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Food & Drink

    At Home  --  Food & Drink

    Wild Caught Alaska Salmon

    Fresh, Delicious and Delivered Right to Your Door! Salmon Recipes Included.

    Location: Washington State USA

    Back in the day…

    I grew up in the Pacific Northwest in the 1960’s and 70’s.  Back in the day, salmon was cheap, local, abundant and taken for granted.  Today, salmon is not as abundant in the waters of the Puget Sound.  In fact, growing up with fresh salmon, oysters, clams, Dungeness crab and many other stars of the sea right in my backyard, I know now, we took it all for granted. This is how I have falling in love with wild caught Alaska salmon.

    Fast forward forty years and as I travel around the world in my nomad life (currently on pause due to that inconvenient little virus), from Malaysia to Spain, I’ve run across some truly remarkable, unique and delicious fish I was never familiar with before.  And I’ve also learned that most people around the world are eating farm raised salmon…that disgusting excuse of a fish.  It’s why I never order salmon in a restaurant anymore unless it says wild caught Alaska salmon. 

    salmom
    It’s like Christmas in July!

    Back home in Washington State I don’t buy fish in my grocery store much either, because it is either Atlantic farm raised or thawed from previously frozen – and I’m unclear of how long ago that might have been.   Did you know approximately 91% of the seafood that the United States consumes is imported from overseas? A significant portion of that fish is un-sustainably farmed. It is harmful to the environment and unhealthy for humans. Gross.  

    There used to be a woman in my hometown of Gig Harbor who had a small business selling wild Alaska salmon her husband caught in the summer.  But she is no longer operating which led me to go searching for other options.

    And boom.  There it is.  I discovered the Wild Alaskan Company.  Best Google search ever!

    Wild Alaskan Company

    What a great story this company has.  A family run, sustainably fished, environmentally conscious business with an amazing product you can have delivered right to your door.  What you say?  No joke.  And, the customer service is remarkable.

    Wild Alaskan Company
    So much yummy goodness in my box

    I’ve been a member now for two months and we are eating so healthy having this beautiful fish in my freezer.  Wild Alaskan offers monthly membership (cancel anytime), with door to door delivery of your choice of a box of salmon, or white fish, or mixed.  I am currently enjoying the mixed which includes coho, sockeye, cod and halibut.  I did a special order too of sable fish (often called Black Cod).  Wild Alaskan salmon is always frozen soon after it’s caught to lock in that fresh taste.  You want it frozen – that’s what makes it taste fresh. Seems weird but it works.

    Wild Alaskan has given me an affiliate relationship, which means at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and join the fish club.  AND if you use this link you will get $15 off your first order! So please check out the recipes I am providing to you below and place your order for your first box, and get cooking and enjoying unique and sustainable wild caught Alaskan fish – the best in all the world.

    Watch for a blog in a couple weeks all about recipes for white fish. Meanwhile enjoy these;

    Simply Salmon

    Simply salmon
    Simply Salmon ready for the BBQ
    simply salmon
    Simply Salmon on top of a delicious salad

    Frankly when the fish is this fresh, it really doesn’t need much done to it, and that is why Simply Salmon is one of my favorite preparations, especially in the summer.  Easy and delicious  

    Serves Two

    Two 6 oz Fillets Wild Alaskan Salmon thawed and placed on foil

    Smear one teaspoon of butter on each

    Squeeze juice of one lemon over all

    Salt and pepper to taste.

    Wrap salmon up in the foil leaving a vent at the top and place on hot BBQ for about five – seven minutes, test it for doneness it may need a few more minutes but be sure not to overcook.

    Enjoy.

    Smothered Salmon

    Salmon recipes
    Smothered salmon going into the oven
    Baked salmon
    Smothered salmon over a bed of barley salad with warm vinegaret

    This recipe works both for the BBQ or the oven and we have served this both summer and winter.

    Serves Two

    Two 6 oz fillets Wild Alaskan Salmon thawed

    Place salmon skin side down on a foil covered cookie sheet if using the oven, or on a large enough piece of foil to put on the BBQ

    In a separate bowl mix two tablespoons of mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of coarse ground dijon mustard and 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese

    Smear each piece of salmon with mixture and bake at 350 degrees or BBQ until done.

    Squeeze of lemon before serving

    Salmon Lox

    salmon lox
    Salmon Lox with weights ready to go in the fridge
    Salmon Lox
    My favorite breakfast, lox and bagles with fresh made lox

    One of my favorite breakfasts in the world is lox and bagels with cream cheese, until recently when I learned that much of the lox I have been eating is farm raised.  So I made up this recipe for my own.

