Written by Guy Wilkinson
Nestled in the bustling restaurant streets of Nyaungshwe, the main tourist town to see Inle Lake in Myanmar, is the rather modestly named curry house ‘Innlay Hut’. Myanmar has some of the best food in Asia: it’s a conglomeration of cuisines, whether it’s duck from China, bamboo salads from the northern Shan state, biryani from Bangladesh, massaman curry from Thailand, or traditional curry from India. Innlay Hut however has a particular quirk: it’s an Eminem themed curry house. With The Marshall Mathers LP blasting in the background, and the walls painted with various murals of the man from 8 Mile, this place really had a buzz. The waiter, who went by the name of ‘Stan’ - an Eminem number one hit in 11 countries - even went along with the act throughout the meal, throwing around various gesticulations associated with American hip-hop. He even wore a white vest top similar to the one Eminem sported in the music video, as well as a green, white, and black floral patterned balaclava wrapped around his head. So authentic was his act, that I even had to question who the real slim shady really was. Meanwhile, his elderly mother stared out of the kitchen, rolling her eyes at the tomfoolery in the dining room. To top off the experience, the curry was actually fantastic, with butter chicken being a favourite among tourists.
Written by Guy Wilkinson
While Argentinians are divided on many things, politics and football to mention a couple, one thing that unites them is their love of meat.
Argentina has the world's second-highest consumption rate of beef, with yearly consumption at 55 kg per person - quite a feat. Despite the fact that there are more cows than people in Argentina, the government imports meat from Uruguay to satisfy the extraordinary appetite of Argentinians for a good steak.
All this culminates in the famous asado, the most celebrated gastronomic experience in Argentina. Asado translates as ‘barbecue’ in English; but its literal translation doesn’t capture the essence of the word, and its many connotations.
Every Sunday, families spend the afternoon preparing and feasting on the asado, cooked to perfection on a huge grill, called a parrilla. There is nothing pretentious about the preparation of the meat (although they do turn their noses up at the use of gas barbecues!). It requires only a smoky, wood-burning fire, a sprinkle of salt, and a little patience. You’re spoilt for choice at an asado; from the classic steak, to the ‘morcilla’, their version of a sweet blood pudding, there’s an array of different types of meat on offer. It is always accompanied by a few salads, excellent Malbec, and copious amounts of Argentinian conviviality.
The asado is proof not only of the Argentinian love affair with meat, but also of the importance of familial bonds and ties. Argentinian families often all live in the same town, and so nieces and nephews, uncles and aunts will arrive in hordes and spend the afternoon together.
As with many other aspects of gaucho culture, the asado has been nostalgically embraced by Argentinians and firmly integrated into their gastronomic experience. It connects the past and the present, highlighting the importance of celebrating tradition in Argentina. Cattle ranching first appeared in Argentina with the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. But since then it has become largely associated with the cattle-rearing gauchos who roam the vast flatlands of La Pampa. It is said the grassy, immense flatlands of the Pampa are the perfect conditions to create the juiciest, most tender meat, giving Argentina a worldwide reputation as the home of the steak.
Despite all this, I was told by Argentinians that it is becoming more common now to see families opting for Italian foods, such as pasta or pizza, for their Sunday meal. This is very likely due to the rising price of meat, and may also be a reflection of the more cosmopolitan tastes of Argentinians as they become more connected to the world beyond Argentina. Either way, the family remains very much at the heart of the Sunday celebration.
From forcing down cow’s intestines to being screamed out of a restaurant by angry waiters, here’s a taste of what the year abroad has to offer.
The Carnivores of Castilla la Mancha
When deciding to have lunch with a Spanish family I did not realise that pig’s ears and cow’s intestines were on the menu. Spain has a tradition of eating the whole pig and the whole cow (including the testicles and the fat) because meat is expensive and many regions in Spain were and still are relatively poor. I politely picked at the meal. However, it did make me think about how often I tuck into chicken breasts and beef steaks without considering how much of the animal is actually being wasted.
Pino's Perfect Panini
During my time in Florence I had the opportunity to befriend Pino and become a regular at his Paninoteca in the Santo Spirito area. Every Monday after work I would order his iconic 'la bomba' sandwich, which was a delightful combination of tuscan pecorino, sun-dried tomatoes and salame piccante. It was the highlight of my week, and having the legendary Pino memorise my weekly order will always be a source of YA pride!
