Category: Food

The Tokyo Experience That Gives You Culture, Food, And A Good Lesson For Life

rangetsu sukiyaki tokyo japan

What most of us look for when visiting a new place is a local, authentic experience that feels like we’re the first outsider to discover. The best place to find this intersection of culinary culture is to ask a few locals, “where do you eat?” In Tokyo, that’s exactly what I did, which lead me to Rangetsu to try sukiyaki – and you should too.

Misleading Exterior

The polished but humble entrance to Rangetsu is almost too fancy; the kind of decor that leads one to believe you’re paying more for ambiance than good food. But a few steps into the tight hallways of Rangetsu hits you immediately with the sense you’re entering somewhere special. The waiter, in suit and tie, asks for your order – sukiyaki of course – and seats you in a tiny room, sharply closing the curtain behind him.

Contemplating Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki, a lesser know Japanese dish, is a meal of vegetables, noodles, and thinly sliced beef mixed with raw egg served in generally that order. Typically sukiyaki is a winter meal, but Rangetsu serves sukiyaki year-round. Once the curtain has been closed, the silence of your contemplation will be broken by the clicks of the curtain rings as they’re pulled open again. This time, a woman wearing traditional Japanese attire with under heavy makeup takes your drink order, then promptly leaves.

rangetsu tokyo

Your drinks arrive, food order given, and there you are again. Piece by piece, moment by moment, sip by sip, the meal at Rangetsu is reflective of the general Japanese dining experience. Colorful, coordinated, proportional and very much in moderation.

Hot Potting

Every time the waitress comes into your little room, something is cooked in front of you in a small hot pot. The noodles are one course, as is the soup, then vegetables, finally beef with raw egg. Everything is tasty. The kind of quality that makes you notice things like the flavor of individual green beans you normally wouldn’t on most plates. Portions are just enough food to be satisfying leaving ample room for respectable amounts of saki.

The dining culture in Japan is certainly quality over quantity over time and Rangetsu is the manifestation of it all.

sukiyaki

Prices at Rangestu aren’t as high as most places in Ginza, Tokyo’s version of Time Square, but not cheap either. (Despite Tokyo dropping out of the top 10 most expensive cities last year.) A sukiyaki dinner, the full experience, is around $75 but only half that at lunch time.

Sukiyaki at Rangetsu is an event – vaguely like ordering a lomito in Santiago or drinking raki like a Turk – where the meal itself is an ingredient of conversation, reflection, and enjoyment.  Not something to be rushed or overlooked, after a warm sukiyaki then final sip of tea, in the future you might occasionally take a slower bite at your next lunch. Try to feel the flavors as they’re absorbed by different parts of your tongue. Appreciate the next cup of coffee on your way to work or otherwise find the peaceful moment that lies in every food, one of several lessons the sukiyaki at Rangetsu hopefully leaves you with.

The Best Falafel In The World Is In The Middle Of A Decade-Old Sibling Feud

This is the story of two brothers in Beirut, Lebanon, who haven’t spoken in since 2006, when they’re split up their father’s famous falafel shop. (Falafel is a simple dish of fried chickpeas, often wrapped in pita bread.) The two sons of Mustapha Sahyoun, Fuad and Zuheir, inherited the shop in 1992 but due to a dispute they won’t discuss, in 2006, Fuad opened his falafel shop right next door. Both of these shops are considered some of the best falafel in the world; though which is better is something of a local rivalry in itself.

I visited the Sahyoun falafel shops during a visit to Beirut and you learn more about the story in the video here.

Where To Find Bottled Water In Havana, Cuba

havana cuba

You might be thinking a post on where to find bottled water in Cuba’s capital city, Havana, is a weird or stupid thing to be writing (and reading) about – unless you’ve already taken a trip there. Finding bottled water in shops, or shops in Cuba is difficult, because there aren’t many.

Particularly if you’re staying in a casa particular (local home with rooms for rent) or Airbnb (somehow that is an option too) stocking up on bottled water is something every traveler without a plan should be prepared for. Tap water isn’t a safe option but fortunately, bottled water is easy to get, if you know just where to look.

Some Big Hotels

The reason there aren’t many shops in Havana, is because there aren’t many shoppers. Cuba uses a food rationing system (the allowance for eggs is 5 per month, for example) so the larger international hotels are often where you can find Western snacks and water. Some hotels, like the Hotel Presidente, gouge customers with high prices on small bottles of water you’ll sweat out fast – Havana has an average annual temperature of 23C/75F at 76% humidity.