    Two 6 oz fillets Wild Alaskan Salmon thawed

    Set the salmon on your cutting board and let air-dry for about 20 minutes.  Then pour one teaspoon of good gin over each fillet.  Let sit for another ten minutes.

    Meanwhile in small bowl mix 1.5 tablespoons sugar

    1 tablespoon kosher salt

    1-2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper, preferably a mix of black, white and red peppercorns (I use my mortar and pestle for this)

    1/3 cup fresh chopped dill fronds

    Place one salmon fillet skin side down on large piece of cellophane.  Top with sugar mixture.  Place second piece of salmon on top of it – skin side up – to make a salmon sandwich.  Wrap tightly in cellophane, use another piece of cellophane if necessary to seal it.

    Place the salmon in a shallow dish such as a pie plate then top with another dish big enough to hold several cans of beans or tomatoes or whatever you have.   These will serve as a weight.  Place in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, turning once or twice a day and draining the liquid that collects in the dish.

    Slice then and Eat!

    Salmon Pie

    salmon pie
    Beautiful and cheesy salmon pie
    salmon pie for dinner
    Salmon Pie is delicious both hot or cold

    Well, having salmon leftovers is really unusual, but if you find yourself in such a situation, this is an old family recipe from my husband’s side of the family.  It was one of my kid’s favorite things when they were growing up.  

    Serves Four

    In the bottom of a deep dish nine inch pie shell layer one cup of cheddar cheese.  Take about 2 cups of cooked salmon broken into pieces and toss with 1 tablespoon of flour.  Layer the mixture on top of the cheddar cheese.

    Chop one bunch of green onions including tops and sauté in two tablespoons of butter.  To this mixture and on medium heat add one can cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup, 3/4 cup sour cream, 1 teaspoon dry dill and 1/8 teaspoon white pepper.  Cook until combined and bubbly.  Remove from heat and stir in two eggs.  Pour mixture over the top of the salmon and cheese in the pie shell.  Place the pie on a cookie sheet then bake for 30 min in a 325 degree oven.  Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.  Good both hot or cold.

    Smoked Salmon

    As part of my weekly TASTY TUESDAY on YouTube, our final recipe is a video, with instructions on how simple and delicious it can be to smoke your own Alaska salmon.  You only need salmon, water, salt and brown sugar to create a delicious smoked salmon.

    And there you go – my top five salmon preparations, each one made better with wild caught Alaska salmon.  I’d love to hear from you if you try any of these recipes!  And watch for more great fish recipes coming your way soon.

    Healthy, delicious and fun.  Use this link and save with Wild Alaskan Company. What could be better?

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    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    The Cyprus Test Kitchen

    Cooking the Local Cuisine

    Location: Cyprus

    We spent seven weeks on the island of Cyprus – 37 days longer than we thought we would be here. During that time we were basically under house arrest so there was very little sight-seeing. Fortunately we are allowed to go out to the grocery store (with advanced permission) and the stores were bursting with wonderful fresh produce; avocados, citrus of every kind, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, pomegranates, lots of greens and potatoes and cucumbers. Just about anything you can think of to use in my Cyprus test kitchen.

    Fresh produce in Cyprus
    Beautiful and abundant produce

    Introduction

    I’m very grateful that one of the first things we did on arriving in Cyprus in early March, (before all hell broke loose and quarantines and lock downs became the norm), was take a cooking class. By doing so during our first few days, I was introduced to the incredible cuisine of Cyprus; a little Greek, a little Turkish and a bit reminiscent of Eastern Europe. The cuisine is hearty with pork, beef, lamb as well as middle eastern spices and lots of beans, rice and local produce. There is also seafood, although we unfortunately did not experience it.

    Cyprus coffee
    Delicious Cypriot Coffee cooked in Sand

    Since the island was on lockdown during our visit, we were unable to go out and taste the cuisine at the hundreds of restaurants and tavernas dotting the island landscape. So I decided to use all that time I had on my hands to bring the cuisine to us, creating a personal Cyprus test kitchen. I did a similar thing when we spent three weeks on the island of Antiparos a few years ago. We were there in the off-season and almost everything was closed. So I taught myself to cook Greek (see it here). And that was my attitude and goal here in Cyprus. It’s been one of my favorite boredom-buster-in-lockdown activities.

    Taste of Cyprus

    Before the lockdown began, during our first few days on the island, we signed up for a full-day tour with Cyprus Taste Tours, a local tour company and we were so blessed to meet Liza (Lee-zah) a Cypriot who loves food and loves introducing it to visitors. Our day included a beautiful drive through the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus, a visit to the Vouni Panayia Winery and a visit to the Loukoumia Geroskipou candy making factory. We also made a brief stop at the Chrysoroyiatissa Monastery to learn a bit about the ancient ways of making wine.

