International Blog of Food

Glorious Cuisine From Around the World

Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I really wish I had pictures of iftar yesterday. Today, I have my camera and plan to document the event. Anyways, yesterday was a great culinary day.

It started with a 6 PM meal at some small café in an alleyway. We had kofta, roast chicken, salad, rice, and date juice. Couldn’t really think of a better way to break the fast than with solid street nourishment.

The highlight of the night came at about 2:30, ironically in the morning. We were starving, so we walked into this empty hole-in-the-wall and attempted to order some food. The Pakistani guy that was with us, Salman, could read the menu but had no idea what any of it meant. So I just looked up on the wall and pointed at one of the pictures. “That looks good, I think.”

We decided upon the chicken. But I couldn’t just sit there and wait…I had to go into the kitchen and check things out. Small, quaint, and downright tiny is how I would describe it. Thumbtacks on my shoes were a must, due to the thick layer of oil on the floor. On first check, no cockroaches, no other strange insects, no bad smell…what kind of restaurant was this?

The “chef” started by taking a huge plate and covering it with an aromatic rice (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and pepper). He then went to what I can only describe as a giant steel meat receptacle. It had to have been five feet in diameter, and was filled with random pieces of lamb and chicken. He pulled out a whole chicken, spread it out, and put it on the plate. Hmm…that was easy. But will it give me Cairo Colon?

In an attempt to have a little fun, the “chef” pulled out what I can only guess was a lamb’s head. He did a little hand puppet routine with it; I laughed; he laughed. I spent a good ten seconds trying to figure out if there was any meat on the thing. Perhaps it was for flavour?

The chicken was pretty damn good, and we have enough rice for a week.
posted by kent at 8:07 AM    2 comments
Monday, September 25, 2006
Do You People Not Eat?
Alex, tell me you're eating local Czech cuisine. I cringe at the thought of you not posting because you're eating Mickey D's every night.

Samantha, you, or Saroj, must be cooking up something good. Or eating somewhere nice?

Abner and have a few weeks, but I have great anticipation for what you'll be eating.

Did I miss anyone?
posted by kent at 4:27 AM    0 comments
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Bird's Nest = Bird's Spit
Attention to anyone travelling to Hong Kong, or who read about my mooncakes yesterday, this is very important!
I have just found out from my good friend Diana that "Bird's Nest" the delicacy that you see being sold everywhere here... which is very expensive I might add, is in fact solidified bird spit! According to my source it is difficult to collect, hence the price. Appartentally, they are even more expensive if they have a little blood in them, because of the added nutritional value.Anyways, if you read the next post carefully you will know I accidentally ate one of these today, so I am posting this now to make sure that future Hong Kong visitors have all the information before trying this local favourite.
"Authentic bird's nest are nests of the swiftlet, a tiny bird found throughout southeast Asia. The swiftlet lives in dark caves, using a method of echolocation similar to the bat to get around. Instead of twigs and straw, the swiftlet makes its nest from strands of its own gummy saliva, which hardens when exposed to air. Humans who harvest the swiftlet nests often come from families that have made their living this way for generations. Prying the nests from the cave walls is extremely dangerous, and many harvesters die each year."
posted by Lizzy at 10:20 AM    1 comments
Mid-Autumn Mooncakes
The Mid-Autumn Festival is just around the corner in the Chinese Lunar calendar. From what I understand the most important part of this festival are the Mooncakes.
I have just finished my first taste of mooncake, in fact the flavour is still lingering n my mouth and I can tell you they are delicious! They are sweet and heavy, like cheesecake, but the texture is soft and gooey like many of the glutinous rice desserts in South East Asia. The flavour is something entirely unique, that I don't think I can describe, you just have to try.
Mooncake packaging - I think this is half the reason they are so special

The actual mooncakes

I found the following short history of mooncakes on this Governemnt of Hong Kong website:

From1280-1368, China was ruled by the Mongolian people. Leaders from the preceding Sung dynasty (A.D.960-1280) were unhappy about foreign rule, and wanted to start a rebellion. The leaders of the rebellion, knowing that the Mid-Autumn Festival was drawing near, ordered the making of special cakes. Inside each cake was a message with the outline of the attack. On the night of the Festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government. What followed was the establishment of the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644). Today, mooncakes are eaten to commemorate this event.

