Now I have lived in Palma de Mallorca (Spain) for seven months, and it's amazing how little I miss Hong Kong.
It's almost... slightly disappointing.
I was planning to be a sad exile, victim of the Chinese government's relentless anti-Cantonese campaigns (not that that's not going on) and live out my days on a barren rock in the Mediterranean, far away from great food and everything I loved, sighing my days away full of yearning. But it turns out there are only two things about Hong Kong that I miss: My friends, and a good old outbreak of swine flu now and again.
Hovering between life and death several times a year really made at least me feel so alive.
Well actually, I miss Cantonese too. Why don't you take lessons from me (via Skype) so we can create a tiny little corner of Cantonese together that the Communist Party can't touch? For once learnt, it can't be unlearnt! That's the beauty of Cantonese. Oh, and it will make your life so much more fun. Last time I went to Sydney I made a Chinese shop assistant sink to the floor, yes, unable to stand, because I could speak Cantonese while foreign. That made all the years of learning Cantonese without really trying, worth it.
No, no. Eating Everything-Free is very modern, I'm sure, but how did the whole western world (at least the middle class bit) start suffering from the serious afflictions celiac illness and lactose intolerance all at the same time and in only, oh, four years?
Yes, I know, the depletion of the soil, animals eat crap food and become crap meat, vegetables aren't what they once were, like during the Black Plague for example, - I get it.
But "no cholesterol"? Haven't they studied the science? "Cholesterol is a fatty substance known as a lipid and is vital for the normal functioning of the body. It's mainly made by the liver" says the NHS website.
Yes yes, some foods create a too-high amount of cholesterol in the body and that's not good. It's also not good to be obese. But do we really not know what constitutes a 'balanced diet' by now? And can't we just let people eat what the hell they want?
Me, I want food to look beautiful and of course taste wonderful. That's it!
I thought of this the other day when I made Sichuan food for 16 people.
When I started looking into it, in Sichuan food there's really only the dumpling skins (wheat) and the soy sauce (wheat) that don't comply with the strict, I would say self-flagellating rules of all the things you "can't eat" above. Oh no! My food is MODERN! At least I have chicken, pork and beef to fall back on.
Are you a strict vegan? The soy beans in tofu and hundreds of other "healthy" foods mostly come from South America, where growing them is decimating the rainforests. Animals, when raised properly, actually are part of a good cycle of eating grass, pooing to nurture the grass, then eating it again. Just saying.
Well, this was actually supposed to be an advert for my Sichuan Lunches with something for Everybody!
As usual it's in El Terreno, Palma de Mallorca around 2:30pm, minimum six people, book today
I have often wondered why, when a country's inhabitants move and start to recreate their cuisine abroad, they think they have to make the food a lot sweeter than it was when it was "at home". I have noticed it especially with Chinese and Indian restaurants in the US, Norway and now here in Mallorca. No matter if the chef is a native of the country or someone from somewhere else who has learnt the noble art of cooking foreign and exotic food, in goes the sugar by the carload.
I was thinking about that the other day when my friend S was kind enough to invite me to lunch, and in a place well within the radius of my new 8 minute rule (spending the next few months checking out ALL the hospitality establishment that are 8 minutes' walk from my place or less), namely Mercat 1930 Palma Gastronomic Market. It is an intriguing-looking place on the Passeig Maritimo which I have often passed on dog walks, wanting to try it out. So here we were among the seven different categories of food: Andalusian Specialities, Croquettes and Battered, Iberian Sausages, Tapas, Sweet Stuff, Healthy Food and Drinks and Thai Innovative. Spoilt for choice indeed!
The Market has been there since 1910 but has of course been gentrified and hipsterified - most of the tables are high and perch-y which isn't my favourite but is the way of the world now. The further away from the floor, the healthier and more gluten-free it is, seems to be the philosophy. Having said that, it's far better than sitting folded up with stomach squashed together on a sofa.
