Lagman House: The spot for Dungan cuisine in NYC

We recently saw a Munchies video on Vice about the lone Dungan restaurant in NYC, Lagman House (2612 E 14th St, Brooklyn, NY 11235), and quickly added it to our list of places to visit when we can travel again. The Dungan people are descendants of Muslim Hui Chinese who migrated to Central Asia over the course of centuries, and are now most commonly living in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. NYC’s Lagnam House is the only restaurant serving Dungan cuisine in the US, and is located in the neighborhood of Brighton Beach, which is heavily populated with immigrants from the former USSR. The family running this restaurant, the Azimovs, immigrated from the town of Zhalpaktobe in southern Kazakhstan in 2012, and family members act as cooks and servers.

The cuisine of the Dungan is imprinted by all of the different threads influencing the Dungan culture: Chinese, Islamic, Soviet and Central Asian. The signature dish is Lagman, hand pulled noodles (known as La mian in China) topped with beef, from which the restaurant gets its name. Handmade noodles are the stars of many of the dishes including Dappan Ji, noodles with fried chicken and peppers, and Ash lan fin, cold noodles with vegetables, bean jelly and eggs. The Central Asian and Russian influence can be seen clearly seen in dishes like Dungan samsa, pastries filled with beef and onion, and beshbarmak, a beef and noodle soup. Fortunately, you can still order from Lagman House on Seamless during the epidemic.

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What is Fiori di Sicilia?

We recently put in an order for tea from one of our favorite Chicago purveyors, Rare Tea Cellar, and one of their varieties is Sicilian Wild Flower Chai, featuring the the flavor “Fiori di Sicilia,” which literally means “Flowers of Sicily.” We were intrigued, so we took a chance (and it turns out we love the tea)! We looked up the extract, and it is not from any Sicilian flower per se, but is actually a combination of citrus and vanilla extracts. You can buy Fiori di Sicilia from King Arthur, or a variety of online sources. Food 52 has a cookie recipe that calls for Fiori di Sicilia, and it can be easily substituted for vanilla extract in most sweet recipes. If you are feeling especially DIY, An Edible Mosaic has a recipe to make your own Fiori di Sicilia extract. A similar flavoring is called Panettone Extract, which combines both vanilla and citrus flavors, along with some additional spices. This variety is also especially popular in Brasil, where it is known as Essência de panetone.

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Bellies En-Route’s Egyptian Cookbook

flags_of_EgyptWhen we were in Egypt in October 2018 (has it really been that long)? We took a food tour in Cairo with Bellies En-Route, led by Mia. Eating our way through Cairo with experts was definitely one of the highlights of our trip, and you can read the summary of our tour here. When we learned that the Bellies team had released their first cookbook, Table to Table, this year, we knew we had to get a (virtual) copy. We love making cuisine from all of our travels, so we were delighted to see that the Bellies had highlighted some of the dishes that we had sampled on the Cairo food tour, particularly the Macarona Béchamel, which is an Egyptian cousin to macaroni and cheese. Along with recipes, the book is really well-designed, and contains a heaping helping of cultural insights that you would not normally see in a cookbook.

TabletoTable

All in all, you receive 16 recipes including including 2 soups, 3 appetizers, 8 mains, and 3 desserts. We are particularly looking forward to making the lentil soup (shorbet ads), the potato & chicken casserole (seneyet batates bel ferakh), moussaka, and the basbousa, a classic semolina-based dessert that we tried for the first time on our tour (pictured among other desserts on our tour below). All of the recipes are handed down from family members, which makes them extra special. With the uncertain Covid-19 situation, runnign a food tour business is precarious, so go and help out these amazing entrepreneurs. You can buy the Table to Table eCookbook, which comes as a handy PDF download (or a file to send to a Kindle). from Gumroad here for $16.99. Follow Bellies En-Route on Instagram to learn about their latest adventures.

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Making Angela Dimayuga’s Chicken Adobo

philippinesWe have been cooking our way around the world during quarantine, since we can’t go anywhere. So far, it has been helping our quell our wanderlust a little bit. A few weeks ago we tried to make Adobo, the de facto national dish of the Philippines. Chicken Adobo can be made a thousand different ways, but generally has a vinegary sauce base. Chef Angela Dimayuga shared her family’s recipe which includes soy sauce, garlic, and three types of coconut: coconut oil, coconut milk and coconut vinegar. You can find the recipe here on New York Times Food. This dish was super easy to make, and was deliciously savory and tangy. We especially loved the spicy pop of the whole peppercorns. This would be the perfect dish for entertaining (someday).

