(Travel + Leisure) - If you’ve eaten at a neighborhood Thai restaurant, you’re likely familiar with pick-your-protein Technicolor curries. Odds are you’ve tried papaya salad, spring rolls, and pad thai improbably made with ketchup and maybe even peanut butter.
While many ethnic cuisines are domesticated to Western palates, Thai food may be the most bastardized in America. “We have the same basic Thai dishes over and over again, many of which have nothing to do with Thailand,” says Andy Ricker, the James Beard Award–winning chef behind the bicoastal restaurant empire Pok Pok, known for authentic dishes like charcoal-roasted hen with lemongrass and tamarind.
But for as many sugarcoated Thai restaurants operating in the U.S., there’s an appreciable number of spots doing it right—especially in immigrant-heavy cities like Houston, where Asia Market encourages diners to personally adjust their dishes with condiments like pickled peppers, fish sauce, and chili sauce (nam prik). L.A., meanwhile, supports both NIGHT + MARKET, which puts a hipster spin on Thai street food, and Thai Town’s Jitlada, where chef Tui Sungkamee makes traditional fiery southern dishes.
“Thai is not a monolithic culture and, as such, not a monolithic cuisine,” explains Ricker. “It varies vastly from region to region and even from house to house.”
Editor's note: CNN's Anna Coren reports on a traditional dog meat festival in southern China. This video contains disturbing material.
A mob of people have surrounded a group of animal rights activists protesting in the busiest open market in town. It's the eve of Yulin's annual dog meat festival, a tradition that dates back generations to celebrate the summer solstice.
Arguments ensue among those living in the city and the people who condemn the tradition. "Don't you eat beef? If you stop eating beef, then we'll stop eating dog meat," yells one man frustrated with the intense media scrutiny in the Dong Kou open market, where an array of birds, snakes, cats and livestock are sold as daily fresh fare.
Editor's note: Nothing inflames passions quite like barbecue and we'll be breaking down the nuances of regional styles all summer long. Next week - CNN readers and staff weigh in on their favorite joints and pitmasters from all over the country.
(Travel + Leisure) - Like a lot of people, Jay Metzger draws a line when it comes to his barbecue loyalties - and for him, that line falls along the Mississippi River.
“While it’s nice to enjoy a little Memphis and Carolina barbecue, the real stuff comes from the center of the U.S.,” says the Los Angeles-based advertising executive, who favors Kansas City and Texas barbecue.
Plenty of Travel + Leisure readers agree, ranking KC and more than one Texas city in the top 10. But where there’s smoke, there’s fiery debate. As part of the America’s Favorite Cities survey, readers ranked 35 metro areas for such qualities as good-looking locals, great sports teams, and regionally distinct pizza and barbecue. To be fair, since the survey covered only 35 cities, some barbecue hot spots like Lexington, North Carolina, Lockhart, Texas, and St. Louis, Missouri were not even on the table for this particular vote.
But plenty of other hot-button BBQ cities were - and one dark horse (or perhaps pig) even took the top prize. Certainly, the prevailing styles and some gourmet-friendly trends vary from city to city, from the burnt ends in Kansas City, Missouri, to the mustard-sauced pork in Charleston, South Carolina, or the piles of brisket on butcher paper in Austin, Texas - so the definition of best may depend on what you’re used to.
"What kind of coffee do you have?"
"Well, black, or with milk," comes the grumpy reply.
This is the delightfully retro Bambi bar, where the interior and the grumpiness of the service haven't changed for 50 years. Nor has the coffee - a drink that's always played a central role in Budapest life. Through the communist years those shots of dark, bitter coffee in small glasses, served by scowling waitresses, were a staple start to the day.
While coffee's importance hasn't changed, a new wave of coffee bars - where competitive baristas know their ristretto from their cortado - is shaking up the scene. The buzz word is "kezmuves" - it roughly translates as handmade, or craft. There are three keys to the new craft coffee bars - talented staff (with the certificates to prove it), slick design and carefully chosen ingredients.