Is there a bigger bore than the bore who bores you boringly with "when I was in..." about places you have never been? With this in mind, I try to keep comparisons between Hong Kong (where I used to live for almost 30 years) and Palma, to a minimum. But I can't help comparing the two places as I walk around Palma, with or without dogs. It's only natural, seeing
they are both places in which I have lived or live. And look, I don't want to knock Hong Kong just because I felt it was getting a little too ugly and screamy and high-rise for me. Many people like, nay, prefer, living like that. I'm just saying that Palma is more suited to my needs, visually. But there's one thing about Palma, beautiful as it is, I think is very bad visually, and that is tagging.
Yes, tagging. The awful vandalism habit of writing one's name, or a name, or a word, on a wall or other surface. It's ugly, it drags the whole area down and it reminds at least me of "bad parts of town" - crack dens, crime, people who poo outside. OK, the two photos above show tagging on walls that are already a bit crap, crumbling and could certainly do with a coat of paint, but the tagging makes them look worse. However, I can understand that some people feel they're brightening up some inferior walls. But the taggers vandalise even churches and palaces, 400 year old buildings and medieval walls. All over the Old Town you can hardly see the beautiful brickwork for stupid spray-painting. People tell me how the Palma Government is such a nanny state. Why don't they crack down on this?
On the other hand, in El Terreno where I live there are also some extraordinary wall paintings. Is that also vandalism? I'll have to say technically I suppose yes, but also - it's art! Tagging isn't.
You can say what you want about Hong Kong, but there's very little if any vandalism. People don't have time I suppose, they are too busy working.
So if you want to find out more about Hong Kong or already live there but want to understand the city more, why not take Cantonese lessons from me on Skype? It's cheaper than before and guaranteed zero violence! Unless you live in Palma. Hey, I'm surrounded by tagging - it brings out the stabber in me
Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - From a Norwegian!
Looking at the news, I wonder how much of a great advertising idea it is for a restaurant to put Venezuelan food on the cover of their menu. Apparently the people in that country have long since eaten all the animals in the zoos as well as their own pets, and are now gnawing their way through rats and insects. But, long live socialism, eh!
Onwards in my quest to visit all the establishments 8 minutes' walk from my house, I only had to cross the street to find home cooking-looking new restaurant Café Latino, where they have set up a comfortable al fresco corner with lots of ashtrays, overlooking all the activity on Avenue Joan Miro. That's right, I live on an avenue!!! The interior hadn't changed much from the days when it was called Ciento Cuatro (104, for it is situated in Avinguda Joan Miro 104) and was run by my neighbour Marta before the building was sold. She had the best tostadas (toasted bread with olive oil and stuff on) I have tasted so far, so out of loyalty to her and because she can see into my garden and therefore my brain from her second floor window, I didn't want to visit the new place at all. But now duty called.
As is usual in these little cafés in Palma, the owner/manager does everything, so it took a little while before I could order. In addition to Venezuelan food they also had Mexican (nachos, which I love because how can one not) and Colombian, against which I have been warned by a Colombian friend. I didn't know what was what nationality, but went for a crepe ("kreps" according to the sign outside which is vaguely funny for me because it means crayfish in Norwegian) with chicken, tomato, lettuce and onion. Yes! I was feeling wildly adventurous.
Hmmm. Okay. First of all, I think the tomato should have been on the outside, to brighten up the super-dull exterior. The taste was fine, and I'm sure crepe experts who like sweetness and that sort of thing would love it but: That pancake needed, I'm not afraid to say it, a dollop of spice to offset the sweetness.
Instead, it had mayonnaise, which made it more blargh, not less. No, no, no, I thought, my whole Sichuan-ness raring up in me. I know, not every dish in the world should be full of chillies - cookies'n'cream ice cream from Hagen-Daaz is an example - but this crepe was screaming out for more colour, more taste and more crunch.
I asked the owner what nationality this dish was, and he looked a bit sheepish (OR that is what he looks like when he thinks a customer is an idiot) and said: French.
I mentioned that I was a Sichuan cook (Cocinera sichuan) and he kind of sniggered because he thought I said "cocinera sexual". So in addition to writing about establishments, perhaps I should knuckle down to learn more Spanish asap. And also I want to taste their nachos as soon as possible.
But people - Sichuan food really does taste so, so much better than any other food! I have various deals for birthday parties etc. Check out my website www.penandwok and also my facebook page Sichuan Food Made Easy.
Avinguda Joan Miró 104
Open 24 hours every day of the week (?!?)
Tel: 632 232 565
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