Today marks the start of the Hindu celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights. The holiday is celebrated throughout India and the Indian diaspora, usually with festive foods and a variety of small sweet treats, called Mithai. However we were interested to learn that a popular alternative to Mithai in India is chocolate, and Cadbury chocolate in particular. Writing for the New York Times, Priya Krishna describes the long-seated dominance of Cadbury, a British confectioner now owned by the multinational brand Mondelez, and their sweet milk chocolate “Dairy Milk” bars, in India. The company first got its foothold in India during British colonization, and it is still the main player in the Indian chocolate market. While many other food categories are dominated by local companies, Cadbury has only been growing in recent years. While Cadbury may still be synonymous with chocolate in India, Krishna describes a small handful of artisan Indian and Indian-American chocolatiers are trying to beat the company’s monopoly in India and the diaspora with their innovative small-batch chocolates.
Category Archives: World Eats
Today marks the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, a day of renewal, celebration, and of course food! Honey-based or dipped foods are also a culinary tradition on this day, with the thought that they will usher in, and symbolize, a sweet new year. Searching for some Rosh Hashanah inspiration, we came across Jewish Food Society, a site that covers a diverse variety of Jewish foods from across the diaspora. We love that the site includes all of the different roots (and routes) the recipe went through to reach its current form, in the case of the Texan honey cake, a peripatetic path of Białystok, Poland > Manhattan > Houston. We were delighted to see an entire comprehensive Persian Rosh Hashanah menu on the site. The dishes, shared by Israeli cookbook author Rottem Lieberson, had the route of Tehran, Iran > Sha’ar Haliyah (near Haifa), Israel > Jerusalem > Tel Aviv. We are seriously tempted by Lieberson’s recipes including Fried Eggplant with Mint Vinaigrette, Rice with Barberries, Saffron and Potato Tahdig (seen below), and Toot (Persian Marzipan). Check out the Jewish Food Society’s impressive list of posts to discover more family recipes with roots from around the world.
September 7th is an important day in Brazil: it is both Brazilian Independence Day and a festival day for Yemanjá, the goddess of the sea in the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. It is traditional to serve white foods for Yemanjá, including creams, hominy-like canjica, and rice pudding (info link in Portuguese). One popular dish for Yemanjá is Manjar Branco / Manjar de Coco (coconut pudding, not to be confused with Peru’s Manjar Blanco, which is similar to Dulce de Leche). This Brazilian flan-like cream is flavored with coconut milk, and is super simple to make. Similar starch-thickened cream dessert dishes are found in Middle Eastern and European cuisines, including French Blancmange. In Brazil, Manjar Branco is traditionally served with a plum sauce, as you can see below. Check out Manjar Branco recipes from Olivia’s Cuisine, Mani Snacks, Ricardo Cuisine and Sabor Brasil. In addition to its presence at celebrations honoring Yemanjá, Manjar Branco is a popular dish to ring in the New Year! Odoìyá Yemanjá!
The transatlantic connection between Akara and Acarajé, bean fritters from Nigeria and Brazil respectively, is unmistakable. I wrote about this connection in 2014, noting the research of Nigerian food scholar Ozoz Sokoh at the time. I was really excited to see a short film on this topic by Sokoh, where she cooks both of these dishes. Seeing each being made really visually illustrates the unmistakable connection between these two Transatlantic dishes.
We recently saw a Munchies video on Vice about the lone Dungan restaurant in NYC, Lagman House (2612 E 14th St, Brooklyn, NY 11235), and quickly added it to our list of places to visit when we can travel again. The Dungan people are descendants of Muslim Hui Chinese who migrated to Central Asia over the course of centuries, and are now most commonly living in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. NYC’s Lagnam House is the only restaurant serving Dungan cuisine in the US, and is located in the neighborhood of Brighton Beach, which is heavily populated with immigrants from the former USSR. The family running this restaurant, the Azimovs, immigrated from the town of Zhalpaktobe in southern Kazakhstan in 2012, and family members act as cooks and servers.
