Food / Restaurants

Articles to be found on this page have diverse interests including: Local Cuisine; Location, Street Food, Reviews, and, tips and hints on all of the above.

Readers can refer to the table of contents at right for fast navigation - GC.

Travel etiquette 101: eating & drinking

- by Robert Reid - Lonely Planet Author

- accessed by GC 27/02/2011

Table Manners

1. When you eat noodles in Japan, it’s perfectly okay – even expected – to slurp them. – From the Lonely Planet Japan travel guide

2. Never stick your chopsticks into a bowl of rice upright – that’s how rice is offered to the dead! It also looks like the incense sticks that are burned for the dead. It’s also bad form to pass food from your chopsticks to someone else’s – another Buddhist funeral right which involves passing the remains of the cremated deceased among members of the family using chopsticks. This is true in China and for almost all of Asia. – From the Lonely Planet China travel guide

3. In Russia, put your wrists on the edge of the table (not in your lap) while eating, and keep your fork in your left hand and knife in your right. – From the Lonely Planet Russia travel guide

4. In Nepal, do wait to be served and be sure to ask for seconds when eating at someone’s house. In general, when eating in a group, no one gets up until everyone finished their food. If you have to leave early, make your apologies by saying bistaii khaanus, or ‘please eat slowly.’ – From the Lonely Planet Nepal travel guide

5. In restaurants in Portugal, don’t ask for salt and pepper if it is not already on the table. Asking for any kind of seasoning or condiment is to cast aspersions on the cook. And cooks are highly respected people in Portugal. – From the Lonely Planet Portugal travel guide

6. In France, never, ever discuss money over dinner. And splitting the bill is considered the height of unsophistication. – From the Lonely Planet France travel guide

7. Whenever you catch the eye of someone who’s eating in Mexico, stranger or not, say ‘provecho’ (enjoy). Don’t avoid this custom. It’s good manners and feels nice. – From the Lonely Planet Mexico travel guide

8. Eating from individual plates strikes most in Ethiopia as hilarious, bizarre, and wasteful. Food is always shared from a single plate without the use of cutlery. Greed is considered uncivilized so try not to guzzle. The meat dishes are usually the last things eaten, so don’t hone in on them immediately. – From the Lonely Planet Ethiopia & Eritrea travel guide

Drinking

1. When drinking in Japan, don’t fill your own drink; fill the glass of the person next to you and wait for them to reciprocate. Filling your own glass amounts to admitting to everyone at the table that you’re an alcoholic. – From the Lonely Planet Japan travel guide

2. In Armenia, if you empty a bottle into someone’s glass, it obliges them to buy the next bottle – it’s polite to put the last drops into your own glass. – From the Lonely Planet Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan travel guide

3. In Australia, shout drinks to a group on arrival at the pub. ‘Shouting’ is a revered custom where people rotate paying for a round of drinks. Don’t leave before it’s your turn to buy! – From the Lonely Planet Australia travel guide

4. In Russia, vodka is for toasting, not for casual sipping; wait for the cue. Men are expected to down shots in one gulp, while women are usually excused. Never mix your vodka or dilute it. And don’t place an empty bottle on the table – it must be placed on the floor. – From the Lonely Planet Russia travel guide

5. In Sweden, it’s considered vulgar to clink your glasses aside from formal ‘skals’ (cheers). – From the Lonely Planet Sweden travel guide

Especially for vegetarians

1. In Peru, many tourist-heavy cities have vegetarian restaurants that offer a version of popular national dishes with soy substitutes. In regular restaurants, veggie options can often be found on the menu. To be safe, ask for un plato vegetariano (a vegetarian dish) and be aware that the term sin carne (without meat) refers only to red meat or pork. – From the Lonely Planet Peru travel guide

2. Russia can be tough on vegetarians. Your best bet is to visit during Lent, when many restaurants have special non-meat menus. Restaurants in Moscow, St Petersburg, and other large cities are the most likely to have meat-free items on the menu, but in general vegetables are boiled to death and even veggie soups are made with meat stock. – From the Lonely Plant Russia travel guide

3. Other vegetarian tips: Meat-free travel: vegetarian hits and misses


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BEST OF SARAWAK CUISINE – TOP 8 DISHES OF SARAWAK

- by author of iamthewitch

- accessed by GC on 19/02/2011

One of the perks of staying in Malaysia is the diverse food and cuisines that one can experience here. There is a plethora of choices when it comes to food, be it from West Malaysia (Peninsular) or the East (Sabah & Sarawak).

Since I don’t visit East Malaysia that often, I was happy to know that Hilton PJ took the effort to invite special guest Chef Jamilah all the way from Sarawak to showcase her vast knowledge and skill here. Sarawak is famed for its multi-ethnic population of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Iban, Penan, Kayan and other indigenous people, hence the culinary palate has slight influences from each culture.

