Lucky am I that I have tasted coffee all over the world, in fact, in 110 countries. Wow that is a lot of countries and a lot of coffee. I do love coffee and although there has been many countries where the coffee was downright lousy or non-existent, luckily there have been many countries where it was delicious and abundant.
We are currently hunkered down on the island of Cyprus, where coffee rules. Cypriot coffee is much like the coffee of Turkey or Greece, and is usually made in a Cezva, a metal cooker with a long handle and a pouring lip. The coffee in Cyprus is arabica coffee and is ground so fine it is almost like a powder. Traditionally cooked in sand over an open fire, many traditional houses will still make the coffee in a machine that uses sand very hot, then place the Cezva into the sand and bring the coffee to boil twice.
I had never seen coffee made in this manner and it was something fun and new to see.
Cyprus is another of a long list of countries who know how to make good coffee, even though they don’t grow their own beans. Many countries with the best coffee don’t grow beans. It’s all in the way it’s prepared.
So I thought today I would share with you all my favorite coffee around the world, in addition to Cyprus. Some of the worlds best and most delicious. Whatever you call it; java, joe, mud, cuppa, brew, cafe, octane, rocket fuel or juice – here is my favorite coffee around the world.
I visited France in 2007 and despite the Starbucks phenom in the USA, France was the place I had my first and most memorable cup of real good espresso. And I didn’t have just one. I drank so many cups of espresso during my ten day visit to Paris and northern France. I learned how much I love a deep, dark rich cup and I have loved it ever since.
Most people think of espresso as Italian, and certainly they are credited with the invention of the espresso machine. I loved this amazing coffee here as well, and was a bit confused by the social etiquette surrounding your morning coffee. Most baristas were kind and assisted this silly American.
My 2008 trip to Ethiopia remains one of the highlights of my travel life, and learning the complicated process the Ethiopia Coffee ceremony encompasses is one of the most interesting things I have ever seen. Ethiopians strongly claim their country as the birthplace of coffee, and they take the ceremony of coffee very seriously. You can’t be in a hurry for your morning cuppa here…but it is very much worth the wait.
The beautiful island country of Zanzibar (actually a self-governing island of Tanzania) has many coffee plantations as well as beautiful and interesting spice plantations. On a tour of one of these plantations we learned a lot about the coffee culture of Zanzibar and enjoyed drinking the rich dark brew at Zanzibar Coffee next to our hotel.
There are so many things I love about Morocco, including the food, and the coffee is high up on that list of favorite things. We drank it in all parts of the country and it was rich and delicious no matter where we were. Moroccans could be found drinking it morning and night, but for me I had to stick to the morning, or I would have been awake all night long.
Another country that really knows how to do coffee is Greece. Like other European countries coffee often comes with a “biscuit” for dipping, and a cup of beautiful dark coffee in the afternoon was my favorite mid-day treat.
This photo does not do justice to the coffee we had in Qatar. We transited through Qatar and spent only one night, and enjoyed on the morning of our departure what I can say is hands down the best breakfast I have ever eaten…including a pot of delicious brewed dark coffee.
We spent a month in Vietnam and really grew to love the coffee there. Often served with sweet milk, but you could order it without, the local coffee was almost always served in a clear glass cup without a handle.
When we returned home after our month in Guatemala we brought with us six pounds of coffee…now one of my favorite coffee around the world. The production of coffee is big in many Central American countries, but of all the countries we visited we liked Guatemalan coffee the best.
So there you have it, my favorite coffee around the world. I can’t wait to continue my coffee culture research when we can start traveling again and continue our ’round the world travel. Coffee makes me happy!
The flavors of Mauritius come from cuisines far and wide. The Island of Mauritius was uninhabited by humans until the arrival of Arabs in the 12th century. Then the Portuguese and Dutch dropped by and eventually the French and British colonized the island. The Dutch used the island as a stopover port between Madagascar and India and later for harvesting the ebony tree. Slaves were brought from Madagascar to assist in that pursuit.
