Out of Africa: Native Foods

Northern Africa is comprised of several countries, namely Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Libya and Egypt. Clearly its foods have been influenced over the centuries by the ancient Phoenicians (a Semitic civilization now modern-day Tunisia) who introduced sausages and wheat, and Berber nomads who adapted the semolina from wheat, creating couscous which has become a main staple. Fast forward a few centuries, and you have the Arabs bringing a variety of savory spices, like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and saffron. From the New World, chilies, tomatoes and potatoes appeared, with lamb as a primary meat. (For you old movie buffs, Casablanca is Morocco’s chief port and the location where Humphrey Bogart’s character owned a bar.) These very foreign and strange-sounding foods make up a majority of dishes and regional cuisine:

Chermoula: a mixture of herbs, oil, lemon juice, pickled lemons, garlic, cumin, and salt, used as a marinade and relish;

Couscous: popular in many countries (including the U.S.) as a rice and potato substitute, made from steamed and dried durum wheat;

B’stilla: also known as pastilla, is Moroccan in origin, dating back to the eighth century; generally a sweet and sour pigeon pie, or made with chicken or quail. onions and spices like saffron and coriander, almonds and beaten eggs, wrapped up in thin warqa pastry that becomes crispy when cooked; (a main course and dessert all-in-one)

Tajine: a famous Berber dish, named for the pot in which it is cooked; your basic slow-cooked stew with meat, veggies, spices and dried fruit;

Shakshouka: a Tunisian dish, sometimes called chakchouka, also enjoyed in Israel and believed to have originated with Maghrebi Jews; served at any meal, containing chopped onions, chili peppers, tomatoes and cumin, until it has formed a thick sauce,topped with poached eggs;

Ful Medame: the national dish of Egypt and a popular street food in Cairo and Giza,containing cooked fava beans, then served with vegetable oil and cumin, garlic, onions, peppers and hard boiled eggs, dating back to Egypt in the fourth century;

L’hamd Marakad: the pickled lemon, an essential ingredient in Moroccan cooking, one the main ingredients in salads and plates of vegetables or flavored chicken dishes; fermented with lemon juice and salt for a month;

M’hanncha: sometimes known as the ‘Moroccan snake’ cake, (mercifully not made with actual snake) It derives its name from filo dough filled with a sweet almond paste, rolled and flavored with orange water and cinnamon, then cooked;

Harira: a soup always eaten during the Holy Month of Ramadan, when a fast is broken at sunset, usually a snack or appetizer;

Matbucha: another small dish, native to Israel, Syria and North Africa, your basic cooked tomatoes and peppers, spiced up and served with bread and olives; surprisingly, tomatoes did not arrive until the early nineteenth century, brought by the British Consul in Aleppo;

Mhadjeb: also called mahjouba, is a staple of Algerian cooking and a common street food, sometimes called Algerian crepes, filled with a paste of tomatoes and chopped cooked vegetables; if you utter “take me to the Casbah” you are likely to encounter these crepes, and who knows what else, so it’s best not to kid around;

Mechoui: the traditional North African meat, a whole lamb roasted on a spit or in a pit, served with flatbreads, dips, and yogurt;

Mrouzia: a dish traditionally served during the Eid al-Adha festival in Morocco. a very specific type of tajine made with lamb;

Authentic Northern African restaurants are pretty scarce, especially outside of major cities, but well worth the adventure should you be lucky enough to find one. Expanding our knowledge of different cuisines may be out of our comfort level but certainly worth a try. So if you have the opportunity, take advantage. And if you are an avid multi-cultural cook, you can order many African food products online.

Most Despised American Foods

This list is a compilation of surveys, online searches,and food store sales across the U.S. of what Americans despise, to put it bluntly, and not necessarily that of the author, although she does agree with several of the entries:

Brussels sprouts – the number one despised food in America, mushy, smelly (can you spell “feet”?) and revolting; one wonders why it appears so often on restaurant menus and as a major vegetable during the holidays; (this author’s absolutely most despised food, she can’t even look at them in the produce section)

Garlic – for many, the odor is just too much, and raw, it gives them a stomach ache; frequently abused by using too much, although most Italians cannot grasp the concept of “too much garlic”;

Cheese Fondue – dairy and white wine abuse, gloppy, stringy, and too much trouble (why not just opt for a wonderfully gooey grilled cheese sandwich instead, and drink the wine that is usually part of the ingredients);

Tofu – bland, strange texture, and usually associated only with vegetarians;

Celery – too much work, all that chewing, useless filler, plus very pungent to the nose; what’s the point? ruins a perfectly good chicken salad;

Oysters – slimy and gross, eaten in their raw state makes many people shudder; even baked or in stew, their strange texture is not a winner;

Mayonnaise – gloppy, fatty, tasteless and just all-around disgusting (try Miracle Whip instead, which mayo lovers find disgusting);

Mushrooms – your basic fungus or toadstool, and too bland;

Licorice – makes your tongue black, tastes terrible and who needs it; (author also dislikes this one, but liked it as a child, so go figure)