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The Kopitiam Experience in NYC

malaysiaKopitiam (151 East Broadway, New York, NY 10002) has been on our radar for a while. When we visited Singapore and Malaysia we were first introduced to Nyonya (also known as Peranakan) cuisine, which is a mix of the Chinese and Malaysian cultures that settled in the region. Since then, we have been on the lookout for this delicious cuisine stateside. Kopitiams are traditional coffeehouses/eateries found throughout Malaysia (the name comes from the Malay word for “coffee” and the Hokkien word for “shop”), and the NYC restaurant is a modern take on this restaurant genre. Kopitiam is inspired by the Nyonya heritage of chef/co-owner and James Beard Semifinalist Kyo Pang. The restaurant is co-owned by chef Moonlynn Tsai.

We were lucky enough to visit Kopitiam last year with a friend, so we were able to sample a wide variety of dishes in simpler times. Fortunately, Kopitiam is still open for carryout during Covid. As a result, the menu is more limited, but many of the favorites we tried last year are still there. Under normal circumstances, Kopitiam is a quick-service restaurant, no reservations accepted.

Kopitiam serves breakfast all day, featuring some iconic favorites including iconic kaya butter toast ($5) slathered with kaya (pandan coconut jam) and butter. This is one dish we are sorry we missed, and we hear it is amazing. Also available for breakfast is nasi lemak, which is perfect for any time of day ($9). The components of nasi lemak are coconut rice, egg, cucumber, and crispy anchovies, all topped with homemade sambal sauce, and it is definitely more than the sum of its parts.

True to its coffeehouse moniker, Kopitiam serves several varieties of coffee and black tea, hot and iced, and served with and without condensed milk. One of the most famous drinks is the teh tarik (seen above), tea foamed with condensed milk. There were other non-caffeinated options like Bandung ($4.5, the pink drink above) made with condensed milk and rose cordial syrup, or if you want a throwback taste of childhood, you can order Horlicks or Milo ($3.75) malted milk drinks.


We ordered two chicken dishes, which served as appetizers. First up was the pandan chicken ($6.5) steamed chicken dumplings steamed in aromatic pandan leaves. Those who like chicken wings, will love the Belacan wings ($7) bone-in chicken wings coated in a salty-sweet caramelized shrimp paste chicken. Our favorite light bite was probably the cold spicy sesame noodles ($8), the house-made spicy sauce was both rich and savory – a total umami bomb – and perfectly served cold. We can’t turn down handmade noodles, so we had to order the Pan Mee ($12) flat homemade flour noodles in anchovy broth, fried anchovies, wood ear mushroom, spinach and minced pork. This was probably my favorite dish, and the mix of flavors with the salty anchovy kick was amazing.

Don’t sleep on the desserts either. We were really excited to see a variety of Kue Lapis, a many-layered flavored cake, here served in a cinnamon version ($3). You can also order rose and lychee flavored mochi, or honeycomb cake. Kopitiam is a real taste of Malaysia in New York, and we can really appreciate the dedication and care the team brings to every dish. We are looking forward to getting back to NYC some day soon and sampling more of what Kopitiam has to offer.

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Tamales de ceniza: Ash tamales from Puebla at Sabor Poblano

Mexico FlagOver winter break in Chicago last year we visited Sabor Poblano (7027 N. Clark) in Rogers Park after it was highly recommended to us (and it later was reviewed in the Chicago Reader). We are so glad to try a restaurant that features the foods of Pueblo State in Mexico, and we loved tasting regional specialties, including some dishes we had never heard before. They are open for pickup now, so please give them a try. The menu includes pambazos (dipped sandwiches), quesadillas, tacos and a variety of moles, and some special weekend-only dishes like barbacoa. Everything we tried was delicious, and one of our favorites, the red mole Poblano, was killer. We were really excited to try a much rarer specialty from Puebla – tamales de ceniza – which translates directly to “ash tamales.” These tamales are known in Morelos and Guerrero state as Tamales Nejas.

