issue # 27
with the best in food tours
Dear Food Travel Lover.
Cordyceps are more expensive than gold,
and this year’s price spike makes Chinese cooks wince, for it’s the secret to tasty chicken stock.
A fusion of fungus and caterpillar --
known in Chinese as winter worm, summer grass -- it begins life as a grub and finishes as a stick. Aficionados relish it for increasing stamina, while wags refer to it as Himalayan Viagara. Ironically, it most resembles a dried up worm.
Flying High
Hotel Raves
Cooks’ Books
New Foods
Plonk & Spirits
Food Styling
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Taste cordyceps at its source. Join us in Yunnan: Tour 1 – Feb 20-Mar 1 -- visits ancient mountain villages in the Southeast, the world’s oldest and largest terraced rice paddies, plus acres upon hectares of yellow flowering canola in peak springtime. Tour 2 March 2-7 continues onto Lijiang and Shangri-La in the Northwest, we’re we’ll be feted in true luxury at Banyon Tree properties – considered among the 10 best hotels in China. Delicious food, delightful company and deluxe accommodation, in a small group: CLICK HERE FOR ITINERARY
Irradiation decreases cordycep medical strength by 70%, so beware when buying at home. Store dry, tightly sealed, and when using, soak whole in water for 2 hours, then add both water and cordyceps to simmering chicken stock for another couple hours, plus de-bonned meats. (Medical practitioners contend benefits otherwise go to the inedible bones.) Eschew aluminum; use enamelware or heat proof glass.
We especially like cooking cordyceps in a Yunnanese steam pot or qiguoji, a ceramic doughnut shaped vessel tightly placed atop simmering water. Steaming water enters above, spraying onto chicken pieces and seasonings, cooking for several hours and longer.
For more about cordyceps, CLICK HERE…
  • Yunnan China FoodTOUR

There’s still seats available on our next FoodTOUR.
20 Feb-1 March + 2-7 March
Space is limited, and registrations
close mid January. NEXT WEEK!!!!

