Stepping into Myanmar, also known as Burma, often feels like being transported back in time. Development has been slow in this Asian land which I suppose is what makes it so attractive to travellers. One of the first things you will notice is people wearing their traditional clothing on a daily basis. In much of the world the only time you see people wearing their native dress is at special events or ceremonies. However in Burma it is quite common to see people going about their daily activities wearing their longyi which is a sarong type piece of clothing worn by both men and women.
To continue this time travel experience you can take a ride on The Yangon Circular Railway. Built more than 60 years ago, and with the exception of a few minor changes, the system operates pretty much as it did when it was first built. The tracks run a full circle around the city of Yangon and reach into parts of the countryside where urban sprawl is replaced by farmland. A complete loop will take roughly three hours and cost 200 kyat or about 15 US cents.
Some stations are busier than others depending on their location or their offerings. Some have large markets very close to the tracks.
The trains move slowly from station to station and rarely stop for more than a minute at each station. For those either loading or unloading of goods this means they need to work fast to get on and off the train.
While on the train one never needs to go hungry. A parade of sellers makes their way up and down the cars selling a variety of Burmese snacks. None of which I tried.
At certain times of the day and depending on the location the cars can be almost empty of passengers and the slow pace of the train can give some a change to relax and just enjoy the view out the window.
At a certain point along the route the train finds itself leaving the city and enters farmland just on the outskirts of the city. Technically the entire route is within the city of Yangon so one could easily see this farmland consumed by urban development in the near future.
In just a few years we may see a complete overhaul of this circular railway in Yangon. The government has plans to modernise the system which would most likely be welcomed by those that travel the line everyday.
I recently had the opportunity and pleasure to work with Angus Winchester, a bartender who is as passionate about making a great cocktail as he is about making sure his guests are enjoying the experience. With nearly three decades of experience in the drinks business having been a bartender, a consultant, a global ambassador for Tanqueray, and will soon open his own bar called The Embassy located in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights in New York City.
For this project I was joined by writer Chris Hill who was doing the interview for Tasting Kitchen (TK) magazine. Chris is a wonderful interviewer and Angus had a lot of interesting stuff to say so while setting up for each shot I was also trying to keep one ear towards the conversation. One of the great joys of my work is to meet people like Angus who are passionate about their work and simply have a great attitude towards life.
Watching Angus behind the bar is a bit like watching a well trained performer. His moves are so smooth and precise it almost appears effortless all the while he’s keeping you focused an interesting story he wants you to hear. And before you know it a perfectly balanced cocktail is set before you.
While Angus has a lot to say about cocktails and drinks business he definitely doesn’t take himself too seriously. As he told Chris, “We’re not curing cancer, but we want to make you feel important, understood.”
To read and view the story in TK magazine go here: https://issuu.com/tastingkitchen/docs/tk29_nordic_odyssey__s_
Creating a bowl of hand-pulled noodles is an art form into itself. For Chef Li Qi, from Shanxi, China, he has honed his noodle skills to perfection and has brought his craft to the Ji Xiang Noodle House located in the City of Dreams. It’s worth ordering a bowl of these noodles just to see the process of how the chef takes a lump of dough and converts into strings of noodles.
After taking an overnight ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm my colleagues and I were met by Kristoffer Luczak who had invited us to stay in his home for a few days. Upon arriving at his home, which is located along the banks of the Stockholm Archipelago, we were greeted by Chef Bjoern Frantzen who came over to cook us a welcome lunch. The former footballer turned master chef currently runs several restaurants in Stockholm which includes his Restaurant Frantzén which currently holds two Michelin Stars. He also has a restaurant located in Hong Kong called Frantzén’s Kitchen.
A warm early spring sun warmed us as we enjoyed the view of the archipelago and the smell of our lunch being cooked on a simple charcoal BBQ grill. After spending two weeks traveling above the Arctic Circle in Norway and then the frigid Finnish Lapland we were grateful to arrive at a comfortable home and thrilled to be treated by a master chef.
That night we met up again with Chef Frantzen at this gastropub called The Flying Elk. The plan was to have a light dinner but like all good plans such thoughts were thrown by the wayside when our table started hearing about all the great dishes we could try. Throughout the evening Chef Frantzen would stop by our table to make sure we were getting everything we needed.
He then revealed to us the dish that inspired him to become a chef which was something that lit up his palate when he was just 12-years-old. He told the story of a time he went to a French brasserie called Rendezvous which was owned by his best friend’s parents. On that particular day he was served steak tournedos with homemade bearnaise sauce, french fries and Coke loaded with ice and lemon. He loved the dish so much that he decided at that moment he wanted to become a chef so that he could cook and eat like that everyday. He now creates his own version of this dish in the Flying Elk.
Our second day with Chef Frantzen took us to his restaurant called Bobergs. While there we got to enjoy not only more examples of Chef Frantzen’s wonderful creations but also here about his cooking philosophy which he speaks of with great passion and conviction.
The dishes created and seen below represent a more fine dining experience…
The complete story about Chef Frantzen, written by Mamie Chen, can be seen and read in Tasting Kitchen (TK) magazine by following this link – https://issuu.com/tastingkitchen/docs/tk29_nordic_odyssey__s_
The day began with a flurry of activity. The bride, Liang Jiamin, known as Bee by all her friends and family, was in her bedroom in her family’s home in the village of Doumen getting ready for the all-day event which lay before her. She was preparing to marry, Jonathan Michael Castillo, an American photographer whom she met while working in the nearby city of Zhuhai.
While all the preparations were taking place in the bride’s home the groom, Jonathan, was busy getting himself ready as well as organizing the transportation for all his out of town guests. Several of which came all the way from the United States and one even from Russia, for this momentous event. It was probably the first time such an event ever took place in the village of Doumen and for many of the locals it was most likely the first time they had ever seen foreigners in person.
Upon the arrival of the groom and all his out of town guests he and his groomsmen were guided to the bride’s home where he is expected to collect his bride and take her to the ceremony. However, before he is even allowed to even see his bride, he must first complete a series of challenges which the bridesmaids have planned for him. The challenges are meant to be silly and fun which Jon and his support team all took part with great enthusiasm.