Cilantro – a ramped up version of parsley, celebrity chef Ina Garten despises it; “How bad can that be?” (apparently pretty bad)

Turnips and Parsnips – mushy, tastes terrible no matter what you do to them; (author has to agree with these two)

Blue Cheese – pungent, moldy and seriously sharp, ruins any respectable salad;

Liver – just plain gross in every way, even smothered in grilled onions can’t help;

Anchovies – disgusting little hairy, salty fish; destroys a good pizza; (author wholehearted concurs)

Broccoli – former president George H.W. Bush made his extreme dislike of this vegetable famous; smelly when cooked, boring when raw, no amount of cheese sauce or ranch dressing helps;

Lima Beans – mushy, tasteless and always overcooked;

Sushi – raw fish – say no more;

So what tops your hit parade of most despised foods? Everyone has several. Some people have a lot. Many of us adored certain foods the first time we tried them regardless of our age. Other times, it took several exposures or preparations to win us over. But for most of us, we are fortunate to have the ability to pick and choose. What’s in your fridge?

Indonesian’s ‘Unknown’ Cuisines

Who has ever tried Indonesia’s cuisines? Maybe some of you have ever heard or tasted Rendang, Nasi Goreng, and Satay. Yes, of course, those are Indonesian’s cuisines that some years ago became popular foods in the world. As the CNN articles in 2015 about 50 delicious foods in the world, those three cuisines were chosen in it. However, the Indonesian’s cuisines are not only those three, there are some cuisines which is recommended for you to taste. Some cuisines which will provide here is not totally ‘unknown’ or ‘new’ in Indonesia, but it means that some cuisines here are not widely known by people outside Indonesia. Hopefully, it will give you a new information related to Indonesian’s cuisines. So, what are they?

The first one is Soto. Soto is a cuisine which uses chicken or cow’s meat as the main ingredient and it mixed with the sauce which is made from various kind of spices. The characteristic of this food is on the sauce’s color, yellow. Soto is like a soup which contains meat, potato chips, fried onion, and noddle. In addition, it always served with a plate of rice and krupuk.

The second is Rawon. Basically, it is almost same with Soto. However, Rawon has always used cow’s meat rather than chicken’s meat. The other characteristic is on the sauce which is black colored. The black color sauce is taken from kluwak, one of the spices which are the main ingredient of Rawon. As like Soto, Rawon is always served with a plate of rice and krupuk.

The third is Bakso or it is well-known as a meatball. Actually, the meatball is not the original cuisine from Indonesia, but also it originally from China. However, Indonesian people have modified it and make it different from the original ones. In Indonesia, Bakso or meatball is not only served a meat which is formed like a ball but also it served by other items, such as tofu, siomay, noodle, fried siomay and mixed it in a bowl with meat stock.

The next is Lalapan or in some places, it is called as Pecel Lele or Penyetan. This cuisine is related to Sambal or spicy sauce. Sambal is made from chili, onion, tomato, salt, and terasi (fermented shrimp). Sambel or spicy sauce is always served with various kind of side dishes, such as fried catfish, fried chicken, fried mushroom, fried tofu and tempeh, and so on. In addition, it served with some vegetables like cucumber, tomato, basil, and lettuce. As an Indonesian cuisine, of course, it is also served with a plate of rice.

Next is Gado-Gado. Have you ever heard that? Maybe it is odd for you. This cuisine is well known as Javanese Salad. Basically, this cuisine is almost same with salad in some countries. However, this cuisine is differenced with the common salad, it has special characteristics. This cuisine contains lettuce, cucumber, tomato, cabbage, string beans, boiled egg, boiled potato, fried Tempe, fried tofu, lontong (rice steamed in banana leaf), emping (melinjo chips) and mixed with the special thing, peanuts sauce (dressing). It is so tasty and of course so healthy.

And the last is Pecel. This cuisine is also widespread in Indonesia. As like Gado-Gado, it is also called as Javanese Salad. So, what are the differences between those two? Pecel is always served with rice, not lontong. The various vegetables used in Pecel is not as many as Gado-Gado. It is limited on cabbage, string beans, cucumber, water spinach, and bean sprouts. There is no boiled potato, boiled egg on Pecel. Pecel is also enjoyed with rempeyek (thin chip made of flour) rather than emping. And of course, the peanuts sauce is different. Pecel’s peanut sauce is spicier than Gado-Gado. Try it by yourselves to find out what is the differences between these two cuisines. They have the same name but have the difference tastes.

Lastly, some cuisines which have been listed above are the Indonesians’ cuisines which have been widespread in Indonesia. It means that you can find it everywhere if you visit Indonesia. Moreover, those cuisines are popular in Indonesia, but not for the world as like Rendang, Nasi Goreng, or Satay. Hopefully, it will give you new information about the ‘unknown’ Indonesians’ cuisines which is recommended to taste. Try it and you will love it.

