Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Appetite-stirring and educating, food museums offer an outstanding way to acquaint oneself with rich culinary traditions, apart from being an effective way to kill a couple hours and go touristy…I talk here of the TOP  5 offbeat ones that I have visited…

Did you know that fries originated from Belgium? That said, there is no scientific or historical proof relating to the origin. The museum tells you all you want to know about a potato and I also learnt a lot of fun facts. Legend has it that people ate fried fish but when winters were harsh and there was no fish, they cut their potatoes, resembling small fish and fried those…and hey presto fries arrived in the culinary world. Interestingly I was told that it was christened ‘French’ when American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War I, tasted Belgian fries, but called them French as it was the official language of the Belgian Army at that time. I visited the museum at lunch time. There’s a “frituur” (fries shop) where I bought these Belgian fries and even got a discount with my entrance ticket. Freshly peeled and cooked potatoes are cooked in two separate phases. I won’t say that they were much better than what we get at home, but the Andalusia sauce (sweet and spicy, mayonnaise based sauce) that covers it is fantastic…and I am converted. 
Formal Name: Fret Museum
Where? : Vlamingstraat 33, 8000 Bruges, Belgium
Opening hours: Daily between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Closed: 10-21/01.
Entrance fee : Individual: 6,00 euro, Groups, students, seniors : 5,00 euro
Children (6-12 y.) : 4,00 euro.

I recollect many instances when cup noodles saved me from instant hunger when I was in the hostel and ran out of money or after working till late when there weren’t any options left to eat out! A museum dedicated to Cup Noodles? I simply had to go! This museum is really fantastic and tells the inspiring story of how Mr Ando (legendary founder of Nissin foods) invented Cup Noodles and many other products. Extremely artistically designed and beautifully exhibited, I loved the display of cup noodles from across the world.
Interestingly there are two workshops, one is My Cup Noodle, where you get to design then choose your own flavour & ingredients for the cup noodle. The other one is Chicken Ramen workshop (needs prior reservation mind you) where you get to make a pack of chicken ramen from the scratch like kneading the flour to packing the ramen into a packet you designed. I would say it was quite like Charlie and the chocolate factory where you could design you own noodles cups and the kids could play in a very cool (kids only) play area. As for me, I really enjoyed making my own noodles, choosing my ingredients, designing the cup and going through the whole process. Finally, if you want to get some noodles after staring and learning about cup noodles for the entire hour, you can head up to the noodle-themed cafeteria on the top level of the facility. Make sure you eat in the restaurant like me as you can try noodles from 8 different countries out here. What set off as a tourist sightseeing, ended up with an admiration for Mr Momofuku, the founder of instant ramen for his entrepreneurial spirit, creative thinking and determination.
Formal name: Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
Where? 2-3-4 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-0001 Japan
Telephone: General information: 045-345-0918, Ramen Factory reservations: 045-345-0825
Museum hours: 10:00-18:00 (last admission 17:00)
Admission: Adults: 500 yen (tax included) / high school age children and younger admitted free

One of the must have culinary experiences on Swiss territory is the ‘Vacherin Mont- d’-Or cheese’ a seasonal soft cheese, made with cow’s milk and contains 45 to 50 percent milk fat. It is enclosed in a wooden box and is bound in a strip of red pine tree bark, thus giving it a unique smoky and interesting resin flavour. I learnt this all at the Vacherin Mont-d’-Or museum. The part about the milk content sounded overwhelming since I had become chary of any food even listing its fat content and any cheese whose consistency was not hard at room temperature. I had heard that Mont d'Or was often served as fondue, something I had sworn off of long ago after I had eaten a dinner of raclette at the home of some Swiss friends, but soon I changed my mind. The best part was the tasting session after the visit and I thought this AOC cheese is very pungent and nutty, yet it is quite mild and had a mature and runny texture, extremely friendly to the Indian Palette. In fact we were also made to try a spiced version and it was rather difficult to lay my hands of it so I finally bought 250 grams lest I gave the impression of being greedy.
Formal Name: Musée du Vacherin Mont d'Or
Where? 1343 Les Charbonnières, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 (0)21 841 10 14
Museum hours: 10:00-18:00 (last admission 17:00)

At the National Palace Museum in Taipei there are all the treasures from the Forbidden City in Beijing. However, what caught my fancy were the Jade baby bok choy and a piece of delicious looking fatty stewed Pork. The cabbage looked rather real, and had two small insects on its leaves. Legend has it that while the cabbage is a symbol of purity, the insects suggest fertility and the sculpture was part of the dowry of a Cing Princess. It was interesting to see how the colours of the jade were used from white to dark green. Foodie that I am had booked ourselves at the wonderfully designed and interestingly yummy ‘Banquet of NPM Imperial Treasure’ at ‘Silks Palace’ (official restaurant at the museum) where they create a replica of the food displayed at the museum….superlative indeed!
Formal Name: National Palace Museum
Where?: No. 221, Section 2, Zhìshàn Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan 111
Telephone: 02-2881-2021
Museum hours: 8: 30 Am to 8: 30 pm

A thirty minute drive from Amsterdam took me to Zaanse Schans, a quaint Village (read artificial town for tourists) in Northern Holland on the banks of the river Zaan with characteristic green wooden houses, charming gardens, small curved bridges, tradesmen’s workshops, historic windmills and little shops. I stopped by in the cheese shop where I got to try many different flavours; it was like a cheese lover’s paradise. Cheese with herbs, with garlic, with cumin, smoked, goat cheese, porcelain, souvenirs….absolutely stupendous. I also found an unmistakable whiff of chocolate in the air as there was a large chocolate factory nearby in the town of Zaandam. For lunch I stopped by for some famed Dutch pancakes (spelt as ‘Pannenkoeken’) which are quite like pizzas with a delicate crust (like a crepe) and then one can lavish a lot of winning combinations to top things off.
Formal Name: Zaanse Schans Museum
Where? Zaans Museum, Schansend 7, 1509 AW Zaandam, Amsterdam, Holland. Just 10 miles northwest of Amsterdam the Zaanse Schans is easily accessible by car, train or bus.
Telephone: +31 (0)75 681 00 00
Museum hours: 9 Am to 5 pm
Admission: Free. Car parking facilities on the premises; the parking fees are used for the maintenance of the historic buildings at the Zaanse Schans.

published in FNL