quite a few of the foods she planned for...
  • Emmy Liss | July 4th, 2011
      We started Tuesday with yet another Singaporean meal. Breakfast consisted of soft-boiled eggs, sweet coffee and toast with kaya. We poured black pepper sauce over the eggs, but they were still a consistency foreign to my tastes. Kaya is a...
  • Chaz Kelsh | July 4th, 2011
    A few months ago, when Emmy and I visited Vernie at Wesleyan, she suggested that we celebrate the Chinese New Year by having a traditional Singaporean steamboat, or hot pot, dinner. Always eager to try new food, we hastily agreed. So, with Vernie...
  • Emmy Liss | July 4th, 2011
    Months ago, when we first began planning our trip to Singapore, Vernie created a very lengthy list of all of the foods we non-negotiably had to try while in her hometown. For a three day trip, it seemed like we would be eating nonstop. With four...
  • Chaz Kelsh | July 4th, 2011
    Much more so than Thailand, Vietnam seemed to wear its past on its sleeve. When you think about it, the country has had a series of particularly unfortunate circumstances, between the French and American interventions. It's pretty easy to see how...
  • Emmy Liss | July 2nd, 2011
    On Friday, we were supposed to see this: Instead, we saw this: An incoming typhoon and monsoon-like rains prevented our trip to Halong Bay. When the weather turns tumultuous, the local government does not allow tourist boats into the water....
  • Chaz Kelsh | July 2nd, 2011
    In Thailand, we had plenty of great meals on the street for next to free. But the best food we had was inthe city's finest restaurants. The food that came out of the best kitchens was more refined, more complex and just more delicious —...
  • Chaz Kelsh | June 28th, 2011
    After our amazing lunch at KOTO on Wednesday, we headed across the street to the Temple of Literature, a very old Chinese temple compound in the heart of Hanoi. We took a few minutes to explore the temple grounds, the last of many, many...
  • Emmy Liss | June 26th, 2011
    In the midst of exploring Hanoi’s past, we took a lunchtime break on Wednesday at one of the city’s indications of a more promising future. The now world-famous KOTO was founded over ten years ago by Australian Jimmy Phram who returned to...
  • Chaz Kelsh | June 26th, 2011
    We left Chiang Mai early on Tuesday after encountering a bit of a runaround at the airport. We arrived at the domestic terminal, since our first flight was a Thai Airways jet back to Bangkok to connect to a Qatar Airways flight to Hanoi. But we were...
  • Chaz Kelsh | June 26th, 2011
    Chiang Mai was very different from Bangkok, and not just in its northern food. The differences became apparent the moment we landed and our hotel picked us up. The ride from the airport to the hotel did not feature any traffic, and took about...
  • Emmy Liss | June 24th, 2011
    My favorite thing to do in a new city is just to walk around. Observing the people, hearing the language and taking in all the sights and smells is a perfect way to get a sense of the the culture, the city and the people living in it. Throughout our...
  • Emmy Liss | June 23rd, 2011
    Our trips to the markets and street stalls of Southeast Asia have introduced us to some very interesting meat products, known and unknown. Mysteriously shaped pieces of what looks like meat appear in salads and noodle dishes. In Hong Kong, most...
  • Chaz Kelsh | June 23rd, 2011
    During our time in Chiang Mai, we explored all of the city's major tourist sights. This meant we saw quite a few temples, known as wats. After our time in Bangkok, Thai temples started to get a little bit repetitive. I can sum up what we saw with a...
  • Emmy Liss | June 22nd, 2011
    Our adventures in Asia have mostly revolved around food and in particular, eating it. On Thursday, we had an opportunity to turn the tables and get behind the stove. Our visit to Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School was planned even before our...
  • Chaz Kelsh | June 21st, 2011
    One of my mantras lately has been that all life is an expectations game. That is, we're only really able to judge things in relation to our previously-held expectations. We can be delighted by something about which we had low expectations but...