Off with their heads!
Alkaline treatments, baths in sodium borax and bicarbonate of soda are common culinary enemies of raw prawns. The solution: rinse well, or rub with salt and cornstarch/cornflour.
Most importantly, writes Singapore Straits Times food
columnist Chris Tan, remove heads before storing,
unless you plan to cook immediately.
And don’t discard those heads: crush and boil for a rich stock. For more on successful prawn cookery, FULL ARTICLE or more about Chris Tan, If you encounter a mushy or powdery prawn in a cooked dish, it was either not beheaded promptly, or was repeatedly frozen and thawed, writes Tan. Or cooked over too low a heat.
Marie Claire features Robert’s and Morrison’s Sydney warehouse home, our food tours, plus Robert’s food styling and recipes in a 10-page feature. We made their Green edition, because of our commitment to sustainable and responsible tourism.
Robert's interview by Hana Alberts of Forbes on-line for a best beach in Asia lifestyle piece. Our choice: Bai Sao beach on idyllic Phu Quoc isle, just off the Cambodia coast, at Vietnam’s southern reach.   Our upcoming Globetrotting Gourmet Yunnan2 food tours (Feb-Mar 2011)are profiled in both The Melbourne Age Travel section, plus e-travel Blackboard, and in the Western Australian.   Bangkok’s Chinatown is too often overlooked by tourists, but after winning the 2010 Sunday Times (London) Travel Value for Money Award, we headed to the Shanghai Mansion. Read our commissioned article for TAT Newsroom.
  • Yippie Khao Yai
Thai wine has yet to emerge on the world stage, probably because of its exorbitant 300%+ sin tax , plus costs establishing duty-free bottling for small vintners. So we were delighted to taste Granmonte’s range of wines at degustation menu at Sydney’s popular Sailor's Thai in The Rocks. The whole Lohitnavy family attended, including Thailand’s first female winemaker, Nikki, who trained studied oenology in Adelaide. Granmonte is part of the Isan Food & Wine masterclass 4-5 June.
Top Thai Wines Down Under, The Bangkok Post
Plans continue with the Isan Food & Wine masterclass in June, so keep refreshing your searches on
PB Wineries, and their German-trained vintner Prayut Piangbunta are primary backers, along with Granmonte, while luxury Greenery Resort plays host, plus eco-friendly Samanea Expect vertical tastings, Isan cooking demos, and an introduction to Thailand’s least discovered region. Khao Yai is just 1 ½ hours north of Bangkok, in bucolic countryside, astride complimentary microclimate of the Korat Plateau and Khao Yai national park.
Globetrotting Gourmet offers a 10-day Isan Exploration small-group tour, and VIP entry to the masterclass. Meet us in Bangkok, staying at the Sofitel Centara Grand including market tour to Aw Taw Kaw and Thai cooking class, plus Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, Nakhon Phanom, Ubon Ratchthani. Discover Thailand's ancient Khmer temples and the kingdom’s most delicious regional fare. Climb into the world’s largest sticky rice basket! Deluxe digs throughout. >>>
Globetrotting to WA’s Mandurah’s truffle season, we tasted black fungi at its best. Our conclusion:
Buy fresh within scant days of cultivation, and use quickly. Wrap in paper towel, storing up to a week in a tightly fitting glass jar (not plastic) in the fridge crisper drawer. Moisture is the enemy, so change paper daily. If white mould appears, brush and rinse off; pat dry.
We adore truffles stored in uncooked arborio rice, or nested amongst eggs in the shell, its aroma permeating to the yolk. After a couple days, eat the eggs coddled or scrambled, or better yet, as a cream sauce on linguini, or risotto. Best: insert thin slices under chicken skin and roast with tarragon.
Leftovers? Chop and infuse in flaked sea salt; keep tightly lidded. Plunge into that special bottle of olive oil, and cork. Blend into extra-fine butter, wrap and store for a couple weeks. Out of season, purchase premier cuisson canned truffles. Likewise, select winter truffles over weaker summer variety.
more about Truffles >>>
  Victuals/New Foods

Natto. Toe Jam is how an American friend described her first taste of natto. This slimy, fermented soy bean condiment is now made in America MORE>>>, and Michelin-starred Ame in SF charges

