Hi there – I’m Jessica Lee, the new account coordinator here at LCI, writing my first blog post!
I have a confession: I can’t cook. If it takes more than two steps, i.e., 1) Open package; 2) Stick in microwave, I’m probably not going to eat it. I do, however, love eating and trying new restaurants and food – the weirder the better. That’s why this past summer, my friend Christine and I made a list of all the restaurants in Berkeley we wanted to try. We ate our way through a new location every week, from Tibet, to Brazil, Ethiopia, Burma and the Middle East.
The reason I love exotic food is that you really get a taste (bad pun, sorry) of the culture just by eating their food. For example, at Café Colucci in Oakland, the community-oriented Ethiopian culture is reflected in the food, served to us on one large plate so that everyone at the table could eat with their hands and share the spicy, mushy deliciousness.
I’ve also been lucky enough to travel outside the U.S. and sample the local cuisine, so just for fun, here’s a selection of my strangest food experiences, from both near and far:
Very fresh seafood and more– Taiwan
At a gathering of family and friends in Taiwan, I was treated to some amazing seafood – gigantic shrimp, tender fish, and even shark’s meat (looks like clear Jell-O and doesn’t have much of a taste). I was also tricked into eating part of a chicken that no one should ever have to eat, but it’s probably not appropriate to write about here…just remember, the Chinese like to use every part of the animal, so be aware of what you’re eating!
There was also a plate of lobster sashimi, presented beautifully on the plate with the lobster head for decoration. As we were chewing away at the raw meat, the waiter placed a hot pot next to the sashimi. All of a sudden, the lobster head started running off the plate! The sushi was so fresh that the head was still alive and trying to escape the heat!
Snake soup – Taipei, Taiwan
It tastes like chicken, really! At Snake Alley Night Market, you can get your very own bowl of snake soup. I even saw people taking shots of snake blood (supposedly it’s an aphrodisiac), but I passed on that.
Yak butter tea – Café Tibet, Berkeley, CA
Feeling adventurous, Christine and I headed over to Café Tibet in Berkeley. I’d heard that yak butter tea was a traditional Tibetan beverage, so I ordered a cup. BAD idea – it’s tea with milk, salt, and butter. I imagine this is what feet taste like. The rest of the food was amazing, but the tea was definitely an acquired taste!
Finally, here are some of the Buzzworthy restaurants Christine and I have been to in Berkeley, so that you can have your own food adventures. I just moved to San Francisco, so if you have any restaurant recommendations in the city, send ‘em over!
Platano (Salvadorean cuisine) – Try the pupusas, thick corn tortillas filled with veggies or meat, and don’t miss out on the casamiento, a yummy friend mixture of rice and black beans.
Trattoria la Siciliana (Sicilian cuisine) – The wait here is infamously long, but well worth it! The squid ink pasta was amazing, but not if you’re on a date – it turns your lips, teeth, and tongue black!
Café Gratitude (Raw vegan food) – I approached this restaurant warily – no dairy, and nothing cooked over 115 degrees Farenheit? The food was surprisingly good however, especially the Hawaiian pizza with lots of fresh veggies on top. Half the fun is trying to figure out how they made cheese out of cashews!