The French brought more slaves from the African continent in the 1700’s. Those slaves brought with them much of the African cultural foods and spices attributed to the flavors of Mauritius on the island today. French is still the main language of the island.
The British claimed the island in 1810 and slavery was abolished in 1835. To maintain the growing sugar cane industry the British secured indentured servants from China and Malaysia and eventually a large number from India. Much of the island today feels more Indian than African and Hinduism is the largest religion.
Today sugarcane remains the top crop of the island. Tea was once a major crop, but has declined over the years, but still is grown. Salt flats also once prolific have dwindled. Most grains are imported and many vegetables come from South Africa.
Today exploring the cultural foods of Mauritius is a colorful collection of the history of slavery, indenture and colonialism. Creole cuisine traces its history directly to those brought from the African nations to work the sugar cane.
While visiting Mauritius we enjoyed a wide variety of Creole foods, both traditional and Nuevo. Creole is a common cuisine enjoyed on the island and we ate it in several locations as well as took an intensive Creole Cooking Class from a local chef (Diary of a Foodie Lover) who helped us explore the flavors of Mauritius. In our class we learned to make a fish curry, octopus salad, and my favorite, the flat bread known as farata.
Other Creole items we have enjoyed include rougaille – a spicy tomato based stew with chicken or fish – as well as Gaiteau another spicy fried ball made from lentils or chickpeas that you eat almost like popcorn, and hearts of palm salad – one of the most popular dishes on the island. The key to Creole cooking is the spices, very reminiscent of Africa. Many families and chefs create their own secret mixture, with the most popular additions being turmeric, coriander, curry, garlic, ginger, mustard seed, star anise, cloves, cardamom and thyme.
A spicy condiment called piment crazer is served along side bread in most restaurants. Watch out! Holy cow it is spicy. Made with chilies garlic and lemon it will make your eyes water!
Prawns and fish are popular, of course, since this is an island. Marlin, not normally something you see on a menu, is favored smoked. You can find smoked marlin salads and sandwiches. Chicken is prolific. Although roti is traditionally an Indian bread, the use of roti as a wrapper for curry in the Creole style is common. Roti stands are abundant along the street and often have a very long line.It’s eaten for all three daily meals.
The term “coolie” was used in reference to those indentured servants who came from Asian countries, and although smaller in number their impact on the cuisine is still evident. The Asian immigrants are responsible for making rice a major part of every meal in Mauritius even though rice is not grown on the island.
While visiting we had Chinois food several times. Similar to Chinese and Malaysian dishes we have eaten around the world, except the rice is Basmati. Every rice dish we were served while on the island was Basmati. No Chinese sticky rice like what we are used to.Basmati is a key ingredient in the flavors of Mauritius.
As in all Asian cuisines, vegetables, rice and noodles play a big role, with protein more of a garnish. On our street food walking tour with Taste Buddies in the capital city of Port Louis we loved the boulettes, a French word for a Chinese dumpling served throughout the island by street vendors.
BBQ pork is also a popular dish – glazed with a cherry-honey mixture, the pork is served with fruit and not the spicy mustard we are used to from the USA.
And finally a very popular Chinese dish on the island is called Magic Noodles. It is a layered dish made in a bowl with a fried egg on the bottom, noodles and veg and then turned out onto the plate so the egg is on top. Very popular and very local.
If you come to Mauritius be sure to explore China Town in the capital city of Port Louis. Want to try Boulettes at home? Here is a recipe.
Indo-Mauritians (both Muslim and Hindu) have had a major impact on the island economically, politically, culturally, and certainly in the cuisine. Today’s Indo-Mauritians trace their ancestry to the indentured servants who arrived during the colonial era. Hinduism is the largest religion on the island, and much of the population originates from the Tamil region in South India.