Contrary to West Malaysian food, Sarawak cuisine is less spicy, lightly prepared and subtle but nice in taste. Due to its geographic location, fresh seafood and natural plants such as turmeric, lemongrass, ginger, lime and tapioca leaves are sparingly used in the East Malaysian cuisine. These ingredients are not only easily available, they provide another aromatic dimension, texture and freshness to the delicacies.

#1: Steamed Red Bario Rice

Bario Rice is regarded by the natives as the best and finest rice from the highlands of Sarawak. According to the natives, the rice is only eaten by the longhouse chief on special occasion. One thing to note is that during the planting of Bario rice, no pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used, hence it’s perfect for the health-conscious. Although the steamed Bario rice seemed easy to prepare, it had a different flavour compared to the normal white rice that we’re used to having. It’s more fragrant, soft, less starchy and definitely healthier. Oh, did I also mention that it was perfect with the Rendang?

#2: Pansoh Nasi Ayam / Chicken Rice in Bamboo

Ayam Pansoh is a famous cooking method of the Sarawakians, where the chicken is cooked in bamboo and stuffed with water, seasonings, ginger, lemongrass and bay leaves. The bamboo is said to impart a distinctive and delicate taste to the food while sealing in the flavours and producing tender pieces of chicken meat. The fragrant of lemongrass and ginger were essential in making the chicken different from the rest, and it is best to be eaten with rice cooked with Bamboo as well. This is a dish apparently originating from the Ibans.

#3: Udang Galah Rebus Berserai / Lemongrass Prawns

Due to the geographical nature of Sarawak surrounded by the South China Sea, seafood is abundant and widely popular. Couple that with the easily available lemongrass and we were presented with a dish of aromatic Lemongrass Prawns, huge and succulent with a tinge of sweetness due to the freshness.

#4: Daging Masak Lada Hitam Sarawak / Sarawak Black Pepper Beef

Sarawak is world renowned in the production of black pepper, and is one of the top exporter of this ‘King of Spices’ in the world. With such a prized possession at hand, it is no wonder that many local dishes are infused with black pepper as well, including the Sarawak Black Pepper Beef. The dark-looking dish was well-marinated and pungent with the smell of black pepper.

#5: Rendang Daging Ala Sarawak / Sarawak Style Beef Rendang 

Rendang
is a common dish among the Malays especially during festive seasons. This dish is slowly cooked in coconut milk and spices for several hours, allowing the flavour to be absorbed into the meat. The slow cooking process results in meat that is not only flavourful but oh-so-tender. Among the common spices used in the preparation of rendang are ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, chillies and kerisik (toasted coconut paste). The version of Sarawak rendang that I tried here was sharp in taste, spicy but with a hint of sweet and sour. It was unlike the normal rendang that I’ve tasted before and it’s exceptionally tender and juicy!

#6: Sarawak Laksa

Anyone who has been to Sarawak would never fail to try out the famous Sarawak Laksa, the ubiquitous noodle dish there. The Sarawak Laksa is spicy and largely sour in taste, with a strong hint of sour tamarind, lemongrass and coconut milk. The noodles used are the thin vermicelli or rice noodles, different from the thick laksa noodles we are used to over in West Malaysia. The soup has a base of sambal belacan, as can be seen from the ingredients (far right), and is finally topped with various condiments such as chicken strips, prawns, lime or omelette strips.


#7: Umai Udang 

Umai Udang is a raw prawn salad dish where the prawns are marinated in vinegar, chilli, lime, ginger and lemon grass. Umai is a famous dish among the ethnic Melanaus, and is a traditional lunch for the fishermen due to its simple method of preparation (ingredients, far right) that can be done on the boat itself. The salad was incredibly sour and spicy, perfect for an appetizer.

#8: Kek Lapis / Sarawak Layer Cake 

Last but not least, for something with a sweet twist, Kek Lapis is a local favourite – an elaborately baked cake with multiple and colourful layers that is not only a feast to the eyes but to the palate. The Sarawak Layer cake is often baked during the cultural or religious occasions, birthdays and weddings. This cake has a firm texture with perfectly-spaced layers and a lightly sweet taste.

There you have it – the Best of Sarawak Cuisine tastefully prepared by the special Guest Chef Jamilah.


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- by Rease K. on Travelated

- accessed by GC on 16/02/2011

Many Americans assume that tipping is the same in other countries, but this custom can vary greatly from country to country. It is important to understand the tipping expectations for each place that you travel to avoid under or over tipping as both of these faux pas can be embarrassing or even insulting.

Europe

In Europe, tipping at restaurants is expected but the amount expected is much lower than in the United States. Generally, 10%  is more than enough.  It is not insulting to leave a little less than 10%, especially if the rounding is easier. For example, if your bill is 33 euros, 10% would be €3.3, but leaving €35 euros would suffice. Many restaurants include “table service” within the bill, so be careful to look for that. If this is included, you do not need to leave an extra tip. If anything, default to the rounding up to the next euro rule. You do not want to leave anything over 10% as this can actually be insulting. It is important to understand that, unlike in the US, waiters and waitresses are paid much better and thus do not fully depend on tips. If you leave large tips, such as a 15-20% tip as most US citizens are accustomed to, it can come off as arrogant, or as if you believe the waiter or waitress looks as if they need the extra money.

