Recently, at Costco, we ran across a case of an unusual-sounding drink: Golden Nest brand “Swallows Nest Beverage,” nestled right next to the Frappuccinos for the price of 8 bottles for $20. We thought the “nest” part was perhaps just a brand name or a metaphor, but it turns out that this drink is actually made from an edible bird’s nest, a prized culinary ingrediant in China. This ingrediant is more commonly known as “Edible bird’s nests,” and are actual bird nests created by varieties of swiftlet birds out of hardened saliva. Yep, you read that right. The nests are prized for their purported health benefits and contain a large amount of amino acids. Birds nests can go for hundreds or thousands of dollars per kilo, so a price of less than $3 per bottle seems quite reasonable!
Category Archives: World Eats
Happy Hanukkah! Every year for Hanukkah we try to highlight some lesser known (at least in the US) foods of Jewish communities. One country with a rich tradition of Jewish foods that you may not think of immediately is Italy. There has been a Jewish community in Italy since at least 150 BC, and it has continued through to the present day. In Rome, the Jewish population was forced to live in a designated ghetto from 1555 to 1870, and in this period a distinctive Roman Jewish cuisine emerged.
One of the most famous Rome Jewish-Italian foods, that has been adopted by Romans of all religions as a signature dish is fried artichoke. Its Italian name – carciofi alla giudia – actually translates to Jewish-style artichokes. This simple and delicious dish is perfect for Hanukkah, where fried food symbolizes the oil in the lamp that burned for 8 days instead of just one. Other Italian Jewish dishes include pinaci con Pinoli e Passerine (spinach with pine nuts and raisins), Baccalà all’ebraica (fried codfish), and concia (fried zucchini). If you are hungry for more recipes check out the cookbooks Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen and Classic Italian Jewish Cooking.
In 2018, the Mid-Autumn festival in China falls from September 24-26. One of the most traditional treats for Mid-Autumn festival is the mooncake, made of a glutinous rice flour skin filled with lotus paste and sometimes an egg yolk (to represent the moon). Though mooncakes may be the best-known Mid-Autumn festival food, we were looking for something a little different. That’s where Osmanthus comes in – a flowering blossom that is in season at this time of year. According to mythology, the Osmanthus tree grew on the moon. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, Osmanthus can be found in everything from Osmanthus tea (steeped with black or green tea leaves), to Osmanthus jelly, to Osmanthus Wine. Osmanthus has a unique flavor, and though it is related to the cinnamon tree, it also has fruity apricot notes. For a double whammy, you can even make Osmanthus-flavored mooncakes!
We are entering the dog days of summer, and it has been HOT in Chicago. Naturally, that means we have been filling up on a lot of Italian ice, ice cream and paletas. However, if we were in Peru, we would be enjoying cremoladas! Cremoladas are a Peruvian iced dessert that falls, texture-wise, somewhere between shaved ice and sorbet. When we were in Lima we visited the original Curich Cremoladas (Calle Bolognesi 759, Miraflores 15074, Peru), credited with inventing the treat when the Curich family from Croatia opened their shop in Lima in 1942. There are dozens of flavors available, though we are partial to lucuma and passionfruit. It is fun to sample some of the unique fruit flavors at Curich like naranjilla (known as lulo in Colombia), arazá, and cocona. Curich’s creation caught on, and, now, you will find cremoladas all over Lima. Check out a video of cremoladas in production from El Comercio. Turns out, despite the name, there is no cream at all! Lima Easy has a simple recipe to make your own cremolada.
Nigeria is competing for the first time this year in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, with a bobsled team composed of Nigerian-Americans. Though bobsledding may not get a lot of press in Nigeria, we wanted to highlight this country and its food. So what is the most representative Nigerian national dish? A poll conducted this year by Pulse Magazine had readers selecting Jollof rice, whereas a poll done previously by CNN had them selecting Egusi soup. Well, we are definitely not informed enough to weigh in, so we figured we’d highlight each of these national dish rivals.
Jollof rice is a rice-based dish made with tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, hot peppers and spices, usually served with some kind of protein. Popular throughout West Africa, the recipe for Jollof Rice varies wildly depending on where you are. And of course, each country thinks that they have the best Jollof rice, and it has inspired years of heated debate (and even a rap song). In Nigeria, the dish is also typically accompanies by fried plantains and moin moin, a spicy side made from black eyed peas. You can find recipes for Jollof rice from All Nigerian Recipes, Sisi Jemimah and Ev’s Eats.
