So Long, Portugal (and my 20’s), and Thanks for All the Fish!

eastern algarve best restaurants

I ushered in my 20’s by  drinking gallons of Strongbow in a London dive bar, which I’m pretty sure had vaguely Indian decor, and which I know overcharged for gin. I remember sitting on a bunch of throw-pillows and making a toast to the end of my youth, to the beginning of adulthood, to my friends, to my general awesomeness, to the bartender, to the waiter who brought me reheated samosas…

The rest is fuzzy, but I definitely skipped class the next day.

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Toro Toro Torrijas!

Madrid Torrijas

We had every intention of spending the four-day Easter weekend in London. Really. But then there were these cheep tickets to Madrid, see, and a sunny forecast with highs in the mid-70s, and an alluring rumor that Semana Santa is the time to troll the streets in search of fried dough. Fried dough drenched in sugar. Fried dough served with wine. So really, no arm twisting was needed here. Continue reading

The Chinese Egg Tart That’s Actually Portuguese (Recipe)

portuguese egg tarts, pastel de nata

Chinatown NYC, August 2013: I discover the Chinese egg tart. I love it. I marvel at the layers of the shatteringly-crisp crust, and the scorched creamy center.  I wonder why it’s so European in technique and flavor. I shove another tart in my mouth and forget to Google an answer.

Belem, Lisbon, November 2013: I come across a bunch of Chinese egg tarts at a cafe and wonder why the Portuguese are selling Chinese desserts. Am told said tart is a pastel de  nata and was actually invented by the Portuguese “you stupid idiot.” I shove another tart my my mouth and again forget to Google the connection.

Nanjing lu, Shanghai, January 2015: I take a Chinese street food tour, which ends at a Portuguese bakery selling, of course, egg tarts. Am told the tarts grew popular in Macau and Hong Kong, where locals have a major sweet tooth. Briefly consider how odd it is that a Portuguese tart chain is so wildly popular in China. Shove another tart in my mouth and try to forget the sea snake murder I just witnessed.

Belem, Lisbon, March 2015: I return to Pastis Belem, order way too many warm custard tarts, pull out my phone and finally (!!!) Google the diaspora of the pastel de nata.  Continue reading

Shanghai Double Take


If you look at Shanghai through a wide lens, it doesn’t differ too much from any other major city. You’ve got skyscrapers, people with jobs, traffic jams, highway systems, schools and hospitals. But if you zoom in say, to the vantage point of a tourist walking on the street, you’ll start to pick out the little oddities that make this particular city so unique. Here are a few gems that made me stop do a double take: Continue reading

The Pancake Man of Shanghai

Shanghai Scallion Pancake

After a day of street food binging in Shanghai, I sent my mom this photo along with the caption: “Amazing scallion pancakes.” Her reply was something like: “Wow, looks so good! Just found a recipe. Can’t wait to try.” And I just shook my head and sighed, because unless  she had an actual barrel full of fire (and maybe a touch of cigarette ash), there’s no way she could ever mimic the magic of the pancake man.
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