Tamales de Ceniza at Sabor Poblano in Chicago

Tamales de ceniza are flat, unfilled and rectangular, and are made with masa and ashes from the wood-fire stove, and steamed in banana leaves. The flavor of the Tamales de ceniza was really interesting! The black flecks permeated the masa, and the flavor was smoky, but not gritty like you may think ash would be. Since these tamales, unlike many other Mexican varieties, are not filled, and are used more as a platform for other sauces and flavors. At Sabor Poblano they are served as the perfect vehicle for the green mole sauce and chicken. There are similar tamales from Michoacán called corundas, which are triangular, but are also not filled. There are not many recipes for Tamales de ceniza online of you are looking to re-create them at home, but here is a recipe in Spanish. One of our favorite cooking YouTube channels, De mi Rancho a Tu Cocina has a video for how to make the similar corundas.

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Benne Wafers for Juneteenth

Today marks Juneteenth, the day when news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, over two years after the proclamation had been issued on January 1, 1863. This year, Juneteenth celebrations are especially poignant across America. Though initially most popular in Texas, celebrations commemorating Juneteenth have spread throughout African-American communities in the US, incorporating regional foodways along the way. A dish from the African Diaspora Gullah community in the South Carolina lowcountry and sea islands that is perfect for any Juneteenth celebration is the Benne wafer. Benne wafers have deep roots in African cuisine, and their name comes from the Bantu language group word for sesame seed. After being brought over from Africa, sesame was cultivated in the South Carolina lowcountry by enslaved Africans. The African-American Gullah community created and popularized these cookies using the fruits of the sesame crop, and they are now a staple of lowcountry cooking (and can be either savory or sweet). Benne wafers are easy and delicious to make at home, and you can try sweet recipes from King Arthur Flour, Simply Recipes and Serious Eats. You can also make a savory version of Benne wafers, like these recipes from Edna Lewis and Toni Tipton-Martin. I tried the Simply Recipes version (the result of which you can see below) and we love them!

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Support the Bakers Against Racism International Bake Sale

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I have been really happy to see the Bakers Against Racism bake sale project on Instagram gaining attention and participation. Started by DC-based pastry chef Paola Velez, a James Beard Award finalist, along with chefs Willa Pelini and Rob Rubba, this project aims to unite bakers (professional and amateur alike) who will be selling baked goods with at least 50% of the proceeds going to charities benefiting the Black community. The best way to see what bakeries in your area are participating is to check out the Bakers Against Racism Instagram (and there may be accounts for your specific area), and to follow the Bakers Against Racism hashtag. Pre-sales start today, June 15, for most bakeries, with pickup on June 20. Some bakeries may also offer shipping or delivery. So buy some baked goods for a good cause!

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How to make Yewande Komolafe’s Nigerian Jollof Rice

Jollof rice is one of the most famous dishes in West Africa, and famously, each country thinks their take on the dish is is the best. Jollof rice is made with garlic, ginger, onions and habanero / scotch bonnet peppers (you can customize the heat levels), and it often accompanies roasted meat or fish dishes, and sides like fried plantains. It is considered one of the national dishes of Nigeria, and it is to that country to which we turn today for our Jollof rice journey.

Yewande Komolafe is a NYC-based chef who was raised in Lagos, Nigeria. She previously shared her 10 Essential Nigerian recipes with the New York Times, one of which being Jollof rice. We have enjoyed Jollof rice many times in restaurants, but never tried to make it ourselves. However, after watching Yewande Komolafe’s video, we knew we had to take the plunge. Her Jollof rice recipe [here] was easy to follow, and we even had most of the necessary ingredients on hand already. One note: the recipe calls for parboiled rice, and if you are just using regular rice, you will want to add more liquid than the recipe calls for in order to properly cook the rice. The end result was delicious: hearty, spiced and spicy, thanks to the scotch bonnet. As she says in the video, this would make a great meal for a crowd alongside other hearty Nigerian recipes. We served our Jollof Rice with chicken thighs roasted in Obe Ata (which is the same taste profile as the Jollof Rice) and fried plantains.