Egusi soup doesn’t have as wide of a range in Africa, and is made from the ground seeds of Egusi melon, palm oil, dried fish, and leafy greens (in many cases bitterleaf). Unlike Jollof rice, Egusi may be a little harder to find, unless you live by a Nigerian market, but thank goodness for the internet. Egusi soup is usually served with fufu (boiled and pounded cassava) that helps sop up the soup. You can find recipes for Egusi soup at Demand Africa, All Nigerian Recipes, and All Nigerian Foods. Though we have tried both of these dishes, our hearts are with Jollof rice, one of our favorite West African dishes, yum! Of course, Nigerian cuisine is is full of delicious dishes, so don’t stop with just these two.
In any Ghanaian kitchen or restaurant there will be Shito – a super-spicy black pepper sauce that is virtually essential to any sort of Ghanaian cooking. “Shito” is the word for pepper in the Ga language but has come to refer also to the black pepper sauce itself. Along with peppers, the sauce contain tomatoes, onions, garlic and fish or shrimp paste to give a bit of essential umami. I have seen recipes calling for 30 habanero peppers – so this sauce is definitely not for the faint of heart. Here are a few recipes: from Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen (see below), Homemade by TZ, The African Gourmet, and Nigerian Lazy Chef. You can also buy shito in pre-made form at many African grocers or online.
Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas! Having a roast pig for Christmas Eve/Christmas – lechón – is a major tradition in Puerto Rico and Cuba, and it is one of our favorites. Consequently there are many songs that extoll the virtues of the humble pig. In honor of the lechón-filled holiday, here’s one of our favorite Christmas lechón songs: “La Fiesta de Pilito” by Puerto Rico’s stalwart musical group. El Gran Combo.
Here are the most important lyrics:
A comer pasteles y a comer lechón
Arroz con guandules y a beber ron
Que venga morcilla, venga de todo
To eat tamales and eat roast pork
Rice with pigeon peas and drink rum
Let blood sausage arrive, let everything arrive
We hope you are having a delicious holiday – maybe with some lechón!
One of the most interesting articles we have read recently was about the prevalence of Russian Borscht in Hong Kong [via Metafilter]. The presence of a Russian soup in China (though it is made without beets there) starts to make a bit of sense when you think about the actually proximity of the two countries, but even more sense when you learn of all of the post-revolution White Russian émigrés who found their way to China and Hong Kong. These immigrants then started restaurants, and many of the Hong Kong’s top restaurants were owned by Russians by Mid-Century. Even though this wave of Russian immigration has ended, you can still find Borscht (called “loh sung tong” / “lor sung tong”) in Hong Kong. Cooking with Alison and Mrs. P’s Kitchen (seen below) have two classic Hong Kong Borscht recipes.
Happy first day of Hanukkah – now it’s time for the treats! We wrote a little bit about the classic Sephardic Jewish dessert fritters, Buñuelos, in the past. However, we underestimated just how popular these little fried dough treats from Spain were. Though they are symbolic Hanukkah dish, and the frying of the dough represents the oil that burned for 8 nights, Buñuelos are also enjoyed as a Christmas treat. Buñuelos, (aka Bimuelos, Burmuelos, among other names) were initially created by Spanish moriscos centuries ago, but have since spread in popularity across Latin America.
Just how many Buñuelos varieties are there out there? It’s hard to say, but here we have tried to compile just a few variations on the humble Buñuelo:
- Sephardic Buñuelos with honey – a classic Jewish recipe
- Colombian Buñuelos, Venezuelan Buñuelos, and Nicaraguan Buñuelos – These are made from yuca flour and filled with cheese
- Mexican Buñuelos – These tend to have more of a flattened shape and are sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon
- Cuban Buñuelos – Perhaps the most different, these are anise-flavored and are shaped into a figure eight
Today is Brazilian Independence Day, so I think some Brazilian food adventures are called for. Whenever we visit a a city in the US we always check to see if there is a Brazilian food or cultural outpost. You’d be surprised at how many places have a hidden Brazilian gem. However, one of the best places for Brazilian food in the US – that is no secret – is the Astoria neighborhood in the NYC borough of Queens. Astoria is perhaps most famously known for its sizable Greek population, though in recent years it has become an amazingly diverse place. Along with an influx of other Latin American and Middle Eastern cuisines, Astoria has become more Brazilian in the past decades and there are the food establishments to prove it.
Our first stop in Brazilian Astoria is always Rio Market (32-15 36th Ave, Astoria, NY 11106), which is definitely the biggest Brazilian grocery store we have seen in the US. They have pretty much every Brazilian dry good you could hope for: coffee, cookies, Guarana soda, sauces, tea, rice, beans, soap, shampoo, and even Brazilian soccer paraphernalia and Havaianas. What sets them apart is their wide selection, and the fact that they also have rarer fresh foods like queijo coalho – the cheese on a stick you can buy on Brazilian beaches – and picanha steaks. There is also a small cafe in the front of the store that serves simple dishes, feijoada, pão de queijo and coffee. A new feature is that you can order products from Rio Market online!