To stock up on larger, 2 liter bottles of water, you can go to the Havana Libre hotel, recognizable from its massive blue lettering.

havana libre hotel cuba

Havana Libre is located off the busy Calle 23 at 23 Calle L E 23 and 25.

Outside of the Havana Libre hotel, immediately to its right if you’re facing it straight on, is a small shop where you can find 2 liter bottles of water on most days. The shop isn’t open late, so if you get thirsty, you can stop by the diner in the Havana Libre hotel, which is open 24 hours. Water purchased at the diner is only a slightly more expensive than from the shop.

Internet Or Water No One Stop Shop

In the evenings, the outside of the diner is illuminated with the glow very old mobile phones, as the Havana Libre hotel is one of the few Internet access points in Havana. Keep in mind if you do want to get online, to purchase your Internet access cards elsewhere – the Havana Libre Internet cards are more than double the price and limited to only the hotel’s connection.

havana cuba sunset

Perhaps not so ironically for Cuba, the Hotel Presidente, which rips people off for water, has Internet access cards for the standard foreigner rate. (There are two currencies, one for locals and Cuban nationals.)

Plan For The Unexpected

I’ve written before that Cuba is not what you think it is. Prior to a trip to Cuba, you’ll need to plan differently, as the country follows its own logic. Simple advice like this can save you an hour upon arrival at Havana’s international airport. Knowing where to find the Internet can get you online, occasionally, slowly, and oddly without much media censorship. There are other – mostly nameless – places to get large bottled water too, the kind you can take back to your room when you get thirsty. And if you find them, grab a few, because it might be a while before you see another.

The Best Cafes In Lisbon, Portugal, For Food-Loving Freelancers

lx factory lisbon portugal

Portugal’s capital Lisbon is truly a city of cafes and small boutique restaurants that feel fancy, creative, and inspirational, while at the same time make you feel a little important too. The kind of cafes where you imagine writing a novel or designing a travel app and your reminiscences of the past are pleasantly interrupted by organic coffee. The cafe culture is a part of the reason Lisbon is becoming a big drawn for millennial expats, a place thousands of you voted the Best City to Visit in 2016.

As I do every year of the Best City contest, I go to the winning city. As I do everywhere, I eat a lot. There are many good choices in Lisbon, Portugal, these being some personal favorites if you like thoughtful food with coffee, whether or not you happen to work online.

1300 Taberna

Located in LX Factory, the old industrial part of Lisbon that’s now pretty much an art district, 1300 Taberna has ambiance with fresh foods on large tables if you need some laptop space. 1300 Taberna isn’t open for many hours, a few in the afternoon – a bit in the evening – but having a built-in deadline goes well with solid wifi, low prices, and staff that are generous with electrical outlets.

1300 taberna lisbon

Portas do Sol

For the days when the weather is warmer and you’re not too worried about an Internet connection, Portas do Sol has amazing views with lots of space in between tables, keeping ambient conversation noise at ideal cafe volume for concentration.

portas do sol lisbon

A Mercearia

The restaurant A Mercearia is amazing. The food is excellent, with the kitchen and chef not more than 10 meters (32 feet) away from anywhere you can sit inside. Any questions or requests for your food allergies or dietary restrictions? Tell the wait staff and the chef will come over and collaborate with you on creative, tasty alternatives. The wireless connection is also strong, plus A Mercearia is quiet in the evenings and the price doesn’t seem at all to match the quality of the service or meals.

a mercearia lisbon

Cafe da Garagem

Although the Cafe da Garagem is hidden under the Teatro (Theater) of Garagem, a lot of people seem to know about it. Open mid-afternoon until late, you’ll want to make reservations because around sunset it’s a popular viewing spot. Otherwise, it’s not uncomfortably crowded.

Cafe da Garagem

Pois, Cafe

Great for breakfasts, Pois, Cafe is certainly the one on this list that feels the most touristy. But Pois, Cafe is popular for many reasons (not that annoying comma in its name) like a diverse coffee menu with wifi. I wouldn’t recommend Pois, Cafe if you like to spread out when you work since table space gets quite limited around noon.

pois cafe lisbon

A Small Sample

Lisbon is a city where the ratio of good cafe choices to bad is so in your favor, it’s easy to find what seems like a hidden treasure. (It could be a Portuguese thing, after all this Porto cafe may be inspired JK Rowling.) These cafes are fairly inexpensive, at the right activity and noise levels, plus provide caffeine in tasty liquids with meals as well. I should also add they don’t mind you spending a few hours typing away as you sip and snack.

