Everything

Ricky’s Soup Noodle Rankings

Posted on by Ricky in Everything | Leave a comment

Bowl noodles are all the rage. They come in different forms, depending mostly on nationality or language. In the end, it’s the same concept – a bowl of broth, filled with noodles made from rice, wheat, egg or whatever, and then a variety of flavors. What annoys me is how everyone loves ramen and thinks it’s the best when in my opinion, there are many bowls of noodles that are much better. Don’t get me wrong, ramen is amazing, but let’s look at my favourite type of soup noodles … because this is a music blog.

1. Bun Bo Hue
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A Vietnamese dish, this magnificent bowl of noodles comes from Hue, which is in central Vietnam. A beef broth heavy with lemongrass and other ingredients, it’s a flavour bomb that hits all the right notes of sour, savoury and spicy. The rice noodles are refreshing given the strength of the broth and it’s usually paired with all sorts of meats, mostly beef shanks and even cubes of congealed pig’s blood which is not as gross as you think.

Best place I’ve had it – Orange County
Favorite place in Toronto for it – Pho Linh

2. Dan Dan Noodles
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This one is less soupy but more dippy I guess, and a lot of different countries have a variation on this. However the Dan Dan noodles from the mainland are absolutely delicious. This is one of those bowls where the noodles don’t matter as much as the sauce. The sauce is amazing, usually a combination of sesame, sichuan peppers, chili mixed with ground pork, preserved veggies and green onions. It’s a hella thick sauce and basically you coat the noodles with the sauce before slurping it down in a tasty package. The mix of sesame and sichuan pepper is an amazing taste and this bowl has the exact combination of flavours to leave you wanting more.

Favorite place in Toronto – hard to tell, sometimes Asian Legend is good, sometimes not. Probably other places in Markham are better but I never know their names

Best place I’ve had it – Hong Kong. There’s a restaurant in Whampoa that specializes in it.

3. Beef Brisket Noodle Soup
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You are probably thinking I only love complex flavors but the simplicity of the beef brisket noodle soup is what makes it amazing. A Hong Kong staple, it’s a taste that simply defines what home is for me. A simple beefy broth with a bit of anise taste, paired with spring noodles and brisket that has been cooked for hours and hours, the combo is just hard to beat. The texture of the brisket is usually offset by the crispness of some lettuce that’s included and it’s just a great bowl of noodles. People in Hong Kong are obsessed with it. Sometimes you can get tripe and tendon in it, although that’s often just called beef tendon noodle soup. The broth is similar flavour.

There are some variations on this from other places, you can make an argument that Taiwan has a similar beef noodle soup, but I think that’s a different flavour.

Places to have in Toronto – Any HK syle cafe in Markham is good.
Best Place I have had it ever – Hong Kong

4. Thai Boat Noodles
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I’ve only had it a few times in my life but it is delicious and unfortunately really hard to find in Toronto. Frequently sold from boats in the Canals of Thailand, this bowl of soup is absolutely packed with flavour. The broth is dark, rich and complex, it typically includes pig or cow blood which, as you could probably guess, adds to the richness of the broth. As with all southeast Asian dishes, the heaviness of the broth is balanced out by an assortment of fresh herbs and the dish is usually complemented by variety of meats, fried pork skin and meatballs. It’s got this tangy richness to it that I really enjoyed.

Best Toronto place: ???
Best place I’ve had it – Sapp’s Coffee Shop, Los Angeles

5. Laksa

Probably the most iconic noodle dish from the Malaysia-Singapore-Indonesian area, Laksa is a rice vermicelli dish that’s broth is a curry-coconut flavour. The ingredients for Laksa are much different than most of the other noodle dishes, as it is comprised mostly of seafood, fried tofu
and an egg. The broth for this noodle smells amazing and the taste is equal to the smell.

Favorite in Toronto – Gourmet Malaysia
Favorite ever – Probably some place in Hong Kong

Song of the Day: My Morning Jacket – I Will Be There When You Die

Posted on by Gary in Everything | Leave a comment

 
New and old are highly relative terms. The Earth is likely not old compared to the atoms in that egg you ate this morning. But regardless of how you look at it, My Morning Jacket has news: it’s the 20th Anniversary of The Tennessee Fire and the band has reissued the album for the occasion.

