SPICEGASM.COM My travel tales and food hunting

September 20, 2013

Snails and shells siesta in Saigon

Filed under: Bars & Resto,Food,Travel,Vietnam — Alex @ 4:05 am

After my first visit to Saigon in March 2012, I have been coming to this vibrant city pretty often. There are few things that made me keep coming back. It’s pretty obvious that Vietnamese street food is one of the main reason but going through the immigration without having to fill in embarkation card is super awesome too. Then there’s the cheap bus ride from the airport to Ben Thanh Market that will cost me only VND4000 ( approx $0.20 ). It is really convenient to hop on to the bus that’s always parked right outside of the airport terminal.

Clean and affordable hotels in the city center are aplenty. So I bet in recent years, many tourists have been flocking to this country well known for it’s Pho and spring rolls. Another reason is that I have a good friend who is based in Saigon. He is half Vietnamese and knows his places really well.


Every time I come visit, he will have some new food places to bring me. By now he really knows the kind of food joints that I fancies and he never fails to excite me. This time around, he brought me to a place that is specializing in snails and shells. This is the kind of food joint that is not located in prime area but tucked in some alley. The clientele would be regulars or people in the know of good food. I like restaurants like these as opposed to those that are situated in prime location where most of the customers would be consist mostly of tourists or passersby.


Fried snails – remember to suck on the shells, tasty!




Snails sauteed in garlic and pork lard

From experience, restaurant of food stalls like these always serve the best food and price is always cheap. Not located at prime area certainly has it advantages like cheap rental.

The restaurant has no fancy decor, just the usual low stools and tables just like most roadside food joints in Vietnam, just the way I love it. My friend point to some Vietnamese words that are plastered on the wall of the food joint. “We prefer one customer that will come 1000 times rather than 1000 customers that will only come once”. Such wise words and my friend went through the menu and start ordering away. Portions are purposely made small as Asian loves to try many time of dishes at one sitting. Makes the dinning more interesting in my opinion when you get to try all sorts of different stuff shared with friends.

BBQ prawns

BBQ prawns


Stir fried cockles with garlic and crunchy pork lard.

I don’t really know the names of the dishes that my friend ordered but everything tasted really good. If you don’t speak Vietnamese, fret not as the menu has pictures with English. Enjoy the pictures and I have included the address of the restaurant at the bottom of this post. Total of the bill was VND470,000 with 3 beers and 1 soft drink.

Giant cockles prepared with cheese and also garlic and butter

Giant cockles prepared with cheese and also garlic and butter


Stir fried egg noodles with beef and generous amount of Bak Choy.

Address :

Hem 25 (meaning, alley 25) Nguyen Binh khiem Street.

July 8, 2013

Did Anthony Bourdain enjoyed his Mohinga?

Filed under: Food,Myanmar,Travel — Alex @ 5:14 am

Currently the “it” destination to visit in South East Asia has definitely gotta be Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. One of the reason why Myanmar is on the “MUST VISIT LIST” is because the country has finally opened her arms to foreigners. Like others, I was excited to make my first trip ever to Myanmar.

In order to visit Myanmar, you have to obtain a travel visa which is applicable to all nationalities. I applied my visa in Bangkok after checking out an English based Myanmar Forum. Found a very detailed posting on how to obtain the visa from the Myanmar Embassy.

I did quite a bit of research on Myanmar, especially the street food scene. I want to get myself familiarize with the food and it has always been my goal to find out the national dish of the country that I will visit. From what I gather, “Mohinga” can be considered as one of the national dishes.

My flight from Bangkok was at 7.15am and will arrive at Yangon airport at 8.00am local time. Yangon is 30 minutes behind Bangkok time. From the airport to my hotel, the ride was around 45 minutes. I still get very excited about visiting a country for the very first time even though I considered myself a seasoned traveler. The taxi ride to my hotel, which is Eastern Hotel cost me $7.

