Azorean Style Corn

When I was in the Azores (Portugal), my guide said that there was something special about the corn there. While I gave a dozen guesses, I couldn’t figure it out. The suspense! I found cooking an Azorean Cozido pretty neat, so I was anticipating on the secrets of this Azorean corn. Eventually, he brought me to this location.

It’s a hot spring called a “caldeira”, which is Portugese for “boiler” and it is naturally heated by active volcanoes. At first it was a bit of a head scratcher why he brought me here because half a day elapsed after the corn topic, but do you see the connection?

Azorean style corn is basically the way they cook it! They take corn, throw it into bags and cook it in the boiling mineral water! The result after an hour of boiling is some super soft and sweet corn on the cob. Even the birds love it (if you’re so kind enough to spare them some kernels :)). 

Mineral water is full of iron. Only a limited number of people are licensed to cook the corn like this on the Azores and sell them on the street. It was very enjoyable and steaming hot! Interestingly enough, my guide led us to the source of the water (a colder version) that was drinkable. Mineral water full of iron? When in Rome…..or the Azores in this case. 

Taking a sip from the first pipe, I wasn’t a huge fan. He suggested I try the second one, which contained more minerals. Let’s just say when I took a sip I felt like I licked a metal pipe and gagged. Oddly, it was naturally carbonated and is apparently good for digestion!  No regrets! And upon my random stumbles, look what I found:

It’s not what I thought it meant though. My guide said it meant narrow grotto or something along those lines. Oh well. 🙂

The Azorean Cozido – An Island Dish

Travelling around the world, I can discover dishes that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. While I’m lucky to be living in the diverse nation of Canada which grants me access to plenty of culinary delights, there are still so many dishes out there to discover. Recently, I was in Sao Miguel in the Azores, Portugal. It’s a beautiful island and also the biggest of the nine.

There were lots of things to see on the island, but what I was highly anticipating during this tour was a dish they specialize in called cozido. It’s a dish that is cooked underground with the help of heat from active volcanoes.

The size of the pot depends on amount of food you want to cook. They just add the ingredients into the pot and place a lid on with a cloth tied on top. The pan is lowered about 1 1/2 metres underground with a wooden cover and dirt is put on top of it, leaving a small mound on top to seal the hole (and probably help point out where it is).

The pot stays on average between 6 1/2-7 hours underground during the cooking process. You can say it’s like the original version of a slow cooker. So what exactly are the ingredients of a typical Azorean cozido?

A cozido consists of different meats like chicken, pork and beef. In addition, there is a range of vegetables, like white potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, cabbage, onions (it cooks so long it just melts into the dish) and a local vegetable called inhames that looks and tastes similar to a taro root (it’s also known as “elephant ears”). The dish also includes chorizo pork sausage and blood pudding sausage and is seasoned with salt and red pepper paste. Restaurants just take a few pieces of everything from the pot and plate it for diners to enjoy with a plate of rice.

Interestingly enough, no liquid is added into the pot during the cooking process. However, because of the fresh and natural juices from the ingredients, a beautiful broth is created. Most restaurants don’t offer this broth because the amount extracted from all the meats and veggies is limited, but I was fortunate my guide knows the secrets of a cozido.

The soupy broth can be placed on top of the meats, vegetables and rice and is a tasty addition to the meal. In the event you try a cozido yourself, you can ask for this broth if you call the restaurant ahead to reserve it. It’s quite the journey to learn how a cozido is made, let alone seeing where it is cooked and then having the dish plated in front of you. This style of cooking is simply done with the help of mother nature, but it’s a delicious experience too!

How Italian is it?

It seems like a lot of things we associate with Italian food seems “authentic”, but I came across an article that dispels many of these myths. I’m not going to lie, I was shocked at some of these discoveries.

Penne alla vodka – Not Italian

I love this dish! You can’t go wrong with pasta and a tomato-based sauce. It’s a little cloudy when it comes to the origins of this dish, but some say New York (U.S.A) and others say Italy. However, Italians rarely cooked with vodka or cream which leads me to believe it was an American creation.

Bruschetta – Oh yes, it’s Italian. 

Yummers! The delicious appetizer of crusty bread with a spread of olive oil, garlic, spices and tomatoes (that’s how I know it, anyway)…You can bet it’s Italian! They say many farm workers from Tuscany, Lazio and Umbria enjoyed eating toasted bread with garlic cloves and olive oil, especially after the olive harvest. Plus it’s simple and easy to make after a long day’s work.

Shrimp scampi – Noooooope

Scampi means “langoustine” or refers to small lobster-like crustaceans in Italian, which are often boiled or grilled. Italian immigrants couldn’t get these in the U.S., so they used shrimp instead. That said, it’s apparently not Italiano but it’s pretty close.

