Rendang – A Fiery Indonesian Meal

Sometimes, you just need a meal that you know is going to blow your taste buds away. Rendang is just one of those types of dishes and it’s a classic Indonesian dish. This delicious, but fiery coconut milk based-stew can be prepared with different types of meat, like beef, lamb or chicken. Beef is probably the most popular around these parts, but it is traditionally made with buffalo. Some places even make it with jackfruit.

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Beef rendang with rice

A basic rendang contains coconut milk, shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, chile, and tumeric leaves. This aromatic stew is quite rich and heavy and has an interesting cooking process.

Rendang_cooking_process

Rendang has an interesting cooking process

It is slow-cooked for long periods, which helps render the meat to be tender and super flavorful. The coconut milk evaporates during this process, which then leaves an oil. This oil helps fry the meat, making the rendang brown and thicker, resulting in a more paste-like sauce.

Rendang

Rendang is a fiery stew that will make your tongue burn, but it’s worth it.

The beef rendang I had came with a side of rice, which helped lessen the burn. However, in some areas it is served with a compressed rice cake called ketupat. Despite sweating bullets while eating this dish, it was so flavourful and delicious that I had to finish it. It definitely woke up my taste buds.

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A Glimpse: Christmas Markets in Budapest and Vienna

Can you believe December has already arrived? Within a blink of an eye, summer flew by and I barely even recall fall being here. As we all know, “winter is coming”. That also means the holidays are just around the corner!

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Christmas Tree in Vörösmarty Tér (Square)

I was fortunate enough to be travelling around Europe while the Christmas markets were up and running. I got to see the beautiful lights, peruse through all the local crafts, and try some of the delicious food in Hungary and Austria. Even though it was nice to see the different tree decorations, porcelain pieces, snow globes, candles, etc., I was really excited about the food. This is a food blog, after all. 🙂

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Snow globes at the Christmas market

Roasted chestnuts…

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Roasted chestnuts

Mulled wine…

Marzipan…

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Marzipan at the Christmas market in Budapest

Beautifully decorated gingerbread….

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Adorable little gingerbread daschunds (aka wiener dogs)

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Gingerbread Booties

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Gingerbread Santa Claus

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Baskets full of beautifully decorated gingerbread

…you name it! The one in Budapest was much smaller in scale in comparison to the one in Vienna, but they had many more food stalls in Budapest.

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Food at the Budapest Christmas market

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More food at the Budapest Christmas market

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Food_Budapest_Christmas_market

See, told you there was lots of food. This is only a small sampling too! 🙂

They were quite pricey, but I ended up getting a simple meal with töltött káposzta (cabbage roll stuffed with rice and meat), székely káposzta (a sour, Transylvanian sauerkraut stew with meat), and a heavy heaping of sour cream to top it off. It was a savory and mildly spicy dish with a huge heaping of cabbage. I definitely got my vitamins in that day.

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Töltött káposzta with székely káposzta in Budapest’s Christmas market

It was supposed to come with a beautiful and crispy potato pancake (rösti), but I opted out because it was too much food. I somewhat regretted this. I love potato rösti!

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A Hungarian dish with potato rösti at the Budapest Christmas market

The Christmas markets in Vienna were much larger. In fact, so big that they had about 16 scattered throughout the city! All the red dots on the map are where the markets are located (plus a few that they couldn’t fit on the map).

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Map of Vienna’s Christmas Markets

Thankfully I had a 24 hour ticket to hop on and off of the transit as much as I wanted. I tried to get to as many as I could, but there were just too many things to see and eat with such limited time. In Vienna, although it’s not Viennese per se, I couldn’t resist having some raclette cheese when I saw it.

It was so hypnotic to see the cheese melt under this metal device as the server scraped layer by layer off to spread onto a piece of bread. I know, I’m strange but the cheese was so good and they were quite generous with the amount!

Raclette_Cheese_Bread

The ooey, gooey, raclette cheese

The stall gave the option of adding toppings and I added some red onions, pepper, and fried cheese. Yum! If only the bread was toasted, it would have been so much better.

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Wooden reindeer

Have you ever been to any Christmas markets in Europe?

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Christmas trees!

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Sunshine Blogger Award

Wow! I was off floating around the world and got a lovely surprise when Karin, the awesome blogger of The Austrian Dish, nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. It’s the second time I have been nominated for this award, but I am honoured and super grateful for the props. It must mean I am doing something right. 🙂

Karin has a lovely blog about all things Austrian – delicious food recipes, lovely pictures, places to see, and fabulous finds like her great grandmother’s cookbook! It’s definitely a site worth checking out. Besides, other than visiting Austria, what better way to experience the beautiful country other than through the eyes of an Austrian? 🙂

So how does this award work? Once a blogger is nominated, they should write a post in which they:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated them and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated them,
  • Nominate 11 other blogs and give them 11 new questions to answer.
  • Notify your nominees and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post.

