'I'm a decent cook, but I'm a truly fantastic eater. Really—I gained five pounds on this trip'
OCCUPATION Chef and owner, Blue Ginger restaurant; cookbook author; host of the public television cooking show Simply Ming.
HOME BASE Wellesley, Massachusetts
THE DISH Tsai recently returned from a weeklong "chef's tour" of South Africa, organized by the South African government to showcase the country's cuisine as part of a 10th-anniversary commemoration of the end of apartheid. Also in the group were fellow chefs Rocco DiSpirito and Geoffrey Zakarian. "It was great to be able to talk about food and not have to worry, Oh, God, am I boring anyone? And chefs are the best eaters—we turned heads in every restaurant."
MONKEYING AROUND "Geoffrey, his girlfriend, and I played seven holes at Zimbali [Umhlali; 27-32/538-1007; www.sun-international.com], a mountainous golf course with trees that look as if they're straight out of Dr. Seuss. There were about a hundred monkeys scrambling around the fourth hole. We watched the full moon rise over this ridge—it was the largest moon any of us had ever seen. Later that night there was a lunar eclipse."
IN HIS SUITCASE "If I know I'm going to be cooking, I pack a couple of ceramic knives (in my checked bag, of course), my long apron, a pair of comfortable shoes, and some of mydry-tea-rub spices. I always bring my laptop, too, for writing recipes on the plane. And a digital camera. I photograph everything I eat."
SHOPPING TIP The Durban spice market sells "curries you mix yourself, using chiles with names like Mother-in-Law Exterminator."