Eating Authors: Benjanun Sriduangkaew (Campbell Award nominee)

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I’ve had a busy weekend, day-tripping to downtown Philadelphia Thursday through Saturday for a Writers’ Retreat that was wonderful but exhausting. My Sunday plans to recuperate took a hit with the news of the passing of Jay Lake, but in some ways that makes today’s EATING AUTHOR post, the next of this year’s Campbell Award Nominees meals, all the more appropriate. Jay was a staunch supporter of the Award, having commissioned the design of the five-pointed star (made of pen nibs) pin which is now presented to all nominees, as well as the fabled Campbell Tiara.

Which brings us to Benjanun Sriduangkaew, a short story writer whose work has appeared in such magazines as Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and anthologies like Solaris Rising 3, The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Eight, The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures, and Space Opera. Regardless of how things go with the Campbell, you’re going to want to keep an eye on this author. She’s clearly at home in many sub-genres, and if you’re not a fan of one or the other, she’s likely to pull you in anyway!

LMS: Welcome, Benjanun. What’s been your most memorable meal to date?

BS: Ooh, this is a hard one. I have the exquisite fortune of living in a city with some of the best food in the world, and due to lack of space at home as well as social expectations, eating out is an everyday thing. Hong Kong is a place where you could step into almost any eatery and can expect really good noodle soup, beef brisket, and a lot of other street food favorites! Yau ja gwai, mango pudding, egg tarts. It’s lucky that I mostly get around on foot or MTR (that is, our subway train) or living here I would very quickly have turned spherical! Whenever friends come visit I always make it a thing to give them a food tour. They complain of the incredible calorie count, but eat up all the same; HK food is impossible to resist.

The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures

So having said all that, my pick for the best meal I remember having would have to be a little influenced by circumstance.

That was two years ago, when my second nephew was born — but I get ahead of myself! I was with my eldest sister and her husband in iSquare, a newer, narrow high-rise mall in Hong Kong. Late evening, a full Chinese dinner at one of the fancier restaurants there. The food was lovely; for dim sum Hong Kong is incredibly hard to beat, and the cha siu there (red barbecued honey pork) was especially lovely. It can be a tricky dish to balance — drown the pork in honey and it’s too sweet; pick pork too fatty and it’s hard to swallow. You want it tender, not tough, so it can’t be overcooked, and I’ve eaten a terrible amount of overcooked cha siu which tends toward the hard, chewy end rather than the nice and tender it should be.

Space Opera

At the time my second-eldest sister — our family is heavy on women — was in labor in Jakarta, though incredibly we weren’t aware of it! She went into labor a day early, and things were so hectic that nobody called us about it; her husband knew that the two of us would do something like fly to Jakarta immediately, so he didn’t want us to… ah, get overexcited, I think. By the time he did phone us, the birth had already finished and we discovered we had a new nephew. It was around the time the light symphony across the Victoria Harbor — of which we had a stunning view — started, so it was a perfect impromptu celebration: a show of laser beams, psychedelic building lights, and amazingly good food almost timed to the news.

(Our brother-in-law apologized profusely afterward for not calling us immediately, as he should.)

Thanks, Benjanun, I think that’s a first for us here, a meal coinciding with not only a birth but also marine laser show. Excellent!

Next Monday: Another Campbell nominated author and another meal!

#SFWApro

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