After my first taste of the Princess Cake at IKEA I wondered how Swedish this cake was, and turns out it’s very loyal. Around the World in 12 Plates heads to Sweden!
Tag: Recipe Challenge
Around the World in 12 Plates: Japan was one I was looking forward to a lot. The flavours of Asia are becoming my favourite profile, so this month I wanted to do something typically Japanese, but lesser known in North America. Sushi and ramen were out, so an izakaya-style dinner was the perfect way to spend an evening. While I haven’t visited Japan, I’ve eaten at several izakayas in Toronto and had a blast! Izakayas represent a more casual dining experience, serving up small plates similar to the Spanish-style tapas. Izakaya translates to “stay-in liquor shop” so these Japanese pubs have loud crowds, plentiful beer and sake, and food that is salty and greasy. Continue reading Around the World in 12 Plates: Japan
The tight timeline for our recent trip Thailand didn’t allow for a trip to Vietnam, which I’m super sad about. It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit, but I surprised myself while doing research for this challenge: I actually know very little about the cuisine! Aside from Pho and Banh Mi — which I’m obsessed with — I couldn’t name another dish! How embarrassing! In keeping with the spirit of this challenge, Around the World in 12 Plates: Vietnam needed to be all about new food, so I made a call to my experts. Mike and Chelsea are my most intrepid wanderlusting friends (they’re about to embark on the Mongol Rally, you can read about it here), and have travelled Vietnam extensively.
Mike’s immediate culinary proposition was Cao Lau, a famous Hoi An noodle dish with an extra special ingredient: water. I know what you’re thinking: water? Yes, Cao Lau is made with water drawn from the ancient Cham wells found around Hoi An.
While I loved the idea of attempting to recreate such an epic dish, I knew I just wouldn’t be able to remake the magic of impossible-to-get Hoi An water. In the end, I decided to make Bun Cha, a grilled pork and vermicelli noodle dish originating from Hanoi. You might recall a certain bro-date between Obama and Bourdain recently; it’s what they ate! Just like that, we were off to Vietnam in our kitchen, to the land of delicious pork and sour sauce.
Here’s Around the World in 12 Plates: Vietnam
Once I decided to make Bun Cha, then came finding an authentic recipe. While there are tons of solid cookbooks out there I had trouble finding something authentic online; major sources I used in the past like Saveur showcased westernized versions of the dish. They photographed well, but it wasn’t what I wanted. Other food bloggers let me down too with their recipe shortcuts and avoidance of technique. Finally I found Rice ‘n Flour, one of the most popular English-language food blogs in Vietnam. Their recipe for Bun Cha was simple and authentic, and their video made it even easier to understand some of the cooking techniques, like carving the carrots!
Bun cha consists of many delicious elements: ground pork patties, grilled pork belly, cold vermicelli noodles, tangy salad, a pile of fresh herbs and a garlicky sauce. The alimentary elements are all served family style at the table and you assemble the ultimate palate-personalized bowl.The key to the whole dish is the sauce, a tangy mix of fish sauce, sugar, lemon juice, water, minced garlic and as many chillis as you can handle. The pork patties and belly are both grilled on the BBQ (typically over an open flame, Vietnamese streetfood style, but we improvised) after being marinated for hours, making them melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
A note if you want to go and eat this in Vietnam: it’s traditionally a lunchtime food served around noon and only in Hanoi. There’s no late-night eating this dish!
This dish is great for a crowd of people because it makes a bunch of food, and everyone can flavour their own bowls to their taste — i.e. if your dad hates spicy food. Learning about Vietnamese food for the Around The World in 12 Plates: Vietnam challenge has got my wanderlust in overdrive and now I want to go even more. For now, I guess I’ll settle for a freaking delicious bowl of Bun Cha (or 12, I’ve got leftovers for days).
The Around the World in 12 Plates: Vietnam Challengers
Check out all the other delicious Vietnamese dishes made by my fellow culinary adventurers.
