We’ve made it to Friday – time to celebrate with donuts! This week we are featuring Vietnamese hollow donuts – Bánh Tiêu. Banh Tieu are crunchy, hollow donuts covered in sesame seeds, with a light texture. The technique is a bit harder to master than an American donut, but if you have already attempted deep-frying you have a leg up. I am a Food Blog and Vicky Pham have good recipes for Banh Tieu to try at home. Banh Tieu are found throughout Vietnam as street food, and you can also find them at some Vietnamese markets or restaurants in the US and Canada, especially on the West Coast.
One of our friends is taking a trip through the Baltic countries and put out an open call for recommendations of unique things to do, and foods to try in the area. We must confess that we don’t know that much about Baltic food, but are always eager to learn more. One of the most intriguing and unusual Baltic foods we learned about was Estonian Kama, a flour mixture that is nostalgically revered among Estonians and expats. That’s right – a flour mixture! Kama is made with a mixture of roasted roasted barley, rye, oat and pea flours, and can be eaten as is, since it is pre-cooked. Kama is nonperishable, so it made sense for travel or in lean times. During Soviet rule, Kama was even used in “chocolate” bars as a substitute for the more-expensive cocoa, and this nostalgic candy has actually made a comeback in recent years. Nowadays, kama it is mostly enjoyed as a home-style breakfast, mixed into buttermilk or yogurt and topped with berries. If you can get your hands on some, Nami Nami has a recipe for a dessert mousse using Kama.
When we used to live on the north side of Chicago we tried ton of a taquerias up and down North Clark street in Rogers Park (you can read about some on our Taco Crawl post). We did find a favorite though: the bombastically-named El Rey Del Taco – King of the Taco (7138 N Clark St). We were first intrigued by two unique non-food-related facts – that it is open 24 hours and has a parking lot – both major bonuses and rarities. The menu at El Rey Del Taco, like other places in the area, is overwhelmingly huge, and you can get seafood platters, soups, burritos, huaraches, tortas and the like, but what we always come here for are the tacos, which never disappoint. The tacos come in at a very reasonable $2.25 apiece, and if you dine in, are served on a real plate with lime wedges, grilled green onions and blackened hot peppers. The little corn tortillas for the tacos are good, and the tacos are dressed simply with cilantro and onion (how it should be!).
We have tried the tilapia, al pastor, steak and chorizo tacos, and while they are all good, our two favorite varieties are the al pastor and the steak. The al pastor is well-charred and spiced, and comes with slices of seared pineapple, which is a must for the whole al pastor experience. Though this is not our favorite al pastor in the city, it is a great option on the north side. So do they have a trompo? Well, sometimes. We have indeed seen the trompo in action on a few occasions (see below), but have gone back other times to see no trompo in sight.
These is something at El Rey del Taco for everyone, at all times of the day, including an extensive breakfast menu. If you want to pop in after work, it is also a perfect place for happy hour, with margaritas, beer and horchata on offer (and don’t miss flan for dessert). We have even had meetings here, and they are nice about letting you linger for as longs as you want. We have seen some complaints about their delivery, but we have only ever eaten in, and have never waited too long (though you get free chips and salsa while you wait), and received friendly service. Now that we don’t live there anymore, you can take over and make El Rey del Taco your new north side taco haunt!
There is nothing we like more than a good bakery, and we stumbled upon a great one in Lima, Peru’s Panadería El Pan de La Chola (Av Mariscal La Mar 918, Miraflores 15074, Peru). The closest analogue to El Pan de la Chola we know of is Zak’s Bakery in Miami. Like Zak’s, El Pan de la Chola, is a bright, airy bakery which serves up breads, sandwiches and coffee in a friendly rustic-chic environment to a enthusiastic crowd of local and expat cognoscenti, students and families. The bakery is run by a British expat, Johnathan Day, who realized his dream of opening a bakery in Peru.
