Exploring the world through amazing food

Elin Johnson, Staff writer

Jake Olson is a junior studying international business with minors in management and economics. He is from Forest Grove, Oregon, which is about 40 minutes north of McMinnville.
Aside from an exchange he did in middle school to Niigata, Japan, this is his first time studying abroad. He has traveled abroad extensively with his family. Olson manages the Instagram account @nsyncwithfood where he posts about the various delicious meals he is eating.

What has Hong Kong been like so far?

Hong Kong is absolutely amazing. There are few places in this world that have such rich culture and diversity in such a small area. I am continually blown away by all this city has to offer.

Having traveled to Hong Kong in December 2016 and into January 2017, I had a general idea of what to expect. Hong Kong is one of those cities where you have to go out of your way to be bored. There is so much to do and explore.

Plus, the subway transportation system here is one of the most accessible I’ve ever used. In a few short stops, the environment can change completely! I find myself wanting to get off at every stop just to see how different it is from the last.

What made you choose Hong Kong out of all the options?

I chose Hong Kong for a number of reasons. First off, I am studying Mandarin as part of my language requirement for International Business. That made both Beijing and Hong Kong attractive to me, despite the fact that Cantonese and English are spoken in Hong Kong. It also didn’t hurt that

Hong Kong is an International Business hub.

Were you a “foodie” before you studied abroad? Has being abroad broadened your culinary perspectives?

I tried to avoid using the term “foodie” to describe myself for quite some time. When it first started being thrown around, I would laugh it off or overdramatically respond with disgust.

I usually prefer the phrase “food connoisseur.” I feel as though it carries more weight than someone who just takes pictures of their food for Instagram, which I will admit, I do frequently. I was a “foodie” before studying abroad. Hong Kong has so many cultures represented that the variety of restaurants allows one to explore cultures far more vast than just Hong Kong style.

Stepping out of my comfort zone and into restaurants that would be shut down in a heartbeat if the FDA had any say, has definitely broadened my perspectives. I now seek out dive restaurants.

Why did you start your food Instagram?

I started my food Instagram the summer of 2017 mainly because my family and friends got tired of me posting so much food on my normal Instagram account. I have always admired chefs like Anthony Bourdain, Guy Fieri, Marcus Samuelsson, etc. that share what they love with the people around them.

Initially, my food Instagram was a joke for my friends and family to laugh at me for (they still do). Now, they see the passion I have for food and the love that I put into it. I also try to bring lots of humor in it through my captions. Hopefully those that follow me agree. I credit my family for my love of food.

What is your favorite type of food?

If I honestly had to choose, it would be Northern Thai (Issan style) or Japanese. Japanese [food] is my heritage. It will always be comfort food and home to me. Northern Thai food also takes the cake for me because of such appealing dishes. Visually, they are absolutely gorgeous. Such vibrant colors are represented while bringing all the flavor you could possibly dream of. The key to Thai food is simple. Fish sauce. To the untrained nose, it doesn’t smell very appetizing. It can smell pretty sour and very overpowering if not proportioned properly. However, when combined correctly with Thai chilis, limes, basil, etc. … Look out. There is about to be a dance party on your palate.

What is the best thing you have eaten in Hong Kong?

I cannot pick one thing as the best dish I’ve eaten in Hong Kong. That is impossible. I will give you my top two. #1: Beef Tendon with E Fu Noodles in Curry Soup. If meat could literally melt in your mouth, that’s exactly what this beef did. It was so tender and flavorful. It did so well soaking up all of that warm and comforting curry, I call it a sponge of flavor.

#2: Pineapple Buns. Buckle up. For $6 HKD (approximately $0.77 USD), you can bite into a cloud that tastes like pineapples. When people often think of buns, they automatically assume the entire thing will be soft. This is where it gets crazy. The top of this bun has one of the best textures I have ever experienced. It is crunchy and breaks apart about as easily as a high school relationship. It is everything one could look for in a breakfast!

Have your culinary explorations in Hong Kong brought you closer to the culture?

“Food is the language that needs no translation.” You can read as many books, watch as many shows, do as much research as possible, but if you don’t actively engage in the culture by immersing yourself, you are doing yourself a disservice. Food is one of the easiest avenues in which to immerse oneself in a culture.

Sitting next to locals in very authentic Hong Kong style restaurants turns many heads. This is how we are fully committing ourselves to the culture of Hong Kong. The look of approval on a native Hong Kong resident’s face when they see my response to my first bite, shows me that we have made a connection.

Has being abroad improved your Instagram game? What’s to come upon your return?

Without a doubt. Finding good Asian food in McMinnville is like trying to find an Oregonian without a Hydroflask. It’s impossible. Asian food is basically all I eat over here, with a few exceptions.

McMinnville is truly blessed to have such fantastic restaurants. However, I feel as though they are more geared towards those that are drawn to wine country. In Hong Kong, you can pay $3 USD for a killer meal that will easily fill you. That’s unheard of in America, even for fast food. That being said, it is easier for me to eat out than to cook my own meal here.

With eating out so frequently, my food Instagram has much more activity while in Hong Kong and Asia. Upon my return, expect much more of a variety of cultural dishes represented.