We found Indian inspired foods everywhere, with some of our favorite flavors of Mauritius coming from street food vendors who prepare delicious roti (flat bread) stuffed with everything from vegetables to octopus, and samosa stuffed with potato and veg. We ate roti several times for breakfast, served hot off the grill at a vendor just down the street.
We learned a lot about this cuisine on our walking tour with Taste Buddies and enjoyed some local favorites like Dholl Puri, a light and delicate tortilla-like bread made from lentils. Sometimes stuffed with curry but often just stuffed with a spicy sambol sauce (sort of like salsa). Dholl Puri in Mauritius is always flat and soft, where in India it can be puffy.
We had a wonderful surprise when our Airbnb host brought us a full homemade meal of Dholl Puri. She made the delicious Dholl Puri herself and served it for us with Chicken Curry with potato and peas and along side some pickled vegetables and sambol. It was by far the best rendition we had on the island.
Our favorite Indian meal was at a restaurant close to our apartment called Zub. The service was excellent and the menu huge. We loved it.
French influence on the cuisine is most evident in the abundant use of delicious baguette and other breads, puddings and desserts as well as bouillon, coq au vin and daube.
Although Mauritius was a French colony for a much shorter period than when the British held it, the French influence is greater in the culture. The food and the language are French but the British left behind left-hand side driving.
We made a point to try French cuisine while on the island. Although many restaurants have menu items that salute the cuisine, we visited one of the highest rated French Restaurants in the town of Black River called Bistrot de la Poste about thirty minutes from where we were staying. The owner, a French man who was raised in Basque Country, chatted with us and welcomed us to his restaurant while we enjoyed a remarkable selection of French food and wine. The menu included canard, foie gras, frites, entrecote, and a lovely selection of French desserts.
The island also grows its own coffee, and it is often served in the French style – strong and black. We tried three different locally grown coffees, all pretty good. Locals are very proud of their local brew, and you won’t find a Starbucks anywhere on the island. Most cafes we visited also served as a boulangerie and patisserie and included a wide selection of French style desserts and breads.
The majority of visitors on the island are French, but there are also many guests from other countries around the world from honeymooners to families. This means in addition to the incredible selection of foods mentioned above, you will find pizza, pasta, burgers, sushi and a wide variety of other internationally loved dishes.
Although we try not to eat out often in our travels (in an effort to stay on budget), we did try all the cultural influenced cuisines at least once during our six week visit. Food is the best way to learn about a place, to meet the locals and experience the culture and Mauritius is a tasty tapestry of delicious history, people and food.
Just for you – I continue my quest to eat the world. I hope you enjoy!
On arrival the foods of Myanmar seemed less interesting to me than most places we have been. But four weeks in to our visit I have really learned to appreciate the cuisine, and in fact a few dishes have become favorites – the surprising foods of Myanmar.
Local and Fresh
Besides eating as often as possible at authentic restaurants where the locals eat, we made an effort to find a cooking school in the village Nyaungshwe, the town closest to where we are staying on Inle Lake. A little research online and I discovered the highly rated Bamboo Delights Cooking School. I’m very glad I did.
We met with our host from Bamboo Delights at the Nyaungshwe morning market. We were joined by two women traveling together from Germany, and a couple from the Netherlands who are on an extended journey like ourselves.
At the Market
We spent a good hour and a half exploring the wonderful morning market, gathering ingredients for our class as well as other ingredients for the Bamboo Delight Restaurant. Going to market with a local is always so interesting…with a guide you can ask questions and be informed not only about the products for sale but also the vendors selling them. Vendors are usually more likely to engage when you have an interpreter present.
Our guide was known by nearly everyone at the market, so we were well received. We learned about many of the local lake and river fish, as well as the produce grown and gathered around the area and brought daily to the market. We learned about the regional chickpea tofu, and the handmade tofu snacks and rice crackers. We learned that onion prices have recently skyrocketed and tomatoes often sell out early. So colorful and very interesting.
