Thursday, July 11, 2013

Flied Rice

I was going to write you a nice, tongue-in-cheek blog about enlightenment today, but I'm too exhausted.  I ran a miracle mile yesterday to make my flight back to UB in time to say good-bye to Five and nearly had a breakdown in the Beijing airport.  I even yelled at a very nice Pakistani kid with the same name as an elephant from a children's book (not Elmer, btw), who was just trying to be nice to me.  I made it back and saw her off, and today I am playing tour guide to a girl who's here from Korea for Naadam, which is also quite tiring.  Perhaps I'll write about that too at some point.  But for now, you're getting a food blog.

I was a little concerned about the food in Tibet.  From what I had heard, bringing a variety of food to the plateau was just about the best thing China has done for Tibet.  Still, I wanted a Tibetan experience, and I told the Energizer that I wanted to eat at Tibetan restaurants.  The first place we stopped, on the way from the airport to Tsetang, she ordered me some pork fried rice, while she and our driver had noodles.  There was hot sauce on the table, which made me pretty happy, and I was just deciding that Tibetan food wasn't all that bad, when I came across the fly in my rice.

The lack of bugs is one of the things I have taken for granted in Mongolia.  I plan to appreciate it all the more, now that I'm back.  Anyways, never let it be said that I'm too picky an eater.  When you're in Tibet and ready for adventure, are you going to whine that there's a fly in your food and embarrass your guide and the cook?  Nope.  You're going to lower your standards, pick the fly out, and keep right on eating.  And here's my little plug for the Coca-Cola company, who should be contacting me ANY DAY NOW with the news that they want to sponsor my blog...if you want to make sure you don't come home with any parasites, be sure to drink coke when you're on vacation and the sanitary conditions are less than favorable!  Coke kills 99%* of bacteria and other parasites that may live in third-world countries.

Yeah.  That's totally why I've been on a bender for three weeks now.

Anyways, the fly in my rice aside, I didn't have as hard a time eating in Tibet as I was afraid of, and the yak momos (steamed dumplings) were mouth-wateringly delicious.  The worst that I can say about it is that it wasn't as spicy as I like my food, but that's alright, I was on my way to Nepal.  I told you before that Nepal is a lot like India, and it is.  You eat a lot of curry and daal and basmati rice in Nepal.  One of my more recent goals in traveling is learning how to cook a variety of dishes, and since Lonely Planet totally failed me this time - tsk, tsk - I asked my hotel, and they offered to teach me to cook whatever I wanted.  The problem was, I didn't KNOW what Nepali food I wanted to cook, so they suggested a chicken curry, which I jumped at.  Evil's maid tried to teach me almost this exact dish when I visited her in Hyderabad, but I didn't go and buy the spices or anything, and then I lost the paper I wrote everything down on.  Oops.  This time I bought all the spices before I left Nepal, so there should be a whole lot of chicken curry in my future.  I hope my favorite Indian takeout place here in UB, Hazara, won't suffer too terribly when I stop calling them every week.
Besides the great Nepali food, Kathmandu has an excellent range of restaurants.  I was in heaven when I came across the Maya bar in Thamel.  Real Mexican food?  Shut up.  The salsa was really spicy, and served in bowls made out of leaves that had been molded and pressed in that shape.  Impressive presentation, Maya.  Their burritos were mediocre, but the virgin strawberry margarita more than made up for that!
Not far away was Yin Yang, a Thai restaurant, which I stuffed myself on for my last lunch in Kathmandu.  Their spring rolls were more like the egg rolls I love to get from the Chinese place my family goes to back home, which suited me perfectly well, with a peanut dipping sauce that was just a little bit spicy.  The panaeng gai curry and rice was amazing, and between that and the spring rolls, I couldn't finish, which was a little disappointing because it was SOOOO good.
Finally, let me tell you about the food in Bhutan.  If you look into traveling there, you'll find out that it costs a whopping $250 per day, which seems really expensive.  However, that cost covers just about all your expenses.  You'll have to pay for soft drinks and souvenirs, and that's about it.  And when they feed you, they REALLY feed you.  I was embarassed by how much food they brought me - as if I could eat all that!  And in spite of all this, when I saw Five yesterday she was shocked because I seem to have lost weight.
The staples of the Bhutanese diet are red rice (I'm not sure what makes it red, but it doesn't have anything added to it, it just is) and chilli cheese.  This is just about the best thing I've ever tasted.  It's green chilies and I don't even know what kind of cheese, but it burns a hole straight through you.  I may have been a dragon in a former life, because I'm very happy when I feel like I can breathe fire, and that is exactly what chilli cheese does to you.  And the best I had the whole time there was at a farmhouse after a hot stone bath, but that's a story that belongs elsewhere.

*I may have made this number up, but the fact remains that I've never gotten a parasite.  Apparently alcohol is good for the same thing, but it NOT good for good little Mormon girls.  Coke is not effective against food poisoning.

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