Farmer in the Mist

Near Kengtung, Shan State, Myanmar, December 2008 The Shan State valleys are shrouded in mist on winter mornings. We spotted this farmer while riding a motorbike to an early-morning roving hilltribe market near Kengtung this week. The first signs of second-season rice appear in vibrant green patches across the landscape. Shan State markets teem with…Continue readingFarmer in the Mist

The Exorcist and his Rice

It’s a cold, crisp morning on the second day of our trek along the India-Nepal border. Wind slaps against the lodge where we slept the previous night, and icicles cling to the rocks outside. But the sun shines brightly, and the trail zigzags upward along a steep switchback course. In time, my body warms and…Continue readingThe Exorcist and his Rice

‘Very Good Taste’

I’m stretching back in time to a place where snacks are of the essence. Let’s face it: India does great snacks. Some of the world’s best popcorn is to be found on Indian streets. Crisp and lightly salted, a hint of masala, a dusting of asafoetida (don’t be deterred by the stink; just a pinch…Continue reading‘Very Good Taste’

Narita Nibbles

Some airports treat you better than others. In addition to scrupulous Customs officers, Singapore’s Changi offers free Internet, great bookstores, hot showers. Kuala Lumpur has fantastic food courts at nearly the street price. And Tokyo’s Narita, while not my favorite, sells these inexpensive little onigiri snacks — triangles of rice wrapped in nori, with a…Continue readingNarita Nibbles

Lao Lao

It’s in there. You can’t see it, but the devil lurks inside. Actually, it’s a handsome devil that only rears its ugly head when you partake too much. Lao lao. Lau lao. Spell it how you will, the Laotians do a mean whisky (from rice). Sometimes it’s beautiful moonshine that mixes pleasantly with lime juice…Continue readingLao Lao

Garlic-Free (Part 1)

Anyone who knows me well knows that — gasp! — my father hates garlic. Gary Coates HATES garlic. I have fallen far from the taste-bud tree, and consequently it is difficult, often downright disastrous, for me to cook in the Coates folks’ kitchen. That kitchen, by the way, resembles little of my own. It’s orderly…Continue readingGarlic-Free (Part 1)

Enchanted Beng Melea

Beng Melea, as it is “Sad fragility of human things! How many centuries and thousands of generations have passed away, of which history, probably, will never tell us anything: what riches and treasures of art will remain for ever buried beneath these ruins…” — Henri Mouhot I used to take my notebook to a lonely…Continue readingEnchanted Beng Melea

ASK ME! rice varieties

• What is green or black rice? Is it like wild rice? — McKenna, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin Good questions. There are thousands of rice varieties in the world, and technically wild rice is not among them. It’s actually the seed of a water grass grown in North America (one to two grains native to North America,…Continue readingASK ME! rice varieties