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Teranga restaurant at The Africa Center in NYC

When we visited New York City last fall we met a friend for some food and snacks at Teranga, located on the ground floor of The Africa Center in Harlem (1280 5th Ave.). The mission of The Africa Center is to celebrate contemporary African culture and the cultures of its diaspora, and Teranga, opened in 2019, furthers that mission. Teranga is the concept of Senegal-born chef Pierre Thiam, and features dishes from a variety of African countries, with an emphasis on West Africa. If you would like to hear more from Chef Thiam, you can listen to him in conversation with food historian Jessica B. Harris at 5 PM ET, June 9th, 2020 in partnership with The Africa Center and the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD).

We love the mission of Teranga to bring fresh, accessible African food to the neighborhood. All of the dishes at Teranga are served in a customizable bowl format: you pick a base, a main, sides, and a sauce. The West African influence on the menu is apparent right away with the bases of Attiéké (fermented cassava from Cote D’Ivoire), Jollof rice (tomato spiced rice that a popular throughout West Africa) and Liberian red rice. For the mains you can choose Moroccan-spiced salmon, roasted chicken or veggies. The sides again dip into West African territory, with fonio (a type of grain found in West Africa, which Thiam sells through his food company, Yolélé) and Senegalese Ndambe (Black eyed pea stew), among others. You can top your dish with peanut mafe, or the mild onion yassa. There are even various levels of hot sauce available, from smoky Ghanaian shito to super-spicy Senegalese kani.

We are partial to Teranga’s Jollof rice, and absolutely love the mafe peanut sauce. You may notice that we wolfed everything down before we were able to get a picture. Also noteworthy are Teranga’s delectable fresh-squeezed juices ($5). In particular, we are fans of the ginger and mint (strongly gingery, in the best possible way) and the hibiscus Bissap. Teranga’s space on the ground floor of the Africa Center is a really nice and welcoming place to sit and relax, and we hope to visit again when hanging out is possible. As of 6/8/20, Teranga is open for delivery and pickup, and is also providing meals for NYC essential workers, and you can support their GoFundMe here. We love the accessibility of the food at Teranga, and the fact that you can mix and match for dozens of possible combinations. Please give them some love!

Bowls from the Teranga website

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Edna Lewis, America’s Culinary Queen

A cookbook that should be in every American home is Edna Lewis’ The Taste of Country Cooking, one of the veritable bibles of Southern cuisine. Lewis was an influential cook, author and trailblazer, as one of the first African-American women who published a cookbook without hiding her gender or race. By the time she died in 2006 she had been rightly recognized in the pantheon of great American chefs. However, she was still not as much of a household name as some of her peers.

Edna Lewis was born in Freetown, Virginia in 1916, the granddaughter of an emancipated slave. She grew up cooking traditional Southern dishes with her family, using techniques that did not require modern appliances and ingredients that were local to the area. She later moved to Washington DC and eventually New York City where she became a fashion designer. She first worked as a chef at Café Nicholson in 1949, where she brought her southern cuisine to a broader audience. She worked later in catering and even as a docent in the Hall of African Peoples in the American Museum of Natural History. She wrote her first cookbook The Edna Lewis Cookbook in 1972. Her stature continued to grow with each subsequent cookbook, especially with The Taste of Country Cooking in 1976 (edited by Julia Child’s editor Judith Jones), where Lewis incorporated her own personal stories and recollections with recipes. She followed this with In Pursuit of Flavor in 1988 and The Gift of Southern Cooking in 2003 (with Scott Peacock).

Throughout her life, Edna Lewis remained a tireless proponent of Southern cooking, increasing its esteem in the US, and bringing southern recipes to a wider audience. In the 1990s Lewis was honored with a James Beard Living Legend Award and was named “Grande Dame” by Les Dames d’Escoffier International. Two years after her death in 2006, Gourmet published Lewis’ essay “What is Southern Cooking?,” an elegant distillation of her philosophy. In 2015, Francis Lam penned a great piece for the New York Times about Lewis’ enduring legacy, “Edna Lewis and the Black Roots of American Cooking.” In more recent years, a new generation of chefs became familiar with Lewis’ work, and her cookbooks received a publicity boost after a “Top Chef” tribute.