The cuisine of the Dungan is imprinted by all of the different threads influencing the Dungan culture: Chinese, Islamic, Soviet and Central Asian. The signature dish is Lagman, hand pulled noodles (known as La mian in China) topped with beef, from which the restaurant gets its name. Handmade noodles are the stars of many of the dishes including Dappan Ji, noodles with fried chicken and peppers, and Ash lan fin, cold noodles with vegetables, bean jelly and eggs. The Central Asian and Russian influence can be seen clearly seen in dishes like Dungan samsa, pastries filled with beef and onion, and beshbarmak, a beef and noodle soup. Fortunately, you can still order from Lagman House on Seamless during the epidemic.
When we were in Egypt in October 2018 (has it really been that long)? We took a food tour in Cairo with Bellies En-Route, led by Mia. Eating our way through Cairo with experts was definitely one of the highlights of our trip, and you can read the summary of our tour here. When we learned that the Bellies team had released their first cookbook, Table to Table, this year, we knew we had to get a (virtual) copy. We love making cuisine from all of our travels, so we were delighted to see that the Bellies had highlighted some of the dishes that we had sampled on the Cairo food tour, particularly the Macarona Béchamel, which is an Egyptian cousin to macaroni and cheese. Along with recipes, the book is really well-designed, and contains a heaping helping of cultural insights that you would not normally see in a cookbook.
All in all, you receive 16 recipes including including 2 soups, 3 appetizers, 8 mains, and 3 desserts. We are particularly looking forward to making the lentil soup (shorbet ads), the potato & chicken casserole (seneyet batates bel ferakh), moussaka, and the basbousa, a classic semolina-based dessert that we tried for the first time on our tour (pictured among other desserts on our tour below). All of the recipes are handed down from family members, which makes them extra special. With the uncertain Covid-19 situation, runnign a food tour business is precarious, so go and help out these amazing entrepreneurs. You can buy the Table to Table eCookbook, which comes as a handy PDF download (or a file to send to a Kindle). from Gumroad here for $16.99. Follow Bellies En-Route on Instagram to learn about their latest adventures.
We have been cooking our way around the world during quarantine, since we can’t go anywhere. So far, it has been helping our quell our wanderlust a little bit. A few weeks ago we tried to make Adobo, the de facto national dish of the Philippines. Chicken Adobo can be made a thousand different ways, but generally has a vinegary sauce base. Chef Angela Dimayuga shared her family’s recipe which includes soy sauce, garlic, and three types of coconut: coconut oil, coconut milk and coconut vinegar. You can find the recipe here on New York Times Food. This dish was super easy to make, and was deliciously savory and tangy. We especially loved the spicy pop of the whole peppercorns. This would be the perfect dish for entertaining (someday).
One of the more bizarre food-related competitions we have heard about in the recent past is the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-rolling competition in Gloucester, UK. The event, which was supposed to be held on May 25, 2020, was unfortunately cancelled because of Covid-19. So what exactly is going on? A 7-9 lb. round of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled down the hill (in 2013 only a stunt cheese was used) and many, many people go rolling along after it! The first person to the bottom of the hill wins the wheel of cheese. The Double Gloucester cheese used for rolling has been produced in Gloucestershire for centuries and is worth seeking out in its own right. The true origins of this competition are shrouded in mystery, and range from celebrating pagan roots to obtaining grazing rights. In any case, the competition has been held in some form since at least 1826 (when the first written record emerged)! Hopefully this video of the event in action will bring you a few laughs today. If you want to partake at home we suggest buying some Double Gloucester from your favorite cheesemonger, and it is commonly available at most grocery stores. You can even buy a 5-lb wheel for $97 online!
When we were in Australia last summer, we spent 4 days camping with a group tour in the Australian Outback en route to Uluru, eating well on a menu of camping cuisine. It was on this trip that we were introduced to the iconic Australian Damper. Damper is a type of soda bread, that is typically baked in a camping stove in the coals of a campfire (as below), and has long been associated with outback lore and camping cuisine in Australia. Now that we are in quarantine times, some people are turning to bread-baking as an activity – evidenced by the fact that flour and yeast are nowhere to be found – and this bread couldn’t be any simpler.