For the final country represented on the Olympic Refugee Team – Ethiopia – we decided to dig a little deeper into the county’s cuisine. Now we adore Ethiopian food, but we were wondering about traditional Ethiopian desserts (since we have never encountered any!). Turns out, we weren’t missing a hidden dessert culture – the whole concept of dessert is pretty much an imported one. However, with the influx of sugar into Ethiopia in the 20th century, desserts started cropping up. One of the most popular desserts now in Ethiopian is the pasti, a sweet, fried dough dessert influenced by Italian food, sold in small shops called Pasti Bet (pasti houses). Here is a simple video recipe for pasti from How to Cook Ethiopian, with the video in Amharic and English text below. Pasti is even popular enough to have an Ethiopian R&B song about it!
So what is the national dish of Brazil, the host of the 2016 Olympic games? Feijoada – a hearty stew of sausage, carne seca, various cuts of pork and black beans. This is the type of post that we are surprised we did not write earlier – living in Brazil, feijoada is an integral part of the national cuisine and culture. Feijoada is the type of slow-simmered dish that you make on weekends for your family a la “Sunday gravy” in Italian families. On a larger scale, samba schools in Rio hold highly-anticipated “feijoada” for their entire communities and there is food, music and merriment. The whole point is that you don’t make feijoada alone, it is group endeavor. Legend has it that feijoada originated as a way to use up all the “other” parts of the animal after the good cuts had been used (or were too expensive to buy in the first place), but that theory has been disputed by some that see the dish as a more direct descendent of Portuguese stews. A really traditional feijoada will include ingrediants like pig trotters and ears, but there are a hundred variations, and everyone has a slightly different spin. Taste of Brazil has a traditional version and Maria Brazil and Simply Recipes have versions with ingredients you can find in most grocery stores.
There are two athletes from Syria on the Refugee Olympic Team, and two others on the team who currently train in Brazil. However, the connection between Syria and Brazil is not new. When we were in Brazil, we were pleasantly surprised at the number of Middle Eastern restaurants, from high-end fine dining to humble corner shops. We love traditional Brazilian food, but we like to try something different every once in a while, and we often turned to Syrian or Lebanese food for a change of pace. This is not just a cuisine trend in the country, there has been a large Syrian population in Brazil for over 100 years, and they are one of the most deeply established immigrant communities in Brazil. Now, there is a newer wave of immigrants fleeing the current conflict in Syria. One of the ways that this new wave of Syrians is contributing to Brazilian culture is through their food enterprises, such as Ahmad Ryad Hamada’s Syrian snack cart and Anas Rjab’s catering service, Simsim.
Even before the newest Syrian arrivals, you could find foods that are traditionally Levantine all over Rio de Janeiro, as well as other places in Brazil, especially São Paulo. The first time we had the national food of Syria – kibbeh – was actually in Brazil! You will find kibbe and esfiha (small triangle shaped filled dough) at snack shops throughout Brazil, whether or not they have primarily Middle Eastern menus, showing how much Brazilians have adopted Syrian dishes as their own. Syrian influence can also be seen in that pita-like bread is called Pão Sirio (Syrian Bread) in Brazil. There are tons of great places to get Levantine food and spices in Rio, but here are some of our favorites: Al-Kuwait for Kibbe and Esfiha, Quiosque Arab for ambiance and Casas Pedro for spices and Pão Sirio.
Even if you are not in Rio for the Olympics (we aren’t!), you can still find a taste of Brazil in some of the most unexpected places. One thing that we are quickly learning about Ohio is that you never know what you are going to find. It may seem that you are in a nondescript strip mall, but you may just be steps away from an amazing Brazilian food market and restaurant. And yes, in Columbus, Ohio we came across one of the best international food markets we have seen in the US, Estilo Brazil (5818 Columbus Square, Columbus, OH 43231).
There is something for everyone at Estilo Brazil, and we saw most of our favorite brands from Brazil there: Phebo soaps, Sonho de Valsa chocolates, Piraquê cookies, Pilão coffee and Madrugada teas. Beyond those brands, Estilo Brazil boasts a wide selection of other Brazilian candies, juices, soda, household products, canned and packaged foods and spices. When we were there around Easter, they also had a large supply of Brazilian chocolate Easter eggs hanging from a wooden pergola in the middle of the store (the traditional display method), which are a must-try for any chocolate-lover at least once.