A Cuban Cooking Treat
Cuba is not known for its cuisine, and rightly so. Much of the Cuban population still live off rations given by the government, and luxuries such as herbs and spices are rare. We were living with a Cuban family in Havana, and whilst relatively well-off due to renting their rooms out to foreigners like us, their cooking was basic and repetitive. We were given breakfast and dinner each day, the latter being a variation of rice and beans, or Moros y Cristianos as the dish is known in Cuba. But for the family’s son’s 18th birthday, we received a special treat. Our casa mama was explaining to us the dish beforehand, and was surprised we hadn’t heard of it. ‘Ensalada fría’ she kept repeating, and we couldn’t work out what she was describing in her thick Cuban accent. Then that night for dinner we were served some cold congealed spaghetti with mayonnaise, lardons and pineapple. All served on a tiny plate, next to a big slice of cream birthday cake. This was one of two evenings in two months we didn’t eat some variation of rice and beans.
An Introduction to Russian Fish and Customer Service
During my stay in Russia, we took a trip to Lake Baika. We stopped off in Irkutsk for a couple of days where we made an ill-fated visit to a restaurant recommended by the Lonely Planet. After an hour and a half without food, we managed to get into a heated argument with the manager when we tried to leave. He went ballistic and chased us out of the restaurant and down the road all the while shouting “fascists” after us. Not a successful meal out.
Our luck didn’t improve a whole lot when we actually reached the lake, as we discovered that we had completely missed tourist season and the resort town we were staying in was deserted. It looked like a scene out of a western, there were literally tumbleweeds rolling down the “high-street”. The restaurants weren’t expecting any visitors and so were only serving their local fish, omul. After 4 or 5 days surviving only on omul, our passion for this local delicacy was wearing pretty thin. That was until we went on an excursion around the lake’s biggest island, Olkhon. Our guides took us to a spot in the woods and prepared a fish stew over a camp fire. It was absolutely delicious and sitting around a camp fire on an island in one of the biggest lakes in the world was a great way to end the trip.
Berlin’s Surprising Foodie Culture
I arrived in Berlin with far from high expectations of German cuisine. However, I soon learned that the city has an incredible amount to offer. On the traditional side, a particularly fantastic experience was at Repke, recommended by some German colleagues. It’s a restaurant in the heart of Charlottenburg (100% worth the trek to the West) serving the simplest yet most incredible German food. The Späztle are a definite highlight and you cannot miss the beef goulash and dumplings. This place serves all the staples of German cuisine; we soon became regulars to try out every speciality. On the other side of town, Pane e Vino (choose the one in the heart of Prenzlauerberg) is the place to go if you're strapped for cash but looking for a fun night. A bit like Spags, all the pizzas and pastas cost €3,95 - this is a restaurant where your drink will cost more than your meal. The food is great and so is the atmosphere inside - it’s always full and all available surfaces have been used as a canvas by punters. Street Food in Berlin is also fantastic...particularly when it comes to the döner kebabs which are so good you can enjoy them sober.
Easily, the best thing about travelling is experiencing the new and exotic cuisine. Being somewhat of a low-key foodie fanatic, I have had my fair share of encounters.
When one thinks of French cuisine, automatically scenes of charming patisseries overlooking the Eiffel Tower and freshly baked croissants are conjured up. I think it is safe to say, this was not my experience.
After a trip to ‘Paris’ was slightly falsely advertised, a tired and disappointed Year 6 class ended up 2 hours outside the city borders in somewhat dodgy accommodation. Being faced with ham paninis – with more butter than meat – consistently throughout the trip made the kitchen take pity on us; they decided to treat us to their speciality one evening. Although, as a general rule I agree ‘it’s the thought that counts’, on this occasion I had to make an exception. For while I had been blow-drying my hair for dinner, I noticed some movement by the plug socket. Curious, I looked closer…only to find a very much alive frog hopping about. Screaming, I ran to my friends in the canteen, at which point you can imagine my horror to find even more amphibians limbs on display…
Nevertheless, my experience of French cuisine was salvaged upon my return to Paris – this time actual Paris - two years later. If you haven’t already, try a falafel and pitta dish in the Jewish quarter. You won’t regret it!
Another unforgettable encounter was approximately 7 hours into our 15-hour train ride from Split to Budapest. Despite my group remembering UNO and Cards Against Humanity, it seemed the Croatian heat got to us as we instead forgot both food and water for the journey. Alas, some questionable goulash – with an even more questionable smell – had to suffice for the carnivores, whilst us veggies were reduced to dog-food style pâté and a hefty loaf of stale dough. Lesson to be learned: plan ahead.
With our stomachs rumbling at this low-point in time, we were reminded of the absolute steal we consumed on our second day in Split. A margarita pizza, topped off with a litre of any cocktail we chose, costing only £3! Of course, the impressive progress of my tan throughout this meal did add some major brownie points, confirming this was a highlight.
Therefore, it’s clear that travelling - and its accompanying cuisine - makes for some interesting experiences. The more you travel, the more you try, and the more you try, the more fun (I think?) you’ll have.
Lyon is a city full of surprises: from the hidden, secret passageways in the Old Town that were used by silk merchants to transport their products during the 19th Century, to the controversial, modern, almost otherworldly architecture of the recently built Musée des Confluences, you never quite know what you are going to chance upon.
Yet perhaps Lyon’s worst kept secret is its incredible gastronomic culture and history. Named the cuisine capital of France, it is famed both nationally and internationally as a beacon of simple, high quality food. Paris can keep its haute-cuisine, because Lyon even holds claim to its own type of restaurant, the acclaimed ‘bouchon’. These traditional eateries originally welcomed silk workers, serving up rich, meaty dishes alongside a lively atmosphere.
Bouchons today in Lyon still preserve this authenticity with their red and white check tablecloths, as well as the convivial environment, encouraged by each restaurant’s relatively small size. Little has changed in terms of the food either - still a predominantly meaty fare - so unfortunately vegetarians won’t have much luck in this respect! Picky eaters should probably look away now too, as some popular dishes include: andouillette (offal sausage), gras double (tripe cooked with onions), and pig’s trotter. But go in with an open mind, and you can be pleasantly surprised.
The greatest concentration of these restaurants can be found in the Old Town, Vieux Lyon, where restaurants are proud to advertise their bouchon status. Be aware though, because other restaurants try to jump on the bouchon bandwagon, charging the earth for sub-par food. Keep an eye out for prix-fixe menus so you know exactly what you are getting for your money, and lunchtime is often a cheaper time to eat.
However, if you fancy something simpler, a picnic in the hilly Croix-Rousse neighbourhood overlooking the city is the perfect way to while away an afternoon or evening. There’s even a local food market, so pick up your ingredients for a fresh, locally-sourced feast. This area is also awash with quirky bars and restaurants. Similarly, the Saint-Antoine market is the largest outdoor food market, open every day except Monday. Or, for an altogether more sophisticated market experience, Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse is a gastronomist’s dream, an indoor market brimming with exquisite, fine food.
At the end of the day, when you’re in the city with the highest concentration of restaurants to people in France, you can’t go far wrong!
If someone were to ask you which country was famous for its food, what would you say? Would it be France, with its countless varieties of cheese, bread, and endless choice of good-quality wines? Or would it be Italy, famous for its pasta, pizza, gelato and wine (again)? Or would it even be somewhere as far away from here as Mexico, well known for its tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and guacamole? While these countries are often very much associated with their celebrated cuisine, we tend not to think of other countries, such as Peru, as being one of the food capitals of the world. However, the sheer diversity of Peruvian food is off the scale, and it's surprising that people have not taken notice of it earlier.
From cuy (guinea pig) to chifa (Peruvian-Chinese fusion cuisine), its dishes have an immense range of influences from within Peru’s borders and beyond – they really do have something to offer everyone. There is one man in particular who enjoys experimenting with all these amazing influences, and his name is Gastón Acurio.
It seems that, by putting Peruvian cuisine on the map, he has generated a truly positive response on a cultural level. His innovation and successes undoubtedly form part of a much bigger picture, showing everyone that food can mean something a little more than just flavour.
What looks like a larger version of ravioli, but is waaaaaay more tasty, is called 'Schwäbische Maultaschen' (Origin: Swabia, Germany). I would like to share this recipe with you because it is one of my favourite dishes in the world! But let's take a minute to go back to where it all started....
Where does it come from?
My grandparents told me the following story (don't worry, I double-checked with Wikipedia so we are good to go with this one!): During lent, some monks in an abbey in a fairly small town called 'Maulbronn' were struggling to go without meat (which they had to give up to prove to God that they were good Christians). Obviously, they had the disadvantage of not being able to cheat as easily as we do today, so they had to come up with some more creative ideas. The result was 'Maultaschen', otherwise called 'Herrgottshbscheißerie' ('Cheating on God') - this second name arose because they monks argued that God would not be able to see the meat in the pasta dough. Now, I really don't know where the idea that German's are not funny comes from...
How can I make this yummy dish?
They are actually quite simple to make and, again thanks to my grandma, I can give you an original Swabian recipe which is guaranteed to impress your friends and family!
All you need is:
Now place the pasta dough on the table (or anywhere else you can find a flat space), place the mix in the middle of the dough (make sure you leave a margin of dough around the mixture, otherwise it will get messy) and fold the dough into the middle (see step 1 in the image).
The easiest way to cut the dough is to place it on a plate and then slice it with a sharp knife. Place a couple of 'Maultaschen' (the pieces you have just cut) in hot, but not boiling, salted water for about 10 minutes.
Congratulations you have now made your very own Schwäbische Maultaschen! You can either fry them, with or without scrambled egg, in a pan or you can eat them with vegetable stock as a soup. Alternatively, you can make lasagne with them as well.