Inside of a non-tradtional Mooncake

Traditionally, mooncakes are made by grinding the Lotus flower into a paste, planting a fermented egg yoke in the middle and encasing the whole thing in some sort of pastry. Today, many substitute ingredients are used, bring new flavours to this yearly treat. It is very common to see ice cream mooncakes, cookies and cream mooncakes etc... The flavour I just tried was not traditional at all, it was green bean paste with a "bird's nest" in the middle. I have no idea what a "bird's nest" is, only that the streets of Hong Kong are filled with Bird's Nest shops, and you are supposed to give them to a women who is pregnant. Anyways, it tasted pretty damn good.

Mooncake madness is in full swing in Hong Kong, Virtually every advertisement you see (which are A LOT here) is for one brand of mooncake or another. All the cake shops in the city have stocked their shelves with mooncakes, and temporary shops and stalls have sprung up all over the city to meet the high demand for these seasonal delicacies. I know I for one cannot wait until October 6, when I plan to take my mooncake and a colourful paper lantern to Victoria Park, Hong Kong and enjoy the full-blown Mid-Autumn festival experience.

posted by Lizzy at 12:46 AM    3 comments
Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Location: A street in Cairo that I have not yet learned the name of
Ingredients: Dough, sausage, tomatoes, pickles, onions
Price: 5 pounds ($1 CDN)

By far the best part of this meal was watching the guy make it. You don't see dough masters like that in too many places, so it was a real treat to witness such glory. He started with a small lump of dough and proceeded to stretch it out using a technique not known to North Americans. Once the dough was of the preferred thickness, he folded it up (shown in the top picture). Next, toppings were supplied in equal, yet fair, proportions. Finally, it went into the gas oven for cooking. The finished product is what you see in the 2nd picture.

A bit greasy, but still good. And filling! There was definitely a sourness I wasn't expecting, but it was splendidly offset by the spice.
posted by kent at 5:30 AM    0 comments
Friday, September 15, 2006
Barefoot and Pregnant and Baking
So it's been raining here in Edmonton for what feels like weeks. I've been gathering animals two by two and somehow I ended up with three buffalo? When weather like this strikes and the leaves all flee to the ground I have a need to bake. A real barefoot and pregnant biblical need to slave over a hot stove and wander the kitchen for hours while my bread rises. I decided to start with a banana loaf since there were a few nice black ones sitting on the counter that both my room mate and I had been wondering what we were going to do with. You don't throw away an over-ripe banana when I'm around. Lacking loaf pans is an issue but I whipped up my standard banana loaf. Because of pan issues I ended up having to over cook it but thank god for bananas, it's pretty much impossible to dry the thing out. I love this loaf, it's an easy, moist and delicious comfort food with those fall hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Last night it was onto some bread. I've been working at perfecting my bread. Actually I'm new to the bread making adventure and finding it takes practice. I decided to go with a whole wheat oatmeal loaf. Rustic and heavy, perfect for days that are edging on snowing. I worked the dough pouring in my work search frustrations and watched as it rose perfectly. I attempted to keep the loaf softer by using ice cubes in the oven to create some steam for the first 20 min. of baking. This didn't work well. My bread is great but is protected by a bullet proof crust that if thrown would probably break a window. Still got some work to do I guess but with some butter and honey it warms the soul and I almost don't mind that fall has beaten summer to a pulp leaving only winter left to look forward to.
posted by nicholas at 1:26 PM    4 comments
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Peach Cobbler with Ginger and Cardamom Infused Cream

First off I have to say this tasted way better than it looks I just didn't get a picture until it was almost all eaten which I think proves my point.