The Hook and the Cook has a nice video (below) on how to make damper in a camp oven over coals, which is how we experienced it. Adventure Dining Guide has a hack on how to cook damper in coals in aluminum foil if you don’t have a cast iron pot. You don’t even have to cook the damper over coals, an oven will do, as in this recipe from Taste, though of course it won’t have the same outdoorsy charm. You can add anything into damper as a filling or flavoring, as in the Blueberry Damper from Dirty Drifters.
While we were on our Outback adventure, we also had our first taste of Vegemite, slathered on our damper bread. Vegemite is a salty, savory spread made from brewer’s yeast that is iconic, but quite divisive, even among Australians. Our Australian guides instructed us on the proper way to consume Vegemite, in a very thin layer, mixed with a healthy dose of butter. Tom Hanks recently drew some playful criticism for layering his on too thick. So what did we think? The Eaters were split down the middle, one for an one against. To me (pro Vegemite), the Vegemite had a very strong umami flavor, and kind of smelled like anchovies!
The New Orleans Jazz Festival, one of the biggest music events of the year, which was supposed to be happening right now, was cancelled this year due to Coronavirus. The cancellation of JazzFest really drives home how out-of-the-ordinary everything is…. Along with the amazing music, you could get some of the best New Orleans cooking at JazzFest every year, ranging from Creole to Cajun to Vietnamese and back again. You could also get Yaka Mein soup, a hybrid dish that originated in New Orleans. Yaka Mein (also known as Ya-Ka-Mein or simply “Yock”) is a simple dish of beef, noodles, green onions, hard boiled eggs and soy sauce (plus some secret seasonings). Its actual origins are shrouded in mystery, though a likely theory points to roots in New Orleans’ old Chinatown, and similar dishes under the name yat/yet gaw mein are sold in Chinese-American restaurants in New Orleans and throughout the US.
This hearty and filling dish has become associated with second line parades, and Jazzfest in particular, due to the presence of “Ya-ka-mein Lady” Ms. Linda Green. When Anthony Bourdain visited New Orleans he paid a visit to Ms. Green, and you can check out another interview with her by Zagat below. But even if you are not going to these events, you can get yakamein soup all over New Orleans from convenience stores to high-end restaurants to bars where it is touted as a great hangover cure (it is sometimes called “old sober”). If you are not lucky enough to sample Ms. Linda’s creations while in New Orleans, you can make Yaka Mein from just a handful of ingredients, using recipes from Just a Pinch, Epicurious and Deep South Dish.
Yesterday at sunset marked the start of 2020’s Ramadan, which will be quite a different celebration given that large gathering are not allowed in many countries. One of the most important parts of Ramadan is usually communal, the nightly breaking of the fast with a special meal known as Iftar. Even though we are not able to gather together, we can still make some pretty tasty treats for fast-breaking celebrations. One cookie reserved for special occasions like Ramadan is the flower-shaped Moroccan chebakia (also spelled shebakia or known alternatively as mkharka) that is deep fried, and glazed with honey and sesame seeds. The preparations for chebakia start in the weeks before Ramadan because it is so labor-intensive, and large quantities are required for Iftar celebrations. In French, the name for these cookies is la rose des sable, which translates to “rose made out of cookie.” The shape of the cookie is pretty intricate, so we found it helpful to watch Cooking with Alia’s video demo. You can find recipes for Chebakia from Spruce Eats, Cooking with Alia and My Moroccan Food. Maroc Mama even has a gluten-free recipe. At Iftar, chebakia is traditionally served with harira, a tomato soup, giving a really interesting sweet/savory twist.