More unusually, and a great sign for us, Estilo Brazil also had an extensive refrigerated and frozen food section with frozen Brazilian cuts of meats and fresh cheeses like catupiry and Minas. We were also pleased to find some things we hadn’t seen at other grocery stores, like miniature brigadeiro paper liners (like super mini cupcake tin liners), frozen açai pulp and spices for traditional churrasco. We were really impressed by Estilo Brazil’s selection of harder-to-find items. We definitely stocked up on favorites, and took a chance on some things that were new to us.
However, one of the best parts is that Estilo Brazil, is that it also houses a traditional Brazilian restaurant with a buffet. You can get a huge plate of food at the buffet for only $10. The big draw on Saturday is the lunch buffet with feijoada, the national dish of Brazil, which is a stew of pork and beans. Though they have a selection of mains (like moqueca, chicken stew or pasta – see the weekly menu here) every day of the week, the special feijoada is only available on Saturday. At the buffet we got feijoada, garlicky couve mineira, salad, pão de queijo and a coxinha (fried chicken dumpling), and washed everything down with a cafezinho and a Guarana Antarctica. The food was delicious, and transported us instantly back to Brazil! Estilo Brazil is definitely worth a visit if you are craving some Brazilian food, and be sure to stock up on all the Brazilian essentials while you are there.
When researching the national dish of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the countries represented on the Refugee Olympic Team, we found a few dishes vying for the top spot. First up was Fufu/Bukari, an almost ubiquitous cassava mash used to sop up foods. However, Fufu is popular across a wide swath of Africa, so that didn’t seem distinct enough to be a national dish. Another contender was Pondu/Saka-Saka , cassava leaves in palm oil, but it is really more of a side dish. However, after some additional sleuthing, the main course that seemed to be the most widely-accepted national dish of the DRC is Poulet à la Moambé (Chicken Moambe), which is also considered the national dish of Gambia and Angola. We understand why it is widely beloved, we have tried this hearty, peanut-y soup before and it is delicious! Chicken Moambe is made with ingredients you’ll be able to find almost anywhere – bone-in chicken, peanut butter, palm oil and tomatoes – see recipes from African American Kitchen and Chef Bolek. If you want to go the whole nine yards you can accompany it with Fufu and Pondu!
This is the first time that South Sudan (which only became an independent country in 2011) is competing in any Olympics, and 5 refugees associated with South Sudan are also competing for the Refugee Olympic team. South Sudanese shares many features with the traditional cuisine of Sudan, which features a wide array of stews, corn-based breads, and hearty veggies like okra, but relies more heavily on fish. However, the South Sudanese can do sweets, too. One of the emblematic desserts of South Sudan is a sweet semolina pudding, Kuindiong. This pudding reminds us of Middle Eastern semolina puddings, like Basboosa, and uses the same semolina flour used in Italian pasta. This recipe from SBS Australia (seen below) seems simple and delicious.
For the first time in the history of the Olympics, a team composed of refugees is competing under their own banner. The 10 athletes representing the Refugee Olympic Team hail from South Sudan, Syria, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, all countries affected by ongoing conflicts. Competing in swimming, judo and track and field, the athlete’s appearance at the game is raising awareness for their home countries’ struggles, and they received a standing ovation during the parade of nations during the opening ceremonies. This week and next we will be featuring foods and cuisines of the countries represented by this brave team. Though we have written about the food of Ethiopia, Syria and the DRC, the food of South Sudan is new to us. We look forward to seeing more of these athletes!