I still cannot believe how people could qualify this as “alternative” country. Unless one uses “alternative” as a code for cynical, it is not country music. It is just heartfelt and honest, and if what radio stations have been paddling as country in the past decade is anything to go by, honest country would be an oxymoron.

The Tennessee Fire is a sprawling 16 track mass going in many different but mostly playfully calming directions. From a 30 second guitar solos in the 3:00 long “Evelyn Is Not Real” to the oddly retrospectively mature sound of the first track “Heartbreakin Man” to the starkly poetic “I Will Be There When You Die”, My Morning Jacket never ceases to surprise you at the variety of possible musical and melodic dimensions that you COULD find enjoyable.

The Tennessee Fire is an antithesis to the formulaic AI music catalog of the Bender persuasion. And it’s always worth a revisit, or 20. Below you can listen to a live version of “I Will Be There When You Die”. Keep a straight face and carry on.

P.S. This post is not related in theme to Paul’s Dido concert review.

Travel Review: Gorilla Trekking, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

Posted on by Ricky in Everything | Leave a comment

Day 10 - Gorilla Trekking

I recently went to Kenya and Uganda for vacation. Part of the trip was to check out the great plains of Africa by sampling the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya. The second part, and the greater objective, was to go see the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda. Having seen the movie King Kong once, this was a thrill of a lifetime. Also, they are highly endangered creatures and I thought it would be cool to see them before their inevitable extinction because humans are garbage.

I’ve seen a few guides as to what to do, and what to expect, so I figure I might as well add to this. Let’s tackle this from a Q and A perspective.

Why see the Gorillas?
The mountain gorilla is a subspecies of the eastern gorilla. They live primarily in one particular mountain area in Eastern Africa. This area is comprised of three countries – Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. The gorillas usually live in families of some number and are led by the silverback. These silverbacks are super strong and will definitely fuck you up if you piss them off. Anyways, the gorillas are highly endangered with roughly 800 or so living today. That’s a Bon Iver concert.

You might have heard of these animals in:
– The Netflix documentary Virunga
Gorillas in the Mist
– BBC Nature docs (David Attenborough’s encounters with Gorillas in 1978’s Life on Earth is an iconic moment)

Where can you see them?
Realistically, your best options are either Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (best name ever) or in Rwanda. DRC isn’t terribly safe right now, but neither is the US, so I guess pick your poison. Anyways, I chose Bwindi Impenetrable NP, and did it as part of a tour. When in Africa, it’s usually easier to just book a tour that will do all the work for you, leaving you with all the time to look for animals. I used Nomad Adventures and I enjoyed the services they provided, it’s my second time using them and I wouldn’t hesitate to use them again. Typically you will land in either Kampala or Nairobi and make your way there. This park isn’t really in a very reachable location so prepare for a lot of driving. It’s all pretty driving though.

Is it expensive?
Yes – a permit to see the Gorillas for 1 hour is about 750 USD. On top of that, you will have to fly to East Africa, book a trip of some sort, get equipment and then yellow fever vaccinations. It all adds up but it’s the memories that are priceless (actually a few grand).

What actually happens on the trek
Here is a general itenary of what happens. The timings depend on where you stay. Most people will stay outside the national park near Lake Bunyonyi, which has nice lodges to chill out in while you are waiting your turn. If that is the case, as it was mine, here is your schedule:

The night before: You are assigned a Gorilla family – there are 13 families in the park that are used to humans, each family is assigned around 8-10 guests.

4:30 AM – You wake up and eat
5:00 AM or 5:30 AM – you get in your transport to go to the park
7:30 or 8:00 AM – you arrive at your designated launching spot
8:30 AM – you are briefed and meet your guide and then two other guys in the back with guns to protect you from elephants. you can also hire a porter for around 15-20 USD to carry your stuff. It’s good for the locals so if you have a heavy backpack you might want to consider this.
9:00 AM – ???? you hike.

Day 10 - Gorilla Trekking

Basically the trekking goes like this – in the morning before you have arrived, two trackers go out to find the gorilla families. They mostly know where the gorillas were the night before so they start from there. Once they find them, you basically go to where they are.

Hiking there involves a lot of hiking through thick vegetation up and down steepish mountains. The trails are mostly not so much trails as they are paths hacked by your guide as he takes the most direct path to the gorillas. It’s not terribly easy, but you will have a walking stick to help you and it’s kind of fun to trek like this. You’ll probably fall once or twice, but it’s generally a nice soft fall since you are going slow anyways.

