Tag Archives: food

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2 Sisters Nepal Cooking School – Kathmandu

Attending a cooking class and learning how to make some of the local dishes is one of the things I love to do while travelling in new countries.  No surprises then, that one of the first things I did when researching “Things to do in Kathmandu” was to seek out such an opportunity.

I decided upon the 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School as it also has a social conscience.  It’s origins lie in empowering women in Nepal (both of our teachers had come from difficult backgrounds) and also supports a child sponsorship program.  Add in an the opportunity to cook a wide range of traditional Nepali dishes and I really couldn’t go past it.

The kitchen itself is located outside of the main tourist area of Thamel, but Sushila and Sabita (our incredibly enthusiastic teachers) met myself and 2 other ladies near our hotel for the 10 minute taxi ride to where we would be cooking.  A welcome surprise was that this turned out to be in an absolutely beautiful setting with a stunning garden.

The entrance to the kitchen and the garden where we enjoyed our dishes - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

The beautiful garden when we were able to enjoy our finished dishes – far from the frantic chaos of Kathmandu

We were joined there by 2 more women and collectively had to choose one of the 3 menus available.  Sabita explained all the dishes to us (the pictures also helped) and we eventually decided upon Menu 1: Chatamari (Nepalese pizza), Daal Bhat (the unofficial national dish of Nepal), and chocolate momos.

Sabita explaining the different menus - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

Sabita explaining the different menu choices. We ended up going with Menu 1 – the most popular choice

Shopping for Ingredients

Menu decided, our first task was to go buy the ingredients at the local store just around the corner.  Sushila gave us a pop-quiz on the different vegetables and fruits on offer and explained how they were used in Nepali cooking as we loaded up our baskets with the fresh produce we would need for our 3-course meal.

Shopping for fresh ingredients - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

Shopping for fresh ingredients with Sushila

We then headed across the road to purchase a chicken for those of us making a chicken curry for our Daal Bhat.  It was fascinating to see the old-style scale and watch the lady burn off the remains of the feathers using a blow torch!

Buying chicken for the curry - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

Love the old-fashioned scale with metal weights (middle), and it was a surprise to find a blow-torch come into the sales process

Masala Tea

Back in the kitchen, we donned our aprons

chopping board and apron - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

and watched the process Sabita used to make some of the best Masala tea I’d had in Nepal.  Apparently one of the secrets is to not be frightened to boil the milk until it changes to a deep caramel colour!

Making masala tea - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

Sabita explaining how to make a good Masala tea (there is plenty of bad Masala tea in Nepal unfortunately). We each poured our own at the end and then retired to the garden to enjoy

Chatamari

After we had enjoyed our tea in the garden, we returned to the kitchen to start on our starter – Chatamari, otherwise known as Nepali pizza.   There are many differences between this pizza and the one you are thinking of in your head.  For a start – the base is more like a thin crepe made from rice flour

Making the base for the chatamari - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

Chatamari has a thin rice crepe for the base

and the spices used (eg cumin, coriander, turmeric) are completely different!

Making chatamari - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

The outcome is interesting and very tasty – best enjoyed, you guessed it, out in the garden 🙂

Daal Bhat

Hunger pangs appeased (I didn’t have breakfast in anticipation of the cooking school), it was back to the kitchen to begin work on our Daal Bhat. This is an incredibly common dish in Nepal consisting of rice, lentil soup and often a vegetable curry, and is eaten once or twice a day by most Nepalis.

Here we had several processes going on at once. 

We all had a go at crushing garlic and ginger with a mortar and pestle (no garlic crushers or pre-crushed garlic/ginger here!)  It was surprisingly difficult to keep the garlic in particular from flying off in every direction!

crushing garlic and ginger with mortar and pestle - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

I had my first experience at using a pressure cooker to make the daal (lentil soup).

Making daal in a pressure cooker - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

Uncooked (top left) and cooked (bottom right) daal. I liked this thick version. So often in Nepali eateries it is very thin and watery

We used all sorts of spices to create a fabulously tasty chicken curry.

spices and chicken curry for daal bhat - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

The main spices used in our dishes (top) and the cooked chicken curry (bottom)

Kept the flavouring very simple for the spinach accompaniment.

cooking spinach - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

And were back on the mortar and pestle to crush the chilli  for the salsa.

crushing chilli - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

Believe it or not, during all of this – there was even time for a bit of singing and dancing!!