However, for Pão de Queijo, you must stop at New York Pão de Queijo (31-90 30th St.) aka Astoria Pão de Queijo or just Pão de Queijo. This hole in the wall restaurant reminded us pleasantly of a typical urban corner restaurant in Brazil. You of course have to get the Pão de Queijo, but there are also salads, acaí bowls and X-Burgers (Brazilian Portuguese for Cheeseburger – the X is pronounced “Sheese” – get it?). Within Astoria there are also a plethora of restaurants tapping into a variety of Brazilian food traditions beyond just the churrascuria that is the most known in the US. Point Brazil, Copacabana, Minas Grill, Villa Brazil and Kilo Astoria are kilo restaurants in the Brazilian style (a buffet where you pay by weight). Kilo restaurants are on every corner in Brazil, so it is only appropriate they have made their way to Astoria, too. Favela Grill and Beija Flor are more, modern, slightly upscale restaurants with live music. And at Casa Theodoro you can get Brazilian-style pizza, which is a genre unto itself. If you want to get a taste of Brazil while in NYC, definitely wander around Astoria!
When we went to Spain we were expecting to get our fill of tapas, but one thing we were not expecting were the proliferation of tea salons! We are major tea lovers here at ETW, so we were delighted to learn about a genre of tea rooms found only in Andalusia: teterias. These are Moroccan-style tearooms influenced by the many centuries of Islamic rule when Spain was known as Al-Andalus. Teterias are found throughout Andalusia, and we were lucky enough to try them in both Cordoba and Granada. In Cordoba we visited the Salon de Té (Calle Buen Pastor, 13, 14003 Córdoba, Spain), a stone’s throw from the Mezquita. In Granada we stopped at La Teteria Del Banuelo (Calle Banuelo 5, 18010 Granada, Spain), in the shadow of the Alhambra.
The inside of a teteria is typically done in a Moroccan style, with an atmospheric courtyard filled with North African-style furnishings and pillows. Mint tea is always a good bet at the teteria, though the tea offerings are usually much more extensive; at some places you can even get smoothies and Mediterranean munchies. Another great aspect of the teteria are the little Moroccan pastries on offer, which transported us to the Djemaa al Fna.
I was impressed by the tea selections at the Salon de Té, with pages and pages of both hot and cold varieties. M got an almond shake, while I sampled an iced rooibos tea with berries. Our friend K fought through the heat and got a beautifully-presented mint tea with tons of fresh mint. At the Salon, we sampled baklava, kunefe (birdsnest pastries), tiny turnovers with pistachios, and makrout; you can get savory dishes as well if you are feeling peckish. Banuelo had a smaller selection of teas and savories, but offered sweet crepes along with a similar selection of Moroccan petit fours. Lemonade with mint and an iced coffee was a perfect selection for a particularly hot day at Banuelo, though the mint tea was still beautiful and refreshing. Banuelo also boasted a cute outdoor seating area, though it was too hot to venture outside on the day we visited.
Visiting these teterias was a highlight of our visits to Andalusia, and they definitely transported us to another era of Spain’s history. Whether you are looking to hide out from the punishing sun, or get some munchies, when you are in Andalusia you have to make sure to stop by a teteria for the full experience.
Previously, we highlighted a burgeoning Syrian restaurant in Tennessee, and today we are pleased to share another Syrian food success story. Today, Fooditor [via 90 Days, 90 Voices project] did a feature about Honeydoe catering, a business started by Syrian immigrants to Chicago in 2015. Honeydoe is run by a mother-daughter team, Rana and Siham Jebran, and focuses on recipes from Damascus and Aleppo. Honeydoe makes both sweet and savory dishes, and we think everything – including their Maamoul cookies – looks phenomenal!
If you’re looking for that “kid in a candy store” feeling, there is nowhere better to visit than Sockerbit (89 Christopher St New York, NY 10014) in New York City. The best part about Sockerbit is that, unless you are Swedish, you have probably never seen any these candies before, which makes the adventure all the more fun. All of the bulk candy in Sockerbit is sold by the pound ($12.99) so you can grab a bag and pick out your own perfect selection from the dozens (hundreds?) of varieties. Here is a preview of a few of the candies you can get.
- There is a huge variety of gummy candies, in any shape you could ever want, including old favorites like bears, worms, cola bottles and fish. But the fun doesn’t stop there, the beauty of Sockerbit is that there are also dozens of particularly unique shapes like sour apple skulls, pink dolphins and raspberry Ferarris.