Eggplant parmesan – Yes

I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, but when I eat eggplant it’s eggplant parmesan! This dish originates back to the 1800s in Naples, the Campanian countryside, Sicily and Calabria where eggplant is grown. It is believed that the word is derived from palmigiana, Sicilian for “shutters” because layered eggplant ressembles this.

Veal parmesan – Nuh uh

Eggplant parmesan is authentic, but veal parmesan is an American creation. It has to do with the immigration of Italians into the U.S., who started swapping veal for eggplant. Why? Coz meat!

Fettuccine alfredo – No Italian 

I knew from my experience in Italy that this was definitely NOT an authentic dish. I ordered it hoping it would be one or the best things I ever tasted but it was weird and came with peas. Plus I discovered that it’s an American creation based off of the Roman restauranteur, Alfredo di Lelio, who originally used buttered pasta with parmesan for this dish.

Source | Food Network Magazine February 2017

Word of the Day: Confit

I went to a friend’s birthday lunch recently where there was an option on the menu for confit potato wedges. Confit is often known as duck cooked in its own fat (better known as confit de canard), but the interesting question that was raised was is it always duck?

The answer is no. Although it is the most common type of confit, it can also be prepared with other types of meat like pork or goose. It is a French style of cooking that was originally meant to help preserve food (with the help of salt), but it also adds extra flavour and helps tenderize meat. That would explain why that morsel of duck, which is normally a tough meat, becomes soft and melts in your mouth. Even less known is probably confit made with fruits and vegetables, though I personally don’t know if I would consider that a confit.

 

Damascene Food

It’s interesting how different cultures can shape a society. Being in Canada, we are so diverse that I think it has made us more understanding about others. Most recently, we’ve had many Syrian refugees come to Canada. Other than all the tragedy that the media exposes about Syria, I’m not sure many people know much more than that. What was life like in Syria before the war? What did it look like? And without trying to be insensitive, what is Syrian food? I ponder this because despite the destruction and warfare happening, I would like to think food is a form of comfort for many. It can remind of us our childhood, be associated with happy events or even be a form of enjoyment. For those who have escaped Syria to be free from all the warfare, I can only hope that there is at least this one mutual comfort that they can have with them.

Thus, it is to no shock that many Syrian restaurants have started appearing. I found one recently that identified themselves as Damascene. If I didn’t look this up, I wouldn’t have even known it was Syrian. It is based on the name of the Syrian capital, Damascus, which is argued to be one of the oldest cities in the world.

This particular restaurant was beautiful, with colourful walls embellished with tiles and pictures and a lovely fountain in the middle. We sat beside the window where the baker made the bread. It was such an interesting sight. He would flatten the dough and put it into this huge fire oven, in which the dough would suddenly pouf up into a ball. When we got our bread, it was steaming hot (literally fresh out of the oven). Unlike your typical Indian style naan or pita bread, the Syrian bread was quite thick and had a nice, chewy texture. It could have been used as a pocket to stuff food into (like a wrap), but it was really good on its own too.

Like many Middle Eastern restaurants, they served shawarma which is meat that has been marinated and cooked on a vertical spit and grilled. We specifically tried the chicken shawarma and all I can say it was juicy and delicious! It came with a pita, side of pickles, pickled beets, green chiles (which I stayed faaaaaar away from) and a side of delicious rice adorned with cashews.

If there’s one thing I love, it’s flavoured rice. The nuts gave it a crunchy texture and the rice tasted so buttery. Yum! And no visit is complete to a Middle Eastern restaurant without some kebabs. We got a combo that came with one beef kebab and one shish tawook skewer. It also came with a side of rice, pita, and chiles, but interestingly enough they served it with a grilled half of an onion and a grilled half of a tomato. It was topped with a piece of pita that slightly resembled a pizza as well, with tomato sauce, onion and parsley (no cheese…though that’s probably a good thing in this case).

Unfortunately, the meal was so filling that we didn’t have any space for dessert. However, I did spot some visitors having tea and other beautiful dishes. Perhaps next time. I don’t know if it will ever be safe in my lifetime to visit a country such as Syria, but if this restaurant was a glimpse of what it would have been like before all the warfare, I can only imagine how much more beautiful it would’ve been in person. I absolutely hate politics, but if there’s one thing that I know, it’s that war doesn’t resolve anything.

Roman Zaman

325 Central Pkwy W #8
Mississauga, Ontario L5B 3X9
Canada
Telephone: 905-276-0101

A Kamayan Feast – Not Your Average Dining Experience

They always say never play with your food, but I beg to differ because what they also say is food tastes better when you use your hands. In the Philippines, they have something called kamayan. “Kamay” means hands in Tagalog, so kamayan roughly translates as “eating with hands”. However, some also know this style of eating as a “boodle fight” (sometimes spelled “budol”) though this concept is a bit different. From what I gather, a boodle fight is where you literally fight to eat as much food as you can before it runs out (or perhaps a fight to stop yourself from eating so much…the struggle is real). Ironically, this term is apparently derived from the military but the feast is a form of camaraderie as opposed to just a battle.

