February 2nd, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

5 Fat-tastic Foods: Lee Anne Wong

I’ve been very lucky to be able to travel and work at the same time over the years. Food is my life and I’m that person who wakes up every morning thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner. Having eaten all over the world, I’ll try anything at least once. One can have memorable food experiences of all types. That’s what’s so great about food being the social fabric of our lives; so many great memories are built around the first taste of something, a special occasion, visiting somewhere you’ve never been before, the moment when you close your eyes and take that first bite and all of your senses are working overtime to figure out, “what is this wonderful thing I am eating?”

Lately, since I’ve been contributing to "Unique Eats" on the Cooking Channel, I’ve been eating like a sumo wrestler, visiting various locations and ordering half the menu. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not afraid of indulgence either. I’ll eat straight lard because I love the taste of pork fat. (In trying to avoid gout, I actually stay vegetarian two to three days a week when I can). But there’s just something about animal fat that speaks to the carnivore in me, and while I don’t eat like this all the time, these are five of my fondest, fattiest food memories; transcendent and overindulgent, like the naughtiest of thrills for the professional eater. Motto of the story? Eat now. Gym later.

1. The Cemita - Puebla Mexico
"During a vacation to Mexico with some of my friends, we stopped in Puebla for a few days on our way to Oaxaca from Mexico City. There’s this one street in Puebla that has all the bars and nightclubs, with Eurotrash techno music loudly pumping out the speakers of each joint. Other than the $1 beers, the main reason to visit that street is the horde of street vendors lined up outside the bars. This one lady had a large comale with deep-frying oil in the middle, like an upside down sombrero, over a coal fire.

She was deep-frying everything in the oil and lining it all up around the edges: hot dogs, chiles rellenos, flautas, chorizo, steak, peppers, onions, French fries, etc. It was a create-your-own cemita (a traditional Mexican sandwich) bar.

Having just finished a 7-course meal, Louise and I drunkenly decided it was too good to walk away from, so I ordered a cemita loaded with the following: chorizo, carne enchilada, a fried cheese chile relleno, fried jalapeño, fried cebollitas (green onions), French fries, avocado, queso fresco, queso Oaxaca, salsa picante and crema– all on a sesame seed-crusted, freshly baked Puebla-style roll. The sandwich was the size of my head. It was beyond muy bueno. The damage? 20 pesos ($2.00 U.S.) and two days worth of heartburn."

2. Kobe Beef - Sakai City, Japan
"I’ve spent a bit of time in Japan the past few years and when thinking about all of my fatty food experiences, I figured the list wouldn’t be complete without the simplest and most luxurious of items: real Kobe beef.

Wintertime is the best time for Kobe, all that beef fat just warms my soul from the inside out. I was in Sakai City with Chef Suvir Saran last February; we were honored guests for the Sakai City Knife Festival and were there on behalf of The Gohan Society. All week we had government officials wining and dining us, but towards the end of our trip they took us for lunch at a teppanyaki (tabletop grill) restaurant, similar to Benihana, only the real deal.

The head of our group, Kato-san, ordered the highest grade Kobe beef and after several appetizer courses, the rib-eye steaks hit the iron griddle. As we were sitting right there, the smell of melting, caramelizing beef fat intoxicatingly filled my nostrils and I started drooling as our table chef cooked the steaks and proceeded to brown toast and slices of garlic in the rendered beef fat on the griddle. The fat marbling on the steak was ridiculous, so much so that it looked like a really great piece of toro (fatty tuna). I probably had at least six ounces of Kobe for lunch, and even with all its richness, I could’ve eaten another six ounces - greedy American appetite that I have. But a meat headache (you know, when you eat something so rich and fatty you get a little dizzy) and the promise of more Kobe beef for shabu-shabu dinner that night rendered me happily silent."

3. Cocido and Jamón - Mérida, Spain
"Cocido is a traditional chickpea-based meat stew from the Madrid area of Spain. Only I wasn’t in Madrid. I was in Mérida, home to the prized black foot Ibérico pig, who happen to roam free on the land (and there’s jamón hanging in every window in town, no joke).

During a recent trip to Spain to visit Barcelona and elBulli, I finished out my trip with an olive harvest at Naturvie olive oil in the Merida area. I was with a large group of American and Brit importers and Naturvie welcomed us to their estate with a catered luncheon outdoors. At that point in the trip, I had been eating so much Ibérico ham that I constantly had moon face and swollen ankles from all the salt. But if you’re going to put a guy hand-slicing giant plates of Ibérico ham outdoors, and then send me out a bowl of rich, meaty stew with big chunks of pork belly, cured lardo and floating soft bites of fresh Ibérico fat, well, I’m not going to say no. Afterward, I passed on a rock for 30 minutes in the sun."

4. Whale Blubber Miso Soup - Kanazawa, Japan
"I’m probably going to catch some sh*t for this one, but I don’t care. Hands down one of the most memorable food experiences was my first (and only) time trying whale at Zeniya in Kanazawa.

Now, I know there are all sorts of moral and political debates over the fishing and consumption of whale, and I’ve done my research, but if one of the top chefs in North Japan is going to put whale in front of me, of course I’m going to eat it. I had whale two ways: first, with the blubber as a soup; and secondly, with the meat lightly tempura-fried and served rare.

The soup was a revelation. The blubber had been cut into small chunks and lightly poached before being served in a creamy, sweet shiro miso soup with burdock root and mitsuba. Each small bit of blubber had a soft, yielding texture, like that best bit of uncooked bacon fat. The flavor itself was rich, not fishy at all, and the fat had emulsified into the soup, thickening the mouthfeel ever so slightly.

Verdict? Whale is delicious and I had to try it at least once. You can’t get mad at me, because Bourdain just shot a baby seal on T.V. and ate it raw."

5. The Foie Gras Double Down - Montreal, Canada
"This pièce de résistance came on a most recent visit to Joe Beef, one of the locations I had to eat at for the show 'Unique Eats.'

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Double Down is KFC’s homage to the man-ppetite, with the tag line, 'it’s so meaty, there’s no room for a bun,' consisting of bacon, cheese, and mayo sandwiched between two deep-fried chicken cutlets. It’s 540 calories, with 32 grams of fat.

The co-owner and chef at Joe Beef, Frédéric Morin, a quirky and really pretty awesome individual, has trumped Colonel Sanders and then some. First of all, I’ve always been enchanted with the idea of taking sometime fatty, and making it fattier, like Wylie Dufresne’s deep fried mayonnaise. The Foie Gras Double Down is a gourmand’s dream/nightmare. Crispy bacon, extra sharp Canadian cheddar cheese, homemade aïoli, sandwiched between two 3-ounce slabs of chicken-fried foie gras and drizzled in maple syrup. I devoured it in five bites as foie fat ran down my right arm. Manly? Yep. Excessive? Totally. Delicious? Absolutely unforgettable."

What's the most epic creation you've ever eaten? Fatten up the comments section.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Taboos • Television • Think • Top Chef

soundoff (317 Responses)
  1. frankielove

    i say you are somkey hot in that pictuer and i watch your show and like it and the food your where talking about i think that was a great thing

    February 22, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  2. frankielove

    i say you are somkey hot in your pictuer i want to make passion love to you and i hope you are having a great Valentine's day and i think that is a great cook and a chef

    February 14, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
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