This marks our first post on Malagasy food! When we were watching a video about street food in Madagascar, from The Best Ever Food Review Show, we were struck by the mysterious, ubiquitous food wrapped in banana leaves. Other street food dishes of rice, noodles and sausage were easier to identify, but this banana leaf-shrouded mystery was something completely different. Of course, we had to wait to the end of the video to find out that this was Koba, an emblematic Malagasy sweet made primarily of glutinous rice flour and peanuts steamed in banana leaves. This simpler version of Koba is known as Koba Ravina (or kobindravina), and is often the one sold by street vendors in giant portions. There is also a version called Koba Akondro, with other mix-ins like banana and honey. After steaming the banana leaves, the sliceable cake has a chewy, mochi-like texture with a molasses-colored center. Though on the streets of Antananarivo, koba is sold in giant banana-leaf-wrapped logs, you can make a smaller portion for yourself at home, provided you have banana leaves. Mada Magazine has a recipe on how to make koba akondro at home, as does Afro Tourism.
Inadvertently, this is an appropriate post for Poisson D’Avril / April Fool’s Day, but the recipe is no joke! Cartoon-fish-shaped Taiyaki may be the cutest dessert there is. Originating in Japan, Taiyaki has a waffle-like base, and is traditionally filled with red bean paste. The hand-held snack has a centuries-long history and the fish shape, tai, symbolically conveys wealth. We first experienced Taiyaki at Japanese restaurants in the US, and in frozen packets at the Mitsuwa grocery store. Fortunately, in the past few years more restaurants in the US are taking cues from the Taiyaki’s homeland of Japan, and are making these fish waffles fresh to order (we have had them recently at Taiyaki NYC and Mini Mott). However, my sister gave us a Taiyaki iron for Christmas, so we have been able to recreate Taiyaki at home for the first time. Though the fish shape is intricate, Taiyaki are really no harder to make than waffles (albeit with a hand-held iron instead of an automatic one).
There are many Taiyaki recipes out there, and we started with one from Just One Cookbook. This recipe called for cake flour, which was easier to come by pre-pandemic. If you don’t have it, here is way to substitute All-Purpose Flour + Corn Starch. You may be able to find canned or jarred red bean / azuki paste in a local Asian supermarket. If not, you make your own red bean paste with some of your pantry reserves. Or for even more variety, you can fill these with custard or even Nutella! The only tricky part is the timing of cooking the Taiyaki, we have a gas oven, and it took us a while to find the right cook time, which may also vary for your oven. If you make extra Taiyaki, you can freeze them and then reheat in a 350 oven for a few minutes. Enjoy!
How to make your own Taiyaki (recipe adapted from Just One Cookbook).
- 1¼ cup cake flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup milk
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 5 Tbsp red bean paste (about 1 Tbsp per Taiyaki, or substitute with Nutella, Cream, etc.)
- 1 Tbsp vegetable / canola oil
We have been focusing a bit on the Philippines this week during our online food explorations, and have become enthralled by its diverse food culture. We are already itching to visit in person some day and try all the street food! One of the major restaurant types in the Philippines is the Carinderia, which is a combination of a street food stall and a buffet restaurant. The origin of the name is tied to the word kari, which means spice/curry. At a Carinderia, which is often open air and found street-side or in a market, you can select from maybe a dozen or more rotating local Filipino home-style dishes. Options vary by restaurant and region, and may include chicken adobo, lechon (roast pork), sisig (chopped pork and onions), Tinolang manok (chicken soup), pancit (fried noodles) and more. You can find Carinderia restaurants throughout the Filipino diaspora, from the US, to Australia to Bahrain. Mark Weins has a blog post and video a Carinderia he visited in Manila, giving insight into the various dishes. We also love the Carinderia crawl videos from the Filipino channel Coconuts.tv. Each video follows a different person visiting their favorite Carinderia and it is awesome to see the variety in both setup and food!
Our ETW Armchair Travel destination today is: Nigeria! We have eaten our share of Nigerian food in the states, but we have never tasted one of the iconic foods of Lagos, Nigeria: Agege Bread! Brought to Nigeria by a Jamaican immigrant, and named after the Lagos suburb of Agege, Agege bread is now a completely ingrained and revered part of Nigerian food culture. This slightly-stretchy and chewy bread is made with few ingredients, and baked into a perfectly rectangular shape in special pans, and then fired in a clay oven. We really enjoyed this short documentary on the history of Agege bread, directed and produced by filmmaker Chika Okoli and featuring culinary historian and researcher Ozoz Sokoh aka Kitchen Butterfly [Instagram]. Ozoz does a great job describing Nigerian Food culture and the winding history of Agege bread. Making your own Agege bread seems to be somewhat difficult, but there are recipes out there, check out these options from K’s Cuisine, My Active Kitchen, and Africaparent. In the US, you can even get Agege bread baked fresh in Brooklyn.