Another great way to honor Lewis’ memory is to cook some of her recipes. There are almost too many delectable recipes to decide among, but here is a smattering: Busy Day Cake, Shrimp Grits, Baked Tomatoes, Biscuits, Fried Chicken, Greens and Cornmeal Dumplings, Stove top Asparagus, and Oven Brisket. If you are looking for more Lewis recipes, please get one of her cookbooks, and if you can, buy from a Black-owned bookstore (we often shop at Semicolon in Chicago).

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How to support Black-owned restaurants in your city

Many people in America are looking to diversify the way they understand the world (and eat!) at this moment in time, and rightly so. Where you spend your money matters, and the experiences you choose matter, now more than ever. A great place to start is by increasing your support of the Black-owned restaurants in your area, which are being disproportionately impacted by economic disparities and other crises like COVID-19. Anela Malik explains exactly why it is so important to support Black-owned restaurants now, and all the time, better than I could. A valuable resource to easily find Black-owned restaurants in your area is the EatOkra App (for Android and iPhone), and Korsha Wilson lists several other resources at Food & Wine. Hungry Hungry Hooker has a great compilation of city-by-city resources, many found on Instagram. For another city-by-city view, Eileen W. Cho has compiled a growing list of databases and articles of Black-owned restaurants throughout the US. Included among these is the list of Cleveland-area Black-owned food businesses I compiled this week. This list is a work in progress and I am looking forward to patronizing many more of these restaurants in the near future.

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Celebrating Eid al-Fitr at Home with Sweets

Since the start of quarantine, many in America have been far away from their families, but paradoxically, many have also returned home and are closer to their families than ever. This includes photographer Eslah Attar, who moved home during quarantine to her parents’ house in Ohio. While there, she has learned a score of family recipes from her Syrian mother, which is especially significant during the celebration of Ramadan. The end of Ramadan, Eid-al-Fitr is this weekend, and is marked with an especially large feast to mark the end of a month of fasting. This NPR article features Attar’s photographs of some of the many delicious, fast-breaking sweets her mother has taught her to prepare including Baklava, knafeh, and maamoul (as seen below).

Eslah Attar for NPR

Baklava (layered phyllo sweets with syrup and nuts), Knafeh and Maamoul (date cookies) are popular throughout the Middle East, and anywhere with a Middle Eastern diaspora, and every country and family has a slight variation. Baklava is definitely common in the US, and maamoul date cookies are not unfamiliar to the American palate, but Knafe gives and entirely different taste experience. We grew to like knafe (also spelled knafeh, kunafeh, and kanafeh) when we were in Egypt. This surprisingly hearty dessert is composed of crunchy, shredded Phyllo (semolina is also used in Egypt) with a cheesy center (typically Akawi cheese, though Mozzarella can be substituted), topped with a rosewater or orange blossom-tinged sugar syrup, and pistachios. I know this description is not doing knafe justice, but it really is delicious. Here are some Levantine knafe recipes from: Cook for Syria, Food 52, The Cooking Foodie, and Chef Tariq. Eid Mubarak!

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How to make Haitian fudge: Dous Makos

Haitian flagToday is Haitian Flag Day, commemorating the official adoption of the Haitian Flag on May 18, 1803, just before the country’s declaration of independence from France on January 1, 1804. Haitian Flag Day is celebrated throughout Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora, and remains a potent symbol of unity and identity. This festive holiday is the perfect occasion to dig in and try some Haitian recipes. And while not particular to Flag Day, this is a great time to try a Haitian dessert classic, Dous Makos (aka Haitian Fudge).

Dous_Makos_(Haitian_Fudge)

Dous Makos is a spiced fudge composed of different flavored layers arranged in stripes of tan, brown and red (which is somewhat reminiscent of a flag, though that was not the original intention). The major flavors in Dous Makos are vanilla, anise, nutmeg, cinnamon and cocoa, though you may see other combinations.  Fernand Macos, a Belgian entrepreneur, created Dous Makos in 1939 in the town of Petit-Goâve, and has spread in popularity since then. It is not hard to make on your own, and utilizes ingredients you may already have in your pantry including condensed milk. You can find recipes from versions from Haitian Cooking, L’Union Suite and Manje Ayisyen. Island Vibe Cooking, below, has a video on how to make mini Dous Makos in muffin tins. If you need a quick fix, you can even buy some Dous Makos pre-made from Bonbon Lacay in Brooklyn!

