Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Food’

The Impossible Burger tastes exactly like meat.

January 25, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Food 2 Comments →

As a meatatarian, my main issue with vegan and vegetarian food (as long as it does not come with a lecture on how not eating animals is so much better for you and the planet in general) is that it tastes like cardboard. For a long time I’ve suspected that the ingredient that makes meat taste—well, meaty—is blood. Yup, we’re vampires.

A couple of months ago I had lunch at Momofuku Nishi in Manhattan and there was something on the menu called “the impossible burger”. It was made entirely of plants, but claimed to taste like beef. The fact that it was called “impossible” sounded like a challenge, so I ordered it.

It was delicious, and it did taste exactly like beef. They haven’t gotten the texture exactly—it’s softer and more moist, which I did not mind at all. And I was right: the ingredient in question is hemoglobin.

The magic ingredient turned out to be a compound called heme. Their research identified this as the thing which made meat distinct, giving it a richer taste and its bloody, red colour.

The firm has now figured out a way to produce heme on a large scale cost effectively by using fermentation.

Read about the hamburger made of plants.

The Impossible Burger cost USD14 (about PHP700). When it becomes available in Manila, assuming it isn’t already, I hope it’s priced lower, although travelling reminds me that food in Manila is expensive (the value for money ratio is low).

In Istanbul, living in the present moment is a form of defiance.

January 19, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Food, Places, Traveling 2 Comments →

Marzipans. All photos of Istanbul vitrines and shop displays by JZ.


Candied fruit

A sparrow was sipping water from a half-filled glass in an Istanbul café Wednesday morning. Customers had their lunch outside, thanks to the warm weather, and chatted about the latest episode of Sherlock, screened hours after the terror attack on the city’s Reina nightclub on New Year’s Eve, which killed 39 people. Two cats were fed leftovers; a stray dog watched the scene from a safe distance. The terror threat level had been raised as high as it would go, not only because of the Reina attack, but also a simultaneous attack in the capital Ankara that had been foiled at the last minute, not to mention many more that had been thwarted in the past month. But this did not at all seem like a city under threat.

How do Istanbulites do it? It is a hard trick to pull, this immediate return to normality. Some consider it an expression of powerlessness, but I find wisdom in the ability to counter shock with calm. After the suicide attack at the Ataturk Airport in June, the scene was cleaned of signs of chaos in a matter of hours. The shattered glass was swept away, airport personnel reopened their desks, baristas served overpriced Caramelattes to travelers—it didn’t really feel as if 45 people had died hours earlier. And yet those people were not trying to erase history. Living in the present moment, for them, was a form of defiance, not amnesia.

Read Kaya Genc’s dispatch from Istanbul.


More teas

Dried fruit


Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Lunch.

November 18, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Food, Places, Traveling No Comments →

We were too early for lunch so we had a coffee at Peter Pan Donuts first. Naturally I had a doughnut appetizer.

Peter Pan is a Brooklyn institution. Tina Fey has declared that so great is her passion for Peter Pan doughnuts, if she had a penis she would violate them.

Greenpoint Fish and Lobster sells excellent fish tacos and sandwiches.

Greenpoint is the sort of neighborhood where everyone knows everyone. Polish is widely spoken. The HBO show Girls is shot here.


Next door to the fish restaurant is another doughnut place, Mo’s. The owner used to work at Peter Pan. There was a big kerfuffle.

A coffee shop offers advice on how to deal with living in a Chinese curse.

In search of the most spectacular high tea in Singapore

September 01, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Food, Places No Comments →

clifford pier
Clifford Pier

My one concession to touristiness was high tea. “Would you prefer fabulous food, or a spectacular view?” Noel asked. As I’ve said before, I have the palate of a stevedore so I chose ambience.

High tea at Clifford Pier in the Fullerton Bay Hotel defeated me completely. The setting, a repurposed historical landmark, was even more magnificent than the photographs, and the food was wonderful. In addition to the pots of tea and the three-tiered cake stand of savouries and sweets, there was a generous buffet with bakwa finger sandwiches, pork belly, chilli crab, sambal prawns and noodles, and you could ask the waiter to bring you more pots of tea and refill the cake stand. Have you noticed that when the food is great you don’t have to eat as much of it in order to feel full? The food was so delicious that after two trips to the buffet I surrendered and could not eat solid food until the next day. At S$45++ per person it is a brilliant deal. Go when high tea starts at 330 pm and bring a book to help you pace yourself between trips to the buffet.

The St. Regis

Any place was bound to be a letdown after Clifford Pier. High tea at the St. Regis Hotel was alright, just not as spectacular; the food was okay but not as scrumptious; the selection was not as wide and the servings not as generous. If you ask for more tea you are charged extra; the tray is not refillable, not that we wanted seconds of anything, even the lobster bisque. It’s also more expensive at S$49++.

High tea at the Fairmont is supposedly the most photographed high tea in Singapore. Next time.

The Wine Show: Getting to know the grape with Matthews Goode and Rhys

May 27, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Food, Television 2 Comments →


THE WINE SHOW answers the age-old question: good looks or personality? Specifically, would you rather spend time with two very attractive men with average conversational skills, or two not as attractive men who can have a hilarious conversation about nothing? Even more specifically, would you rather drive through Italy in the company of Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey) and Matthew Rhys (The Americans), or with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon (The Trip to Italy, reviewed here some months back)? I guess that would depend on whether you want to document your trip on Instagram, or make a TV show.

Read our TV column The Binge.

Is this poem racist, or is it mocking foodie culture?

April 10, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Food No Comments →

Chow mein photo from

Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet?
by Calvin Trillin

Have they run out of provinces yet?
If they haven’t, we’ve reason to fret.
Long ago, there was just Cantonese.
(Long ago, we were easy to please.)
But then food from Szechuan came our way,
Making Cantonese strictly passé.
Szechuanese was the song that we sung,
Though the ma po could burn through your tongue.
Then when Shanghainese got in the loop
We slurped dumplings whose insides were soup.
Then Hunan, the birth province of Mao,
Came along with its own style of chow.
So we thought we were finished, and then
A new province arrived: Fukien.
Then respect was a fraction of meagre
For those eaters who’d not eaten Uighur.
And then Xi’an from Shaanxi gained fame,
Plus some others—too many to name.

Now, as each brand-new province appears,
It brings tension, increasing our fears:
Could a place we extolled as a find
Be revealed as one province behind?
So we sometimes do miss, I confess,
Simple days of chow mein but no stress,
When we never were faced with the threat
Of more provinces we hadn’t met.
Is there one tucked away near Tibet?
Have they run out of provinces yet?

Calvin Trillin defends his poem.