Mark Wiens attributes his wandering spirit to a nomadic childhood living in a variety of countries including France, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, and the USA. He settled down briefly while obtaining a college degree in Global Studies but upon graduation, he set forth on a life of migrationology, a term he coined to mean “long-term travel.”
Now, Mark is living the travel dream, migrating from country to country, absorbing the unique offerings of each culture. You can read all about his sundry experiences via his blog. But today, we’re singularly focused on Mark’s gastronomic adventures. Below, Mark shares his five favorite Southeast Asian dishes.
I’m officially handing Mark the mic. In his own words…
1. Dampa Seafood Extravaganza- Manila, Philippines
Seafood Dampa in Manila, the Philippines, is a sensational encounter with absurd portions of all food items hailing from the sea. The drill works like this; stroll through the raw seafood market, pick out kilos of your favorite seafood (from fish, to crab, to oysters, to mussels, to sea cucumbers), walk into one of the many restaurants located right next door, have a chef artfully transform your raw seafood into an unbelievable delicacy like chili crab, stir fried prawns, or steamed ginger fish, eat until you need to unbutton your pants and discard your belt. There is absolutely no messing around when it comes to eating at seafood dampa!
2. Nasi Campur Mystery Buffet- Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia
Nasi Campur is an entrance to the ultimate in street food buffet munching. It is a joy to choose from about 30 different dishes, all perched in a glass container on the side of the street, to drown your plate of rice with. Coconut fish curry, egg omelets, stir fried vegetables, chili filled egg plant, and countless unrecognizable mystery items all sprinkled with peanuts and doused with chili sauce is a sure way to please your palette and make you lust for more. This nasi campur Indonesian mystery buffet of culinary combination’s conjoined onto a single plate, create a harmony of flavors that all work together.
3. Satay Celup- Melaka (Malacca), Malaysia
An intimidating open air commercial fridge is loaded with unimaginable food items, all neatly arranged on kebab sticks. Sit down at one of the custom tables that is outfitted with a stove in the center where a flaming hot pot of red greasy sweet peanut chili sauce is waiting to be dipped in. Load up a tray of all things sticked, like prawns, fish balls, mushrooms, squid balls, watercress, 10 kinds of hot dogs, tofu, marinated pork, or crab cakes. Dip the sticks into the peanut sauce and let them simmer till cooked as you begin inhaling stick after stick after stick of satay celup.
4. Dim Sum- Hong Kong
Dim sum in Hong Kong is a late night and morning culture of delicate and artful pickings all packed and steamed in bamboo steamers. Starting at 2 or 3 am, hungry wanderers sleepwalk into restaurants to partake of the steamed dumplings. Shrimp dumplings, greasy pork meat balls, chicken feet, bbq pork buns, and mochi sticky rice, are just a few of the items to get stuffed with before immediately going back to sleep on a full and happy stomach.
5. Jim Jum- Bangkok, Thailand
After eating well over 100 must eat foods in Bangkok, I can safely say that Jim Jum ranks quite high and is easily the most relaxing feast of the bunch. A clay pot resting on top of a grill of flaming coals is set before you on the table. Aromatic soup earlier brewed with galangal, chilies, lemongrass, onions, and garlic, boils away in the pot as you personally add cabbage, morning glory, glass noodles, marinated pork, eggs, and heaps of sweet basil to the concoction. The result is a fragrant medley of soup that will change your life forever. This particular feast usually takes at least two hours to enjoy as the pot is reloaded again and again till the highest satisfaction is derived.
Whatever your feast may be, submerge in the culture, enjoy it with friends, eat it with passion, and the food heightened experience of satisfaction will surely change your life!