Tapas: A Spanish Food Adventure

A tapa is an appetizer or snack in Spanish cuisine and translates to a small portion of any kind of food, similar to Chinese dim sum. It may be cold or hot. In the early days of tapas, a slice of cheese or ham was served with your drink and placed over the mouth of the glass (saved on washing plates). They were basically designed to tide one over until the traditional way of eating dinner very late in the evening, when most Americans are already sleeping. It may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or hot (such as chopitos, which are fried baby squid). In select bars in Spain, tapas have evolved into an entire sophisticated cuisine.

Legend has it that Castilian King Alfonso the Tenth (circa late 13th century) had once been stricken with a serious illness which only allowed him to consume small portions of food with small amounts of wine. (Perhaps he just got too hungry between lunch and dinner.) The U.S. has adopted this cuisine through tapas restaurants, wine bars and some micro breweries, as opposed to Spain, where it’s usually served up in simple tapas bars. Popular dishes include many traditional Spanish delicacies that are worth trying (be very brave, now):

Albóndigas – your basic meatballs

Aceitunas – assorted olives (no meal is complete without them)

Bacalao – salt cod, breaded and fried or stewed in tomato sauce

Boquerones – anchovies, marinated or deep fried

Berenjenas – eggplant/ (aubergine) can be raw or cooked

Cazón en Adobo – fried marinated dogfish (a type of fish, not dog)

Caracoles – snails,usually baked with spices (similar to French escargot)

Calamares – fried squid rings

Chipirones – a bit different, small squid cooked on a griddle

Chorizo – a popular spicy sausage

Gambas al Ajillo – fresh prawns in sizzling olive oil with garlic and peppers

Gazpacho – a cold tomato-based chopped vegetable soup

Jamón Serrano/Iberico – Spain’s favorite ham (similar to Italian prosciutto)

Melón con jamon Serrano – melon and ham

Morcilla – black pudding (blood sausage)

Paella – a national dish

Pisto – stew of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and zucchini

Pulpo – your basic octopus

Queso con membrillo – cheese with a sweet quince sauce

Salchichón – any spicy sausage or salami

Tapa de sardinas en tomate – sardines with a tomato sauce

Tortilla – omelette with potato and onion (not like the Mexican tortilla)

Sorry, no mac and cheese

If you are confused or overwhelmed, ask the server for assistance. One of the great advantages is that someone at your table is likely to enjoy a dish that maybe no one else does, so it won’t go to waste.

For many, tapas is an acquired taste. For others, simply not their cup of tea. But it’s definitely worth a try with a few good friends (who are culinary “good sports”). It just might lead to a new cuisine for the adventurous diner, so check it out. You can do it.

Discover 4 Types of Savory Laddoos From Indian Culinary Tradition

Laddoo owes its origin obviously to the Indian culinary culture. But, there’s something about this ball-shaped colorful and sweetened delights that could not resist any individual in any part of the world to gorge on to them. It is a type of omnipresent sweet dish that the households prepare any day, for any occasion, and sometimes without an occasion. On the other hand, businesses running sweet shops too maintain a separate rack stuffed with varieties of laddoos. Thus, what makes this round delicacy the sweetest obsession for all is its versatility and a whole lot of healthy ingredients. In fact, Laddoo can be prepared in more than thirty ways using a variety of basic ingredient like besan, boondi, coconut and so forth.

Have a look at few of the very popular or rather most savored Laddoo of all.

#1 Motichoor Laddoo

The reason Motichoor Laddoo is one of the top of this list is the magnificently sweet taste and soft texture. Pure and bright orange colored, round-shaped Laddoos, they are relished on most festivities after offering it to the Gods and Goddesses. Made from the gram flour, it has other vital ingredients like sugar, ghee, soda, dry fruits and some saffron strands for garnishing. Binding perfect round shaped Laddoo by hand is possible only after the batter is made consistent.

#2 Coconut Laddoo

One of the most common sweet delicacies savored by people for its authentic taste and health benefits. With only two basic ingredients needed, finely grated coconut mash and milk, it is easiest Ladoo to prepared. Simmer the milk until it’s is thick and boiled to a half amount and then mix up the coconut mash with sugar. It can be also be prepared with condensed milk.

#3 Malai Laddoo

Far different from all other forms of Laddoos, Malai Laddoos have a softer or spongy texture with extensive sweetness inside. It is looked upon as a royal type of dessert, used for treating guests being made with rich paneer and cream. Thus, both the ingredients being pure by-products of milk, these Laddoos carry a milky aroma, and are extremely fulfilling to the stomach when eaten more than one.

#4 Boondi Laddoo

This comes as a bright yellow colored sweet delight made from pure ghee, whose aroma prevails the time you gorge a bite of it. Boodi laddoo is also made in the similar way Motichoor laddoos are prepared with basic ingredients, gram flour, sugar, and soda. Sometimes, to enrich its sweetness and flavor, almonds, cashews, raisins, saffron and cardamom are also added. Loaded with flour, ghee and healthy nuts, it’s super nutritious and appetizing item for your sweet tooth.

By now, you have understood what’s so special about the Laddoos and what makes people keep it on the first of the preference list for sweets. While these are the most common and demanded varieties of the round delights, other types include Besan Ka Laddoo, Til Laddoo, Atta Laddoo, Rava Laddoo, and Chocolate Laddoo.