 

The end result was fabulously tasty, and once again we enjoyed eating it out in the sunny garden setting.

Daal Bhat completed - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

The various components of Daal Bhat all laid out and ready for eating

Chocolate Momo

Already full, but there is always room for dessert!  Especially when it involves chocolate! 

Chocolate Momos are essentially steamed chocolate dumplings.  We had already made the dough while making the Daal Bhat and left it to rest, so now it was time to roll it out

rolling dough to make momos - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

This was the easy bit in hindsight…

fill it with chocolate chips and butter (I always found it hard to judge just how much),

Filling of a chocolate momo - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

and close our dumpling with one of the many patterns Nepali women use to create these delights.  

folding momos - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

Folding them neatly was difficult!

Sushila actually demonstrated 3 different patterns, and you can see our mixed successes in the steaming pan below 🙂

uncooked chocolate momos in steaming pan - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

Yes – some of them are quite wonky (particularly mine!)

The outcome was served in a biodegradable bowl made from dried leaves, and was, as you can expect, absolutely delicious – despite the slightly dodgy-looking shapes 😛

Completed chocolate momos in dry-leaf bowl - 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School - Kathmanu

Deliciousness in an eco-friendly bowl

Recommendation

The 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School is a fantastic experience and a lot of fun.  Sushila and Sabita have an inexhaustible energy and a fascinating story and are a real joy to spend time with.  

The food is delicious and, at the end of the class, the school emails participants a recipe book for all the dishes they cook in the school, not just the 3 cooked on the day.  The great thing is that the ingredients are relatively easy to find no matter what country you are in – so it is possible to go home and reproduce great Nepali food.

And of course, the added bonus is that by choosing this school you are supporting the empowerment of women in Nepal and can also contribute to child sponsorship.  

Highly recommended!

Time: ~3.5 hours

Cost: USD$35

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Reykjavik Food Lovers Tour – Icelandic Traditional Food

After 2 years of this blog, my friends joke that if I’m not posting about hikes or treks I’ve done, I’m posting about food.  So they won’t be surprised that one of the very first things I did when planning my trip to Iceland was look up foodie tours 🙂  Specifically, I was looking for an opportunity to try some of the more unusual Icelandic foods, which is how I chose the Reykjavik Food Lovers Tour – Icelandic Traditional Food by Your Friend in Reykjavik.

We were met at Ingolfstorg Square by our guide, Fanney, and walked less than a block to our first foodie stop.  No, I’m not going to tell you where – you need to actually do the tour to find out 😉  Suffice to say that the restaurant is one of the older houses in Iceland and was originally used for falconry!

Heading out to the first stop on the foodie tour

Heading out to our first stop on the foodie tour with Your Friend in Reykjavik

Foodie tour stop 1: Puffin

Here we tried one of the things I was most excited about – hot smoked Icelandic puffin.  Yes, those cute little birds with the bright orange beaks. 

Hot smoked Icelandic puffin - traditional food

Hot smoked Icelandic puffin

I was surprised at the very “smooth” texture of the meat, and both the presentation of the dish and the interior of the restaurant were amazing!  This was one of my favourite dishes on the tour, eaten under very different conditions to almost every other foodie tour I’ve done where I’m usually just standing around in the middle of a market or out on the street 🙂

Eating hot smoked Icelandic Puffin in restaurant in Reykjavik

Tasting hot smoked Icelandic Puffin in Reykjavik

While we were eating, Fanney explained that although puffins spend most of their lives at sea, during the spring and summer months an estimated 10 million of them come to Iceland to nest.  She also explained how the hunting of puffins is regulated in Iceland and just how difficult it is to actually catch them!  Watch Gordan Ramsay try 🙂

Foodie Tour stop 2: Icelandic Lamb Soup

Our next stop was again only a block or so away at one of the oldest restaurants in Reykjavik (founded in 1932).  Here we tucked into a too-large-for-a-foodie-tour bowl of Icelandic lamb soup with its melt-in-the-mouth lamb, tender carrots, celery, potatoes, onions and loads of rich lamb flavour.  Although I’m a seasoned foodie tour goer and I knew I should be pacing myself – I couldn’t help but finish the whole bowl … and the bread.

Icelandic Lamb Soup - Reykjavik foodie tour - Your Friend in Reykjavik

Icelandic Lamb Soup

To make this soup there are special cuts of lamb that should be used as well as a very particular herb mix, but as far as veggies go – well anything that doesn’t go bad too quickly is fair game.

Two tastings in and so many more to go…  Oh oh – already starting to feel full!  Fortunately our next couple of stops involved much smaller samples!

Foodie Tour stop 3: Icelandic Hot Dogs

Icelandic hotdogs are basically an unofficial national dish.  Made predominantly out of lamb (theoretically) you should ask for “one with the lot” to enjoy the full experience of fried and raw onion, ketchup, remoulade, and sweet brown mustard (pylsusinnep) along with the dog and steamed bun.

Icelandic hot dog on Traditional food tour with Your Friend in Reykjavik

Icelandic hot dog from Reykjavik’s best (and oldest) hotdog stand. Yes – they even have hot dog holders on the tables!

The hotdog stand we visited on the foodie tour has been around since 1937 and shot to fame in 2004 when Bill Clinton ate there.  I’m nowhere near famous, and I don’t usually eat hotdogs, but I have to admit this these ones make for a very tasty snack!

Foodie Tour stop 4: Dried Fish

You don’t have to be in Iceland long to realise that dried fish (Harðfiskur) is also a staple in the Icelandic diet and a favourite snack for locals.  I had eaten a lot of Icelandic dried fish on the Unplugged Wilderness Trek in East Greenland last year and love pairing it with remoulade (mayonnaise is one of the very few things I really don’t like the taste of, but for some reason, I love remoulade!).  Every Icelander I’ve suggested this to, including Fanney, has looked at me in bewilderment and admitted they’d never thought to try that.  They usually just eat it plain or team it up with butter!  Seriously guys – try it.  It is amazing!

Eating dried fish (haddock) at Reykjavik harbour on the Food lovers tour by Your Friend in Reykjavik

Trying dried haddock at Reykjavik harbour

After enjoying the brisk evening air down by the harbour, it was time to head back inside for two more of the new tastes I’d been looking forward to.  As an added bonus, one of the wonderful things about the restaurants chosen for this tour is that each of them seems to have an historical story or anecdote that makes them special.  Fanney related yet another of these stories to us as we headed towards our next dining experience – but you’ll have to do the tour in order to find out why this guy is special and occupies a very important position in the restaurant we entered next 🙂

Previous owner

Foodie Tour stop 5: Fermented Shark, Lobster Soup and Minke Whale

If you mention traditional Icelandic food, those who know something about it will come back with “don’t they eat fermented shark?”  Why, yes they do!  Or rather, they did (current Icelanders are far more likely to opt for a hot dog) and this is what we were going to try next.

Given that Hákarl is an “acquired taste” we were presented with small cubes to sample.  I’d actually tried some previously with the Icelandic family with who I was staying, but this time around the ammonia was much stronger (to me it had elements of a REALLY strong brie).  I don’t find the taste horrible, in fact I was surprised at how mild it was, but I also wouldn’t rush to order it I have to admit.

Cubes of fermented shark on the Traditional Icelandic Foods tour with Your Friend in Reykjavik

Cubes of fermented shark

We actually had 3 plates in this restaurant (!) and next up was lobster (langostine) soup – one of the most popular dishes on the menu.  This was really creamy with a slight thai-red-curry flavour and very tasty.  

Lobster soup as part of the Traditional Icelandic Food Tour by Your Friend in Reykjavik

However, by far my favourite dish of the whole tour was the third dish we tried – Minke whale with honey mustard dressing.  I’d tried whale previously in Greenland and liked it – but this was beyond awesome!  Tender, juicy, and with a perfect balance of spices.  Oh. My. Goodness.  

Minke Whale steak on the Traditional Food lovers tour by Your Friend in Reykjavik

Minke Whale with honey mustard dressing

I know some people won’t even entertain the thought of eating whale based on what we hear about whale hunting in the media (actually I’d be surprised if such people were still reading given I opened with eating puffin…), but Minke whales have never been endangered and there is a yearly quota (of less than 0.03% of the stocks around Iceland) that is strictly adhered to.  In other words, it is sustainably hunted (as it is in Greenland) and is more “green” than importing beef or chicken from other countries.