- Hard candies like the wrapped mint Marianne variety and fizzy raspberry balls
- Traditional Swedish licorice in both hard and soft varieties, some of which is super strong and almost spicy, like the hard Napoleon variety. Other varieties like Salmias are salty!
- Flavored Sockerbitar marshmallows in flavors like strawberry (the Swedish word for marshmallow is the namesake of the store)
- Wrapped toffees and caramels, both hard and soft, in some more unusual flavors like the Swedish Christmas cookie Pepparkakor
- Chocolate with fillings like muesli, toffee or hazelnut
In addition to the overwhelming amount of candy, Sockerbit also has a small assortment of Swedish ingredients like coffee, jam and flour along with boxed candies and cookies. You can also buy modern Dala Horses and and housewares, if you are looking for something a little more durable. Plus, Sockerbit is also one of the few places you can find the famous Swedish Polkagris candies in the US. If you can manage to save some of your candy haul, these also make a great souvenir!
Kolaczki are woven into Chicago food culture so deeply that it took me a while to realize that they were indeed a “foreign” cookie. Kolaczki dough is made with cream cheese, and it is traditionally folded (as below) over a filling of fruit – raspberry, plum or apricot usually – or sweetened cream cheese. Originally, the kolaczki is said to be from Poland (though its exact origin is unknown), and are popularly seen around the holidays. They seem to be just as popular in Cleveland, where we learned that they are known as Kiffles in Hungarian. This type of cookie is found throughout Central and Eastern Europe, with several variations, including a circular shape. Even more confusingly, there are many similarly-named desserts, including the Czech kolache, which is more like a yeast roll, and is most popular in Texas (post forthcoming)! Here is a recipe for apricot-filled kolaczki from American Heritage Cooking, another apricot from Cooking the Globe and one for cream cheese from All Recipes.
Photo by Kurman Communications
This year, Lunar New Year falls on a Friday! If you will be celebrating Lunar New Year in Korea the festivities are called Seollal, and you can expect a crazy amount of food and festivities. We covered one of the most traditional Seollal dishes previously on ETW, tteokguk (rice cake soup). However, that only scratches the surface. Most large Korean meals come with an assortment of small dishes called Banchan, and the Seollal table is no exception. However, to the uninitiated, the array of banchan presented alongside a meal can be overwhelming. Fortunately, the internet is brimming with banchan guides: Lucky Peach, Crazy Korean Cooking, Zen Kimchi, Thrillist and HuffPo, to name a few. Personally, my favorite banchan are japchae, radish kimchi and toasted seaweed. I love the concept that every meal comes with an additional portion of delicious, tiny dishes. Do you have a favorite banchan?
The first stop on everyone’s Peru itinerary is Machu Picchu, and probably rightfully so, but Peru is full of so many other beautiful natural sites. One of the most impressive places we went in Peru was the Maras Salt Pools / Salineras de Maras, nestled into the Andes mountains. The view of 500+ multicolored salt terraces blanketing the mountains over the Urubamba valley is really a site to see. These salt pools date back to even before the Incan Empire, potentially thousands of years. Today, the flats are still in production during the dry season, May to October, and the process hasn’t changed much in the last 500 years. So how is the salt produced? The shallow man-made pools are fed naturally by a mineral and salt-rich stream, and water is cut off from each pool when it is full. When the water evaporates, the salt is harvested, scraped into baskets, and further dried. Each salt pool has a unique color and mineral content, but overall the salt is fine and pink. Maras pink salt is a great complement to Peruvian ceviche (our favorite), but it is extremely versatile. You can buy Maras salt in specialty stores and online, but it is extremely cheap in Peru. Even if you can’t visit Maras, be sure to pick up some pink salt on your trip!
Bagna Calda / Bagna Càuda is a homey Northern Italian dish from Piemonte made primarily with butter, oil, garlic and anchovies. It is a mainstay at our own family celebrations, but we have never seen it on a restaurant menu… until now! We were at Della (1238 Prospect Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11218) in Brooklyn with friends, when we spotted the bagna cauda on the menu, and we just had to order it. Della has a homey Italian-inflected menu of fish, hearty meat dishes, homemade pastas and some unusual appetizers (case in point). The homemade pasta was delicious, but the bagna cauda was even better. It came served in a small bowl, with endive, radishes and chunks of bread for dipping. We had to ask for more bread to sop everything up- delicious! We encourage you to make bagna calda on your own for your next party – it couldn’t be easier. Even if you don’t normally like anchovies, you can’t help but love the salty, garlicky goodness!
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.
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.