A Seafood Feast in Taipei

In the fall of 2014, I was studying Chinese in Taipei. I lived in an apartment building about 40 minutes’ drive from my school. Getting to school every morning required taking a winding two-lane road up the side of a forested mountain. In those first couple of months when we didn’t have our own cars, a couple of my classmates and I decided to hail taxis every day. The 8-mile ride to school cost less than $15, which was a reasonable option when divided among three passengers. On the third week of class, we found a driver who enjoyed our company so much that he offered to be our regular driver.

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Pelmeni (Пельмени)

Russian meat dumplings carry indelible associations with some of my most meaningful memories. The first time I tried them was in June 1991. I was staying for the summer in Moscow in a sublet apartment on the 18th-floor of a building on ulitsa Akademika Koroleva, in the northern outskirts of the city.

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Ukrainian Borshch (Украинский борщ)

BorshchI lived in Moscow through the summer and fall of 1991, the last months of the Soviet Union, when food could only be reliably found in open-air farmers’ markets, at prices jacked up to market levels.  During these days, I spent many hours with my friend Sergei Maslov who, like me, was studying at the Moscow Energy Institute.  Often I would visit his family in their cozy apartment in the southeast corner of the city, and his mother Marina would make dinners for us.  One of my favorite dishes was her authentic Ukrainian borshch.  One day I took out my notebook and wrote down the recipe as Marina prepared the soup.  I have scanned the original handwritten page and included it below. Continue reading

Eggs Benedict

20130505-081234.jpgThis past week I had the privilege of accompanying my boss to a breakfast roundtable on Russia hosted by a business association at the St. Regis Hotel. The discussion, with about 30 smart people representing some of America’s biggest corporations, was a stimulating one, and I swear I was paying close attention. But the highlight of the occasion was undoubtedly the food. The meal began with a salad of shredded canteloupe and honeydew. The main course was a superb and unusual eggs Benedict, which impressed me so much that I decided to replicate it at home for Sunday brunch today.

This tower of delight is constructed on a foundation of a toasted English muffin and topped with a layer of smoked salmon, wilted spinach, and a poached egg, drizzled with Hollandaise sauce and sprinkled with snipped chives. I managed it in about 40 minutes and served it with sliced and sautéed polenta left over from last night’s dinner, with a French-press pot of freshly home-roasted coffee on the side. Continue reading

The Ultimate Thai Dinner

52400_1647272182930_3475421_oOn October 9, 2010, my brother-in-law and I ventured out into the dark streets of Bangkok in search of a remarkable dinner.  We found it at Chote Chitr (pronounced, roughly, “Choat Chit”), a divine hole in the wall at 146 Prang Pu Thorn, Tanao Road.  It was a bit hard to find.  We had to call the place in advance and have them give directions to our cab driver.  But the experience was well worth the journey. Continue reading