Back in the day, an area of Central Rio de Janeiro, Cinelândia (pictured above in 2013), as its name suggests, was the home of Rio de Janeiro’s opulent Art Deco movie theaters. At its peak, there were over a dozen, centered on the square called Praça Floriano Peixoto. Only one movie theater still remains, the Odeon (link in Portuguese), whereas the other grand movie palaces have been converted to performing arts centers, churches, bookstores, or adult movie theaters. Bomboniere Pathe (Praça Floriano, 45, Rio de Janeiro) used to be below one such grand cinema – Cinema Pathe (now a church), which opened in 1901 and closed in 1999.
Though the theater is closed, this tiny corner shop that sells nothing but cake is still chugging along. The store is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-small. But don’t let the humble appearance fool you – the cakes are amazing! There are a dozen or so traditional and exotic flavors available every day, and are worth a special trip. It costs $R 5 for a slice, and $R 65 for an entire cake. With the current exchange rate of the Brazilian Real, that is a pretty reasonable price. The refrigerator case for the cakes is rolled right out into the street, enticing passers-by with scrumptious cakes.
So what kind of cakes can you expect? While we were there we sampled: A tri-color Neapolitan cake, a brigadeiro cake (chocolate condensed milk) with brigadeiro truffles right on top, coconut cake, prestigio cake, a traditional chocolate and coconut layer cake, passion fruit cheesecake, key lime, strawberry, blueberries and whipped cream, Black forest cake, and more! The selection changes daily, so be sure to ask ahead if there is something you have in mind. You can also buy single bite-size Brazilian treats like truffles, brigadeiros / casadinhos / cajuzinhos / beijinhos and small pudins (egg puddings).
If you order a slice, you are treated to a hearty wedge in a little plastic container. Since this is a take out place, there is no “eating-in.” However, you will see some people gathered around the shop just noshing on their cakes. Another nice touch – for my birthday they even gave me a cake with a candle in it (see below)! We sampled cakes at least once a week and were never disappointed. Located near the business center of Rio, it is a popular choice for businesspeople on a lunch break, and the crowd strictly seemed to be locals. If you are in Central Rio and looking for a sweet, traditional Brazilian dessert, look no further!
Kosovo, which gained independence only in 2008, competed in the Olympics for the first time in Rio, and in their first showing, Majlinda Kelmendi won a gold medal in Judo. In honor of this win, we thought we would delve a little more into the world of Kosovar cuisine. Though it is similar in many ways to its Balkan neighbors in Albania, Serbia and Macedonia, Kosovar cuisine has some unique dishes that set it apart. One of the most iconic is Flija (or Flia), a round layered dough cake/bread, which incorporates yogurt into the batter. Global Table Adventure has a recipe for Flija (pictured below), which leads you through the steps of adding layer after layer to the dish. Though Global Table Adventure has adapted the recipe for the typical kitchen, Flija is traditionally baked outside in a large silver pan known as a “saç.” Flija seems seems complicated, but looks delicious!
The Olympics have finally come to Rio! When we were living in Brazil a few years ago, the country was already gearing up for the Olympic games, so we are excited to see it finally come to life. ETW will have some special food-related Olympics coverage this year, focused on the food of Brazil and the countries competing. We already have an extensive archive of Brazil and Rio De Janeiro food posts, so we encourage you to check it out in the meantime. This year, we will have special posts on the two countries competing in the Olympics for the first time – South Sudan and Kosovo (we also covered the 7 new countries in 2014) – and the multi-national refugee team. Stay tuned! Bom apetite!
Pierogi Fest in Whiting, Indiana (just over the border from Chicago in NW Indiana) has been going strong for over 20 years – and is wholly dedicated to celebrating the humble Polish dumpling, the pierogi. Pierogi Fest (July 29-31 this year) boasts all the Polish food you can eat, polka music and dancing, games (like Pierogi toss) and appearances by Mr. Pierogi and Ms. Paczki (along with the Village People this year). Pierogi Fest has grown in size over the years, and is now a major attraction for those in the Chicagoland area, and has even garnered national press. Thought the pierogi is the star of the show, you can also get other Eastern European food favorites like: sauerkraut, potato latkes, Polish sausages and stuffed cabbage. We will not be anywhere near Whiting, Indiana, so we are hoping that someone can visit and give us a full pierogi report!