Although those are the rules, don’t feel any pressure to accept. Here are my responses to Karin’s questions:

1. If you could travel anywhere, where would it be? There are too many places in the world that I want to see, but on top of my list right now is Thailand, Iceland, and Greece. I would also like to see the big migration in Africa.

2. What is your favorite thing to cook for dinner? Lasagna. I’m like a Garfield. I can’t have enough of it.

3. How did you choose the title of your blog? It was a random thought that came into my head. I originally wanted “All Roads Lead to Food”, but I believe the name was taken so I had an “ah ha” moment and added a “Yes!” to the front.

4. Who inspires you the most? Strong people who are honest and humble and refuse to step on others to move up in life.

5. What is your favorite dessert? Any kind of cake – cheesecake, sponge cake, bundt cake, honey cake…I don’t discriminate. 🙂

6. If you could only bring three items with you to an island for the next year, what would they be and why? – My partner to keep me sane, something to be able to write on, and all the books I have been meaning to read but have never found the time to do so.

7. What is your dream job? A professional travel/food blogger.

Although I think all of my lovely readers deserve recognition for writing such great blogs, I only try to nominate bloggers once. So, without further ado, my nominees are:

Here are the questions for my nominees:

  1. Why did you start blogging?
  2. Out of all your posts, which one is your favourite?
  3. What do you enjoy about blogging?
  4. Are you an introvert or extrovert?
  5. What is your favourite song?
  6. If you are feeling down, what cheers you up?
  7. What is the most exotic dish you have ever eaten?
  8. What do you think is one thing that everyone should do at least once in their lifetime?
  9. Out of all the holidays in the year, which one is your favourite and why?
  10. If you could pick 3 countries to visit, which ones would they be?
  11. Is the glass half empty or half full?

Congrats to the nominees! I look forward to seeing your responses to my random, mish-mash of questions. 🙂

Brioche_Stiftsbäckerei_of_St_Peter's_Abbey

Foodie Finds – Hungary, Austria, and the U.K.

I love travelling, but there are some things that are horrible about it – Having your liquids explode in your bag, not being able to find a toilet, having to pay for a toilet when you do find a toilet, and sitting on an airplane in the back for an absurdly long period of time in the middle seat. Then there’s the part about searching for things that are reasonably priced. You know how touristy areas love to gauge you for extra money!

Despite sounding cynical, these only make up a small part of travelling. There are so many great things, like discovering hidden jewels as you wander aimlessly in leisure around the streets. While I was on my last voyage, I stumbled by happenstance across a few foodie things I probably wouldn’t have come across if I took a more traditional path.

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A sign I came across in Pecs, Hungary

In Salzburg, I roamed the streets by St. Peter’s Abbey and saw a water mill. There was a sweet smell in the air and a dark, mysterious doorway leading to somewhere.

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St. Peter’s Abbey Watermill

Don’t worry. I survived and came out alive! The mill I saw was installed in 2007 to replace the previous one that was shut down in 1966 (also known as the stiftsmühle). It helps generate power to grind flour to make sourdough of the infamous stiftsbäckerei of St. Peter’s (a bakery), which is where I ended up going.

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Stiftsbäckerei of St. Peter’s Abbey

I was tempted to buy a bag full of buns, but just bought a little brioche which was still warm when I got it. The bread is special because it came from what is claimed as the oldest bakery in Salzburg and is baked in a log-fired oven. I’m pretty sure that’s rare to find these days. The bread was so soft, so fresh, and such a lovely thing to discover and eat!

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A fresh brioche from the Stiftsbäckerei of St. Peter’s Abbey

I also happened to stumble across what the company claims as the original makers of a cake that Austria specializes in. Boy was I excited when I discovered this one, but I’ll write about it another day. 😉

In Hungary, I found paprika chips. Why is this a thing? Well, Hungary is known to use plenty of paprika in their dishes so it’s not surprising to find it as a chip flavour. They put that *bleep* on everything (no copyright infringement intended).

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Paprika Chips in Hungary

In London, I came across a street vendor during my stroll across the London bridge.

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London Bridge

Although it may not seem exciting, I was starving and the sweet and buttery aroma of the caramelized nuts made me salivate. I literally floated towards it like a cartoon character.

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Caramelised peanuts and almonds in London

We don’t really have street vendors where I live, so it’s always exciting for me to see one. Let alone somewhere with such a scenic view!

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A cup of caramelised peanuts and almonds – I’m still looking for the almonds!

Oddly enough, even though they advertised caramelized peanuts and almonds, I don’t recall ever finding an almond in my batch.  Due to the cooking process, the nuts weren’t as hard and crunchy, but the sweetness from the sugar made up for it.

