May 28th, 2014
04:00 PM ET
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World-renowned chef, author and Emmy-winning television personality Anthony Bourdain visits Thailand in the next episode of "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown," airing Sunday, June 1, at 9 p.m. ET. Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook.

In Thailand, a person might greet a friend with the phrase "kin khao reu yang?" to simply ask how things are going.

The more literal translation, however, is: "Have you eaten rice yet?"

"In this part of the world you live and die by the harvest," Anthony Bourdain says of Chiang Mai province's fertile fields and sticky-rice-filled tables.

In this week's episode of "Parts Unknown," Bourdain travels to the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai to eat, drink and sweat his way through every night market, roadside restaurant and karaoke bar he can handle in the country's second largest city.

"It was like discovering a color I never knew existed before," Bourdain recalls of his first trip to Thailand more than a decade ago.

The region's multi-dimensional flavor profile (simultaneously sweet, salty, spicy, bitter and herbaceous) is hard to replicate outside Northern Thailand due to the availability and hyper-locality of some ingredients, but one chef, Andy Ricker, has made it his mission to recreate the food stateside. He specializes in "the good stuff," Bourdain says - like the region's ubiquitous dish of khao soi, a coconut milk and curry paste noodle soup topped with a nest of fried noodles, lime wedges and cilantro.

Ricker is the chef and owner of the acclaimed Pok Pok family of restaurants in Portland, Oregon, and New York City. The name of the restaurant is an onomatopoeic ode to the sound the pestle makes when it pounds ingredients into pastes in a mortar.

Test out your own mortar and pestle skills with a variation of the chile paste naam phrik, preferably the Chiang Mai way, with motorbikes whizzing by and a ice-filled glass of beer close at hand.
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May 14th, 2014
04:45 PM ET
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Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food. SFA oral historian Amy C. Evans leads us along the Mississippi Delta's hot tamale trail.

Better known for its association with cotton and catfish, the Mississippi Delta has a fascinating relationship with tamales. The history of the hot tamale in this area reaches back to at least the early part of the twentieth century. Reference to the Delta delicacy appears in the song “They’re Red Hot,” which was recorded by legendary bluesman Robert Johnson in 1936. But there is an even earlier reference in the song “Molly Man,” which was recorded by the Reverend Moses Mason under the name Red Hot Ole Mose in 1928.

But how and when were hot tamales introduced to what has been called “the most southern place on earth”? More importantly, why have they stayed?

There are as many answers to that question as there are tamale recipes. In restaurants, on street corners, and in kitchens throughout the Delta, this very old and time-consuming culinary tradition has remained, while so much of the Delta – and the South as a whole – has changed.
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May 8th, 2014
05:30 PM ET
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World-renowned chef, author and Emmy-winning television personality Anthony Bourdain visits Russia in the next episode of "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown," airing Sunday, May 11, at 9 p.m. ET. Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook.

The current culinary landscape of Russia can been seen as a microcosm of the country's escalating tensions: Can the Soviet and contemporary era co-exist?

On one side, there are the "dino-era, Russian classics," as Anthony Bourdain couches them - like borscht, blinis, pickled herring and solyanka (a sweet and sour soup typically made with meat, sturgeon or mushrooms).

On the other, places like Yornik in Moscow and CoCoCo in St. Petersburg don't turn their back on the canonical dishes, but aren't afraid to take a few new risks.

In this episode of "Parts Unknown," Bourdain joins longtime friend, Moscow-born Zamir Gotta, to ponder criticisms of Russian President Vladimir Putin over something that eases the tension: vodka.

"When you're talking classic conspiracy theories and classically Russian-style paranoia, you want some classic Russian food to go along with it," Bourdain says.

Feed into the debate by making one such dish, an old-school kind of dumpling called pelmeni.
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May 1st, 2014
06:00 PM ET
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World-renowned chef, author and Emmy-winning television personality Anthony Bourdain visits Mexico City, Mexico, in the next episode of "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown," airing Sunday, May 4, at 9 p.m. ET. Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook.

Anthony Bourdain pays a neighborly visit to the United States' "brother from another mother," the politically complex nation of Mexico, and finds an equally complex type of food.

"I think most American’s view of Mexican food is like beans, fried tortilla, melted cheese and some chicken," Bourdain says.

In Oaxaca, Bourdain's palate is taken back to pre-Hispanic times, with labor-intensive moles and homemade masa. In Mexico City, he finds a new generation of chefs mixing those ancient Aztec traditions with the avant-garde. And in both places, there is many a shot of mezcal, Mexico's smoky, brash spirit of the agave plant.

Wash down the grit of the episode with an ice-cold michelada – a Mexican beer cocktail - from Mexico City-born chef Pati Jinich.
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