If your knowledge of Arabic sweets is confined to baklava, then you have to make the Middle East your next trip. Arabs excel at sensual pleasures, and a well-crafted dessert is considered high art.
I saw more types of sweets than savoury dishes. It’s an intimidating constellation. Here are a few of my favourites and where to find the best of each.
If Las Vegas dealt in baklavas instead of money, it would look like Jasmatiyah Street in Damascus.
Everything is big and flashy. Nut-filled pastries are stack higher than people. Rolls of pistachios in vermicelli dough thicker than a forearm beckon stares of disbelief.
In one of many shops, bakers in ethnic headdress prepare halawat with ashta cream. A giant LCD screen above him plays a making-of-sweets promotional reel.
A perfect day trip from Byblos (or even Beirut) is Batroun, a town offering a millennial Phoenician sea seawall, Lebanon’s best lemonade, and a roaring nightlife.
It’s perfect for a day trip because it’s compact: three hours are plenty to digest it. The highlight is the seaside old town with an impressive 18th-century stone church above the fishing marina and a nicely restored residential quarter.
Note: this post shares advice that is best enjoyed if starting life all over again. Belief in reincarnation is advised.
Get born into a family that isn’t germophobic
Play in the dirt
Don’t take antibiotics for every little infection
And more tips inside.
As a general rule, cooking courses for tourists follow the following recipe:
1. Take cook of dubious skill and place him before a group of earnest culinary travellers.
2. Teach them three to five local dishes. Omit any history, context, or philosophy of food.
3. Serve it cold.
4. Charge them a 200% markup on ingredients and time.
5. Profit for a mediocre restaurant.
Not one among the dozens of beach-facing restaurants in Varkala have beer and cocktails in their menus.
But ask a waiter for alcohol and he’ll produce a tattered home-printed sheet from his pocket listing Tom Collins, mojitos, Cosmopolitans, all the classic mixes. Order a beer and an ice-cold Kingfisher bottle will appear in seconds.
The restaurants aren’t allowed to sell alcohol. But like anywhere else, in Varkala, the rules are negotiable if the price is right.
Singapore is a trickster, but it doesn’t know it. It makes you think it’s a business city with obsessive-compulsive disorder and no sense of mirth.
What a farce. Singaporeans take their pleasure very seriously. Venture past the tourist trail of Chinatown, the malls of Orchard Rd. and the overpriced cafés of Sentosa Island and you’ll a city contending for a spot among the great capitals of fun.
If you’re there, don’t miss these delights.
Declining food in Singapore is as productive as asking a computer to hurry up. Insisting is just as foolish.
It is how Singaporeans express affection. It is how they honour guests. It is what they know best.
The challenge of the foreigner is to convert frustration into flattery.
A tragicomedy in three acts.
We asked a local to show us how to chew betel nut, enjoyed and spat out by people everywhere in Papua New Guinea. The experience was little more intense than we expected.
The Highlands of PNG is the farming heartland of the country, where produce is grown and flown to the coastal zones.
Here’s a quick look at how Highlanders grow and prepare their food.