Greece is where I fell in love with food. When I was 22, I travelled abroad for the first time as part of a travel-study program in university. We spent six weeks travelling through Greece with two professors and ten students to study ancient art and …
For the third recipe challenge in Around the World in 12 Plates, we headed to Ethiopia! The cuisine of this country was the one I was least familiar with so far. In fact, I’ve never even eaten in an Ethiopian restaurant (bows head in shame). I was eager to understand a new culture and I learned so much! The most important thing we learned for Around the World in 12 Plates: Ethiopia — they put berbere in everything!
Seriously, of the five recipes we cooked, three of them contained large amounts of this spice blend. Berbere is a key element in the cuisine of both Ethiopia and Eritrea. We were able to pick up some of the blend at Desta Market on the Danforth where we found several ingredients. If you don’t have an Ethiopian market nearby, check out this recipe for Berbere by Chef Marcus Samuelson. It requires a lot of spices, but most are easy to get.
The recipes we used
Through my research, I learned all meals are eaten on shared platters; some meat and some vegetarian. So for Around the World in 12 Plates: Ethiopia we used four recipes from a variety of sources to make up our platter. The main dish and centre of our platter was key wat, a simple beef stew. I used this recipe from A Duck’s Oven, a travel and food blog. The two other wats, or stews, came from the same blog, The Gourmet Gourmand. The misir wat is a red lentil stew, and the shiro wat is a stew-sauce type dish made with chickpea flour. We also made two salads — a traditional green salad and a tomato salad — using the recipes from this 2014 Toronto Star article.
I also discovered popcorn is a popular snack in Ethiopia, so naturally we had some! Guess what the popcorn is tossed in? You guessed it: berbere! It was a delicious twist and added a great punch to the freshly popped corn. We used this Ethiopian Style Spicy Popcorn recipe from the Wander Cooks blog.
Ethiopian eating etiquette
Rule number one when eating from a sharing platter: don’t lick your fingers! This sounds like a no brainer but when you’re all up in that plate, it’s harder than you think to not lick the delicious sauce off your fingers. Injera is a key element in Ethiopian cuisine as the plate and as a utensil, using small pieces to scoop up the food and put it in your mouth. This spongy bread is made from teff flour and takes several days to make. I made the executive decision not to make my own injera because I was able to track some down at Desta Market. It’s sour tasting — Adam said it smelled like salt and vinegar chips — and has an almost jelly-like consistency. We used one piece as the base of the platter and then rolled the rest of the pieces to break off and enjoy our meal.
Digging in to Around the World in 12 Plates: Ethiopia
While many of the dishes we cooked throughout the day had many of the same ingredients, the flavours of each component were very different. The meat in the key wat was melt-in-your-mouth and the flavours were strong but not overpowering. The green salad was a fresh addition to the plate with a hit of spice from the jalapeno and ginger, while the tomato salad added some acidity to the richness of the other ingredients.
What I loved about eating from the communal platter is that every bite was different. A bite of the shiro wat with the tomato salad was different than a mouthful of key wat and misir wat. It was so flavourful and fun to share a meal in a whole new way! Ethiopian food is definitely going into the regular repertoire — I’m definitely going try the key wat with couscous sometime soon!
The other challengers up to the task of cooking Ethiopian food also made some delicious dishes! Be sure to check them out!
And just like that, February is over and another recipe challenge is in the books! From Asia last month to South America this month, Around the World in 12 Plates: Brazil takes us below the equator for a delicious meal. Another afternoon of cooking up …
So here we are! The first recipe challenge for 2017 Around the World in 12 Plates: China! After I posted the announcement for the challenge, word spread amongst bloggers and it really caught on. We now have ten awesome blogs participating! Each month, I’ll post the …
You may recall I completed a year-long recipe challenge a couple years back. I started the Food & Wine Cover Recipe Challenge in 2013 with a few other bloggers, but I was the only one to complete it, something I am super proud of.
But I have to be honest with you: The recipe challenge posts are the least read posts on The Food Girl in Town.
Seriously, it’s sad how few people read about the blood, sweat, and onion tears that went into the monthly dinners I prepared with my friends. But, I don’t care. I loved completing the challenge: I learned new cooking skills, acquired some awesome kitchen gadgets, and stocked my spice cupboard like a baller.
This year, instead of depending on the cover recipe of a magazine, I’m going to focus on the cuisine of a different country each month of 2017.