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Friday, August 25, 2006

Five Things to Eat Before You Die

I've been tagged by Melissa for an ingenious meme: name five things you've eaten and think that everyone should eat at least once before they die.

The idea of a Foodbloggers' Guide to the Globe is brilliant. Who better to provide a passionate list of must-eats in this world for the people than by the people?

I've thought long and hard about my top five choice. So long, in fact, that I think I'm the last person of Melissa's original five to post their response. The list is already growing exponentially, and it is filled with a real cross-section of food destinations and experiences.

My top five recommendations are all fond personal memories--some I have done only once; others I try to repeat as often as possible. All too often we eat whilst distracted: by conversation, by deadlines, by television, by daydreams. Sometimes, though, an absent-minded mouthful becomes an epiphany, providing a rare moment of clarity when your tastebuds heighten, time seems to stop and the world just makes sense.

Helen's Five Things to Eat Before You Die

Sydney rock oyster
1. A raw Sydney Rock oyster, just opened and slurped in shell

Nothing beats a freshly opened oyster, particularly the Sydney Rock variety. As you slowly prise open its stubborn shell, the smell of the sea will waft towards you, engulfing you in a haze of briney allure. The oyster will be plump and shiny, its taste will be blissfully salty, sweet and reminiscent of the sea.

Bondi beach
2. Fish and chips at Bondi Beach, Sydney

We are lucky to be blessed with pristine beaches in Australia and Bondi Beach, Sydney, is the epitomy of the Down Under experience. The views are glorious, and no seaside experience can be complete without digging into a takeaway package of fish and chips wrapped up in butchers paper. The fish will be coated in a light airy beer batter, fried to a pale golden tan; twice-fried chips will be crunchy on the outside, pale and fluffy within. There's salt on your fingers, salt spray on your skin, the crash of waves straight ahead and sunshine warming your toes. Bliss.

commuter noodles in Ueno, Tokyo
3. A bowl of noodles eaten whilst standing at a Tokyo railway station

Tokyo tends to assault your senses with its bustling crowds, scrolling neon, giant pachinko parlours and constant high-pitched spruiking. Time is money and so commuters will stop for a quick bowl of ramen at noodle houses in train station hubs. It's a typical blend of Japanese efficiency without compromising a bar of quality. The noodles are all freshly cooked to order and are incredibly tasty too. Standing next to a businessmen slurping loudly on noodles in unison is an experience everyone must try one time in their life.

waitstaff at the Dark Side of Hyde Park, Sydney
4. A mystery meal eaten in pitch darkness with only touch, smell, sound and taste to guide you

Eating in the complete absence of light sounds like a gimmick, but for anyone who takes their food seriously, it's a huge wake-up call on how much you really do eat with your eyes. How finely attuned are your tastebuds? How much do you rely on visual whetting of appetite? I learnt a lot, and feel the wiser for it.

pasteis de nata
5. A freshly baked pasteis de nata from Lisbon, Portugal

The pasteis de nata is the king of custard tarts. Any fan must try the original version from its Portuguese birthplace, Antiga Confeitaria de Belem on the seaside outskirts of Lisbon. The cafe is usually packed with day-tripping families and tourists, but the wait is worth it. A custard tart, still warm from the oven, is all crisp buttery layers of pastry, sweet eggy custard, and caramelised on top with patches of dark bitter brown. Shakers of icing sugar on each table provide optional snow-white dustings. A takeaway order should be mandatory, transported in a white cardboard bonbon and tied with blue ribbon.

5 foodbloggers I tag:
1. Jenjen from
Milk and Cookies
2. Jennifer from
The Domestic Goddess
3. Nic from
Baking Sheet
4. Rebecca from
Cucina Rebecca
5. Sam from
Becks & Posh

Check out Melissa’s combined list of recommendations
10 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 8/25/2006 11:59:00 pm


  • At 8/26/2006 12:29 pm, Blogger PiCkLeS said…

    haha I've done all of the above except 4 & 5, though I am not sure if i will ever get to do 5. Jacky and I even think that we ate at the exact same Japanese noodle place, what station were you at?

  • At 8/26/2006 9:40 pm, Blogger Jen said…

    Hi Helen, thanks for tagging me it was great fun getting the list together. If you had not already put it on your list I would have also included fish and chips on the beach. I agree, it's a must-do.

  • At 8/26/2006 11:15 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Helen, thanks for such a fascinating list! Can you believe I've done NONE of them? I was particularly intrigued by the meal-in-the-dark and went back and read your account of it. I had a similarly humbling experience when I ate at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris and could identify so few of the flavors on my plate, since they weren't presented in a form I was familiar with. It is surprising how much we rely on visual recognition when eating, isn't it?

    As for the rest, I'll just have to get myself to Sydney, Tokyo and Lisbon!

  • At 8/27/2006 10:09 am, Blogger Reb said…

    Thinking cap is on! - and although the tarts from Sweet Belem in Petersham are a pale comparison, they're the nicest I've tasted in Sydney. And I agree 100% about the oysters.

  • At 8/27/2006 7:24 pm, Blogger Julia said…

    The oysters and fish and chips would be on my list too. And with this glorious weather, I think it's time for more and more of it. I had some stunning oysters this weekend too (Pacific and Coffin Bay).

  • At 8/28/2006 11:17 am, Blogger Veruca Salt said…

    Will do number 3 May 07 and then number 5 the year after that.

    Great choices.

  • At 8/30/2006 12:45 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Helen - I am finally getting round to writing my post. How slow am I?
    I have driven through Bondi but we didnt stop for fish and chips, unfortunately. I do absolutely LOVE those little portugese custard tarts though, and I have been to Lisbon, so I managed to eat one in the appropriate part of the world. {ok, I admit, I probably ate more than one, truth be told}

    I have written my own list and I just need to write up the 'how to enter' part and find 5 previously untagged bloggers to tag then I'll post it up. Sorry to have made you wait this long,


    [ps - i made a point of reading NONE of the other posts before writing my own, just so I wouldnt have any influence so I can't wait to go and read all the entries now]

  • At 9/03/2006 2:39 am, Blogger Sheena said…

    Great idea, and am thrilled to have found a whole new batch of foodie blogs through this!

    Oysters for me too, Atlantic Malpeques
    ... but I added a second part - 5 things still on my to-eat list before I die.

  • At 9/13/2007 7:47 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Just mention of the rock oysters in Sydney was enough to bring nostalgic tears to my eyes! If you're an oyster fan, the amazing oyster bar under Grand Central Station New York is the ultimate cool.

  • At 9/14/2007 10:10 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Ted - I've had the pleasure of eating at the Grand Central Oyster Bar. A entree of oysters followed by a lobster roll. Ahhh memories!


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