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NORTH AMERICAN FOOD
Is there ever a good time to tip in Japan?
What is 'edamame' and how do I eat
kid-friendly Thai food?
How do you use chopsticks?
How do you pronounce 'Satay'?
Q. What are the
effects of eating too much Japanese horseradish?
What is the bread called
that's part of Indian food?
understand that it is customary in Japan NOT to tip at
any restaurant or service-providing facility. Are sushi-ya
Japan is a land where tipping is an alien concept-- it's
not done to anyone there, ever, which makes it an easy
rule to remember, and even easier to follow.
Instead, everyone- including people in roles where we in
America would normally tip- is paid a decent salary.
Incidentally, The Food Virgin once tried to tip some
especially helpful hotel staff, but that just ended in a
lot of embarrassed Japanese-style giggling, and the
return of my money. So relax, and enjoy your trip
there! P.S. When in America, tip as per
usual at Japanese restaurants, like you would at any
I went out to eat Japanese food recently with
friends, and something called 'edamame' came to the table.
It looked like a bowl full of pea pods, and one friend
said we should eat the pods, like with snow peas, while
another said to just eat the beans inside. Which one
Your 2nd friend is right- definitely don't eat the pods!
Edamame is a popular Japanese appetizer, and is fun finger
(and mouth) food. Pick up a pod, put it near your
mouth, and squeeze the beans into your mouth.
Discard the empty pod either into a bowl that the waiter
will bring out just for this, or put them in a neat pile
on your plate or side plate.
I read your article on Thai food and want to try it, but
will have to take my whole family. Will there be
anything there that I can feed my 5 and 8 year olds?
Yes! Although some Thai food can be spicier than
kids are used to, other dishes are great for kids.
Start them off with chicken satay, which can either be
eaten plain or dipped into the peanut sauce. For
main dishes, fried fish, pandan chicken, and tom kar gai
are all mild. You can also ask whether a chili-free
version of pad thai or other dishes can be made.
At home when I eat Chinese food, I eat it with a fork, but
when I'm out, sometimes chopsticks are available.
I've seen people using them and they make it look easy,
but I tried it once and it didn't work for me at all!
Will anyone care if I don't use chopsticks in a Chinese
Well, the good news is that no one will really care if you
stick to the good old tried-and-true fork when you eat at
Asian food restaurants in America. But the even
better news is that it's not all that hard to learn how to
eat with chopsticks. The trick is to hold your hand
out as if you're about to shake hands, then curve your
fingers comfortably. Anchor one chopstick across the
end of your middle finger and the joint of your thumb.
Your thumb pressing toward your palm will keep it in
place. The other chopstick will be held between the
ends of your thumb and index finger and will rest against
the index finger. This is the chopstick that will
move so that you can pick up items and hold them firmly.
It is easier to learn with wooden chopsticks, as these
have better grip than ceramic ones. Order Chinese
and practice at home until you are comfortable enough to
try it in a restaurant. For more instruction, try
this link to eHow: eHow-
How to Eat with Chopsticks.
Q. How do you pronounce the Thai food, 'satay'?
A. There are
two ways to pronounce this delicious meaty appetizer:
sa-TAY, and SA-tay. Both seem to be used in Asia,
but the first one is more common, whereas the latter is
a bit more European/American. For more Thai food
pronunciations, check out the
Thai food page.
Q. What are the
effects of eating too much Japanese horseradish?
breathing horseradish breath on your date?
Japanese horseradish, also known as 'wasabi', does have
some useful properties. It is used with sushi to
help kill any bacteria that might remain in the raw
fish. The real question is, why are you eating too
much wasabi anyway?
Q. What's the
bread that goes with Indian food? It looks like
pita bread, but is longer.
A. You probably
mean naan (pronounced with a long 'a', similar to 'non'
as in 'nonsense'). You can get it plain, with
garlic, sometimes even with cheese. Use it to
scoop up your curries. We also like pappadums,
which are the Indian version of crackers, served at the
beginning of the meal. You can dip pappadums into
mint sauce, mango chutney, or other condiments brought
out with them.
Is Ethiopian food vegetarian?
Q. I'm a
vegetarian, and a friend told me that I should try
Ethiopian food- but I thought that that's got meat in
it. Am I right, or is she right?
A. You are
right- mostly. Many Ethiopian stews, called 'wat',
are meat-based. It is possible, though, to have a
full Ethiopian meal while enjoying meat-free dishes.
Ethiopians, in fact, have many days when it is customary
to eat vegetarian food only for the whole day. If
you are the type who doesn't mind that people around you
are eating meat, then certainly give Ethiopian food a
try. If you are very strict vegan, though, and
don't want boiled eggs or beef anywhere near the dishes
you'll be eating from, stick to restaurants that cater
SOUTH AMERICAN FOOD
choose to go for Rodizio, what are the odds I can order
a la carte?