$2 a whack as an added garnish. MORE>>>
Coconut Water
is the “new” healthy way to hydrate. So it seems, with US supermarkets competing with established ethnic and health food outlets.
One glass has more potassium than a banana. We like it in smoothies, and especially in Vietnamese stews. >>>
Chili Salt. We don’t like blends from Asia, most packed with msg. But relished this spicy shake from Australia’s Chillin’ out in W.A. Wow! Excellent on fries, they also make an “ultralicious” chilli spice mix rub, blending coriander seed, garlic flakes, peppercorns, cloves, chili, cumin, onion flake, celery seed, salt and basil.
Food Fraud
Is your caviar for real?
Is that mascarpone truly Italian?
Using a simple DNA kit,
2 NYC students revealed
potentially massive fraud…
  Plonk & Spirits
Wine forgery is a growing issue, and mislabeled bottles are only a drop in the barrel. An estimated 5% of fine wines are faked. Surprisingly, traces of Bikini atoll radioactive carbon found in harvests after 1960s atmospheric A-bomb tests helps radio-carbon fraudulent vintages. >>>
Dogfish: American brewery Dogfish Head re-creates a 9000-year-old beer, after analyzing Neolithic pottery found in China’s Henan province. Brewed from rice flakes, wildflowers, honey, grapes, barley malt, hawthorn fruit and chrysanthemums >>> MORE
Kauffman special selected vintage Russian vodka is distilled 8 times from Russia’s top wheat producing areas of a single vintage, about $300 a litre. MORE >>>
  •End of the Line/Sustainable Fishery
Alaska’s once-abundant king salmon run vanished this year, leaving local smokehouses empty. With no migration upriver, there’s no spawning, and zilch harvest for the future. Prime suspect are pollock/saithe fisheries, catching some 1 million metric ton annually from the Bering Sea. It's valued at nearly $1 billion, but alarmingly, discards a by-catch of equal or greater value, including 120,000 salmon caught incidentally. During whose watch, former Alaskan governor? >>>
Changing ocean currents from global warming, plus plankton blooms exacerbate the situation. Conversely, seeding oceans with iron to increase plankton growth is touted as an extreme remedy to global warming, as these drifting organisms feed on atmospheric CO2.
Bluefin Tuna. Exports of endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna almost stopped this year, but Japan won a contentious ballot against CITES wildlife conservation treaty. Equally troubling: EU countries fish and trade bluefin tuna unhindered, as its considered “domestic.” Japan had it’s Southern Ocean Bluefin quota halved by Australia in ’07 as punishment for 20 years systematic cheating catch allocations. It is now considered over-fished to the point of collapse. >>>
  • Medical Tourism
Medical Tourism has a bad reputation for expat tourists squeezing out locals who can’t afford the same care. But there’s worse. A superbug resistant to all known antibiotics surfaced in India, Pakistan and the UK, and it can lead to multiple organ failure. The 3 countries now blame each other, while the disease’s nickname – DM-1 – causes even more friction: New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1 implies sub continental origin. Wrong, say the Indians, claiming English medical tourists brought it over in their gut, contaminating surgeries during operations. India already causes fear and loathing for its well-established reputation of Dehli Belly, Asia’s equivalent of Turista and Montezuma’s Revenge.
Shooting the Messenger: Next time you’re tempted to write a bad TripAdvisor critique, be sure to check out first! A UK couple claim they were forcibly evicted after airing complaints on the website. Meanwhile, TripAdvisor faces a libel suit by a hotel complaing they’ve lost business as a result of poor reviews. Sounds more like Fawlty Towers. Accor -- proprietors of Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure, Ibis -- now post un-censored TripAdvisor review links on their website pages. This makes us more accountable for the quality of services and facilities, says a spokesman.
Inthira, Thakhaek, Laos
There’s a Tardis in my hotel room! (Fans of Dr Who will understand…) Or at least, that’s the appearance of two innovative cubicles across from my bed – one for shower, the other a WC. My room boasts a balcony overlooking the colonial town of Thakhaek along the Mekong. Hygiene is immaculate, but wish the restaurant a lot better. Also paint those peeling lobby walls! >>>
  BA Na Hills Mountain Resort, central Vietnam
Check your sheets before sleeping in them -- they probably haven't been changed. Afraid to shower with fungus? Enjoy the ride up a spectacular gondola cable lift -- the world's longest – but atop it's a casino-in-waiting, with final plans for a French medieval fortress. So let them draw up the gate, man the barricades, and lock you out before entry. >>>
Amaranth Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok
Brings much needed price competition to Bangkok’s airport hotel scene, but it’s a long 20 minute+ drive to terminal (brochure states only 10 min) and shuttle service once hourly. Food under its Thai-Texan expat chef is better than the competition, but we note exec chef Murray Patterson is now part of the Novotel line-up, so expect improved offerings there. Part of the Best Western Prestige family, it claims 4 stars, but in reality looks and feels like an up-market motel. >>>
Hotel Nostalgia, Urban Boutique Hotel, Singapore.
The concept of boutique hotel has much to be desired in
Singapore, with Lilliputian rooms the norm. We’re ready to pack our bags elsewhere. Even after three upgrades, we still kept tripping over luggage, plus bumping against poorly-designed cabinet fittings with jutting corners. Helpful staff, comfy beds with great pillows and 350-count sheets, food-friendly location. >>>>
Wangz, Singapore.
Another boutique property, but small-sized rooms designed with a feeling of spaciousness. >>>
Lao Cooking and the Essence of Life, by Xaixana Champanakone. A wealth of research here, and a very good introduction to Lao fare – once you get past the introductory diatribes against capitalism, Thailand, and any grudge the author has against modern life. >>>>
Food from Northern Laos, the Boat Landing Cookbook , by Dorothy Culloty, Galingal Press. Since Phia Sing’s Luang Prabang royal recipes first hit print some 30 years ago we’ve been anticipating a new book to cover the refined fare of Laos. This one focuses on minority ethnic and hill tribe cuisines and suffers.
Chilli and Cheese, Food and Society in Bhutan. By Kunzang Choden, White Lotus. Nestled between India and Tibet, near Nepal, there’s scant published on Bhutanese cooking, so this book is your armchair traveller experience. buy on Amazon
Mosh Food. When we first proffered the book to adoring fans, they all screamed like groupies. With recipes from microwave popcorn with chocolate coated raisins (ex Ryan Roxie of Alice Cooper), to delightfully named “Motorheadbanger’s Hangover Pie” >>> So is this the start of a fad? Country Western next? Send me the fry pan you score on.