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What is Cheese Rolling?

united_kingdomOne of the more bizarre food-related competitions we have heard about in the recent past is the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-rolling competition in Gloucester, UK. The event, which was supposed to be held on May 25, 2020, was unfortunately cancelled because of Covid-19. So what exactly is going on? A 7-9 lb. round of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled down the hill (in 2013 only a stunt cheese was used) and many, many people go rolling along after it! The first person to the bottom of the hill wins the wheel of cheese. The Double Gloucester cheese used for rolling has been produced in Gloucestershire for centuries and is worth seeking out in its own right. The true origins of this competition are shrouded in mystery, and range from celebrating pagan roots to obtaining grazing rights. In any case, the competition has been held in some form since at least 1826 (when the first written record emerged)! Hopefully this video of the event in action will bring you a few laughs today. If you want to partake at home we suggest buying some Double Gloucester from your favorite cheesemonger, and it is commonly available at most grocery stores. You can even buy a 5-lb wheel for $97 online!

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Trying Australian Damper and Vegemite in the Outback

AustraliaWhen we were in Australia last summer, we spent 4 days camping with a group tour in the Australian Outback en route to Uluru, eating well on a menu of camping cuisine. It was on this trip that we were introduced to the iconic Australian Damper. Damper is a type of soda bread, that is typically baked in a camping stove in the coals of a campfire (as below), and has long been associated with outback lore and camping cuisine in Australia. Now that we are in quarantine times, some people are turning to bread-baking as an activity – evidenced by the fact that flour and yeast are nowhere to be found – and this bread couldn’t be any simpler.

Damper just out of the fire by Matthew Klein

The Hook and the Cook has a nice video (below) on how to make damper in a camp oven over coals, which is how we experienced it. Adventure Dining Guide has a hack on how to cook damper in coals in aluminum foil if you don’t have a cast iron pot. You don’t even have to cook the damper over coals, an oven will do, as in this recipe from Taste, though of course it won’t have the same outdoorsy charm.  You can add anything into damper as a filling or flavoring, as in the Blueberry Damper from Dirty Drifters.

While we were on our Outback adventure, we also had our first taste of Vegemite, slathered on our damper bread. Vegemite is a salty, savory spread made from brewer’s yeast that is iconic, but quite divisive, even among Australians. Our Australian guides instructed us on the proper way to consume Vegemite, in a very thin layer, mixed with a healthy dose of butter. Tom Hanks recently drew some playful criticism for layering his on too thick. So what did we think? The Eaters were split down the middle, one for an one against. To me (pro Vegemite), the Vegemite had a very strong umami flavor, and kind of smelled like anchovies!

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New Orleans’ Secret Noodle Dish: Yaka Mein

The New Orleans Jazz Festival, one of the biggest music events of the year, which was supposed to be happening right now, was cancelled this year due to Coronavirus. The cancellation of JazzFest really drives home how out-of-the-ordinary everything is…. Along with the amazing music, you could get some of the best New Orleans cooking at JazzFest every year, ranging from Creole to Cajun to Vietnamese and back again. You could also get Yaka Mein soup, a hybrid dish that originated in New Orleans. Yaka Mein (also known as Ya-Ka-Mein or simply “Yock”) is a simple dish of beef, noodles, green onions, hard boiled eggs and soy sauce (plus some secret seasonings). Its actual origins are shrouded in mystery, though a likely theory points to roots in New Orleans’ old Chinatown, and similar dishes under the name yat/yet gaw mein are sold in Chinese-American restaurants in New Orleans and throughout the US.

Yakamein

Ms. Linda’s Ya-Ka-Mein in San Francisco by Gary Stevens

This hearty and filling dish has become associated with second line parades, and Jazzfest in particular, due to the presence of “Ya-ka-mein Lady” Ms. Linda Green. When Anthony Bourdain visited New Orleans he paid a visit to Ms. Green, and you can check out another interview with her by Zagat below. But even if you are not going to these events, you can get yakamein soup all over New Orleans from convenience stores to high-end restaurants to bars where it is touted as a great hangover cure (it is sometimes called “old sober”).  If you are not lucky enough to sample Ms. Linda’s creations while in New Orleans, you can make Yaka Mein from just a handful of ingredients, using recipes from Just a Pinch, Epicurious and Deep South Dish.