    Cypriot Cooking
    Beautiful fresh bread right out of the outdoor oven

    But the best part of the day was the four hours we spent at Mrs. Sofia’s Traditional House learning and eating several of Cyprus’ most traditional foods. She has a perfect Cyprus test kitchen and I was infatuated.

    Cooking with Mrs. Sofia

    As you know, I love taking cooking classes in every country we visit, and it’s always my favorite when I am cooking in a local home with a local family. That’s what happened at Sofia’s Traditional House.

    We were at the family home of Sofia and Andreas, the home Sofia grew up in. The original part of the home has been preserved in a way that guests can see how a traditional Cypriot home was in the past. Sofia and Andreas have added a cooking kitchen on to create a space for classes (only through Cyprus Taste Tours) as well as serving meals to tour groups that come through.

    Our Cyprus Feast
    Spectacular

    We learned so many things during our time with Sofia. First she pulled fresh bread out of the outdoor oven and fresh halloumi out of the outdoor cheese maker. Wow. Delicious.

    Next we watched the interesting process of making traditional Cypriot Coffee in a special machine where the coffee cooks in hot sand. Amazing.

    Then we began to prepare the ingredients for our feast.

    Six Famous Cypriot Dishes

    During our time with Mrs. Sofia we learned to make the following dishes;

    Halloumi Cheese – famous cheese of Cyprus is fantastic eat fresh, boiled or grilled. Squeeky texture with a very high melting point give it an unusual variety of cooking and eating options.

    Cyprus Food
    Koupepia

    Koupepia – stuffed grape leaves, very similar to Greek Dolmades, the Cypriot version is filled with rice, pork, tomato and parsley and simmered in a tomato broth.

    Cyprus Cuisine
    Preparing the meatballs with Mrs. Sofia

    Keftedes – a word that means meatballs and can refer to many kinds but the most popular are a minced pork, grated potato, onion and parsely with a hint of cinnamon.

    Pligouri – which is a pilaf of bulgur wheat. Bulgur wheat is what you might know in tabouleh. Pligouri is considered a poor man’s food, but is delicious, quick and easy to make.

    Cyprus Food
    Anari Cheese with Spoon Sweets

    Spoon Sweets and Anari Cheese – Anari Cheese is the fluffy white byproduct of halloumi cheese made by adding fresh raw milk to the whey after the halloumi curds have been separated. Spoon Sweets are spoon size bites of usually fruit but sometimes vegetables, usually the rind preserved in a sweet syrup.

    Things I Tackled at Home

    After going in to quarantine then followed by lockdown, I realized I wasn’t going to be eating in any local restaurants. So I set out to teach myself in my own Cyprus test kitchen, how to make several more of Cyprus’ most famous dishes. Here is everything I tackled during our weeks of solitude with recipe links when possible;

    Cyprus Cuisine
    Sheftalia

    Sheftalia – a type of sausage without skin its held together with caul fat. Very popular taverna meze. I was able to buy the Sheftalia already prepared at the butcher and grilled it up at home.

    Kolokouthkia me ta afka – is a traditional scrambled egg and zuchinni dish often eaten as a mezze.

    Cyprus Food
    Kolokouthkia (scrambled eggs and zuchinni) and fried Halloumi

    Fried Halloumi – this cheese is really amazing, with a very high melting point so it’s perfect for frying…but I also love it’s dense saltiness just to pop in my mouth.

    Macaronia Tou Fournou (similar to Greek Pastitsio ) this deep dish casserole was delicious and I plan to make it again. Layers of macaroni pasta, boullanaise sauce, bechamel sauce and grated halloumi it was comfort food at its finest.

    Cyprus Cuisine
    Macaronia Tou Fournou

    Melitzanosalata – smashed eggplant cooked and mixed with garlic, lemon and parsley and usually served as a mezze.

    Avgolemoni Soup – Lemon and Egg Soup. Simple and absolutely delicious. What a refreshing surprise this treat was. I will certainly make it again.

    Cyprus Cuisine
    Avgolemoni Soup

    Lamb Chops – for our first Easter dinner we had lamb chops fresh from the butcher, marinated simply in olive oil, lemon and rosemary.

    Kleftiko – Lamb Shank. This is the most famous dish on this island, and I wasn’t sure about tackling it. Usually cooked in a traditional outdoor oven for hours and hours, I took my chances cooking it in the oven in my kitchen. This was our Easter dinner on the Cypriot Easter Sunday and it was amazing.