Along my journey in London, someone introduced me to something called Nik Naks. These are “knobby, wacky sticks of corn”. One of my most favourite snacks in the world are those crunchy Cheetos, so I was happy to discover these were similar. However, unlike the cheesy goodness in a Cheeto, Nik Naks were completely different in flavor. They have an interesting sweet and sour taste to them and are a bit softer. It must be the soya sauce, malt, and curry powder combo.

Nik_Naks

Nik Naks

Although the ones I bought were in London, apparently the really good ones are made in South Africa. I’ll have to keep that in mind when I get a chance to go there!

Nik_Naks_Malt_Soya_Sauce_Curry_Powder

Malt, soya sauce, and curry powder? Oh my.

Have you ever come across cool random findings during your travels? Let me know, I’d love to hear. 🙂

A Real English Breakfast

It’s funny. No matter how many times I have landed into the United Kingdom, I never actually took the time to stay and tour London. I wont lie, it hasn’t ever been a high priority on my list but I met a friend along one of my travels that lives there so I decided to visit her and finally do a proper tour of the city. Coming off of a quasi-long flight (8 hours+), she took me out for what she called “a proper English breakfast”.

A typical English breakfast

It has everything you probably shouldn’t be stuffing your face with if you have high cholesterol – eggs, sausages, ham, “chips” (aka fries), and beans. I also had some English tea to go with my meal. Although I’m not generally used to eating such a big meal for breakfast, this was a warm welcome.

As a random side, it was only brunch time so I was pretty surprised at how many people were gulping down beers that early in the morning. I guess when in Rome! 🙂

Turon – Banana Lumpia

I’ve had deep fried bananas battered with panko crumbs, bananas inside baked goods like bread or muffins, and fresh bananas on their own, but it was only this year that I tried something called banana lumpia. 

Lumpia is essentially a spring roll and is typically filled with meat and/or veggies. Although I’m more familiar with the Filipino culture calling them lumpia, Indonesians apparently call them lumpia too. A typical lumpia doesn’t have fruit in it, but I went to a festival that had ones called turon which are filled with banana (although it may actually be referring to plantain):

It’s not the best picture, but you get the gist of it. Scouting around the internet, it looks like all you need to do is roll plantain around in brown sugar before rolling it snuggly into a wonton wrapper and frying it with some oil. However, you can make it even more delicious by adding cinnamon to the sugar mixture or adding a caramel sauce to it, like the one I had. It was sweet, sticky, and a lovely deep fried treat. You can’t go wrong with deep frying something sweet and then dousing it in a sweet, syrupy sauce! And to think, adding ice cream on top too? Yum!

Food Subscriptions – A Box From Japan

Online subscriptions have been all the rage for quite some time. Whether it be a monthly subscription for tea lovers, a subscription to have handpicked ingredients delivered to your door, or even a mishmash of unique snacks from around the world, if there’s something you’re looking for it probably exists. Although I have never been able to commit to any subscriptions myself, my friend sent me a personalized box while on her travels which made it feel like I got a food subscription package. Similar to my reaction watching the movie Se7en with Brad Pitt, when he sees a mysterious box, I pondered: “What’s in the box?!?!”.

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A mysterious polka dotted box

Thankfully it wasn’t a head or body part, but it was full of snacks my friend bought for me while she was in Japan.

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Snacks from Japan

The first thing I tried were these golden crispy sticks. I had no idea what I was eating at first and being unable to read Japanese, your guess would have been as good as mine.

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Despite the oblong looking wieners and cartoon cow, it’s not hot dog or beef flavored

It tasted a bit fishy, but seeing what resembled hot dogs and a cow on the front, it made me think my tastebuds were broken. I had to ask my friend and my hypothesis wasn’t far off.  She said they were fish roe flavoured fries….Interesting, to say the least! Crunchy, hard, and well….fishy!

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Fish roe flavored sticks

Next, I tried the package of fried edamame beans. For some reason, when I ate them, they reminded me of bananas, but also as if I was simultaneously eating beans.

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Crispy Edamame

They were crispy, green, and odd shaped little bites – square, round, big, small…I guess a healthy alternative to typical crisps, perhaps?

Then there was apple pie. What’s so special about this pie? Well, apparently the type of apples used! The package says they use “sweet and sour apples. Their sweet aroma and flavor of apple overwhelm your mouth”.  Surprisingly, for a pre-packaged pie, it really was full of flavor. The crust was soft and the apples were delightful. The apples had such a crunch that you would feel like you were biting straight out of a fresh apple covered in sauce. Although I’m sure popping it into the toaster over would have made it better, the rectangular snack would have been even better if it came with a crispy crust. So much that I would be willing to purchase a box full!

Then there’s the apple drink. Looking at the package, I thought it would have been similar to the apple tea I had back in Turkey which contained crystallized, apple flavored sugar. However, this actually contained tea bags…and actual apple! Taking a sniff from the canister also revealed a beautiful aroma of apples, like being at an apple orchard and smelling a freshly picked apples.

