Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A New Year, A Renewed Perspective

When I first came to Buenos Aires, everything fascinated me. The buildings, the tourist spots, the food, the way of life, even a broken brick at the corner of a typical street would call for the attention of my camera or a good few minutes of shameless staring. However, needless to say that after a few months of walking by all these local artifacts and attractions for the 100th time, I no longer gawk at them.

Until last month when a few friends and family came visit, I didn't realize how much these surroundings have gradually melted into my everyday background. There were times where I'd find myself losing patience when my visitors were taking pictures every other steps when we were still trying to get to the actual destination. When we were at the tourist spots, I'd feel that we were spending way more time there than necessary.

Then one day, while I was waiting around, not paying much attention to the place, my visitors came to me and showed me the pictures that they had just taken, and right there something struck me! I was looking at amazing pictures of these scenery and objects which I had totally forgotten how beautiful they were. Their photos, their fresh point of views, reminded me that I was just like them when I first came face to face with all these or even crazier! I decided to move to this city for crying out loud and now I'm already taking things for granted?! How did that happen?!!

I don't know how it happened, may be the day-to-day repetitions blindsided me or may be it was the idea that they'd always be there make me forget...Whatever it was though, the important thing is the spirit has been revived! Thanks to my visiting friends and family, they reminded me what an exciting and cool and unique place I am living in. Once again, I am able to not just look but really see and appreciate what I get to enjoy all around me.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Let's talk about food...again

I'm not going to lie, the lack of food variety is starting to get to me...well a little bit. What I meant by 'food variety' is the different types of cuisine. While the Argentine have great great great steak and various kinds of yummy local dishes, they do use pretty much the same ingredients for almost everything, (scream JAMON y QUESO!), and they aren't big in seasoning either. I've found that they keep spicing up to the minimal, like salt and oil.

Different types of cuisine restaurants do exist here, BsAs is a big city after all. However, they are definitely not the everyday fare type of eateries and you have to seek them out. Not like we can let's go around the corner and have a bowl of Pho. Don't like Pho, let's go down the street a bit to grab some wings then. The prices for these 'specialty' restaurants are above average also so they are a luxury.

A couple weeks ago, my visiting friends and I lunched at a contemporary Argentine restaurant. It was a cool place and I had a nice smoked salmon sandwich, not sure about the choice of bread, but I was glad to have a change to my tastebuds. For a sandwich like this, you could easily find one at a half-decent cafe in N. America, but here you have to go to a semi-highend one, and for the price, it's around, if not more, than a sirloin steak at a local parrilla. While I don't want to say I took things for granted when I was back home but I surely didn't realize actually how accessible global cuisines are there.

I want to give a shout out to dumplings, congee, good chinese noodle soup, pho, pad thai, samosas, buffalo wings, pancakes, curry, tacos, Loblaw's sushi...yes even Loblaw's sushi, I miss you!

Friday, November 28, 2008

This or That

I have been pretty much only talking about things that I like here in Buenos Aires, and you must wonder there has to be something that I don't like. Well, you're absolutely right and I think it's time to balance things out a bit. There are 2 things I really do not like here in Buenos Aires and both of them constitute the quality of the air that I breathe in everyday. Yikes!

One is the exhaust from cars and most of all, from the coletivos (buses). We have many coletivos running on small streets, big streets all the time, and literally you'll see black smoke coming out of them. When I see one coming, I'd time my breath so I could hold it in but sometimes it's totally impossible when there are 2-3 buses in a row or you're stuck in a cab with windows down. (The latter was really bad.)

The other one is second-hand smoke. Argentines LOVE to smoke. While many countries have been banning smoking indoors or educating people about smoking etiquette, these 'ideals' back home do not exist here. They don't care if their cigarette is burning right next to you even if you're eating, they don't care if they are blowing second-hand smoke into young children's faces, even if they are their own. They want their fixes so badly that while leaving the subte station, they'd already have their cigarette ready and lit while going up the stairs, and have their first puff at the same time they stepped onto the last step of the stairs. Wow, what a timing eh?! Whenever I saw that, I just can't help but think, 'come on, really?! Is 30 more seconds gonna kill you from not smoking a cigarette?'

In the Microcentro area (downtown downtown), there are many narrow streets and buses go through them all the time; at least one every few minutes if not 3 at the same time. There is also a street called Florida which is pedestrian only (yes the shopping street), no buses BUT full of people walking and smoking. So after a while having to walk through those areas everyday, I had to take a pick. Bus exhaust or second-hand smoke? Which is less hazardous? Which path is less unpleasant? Which is easier for me to maneuver to pass by this yucky air area asap? And I've eventually decided that Florida street full of smokers is marginally more manageable. I figured I can at least duck or swerve or bypass them but when it comes to big clouds of black exhaust from the 'monstrous' buses, there's really no escape...may lord be with you...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Summer Drink

The warm weather has really picked up here, hitting 30 almost everyday. One of my favorite summer drinks has to be ice tea but such sentiment of mine is not shared by my fellow Argentinians unfortunately. You won't be able to find it anywhere (well, except in Chinatown, but isn't that like everything else? Can't find something, go to Chinatown, they should have it! lol) You thought with the very hot weather here, refreshing ice tea would be a booming business already but that's actually very far from the truth. I was told that big companies like Lipton, had tried to bring it to the market but everyone had failed miserably.