Happy Diwali! Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, started yesterday, October 27, 2019, but it is not too late to get in on some delicious treats to celebrate this holiday. Today, for Diwali, we will be making Soan Papdi (aka patisa, son papri, sohan papdi or shonpapdi), a North Indian confection with an amazing melt-in-the-mouth texture. Really, it is unlike anything I have had before, somewhat like cotton candy, but with flaky layers, often formed into cubes. You definitely have to experience it for yourself! This treat was first introduced to me by my friend from Delhi, who brought the treat back directly from a favorite sweet shop. Soan Papdi is popular throughout India, especially during festivals. With a base of ghee (clarified butter), gram flour and sugar, soan papdi is often flavored with cardamom, but you can now find it flavored any number of ways, including mango, pistachio or chocolate. Check out Steemit, The Times of India and Awesome Cuisine for Soan Papdi recipes.
Our friend Jose from NYC has a second home in Okinawa, where his wife’s family is from, and the last time we saw him he was generous enough to shower us with Okinawan treats! We have long been fascinated by the unique culture of Okinawa, the largest of a chain of islands located south of the rest of Japan. Due to its relatively remote location Okinawan culture is completely different than in a place like Tokyo, which means Okinawa has its own unique, amazing food.
Local brown sugar, kokutu, is a prized commodity in Okinawa, made by slowly cooking down sugarcane juice (instead of adding molasses back in), imparting it with a unique flavor. Jose brought us two kinds of brittle made with Okinawa brown sugar: Black sesame & crushed peanut and coconut chunk. Plus we got Japan-exclusive Kit-Kats – almond and cranberry and dark chocolate.
There were also beautifully wrapped little cakes, which turned out to be – Sata Andagi – Okinawan fried doughnuts. Our variety had peanuts, white sesame and orange peel, though they can come in a variety of flavors, including the emblematic Okinawan sweet potato (also very popular in Hawaii). Thank you Jose for bringing us these wonderful Okinawan treats that we could have never gotten anywhere else!
Recently, at Costco, we ran across a case of an unusual-sounding drink: Golden Nest brand “Swallows Nest Beverage,” nestled right next to the Frappuccinos for the price of 8 bottles for $20. We thought the “nest” part was perhaps just a brand name or a metaphor, but it turns out that this drink is actually made from an edible bird’s nest, a prized culinary ingrediant in China. This ingrediant is more commonly known as “Edible bird’s nests,” and are actual bird nests created by varieties of swiftlet birds out of hardened saliva. Yep, you read that right. The nests are prized for their purported health benefits and contain a large amount of amino acids. Birds nests can go for hundreds or thousands of dollars per kilo, so a price of less than $3 per bottle seems quite reasonable!
Happy Hanukkah! Every year for Hanukkah we try to highlight some lesser known (at least in the US) foods of Jewish communities. One country with a rich tradition of Jewish foods that you may not think of immediately is Italy. There has been a Jewish community in Italy since at least 150 BC, and it has continued through to the present day. In Rome, the Jewish population was forced to live in a designated ghetto from 1555 to 1870, and in this period a distinctive Roman Jewish cuisine emerged.
One of the most famous Rome Jewish-Italian foods, that has been adopted by Romans of all religions as a signature dish is fried artichoke. Its Italian name – carciofi alla giudia – actually translates to Jewish-style artichokes. This simple and delicious dish is perfect for Hanukkah, where fried food symbolizes the oil in the lamp that burned for 8 days instead of just one. Other Italian Jewish dishes include pinaci con Pinoli e Passerine (spinach with pine nuts and raisins), Baccalà all’ebraica (fried codfish), and concia (fried zucchini). If you are hungry for more recipes check out the cookbooks Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen and Classic Italian Jewish Cooking.