We are going to NYC and Toronto next week, and we are looking forward to eating everything under the sun. We haven’t been to NYC for year – do you have any recommendations for any new food finds we may have missed in the past year? Plus, we are really excited to experience the multicultural foodie heaven of Toronto. We have never been to Toronto together, what should we try there?
There has been a major food renaissance in Peru in the past 15 years, and though the gourmet epicenter of Peru is still the capital city of Lima, foodie-mania has been spreading throughout the entire country. Cusco, for example, a thriving city in the midst of the Andes, with a strong mix of Incan and European traditions, is also getting in on the Peruvian food revival. Nowhere is it more apparent than at Cicciolina (2nd Floor, Triunfo 393, Cusco, Peru), a restaurant that boasts a wide menu of Peruvian-style tapas and modern dishes with Mediterranean twists on Peruvian ingredients, known as Novo Andino (New Andean).
In Yemen, there are two famous spice blends called Hawaij (We thought it said Hawaii at first glance, too!): one sweet (for coffee) and one savory (for soup). We are familiar with other Middle Eastern savory spice blends like Za’atar or Ras-al-Hanout, but a formula for a sweet spice blend was something new to us, so we were totally intrigued. Hawaij coffee spice consists of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and clove (which I am betting smells amazing), and is typically incorporated into coffee as a flavoring. You can make your own spice blend with a recipe from A for Lifestyle or My Name is Yeh. We came across a lot of interesting non-traditional recipes incorporating Hawaij, including donuts, chocolate pots-de-creme, snickerdoodles and ice cream tarts.
Hawaij Coffee Donuts from My Name is Yeh
We are all about a good bakery, and though we have visited many Italian, Mexican, French and Portuguese bakeries over the years, other countries have flown under the radar. But here in Cleveland we recently came across a bakery dedicated to all things Swiss, Zoss Bakery (12397 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Heights). Who knew? The concept of the Swiss bakery reminds us of New Glarus, Wisconsin, a fully Swiss-themed town, which we visited many moons ago at the start of our ETW journey. Zoss Bakery is located in a small, nondescript building in Cleveland Heights, just east of Cleveland, and is helmed by an actual Swiss baker, Kurt Zoss.
Though small, the bakery is well stocked with all manner of sweet and savory goods. There are many different types of bread on the back wall: baguette, honey wheat, sourdough, multi grain, brioche and the unusual Krustenkrone, a ring of bread composed of smaller rolls. There were also several types of croissants, both sweet and savory (almond, chocolate, cheese, ham, etc.), and Bavarian pretzels (we had to get both a croissant and pretzel – both of which were amazing). There are also more Americanized offerings like chocolate cookies, coconut macaroons and muffins.
There is also a cooler with a variety of chilled desserts, which is where the really interesting stuff was hidden. There were a variety of Swiss treats including the classic chocolate and apricot Linzer torte, apple strudel, and a flourless chocolate torte. We were also intrigued by the most geometric dessert we have ever seen, the perfectly-triangular Nussecken, which was composed of two pieces of hazelnut shortbread with apricot jam, with a coating of chocolate – delicious! We were excited to sample some more esoteric Swiss treats at Zoss, and hope to be back soon for more inexplicably geometric pastries.
Brunch may get a lot of press in the US, but give us dim sum any day. We can’t think of any better way to take in a leisurely weekend morning, than by sampling a huge variety of small, cheap tapas-like dishes. Plus, it is good for groups – the more people there are, the more fun dim sum is – because you can taste a wider variety of dishes. With this in mind, we booked a dim sum experience at the newcomer Dolo (2222 S Archer Ave, Chicago, IL 60616) on Mother’s Day. Unlike the other Chicago Chinatown dim sum favorite Ming Hin Cuisine, Dolo takes reservations. However, when we got there, even though we had a reservation, we were just placed on a general waitlist with everyone else so, YMMV. Thankfully there wasn’t much of a wait, so we were soon on our way to dim sum. Continue reading