 

 

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Chebakia: Moroccan Sesame Cookies for Ramadan

Flag_of_MoroccoYesterday at sunset marked the start of 2020’s Ramadan, which will be quite a different celebration given that large gathering are not allowed in many countries. One of the most important parts of Ramadan is usually communal, the nightly breaking of the fast with a special meal known as Iftar. Even though we are not able to gather together, we can still make some pretty tasty treats for fast-breaking celebrations. One cookie reserved for special occasions like Ramadan is the flower-shaped Moroccan chebakia (also spelled shebakia or known alternatively as mkharka) that is deep fried, and glazed with honey and sesame seeds. The preparations for chebakia start in the weeks before Ramadan because it is so labor-intensive, and large quantities are required for Iftar celebrations. In French, the name for these cookies is la rose des sable, which translates to “rose made out of cookie.” The shape of the cookie is pretty intricate, so we found it helpful to watch Cooking with Alia’s video demo. You can find recipes for Chebakia from Spruce Eats, Cooking with Alia and My Moroccan Food. Maroc Mama even has a gluten-free recipe. At Iftar, chebakia is traditionally served with harira, a tomato soup, giving a really interesting sweet/savory twist.

Chebakia

Chebakia piled high in Rabat, Morocco by Gerald Stolk

 

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How to make your own salted cream cheese foam for milk tea

Back when we lived in Chicago we were introduced to the idea of “Cheese Foam” as a topping on milk and bubble teas. This trend originated in Taiwan, working its way through Asia, and to the US and beyond. When we first heard the term “cheese tea” we were a little bit taken aback. How could that be good? But it turns out, the cheese in question is cream cheese, and it tastes great a topping for milky teas. This same topping goes under a myriad of names at different tea shops: Milk Cap, Cheese Cap, Milk Foam, Milk Mustache, Cheese foam, etc. Now in lockdown, we are unable to obtain this tasty treat, so we have resorted to making our own. We scored the internet for recipes, and used this recipe from 3than Wong as a starting point, but with our own modifications. It really isn’t hard! We especially like this for topping chilled black milk tea, earl gray tea or matcha.

Cheese Foam (makes enough for 4 modest toppings or 2 giant servings)

  • 4 oz cream cheese (Plain only! Do not get flavored or light varieties)
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar (more or less to taste)
  • Pinch of sea salt (to taste)

Cut cream cheese into pieces and whip with sugar in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Once this is blended add in the whipping cream and beat until medium peaks form. Next, add the milk in to thin the mixture a bit, and continue to whip. You may want to add more milk at this stage, depending on the consistency. Finish by adding the sea salt to the mixture and gently folding it in with a spatula. The consistency should be like a pourable Cool Whip/whipped cream. Add as much as you would like to the top of your filled tea cup/glass, and there you go! This can be served over hot or iced drinks, though we prefer iced, since the foam tends to “melt” quickly in hot drinks.

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Madagascar’s Street Candy: Koba

640px-Flag_of_Madagascar.svgThis marks our first post on Malagasy food! When we were watching a video about street food in Madagascar, from The Best Ever Food Review Show, we were struck by the mysterious, ubiquitous food wrapped in banana leaves. Other street food dishes of rice, noodles and sausage were easier to identify, but this banana leaf-shrouded mystery was something completely different. Of course, we had to wait to the end of the video to find out that this was Koba, an emblematic Malagasy sweet made primarily of glutinous rice flour and peanuts steamed in banana leaves. This simpler version of Koba is known as Koba Ravina (or kobindravina), and is often the one sold by street vendors in giant portions. There is also a version called Koba Akondro, with other mix-ins like banana and honey. After steaming the banana leaves, the sliceable cake has a chewy, mochi-like texture with a molasses-colored center. Though on the streets of Antananarivo, koba is sold in giant banana-leaf-wrapped logs, you can make a smaller portion for yourself at home, provided you have banana leaves. Mada Magazine has a recipe on how to make koba akondro at home, as does Afro Tourism.

Koba

Koba Ravina sold in Antananarivo, Madagascar

 

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Filed under World Eats