Having long suspected, I first noticed it at Burger King. We were in the Bangkok Airport waiting for our flight to the states. The kids were getting hungry so we decided to stop at Burger King (the “BKK BK”) for a bite to eat. I ordered my first Whopper in years, peeled back the wrapper and took a bite.
Wham! It hit me! Something didn’t taste right. I tried another burger and it was the same…
I could Taste. The. Preservatives.
Having lived overseas now for more than a decade, we have grown to appreciate good food. Let me take that back. We were forced to appreciate real food because we eat fresh every meal. You have to go out of your way to find something canned or prepackaged.
When we want to eat western, we either learn to cook it (see our sidebar of categories) or when we travel we make plans to eat western food.
Yes, we have traveled overnight by train for hundreds of miles to eat at a good, western restaurant. Consequently, the bar is raised. You expect good food after enduring a train car full of chain-smokers.
You expect a small respite from cross-cultural navigating. A quick break, where you don’t have to think about the many translations of what a dish could mean.
You just want to sit down to good music, order a tasty burger, thick shake and fries… hold the surprise.
Since moving to Dali, a major tourist hub, our options for western food has expanded. If you travel to old town, you will find dozens of Western and “western” restaurants.
Western restaurants, usually started by expats, are generally passable…with decent food and atmosphere.
Meanwhile, “western” restaurants – if they have not had any consultation by expats, are generally best suited for local Chinese wanting to safely experience their stereotypical expectations of a western dining experience.
Menus tend to have one or two “western” stupendously overpriced exotic options (“Italy noodles”, “Black Pepper Beef Steak”, “Toast”) and the rest of the menu remains filled with Chinese selections as a way out for the less adventurous.
Pizza that was so good I was asking the kids If I could eat theirs. Hand-crafted hazelnut gelato. Pasta that had me licking the plate. Iced-coffee that made me – a former barista – proud. And finally a tiramisù so good that I haven’t encountered since Florence. Yes, there was espresso poured on top.
It was so amazing… I am designating it my “third place”. So, if you ever drop by you may just find me sitting upstairs in the lounge area, sipping on a root beer while tackling my inbox.