Gourmet Getaways, 50 Top Spots to Cook and Learn, by Joe David. >>>  
The Songs of Sapa, by Luke Nguyen. Stories and Recipes from Vietnam. We’re cooking from it regularly.
Our Pick: The Principles of Thai Cookery. Put your money where your mouth is, goes the old refrain. So bravo to Thailand’s celebrity – and royal – Chef McDang (aka Sirichalerm Svasti) for investing some 4 million baht/$135,000 to publish his book. Beautifully photographed, concise Thai cooking, this is the book for both professional foodie and home cook. Minor quibbles: stronger editing would help; it richly deserves an index to easily source recipes; and the chapter on marinades and pastes would have been more manageable with ingredients run comparatively in same sequencing, to compare quantities.
This is an excellent tome, richly deserving space on every kitchen shelf, but more on technique, and less an anthology of Thai recipes. After cooking from here, you’ll understand the basis of Thai flavors, plus why and how. or buy from
Bangkok blogs are abuzz these days. Seems Aussie-born David Thompson of nahm at chichi Metropolitan Hotel has irked many a nationalist by cooking up some of the capital’s best Thai. The restaurant's name is lower case, but clientele distinctly hi-so. Meanwhile, Thai molecular gastronomy is all the rage at Kempenski's Sra Bua, under its Danish chef.
Read Chef McDang’s take
Thompson spent nearly a year setting up his new Bangkok eatery, which opened in September, and the food is stunning. Over-order and share dishes; you’ll relish the scintillation. >>>+ Sra Bua review next issue.
Prior to nahm’s opening, David Thompson assured that he’d not compromise flavour to suit foreign tourist wants. “The food will be prepared as the Thais would eat it themselves, so there will be no regard or no alternation of the food in order to make it customer friendly.

Food writer cum restaurateur Jarrett Wrisley opens shop front Soul Food Mahanakorn on soi Thonglor (soi 55) off thriving Sukhumvit. Besides all-too-quaffable cocktails, the blackboard menu changes daily suiting market specials, plus organic rice, free range meats. This is real comfort food for the discerning expat, focusing on regional street dishes in a clean, comfortable venue. But do Thai’s consider it authentic? Tues-Sun evening only.

  • LAOS

We were dismayed recently to return to Mak Phet in Vientiane, a restaurant we have long praised for its mod take on Lao dishes. Seems a new head teacher thinks foreigners don’t like chili, fish sauce and other essential native flavors, and is adapting her dishes accordingly.

