Jakarta’s Durian Street (Indonesia)

Many a time I’ve tried to like durians, but it just doesn’t happen … then again, it’s not as if there’s a rule saying I should.

Nevertheless, I’ve had it fresh, in a shake, in a cake, as lempuk, with all resulting in failure. And it’s not even the awful odor that does me in — I’ve generally eaten it in places that smell a lot worse.

With that displeasing transition in tow, I present to you, JakartaIndonesia. Jakarta is one of the friendliest places I’ve ever been, but like many other cities, it takes some patience to get to the good eats. They are expanding their metro system and other forms of public transit, which is good, but it also makes the metropolis’ infamous traffic that much worse.

In short, getting to Jalan Raya Mangga Besar, or what I have deemed to be durian street (at least at nighttime), is vexing. Located in the northern part of the city relatively close to the old Dutch fort Fatahillah, and Jakarta’s Chinatown — near where a lot of the metro construction is happening — Jalan Raya Mangga Besar is busy during the day, but really buzzes at night with lots and lots of street food

It’s also where you can find stall after stall of durian, the spiky fruit native to Kalimantan and Sumatra, Indonesia, among other countries in Southeast Asia.

As it had been a few years since my last taste of something better suited for college mischief than human consumption, I took a walk along “durian street” for a small, small nibble:

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?

Separate Checks: A Tale of Two Japans

When I was last in Japan a couple of years ago, I went with family to try the Kani Douraku (かに道楽) restaurant chain.  Kani Douraku (translated as “crab hobby”) is best known for having most dishes incorporating crab; also, when you walk in- at least to the one in Kyoto – there’s a stream with crabs puttering about.

One of many delicious courses at Kani Douraku, Kyoto, Japan

Although I thoroughly enjoyed just about every dish I tried, I couldn’t help but notice something (in Japanese) stand out on the bill:

The first line reads あかり男性.  The word あかり (akari) is harmless enough,  meaning “light” or “glow” and refers to the name of the set menu  The second, 男性 (dansei), however can be translated as “male,” or “man;” to breakdown the character for man, it represents power 力 lifting a rice paddy 田. For reference, the Japanese (and Chinese) character for woman is 女, and female 女性 (josei).

In Japan, I have seen set meals listed on menus specifically aimed at women, but in Kani Douraku’s case, this wasn’t made obvious on the menu.

Indeed, when the waitress took our order, she asked which of the three of us (two males, one female) would be eating the akari course.

Same price, of course, but presumably less food per course for women.

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