  • Chaz Kelsh | June 19th, 2011
    After our delicious meal at Eat Me, we had the pleasure of talking to Adit Vansoh, our host for the evening, about the vision behind Eat Me, the story of its menu and ingredients, and the future of the Bangkok restaurant scene. Check...
  • Emmy Liss | June 19th, 2011
    In the story of "Alice in Wonderland," the title character finds herself wandering around the woods, where she encounters several bottles and pills with directives like "Drink me." This playful and somewhat provocative trope is the inspiration...
  • Emmy Liss | June 19th, 2011
    Bangkok wears its history on the surface, with wats and prangs as plentiful as its shopping malls and pad thai carts. The Thai people demonstrate enormous respect for their past, a fact which became even more evident on our day trip to Ayutthaya on...
  • Chaz Kelsh | June 19th, 2011
    On Sunday, after visiting Wat Arun and having our street picnic, we set out on the Skytrain to downtown Bangkok to visit the house of Jim Thompson. Thompson had been stationed in Thailand in 1945 by the Office of Strategic Services,...
  • Emmy Liss | June 17th, 2011
    I love spicy food. I'm not sure at what point I realized that — no one in my family is a huge fan — but on most ethnic menus, I first look at the items with chili peppers or little bonfires next to them. Sometime before we left on our trip, Chaz and...
  • Chaz Kelsh | June 15th, 2011
    Thanks to an incredibly favorable exchange rate, Emmy and I have had the luxurious privilege of dining in most of Bangkok's best restaurants. It's been a real treat, and I've had some of the best meals of my life. We've also been able to get some...
  • Emmy Liss | June 14th, 2011
      I love birthdays. I especially love my own, but in general, I just love birthdays. An extra special feature of our trip to Thailand is the fact that I got to celebrate my birthday in Bangkok. Serious upgrade from the last two summers when I...
  • Emmy Liss | June 12th, 2011
    When I think “delicious dinner,” the next word of association is not usually “condom.” However, every single guide — from Let’s Go and Lonely Planet to the New York Times’ 36 Hours in Bangkok feature — and everyone we knew who had been to...
  • Asia's world city
    Chaz Kelsh | June 10th, 2011
    As we explored Hong Kong, several things kept striking me about the contrasts we observed throughout the city. Hong Kong felt very much like it could have been any major Western city: it was cosmopolitan, busy, modern and vibrant.Of course, this is...
  • Emmy Liss | June 9th, 2011
        Macau, Hong Kong’s nearby neighbor, is a land of strange juxtapositions. In one tiny place, there are elements of a European colony, provincial China and artificial Las Vegas. The first European conquest in the far east, Macau was...
  • Chaz Kelsh | June 9th, 2011
      Armed with a recommendation from the New York Times travel section's incredibly trusty 36 Hours feature, we set off for lunch on Monday at Butao Ramen, supposedly one of the finest ramen places in Hong Kong. Accompanied by my aunt, we...
  • Emmy Liss | June 9th, 2011
      The annual Dragon Boat Festival in Hong Kong combines legendary myth with competitive sport, and of course, with a side of traditional food. The holiday fell on Monday, meaning there was no school or work, and thus total mayhem on the...
  • Emmy Liss | June 8th, 2011
    Though people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese, different strains of mainland China can be seen throughout the city. One night, we had Szechuan food for dinner, which is known to be the spiciest of the different regions’ cuisines. Even the dishes not...
  • Emmy Liss | June 5th, 2011
    After safely arriving in Hong Kong, we've had some time to explore and see Asia's "World City," complete with the tallest apartment buildings I have ever seen in my life and an incredibly efficient public transit system.   On day two in Hong...
  • Emmy Liss | June 1st, 2011
    For me, the most important feature of visiting a new place is its food. Every town, region, nation has its own culinary flair. I hail from New York, where bagels are practically a religious item, and studied abroad in Barcelona, where the local...