Restaurant Review: Jiwan in Doha, Qatar

While on a last-minute daylong layover in Doha, Qatar, I was invited by In-Q Enterprises to write a restaurant review over breakfast at one of their premier clients, Jiwan.

Located inside the avant-garde National Museum of Qatar complex, with sweeping views of the Doha skyline and the Arabian Sea, Jiwan offers can seat more than 200 guests, both inside, and on the beautiful terrace. It opened in December 2019, and has been a popular spot on Doha’s culinary scene ever since.

National Museum of Qatar, Doha
National Museum of Qatar, Doha

Jiwan, which specializes in showcasing Qatari and other Middle Eastern dishes with a contemporary flair, comes from the Arabic word for perfect pearl. Before dry natural gas and petroleum were discovered, Qatar was a world leader in pearl diving; a “perfect pearl” is one that has a rose-tinted white color, with mirror-like radiance.

Furthermore, Jiwan is part of the Alain Ducasse family of restaurants. Hailing from France, Alain Ducasse was the first chef to have three different three Michelin star restaurants under his belt; in addition to France and Qatar, his company has restaurants and chocolateries throughout the world, including in the United States, Japan, Thailand, and Singapore.

Although those outposts generally focus on French specialties, Jiwan takes a markedly different approach. The idea behind Jiwan is to take Qatari and other Middle Eastern favorites, give them a contemporary spin, and present many of them to be shared at your table.

Jiwan’s menu and service reflect our generous hospitality – every effort is made to make you feel comfortable in our company.
Jiwan’s menu and service reflect our generous hospitality – every effort is made to make you feel comfortable in our company.

After having read that paragraph, I presume a number of us have one question mind: what is Qatari food?

The easy answer: let’s continue below.
Another answer: rice and grilled or boiled meat play a big role in Qatari cuisine.

However, if you’re more into learning about what the condiments and spices are like, then I’ve got you covered.

You see, with Qatar’s history along major seafaring trade routes between three continents, dried limes (loomi), ginger, cumin, cinnamon, and cardamom, and cloves play a big role in adding extra flavor to dishes such as:

majboos, arguably the Qatari national dish, it contains slow-cooked meat with rice and some of the above-mentioned spices. Tomatoes and onions might also be present.


harees, a rice and lentil porridge with meat.

But those are just a couple of the most popular examples of Qatari meals, albeit not typically served for breakfast. It would be fair to say that my breakfast at Jiwan turned into an early lunch, due to the affable nature of Executive Chef Morgan Perrigaud.

Executive Chef Perrigaud hails from the Brittany region of France, and possesses a distinguished background from having worked at Michelin-starred kitchens in France, Spain, and the United Kingdom. He’s a very down-to-earth person, eager to take on the challenge of trying to prepare modern takes on regional dishes for an extremely diverse clientele.

Jiwan Restaurant Entrance
Jiwan Restaurant Entrance

Soon after being seated, I was served a detox beetroot shake, Qatari coffee with dates on the side, and a bottle of still water. It’s important to note that every employee was attentive, with all exemplifying the Japanese concept of omotenashi, in other words providing good hospitality without being overbearing.

And then the first plates arrived.

Breakfast Selection
Regag, Qatari Coffee, Scrambled Eggs, Balaleet, Green Shakshuka

Starting from the left, we have eggplant regag. Regag is a baked flatbread made with wheat, salt, and water, and baked until slightly crispy. These regag were stuffed with eggplant, and were quite fun to eat. They were especially good the majboos-spiced eggs, and kale shakshuka, or soft-cooked eggs ordinarily prepared with tomato sauce. The regag and shaksuka was an especially memorable flavor combo; it was surprising to see kale make an appearance on a menu specializing in Gulf cuisines, but that’s all part of how Chef Perrigaud has been contemporizing the dishes.

The one item that seemed way out of place on an otherwise delicious breakfast menu was called balaleet. Although it’s certainly from the region — either from Iran, or one of the Arabian Gulf countries — as a postscript, I’m glad I was never offered it before. Basically, it is rice vermicelli sweetened with sugar, cardamom, and rose water, and served with strips of eggs; other recipes call for onions and potatoes, but Jiwan stopped short of adding those two things to this bizarre creation.

Although this was only “round 1,” I needed get up and move around a bit. At this point, one of the managers approached me to describe how much detail went into the design of Jiwan. For example, the carpet is colored different hues of blue, to reflect the Arabian Sea. Also, given that the name of the restaurant means “perfect pearl,” there are countless Swarovski glass “pearls” suspended from the ceiling.

Jiwan’s unique design appeals to the curious explorer
Jiwan’s unique design appeals to the curious explorer

And the terrace wasn’t too shabby either.

Pod Seats #2
Pod seats on Jiwan’s terrace
Pod Seats
Pod seats overlooking the Doha skyline and Arabian Sea

Too hot! I retreated back to my table for the next tasty round.

Fatteh (Chickpeas and Garlicky Tahini Yogurt) & Foamy Minty Labneh with Tamarind
Fatteh (Chickpeas and Garlicky Tahini Yogurt) & Foamy Minty Labneh with Tamarind

Two simple sounding plates with two exceedingly divergent flavors. And both were excellent.

On the left, a garlicky mash of tahini, yogurt, and chickpeas, something I would absolutely eat everyday, either with a toasted carb of some sort, or with crudités. Its companion to the right is labneh, strained yogurt, a Middle Eastern classic, but in this case made with mint and tamarind, and whipped to the point of being foamy. Coincidentally, there were some tamarind trees right outside of the National Museum of Qatar, which makes me wonder where in the country Jiwan sources many of its ingredients.

Housemade Baharat
Housemade Baharat

I asked for olive oil and flatbread to enjoy with the yogurt, and got a bonus of the chef’s blend of baharat, or spices.

Now, at this point, there was another short break between courses. I had sampled the breakfast menu, and was now being offered other dishes to try.

Ginger Saffron Rice
Ginger Saffron Rice

Ginger saffron rice. I was already quite satisfied with the carbs by this point, but I have to admit, the strong ginger and subtle saffron flavors made this unexpected dish a hit.

As I was enjoying rice, Chef Perrigaud mentioned something about charred octopus. Being a huge fan of seafood, I was curious to know if I could get in on the Cephalopod action.

Indeed I could.

Charred Octopus with a Chile Sauce
Charred Octopus with a Chile Sauce

What a flavor and texture trip.Grilled just enough for the right crisp, while still retaining both the flavor of octopus, and a slight chewiness.

Upon my request, the nice Sri Lankan chefs whipped up a chili pepper sauce to accompany the expertly grilled octopus.

If we didn’t have to worry about cholesterol, I’d eat this everyday, too.

Following a brief third respite from eating, it was time for dessert. Now, whereas I was quite satisfied with most of the courses up until this point, dessert was something of a letdown.

Pineapple with Mint and Saffron, Pistachio and Labneh Crepe, Hazelnut Cake
Pineapple with Mint and Saffron, Pistachio and Labneh Crepe, Hazelnut Cake

Clockwise from the top left, hazelnut cake, pistachio and labneh crepe, and pineapple with mint in a saffron and pomegranate juice.

In this case, I’d have to give the top spot to the dessert least affected by the hands of a chef, that is the pineapple. I’ve tended to consider saffron as a very strong flavor, but again, just like with the ginger rice, it took a backseat to the freshness of the tropical pineapple, and the earthy mint.

As for other two plates, the hazelnut cake was sorely lacking in flavor, and the crepe was barely sweet. That weird balaleet served at breakfast was much more befitting of a typical dessert than these two things.

I was hoping for something more local, perhaps luqaimat, fried dough balls topped with date syrup and sesame seeds, but you can’t win ’em all.

In spite of the subpar dessert, I had a quality time at Jiwan. The service was on point, Chef Perrigaud seemed like a genuine fellow having a good time creating the restaurant’s menu, and the rest of the food was a nice blend of local and international flavors. The clean appearance of the interior and terrace, unique location at the National Museum of Qatar, and welcoming atmosphere further sealed the deal.

If you happen to be in Doha, I’d recommend a breakfast or lunch at Jiwan.


Riyadh Food Review, Part 1 of 2: Breaking the Fast (Iftar)

This past March, I was invited by Saudi Arabia’s Culinary Arts Commission, a division of their Ministry of Culture, to discuss and experience the rapidly evolving food scene in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

Led by Mrs. Mayada Badr, who has an extensive background in the culinary arts, the Culinary Arts Commission (CAC) was introduced in February 2020 with the following vision:

  • To research and document historical Saudi cuisine
  • To promote Saudi cuisine on the world stage
  • To help make Saudi Arabia a culinary destination

I found that everyone on the CAC team was quite dedicated to those three main goals, and that all had brought their unique backgrounds and talents for the benefit of Saudi Arabia.

My visit happened to coincide with the start of Ramadan (رمضان), the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, when the new crescent moon can be seen. Ramadan is particularly notable because it is believed that the first words of the Qu’ran were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) during this time.

Crescent Moon over Riyadh's Kingdom Centre
Crescent Moon over Riyadh’s Kingdom Centre

Consequently, Ramadan became the time to brush up on reading the Qu’ran, to show mercy, and to offer forgiveness.

However, to most non-Muslims, it is best known as the month of fasting between sunrise and sunset.

That also means, from dusk to dawn, there’s a lot of food to be enjoyed.

For a short primer–

  • suhoor (سحور) is the meal eaten pre-dawn, before one begins to fast
  • sawm (صوم‎) means fasting
  • iftar (افطار) is the meal that breaks the fast at dusk; given the hunger pangs by that time, it’s generally buffet-style

For part one (of two total parts), let’s visit a pair of delectable iftar spots in Riyadh.

The Ministry of Culture’s Ramadan Tent

On the first night of Ramadan, I was presented with a VIP ticket to the Ministry of Culture’s Ramadan Tent, located close to the burgeoning economic district of the metropolis.

Forming part of the greater Ramadan Season series of events, the Ramadan Tent is open from 17:00 – 03:00. For iftar, you can feast on the culinary delicacies of not only the Middle East, but also Italy and South Asia. Then, just outside of the tent, there’s shopping, entertainment, and snacks/drinks to enjoy. Once you’ve gotten your fill of everything else, you can go back inside of the tent for suhoor offerings.

I had some nice conversation with locals and tent staff; people were in especially good spirits because this was the first “Covid-19 is in our rear window” Ramadan season.

And I gobbled up just about everything that I put on my plate.

(I’ve got a number of photos for your viewing pleasure; there were purple lights everywhere, so please forgive the purplish hues spotlighting everything.)


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Iftar at the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh

How could an event like the Ramadan Tent be topped? Well, it wouldn’t need to be topped, but it did find match at the opulent Ritz-Carlton Riyadh.

Originally designed as a guest house for visiting dignitaries, it … definitely shows.

Ritz-Carlton Riyadh Lobby
Ritz-Carlton Riyadh Lobby


Once I got over the fact that the hotel wasn’t built with me in mind, I made my way over to the Saudi coffee display in the lobby.

Saudi Coffee Ceremony Display @ the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh
Saudi Coffee Ceremony Display @ the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh

During Ramadan, it wasn’t in use, but typically someone would be there to show guests the elaborate ceremony involved in preparing coffee, Saudi-style. There’s even a type of coffee found only in Saudi Arabia/Yemen, called Khawlani (and here I thought there was just Arabica and Robusta).

n.b coffee in Arabic is قهوة (qahwa). Depending on where you are in Saudi Arabia, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, or saffron might be added. Not to mention, 2022 was the Year of Saudi Coffee!

On with the food, right?

I was intrigued to find the buffet not outside, nor in a standard issue restaurant setting, but wrapped around the Ritz-Carlton’s swimming pool.

Ritz-Carlton Riyadh Swimming Pool
Ritz-Carlton Riyadh Swimming Pool (with the iftar buffet in the background)

Seating however, was entirely outside … quite nice when you’ve got wonderful March temperatures like that (summertime might be another story).

Outdoor Seating
Outdoor Seating

As for the food, there was a good mix of Saudi, Levantine, random (e.g. sushi), Indian, salads, and dessert.

In particular, I had a long chat with the pastry chef, who then prepared a giant plate of regional and Western desserts for me. One of the more memorable dishes was umm ali, a bread pudding-like dessert originally hailing from Egypt, and consisting of puff pastry, milk, cream, and a bunch of other goodies such as a coconut, various nuts, and sometimes raisins.

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I had a blast at both the Ramadan Tent, and the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh iftar, but there’s something I haven’t shared with you yet.

Iftar represented only one piece of a day’s meals. There were heaps more things to eat — and to drink — but after all of that buffet fun, was I up for the task?

Stayed tuned for Part 2 of this Riyadh Food Review!

Ruam Mit (รวมมิตร), The Diplomat of Thai Desserts

Maybe it’s unusual to think that today’s post is about one of my favorite desserts in the world.

Sure, when I want something sweet, I mean really sweet, it will be from Türkiye. And if I want something pseudo-healthy, it will be an Indian mango lassi.

But when in Southeast Asia, I can’t get enough of those Frankenstein’s monster’s bowls of goop, slop, and ice.

ruam mit Thai dessert food display
Cheng Sim Ei, Thai Desserts (Ruam Mit), Bangkok, Thailand

Although I didn’t know the name for the dessert until doing a little reading about, I found out that the Thai name, รวมมิตร (ruam mit), means “get together + friends.” Makes sense, because you’ve got your fruit, tubers, roots, gelatin, syrup, beans, legumes, and weird colors you may never have expected to see in a dessert, all coming together for a saccharine dalliance. So, grab some friends, grab some ladles, order a family-style — I just made that up, but try to order something that contains a little of everything — and then walk it all off in the heat.

ruam mit Thai dessert Bangkok
Cheng Sim Ei Menu, Thai Desserts (Ruam Mit), Bangkok, Thailand

Bonus: Cheng Sim Ei, by Bangkok’s City Hall, might spoil you with an English menu. For shame!

The Land of Rice and Sake: A Small Feast from Joetsu, Niigata, Japan

It’s true. Of all the potential prefectures (roughly states/provinces) in Japan to be considered the “land of rice and sake,” Niigata often leads the pack. Of course, it helps that sake, the quintessential Japanese liquor enjoyed warm or chilled, is made from rice … indeed, according to one source, Niigata prefecture regularly vies with Hokkaido for the top spot in rice-paddy yield, and total area dedicated to rice-paddy cultivation.

Thus, with all of this hubbub about being one of the culinary centers of Japan, not just for rice and sake but for seafood, hot sauce(called Kanzuri; link in Japanese) and even B kyuu gurume, I decided to take a day trip from Kanazawa to Joetsu city Joetsu (上越市).

Hopping on the Hakutaka shinkansen, or bullet train, in Kanazawa, I made it to Joetsu about 50 minutes later. After walking a couple of miles to Takada Castle to check out its lily ponds, and a stop at a secondhand shop to rummage through bygone electronics, my hunger pangs led me to a restaurant called Gunchan. (Note: I generally don’t care about restaurant reviews, because I’m the only one with my taste buds. This particular branch gets a low rating online, so I guess my delicious meal was an off day?)

Niigata cuisine Joetsu Japan
Gunchan Restaurant, Jouetsu, Niigata Prefecture, Japan

CRAB MISO soup, seasonal fish sashimi and tempura, and a brisk glass of regional sake were just some of the highlights. Suffice it to say, I’d go back.

Baikal (Байкал), the Soviet Coca-Cola?

Baikal (known in Russian as Байкал “bai-kal”), was first created in the Soviet Union in the late 1960s’  partially as a response to Coca Cola’s rapidly expanding presence throughout the world.  Although Coca Cola wasn’t even being sold in the country at the time – even Pepsi beat them to the punch – Baikal’s producers wanted to instill pride in the nation. Thus, they adopted the name Baikal, showing deference to the storied Siberian lake, the largest freshwater lake in the world by volume.

How would I describe the flavor?  Different.  It had a hint of coniferous tree, processed sugar, and some unusual mix of herbs which I couldn’t quite place at the time.  Apparently, Baikal’s ingredients include black tea extract, lemon oil, cardamom oil, eucalyptus oil -what?  can we even consume this one? – and eleutherococcus senticosus, aka Siberian ginseng aka devil’s bush, known to be both an adaptogen and part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

You may not think of Russia these days as a soda powerhouse, and that’s possibly because you didn’t grow up in the Soviet Union, or in a Russian-speaking neighborhood.  They’ve got quite a loyal following for some drinks – if I can find the picture, I will also write about the neon green tarragon-flavored soda – and the flavors from decades ago sound equally tantalizing.

Does pine-flavored soda intrigue you?  Or, have you given up on sodas all together and go straight for the sugar packets?

My First Digital Food Photo

Next month will mark 18 years since my first digital food photo. Whew. Oddly enough, I didn’t have any interest in food photography until I studied abroad in Asia; in other words, I have many digital photos from before August 2004, but they were mostly just blurry images of airports, or my hands covering the lens.

Well then, what was my first food photo? A slice of pizza? Gum? A picture of me face-down next to a bottle of tequila?


In August 2004, my dad and I were visiting Singapore (and subsequently Bangkok) for the first time. During one of our frequent dips into a shopping center for much-coveted air conditioning, we decided to check out a random restaurant. Neither of us knew what they were serving, which made it that much more enticing curious.

Turns out, it was Thai hot pot, called suki (สุกี้) in Thai.

thai hot pot suki
Thai Suki (Hot Pot), Singapore

Having scarcely eaten Thai food, let alone any sort of hot pot, getting served a big ol’ plate of je ne sais quoi was a good primer for Thailand. To this day, I haven’t figured out what was boiling in that pot, but I can tell you that I haven’t had it since.

Do you remember/have your first digital food photo?

It’s Not a Bagel, it’s an Obwarzanek (Krakow, Poland)

At the end of the day, it’s all carbs, carbs, carbs.

But the question wasn’t about that. It’s about the relationship between a bagel and an obwarzanek, the most famous edible export of Krakow, Poland. Did one descend from the other?

It does seem like the obwarzanek, which stems from the Polish word obwarzać (=to parboil), was the first of the two circles of doughy goodness to have been recorded somewhere, as far back as the late 1300s. German immigrants are to said to have introduced to Poland the salty, twisty snack known as the pretzel, which then transubstantiated into a ring with a giant hole in the middle, today’s obwarzanek.

obwarzanek Krakow Poland
Obwarzanek Krakowski, Krakow, Poland

And yes, I wrote transubstantiate because religion — specifically, Catholicism — played a much bigger role in Polish society at the time. Indeed, when Queen Jadwiga, the first female ruler of the Kingdom of Poland, during Lent chose to eat obwarzanek over sweet pastries — both were considered luxury items at the time, with the former being composed mostly of wheat, and the latter of wheat and sugar — their consumption spread … among other aristocrats (Indeed, rye was the grain of choice until the price of wheat substantially lowered for working-class consumers).

But that’s just one story. Another recounts the tales of Polish soldiers gobbling up obwarzanki (the plural form) before a 1410 battle with German troops. That’s the patriotic spin on the rise in popularity of the ring of boiled dough.

No matter which anecdote intrigues your taste buds, it’s difficult to overlook the impact that Jewish peasants had on baked goods. To wit, for centuries, European Jews weren’t even allowed to bake anything (let alone sell baked goods), due to the fact that 1) they were considered enemies of the church, ergo 2) they couldn’t get involved with bread, since it was directly connected to the holy sacrament of the eucharist.

However, in the 1200s, the Polish Prince Boleslaw the Pious decreed that Jews could finally handle bread; since many gentiles (non-Jews) assumed the bakeries were poisoning the finished products, Jews mainly stuck to boiling the dough. They sold rye obwarzanek — salt, sesame seed, and poppy seed — on the street until prohibited from doing so again by the Krakow bakers guild in 1496.


Polish Protected Geographical Indication Symbol
Polish Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Symbol

Skipping ahead quite some time in the history of obwarzanek, we’ve made it to 2010. The obwarzanek krakowski (denoting that it’s originally from Krakow) was added to the European Union’s Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) list that year, meaning that something by that name could only be sold in Krakow and Wieliczka counties. The PGI symbol mandates a specific weight, production process, and shape for whichever food item falls under its aegis, although the ingredients don’t all have to come from Krakow/Wieliczka.

So, if you see something called obwarzanek being sold in another part of Poland, Chicago, or Giza, it’s a counterfeit! Step away from the fake, and visit Krakow for the real deal:


Oreos: Omnipresent, Overzealous, (Un) Original?

These days, Nabisco’s diminutive Oreo might be a mainstay in supermarkets, convenience stores, and vending machines. However, these black-and-white sandwich cookies received great inspiration from the Hydrox, the original, introduced by Sunshine Biscuits in 1908, four years earlier than the Oreo.  Whether or not you prefer the darker chocolate of the Hydrox – or that it still tastes as good as it did back in 1908 (quite an exclamation) – there’s no denying that the origin of both cookie names is unusual.

Whereas Hydrox is a portmanteau of hydrogen and oxygen, the two elements composing water, it was also controversial in that the term “hydrox” was more commonly known as both being a company selling hydrogen peroxide (for bleaching and for disinfecting), and as another term for soda. Doesn’t sound like the most appealing name for food, hey?  Might as well name your firstborn “Student Loans.”

The history of “Oreo” is even more dubious, as it either refers to the Greek word for mountain (Όρος “oros”) – since the cookies originally were slightly mounded – or the French word for gold (or), because the first packages were golden.

Alas, we’re not here to cover the background, or the rivalry between the two brands.  Instead, we’re going to focus on Oreos – and their knock-offs – from all over the world.

The discoveries were mostly in North America and East Asia – no shock there – but there will be a nuanced example at the end.

The United States

Nothing too unique found in the US; yet, three of the brands don’t even hail from the country. Then again, there’s the token glutenfree “Oreo,” but I wouldn’t touch those with a 10-meter cattle prod.

To start off this post’s language lesson, “giro” in Spanish means “turn,” which reflects the most famous way Oreos have been eaten.  Also, although there is a word for sandwich (샌드위치 senduwichi) in Korean, the Lotte package abbreviates it to 샌드 “sendu.”  Japanese does this too; the verb “to make into a sandwich” is サンドする (sando suru), literally “to sandwich.”


Considering the bright colors, I could stick this package on the back of my metaphorical bike, in lieu of a yellow reflector.  Found in Mexico City, this Oreo “trio” offered a combo of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, better known as the Neapolitan.


The Lotus Strawberry Mini Leo come from Thailand, but I saw them in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  C’mon Thailand, you can be much more creative with your flavors.

Taiwan (ROC)

Though the product doesn’t quite look like an Oreo, the name sure does. But are Orievo the biggest offenders?  Stay tuned.

Bought the Goriorio at an Indonesian store in Kaohsiung.  The cookies were so artificial tasting that the wrapper probably would’ve tasted better.


Mango and orange Oreos, made in China.  So, replace the mango and orange with Styrofoam and dish soap, and then you’d be correct.

Nah, I’ve been craving Hunanese food lately, so I’ll lay off of the reality for a bit.  They weren’t bad, but the grape and peach ones were another story.

Apologies for the inferior photo quality, but the most important aspect of the photo is clear enough.  “Ord.”  That’s a good one.  But might it be shorthand for the Chinese ghost city aka Ordos?  No.  No way.


These Indonesian “Dueto” look like pieces of chocolate instead of sandwich cookies.  Maybe marshmallow is in the middle?  Tidak (no), it’s not.  They were also extremely artificial tasting. But what’s that sneaking into the photo on the bottom?…

Ooh, now we’re talkin’.  Tried these coconut delight Oreos in Solo (Surakarta), and they were addictive.  Deliberately took the photo in front of the sign which translates as “ginger alley 3.”  Ginger-flavored Oreos?  Perhaps one day…


Soft Strawberry Oreos?  The darn things will fall apart in the milk all too quickly.  I’d bake ’em first.

Cream Clan by Happy Pocket.  What???


Egypt decided to join the fray, and surprise, their “Borio” brand is the winner of the least original yet mostly likely to cause a chuckle award.

Which Oreo (or Oreoesque) cookies would you like to try first?

Delightful Seafood at Marajillo in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

pulpo zarandeado / octopus nayarit-style mexico
Pulpo Zarandeado, Restaurante Marajillo, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

I’ve got to show a hint of appreciation to a lackluster Airbnb for having introduced me to one of the best octopus dishes I’ve ever tried.

Marajillo, a small, noisy restaurant and bar in the middle of nowhere touristy Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, was mostly a bright spot during my brief stay in that tourism hub. Although I cannot recommend the comparatively bland and insipid ceviche Vallarta, the pulpo zarandeado, chicharrón de pescado (fried fish resembling pork rinds), and aguachile were excellent.

Although the verb zarandear generally refers to shaking and jostling something, in cooking, it refers to a style from the central western Mexican state of Nayarit. In this case, it means to split something — usually fish — from head to tail, and grilling it on a rack over hot coals. My dish at Marajillo was pulpo, or octopus, one of my favorites from the wide world of mariscos mexicanos, or Mexican seafood:

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