Friday, October 14, 2011

Food Sampler

Last night was my first "cultural" experience in Riyadh, in the sense there was something different other than just strolling through the mall and finding some architectural feature (which, over here, is probably a sail and a boat, and then, a sail and a boat).

Hamming it up with staffers of the Japanese Embassy at the ASEAN Festival.
I was invited to a food festival by one of my former colleagues and his new friends here in the city at the Royal Embassy of Thailand.  My role was a food sampler (a small joke at my expense.)  Well, it wasn't really a food festival but actually the cultural festival for the entire ASEAN, in cooperation with the Japanese embassy.

We arrived a little bit late for the start of the festivities.  Riyadh's Diplomatic Quarter is a whole new community in itself, so being there is like being separated from the rest of the city.  After some twists and turns we found our way to the embassy and mingled with the rest of the crowd.  It was well represented by staffers from all the participating countries, plus some guests from other embassies.  I'm sure somebody looking for a different kind of fun wouldn't want to be there.  As we stepped in, three statuesque blondes in high heels, one wearing a sequined gown to boot, were walking away from the embassy.  Automatic minus points.  Still, quick thanks for that unique sight.  Haven't gotten that kind of view since my last visit in Dubai.

Anyhow, almost all of the ten ASEAN countries had food booths set up in the front yard of the Thai ambassador's residence.  Noticeably absent was Myanmar, which was only selling novelties and other gift items, and Vietnam, which had its big flag left all alone in an empty booth.  (Edit:  of course I forgot about Cambodia and Laos, both of which did not participate in any way.  Maybe they don't have embassies here.  I don't know.)

First up: the Malaysian food booth.  Primary offerings - mee hon (noodle soup) and satay (barbecued meat - they had chicken and lamb) with its own sauce.  They also had fried spicy noodles.  Took a bowl of the mee hon.  Tastes like your bowl of sotanghon soup, with some sweet notes in the spicy sauce, most probably peanut.  Chicken broth was top-rate.  Noodles - a bit undercooked.  Sauce - toss-up.  Took some of the fried noodles - tastes like factory spicy noodles.  I didn't try their version of the satay.

The Thai booth was filled.  As in filled.  They were making brisk business.  I didn't want to line up for that baby - I was hungry.  Next up - the Brunei booth.  I bought the nasi lemak chicken/beef combo which looked a little promising.  Their smoothies were doing brisk sales, but I already had my sugar rush for the day, so I didn't get any.   The beef tasted Pinoy bistek with added pepper.  The chicken?  No word for it.  It shouldn't be gamey, but it was.  Rice was slightly sweet - a common theme for the rest of the night.  I hated throwing away food, but there it was.  So goodbye.

Some Singaporean kids waylaid us with sweet cakes for SR1.  Goodbye SR5.  Didn't see any of that, my friends took their share and none for me.

Made my way to the Indonesia and Singapore area.  The Indonesians offered dumplings and their version of satay (Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia offered some), while the Singaporeans had a curry served with French bread, which was amusing if they actually ate it that way in Singapore.  So-so curry.

Two Thai teenagers in costume, flanked by two cement posts.
Took the Indonesian satay, which had a mixed sauce of peanut chili and vinegar/soy with capsicum and onion.  Some rice balls to take the edge off.  My winner for the evening.

The Filipino booth had the most potential, if only they knew how to present our food.  First off, the embassy screwed up by not allowing other suppliers to do business, only their in-house caterer.  That wasn't bad in itself, but the caterer didn't take the opportunity to do something creative.  No Philippine flag either.  As for the food, their chicken adobo and sotanghon soup were uninspired, because they were covered and people couldn't see how appealing they were, if only....

Their only saving grace was their sweets.  I had a craving for leche flan, so I took one shared half of it with one of my companions.

After eating, we made our way inside and watched a group of Filipino highschoolers present four Mindanao dances.  Great show.

We had a lot of laughs during the night and I wish I could post more pictures - have a schedule and my Internet connection right now is not helping.  I put most of the good ones in Facebook, so any of my friends would have a treat looking at them.

About the only downer of the night was some miscreant puked at the side of our vehicle.  We really have to make do with our neighbors.  After all, their wealth is what is making us earn our keep.

No comments: