Asia

146. Nepal: Bamboo and Potato Curry

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Nepal is a spot for the adventurous kind of traveler. Of course, there is the Mount Everest and the Annapurna’s to climb for the true diehard athletes, fortunately, there is plenty to do for those who are less sporty like me. (Hey I’m a chef, I like cooking and eating that’s what I do) There are temples to be worshipped, jungles with tigers you can explore, and medieval cities and sacred sites to be admired. In short, Nepal is Nirvana for backpackers.

Even though 90% percent of the population is Hindu and only about 10 % is Buddhist. Buddhism is still taken very very seriously. Which makes sense because Buddha was born in Lumbini Nepal. Beautiful Buddhist temples can be found all over the country!

There are over 120 etnolinguistic groups in Nepal. It’s The population consists of 30 million people with over 120 ethnolinguistic groups. (How do you manage a country with soooo many languages?). The first language is Nepali which is very similar to the Hindi language which is natively spoken by about 45% of the population. To simplify things English is commonly spoken in government buildings, offices, and businesses.

Things you didn’t know about Nepal:

  • The abominable snowman, also known as the Yeti, is a legendary apelike creature that is believed to frequent the high valleys of Nepal.
  • Namaste the greeting that begins of ends your yogaclass is the standard “Hello” in Nepal.
  • Nepal does not celebrate an independence day because they had never been under any foreign occupation. The nation is the oldest country in South Asia. Nepal became a federal democratic republic in 2008 after having a monarchical form of government until then.
  • Unlike the common quadrilateral flags, Nepal is the only country where the flag is of two triangles. The upper triangle has an image of the moon while the lower triangle has that of the sun representing the two major religions of Nepal, Hinduism and Buddhism. Although the current flag was incepted in 1962, the design is said to be 2000 years old. It is also said to represent the Himalayas.
  • Ever worshipped a little girl as a goddess? Yes, you heard it right. If you are in Nepal, you shall witness the living goddess. Also known as ‘Kumari’, literally meaning virgin, pre-pubescent girls are believed to be the earthly manifestations of divine female energy or the incarnations of goddess Taleju, otherwise known as ‘Durga’ in India.  They lived in temples and worshipped and driven in chariots during festivals. However, the goddesses retire on puberty or if they fall prey to illness or accidents.
  • Sherpas are the ethnic community in the eastern part of Nepalese Himalayan Mountains, who are employed as porters. They are known to be immune to the effects of altitude due to their upbringing and genetics.

The dish is tasty and quick just soak your beans the night before!

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143. Myanmar: Mohinga

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Myanmar or Burma (which is the old name).  In 1989, the ruling military governement changed the name from Burma to Myanmar after thousands were killed in an uprising. The city of Rangoon also became Yangon and many other cities had a namechange. However, most people continue to use both names interchangeably without much fuss. Sometimes Burma is just an easier word to pronounce.  Burma is considered to describe ethnic Burmans only, so Myanmar became the politically correct term, which is supposed to encompass all who live in the country. Myanmar is a beautiful country scattered with gilded temples, ancient forests and beautiful beaches.

Things you didn’t know about Myanmar:

  • The fishermen of the Inle lake in Myanmar are world famous for fishing whilst standing on one leg. These fishermen developed a very unusual technique to be able to fish and row a boat at the same time.
  • Kissing sounds are normal in a Myanmar restaurant because this is the sound they make to get the attention of the waiter. (ooooh that would piss me off)
  • Myanmar is one of only three countries in the world that has not adopted the metric system of measurement.  The other two holdouts are Liberia and the United States.
  • You will see small children wear holy thread around their neck or wrist for protection from bad spirits or spells.
  • Chewing betel nut is a national pastime. Small street stalls sell the palm-sized green leaves filled with betel nut, spices and sometimes a pinch of tobacco. The leaves are folded, popped in the mouth and chewed.

Mohinga is a noodle soup that is traditionally eaten for breakfast, catfish is not easy to find here in the Netherlands so i used trout. I liked this recipe but it was not what i was expecting, and personaly I would rather eat it for lunch then for breakfast.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup uncooked jasmine rice
Broth
  • 3 quarts water
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 1 2-ounce piece ginger (unpeeled), thickly sliced crosswise into slabs
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 scaled and gutted catfish (i used 2 rainbow trouts, because catfish is kind of hard to find around here)(about 3 pounds)
Soup
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 red onions, diced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • salt
  • 10 ounces fine round rice noodles
Serving
  • 6 eggs, boiled for 6 minutes
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • Thinly sliced red onions
  1. Heat the oven to 160°C. Spread the rice across a rimmed baking pan and bake, giving the pan an occasional stir, until the rice is an even golden color and aromatic, 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature and then pulverize in a clean coffee grinder.
  2. To make the broth, select a large wide pot that will fit the catfish comfortably with room to spare. (An 8-quart pot works well.) Add the water, lemongrass, ginger, bay leaves, black and white pepper, and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Carefully lower the fish into the pot. The fish may not be completely covered in water, but that’s okay. Bring the pot to a brisk simmer, lower the heat, and cook gently for 15 minutes. Using tongs, carefully turn the fish over or at least rotate it slightly to cook the side that was sticking out of the water. Simmer for another 5 minutes or until the fish flesh pulls away cleanly from the bone. Using tongs and a spider or slotted spoon, lift the fish out of the broth and transfer to a bowl. Turn off the heat and let the broth sit on the stove.
  4. When the fish is cool enough to handle, pull off the skin and discard. Separate the cooked fish from the bones, trying to keep the skeleton (or skeleton portions if the fish is cut in pieces) intact. Set aside the cooked fish. Return the skeleton (including head and tail) to the pot.
  5. Bring the pot to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. The broth should have a mild ginger-lemongrass flavour and be slightly cloudy. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer. You will have about 10 cups. Give the pot a quick rinse (when it’s cool enough to handle), and return the broth to the pot.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered rice and a ladleful of the broth until no lumps remain. Stir into the broth. Bring the broth to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until it starts to barely thicken, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and cook the broth at a gentle simmer while preparing the soup.
  7. To make the soup, in a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the lemongrass, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the cooked fish, paprika, and turmeric, mashing the fish gently with a spoon to turn it into a coarse paste, and cook for about 1 minute. If you see any errant bones, pick them out.
  8. Pour the contents of the wok into the broth and bring to a brisk simmer. Add the red onions and fish sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes more or until the flavors start to come together. Taste the broth: it should be on the salty side because the noodles will not have any salt. If it’s not that salty, add some salt or fish sauce. (At this point, the soup can be cooled and served the next day.)
  9. To cook the noodles, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook, stirring often with tongs or chopsticks to prevent sticking, for 5 to 6 minutes or until softened. Turn off the heat and let the noodles sit in the water for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander, rinse under cool running water, and give the colander a shake to remove excess water. If not serving right away, mix some canola oil into the noodles with your hands to keep them from sticking together. (You can also cook the noodles in advance and soak them in warm water before serving.)
  10. To serve, divide the noodles among the bowls. Ladle the soup over the noodles and serve the hard-boiled eggs, crackers, cilantro, and lime wedges alongside.

139. Mongolia: Boortsog (Fried Cookies)

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Mongolia, a rough country with a tumultuous history squeezed between Russia and China. Mongolia’s founding father is the legendary and once feared Genghis Khan. He came to power by merging several nomadic tribes. In 25 years he conquered more land surface than the Romans did in 4 centuries. Quite an impressive dude right? In the 13th century, the Silk Roads became an important economic route in Asia. Salesmen like Marco Polo traveled all the way from Europe to gain access to luxury goods like diamonds, pearls, rubies, silk, porcelain, paper, peaches, rhubarb, elephants, and horses. Modern-day Mongolia is not what I expected. In the capital city, Ulaanbaatar cars and pedestrians commingle with livestock. Nearly 60% of Mongolia 1,4 million people have moved to the city, where they seek a more luxurious lifestyle. The result is the Ulaanbaatar has become the most polluted capital in the world. It has gotten so bad that in the winter months when the smog is at its worst doctors advise couples to avoid conceiving children.

Things you didn’t know about Mongolia:

  • Mongolia is home to a lot of endangered animals like snow leopards and the twohumped Bactrian camel
  • More than one-quarter of the population live as nomads.
  • There is a theory that Mongolian horsemen first invented the ice cream. They would take animal intestines on long journeys. The combination of freezing and being jolted around on the horse produced an ice-cream like substance. This then made its way to China, Marco Polo, then Italy!
  • Mongolian native horses are the last truly wild horses left on the planet. They have 66 chromosomes, one or twom more than the average horse. 
  • The Gobi desert is Asia’s biggest desert. It is like no other in the world. The Gobi Desert is also regarded as the world’s biggest dinosaur fossil reserve.

These cookies are really good and so easy to make.

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127. Maldives: CuttleFish Curry

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The Maldives are a playground for divers, snorkelers and sun worshipers Some of the worlds most picture-perfect beaches can be found with the some of the most exclusive resorts on the planet. Away from the tourist hotspots, the Maldives is known for intriguing Islamic culture and is shaped by centuries of seafaring and trade. However once again there is a downside… The rising sea levels caused by climate change are endangering this paradise-like nation. Since the highest point in the nation is just 2,4 meters above sea level. See the problem if the sea levels continue to rise… they are making preparations though to move the entire population to a new homeland overseas.

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Things you didn’t know about the Maldives:

  • World’s first underwater cabinet meeting was held here. For an island country like the Maldives, drastic climate change and rising level of oceans is a major threat. A number of islands have already been cleared because of the rising waters in the ocean and their interference in freshwater resources. For drawing attention towards the same, Mohamed Nasheed, The President, transferred the cabinet meeting of October 2009 right to the ocean’s bottom.
  • It is an Island that was Formed by an Exiled Indian Prince. Though the exact date is not known, the tentative date was sometime before 269 BC. If legends are to be believed, at that time there was no government. Only a peaceful community who worshiped Sun and Water was living there. It is said that the first real kingdom here was founded by Sri Soorudasaruna Adeettiya, the son of a ruler of Kalinga, a kingdom in India. The king was extremely angry with his son and had sent him away to the Maldives, then called Dheeva Maari. The prince established Adeetta Dynasty in the Maldives.
  • While in most of the countries on the globe, the weekend means Saturday and Sunday, it is not so in the Maldives. Weekend here is Friday and Saturday.
  • Many people of the Maldives hold on to a strong belief in the supernatural, including black and white magic. In September 2013, a coconut was detained by police after being found loitering and acting suspiciously during the presidential elections. The questionable young coconut was found outside of a polling station and was accused of being placed there to rig the election. Coconuts are supposed to be a frequent ingredient in black magic spells and rituals; the police called in a white magician to examine the coconut for threats and curses. No such curses were found, and the magician deemed the coconut to be an innocent.
  • Every element in the Maldives flag is symbolic. The crescent moon stands for Islam, the green section represents palm trees, and the red background symbolizes the blood shed by Maldivian heroes

This curry is spicy, delicious and quick, the perfect weeknight meal

malediven
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126. Malaysia: Char Kway Teow Noodles

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Malaysia Asia’s true melting pot! Muslim Malays, religiously diverse Chinese, and Hindu and Muslim Indians all muddle along with aboriginal groups (the Orang Asli) on Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo’s indigenous people. Each ethnic group has its own language and cultural practices which you can best appreciate through a packed calendar of festivals and a delicious variety of cuisines. Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur is among the most modern and expensive cities in the world, where people taking the helicopter to the mall is a very normal thing to do. On the other hand for many visitors, Malaysia is defined by its equatorial rainforest. Significant chunks of the primary jungle – among the most ancient ecosystems on earth – remain intact, protected by national parks and conservation projects.

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Things you didn’t know about Malaysia:

  • Malaysia’s Kuala Kangsar district office is the home of the last surviving rubber tree from the original batch brought by Englishman H.N. Ridley from London’s Kew Gardens in 1877.
  • The Japanese invaded Malaysia on December 6, 1941, the same day they bombed Pearl Harbor. They landed at Khota Baru and stole bicycles in every town they took on their way to Singapore, making the trip in 45 days.
  • Among the Iban community on Malaysia’s Sarawak province, before a newborn baby is named, they are affectionately called ulat (“worm”), irrespective of their gender. When the baby is named, they must be named after a deceased relative, for fear that using a living relative’s name might shorten the baby’s life. When the parents have chosen a few names, rice balls are made, each representing a name. The first rice ball pecked at by a manok tawai (fighting cock) determines the child’s name
  • Traditionally, pregnant Malaysian women may not kill, tie, or mangle anything, for this may result in birthmarks or a deformed baby. They also may not carry fire or water behind their backs or look at anything ugly or frightening.
  • Malaysia’s national drink is teh tarik (“pulled tea”), which is a tea that is thrown across a distance of about 3 feet (1 m) by Mamak men, from one cup to another, with no spillages. The idea is to let it cool down for customers, but it has become a Malaysian art form

These noodles are delicious the sauce is easy and makes it so complex! And the fishcakes were a completely new ingredient to me but so worth the trip to the Asian supermarket! The meal is thrown together in minutes so perfect for a weeknight after a busy day at work!

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122. Macau: Macanese Style Portuguese Curry Chicken

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Macau, if you thought Las Vegas was the gambling capital of the world, your out of luck my friend. Welcome to Macau a place with 5 times the revenue of Vegas. Millions of gamblers come to Macau every year, most of those gamblers are from the Chinese Mainland. Blackjack, poker they have it all, but without a doubt, the most popular game in Macau is a card game called baccarat. Macau is a strange mixture of Portuguese and Chinese, how did this come to pass well let me explain. In the 16th century, the Portuguese claimed Macau as a trading port for spices from all over the world. Which of course left its mark on the culinary scene in Macau, it became one big melting pot of flavors from all over the world.

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Things you didn’t know about Macau:

  • The old language is Macanese. This is a form of Creole Portuguese. The language is slowly becoming lost to time as the older generations die. Both Cantonese and Portuguese are the official languages.
  • It has a fast-aging population. By 2050 there will be 8 non-working residents (including children and elderly) for every 10 active workers
  • It is the first and last Asian country to remain a European colony with the Portuguese first arriving in the 16th century and the last Portuguese governor leaving in 1999.
  • New hotel rooms were constructed at a rate of 16.4 a day until 2009 to supply Macau’s booming tourism industry.

This might seem strange a curry with olives, but I assure you it’s worth a go! The savoury taste of the olives gives the curry a surprisingly fresh taste.

macau

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114. Laos: Khao Soi (Yellow Curry Noodle Soup)

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Laos a country very very high on my list to go to! A sleepy mountainous country of barely over 2 million people, mostly rice farmers. To my surprise, Laos hasn’t always been so peaceful.

Though never truly at war with Laos, the Americans were at war with Vietnam, and they flew more than half a million missions over this tiny country. Dropping more bombs here than on Germany and Japan in all of World War II combined. This is a conflict known nowadays as The Secret War. I don’t want to get into it too much because that is not what this blog is about, but what happened was horrific.

Nowadays Laos is a very popular destination for backpackers because it’s cheap and the crime rate is very low.

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Things you didn’t know about Laos:

  • Laos may be landlocked – or ‘landlinked’ if you prefer – but that doesn’t mean a beach holiday is completely off the cards. If you head to Si Phan Don (literally “4,000 islands”) in Southern Laos, you’ll find serene sandy shores – and adventure – aplenty.
  • Nong Fa Lake – a crater lake high in the mountains of southeastern Laos – is feared and respected by locals, who refuse to swim in it. Legend has it, a man-eating monster lives at the bottom. Nong Fa (which translates to ‘blue lake’ or ‘sky lake’) is quite remote and can be reached by only the most intrepid explorers.
  • Lao silk stands apart from that of neighboring countries in that is it 100% hand woven. The exact weaving process differs from family to family as do the patterns, making them truly unique. The average rate of production is around a meter a day – or a few centimeters for an elaborate weave. Handwoven silk has a more ‘natural’, unrefined texture than silk produced on an industrial loom.
  • While Laos is more than 50% populated by ethnic Lao (Lao Lum), there are more than 60 – some say more than 100 – different ethnic groups living within its borders. Lao’s people are categorized by altitude: 50 percent are lowland peoples, living around the Mekong; 20 percent live in the Midlands and highlands, and 15 percent live above 1,000 meters. The remaining 15 percent are Thai.
  • Laos has the unenviable status of being the most bombed nation in the world. There are estimated to be 270 million unexploded bombs in the country.

This noodle soup has a lot of ingredients but it’s totally worth taking the time to make your own curry paste! It takes a little time but it makes they dish infinitely better! And most of the ingredients I had in my freezer; lemongrass, ginger, and galanga (Thai ginger) I always make sure I have in stock. I make a lot of curries and they keep forever in the freezer!

laos

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113. Kyrgyzstan: Lagman

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Kyrgyzstan is an old country it’s recorded history spans over 2,000 years, they have seen a lot of cultures and empires come and go. Although geographically isolated by its high mountains, which has helped protect its ancient culture, Kyrgyzstan has been at the crossroads of several great civilizations as part of the Silk Road and other commercial and cultural routes.

Though long inhabited by a succession of independent tribes and clans, Kyrgyzstan has periodically fallen under foreign domination and attained independence as a nation-state only after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. But they have been around longer.

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Things you didn’t know about Kyrgyzstan:

  • Manas, a warrior who united Kyrgyzstan, is undoubtedly the most popular folk hero in the country. You see this name everywhere. There are streets, statues, universities, radio stations, national parks, and many other things that are named after him. Even Kyrgyzstan’s main airport is Manas International Airport.
  • The vast majority of people in Kyrgyzstan are Sunni Muslims. However, you don’t see obvious signs of Islam while walking down the streets of Bishkek, partly due to its Soviet history. After the collapse of communism, the influence of Islam has slowly been coming back into Kyrgyz society.
  • The city of Osh was an important commercial center in the 10th century as part of the Silk Road, the trade route between China and Europe.
  • The name Kyrgyz is derived from the Kyrgyz word for “forty.” It is a possibility that the people of Kyrgyzstan came from forty families or clans.
  • Tourists can negotiate with any car on the road; they’re all potential taxis – if the price is right.
  • The Kyrgyz were one of the groups who raided the borders of China and created the need for the construction of the Great Wall.

Truth be told normally they make their own noodles, but since my kitchen is really really tiny and I don’t have nearly enough space to make noodles and the noodles are soooo similar to tagliatelle I just bought tagliatelle

Lagman
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110. South Korea: Korean Fried Chicken

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South Korea is a land of extremes! In some parts extremely traditional in others extremely outgoing and modern, but without a doubt in any case extremely beautiful! South Korea is also called the land of the Morning Calm, but the capital of Seoul tells a completely different story.

Seoul is a city that never sleeps, nowhere else in the world does the phrase ‘work hard, play hard’ apply more than in Seoul. You can hardly turn a corner without stumbling across a tourist information booth, a subway station or a taxi in this metropolis where beautiful reconstructed palaces rub shoulders with teeming night markets and the latest technology.