When it comes to non-alcoholic drinks, the Argentines drink a lot of pop, juices, water or flavored water con gas or sin gas (carbonated or non-carbonated) and all these beverages can be easily found in every Kiosko (corner store). Since I don't like carbonated drinks, I left with water and juices to choose from, and sometimes you just don't want plain water. Flavored water is too fake for me so juices it is. From having only a mere 4 -5 choices of juices here, I have to say that we N. Americans are really spoiled with the unending choices of products back home. I'm not complaining though because I always just like it simple, apple juice with the occasional orange juice.

Sometimes I do find the juice too sweet so I've started mixing it with water. And guess what, the juice brand Cepita (by Coca Cola) have just released these new products that are just like that! 3 flavors of fruit juices (not fake flavoring) mix with water and sugar: manzana (apple), pera (pear) and pomelo (grapefruit). After having seen the TV commercials for the 50th time, I finally picked one up on a hot afternoon and it was exactly what I needed, something natural tasting, just the right amount of sweetness, refreshing and cold! Despite that I'm still missing my ice tea on-the-go, I can now officially announce that I've found my summer drinks!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Reading Materials

One morning I went to the bathroom at work and there they were, a good few copies of Playboy were splattered across added to our magazine collection in the bathtub! Someone really scored some nice reading materials for the bathroom break eh?! I have no problems with them personally but then after a second of reality check, I was like this is a workplace and this is umm... inappropriate?! But then again, this is Argentina. Remember the aforementioned in-your-face bare titties and bumbums magazine covers all over at the newstands?

I guess at least Playboy is considerably tasteful in comparison to many other rowdy ones but this is something definitely will not happen in North America. That could easily become a case of sexual harassment lawsuit. It's kinda odd that I didn't even feel uneasy even when a coworker read it while eating lunch next to me. I think my indifference may be due to the fact that I'm already brainwashed by not only the constant racy magazine covers but also primetime TV shows where girls dancing with pretty much a bare butt in my face, being thrown up and down in almost non-existent skimpy skirts or totally see through body linen suit, or there's always a hot sunshine-girl-like in bikinis or lingerie picture on the front page, yes FRONT page, of the free dailies you get on the streets... For the guys who are reading this and are already searching for the next flight to BsAs, I don't blame you. The weather has been hitting the low 30's these days as well, so you never know what you will see on the streets. LOL

Sunday, November 2, 2008


I've always thought that Americans eat a lot of potatoes but I think Argentines could easily surpass that. I don't have statistics but I really think they eat potatoes as much as they eat beef. Many dishes they serve here say 'con guarnición' (with garnish). Typically when you see the word 'garnish' you'd probably think green vegetables, but not here, it means it comes with potatoes only. You will get to choose how you want your potatoes though: papas fritas (fries), puré de papa (smashed potatoe), papas noisettes (in ball shape), papas regillas (waffle fries), papas al horno (baked potatoe), papas españolas (scalloped potatoes) etc etc.

I do love potatoes but sometimes you do wonder would that be too much potatoes for my body. The ultimate potatoe dish I have had so far has to be this one that's called Fideos Chinos. It has chinese in the name so I was like ok, that's interesting... Asked the mozo (waiter) what it was, he tried to explain it to me which I couldn't really understand perfectly but then he said 'es muy bueno' (it's very good) which I totally got it, so I decided to give it a shot.

Since I wasn't sure what I was expecting, I was a bit confused when it arrived at my table. It looked pretty much like a Chow Mien but the mien (noodles) were noodle-shaped po-tA-toe! Thus its name Fideos Chinos ('Chinese Noodles')! LOL So just like a typical chow mien, there were some kind of meat (they used ham), eggs and veggie (peas in this case). It tasted fine but it did get heavy real quick. Argentine's food is pretty straightforward in general but I have to give them an A+ for creativity on this one. They do look like udon in this picture don't they?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


While my castellano (the type of spanish Argentine speaks) is improving at a turtle-speed and still very far away from being fluent, I figured that I need to do something else to add onto my Argentinism. I had the pleasure of being invited to someone's house and they have a built-in parrilla there! And of course, we had bbq meat. yummmm... Anyway, even it was only by observation, now I know how to prepare a parrilla for asado and how to clean it. Here are what need to be done...

To start, you put big pieces of coals on the wire shelf on the side and put newspapers, woods or what not underneath to get a fire going. Once the coals started to burn, they'd break down into smaller pieces and you'd spread them evenly at the bottom of the grill. That would take some time and patience so that you can warm up the grill real good for the main event.

When the coals are all white and hot, nicely mattressed underneath the wire grill, it's time to bring in the meat! I don't think they really marinated the meat other than sprinkled them with some salt; which I think it's because the natural taste of the Argentine meat is flavorful enough. So that day, we had chorizo (pork sausage), asado de tira (beef ribs) and chuleta de cerdo (porkchop), as seen in pic.

To serve them, we put them in a little grill which is called parrillada. We actually put burning hot coals on bottom layer to keep the food fresh and hot. It was reeeallly hot to handle, gotta watch it. You can actually order parrillada in the steak house too, that's definitely something one should try since they put all kinds of meat on it and you'll get to try different cut of meat and parts of the cow, and yes, that include organs.

I did learn how to clean the parrilla but cleaning is never fun to talk about so I'm just gonna skip that. Buen provecho! (Bon appétit!)