Maultaschen are traditionally eaten with salad or potato salad (cook potatoes and make a dressing with broth, oil, vinegar, mustard and salt).
For a vegetarian option, you can just use:
If you ask me, a good moussaka is an absolute joy. I find it to be a real winter warmer, full of flavour and spice, and we all know how wonderfully cinnamon and Christmas go together! I’d go as far as to say that it’s akin to lasagne, but a little less stodgy (so it won’t leave you feeling too lethargic after a big piece!) and perfect for anyone who is gluten free or just trying to lay off the carbs!
Moussaka is probably one of the best-known foods to come out of Greece, but its origins are really in Arabic cuisine and variants can also be found in Turkey and the Balkans. However, the moussaka we all recognise today is strictly the Greek twist on the dish and there was no real record of it until the early 20th century! A traditional moussaka is made up of a layers of thinly sliced aubergine, a delicately spiced lamb mince and a cheese sauce (usually béchamel). I can assure those of you already recoiling a little at the idea of aubergine (it’s not the most popular of vegetables I know), that the real taste here comes from that beautiful lamb mince and it goes almost completely unnoticed.
The recipe that I am going to share with you is one that my mother gave me when I moved to Durham for my second year, which quickly became a staple and classic ‘Francesca’ dish. It has even been requested by a few people for their personal recipe binders – so I think that we can trust it’s going to be a hit! The one difference between this moussaka and the traditional one is the cheese sauce. Instead of making a béchamel, I use a sauce which turns the top of the moussaka into a bit of a soufflé! Of course, you can opt to use a béchamel instead if you wish!
Your ingredients are as follows –
For the meat sauce, you will need:
· 1 onion chopped fine
· 1 clove of garlic chopped fine (or alternatively, a drizzle of garlic oil)
· 1 stick of celery chopped fine
· 500g of lamb mince
· 1 teaspoon of cumin
· 2 teaspoons of paprika
· 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
· Good sprinkle dried oregano
· A tin of chopped tomatoes or a jar of tomato passata
· A squirt of tomato puree
· Red wine (optional)
For the cheese sauce, you will need:
· 150 mls double cream
· Grated cheddar to taste
· Grated parmesan to taste
· Salt and pepper
· 2 eggs (beaten)
· Ground nutmeg (a tiny pinch as it is very overpowering)
You will also need 1 large aubergine (or 2 small ones, take your pick!)
The meat sauce here is one of the easiest I have ever made! In just a few steps, it will be in the oven and making your house smell incredible! Make sure that you are using a pan with a lid which can both go into the oven.
Start by sweating the onions, celery and garlic in olive oil (and if you’re opting to use garlic oil instead of chopped garlic at this point, add that too)
Once they have sweated down, turn up the heat and brown your mince. This will take a few minutes, so have patience and be sure to break it all up in the pan!
You then want to make sure that you take your tin of chopped tomatoes and blitz it into a liquid using a hand blender (or a normal blender). Alternatively, if you want your sauce a little thicker and chunkier then keep them as they are! You could also use a jar of tomato passata at this point if you prefer.
Add your tomato of choice to the browned mince along with the spices, oregano and a squirt of tomato puree. At this point you could also add a splash of red wine to make the sauce a little richer!
Make sure that your sauce is a little sloppy, if it isn't at this point then you can add boiling water until it is.
Season your sauce with salt and pepper and bake it in the oven at about 160 degrees (fan assisted oven) for an hour.
Now that your meat sauce is in the oven, you can start on the aubergine.
Take your aubergine and slice it into thin rounds (about ½ centimetre in thickness)
Spread the rounds out on a baking sheet and sprinkle liberally with salt. Then leave them for 30 minutes as the salt draws out the moisture and use kitchen roll to pat them dry, removing the salt as you go.
Drizzle them with olive oil and pop them into the oven on the shelf above your meat sauce for around 15 to 20 minutes as you are just softening and cooking the aubergine through.
Now onto the penultimate step, the cheese sauce!
Take your 150ml of double cream, put it into a small saucepan and heat until it is about to boil. You then want to take it off the heat and stir in the cheeses and the nutmeg (remember only a little!).
Allow the sauce to cool and then whisk in the beaten eggs and add salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble your moussaka –
Take a dish (rectangular or oval or circular – the choice is yours!) and layer as follows:
Meat sauce, aubergine, meat sauce, aubergine, meat sauce and then pour your cheese sauce over the top, adding a little grated cheese at the end.
The moussaka bakes in the oven at 180 degrees (fan assisted oven) for 35 minutes. Leave it for around 10 minutes to cool before serving.
And there you have your moussaka! Now it’s time to invite your friends over and tuck in!
Emily Marten says:
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