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Things you didn’t know about South Korea:

  • South Koreans are obsessed with feces, and everything from turd-shaped cookies, phone charms, and an entire museum devoted to poop can be found in the country. Toilets across the country also feature pleasant flushing sounds, background music, and coloured water.
  • South Korean men love makeup, spending close to US$900 million a year, or a quarter of the world’s men’s cosmetics. Up to 20% of the male Korean population is reported to use makeup regularly.
  • When a Korean’s name is written in red ink, this indicates that that person is about to die or is already dead.
  • South Korea is famous for its practice of “crime re-creation.” Citizens suspected of crimes such as rape or murder are led by the police in handcuffs to the scene of the crime and ordered to publicly reenact the crime. To make the reenactment even more humiliating, the media is also invited to take pictures and publish details about the crime.
  • The microchips for Apple’s iPhones are made by the South Korean company Samsung.
  • South Koreans are automatically classified at birth according to their blood type, which is a custom that originated in Japan but has become very important in South Korean culture and may even determine who gets to marry whom.
  • On the South Korean island of Jeju, women traditionally go out to work while their husbands stay home. These women are called haenyeo (“sea women”), and they dive for sea urchins, abalone, and octopus, continuing a tradition that goes back 1,500 years and is passed down from mother to daughter.

I have been looking forward to this one! I know this is not a very traditional dish, but it is really really popular in South Korea! I heard so much about Korean fried chicken! The only Fried Chicken we have here in the Netherlands is KFC, and to be really honest I am not really a fan, little bland for my taste. But this fried chicken blew my mind!!!! Crunchy, spicy and sweet all at once!!!

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109: North Korea: Naengmyeon (Cold Soba Noodles in Cold Beef Stock)

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North Korea, by far the most isolated country on earth! North Korea has been the subject of speculation for years. And I really don’t want to get into it too deeply since we all know the North Korean regime is horrifyingly cruel.

A leader starving his own population to prove a point is among the evilest things someone can do in my opinion. Over the past few weeks, they have been in the news negatively for trying to poke the bear (The US and Europe)… with several threats of nuclear war.

Let’s all pray it doesn’t come to that! But how did North Korea become like this? And why is it that South Korea is far more prosperous? How did the rest of the world let it get this far? Should we intervene or should we call their bluff? These are all questions that keep a lot of people up at night…

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Things you didn’t know about North Korea:

  • Taedonggang is now the most well-known beer in North Korea, named after a river that runs through Pyongyang. There’s a beer ration—men get vouchers every month. This is not necessarily a nationwide policy but is the case in Pyongyang. But you can buy more; the ‘ration’ just means you get given vouchers, rather than your consumption is limited. The Taedonggang beers have numbers for names: One is made of barley, water, and hops, and tastes good. Two is the most common, with barley, water, hops, and a bit of rice. There is a 50-50 barley-rice mix. Four is more rice, and Five is rice beer. Five is repulsive.
  • Marijuana in North Korea is not illegal and can be bought at markets.
  • During the 1990s, all teachers were required to learn the accordion.
  • North Korea bases its calendar on Kim Il Sung’s date of birth: 15 April 1912. The year is 105, not 2017.
  • Blue Denim Jeans are illegal in North Korea as denim represents capitalist America.
  • According to his official biography, Kim Jong Il allegedly learned to walk aged 3 weeks.

That’s the classic North Korean dish, called naengmyeon in Korean. So classic there’s a song about it: “Naengmyeon, naengmyeon, Pyongyang naengmyeon!” Music is a form of propaganda, so to mention food gives people a sense of national pride and also shows security in food. “Long noodles refer to long life, or a long time being married. Everyone at a wedding gets served cold noodles, and the idea that you would say, ‘No noodles, thanks’ would be exceedingly rude.” However, I have to say it was not my favorite dish.

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