The world’s best cuisine

Dong (pronounced as zong with a hard, downward tone) is a vegetable that is rather popular in Vietnam during winter. My friend this lunchtime boiled some, and it didn’t surprise me that the translucent-looking vegetable doesn’t taste anything, though my friend promised me it is packed with fiber (I translated to her as “roughage”) which I believe is true.

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Foods in Vietnam, like in all Southeast Asian countries, are predominantly rice-based. Pho ga and pho bo, both popular traditional Vietnamese noodles are made of rice, so are ban coun pictured below and xoi which are my staple breakfast. They’re the country’s version of a fast food because indeed they can be bought “to-go” and can be eaten conveniently while walking.

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But as somebody who grew up in the Philippines and became accustomed with dishes having both western and oriental flair, Vietnamese cuisine’s novelty is not enough make me forget about adobo, sweet-and-sour spaghetti, palabok, and other sweets. We seldom consume sweet delicacies in my place, so my sweet tooth has been half-starved all this time.

This afternoon, after my class, my craving for pasta brought me to Kim Ma Street, several meters from Daewoo hotel. I ordered carbonara and a concoction of local beer and soda which tasted not bad. I reasoned it’s the Vietnamese version of shandy. The pasta was well-done and the sauce just right. The restaurant, simply named Pepperoni, is a good value for my money, although I think that a small plate of pasta and beer for 75,000 dong is rather ludicrous for locals (and a student like me).

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A friend of mine who is the managing director of a multinational company in Singapore made a declaration that the best food in Southeast Asia can be found in Vietnam. I’m yet to confirm that, though. For food, as all other commodities are political in nature. This apparent superiority of taste is not dependent on the country of origin of the cuisine but on the class of people who consume the food. Take for example a Pho ga (chicken rice noodle) served along the side walks of Tran hung Dao which could cost between 15,000 to 25,000 dongs will taste different once it is sold inside the air-conditioned halls of Hanoi Metropole or in the Intercon with an ambiance of luxury. These taste ratings which are usually adjudged by tourists are not a reflection of the unique quality of a nation’s cuisine. In fact it mirrors the quality of a country’s tourism bureaus that aim to attract as many tourists as possible.

So the Philippine cuisine not making any mark in the international scene does not say anything about the culinary tradition of the country but the ineptitude of the Tourism Department to allow these tourists have a taste of Filipino food.

I will not make a comparison here because I’ll just turn out being biased for food in the Philippines. In fact I cannot anymore wait to eat in Jollibee and have a helping of my favorite Jolli-Spaghetti and Chicken Joy, or a bowl of La Paz batchoy in the market of Iloilo. Filipino cuisine is after all the best in the world.

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5 thoughts on “The world’s best cuisine”

  1. As I have eaten to my satisfaction in some of the best places California has to offer. I am soaring among the clouds of contentment, having just glided my way through a long lunch of ceviche, ají de gallina and suspiro a la limeña. And here’s the best bit I didn’t have to travel for 7 hours to get it.
    If you’ve visited Peru, you’ll know that it has one of the most subtle and refined cuisines in the world. If you haven’t, you may still be at the stage of asking the not too thoughtful questions such as “Is it a bit like Mexican food?” and “So what’s a typical Peruvian dish?”
    Coming up with a “typical” Peruvian dish is like coming up with a typical French one. Both countries have varied and comprehensive national cuisines, rendering the question meaningless. Auguste Escoffier, after much contemplation, decreed that only three nations were in this category: France, Peru and China.
    When I tell people this, they are often skeptical. Part of the problem is that the cuisine in the rest of Latin America is comparatively dull. So, unless you have spent time in Lima, you may struggle with the idea that Peruvian cooking, evolved during the golden age of the Spanish Viceroyalty, and enriched by subsequent waves of Chinese and Japanese immigration, is not about steak or beans and rice.
    Until now, the argument has had to rest there. Although there are Peruvian restaurants in the USA, I’m afraid they’re tatty and inauthentic. And few people are prepared to travel thousands of miles to see for themselves. Now, though, there is an outstanding example of the genre in SF, The Embarcadero, Pier 1.5, California: La Mar, which opened almost exactly seven months ago, and which is responsible for my present bliss.
    In recent years, Mr. Gaston Acurio took charge and began to remedy the situation by starting one of the most ambitious projects the kitchen of Peru has ever known. He has opened up for service in Madrid, Santiago, Quito, Caracas, Panama, Bogotá, and of course Lima bringing high culinary culture to other lands. Over the past seven months, they have conquered the exacting North Californian public.
    Actually, it isn’t quite true that North Americans, in general, have been without Peruvian cuisine. It has a valiant sample of smaller and less flamboyant Peruvian restaurants; it’s just that no one thinks of it as Peruvians, they have not made the impact yet. Peruvian cuisine does not have a rich American godfather to bring their taste all the way up here. So, Mr. Acurio will single handedly cover that for us and for the sake of world culture.
    And to think that I once asked the question “Is it a bit like Mexican food?” ¡Carajo, Peru! ¡Lo siento, compadritos!

  2. Sounds like you did your research on this one. Glad you took the time to put together a well planned, well thought out blog post. I wish there were more bloggers like you…I really enjoyed reading it. Keep it up. Peace!

  3. In advertising, claiming the top spot, being the best has an opposite result. For consumers, being the best means not really being the best product there is in the category so most marketing and ad experts resort to claiming for the second best, the better. I’m just not quite sure whether this applies to culture, or to be specific, with the food in that culture.

    But in any case, Filipino cuisine, not that I am a Filipino, has offered me the best gastronomic delight, to date.

  4. everyone is claiming the best and same here i m claiming penang has the best offer for food in south east asia. penang has the most in hawker foods and the coffee shops(kapetiam) too. when i was in philippines i liked to try the local food but my friends always took me to jolibee or kfc or chowking or macdonald. i hardly had a chance to try sisig and other cuisine of philippines. i hardly dinned at a local restaurant there to listen to the liveband playing which i enjoyed very much when i first went to philippines 26 yeas ago.

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