Learning to Cook
At the cooking school we each got to choose two dishes to make. It was hard to choose because all the choices sounded so good – but in the end we all tasted all 12 dishes we made and there was MORE than enough to go around.
I made Pennywort Salad, although we were unable to find Pennywort in the market so we used Snap Pea tendrils instead. Pennywort is a plant that grows wild and I’ve seen on many menus but didn’t know what it was. I also made steamed butterfish, a local river fish.
My husband Arne made Avocado Salad with rice crackers and a chicken and green pepper curry.
Other participants made Curry Butterfish, Pumpkin Curry, Chicken Curry with Lemongrass, Eggplant Salad, Tea Leaf Salad, Chickpea Tofu Curry, Stir Fry Vegetables with mushrooms, bokchoy and garlic and Green Onion Dumplings.
Other than the Tea Leaf Salad I had not eaten any of these dishes in Myanmar. I really enjoyed in particular the Chickpea Tofu Curry, the Pumpkin Curry and all of the salads. It was a real feast. I will definitely order these dishes again – the surprising foods of Myanmar.
Here in Inle Lake region we have also had three other really delicious local dishes. I’m pretty sure I could find the ingredients to make all of these at home. Served in multiple restaurants we have visited we enjoyed;
Braised Pork with Shan Tea Leaves – tender pork in a melt in your mouth sauce served with rice. Shan foods are always cooked over a wood fire and aren’t usually as spicy as other regional food.
Inle Spring Chicken with Cocunut – this dish in a rich and yummy coconut cream sauce with big chunks of boneless tender chicken. Inle Foods are usually cooked over charcoal instead of wood.
Grandmother Style Inle Beef – tender chunks of beef have been marinated in rice wine then braised and served in a tomato gravy.
Soup for Breakfast
Soup is a popular dish for breakfast in Myanmar and I have become a big fan. And why not? It’s warm and filling and a delicious way to start your day. Mohinga is a fish soup and is considered the national dish of Myanmar (as is the Tea Leaf Salad) and though usually served for breakfast it is now eaten any time of day. At the market we watched a women with a giant vat of Mohinga serving up bowls to the locals for their breakfast.
The beautiful resort we splurged on in Inle Lake (Myanmar Treasure Resort – I hight recommend) served a wonderful breakfast each morning with a wide variety of local and western options. Every morning a different soup was featured. My favorite soup was the local Shan Noodle Soup (see photo in title image) and the chicken Coconut Soup.
The Surprising Foods of Myanmar
Although the cuisine of Myanmar includes meat proteins, like in most Asian cuisines the meat does not feature as the main part of most dishes. Instead a wide variety of the freshest local vegetables, herbs, spices and fruits (both locally grown and locally gathered) as well as rich and flavorful broths, curries and stews.
The cuisine features peanuts in nearly every dish, and although I like peanuts I wish they were not so abundantly used. Also many dishes are heavily based in peanut oil, sometimes making a dish too rich for me.
Although chilies are often used, sometimes abundantly, the Myanmar cuisine is not nearly as spicy as the cuisine of Thailand…but watch out for that garlic. It’s used in great quantities. However certain dishes can be very spicy, like the Shan pork and vegetable salad we had a teeny restaurant in Nyaungshwe. It seemed to be bathed in spicy chili oil.
Coffee is pleasant not great, fruit juices are popular and beer is pretty much the standard Asian lager. It gets the job done. In Mandalay the local beer, called Mandalay, had a higher alcohol content. A popular drink is lime soda – fresh squeezed lime juice with club soda served with simple syrup on the side so you can sweeten to taste. Very refreshing.
Myanmar is proud of its locally made whiskey, rum and the country has several wineries.
Farewell and Thank you
So after a month in Myanmar I certainly am not starving. In fact the surprising foods of Myanmar are keeping me sated and curious. It’s a wonderful country all around, including the surprising foods of Myanmar.
