What's Cooking in...

An osechi-ryōri meal for New Year’s Day. Photo courtesy of ANA Crowne Plaza Narita

In Japan on the first day of the New Year, having a dream that includes either Mt. Fuji, a hawk, an eggplant or all three portends a prosperous and happy year.

The last days of 2016, my husband, John, and I had a 24-hour stopover in Narita, Japan, so, for $129 and complimentary round-trip transfer from and to the airport, I booked a stay for us at the ANA Crowne Plaza Narita (68 Horinouchi, Narita-shi, Chiba; phone, in the US, 877/227-6963, crowneplaza.com).

A flier in our room...

Chef Stefan Hogan with the rabbit pie sliced in half.

Located between Sicily and North Africa, Malta is an archipelago in the Mediterranean that has been influenced by the cultures of a variety of peoples, including the Romans, Moors, French and British. 

While visiting Malta in October 2016, my husband, John, and I stayed at the luxurious Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa (de Paule Avenue, San Anton, Malta; phone +356 21 440301, www.corinthia.com/en/hotels/palace-hotel-and-spa), where we paid $133 per night, including taxes....

 Cubes of Green Bean Cake being made — Hai Duong province, Vietnam.

In March 2017, my husband, John, and I enjoyed the 10-night “Halong Bay & Red River” cruise offered by Pandaw Cruises (based in Southeast Asia; phone, toll-free in the US and Canada, 844/361-6281, www.pandaw.com). We paid $2,925 per person, double occupancy, inclusive of all shore trips, local beverages and tips.

Ha Long Bay is the highlight of northern Vietnam and of the cruise, and, yes, it’s beautiful, but I really enjoyed the shore trips along the Red River...

The architecturally fascinating Pena Palace in Sintra. Photos by Sandra Scott

Twenty years ago, my husband, John, and I explored the west coast of Portugal by car. There were amazing sights to see along the way, including Sintra’s Pena Palace with its unique mixture of neo-Manueline, neo-Gothic, neo-Islamic and neo-Renaissance architecture. It looked like a page out of a fairy tale. 

Besides the Pena Palace, what stuck in my memory were the pousadas (historic places, including castles, that are now hotels) and the subject of this month’s...

Chef Laxman with the ingredients for Jhinga Masala — Holiday Inn Resort Penang. Photos by Sandra Scott


The Malaysian island of Penang is on many travelers’ lists of great places to visit during one’s lifetime, and it is second on CNN’s list of “17 Best Places to Visit in 2017.” It is easy to see why. The island has myriad things to do, including exploring the UNESCO World Heritage City of Georgetown, taking a walking tour through the new Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm and parasailing over the Strait of Malacca.

I found the island’s...

Ingredients laid out for qarnit moqli (pan-seared octopus). Photos by Sandra Scott

Malta is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. 

The Maltese Archipelago is located south of Sicily, which means it is blessed with a Mediterranean climate. (Think ‘no snow.’) 

And there are many wonderful places to visit. In fact, Malta has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the City of Valletta, the Megalithic Temples and the H¯al Saflieni Hypogeum, with several other sites on UNESCO’s tentative list, awaiting inclusion —...

Chef Ning preparing for the cooking demonstration aboard the ship. Photos by Sandra Scott

I have found a great way to remember trips and also engage guests with my travel tales. I serve a dish using a recipe from one of the countries I have visited, and when friends or relatives ask, “What is this?” I have the perfect opportunity to tell them about the recipe and my visit. 

Such was the case when I recently served Tam Mak Hoong (or, more traditionally, Dtam Mak Huhng), also known as Green Papaya Salad, which my husband, John, and I learned how to make...

Nguyen Thu Nhi (left) and Chef Nguyen Thanh Ngoan (right) with finished Vietnamese Rice Cakes — Parkroyal Saigon. Photos by Sandra Scott


My husband, John, and I live in upstate New York, and most of the retired people in our area are “snowbirds,” who head south to spend the winter in warmer, snow-free states. John and I head all the way to Asia for three months. We find Asia reasonable, cost-wise, and enjoy the diversity of cultures. We like the flexibility of wintering for a few weeks each in several countries.

In January 2016 we were in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam. We had been there...