Results for “food”
1835 found

Singaporean hawkers are some of the best food creators in the world

From a recent cook-off challenge:

Singapore’s humble but beloved hawkers have triumphed 2-1 in a cook-off with the legendary Gordon Ramsay who runs restaurants that have earned not just one but three Michelin stars. Are our hawkers then worthy of Michelin star attention? Well, they may not be decorated, but it looks like they still win the hearts of locals.

Nearly 5,000 people thronged the Singtel Hawker Heroes Challenge to see the Ramsay, the Hell’s Kitchen star, pit his skills against three hawkers who were chosen in a national poll drawing 2.5 million votes. The chef only had two days to learn and prepare the same hawker food that these local masters have been doing for decades.

There is more detail here, additional coverage here, and it is no surprise Ramsey fell flat on the laksa.

There is, by the way, plenty of talk that the hawkers are an endangered species.  With rising rents, various bureaucracies are asking whether the hawker centers really deserve so much dedicated land in the city plans.  There’s also a question whether the younger generation wants to take on jobs which are so stressful and demanding, when so many other good jobs are available in Singapore.  Other hawker centers are suffering in quality just a wee bit from the gentrification of their neighborhoods.  Let’s hope for the best but I fear for the worst.

My Singapore food recommendation, by the way, is the Ghim Moh Market and Food Centre, which has numerous gems and is one of those “pre-upgrade” hawker centers, with a design dating from 1977.  (Unfortunately they will close it for renovation next year, which will probably mean the loss of some hawkers.)  My favorite dish was the dosa at Heaven’s Indian Curry, arguably the best I have had, including in South India.  They open at six a.m. each morning, every single day, see my remarks above.  Their dishes cost either one dollar or two dollars (roughly, actually less).

Chicago food bleg

From a loyal MR reader and diner, who has excellent taste in food by the way:

Might you be willing to post another bleg, this one about Chicago? The results from the Toronto one were fabulous (and it also seemed to generate a good conversation among your readers). We’re headed there Saturday, and I’m disappointed so far in my research efforts

I don’t have a trip scheduled just yet, but I am sure I will benefit from your answers as well.  We both thank you in advance.

Why does South Indian food taste better when you eat it with your fingers?

I can think of three reasons.

First, there is a placebo effect.  For the Westerner/outsider, eating with your fingers seems exotic.  For (many, not all) South Asians, eating with your fingers brings back memories of family and comfort foods.

Second, your fingers are highly versatile and they are often the best implements for consuming these foods and blending together spices, condiments, and foodstuffs themselves.  There is a reason why humans evolved fingers rather than forks.

Third, and how shall I put this?  A lot of South Indian food is vegetarian and eating with your fingers adds flavors of…meat.  The fleshy sort.

Eating a dosa with fork and knife is a very different experience, for Tamil food on the palm leaf all the more so.

Incentive compatibility of food and drink

Authorities in the eastern Indian state of Bihar have ordered headteachers to taste all school lunches before they are served after 23 schoolchildren died eating a lunch contaminated with pesticide.

Amarjeet Sinha, the top official in the local education department, told reporters that cooking oil used at the school in Chapra District, 40 miles from the Bihar state capital of Patna, had been stored in or near a container previous filled with pesticide.

Sinha said notices published on Thursday morning in local newspapers ordering headteachers to taste food and to ensure safe storage of ingredients would “dispel any fear in [children’s] minds that the foods are unsafe.”

Children across Bihar, one of the poorest states in India, have been refusing to eat free school lunches since the incident on Tuesday.

It remains to be seen if this will in any way prove effective.  The rest of the story is here, via Joss Delage.  I am pleased, by the way, to have arrived in Bangalore.

How to frame your food decisions

According to research published this spring, people make healthier menu choices when calories are listed beside each item – but they make even better choices when they’re told how far they’d have to walk to burn off the calories consumed. This makes sense: for most of us, a calorie is a nebulous, hard-to-visualise thing, while a listing such as “burger: 2.6 miles” brings things sharply into focus. Somebody, it occurs to me, ought to design an app along these lines, for eating out: it would ask me what kind of food I’d like, then direct me only to those restaurants sufficiently far away that I’d neutralise the effect of the meal by walking there. In the mood for salad? There’s a place on the corner. Hungry for sausages, cheesy chips and a large slice of cake? Time to dig out the hiking boots.