Taking a cooking class and going on a food tour in every country I visit is a goal I have. And I accomplish it often, but not always. But when I can I always enjoy it and over the past couple of weeks I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing two countries, two cuisines, too delicious – the food of Taiwan and Malaysia.
We spent six days in Taipei Taiwan. We weren’t really tuned in to the Taiwanese cuisine, half expecting it to be just like China. But unlike China, Taiwan has been strongly influenced from Japan (with historical influence also from Portugal and Holland) and it’s noticeable in the cuisine. The Chinese influence comes primarily from Eastern China (Fujian). And certainly the fact that Taiwan is an island, the cuisine has a much stronger focus on seafood than much of China.
A search online led me to Chef Calvin at GoTuCook. Thorough out our world travels I’ve taken cooking classes large and small, in cooking schools and home kitchens, from world famous chefs and humble housewives. And usually my favorite experiences are the ones where I have one-on-one time with the instructor in their home. This was my experience with GoTuCook.
We met early in the morning at the Beitou metro station from where we walked to experience the bustling thriving market and the local vendors selling to the local people. I always love this experience with a local who can explain unusual ingredients, answer my questions and enlighten me to this way of life long gone in America.
Next we headed to Calvin’s apartment, set up perfectfully for cooking classes. I had chosen three dishes I wanted to make ahead of time from a variety of options listed on the GoTuCook website. I chose as a starter Jellyfish Salad and for a soup course a chicken and mushroom soup and for our main course two kinds of pork dumplings.
I liked both the jellyfish salad (requires an overnight soak of the chewy jellyfish in the fridge before prep) and the fragrant soup with a broth we cooked with chicken feet as well as meaty parts from the blue chicken, but my favorite was the dumplings.
Making Chinese style steamed dumplings takes some practice. I’ve done similar work in classes before (making empanada in Argentina, pirogi in Poland and dumplings in Vietnam) but it’s still a chore to get your fingers to make the beautiful designs if it’s not a task you do everyday. We made pork with cabbage and spices and pork with corn and different spices. And then we ate!
Of course we had leftovers and I brought dumplings and jellyfish to my husband who was back at the hotel.
I really enjoyed this class and plan to tackle dumplings on my own soon. I recommend GoToCook if you visit Taipei.
We also took an amazing walking food tour with Taipei Eats where we expanded our Taiwanese cuisine knowledge with Taiwan Pork “burger”, stinky tofu, betel nut, scallion pancake and much more. Taipei Eats was one of the best food tours we have ever done. Our guide was amazing, there was so much food and we learned some interesting facts while meeting local people as well as other travelers from around the world. Such a wonderful experience!
What a country Malaysia is for a foodie. This remarkable country is a melting pot of many cultures, and it shows in everything, especially the food. Malay food is often spicy, and nasi (rice) features often. Eating with your hands is common. Pork is rarely featured in this cuisine because most Malay are Muslim.
On the other hand, many Chinese immigrated here in the 1800’s when this land was a British colony and the Chinese food is abundant, and often includes pork. Noodles, chicken and dumplings are also widely enjoyed.
And then there is the Indian food, representing the vast number of Indians living in Malaysia. The use of pungent spices and curries, more noodles as well as lots of vegetables make up this delicious cuisine.
No matter what ethnic background, the people in this country love fried foods and fried chicken, seafood, samosa and much more are popular both as street food and in restaurants.
Off the Eaten Track
The food tour we took in Kuala Lumpur was very unique and one of the best ever. At the end of the evening we had sampled twenty-four (yes you read that correctly) foods of this diverse and delicious country.
We signed up with Food Tour Malaysia for their Off the Eaten Track tour and were met by our guide Timothy at a subway stop in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur called Petaling Jaya where we began our gluttonous odyssey at an outdoor Malay neighborhood food court that operates 24 hours a day seven days a week. Here we found just locals enjoying the foods they loved. We had Nasi Lemak wrapped in banana leaf; ota ota, a smoked mackerel wrapped in palm leaf; a rich goat and potato soup; fried chicken and fried tempeh. I was full before we left this first stop.