These cafes are some of my personal favorites, but those of you who’ve been or live in Lisbon, I would be happy to hear from you – what are some of your favorites? Feel free to let me know in the comments below!

How Difficult Is It To Travel If You’re Vegan?

vegan lufthansa

Recently, after posting photos of the vegan meals being served in business class flights on various flights, a reader asked how difficult it would be to travel after switching to a vegan diet. It’s a big question with a lot depending on where you go, how you travel, and your personal preferences.

How Strict Are You?

There are a group of very strict vegans and those who don’t mind eating an egg or honey on occasion. (Up to a third of vegetarians eat meat when drunk, for example.) People “go vegan” for a variety of reasons – health, animal rights, lactose intolerance – so you may decide on shorter trips to just do your best. If you do, it’s better to accept the decision completely; stressing about finding suitable food options can easily ruin a vacation. On the other hand, if you’re committed to sticking to a strict vegan diet, you’ll need to prepare.

Planning Ahead Is Crucial

You hardly ever need to show up to an airport 3 hours before a flight but if you’re going to fly as a vegan, at the very least you need to arrange your meals well in advance. Ideally, you’ll need to specify at booking that you want a vegan meal. Practically, you’ll need to call the airline as well because in most cases if you don’t, expect a vegetarian meal with cheese.

shephards salad with cheese

Also, you better get to a grocery store first as well, since vegan meals on flights are rarely completely vegan, not to mention mostly salads or vegetables. (Lacking the beans, nuts, and soy many vegans use to supplement their diet with appetite-satisfying protein.) Apps like HappyCow can help you find vegan restaurants but remember that grocery store shopping is going to be a regular part of any trip you take.

More Developed Doesn’t Always Mean More Choices

Many people often assume that more developed countries have more vegan options. Scandinavians use a lot of dairy in their dishes for instance and the Japanese tend to have a diet rich in fish. Conversely, nations with meat-heavy traditional cuisines like Serbia and Kosovo are excellent for vegans. Much of Turkish cuisine too, is unintentionally vegan. India, famous for its vegetarian cuisine, can be hard for vegans due to the common use of clarified butter (ghee).

food chandni chowk

Vegan options actually vary much more between cities than nations. Germany, for example, isn’t the most vegan-friendly country but Berlin is one of the best cities for vegans. Larger cities tend to have more vegan options simply due to size, though it doesn’t always mean the restaurants will be close to your accommodation. Again, plan accordingly and get used to grocery store visits.

On the surface, it might not seem like a big jump to go from vegetarian to vegan because the world is getting close to being caught up on what a vegetarian is. Keep in mind that the concept of vegetarianism is still be confusing to many around the world, even though vegetarians make up about 20% the world population. There are far, far less vegans; therefore much less understanding of what vegan is.

To travel as a vegan you’ll not only need to get used to planning, shopping, and arranging your travels around the food you eat, but become very used to explaining as well. The summarized version of no-meat-no-dairy usually isn’t sufficient so study menus well, list ingredients, and accept that not every restaurant or waiter will be sensitive to your dietary restrictions.

Are you a traveling vegan? What would you add and what have your experiences been? Feel free to share in the comments below!

I’ve Got Good, Free Coffee For You That Supports A Great Cause

Although coffee might not seem directly travel or technology related, it fuels a lot of our days when we’re on the road – and back home as well. A good friend of mine Felipe and his wife recently created a coffee subscription service that brings unique blends right to your door. At 1723 Coffee Roasters, you can choose single-origin, organic coffee blends from South and Central America to be delivered to your home or office on a weekly or monthly basis. For every subscription purchase, 1723 Coffee Roasters in partnership with the non-profit Techo, will help rebuild a home for a family that has been affected by a natural disaster in Central and South America.

1723 coffee coupon code

Felipe was kind enough to give all of us a coupon code so you can get your first order free on any subscription. There are more details in the video above but go to 1723Coffee.com, use the code “NOMAD” at checkout, and enjoy your next brew!

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More


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