Day 10 - Gorilla Trekking

The trek can last anywhere from 45 minutes to 6 hours depending on where your gorillas are.

Once you see the gorillas, you mostly follow them as they do the things for the next hour. You have strict instructions which you follow because the last thing you want is a pissed off silverback headed your way. These instructions are pretty simple

- do not eat or drink near the gorillas
– do not talk about the fight club
– do not have flash in the photos
– do not make prolonged eye contact with the silverback

When you reach the gorillas, it’s magical – you basically realize how tiny you are in this world and just marvel at these majestic animals as they go on about their daily lives. I mean, imagine if some random person flew halfway across the world, endured all kinds of shitty roads, woke up at the crack of dawn and hiked 5 hrs through a mountain and forest just to see you take a piss and watch Netflix. That’s essentially what we are doing, but it feels great.

Your hour ends pretty quickly and about 500 photos and crappy videos later, you hike back to camp.

What do I pack?
I’m going to skip what you need for a safari, instead, here I will put what is necessary.

- Water proof hiking boots
You are hiking in a mountainous rain forest, it’ll be wet and muddy, you definitely don’t want water in your shoes.

- Long socks
– Hiking pants that are light
– long sleeve UV protected hiking shirt

You are hiking through a dense forest with stinging plants and army ants. You need to expose as little skin as possible, as annoying it is, because it’s freaking hot. You are also in altitude so the sun is strong. Get UV protected clothes

- garden gloves
They will provide you with hiking stick, but you will be grabbing all the branches as you walk through mixed terrain. Sometimes you don’t even know where the bottom is, as all you see below you is vines. Grab a branch for balance. You want gloves in case you grab something that stings.

- sun hat
– sunglasses
– bandana (for sweat management)

- rain jacket
– rain pants
Don’t be dumb. It’ll rain if you don’t bring it, and you don’t want to be drenched for 7 hours.

- backpack to hold all that shit in.
It’ll be hot, get a real hiking backpack (with ventilation and pockets) and leave your Fjallraven backpack at home.

Was it worth it?

Absolutely. One of life’s most unique adventures, and an opportunity to see one of our closest relatives in our animal kingdom. I always tell anyone I can that travelling to different parts of Africa is the best thing you can do on your travels, and I stand by that – beautiful land, amazing nature and great people you meet along the way. Highly recommend.

Roskilde Festival Review: Whores., Converge, Petrol Girls, July 6

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Everything | Leave a comment

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At one point relatively early on in the band’s set, Whores singer-guitarist Christian Lembach announced to the crowd that it would all be coming to an end soon. Seeing as how the band was barely even 20 minutes into their set, he clearly wasn’t talking about their show. No, he meant it was ALL coming to an end, as in the world and everything in it.

“Don’t you know the apocalypse is coming?” he asked the crowd before adding, “Thanks for coming out. If we’re all gonna die we may as well all party.” That may seem a little grim for a Saturday afternoon, but hey, you don’t really go to see noise rock bands for uplifting messages. Nevertheless, he’s got a point – you might as well party and there was something of a party atmosphere at their show with a small group enthusiastically moshing near the front of the stage. “Look at you animals all mixing it up,” said Lembach as he looked upon the pit approvingly. The band’s aggressive noise rock (I caught hints of Helmet, Unsane, Jesus Lizard and Melvins in their sound) definitely struck the right note for me on a day that got off to a mellow start, pushing me in the direction of many of the heavier acts on the bill for much of the rest of the day.

Hardcore veterans Converge put on one of the heaviest, most intense shows of the day during their set later that night on the Avalon Stage. I don’t think I’ve seen the band live since the early 2000s (possibly even since the Jane Doe tour … I am old) and was impressed to see the band (especially vocalist Jacob Bannon) hasn’t really lost any of the energy from those days.

As much as I was enjoying Converge’s set, I had to cut out early and make my way across to the other end of the festival grounds to check out London’s Petrol Girls, who also put on an intense show with a strong political edge. The band has a strong feminist message in their music and covers several other issues within their lyrics. Though they were playing a festival show, the band made it feel like a gig in some tiny punk club, building up an inclusive atmosphere and a safe space.

A powerful performance from a band that I hope to hear a lot more from in the future.

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