Restaurant Bobby Chinn has a new location in Hanoi’s fashionable Hoy Tay West lake.
Aussie counterpart Luke Nguyen set up The Little Lantern Foundation for underprivileged kids, after he chanced upon a young mango seller in Hoi An, too poor for school. “It costs about $100 a year there for an education and I thought of all the times I had spent a hundred bucks on a meal or blown it in an hour,” says the 30-something chef. >>>       Also in Hoi An, try the colorful fusion palette of Duc Tran at Mango Mango. >>> Our central Vietnam group were feted last Sept with a 9-course degustation of fusion creations like duck prosciutto with mango. Duc heads to Austin in June as a star presenter to the IACP annual conference. Duc spent a long decade in the Friendship State, initially as a penniless boat kid, now made good.
For Duc’s utube video

We formerly loved Singapore as an overnight transit stop during travel, BUT NO MORE. Hotel rates here leapt 20% this year alone >>>

Tetsuya Wakuda’s Sydney eatery rates among the world’s best, and his first overseas venture is at Waku Ghin, in Marina Bay Sands casino. Seating mere 25 patrons, now that’s exclusive.
Chow Cat and dog consumption is under threat from China’s upwardly mobile pet lovers. >>>   Britons are happier in the kitchen than
  Neapolitan Pizza receives a coveted coveted “traditional specialty guaranteed” label >>>
Excess Baggage. Need motivation for sticking to your diet? Spare a thought for a Britisher Derrick Agyeman, denied re-entry home, After gaining 31 kg/70 lbs, with fuller lips and ears (!?), he no longer resembled his passport photo taken nine years earlier. His intended weekend jaunt to Amsterdam with friends lasted three months, until UK officials relented.
  Flying High
Don’t scan my junk: With airport full-body scans and intrusive pat-downs continuing to raise hackles, demure travelers have help at hand. Anti-radiation underwear from features fig leaf pattern over pudenda and junk. There’s also a privacy bra. Leaves us wondering about the original underwear bomber, precursor to all this fuss.
TSA workers in America are reeking revenge against fat and smelly passengers >>>       EVP is airline code for Extra Voluminous Passenger. So pity the Canadian lass on Porter Airlines. The EVP next to her required a seatbelt extender, then oozed into frail Janet Ogilvie’s seat >>>       Turks Too Fat
Turkish Airlines recently grounded 26 flight attendants for obesity. Will other airlines follow suit? Lauded Singapore airlines puts its crew out for fixed contract renewal ever 5 years. Presumably they’re hired svelte, and exit still young and shapely. And pleasant. >>>

Tattoos Too Far We’ve been so captivated by airport gropes and body scans, it never occurred that tattoos and piercings might also ground travelers on the wrong side of the tarmac. Spare a thought for colorful LA food stylist Adam C. Pearson, whose tattoos offended a fellow traveler.>>>

When airlines promised paperless ticketing, it proved anything but. Now, trendsetter Singapore Airlines plans paperless on board. No mags, zilch catalogs, nada menus. >>>

Revenge. Travelers aren’t the only ones angry about one piece check in restrictions. Qantas baggage handlers threaten a go-slow this Christmas, citing increased back injuries from customers over-packing their single bag. Two bags better disperse weight, unions claim.

Congratulations to Ross and Heather Gange.
Or rather, to thier sons' brand new tourism company. They won a prestigious NT Tourism Award for Heritage and Culture, and now heading to the national awards in Perth. Not bad for their first year in business.
Tony Munro, alumnus to Laos, Isan and Myanmar FoodTOURS relocated to Cambodia to open a new bar in Siem Reap. Named “Station” as in “take me to the…,” its located on street #5 parallel to Bar Street.
As Tony is a connoisseur of fine plonk, expect fine wines by the glass, premium beers, cocktails; plus tapas and live music to boot. Opens in March.

Join us for a gastronomic adventure of a lifetime

China's Yunnan province Feb 20-28, 2011
& Shangri-La/Lijiang post tour Mar 1-6

Thailand June 2- 12, 2011
Isan Food & Wine Masterclass, Khao Yai + Isan province, Northeast Thailand

Myanmar/Burma Nov 2011
Robert & Morrison
Morrison Polkinghorne &
Robert Carmack
The Globetrotting Gourmet®
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