When I reached my hotel, I was greeted by the friendly staff and offered a welcome drink as well. I was informed that after 45 minutes I will be able to check in. I then asked the hotel staff if there’s any roadside stall selling Mohinga nearby. She smiled as she told me there’s a famous restaurant named Lucky Seven who sells good local dishes. I would like to believe she smiled because she is happy to see a first time visitor to her country eager to taste her national dish but in reality, most probably she smiled because, “Oh – Another first time visitor to my country checked online information about the food of Myanmar and trying to impress the locals with his limited knowledge“.


Finding the restaurant was not hard at all and the restaurant was packed with customers, mostly locals – a very good sign! I found a table and was given an English menu and just pointed at the picture of Mohinga. The waiter then showed me a list of side orders, which consisted around 6 different choices but he made a “peace” sign with his hand which I took it as – “you are only allowed to choose 2 out of the 6 side dishes”. I chose the fried shallots and a hard boiled egg.

My order came within 10 minutes and I wasted no time in tasting Mohinga for the very first time. It didn’t taste as I would have imagined but that is because I have the habit of associating the taste of the food based on how it looks like. It looked kinda like a version of a Malay noodle dish that is call Mee Rebus and I was expecting it to taste like that. So, I continued to eat slowly and let my tongue get familiarize with the taste of Mohinga. My final verdict? I didn’t get the “SPICEGASM” feeling that I was expecting but I think Mohinga sure can grow on you after sometime. I wasn’t disappointed at all and would definitely try more Mohinga during my stay here in Yangon. I remembered seeing about Anthony Bourdain visiting Myanmar in some sites while I was doing my researched about Myanmar but didn’t clicked on the video link to see the full content. I am curious now to know what was his reaction when he first tasted the Mohinga. Even though I always believe that I know Asian food better than him but I just can’t help to feel “good” if a celebrity chef shared my same sentiments, even though most of the time he is obliged to give good reviews.

January 23, 2013

Midnight Fried Chicken Chiang Mai Thailand

Filed under: Food,Thailand,Travel — Alex @ 1:42 pm

I haven’t been updating my blog for quite a while. One of the main reason is that I’ve been busy with work and also changing my lifestyle for a bit. I will blog about it ( I hope ) in the near future.

Good friends of mine will know that whenever I am living or traveling abroad, visiting famous monuments and buildings are not really my kinda thing. I just prefer to live like the locals and basically do normal stuff daily. My schedule is never hectic and I do not go in and out of a tour bus visiting places after places. Instead I will wake up whenever my eyes opened and just go to some coffee shops or cafes that are popular among the locals.

I would normally order my food and drinks, and just chill in the coffee shop for an hour or two. Most of the time I am alone and I just enjoy observing people. Sometimes some locals who can communicate in English will talk to me and I’ve always enjoyed that. But most of the time I would be approached by locals who can’t speak in English who will still make an effort to talk to me. I enjoyed that too even though most of the time we do not understand each other. It involves a lot of head nodding ( pretending that we understood ) and short sentences in our own language, food being pointed and the famous thumbs up sign with the word “GOOD” being expressed in many different ways. I’ve done that more than a thousand times and it still never gets old for me.


Deep fried chicken, would be nice if juicier.

I am currently back in Chiangmai after an absence of almost 6-7 years. I am staying in a small hotel near the old city. The caretaker of the hotel is one really nice guy and he loves that everybody addresses him as Mr. Man ( pronounce as in He-Man ). I would blog more details about him and his hotel soon. He has brought me out on his truck and motorbike a few times to go eat food that is preferred by the people of Chiangmai. One night, he brought me to a place to eat at 9pm around the night bazaar area. He then told me that few meters down the road where we were having our meal, is a very popular food stall call the “Midnight Fried Chicken”. The stall is also popular for it’s special chili paste that is call “Namprik Num”. It is a special chili paste made of young green chili from the Chiangmai region. It opens only at 11.30pm daily and you have to stand in line to be seated.

Yesterday night at 11.35pm, I felt a little bit hungry and the image of crispy fried chicken was circulating on my mind. Add in the reputation of the stall “Midnight Fried Chicken” told gloriously by Mr Man, I really set my heart on to give it a try. The problem was that I do not know where exactly is the place and Mr Man was already sleeping. But when I set my heart on tasting the food that I am craving for, nothing will deter me from achieving that.