Here is more, by Oliver Burkeman, via Claire Morgan.

Are food stamps the best macro stabilizer?

I have not read the underlying paper, but this summary seemed interesting enough to pass along, via Evan Soltas:

In a new working paper, Ricardo Reis of Columbia University and Alisdair McKay of Boston University…find that stabilizing aggregate disposable income plays a “negligible role” in stabilizing the economy as a whole. Transfer payments can indeed stabilize output, they find, but mainly through a different channel — not by changing disposable income in the aggregate, but by changing its distribution. Fiscal policy, in other words, is all about inequality.

“It’s the redistribution that has a lot of kick,” Reis said in an interview. “The usual argument for transfers is basically Keynesian. We find that has very low impact in our model.”

Reis and McKay reach this conclusion by building a complex macroeconomic model calibrated to U.S. data, but the intuition isn’t all that complicated. Transfer payments yield the highest amount of stabilization per dollar when focused on people who can’t effectively insure themselves against macroeconomic volatility — namely, people with little savings to draw on and limited opportunities to borrow.

…They also find — this is a surprise — that fiscal policy as currently designed does little to stabilize the economy. The most effective transfer programs, Reis says, constitute a small share of all transfers. “When we look at the whole set of stabilizers in the U.S., it turns out that even though food stamps are a plus, all of the other ones have near-zero impact. That means we’re not stabilizing very much,” Reis said.

If distribution matters above and beyond the disposable income variable, that might imply that the sectoral composition of fiscal policy is quite important and that sectoral factors are an important part of any stabilization (or non-stabilization) story.

The food culture that is Canada

When author Anita Stewart first heard about the Canadian government’s new food truck parked in Mexico City, she laughed so hard she cried. The new Canada-branded, taxpayer-funded venture, which kicked off its three-week pilot project last week, is serving up a Mexican-ized version of poutine, using Oaxaca cheese instead of curds. Also on the menu are Alberta beef tourtière, and maple-glazed Albacore tuna.

The truck is trying to draw attention to Canadian products such as McCain French fries, and promote the ‘Canada Brand’ in Mexico.

Here is more, via @RGrier88.  By the way, I enjoyed this paragraph:

“Some of our initial research in Mexico to support the Canada Brand found that only 35% of Mexicans were able to associate Canada to a particular food product, with fish and maple syrup being the most cited,” Patrick Girard, a spokesperson for Agriculture Canada, wrote in an email Wednesday to the Post.

That said, whenever I travel to Canada, I feel I am entering quite a distinct food culture (city by city), it simply is a little hard to define upfront.

Are there “food deserts” as a dietary problem?

Via Jacob A. Geller, the evidence is now in and it seems to suggest no, food deserts are not a real problem:

Here is more, and here is the study itself.  If you look at the statistical tables, they’re pretty striking.  Even where there is statistical significance — which is the exception to the rule — the size of the effect is so tiny, it’s like practically nothing.  For example, on the margin, adding one full-service supermarket within a one-mile radius of your house is associated with an average BMI decrease in your neighborhood of .115.  That is a difference of just one pound.  (see back-of-the-envelope calculations here)

So there is really no relationship, according to this one recent study of nearly 100,000 Californians, between the distance between your body and a full-service supermarket (or any other kind of food store), and whether or not you are obese.  Distance, which is a proxy for access (the idea of a food desert is that the nearest supermarket, which has fresh produce, is distant), is for all practical purposes a non-factor.

Here is a good example:

For example, when you last ordered food at McDonald’s, did you even notice those ten salads on the menu?  Did you order them?  No, and me neither.  And did you ask for a cup of water, which is free, instead of a soda?  No again.  (That’s my experience anyway, and that of millions of other Americans)

And an excellent parallel:

And what’s interesting from a political standpoint, is that this analysis similarly applies to drugs — tackling the supply side does little for heroin addicts, for example, increases the price of heroin, which induces supply to come back into line with the addicts’ inelastic demand curve — and yet most liberals would probably agree with me that drug addiction ought to be tackled on the demand side (spending money to convince young people not to shoot up heroin for example, instead of spending money on patrolling the border), but the same liberals who agree with this analysis of the drug war will often turn around and favor unproven supply-side solutions to obesity like subsidizing supermarkets in low-income neighborhoods, despite the absence of evidence to support those ideas.  Note that libertarians are more consistent on those issues — they oppose supply-side interventions in most, if not all, illicit drug markets, and also oppose supply-side interventions into food markets.