    Cyprus Food
    Kleftiko

    Souvlaki – I’ve eaten souvlaki in Greece and the USA and I love it but I wasn’t sure about making it myself. But on one of our final days in Cyprus I went to the butcher and bought beautiful piece of pork tenderloin and made the most mouth-watering meal! We had a lot of meat left and we enjoyed it again on day two.

    Souvlaki
    Souvlaki in Pita

    Fresh Lemonade – we were up to our ears in both lemons and oranges and we loved having fresh squeezed OJ each morning. We put our fresh lemonade skills to the test and what a refreshing afternoon pick me up.

    Cyprus Lemonade
    Fresh Lemonade using the lemons in our yard

    In addition we learned to make Cypriot coffee in our Cyprus test kitchen, just like Turkish coffee, dark and strong.

    Things We Ate Elsewhere

    Our lovely Airbnb host kept us in delicious baked goods, including one of Cyprus’ most famous desert flat breads called kattimerka, very much like lefse. She brought us a local molded pudding (cake) made from semolina flour called Halva as well as orange cake. And she also made us our favorite, the traditional Easter bread called Flaounes.

    Cyprus foods
    Easter bread known as Flaounes

    We bought Galaktoboureko at the local bakery, a very dense custard, phyllo, and honey pie.

    Cyprus sweets
    Galaktoboureko

    From the grocery store we enjoyed excellent local olives and olive oil as well as wonderful wines from Cyprus including Commanderia, the Cypriot favorite. As well as Tahini, Hummus and Tzatziki.

    Cyprus food
    Halva Pudding

    At the local butcher we sampled the traditional Tsamarella, a sausage made from lamb or goat and served like an appetizer with cheese and bread.

    Things I Didn’t Have

    We missed out on one famous Cypriot speciality, a slow clay pot cooked meal called Ttavas. We also didn’t get to experience the cultural traditon of mezze meals, either a meat mezze or seafood mezze at a traditional taverna. This is the most popular way to eat in company, sampling dozens of small dishes while drinking and enjoying each other’s company. So sorry we never got to do that.

    Cyprus will always hold a special place in my heart…what a remarkable place to be in lockdown. Even though we missed so much, I still feel a great emotion to the people and the place…perhaps we can return when times are better.

    I am so grateful to this country for the love they showed us. EUCARISTW POLU. Thank you very much. You will never know how much it has meant to us.

    Adio is. Farewell.

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    Cyprus Test Kitchen
    Cyprus Test Kitchen
    Food & Drink  --  Inspire

    My Favorite Coffee Around the World

    Stop and Smell the Coffee

    Location: Around the World

    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.

    Enjoying Cyprus coffee

    Cyprus

    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.

    Brewing over the hot sand

    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.

    Coffee in France
    Espresso in France 2007

    France

    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.

    Italian coffee
    My husband enjoying coffee in Italy

    Italy

    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.

    Ethiopian coffee
    Ethiopian woman preparing the coffee

    Ethiopia

    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.

    Zanzibar Coffee

    Zanzibar

    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.

    Moroccan Coffee
    Coffee at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca

    Morocco

    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.

    Greek Coffee
    Coffee in Greece

    Greece

    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.

    Breakfast in Qatar

    Qatar

    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.

    Vietnam Coffee
    Almost always served in a glass cup in Vietnam

    Vietnam

    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.

    Guatemalan Coffee
    Coffee in Guatemala

    Guatemala

    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.

    Vietnam Coffee
    A special latte made to look like me in Vietnam

    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!

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    Africa Travel  --  Food & Drink

    Exploring the Flavors of Mauritius

    A Melting Pot of Cuisines

    Location: Mauritius Island, Indian Ocean

    Culture Clash

    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.

    Sugarcane occupies 36% of the islands total area

    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.

    Tea for every ailment

    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.

    Salt from the island

    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.

    Tea tasting and Tea plantation tours are popular activity for visitors

    African Influence

    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.

    Fish Curry made in our cooking class

    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.

    Making farata from scratch with Chef Didier

    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.

    Piment Crazer

    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!

    Smoked marlin salad with hearts of palm

    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.

    Tandori Chicken with fried yams

    If you come to Mauritius we recommend a cooking class with Chef Didier and Mauritian Creole dinner at Creole Shack (casual) and Le Chamarel (fancy). Want to try fish curry at home? Here is a recipe.

    Asian Influence

    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.

    Street vendor serving boulettes

    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.

    Boulettes in broth

    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.

    BBQ Pork with fruit

    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.

    Magic upside down noodles

    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.

    Indian Influence

    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.

    Roti three ways; vegetable, chicken and lamb curry

    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.

    Dholl Puri – made from lentil flour

    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.