The concept of a kamayan style meal is pretty simple. Tables are lined with sheets of banana leaves and various types of dishes are spread across on top for everyone to share. An authentic kamayan meal traditionally has lots of seafood and rice, which is no shock seeing as the Philippines is a country that loves rice and is surrounded by water (read: seafood :)). The restaurant offered the following set menu:

  • Inihaw skewer BBQ pork: Inihaw means grilled. The pork we ate had a sweet marinade that was full of smokey flavours. This was absolutely delicious and probably one of my favourites on the table.
  • Inihaw na liempo with atchara: This dish is grilled pork belly (liempo). It was accompanied with pickled papaya (atchara), which is meant to cleanse your palate and was quite refreshing to eat. It also came with cane vinegar, which is used to cut out the oiliness/greasiness.
  • Longanisa: They originally had mussels on the menu, but I asked to swap for these delicious little sausages because I love them so much. We couldn’t do a Filipino meal without longanisa!
  • Grilled shrimp: Naturally sweet and succulent crustaceans with shell and all!
  • Grilled squid: Although we are typically more familiar with larger sized calamari in the western world, Filipinos like to eat the smaller kind. It was a bit strange for us non-Filipinos because the insides weren’t cleaned out, so there was a gooey substance that popped out. However, I was told that this is the typical way of preparing squid in the Philippines.
  • Grilled tilapia: This fish was cooked in a banana leaf, so it came out very moist.
  • Grilled bangus: This is also known as milk fish and it is the national fish of the Philippines. The version we had was topped with tomatoes and onions. Just be careful because it tends to have a lot of bones.
  • Okra: Usually the sliminess of okra is a turnoff for many, but these were cooked perfectly – plain and simple.
  • Talong: This is eggplant in Tagalog. It was grilled, which made it super mushy and stringy. It was a bit strange for me to eat it plain like that and it was also slimy.
  • Lumpia: You can’t go wrong with these rolls. They are pork egg rolls that were deep fried into a crispy, golden-brown and stuffed with veggies. Yum!
  • A fruit mixture of mango and tomato cubes: Who doesn’t like something fresh to go along with their meal? The mangoes and tomatoes were a welcome addition to the meal.
  • Steamed rice: No Filipino meal is complete without some plain white rice to accompany it!
  • Bagoong: This is a shrimp paste condiment. I was blown away by the strong, salty flavours and amazed at how it made everything it touched super tasty. It definitely kicks your plain rice up several notches and it can be easily found in the Asian section of a grocery store.

I remember having a Filipino classmate back in high school that taught me a few phrases of Tagalog and the only one that stuck with me was this: “busog na ako”, which translates as “I am full”. All I can say was after this kamayan feast, busog na ako!!! I really enjoyed the experience. It was unique and different from your typical fine dining restaurant outing. Based on some of my Filipino friends, they said the table should have been overflowing with food to the point where you basically don’t see the table. However, being in a western country the restaurant owner informed me that they spaced out the meal like this for “sanitary” purposes since we use our hands to eat as opposed to the traditional Filipino way of kutsara’t tinidor (fork and spoon). I personally think it’s an economical decision as well because there would be a lot of leftovers and it would be ridiculously costly and wasteful for a restaurant to fill a table to the brim. However, preparing a feast like this at home with friends and family might be another story.

As a side note, to the shock of the restaurant staff we were a big diverse group. They cooked the meal believing that they were catering to a homogeneous group of Filipinos, so it was a more authentic experience. I’m glad because I would rather have that than some westernized version.

Although I know many cultures use banana leaves as platters for their food, I only recently found out about something called sadhya. I guess I’ll have to try and find a place that does this now. 🙂

Medovik – Honey Cake

There are only a handful of things I know about Russia – those fuzzy hats, Russian dolls, the capital is Moscow, Saint Basil’s Cathedral (I’m not going to lie, I had to Google the name of that colourful masterpiece) and the word “dah”. Suffice it to say, I was shocked when I went to a flea market and randomly stumbled upon something called Medovik in the food court, which is also known as “honey cake”. Sounds good already, right?

In addition to classifying medovik as a delicious Russian dessert, it is also a layered cake. The number of layers differ from recipe to recipe, but I’m going to assume more layers are added to make it appear more grand. It’s not your typical spongy cake, but rather layered with soft, flaky pastry/biscuit-like discs and in between those is a sweet, whipped cream filling. To give it texture, it is coated with roasted and chopped walnuts.