Indian economists want the Food Security Bill modified

You will find their petition here, signed by many notables including from MIT and Princeton.  They want to “abolish the distinction between general and priority households, and give the same PDS entitlements to all households outside the excluded category.”  Furthermore cash transfers are raised as an alternative possibility, a good idea in my view.

Vipin Veetil and Atanu Dey raise some issues which these economists neglected, for instance:

On the production side, laws restricting for-profit corporate investments in agriculture (like those forbidding corporate ownership of agricultural land) starve the rural economy of capital investment and technology transfers. Such laws have two effects. First, they impoverish farmers by reducing demand for their primary asset – agricultural land. Second, corporations bring efficiency gains through large-scale knowledge-intensive farming. This is equally damaging but more difficult to detect. In addition they furnish a steady wage income to workers; this is desirable for low-income households. In the absence of corporations (and markets for insurance) farmers have no way of transferring the risk of production, i.e. they borrow money on fixed rates but face an uncertain return on investment. A crop failure then has the potential to begin a debt-cycle.

All those smart economists on the first petition, and not nearly enough talk of markets.

Mark Bittman on the food plan

He writes:

But there is no national food policy that says, for example, the United States will consume one billion pounds of almonds in the next year, so let’s grow 1.5 billion and there’s plenty for export. Let’s not plant 2.5 billion because that land could be used for tomatoes or something else. I mentioned it to my editor and we agreed that it sounds a bit Stalinist.

[Interviewer] Talk about politically toxic.

Right! But that aside, why would you not want to talk about what’s the best thing for the future of the United States? I would argue that the answer is not what amounts to an anarchic market of a million individuals deciding what they want to plant and then having this dogma that the market will decide. Growing a lot of almonds and exporting them to China is not the end of the world, but I do think that when you look at the Midwest, where the vast majority of land is used to raise corn or soybeans used for feeding industrially raised animals or producing corn syrup for junk food, really is. It is something that is not going to change until we say that land is too valuable to us to be used that way. We need more diverse and regional agriculture. What harm would there be in making a plan?

Mark Bittman has done some of the best writing about cooking which the human race has produced, ever, and he has done it repeatedly and on a large scale, toss in writing on food travel as well.  This discussion is…less good than that.

The link is here, and I thank Daniel for the pointer.

Seoul food notes

There is always a pumpkin, smoked duck, or clam and noodles dish you haven’t seen before.  The way to eat well here is to seek out the small restaurants, on the edge of residential districts, with no English language signs, which appear to not rely very heavily on the division of labor and which serve not too many dishes.  Bibim bap (shaken vigorously inside a lunch box, I might add) is like a fine risotto and the quality of cabbage alone makes Seoul a world-class city.

Particular restaurant recommendations are pointless, and in any case hard to track down.  Just follow basic principles.  The street food, by the way, is only so-so.

At one restaurant, as a kind of joke, I asked “What is best?”, not even expecting my English to be understood.  The waiter became very excited and opened the menu to a page entitled “Best food,” which listed five dishes.  I ordered two of them.

I see no reason to explore upscale dining here.  For surprise and uniqueness, I am not sure the world currently offers a better dining city than Seoul.  My most expensive meals are still falling below $20, averaging $10-$12, and they are occasionally below $5.

Our food and agriculture videos are up at MRU

Here is the description from the site:

The Food and Agriculture Productivity section of the Development Economics course is now available.

Early economics was largely the economics of agriculture, and these days food supply remains a critically important topic in development economics, especially in the poorer countries.  Take India for instance — currently about half of the Indian labor force works in agriculture.

We cover some of the most fundamental questions about food supply and offer some optional videos on food as well.  It’s not just about fighting hunger and starvation — agricultural surpluses are part of the path toward industrialization.

Particular topics include micronutrients, GMOs, the recent rice price spikes, garlic, watermelon, and “Yams, a Man’s Crop,” among others.