Deep fried pork intestine and special Chiangmai sausage with herbs

Deep fried pork intestine and special Chiangmai sausage with herbs

The weather in Chiangmai now is really cold and yesterday night was 20 C. I decided to look for the place on a bicycle that Mr Man provided for my daily usage. It would be fun cycling around Chiangmai town on a cool night. Equipped with my broken Thai, I was very determine to find the “Midnight Fried Chicken” stall at all cost.

Let me spare out the details of my screw ups in recognizing the roads and buildings and get straight to the point. It took me 1 hour and the half to locate the place, and asking about 7 random people about the location of the food stall. Two out of the seven Thai people never heard of the place and this was pretty encouraging. Finally I found the place and it was exactly like what Mr Man described. The tables were all full and I had to stand in line to either take out or to dine in. After 10 minutes of waiting, I finally got a table.


Pictures I took when the shop is getting ready for business and there’s more seats inside.

Look at the crowd!

Look at the crowd!

This is where I ordered my food by pointing.

This is where I ordered my food by pointing.

Special Chiangmai chili paste Namprik Num

Special Chiangmai chili paste Namprik Num

Sticky rice, boiled egg with Nam Prik Num, love the taste of it.

Sticky rice, boiled egg with Nam Prik Num, love the taste of it.

To order, the customers need to write down what they want. Since I cannot write in Thai, I told one of the workers if I could just go to the counter and point what I wanted. She nodded her head and I went and ordered my food via pointing my fingers, mixed with my broken Thai language. Ordered one big fried chicken leg, some deep fried pork intestines, boiled egg ( according to Mr Man, boiled egg and Nam Prik Num goes really good together ), a plate of boiled vegetables with Nam Prik Num and lastly a plate of sticky rice.

I ate it quickly as they were still many customers waiting to get their seats. It cost me 107 BHT for my meal and I think the price is rather reasonable. If you were to ask me “is the 1 hour 10 minutes bicycle ride worth it and will I ever come back again?” The answer is YES! Besides the ride back to my hotel took me only 15 minutes.

July 17, 2012

Moving Sushi in Japan (AKA Kaiten Sushi)

Filed under: Food,Travel — Tags: — Alex @ 1:26 pm

Kaiten sushi is very popular in Japan and I have the pleasure of eating at one of these sushi restaurants once every few weeks. I like to call it moving sushi because that’s what it does, moves around waiting for you to eat it! Variety differs from place to place and there are even popular restaurants where friends and I travel 1 hour out of the city to find the place.

Kaiten moving sushi restaurant

For those new to this type of food, “kaiten” means “to rotate” and plates are served with sushi and sashimi on different style and colored plates to determine the price.

You don’t have to eat only what’s on display. Customers can also make special orders if they cannot find the sushi they want. A sushi that plate that you order is also placed on the conveyor belt if it’s a small amount and it’s marked with your seat number so other customers know that it is a special order and not up for grabs. However for large orders, an attendant may bring it directly to your table. Unlimited hot matcha green tea is usually available directly at your seat and the average meal time takes about 15 to 30 minutes even with a group of friends.

Matcha green tea at sushi restaurant

The price of each sushi dish is determined according to the colors, patterns, or shapes of the plates and usually ranges from 100 yen to 500 yen. The cost of each plate is shown on posters in the restaurant. The bill of the customer is calculated by counting the number and type of plates of the consumed sushi.

Conveyor Belt Sushi

Here’s a brief history on moving sushi. Kaiten sushi, also known as conveyor belt sushi, was invented by sushi restaurant owner Yoshiaki Shiraishi. He was having a hard time managing his restaurant by himself and having difficulties staffing his small sushi restaurant he had to think of something to keep his business going. After watching beer bottles on a conveyor belt in an Asahi brewery, he got the idea of a kaiten sushi.

When you visit Japan, this type of restaurant should be at the top of your list! It’s a great place for lunch.

This article was contributed by JapanitUP.com where you’ll find news, tips, and info about Japan. Visiting doesn’t have to be expensive, and many great deals are to be found on tasty street food and traditions worth experiencing while you’re there!