    Dholl Puri with pickled vegetables and chicken curry

    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.

    Our feast at Zub Express Indian Restaurant

    Want to try Dholl Puri at home? Here is a recipe.

    French Influence

    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.

    Entrecote with butter and frites

    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.

    Canard with scalloped potato

    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.

    Our favorite of the coffees we tried – Dodo Cafe

    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.

    A treat at the Boulangerie down the street from us

    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!

    Check out our blog about the wildlife preservation efforts on Mauritius.

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    Asia Travel  --  Food & Drink

    The Surprising Foods of Myanmar

    Eating and Cooking My Way Through Myanmar

    Location: Inle Lake Myanmar

    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.

    Tea Leaf Salad

    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.

    Our feast at Bamboo Delight Cooking School

    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.

    Bamboo Delight Cooking School

    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.

    At the Market

    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.

    Chickpea Tofu at the market

    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.

    Tofu making at Bamboo Delight Cooking School
    Making the Pennywort Salad at Bamboo Delight

    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.

    Chickpea Tofu 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.

    Shan version of Tea Leaf Salad front and Pennywort Salad back

    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.

    Time to eat!

    Regional Specialties

    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.

    Braised Pork with Shan Tea Leaves

    Soup for Breakfast

    Mohinga Fish Soup

    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.

    Mohinga being dished out at the market
    Chicken and Coconut Soup

    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.

    Steamed Butterfish

    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.

    Spicy Pork Salad

    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.

    Wine Tasting at Red Mountain Winery

    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.

    Cheers Myanmar!

    Kye zu tin ba Myanmar. Thank you for a wonderful visit. Read last week’s blog about the Remarkable People of Inle Lake

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    Asia Travel  --  Food & Drink

    Two Countries, Two Cuisines, Too Delicious

    The Food of Taiwan and Malaysia

    Location: Taiwan and Malaysia

    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.

    Taiwan

    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.

    Scallion pancake on Food Tour in Taiwan
    Scallion Pancake is one of our favorite foods we discovered in Taipei Taiwan

    GoTuCook

    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.

    Mushroom and chincken soup in Cooking class in Taipei
    The beginnings of a delicious shiitake mushroom and chicken soup

    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.

    At The morning market Beitou Taipei
    Me at the busy Beitou morning market

    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.

    Displaying all the dumplings made by hand in Taipei cooking class
    My pretty dumplings ready for the steamer

    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.

    Chef Calvin of GoTuCook
    My new friend Chef Calvin of GoTuCook

    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.

    Pork bun One sample from Taipei Eats Food Tour
    The pork “burger” was one of the best things we had on our Taipei food tour

    Taipei Eats

    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!

    TStinky Tofu at Taipei Eats Food Tour
    This is probably the one and only time for me with the Stinky Tofu

    Malaysia

    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.

    Prepping the chicken at Indian Cooking Class Kuala Lumpur
    Learning Indian cooking in Kuala Lumpur

    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.

    Indigenous Malaysian sweet treat
    Ancient Malay cultures enjoyed this rice flour treat

    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.

    Chinese Soup at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
    A very local Chinese Soup with veg, chicken and tofu

    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.

    Amazing Night Market at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
    My husband Arne recruited to work on the “carrot cake” stir fry – one of our favorite things we had on our Kuala Lumpur food tour

    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.

    Trying new foods like mackeral in palm leaf at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
    Mackerel cooked inside a palm leaf

    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.

    Chinese sweet treat at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
    Daun Pandan a sweet Chinese treat

    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!

    Indian Bananan Roti at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
    Banana Roti a sweet Indian treat

    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.

    Indian Cooking class Kuala Lumpur
    The beautiful Biryani we made with our instructor Ruth

    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!

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    Food & Drink

    Oodles of Noodles

    Chapter Five

    (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.)

    Oodles of noodles inside of me

    Oodles of noodles on the menu I see

    Breakfast is noodles like warm yummy pho

    Cheap and delicious it’s so good for ya

    Bun is for lunch served hot in a bowl

    All of these noodles are good for the soul

    Oodles of noodles sold by vendors on the street

    Oodles of noodles eaten on a tiny red seat

    Dinner is Bahn Cahn or Bahn Bo Hue

    Not sure what I’m eating, it’s all noodles to me

    Warm yummy broth served with grilled pork too

    Or maybe it’s Chicken or fish in the stew

    Oodles of noodles each meal of the day

    Point at what looks good then take it away

    Oodles of noodles served in the Vietnamese style

    Trying each kind will take a while

    Oodles of noodles I’m so glad I’m here

    Eat me some noodles with an ice cold beer