My boyfriend wants to take me to a Brazilian restaurant,
but I'm not a big eater. Your site says that you
ate at a place that just offered a buffet, but is that
the case everywhere? I'd rather just order one
A. You're probably out of
luck. Most Churrcasco restaurants offer just the
choice of full rodizio buffet (with salad bar), or just
salad bar only. Some will give you the choice of
ordering side dishes, while others will simply bring
them all out to you. I recommend on the day you go
for this, that you skip lunch, or work out, or do
whatever it is that works up an appetite for you.
You'll be glad you did.
Do people really eat
Is crocodile on the menu there? And is it popular?
A. People do eat crocodile
in Australia, though you'll need to search around a bit
to find it- it's not as common as beef or chicken or
fish. If you're heading Down Under on a trip, keep
your eyes peeled for a number of things we don't usually
eat in North America: Ostrich, kangaroo, emu, and
'shark' in their fish and chips (which isn't the Jaws
kind of shark, but you can feel free to hum the theme
song if you want to anyway).
How did French food
become so stuffy?
What is saganaki?
Is it an ancient food?
What time to Greeks eat
What's the deal- why is it French food is stuffy?
Why not Italian food, or Spanish food? What gives?
A. France, like many other regions
of the world, has always prided itself on its local
produce. Dijon mustard, fine wines, fresh cheeses,
truffles, and so on. If you travel there, you'll
find that even with simpler restaurants, the cooks will
take pride in what they prepare. The stuffy
element of French food, though, came about 200 years
ago, when French chefs started to be in hot demand by
European aristocracy. Russian Czars, British Kings
and others, all wanted to replicate the lavish buffets
and rich, creamy foods originally created by a chef
called Antonin Carême.
He is sometimes known as 'The Founder of
Is saganaki an ancient Greek food item?
A. Saganaki, the delicious
grilled cheese dish, has been around Greece and Turkey
for quite some time. Exactly how long, though, is
something we're still looking into. Given that
cheese has been around for many millenia now, the
question comes down to "when did some bright spark
decide to try grilling it in a saganaki pan?"
What time do Greeks eat baklava?
A. Baklava is a dessert, so
eat it any time you'd normally eat a dessert food: After
meals. With coffee in the afternoon. As a
midnight snack (don't think we don't know!).
NORTH AMERICAN FOOD
When it is safe to eat
How do you put together a taco?
I've heard that you can eat oysters in any month that
has an 'r' in it. Is this true for shellfish that
comes from New Orleans and other U.S. cities, or is it
for Europe only?
A. The whole 'r' month
problem is generally becoming obsolete these days.
It used to be that before refrigerated shipping was the
norm, you'd have to stick to oysters, mussels and snails
harvested during Fall, Winter and Spring. Summer
was a problem because bacteria levels were higher then
in these creatures. Nowadays, the only issue is
for people with shellfish sensitivities. Of
course, cooked shellfish are usually safer to eat than
raw or partially cooked. As for crustaceans (like
lobsters, crabs, prawns and shrimp), these will have
various molting seasons. Pay attention to what the
specials and 'catches of the day' are- these are
normally things that are caught in season. Of
course, double check with the waiter whether this is the
I like Mexican food, but have always wondered- is there
a 'right way' to assemble a taco?
A. An interesting question!
There are definitely better and worse ways to assemble a
taco, just like there are better and worse ways to put
together a burger. Step one, is to hold the taco
shell in your left hand (or if you're left-handed, then
in your right). Next, put a reasonable amount of
meat on the bottom; if it's a flat, round shell, then
put the meat in a strip in the middle of the shell.
Next, add runny sauces- salsa, guacamole, pico de gallo.
Then, add the vegetables, such as tomatoes and onions.
Lastly add the lettuce. In the case of a hard
shell, eat it by laying a finger over the lettuce layer
to keep everything in, while you bit one end. In
the case of soft shells, fold one side across the strip
of fillings you've put in, then fold the bottom two
inches up, then fold the opposite side back across the
first side. Eat it from the open top. If
done right, it should be drip-free!
You're not planning on eating penguins,
Q. What different kind of
table settings are there?
Q. What different kind of table settings
will I find if I'm going to different ethnic
A. As we write up each
cuisine, we'll tell you when the table setting is
different from what we're used to in America.
Sometimes, it's just a little bit different, like
finding tongs above your plate at a Brazilian
Churrascaria; other times, you'll find items like
chopsticks, decorative spoons, lobster shell crackers
and other useful but mysterious gadgets and utensils.
Check each column for details.