March 23, 2012

Seafood orgy in the streets of Ho Chi Minh

Filed under: Food,Travel,Vietnam — Alex @ 10:24 am

I am very pleased with my first trip to Vietnam after getting to eat seafood like the locals do. Now allow me to make you hungry by posting some really awesome pictures of my seafood orgy session. I’ve never seen so many variety of snails and shells being offered at one place. I’ve been to many parts of Sea East Asia where big variety of seafood is considered common. So far I think Vietnam is rank number 1 in my book when it comes to variety. Too bad that our stomach doesn’t allow us to order every damn thing in the menu.

This is the first seafood I patronized. It is located at Pham Ngu Lao area in District 1 and is near to a pub named 17 Saloon that features Filipino band. It is close to midnight and there were still many customers. I simply love the outdoor setting with those low tables and chairs. It some how felt more relax and chill.

I’ve so far been to 2 road side restaurant serving seafood. It is definitely a MUST DO when you come visit Ho Chi Minh. A party of 5-6 person would be the most ideal. The more people in your group, the more you get to order different types of food that are offered in the menu. Drinking the local beer like “333” ( known as in Ba Ba Ba in Vietnamese ) or Saigon beer while enjoying your dishes are highly recommended. When is time to pay, you will be surprise that it will be around USD7-8 per person for a meal fit for the kings!

I have no idea what the shell looks like in it’s original form but I am guessing it must be a big ass shell. The shell is most likely boiled and then the meat is cut to small pieces. Dried chili with oil are being sauteed with salt and probably some other type of seasoning, then poured  top of the boiled shell. Texture is rubbery like calamari and is not tough at all. Super tasty with those fried chili oil.

Some sort of shell that looks like bamboo. Pretty common seafood fare in South East Asia and normally stir fried with chili and minced garlic.

Super big giant cockles with peanuts. I have no idea how it was being prepared but it tasted really good.

Tasty scallops served with peanuts and thinly chopped chives.

Giant snails cooked with lemon grass. I’ve always love to eat food that is being cook and serve to you at the same time. Big flames from the stove heating up the plate of giant snails and getting the flavor from the lemon grass.

Clam soup with lemon grass in hot pot

Grill fish Vietnamese style. The dipping for most seafood in Vietnam is mixture of salt, pepper and lime. But for my own personal preference, dipping it with sambal belacan or Namprik Kapi would suit me better.

Fried chicken wings in fish sauce. A good dish to order to include some meaty texture in a seafood dinner. Those onion are super tasty and so is the deep fried chicken. Crispy on the outside, moist and juicy in the inside. Winning!

Stir fry pork intestine in some sweet and sour sauce.

Plain boiled vegetables that is super healthy if you just eat it by itself, but nobody is going to do that when you can dip into a special kind of dipping sauce which I think is uniquely Vietnamese.

Special dipping sauce that contains bits of crunchy fried pork lard, dried shrimp, fish sauce and some other stuff that I couldn’t figure out with my taste bud. Dipping those boil vegetables into this sauce will surely fire up your appetite for more food whacking obscenity.

Morning glory or kangkung got to be one of the most popular vegetable in South East Asia. Simple stir fry with garlic and no presence of chili and belacan, still tasted super good.

Vietnamese mango salad with dried/salted fish. Pretty close to Thai version of mango salad.

Vietnamese coconut salad. I have no idea which part of the coconut they using, but I know is definitely not from the coconut itself. I am suspecting it is from the branch or young coconut bark.

Lastly, a salted fish fried rice with crab meat to complete the whole seafood orgy outing.

The pictures of this post were taken from my 2 eating session. If you happen to come visit Ho Chi Minh, these are the 2 restaurant that I highly recommend you to go.

Phuc Oc ( Restaurant Name ) – 136, Nguyen Thai Hoc, Pham Ngu Lao


Vy Da ( Restaurant Name ), in the corner of Ly Tu Trong and Nguyen Trung Truc Street. You can never missed it as you will see many people dining in the open air.

I would suggest you download the pictures of the food in this post, that makes it easier for you to order your food if you do not speak or read Vietnamese.

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