Next we headed to probably the best night market I have ever been too, also in the suburb of Petaling Jaya. Here we learned about the popular “carrot cake” (not a cake in the sense we are used to, more of a pressed tofu), we had spring roll, noodles, dumplings and sweet Chinese daun pandan filled with peanuts.
Next we headed to a very local-only Chinese open air restaurant to sample more noodles cooked over an open fire and a delicious soup with chicken, okra, long beans and potato.
Our final stop was an outdoor Indian restaurant, and we were the only non-Indians there. And darn it I was so full I couldn’t really enjoy the amazing feast of roti, lentil dal, curry, a giant fried pancake with a coconut curry dip, fried chicken and mango smoothie. Roll me home. What a night it was. If you are ever in Kuala Lumpur, do this tour – but pace yourself!
The Versatile Housewives
To round off our food frenzy in Kuala Lumpur we spent one morning with Ruth, a cooking instructor who brings the flavors of her native India to visitors in Kuala Lumpur through her business The Versatile Housewives. We learned to make one of India’s most famous dishes, biryani, with a group of local university students in Ruth’s kitchen. Biryani is a rich and flavorful traditional dish, often served at weddings and ceremonies. It can be beef or lamb or chicken. We made a chicken biryani. The flavors of this dish come together by slowly preparing the fresh ingredients of caramelized onions, vegetables and spices like cardamon, cloves and pepper as well as herbs like cilantro and mint. After slowly blending all these flavors with rice and chicken, the biryani is served in a giant bowl and enjoyed communally. Check out Ruth’s website for a great selection of delicious Indian recipes.
No matter where you travel, diving into the culture through food is the most interesting and tastiest way to engage with locals, learn history and culture and broaden your culinary chops. Be brave! Eat the world!
(Note – this is a repost of a blog from my last visit to Asia in 2016. I am currently traveling in China again, but unable to blog until next week. So please enjoy this post again, and watch for a new Surprising China post coming soon.)
I don’t take a cooking class in EVERY country, but I’d like to. I love to learn about local cultures through food and I look for that experience when I can find it. In some countries finding a class is difficult or impossible. Other times it just doesn’t fit my schedule. But I always make an effort and when I do attend a class I am never disappointed. Just today I signed up for a cooking class for my upcoming visit to Hong Kong.
I can recommend all of the cooking classes below…many of these I have written blogs about and you can click directly to read those blog entries. I encourage you to consider cooking classes, even if
Cooking in Tuscany
cooking isn’t a big part of your life. Taking a class in a foreign country with local people, often in their homes and with their families, is one of the most rewarding ways to open up the cultural lines of communication all while enjoying a delicious and fun experience. Fabulous!
Tuscany/Italy – My first cooking class took place in Tuscany with a group of friends we were traveling with seven years ago. We learned to make an amazing meal from the owner of the Villa where we were staying. She was a former chef and chocolatier! Our amazing meal included handmade pasta, vegetable terrine, beef loin and lots and lots of wine.
Argentina – We took a very fun cooking class in Buenes Aires during our two day visit prior to getting on a cruise ship. Unfortunately we were so jet-legged the experience is a little bit fuzzy in my memory. The class was
Cooking in South Korea
held in the home of the chef, and there were about 8 people in attendance. We made several different kinds of empanadas, made delicious chimichurri sauce and butter cookies and learned about Matte – the unique and ubiquitous drink of Argentina.
South Korea – in Seoul I spent two full days with a world famous South Korean Chef the Korean Food and Culture Academy and it remains one of my all time favorite experiences. One of the days I was with just one other student. The second day I was with four other students. I learned to cook about a dozen dishes including Kimchee and I have used these recipes over and over
Cooking in Croatia
ever since. Who knew Korean food was so amazing? I didn’t and that is one of the best parts of the experience.