While the lady that made it was actually from Kazakhstan, I would like to think the one I had was pretty authentic given that the two countries are neighbours. She said that it’s a simple cake made with honey, eggs, walnuts, condensed milk, sugar, whipping cream and butter. However, given all the layers I would think she was being modest. There is also another Russian layered cake called smetannik, but it uses sour cream instead of condensed milk (also conveniently known as a sour cream cake). That might be a better option for those who want to reduce the sweetness in their desserts, not that medovic is sickningly sweet in any way! It’s just perfect.

If you have never tried medovik, I highly encourage you to look out for it. Wikipedia claims that the origins of this cake stems from a chef trying to impress an empress, so you know some thought was put into this. Whether it worked or not, I can’t confirm but I was personally seduced by the delicious, creamy layers of this cake. I think I can honestly say it’s one of the best cakes I have ever had. Have you ever tried a slice of medovik?

Dau Fu Fa Syrup (Recipe)

Fresh soybean custard, also known as dau fu fa, is always better than those prepackaged ones. It’s hot, it’s healthy and it’s light.

Although I have yet to venture into the world of tofu making myself, I am fortunate enough to know a place that sells fresh batches for cheap. When you buy it to consume as a dessert, many add a sweet syrup to it. You could buy the syrup from the vendor, but it’s so easy to make at home. Although I mentioned the ingredients in my last post about this, here is an actual recipe for those who may be interested.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 sticks of cane sugar (sometimes the package says brown sugar)
  • 1 inch ginger, cut into thin slices
  • 2 cups of water

Directions:

In a pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the sugar cane sticks and ginger. Simmer for 20 minutes until the sugar completely dissolves or until you get enough of the ginger flavour out. The longer it simmers, the more pungent the ginger.

After that, all you need to do is add it to a bowl with some dau fu fa and you’re good to go. You can also let it cool down and put it in the fridge for later use. It’s great to eat cold with dau fu fa.

Easy peasy, no? Have you ever tried eating this delicious soybean custard?

Mysore Masala Dosa

I know how it sounds, but “mysore” isn’t really “my sore” at all. It’s more like “my joy”, as a delicious chutney filling in a dosa.

A dosa is a South Indian dish that is a paper thin crepe. It is traditionally made of lentil and rice flour batter, but these days it can be made with other ingredients. Similar to a crepe, it is poured onto a hot, flat iron surface and is spread out into a round shape. It is cooked until it has a nice sandy golden colour and has a soft, yet crispy texture to it. Although many doses are frequently rolled into circular tubes, the one above was folded into a triangle like your typical French crepe.

I always choose a mysore masala dosa, which is made with spices, onions and potatoes. It’s so good that I’m convinced it’s one of the most popular types, but dosas can also be filled with paneer (cheese) or be simply spread with a little ghee (clarified butter).

As delicious as it is on its own, it is accompanied with several sauces to add a variety of flavours to your tongue. The first sauce is called sambar, which is the soupy one. You can dip the dosa into it or drink it with a spoon. My friend said some even drink sambar when they have colds or eat it with rice (It reminds me of a vegetable soup, so I can see why). The other two sauces are chutneys, where the white one is coconut and the orangey-red one has some spice to it. I actually haven’t had a dosa in so long that this little outing reminded me how good they were. I’ll have to add it back into my rotation. 🙂


In other news, remember when I went to look for cherry blossoms and it didn’t go so well? I tried again a few days later and unlike my second attempt, I found some fully bloomed trees.

I think I can finally deem this a success?!?!?!

NĂŁo Falo Bem PortuguĂŞs (Updates)

Back in February on my blogiversary, I made an announcement that I would stop blogging on a daily basis to focus on my plans to take time away from work to study abroad and travel the world. I had full intention to leave by fall (papers were approved and everything), but a new opportunity came up that I couldn’t refuse. Despite this little setback, I still plan on going but will be delaying my leave until early 2018. I’m disappointed about this, but it will at least give me more time to figure things out. Planning is a looooooooong and tedious process! So, you might be wondering what is the relation between this announcement and the picture of delicious pastries and tarts below?

I am an avid traveller. I have been going stir-crazy and need to get away. The last time I took a trip was in the fall. Suffice it to say, even though my leave will be a littler further away than I had originally planned, I am filling the void by going to Portugal for a few weeks. Flights and accommodation are already booked, but if you have any recommendations on what to see, do or eat (of course), I am more than happy to hear your suggestions!

Another update – it took me a R-E-AL-L-Y long time to go through all 365+ postings but I did it! I re-tagged and re-categorized all of them. You will now notice that I have more menu options on my front page to make it easier to navigate and find things. And if there’s one thing I learned from doing this exercise, it’s that I’m lacking in many areas so I’m going to try and focus more on those. Any constructive feedback on my blog is also appreciated. Happy blogging! 🙂