Anyway, my friend chose Thai, which I of course love. Who doesn't? We both had Corn Fritters, and they were better than anything I have tasted in Thailand or Hong Kong. Succulent! Beautiful! With a slight crunch! And beautifully presented. And the sauce looked so beautiful. Yes looked.
But the taste was - hot, good, but also sickeningly sweet. I know, the sauce Thai cooking uses for for example prawn cake is supposed to be sweet - and unfortunately normally comes out of a bottle. But this was something else in the sweet-stakes. It was almost inedible. So we quickly tucked into the main course:
Chicken green curry. It was innovate all right, in that it didn't look like a normal Thai curry, where the ingredients are kind of submerged in the sauce. This was more like cold chicken slivers and aubergine resting on a vaguely green curry-tasting sauce. Beautiful of course, and delicious. And, fortunately, not over-sweet. And they had chopsticks! So, almost full marks for Mercat 1930 for me; I will definitely have especially Corn Fritters again in the future, but with a different sauce/dip. What IS it with this addiction to sugar?
Avinguda de Gabriel Roca 33 (Passeig Maritimo)
669 787 804
Welcome to Mallorca! In this series of Spanish Words that Don't Sound Like Their Meaning, I will showcase some of the charming places I walk past almost every day, as well as teach you Spanish.
Zanahoria. Sounds romantic, doesn't it? Kind of like an Egyptian princess who has been kidnapped and sold into slavery, languishing in some harem somewhere dressed in gauze and with many dangling earrings, all gold.
OR a dark-haired concubine/courtesan who has risen up through the ranks and eventually married the emperor through guile, elbowing out all competition.
That's what I thought when I first read the word ZANAHORIA.
So it came as something o a shock, or letdown at least, to find out that it means
P.S. Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - From a Norwegian!
I have to pinch myself sometimes when I stick my head out the door and realise I actually live in El Terreno in Palma de Mallorca! It's just a little over a year ago that I first discovered this quirky, charming neighbourhood. I was staying in the centre of Palma, on a five day sojourn to see if Mallorca was worth giving up 30 years in China and Hong Kong for. On one of my walks I found El Terreno with its narrow streets, Mediterranean but urban feel, and the enormous Bellver Forest cloaking it like a benevolent ... cloak. This was the place for me! And my dogs!
It's probably going to take me more than a month to check out all the hospitality establishments within even 8 minutes' walk, but I will! Living somewhere convenient and beautiful is huge for me, because when I lived in hong Kong I had to travel for 10 to 25 minutes by bus just to go shopping.
Let me kick off with the café closest to my house, ten meters away: Trinidad Cafeteria. First of all, it opens at 06:00! Almost every day! Including Sundays! The Mallorquins seem to take all meals and drinks outside the house, so the Trinidad is quite full of breakfasters at 06:00 - I know because I walk past with the first dog patrol of the day - nurses, building workers, post office workers and lots of neighbours. They sit outside the Trinidad enjoying the first life-giving smoke of the day while their grizzled and cataract-y mutts try to sniff up me and my ginger brute Koldbrann as we thunder past.
Unfortunately the Trinidad is closed all winter, if it wasn't I would go every day. Because not only does Luis, as the owner is called, do very decent bocadillas and tostadas AND answers all my questions about Spanish (in Spanish because he doesn't speak much English) - the café doubles as a supermercado (supermarket), which I would call a tiny grocery shop. From 06:00 onwards you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, bread and crisps, canned goods, hams and cheeses, milk, coffee, wine and beer. And shampoo, cleaning agents, toothpaste... And newspapers! When you tire of reading you can watch TV and have a go on the old gambling machine. Or have a draft beer.
Luis is so kind and patient and laughs at my jokes. He also corrects my pronunciation. YES!!!! Don't close this winter, Luis! I'll keep it economically viable. Because to get to the second closest establishment to my house... I'll have to cross the street!
124 Avinguda de Joan Miró
Phone 971 098 695