Croatia – I’m a sucker for slow roasted meats and it’s one of the staple foods in many of the East European countries. My experience in Croatia was a mouth watering one, learning the ancient and incredibly delicious process of cooking Peka over an open fire. The lamb dish is spectacularly delicious and a celebratory Croatian speciality.
Guatemala – I loved my full-day private cooking class in Antiqua Guatemala. I had the chef all to myself and an English translator. We made several dishes, enough to feed an army, and I ended up taking all the food home to enjoy another full meal with my husband. Learning
Cooking in Spain
to make the tortillas was a favorite activity, that proved much more difficult that you might expect!
Morocco – In Asilah Morocco we were blessed to have the most wonderful Airbnb that included a daily housekee and full-time cook. What a special treat that was during our ten days in this tiny
Cooking in Thailand
ocean front village. Each day she cooked for us and we watched and learned from her. We also went with her to the market and learned about the local specialities from tagine to couscous.
Thailand – It’s a tough call for me to say which class was my favorite but I would definitely put my two days at the Thai Kitchen Cookery School in Chiang Mai very near the top. It was a comedy of errors how I ended up there, but in hindsight I was so glad I did. I loved the class, the staff and the wonderful foods I enjoyed over my two-days with them.
South Africa – Several of the classes I have taken over the years have been in the personal homes of the chef, bringing me closer to the local
Cooking in Belize
culture in a familiar and family way. In Capetown South Africa my husband and enjoyed a wonderful evening in the home of our Chef who taught us about local cuisine from the African culture with the European influence. We ate Emu for the first time and many other delicious dishes as well as exceptional South African wines with our Chef and her husband.
Vietnam – One of my all time favorite cooking experiences was in Hoi An Vietnam, which coincidentally is also one of my all time favorite cities. I took an all day class at the famous Mrs. Vys Cooking School.
Cooking in South Africa
The class began with a bike ride around the city that included stops at several markets, a beautiful organic community garden and at the home of a bean sprout farmer . I learned so much and enjoyed the bike ride as well. Returning to the school we toured the multiple cooking stations within the school watching the professionals making food beautiful before heading upstairs to the kitchen to tackle our own recipes. I ate so much that day, and learned so much, and highly recommend this place if you are ever in Hoi An. I hope to return some day.
Spain – I loved Barcelona, and especially loved the famous Mercado de la Boqueria for its color and festive atmosphere as well as delicious and fresh food. It was here where my class began, touring, tasting and
Cookin in Poland
purchasing the ingredients before heading upstairs to cook. Our three-hours class included such Catalan specialities as paella, gazpacho and Spanish Tortilla. I have cooked these items many times since.
Poland – Krakow is one of my favorite European cities, under-appreciated by many visitors to Europe.
Cooking in Vietnam
We loved the food of Krakow and did a food walking and drinking tour as well as a pierogi cooking class. My teacher was a young college student who was born and raised in Krakow. We met at the market where she helped us speak Polish to the vendors to acquire the ingredients we needed for our dish. We then proceeded to her tiny, communist era apartment where we maneuvered around her little kitchen learning to make the dough and the stuffing for several different pierogi. It was one of my favorite classes ever.
Belize – Learning about the food and culture of the Garifuna people of Belize, with our two adult sons was a highlight of our family time together in Belize. Cooking outdoors on an open fire with Chef Gloria doing everything from breaking and shredding the coconut to pounding the yams with a wooden mallet made the final delicious dinner all the more satisfying and fun.
So those are some of my favorite cooking class experiences over the past several years. To be sure I will be writing about more wonderful cooking experiences in the future. Because life is fabulous and delicious!
I just sat down and counted up how many cooking classes I have taken in my travels and I come up with a total of 17. It’s one of my most favorite things to do when I am in a new country. And the Guatemalan cooking class I took last week in beautiful Antigua was one of my all-time favorites.