Apple tea from Japan

After steeping the tea for a bit, the dehydrated apple bits expanded and puffed up the tea bag. So it’s not imitation apple or just sugar crystals!

Apple tea

It says you can add sugar, but I had it plain. It was like drinking a hot apple cider, but less sweet and more aromatic. 

Overall, I love surprises and I think a food subscription would be fun. If only they weren’t so expensive! For now, I’ll just settle with what I can get. 🙂

The Polish Pyzy

Food can take the form of many different shapes and sizes, but I would like to think a circular sphere is quite common. Meatballs, mochi, oranges, and something called pyzy (pronounced “peh-zey”).

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A plate of pyzy

Pyzy is a Polish dish that can be eaten as a main meal. They are considered as just one of the many types of “kluski” or dumplings that are made in Poland (the most famous one is probably the pierogi). The outer dough is typically made of fresh potatoes, potato flour, and eggs which can be stuffed with beef or pork or be served as plain and simple dough balls. In the summer, there are dessert pyzy stuffed with fruits that are in season – such as cherries or plums.

Pyzy are normally boiled, but they can be enhanced by additional toppings. The ones I had were stuffed with ground pork and topped with crispy bacon bits. However, they can also be prepared with fried onions, lard, or even a heaping dollop of gravy or butter and bread crumbs.

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Ground pork stuffed pyzy topped with bacon bits

Although they seem quite simple, pyzy are delicious little balls. They are soft and easy to eat, though they tend to have a gummy texture. They equate to a pretty heavy meal, but I’ll amount that to all the potatoes at work in this humble dish.

A Gluttonous Sandwich – The Francisinha

Every dish has a story. The francisinha is no different. Legend says that there was a Portuguese man that moved to France. He was a womanizer, so he loved to roam around living a life of debauchery. One day, his dad called him and told him he wanted to open a restaurant in Portugal, but he needed his son to come back and help. The son loved his life in France and was reluctant to change his lifestyle, but he went back to Porto be a good son.

Streets _of_Porto

Streets of Porto

The son, being mischievous, intentionally created a spicy sandwich called the francisinha to add to the menu. He didn’t make it mouth-on-fire hot, but enough to make people sweat. His reasoning? The womanizer in him believed if it was spicy enough, it would make woman sweat and consequently remove layers of clothing. Tsk tsk!

So what is this francisinha I speak of? It’s about as gluttonous as one can get with a sandwich, minus the bacon. It’s made with bread, deli meat, steak, and cheese. However, it goes further to add egg and sausage and has a layer of cheese enveloping the entire thing. It is then smothered in a spicy, tomato-based gravy. Yikes!

Famous_Porto_Francisinha

The famous Porto sandwich – The Francisinha

It normally comes with fries too, which doesn’t help the waistline or the arteries. Like I said, it’s a gluttonous sandwich! It’s a savory dish, which was really interesting to eat. You have to definitely go in with an empty stomach and expect to be bursting at the seams by the end of it. 

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The Francisinha is ready for its close-up

It’s something that everyone visiting Porto should try at least once. Every restaurant makes it a little differently, but it will definitely leave a lasting impression. Oddly enough, there are also vegetarian versions.  

In case anyone was wondering, no articles of clothing were removed off my body upon the eating of this sandwich. 😉

What the Offal?

Kawaii_Halloween_Pumpkins

Kawaii Halloween pumpkins

Today is Halloween. Although I didn’t get a chance to carve out a pumpkin this year, let alone visit a pumpkin patch, I think a festive way to get into the mood is through food. I’m not talking about all the candies, chips, and chocolate bars, but by eating things that scare the majority. Brains? Chicken feet? How about some hearts?

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A delicious plate of offal

In other words, offal. It’s a category that sums up the types of odds and ends in meats that either make you jump for joy or cringe towards a bucket for relief. In America, apparently this may be known as “organ meats” or variety meats”. The term originally included only the entrails of an animal, but in addition to the innards are now other extremities – brains, intestines, feet, ankles, heart, kidneys, cheeks, lungs, liver, marrow, stomach, tail, tongue, testicles…they can be all lumped together now. Are you feeling queasy yet?

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A Chiuchow style platter of offal

Although there are numerous ways to actually prepare offal, this particular time I had it prepared Chiuchow style. It’s marinated in a soy sauce-based marinade and included a variety of animals and parts – pig intestine, beef flank, eggs, duck feet, sausage, pig ears, tongue, etc. There are many different textures on this platter; from soft to hard, slimy to rough, and smooth to crunchy. All I can say is, if you open your mind and just close your eyes, you may enjoy it. Technically, all these things can be incorporated into your common day eats like sausages, hot dogs, and pâtés…not to ruin it for you or anything. Happy Halloween!!! 🙂