Cab drivers also do not expect large tips. There is not really a standard percentage, you generally just round up and give them the change. For example, if your fare is €8, you can simply give €10. However, if you take a long cab ride or a private tour of some sort, something closer to 10% should be given. Larger tips are also customary for any cab driver who helps you with heavy bags.

South America

The tipping expectations in South American restaurants is the same as in Europe, 10% is the most anyone will expect. South Americans can also get offended by over-tipping, so be sure to remember that they don’t depend on the tips to make their living, it is just extra money. South American countries also include “servicio de mesa” (table service) on many bills, but unlike Europe, this is not the tip. “Servicio de mesa” is the charge for bread before the meal. Unfortunately, you do not have the option to refuse this; if bread is brought to your table, you can expect a “servicio de mesa” charge and you will also need to leave a tip.

For cabs, tips are not really expected at all. Of course, rounding up and giving them your extra change can be appropriate and appreciated but it is rarely expected. Some South American countries have shortages on coins or small bills, so cab drivers appreciate when you pay in small bills and perhaps allow them to keep any extra coins that they may owe you as change. Again, this is only appreciated, not expected. However, if your cab driver helps you lug around several heavy bags, it is customary to give them a tip for their extra trouble.

Mexico

Mexico is very tip-driven; it is not simply about the amount of tip you leave but also all the situations you can find yourself in that require a tip. You will see lots of signs that mention “la propina” that are not-so-subtle hints about the tipping expectations. Right when you get off the plane you’ll have to find a cab. It is very common for men or even children to deem themselves unofficial cab hailers. You may not ask for or want their help, but once they have opened the cab door for you, a couple pesos is expected.

Cab drivers, on the other hand, do not expect large tips. Cab rides in Mexico are mildly expensive and often include a tip. However, leaving the spare change is always nice. You will also want to tip at least 10 pesos if the cab driver goes through the trouble of dealing with your luggage.

There are several other unofficial “jobs” that require tips. If you are driving in Mexico, men will often circle parking lots on foot and wave you into free spots. These guys are pretty happy with a couple pesos for their services. In grocery stores, children will often bag your groceries. The children are not employees at all, so they survive completely on your tips. You can simply leave the spare change from your bill, but if they convince you to let them carry your groceries out for you, you’ll need to give them a few pesos more. Concierges that help you find places around town and even windshield cleaners on the streets will expect a few pesos here and there. Basically, any person who helps you in any way in Mexico would greatly appreciate your spare change.

In restaurants and bars the tipping is much like the United States. At a sit down restaurant, 15-20% is customary. If the service is exceptional, you leave more, if it is sub par, you leave less. Some restaurants will list “propina” on the bill, which means you do not need to leave any additional tip. At a bar, you will be expected to leave 1-3 pesos for each trip you make to the bar.

Central America

Central America is also very similar to the United States when it comes to tipping. In restaurants, 15-20% is customary, more or less is given depending on the quality of service. However, tips are sometimes included in the bill so make sure to read your bills closely. If the tip is included it is unnecessary to leave anything additional, but if the service was exceptional, a little extra is appreciated.

Cab drivers should be tipped $1-4 US dollars, the amount depends on the length of the cab ride. You will also want to add more if the driver helps with bags.

Unlike Mexico, you will not run into spontaneous tipping situations. Central America includes the common jobs that depend on tips such as house cleaners (~$1 a night), hotel concierges ($2-$5) and bell hops (less than $1 per bag) and bar tenders (15-20%).

Asia

Asia is perhaps the most complicated area when it comes to tipping. Each country differs slightly and the currencies can be very difficult to understand. Many countries in Asia do not having “tipping cultures” so they will not expect tips in any situation, but any “Westernized” establishment will have a Westernized attitude and expect 10%. This 10% is often included in the bill, so be careful to read your bill closely. Local restaurants, taxi drivers, bar tenders, etc. will rarely expect a tip or anything more than your spare change. You really only need to worry about establishments geared towards tourists, as these places are well aware of the tipping customs of the US and will expect you to carry on the custom within their establishment. When in doubt, attempt a 10% tip, they may be confused and think you have accidentally left extra money, but it is rarely offensive to offer a tip.

Australia

Waiters are paid very well in Australia so tips are not expected in restaurants at all. Of course, you can always leave a little extra in high end restaurants or when you have especially great service.

Tipping is not expected for cab drivers, bar tenders, bell hops, etc. either. Australia is a very relaxed country, which can sometimes come off a little odd for visitors. US citizens are used to being doted on constantly by service staff, but you should expect such royalty-like treatment in Australia. Australian service personnel will do their job well but will not go over the top, as they work for a standard wage and do not need or expect your tips. Usually, allowing service workers to keep the change is all that is necessary.

- Rease Kirchner – Travelated Staff Writer