(Note – if you are interested in the recipes read all the way to the end.)
Okay, so I usually say that after every cooking class. But I just loved it. There is nothing that brings a culture to life as well as food and cooking with local people.
Tortilla maker at the market
First of all let me tell you what a lovely surprise Guatemala has been, and particularly the gorgeous, historic city of Antigua. Colorful and alive with cultural events and history, Antigua is a perfect place to experience the best of Guatemala from art, history, religion and museums, to food
Fresh and local at the market
and scenery. It’s perfect little package and I really enjoyed our time there.
Searching online before we arrived I found the highly rated La Tortilla Cooking School offering several options for classes. I signed up to do a morning market tour, followed by the full cooking class with six courses. On arriving I learned I was the only student on this day! Wow. It was the holiday weekend marking the beginning of Semana Santa (Holy Week) and most people are busy with other events. So luckily for me, I was the center of attention! So much fun.
To Market to Market
Julio met me on arrival and was my guide to the market and my translator throughout the day. Julio is from Costa Rica and is the manager at the cooking school.
Julio took me around the beautiful city and showed me two historic locations for the local market before taking me to the bustling market center. Since it was a Saturday morning, it was exceptionally busy.
La Tortilla Cooking School
Local people packed the market and I only saw a handful of tourists.
The very authentic market runs seven days a week but Saturday is the busiest day. Vendors wearing traditional Mayan clothing were selling everything from beans to squash, flowers to pots and pans, dog food to chicken. Anything you might need can be had at this sprawling market. I surely would have gotten lost except Julio knew the way. We purchased a squash for our class and a candied yam to try.
Time to Cook
Back at La Tortilla we welcomed a couple from Belgium who have just arrived to serve as volunteers for
With Chef Sonia
the next two weeks. I then met Chef Sonia who would be my teacher today. Sonia speaks no English and I speak no Spanish and so Julio served as our interpreter throughout the class. This actually helped me learn a bit more Spanish too!
Over the next two hours we made six traditional dishes, combining traditional Mayan dishes, Spanish dishes and Guatemalan dishes. Most of the recipes were simple and all used local, fresh ingredients. Here is what I learned to make;
Atol Blanco a warm drink made from corn flour is one of the most Guatemalan of all Guatemalan dishes. Guatemalans drink this more than coffee. It can be served sweet with sugar and cinnamon or savory with salt, lime juice, chile and roasted ground pumpkin seeds. I loved
the savory one!
Beet Salad was made by boiling the beets with the skin on, then removing the skin and dicing with onion and lime juice, thyme and salt.
Guatemalan Rice has its roots in Mayan culture but also was influenced by the Spanish who brought many staples to the region like spices and peppers. Our version included onion and carrot.
Pepian was the most complicated of the dishes we created. Considered the national dish of Guatemala, this delicious spicy meat stew (chicken or pork usually) uses roasted vegetables and spices to create a rich and flavorful base for the stew. It was my favorite thing of the day.
Rellinitos Julio had promised me a surprise ingredient in our dessert and sure enough I would never of thought to include BLACK BEANS
Spices for Pepian
with chocolate, and wrap mashed plantains around it. But that is exactly what we did for our delicious Rellinitos, a favorite Guatemalan dessert.
Tortillas of course a cooking class in Guatemala would include tortillas and I learned that this favorite
items of only two ingredients (corn flour and water) is a lot harder to make than I thought. Rolling a ball with your hands and flattening the tortilla to the perfect size and consistency took a bit of practice. So delicious fresh off the fire.
Such a feast
Time to Eat
Being the only one in the class I was left to enjoy ALL THIS FOOD by myself as the volunteers and Chef Sonia cleaned up and got ready for the afternoon class. I hardly made a dent on the quantity of food they set before me so they kindly packaged it up and sent it home for me to share with Arne.