Johor Kaki Travels for Food

Singapore based personal blog of true stories by johorkaki@gmail about best food, people & places around the world

Friday, 2 June 2017

Anthony Bourdain at the World Street Food Congress 2017 in Manila


Anthony Bourdain is the most famous street food advocate in the world. He is also a member of the World Street Food Congress Council. He graced the WSFC Dialogue on the afternoon of 1 Jun and hosted a media conference on 2 Jun.


Bourdain visited the 30 street food stalls at the WSFC Jamboree, walking unannounced into the crowd of food enthusiasts. I was buying my charcoal grilled Balinese baby back ribs when Anthony Bourdain accompanied by KF Seetoh walked by right in front of me 😃 My jaw dropped first, then followed by my plate of baby pork ribs - I requested the stall assistant to help look after my pork ribs while I followed Bourdain around the stalls 😄


A scrum quickly appeared as everybody switched instantly to fan mode and started following Bourdain like a swarm of excited bees.

Bourdain tasted the dishes at some of the hawker stalls.


Bourdian briefly addressed his fans at the Jamboree.

Here are some gems from Anthony Bourdain - his thoughts about food, and street food in particular.

Anthony-Bourdain-World-Street-Food-Congress-2017 -Manila

"There is nothing more political than food. The things that we eat are the direct reflection of our histories." 

"The ingredients, whether they are dried, they are pickled or preserved, these are reflections of long, often painful histories. That’s how we got to these dishes."

"I often say that wealthy cultures that have been lucky and fortunate and prosperous generally don't cook very well, because they never had to. It's the cultures that had to struggle and make the most of what little they have who have over time learned to make wonderful things out of, well, all the things that I love and most of my chef friends love."

Bourdain's insight about connecting emotionally with food resonates with me a lot on how I approach Johor Kaki blog by following only my emotions and feelings. 

He said, "I’m not a critic. I was 30 years in the restaurant business. I don’t want to think about my food. I don’t want to evaluate it and write tasting notes and score them on a basis of one to ten."

"I want to experience food emotionally, like a child. I want to be lost in the moment. I want to take a bite of food and it takes me to another time or in another place, whether it’s my childhood or somebody else’s childhood. Anybody’s grandma’s food is preferable in my mind than a fine dining restaurant in almost every case."

"When you see me on TV eating, I eat everything. I’m not taking a little bite and moving on." 

It's something I also do as it has been ingrained in me by my parents since our materially impoverished childhood to value food and the efforts of the long chain of people, from the farmer to the hawker, who brought it to our table.


Bourdain fielded questions from Dialogue delegates and addressed them with the characteristic candour and conviction that made him such an icon in the world of street food.

Bourdain had a wide ranging conversation with the audience -  one of the topics drawing the most interest was the upcoming Bourdain Market scheduled to open in Manhattan, New York City in 2019.

What drove him to start Bourdain Market in Manhattan, New York City?

"We (NYC) have representatives of people and cultures from all over the planet and it’s been that way since the very beginning. And then, shockingly, scandalously enough, we don’t have a real market (in NYC). We don’t have a place like what Singapore has, like Hong Kong or Vietnam. A place you can go, a democratic space where people value a good bowl of noodles.”

On how the street food stalls will be selected for the Bourdain Market, Bourdain stressed that "This is not some Disneyland version, like McHawker or Hawker World. We’re talking about the real deal."

It will be food he personally likes, of course, and there will be no "bullshit", he did said so irreverently, yet elegantly.

"We’re talking a riotous collection of the real deal. I just want it to have the same tastes and flavours that I fell in love with."

The real deal goes beyond food to fine details to recreate the "sense of controlled chaos of a living, breathing, stinking market" - so it will be a total sensory experience that touches all emotionally.

Many would like to know what specific dishes will be featured among the 100 plus street food stalls at the Bourdain Market. At the Dialogue, Bourdain didn't say this directly but it seemed likely that Singapore char kway teow will be represented in Manhattan.


Bourdain did say before that the humble char kway teow is the "ugliest tastiest mess".


The next morning, Bourdain hosted a conference with local and international media.

As expected, the question on what street food dishes will be at the Bourdain Market came up again.


Not surprisingly, the Philippines media is eager to know what Philippines street food will be represented at the Bourdain Market.

What Philippines dish would you choose?


Without any hesitation, Bourdain replied "sisig", it's the "best beer food". 

"I like (it) very, very much. That's perfect beer-drinking food. Love it!" he said way back in 2009 - it was love at first bite.

And why not? It's tasty, it's flavours go well with beer, and inexpensive enough to have it between every 4 or 5 bottles of beer 😄 

Sizzle and cold beer, just imagine 😃

Read more about sisig 👈 click


This is The Philippines - it is inevitable that someone will ask "Will there be lechon?" which is one of The Philippines' most iconic dishes.


"Yeah, gotta have lechon."

Why not? Bourdain once famously described lechon as "the best pig ever" and thus put the Philippines dish on the world map.

Read more about lechon 👈 click


Will there be Muslim street food?

Of course, there will be Muslim food. It would be "ludicrous" if the food of 1.6 billion of humanity is not represented.


When Singapore media pressed for his wish list of Singapore dishes, Bourdain revealed: "We need a very good char kway teow stall, chicken rice, laksa, nasi lemak and black pepper crab."

Bourdain did mentioned that one of the Singapore chicken rice stalls that he is thinking about is Tian Tian 👈 click


It's always inspiring to watch Anthony Bourdain in action, advocating for street food. Anthony Bourdain in real life is exactly the same as Anthony Bourdain on television. Irreverent, addresses sensitive topics head on with clarity and sensitivity, insightful and thought provoking with his in depth grasp of issues surrounding street food from his breath of experience.

Disclosure: The trip was organised by Makansutra and presented by Tourism Promotions Board, Philippines.

Date: 2 Jun 2017

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  1. What an event it must have been for street food lovers, and an awesome opportunity to learn from one of the best in the industry.

    1. Thank you Emily. Yes it really set me thinking about what i am doing, why am i doing it.


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