My peach cobbler was actually supposed to be peach pie. I headed to the farmers market last weekend to catch the tail end of peach season here in Western Canada and picked up a nice bunch of them that still needed a couple of days to ripen. I set them out on the counter and when I check back they had gone crazy and way over ripened. After I cut off the mush I was left with only enough peaches for a cobbler. Personally I find cobblers and crisps a little boring so I was pondering how I could take it up a notch when my mind wandered, as it often does, towards Indian chai. Peaches and ginger are a classic combination as is peaches and cream. Suddenly a light went on and I set to work infusing cream with green cardamom and ginger much as you would when making chai. After a very slow half hour simmer on the stove my thick creamy mixture was ready to be strained onto my peach cobbler. It all went into the oven for a half hour to procreate leaving a creamy mixture with subtle layers of flavor piling up until you can only call it heaven. I mixed the extra peach juice that was left from their soak in sugar and vanilla before baking with a little of my infused cream and reduced it into a thick syrup to top the dish.

The crunch of brown sugar and oatmeal on top of the cobbler was perfect with the warm creamy peaches and the flavor of cardamom and a slight twist of ginger lingered on the palette long after the bowl was empty. Definitely a good way to punch up a cobbler. If you want better recipe style instructions post a comment asking for it and I'll put them up.

Happy Cooking and Eating.
posted by nicholas at 9:37 AM    3 comments
Friday, September 08, 2006
Fish on a Plate that Looks Like a Fish

Location: Qingdao, China.

Ingredients: Unidentified fish that I picked from an ice box, corn salad, rice, jasmine tea, Tsingtao beer.

Price: Cheap.

Ahh, the Chinese coast. You could just walk into a restaurant and point at whatever seafood you felt like having (there was indeed a vast array). If it was alive, the chef would whack it over the sink, take it into the kitchen, and then work some magic with the seemingly endless number of sauces. If it was dead, he might still whack it over the sink just to be sure, but the magic would still ensue.

The suace on this particular fish was gorgeous and the flesh just melted away in my mouth. Washing it all down with some locally brewed Tsingtao beer made it that much better.
posted by kent at 12:07 AM    0 comments
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
What Does the Guy Say to Start the Iron Chef Battles?
Welcome to the International Blog of Food.

I have this fascination with taking pictures of every dish that I eat, whether it be in a restaurant or on the street. Why? Because food is one of my primary reasons for going to other countries. I would be happy if all I got from a country was its national cuisine. Sure, the food isn’t always good, but there’s nothing like saying you’ve eaten scorpion on a chilly night in Beijing.

There’s a very good chance that I won’t make it to every single country in the world, so that’s where my travelling, food-loving friends come in. If we all post dishes, recipes, snack items, street food, or whatever, it should make for a nice collection. And, who knows, you might get and idea of what to eat when you go to a particular country.

Now I don’t expect every post to look like the proceeding one, but a picture is always appreciated. Some other information, like the name, country/city, and ingredients should be put in as well, if possible (if you’re not sure what kind of meat you’re eating…guess). A little description of what you thought of the food would also be good.

If you happen to be in your home country and you think the food is relatively boring, don’t worry. Every national cuisine can be considered international because not everyone on this blog is or will be Canadian/German/Chilean/etc.

Oh, and I’m always open to suggestions on how the blog can be made better.

Happy Eating.
posted by kent at 10:24 AM    2 comments
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
African Chicken
Location: Kiwi Restaurant, Darkhan, Mongolia
Ingredients: Chicken, rice, peanuts, tomato sauce (?)
Price: 2700 Tugrugs ($2.70 CDN)
The best part about this dish was the room we ate it in. We got into the restaurant and the waitress ushered us into the VIP room because the main area was being taken over by a raucous party. I felt like I was eating dinner in some Africa.
The dish itself can be described as the meat cut off a whole chicken, cooked in a spicy tomato sauce, and then draped over rice. Yummy.
posted by kent at 3:53 PM    0 comments