Foodie Tour stop 6: Special Fish and Chips

As you can imagine, by this time we were all quite stuffed with food (though I could have squeezed in a couple more serves of whale).  But we weren’t done yet as we waddled a few more blocks into a restaurant famous for its fish bites served with 9 different sauces.  Somehow I was going to have to make room…

Fish and chips with 9 different sauces

3 different types of fish. Awesome chips. 9 different flavours of sauce. What combination to choose?!

The fish on offer depends on what has been caught fresh that day – in our case: Ling, Cod and Tusk – and is cooked in a special batter that is very light and more like a Japanese tempura.  The sauces are all based on Skyr (a high protein yoghurt-like dairy product that is very traditional to Iceland) and the sauces we were presented with were: mango, honey mustard, coriander, tzatiki, chilli, lemon & dill, basil, tartare, and truffle & tarragon.  Unfortunately I couldn’t keep straight which one was which (they weren’t labelled) but my tastebuds surprised me by indicating that mango was my favourite (I wouldn’t have thought to pair it with fish and chips) followed by honey mustard, then coriander.  It turns out almost everybody’s favourite is the mango 🙂

Foodie Tour stop 7: Skyr Dessert

Beyond stuffed, we still had one last dish to sample on this incredible foodie tour.  Fortunately it was dessert, and everybody knows there is a whole separate stomach for dessert … right?

We actually ended up back at the very first restaurant we started at for our Skyr dessert and an Icelandic beer.

Skyr Dessert to top off the incredible Food Lovers Tour by Your Friend in Reykjavik

Skyr, cream cheese, biscotti, pistachio and berry jam “Skyr Dessert”. Heaven on a plate!

Tasting similar to a cheesecake, this was another of my favourites for the tour.  And having eaten mine quicker than the others, I was looking longingly over for scraps … none of which were forthcoming.  It was too good!  And a perfect way to finish off our trip through modern and more traditional Icelandic fare.

Fanney left us each with a chocolate bar that incorporated Icelandic liquorice (oh how I love Icelandic liquorice!) and I eventually managed to bid my fellow foodies adieu and stagger back home with my over-extended but very happy stomach.

Recommendation

I absolutely recommend the Reykjavik Food Lovers Tour with Your Friend in Reykjavik.  The food is amazing (and very plentiful!), the stories about the establishments are really interesting, and Fanney had loads of information about Icelandic food preparation and food culture in general.

There is not a lot of walking involved – everything is contained within a few blocks of the centre of Reykjavik.  If anything – a little more walking between courses would have been beneficial 🙂

Top Tip:  perhaps don’t eat breakfast or lunch beforehand!

CostISK 14,990  (USD$125)

Time: about 3 hours

 

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Exploring Loja and its food – Ecuador

I really, really like the town of Loja in southern Ecuador!

I was fortunate enough to be there for part of the Festival Internacional de Artes Vivas Loja, but aside from this, I also just really enjoyed the vibe of the town itself.   I also love that the architecture is very different to what you see in the Historic Centre of Quito or in Cuenca – much less grandiose.

Beautiful colourful architecture that has been restored in Loja - Ecuador

Doing things around the wrong way, it wasn’t until my final morning that I joined Free Walks Loja for – you guessed it – a free walking tour of the town 🙂  

Guide from Free Walks Loja explaining the history of the town - Ecuador

These guys have only just started up, and I hope they get the funding they were seeking to grow the business, because these walking tours are always a great way to get acquainted with a place and learn a little about the history in particular.   I try to find them everywhere I go.

For example, one of the most famous landmarks in Loja is the Independence Monument.  But it is just another monument/clock tower (and not terribly interesting) unless someone actually tells you about its history and the stories depicted in the panels around the 4 sides of it.

Monumento de Independencia - Loja - Ecuador

Aside from participating in the Festival, and learning a little about the history and architecture of Loja – the other thing I indulged in while I was there was trying as much of the typical Lojano food as possible.   For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, this will come as no surprise 🙂  

Bolón de Maní at Ricuras de Sal y Dulce

I started off with something that isn’t actually typical to Loja, but that I’d been super-keen to try ever since reading about it on the web – a Bolón de Maní.  A bolón is essentially an Ecuadorian dumpling made of green plantains mashed with a variety of other ingredients – in this case – peanut paste (in Ecuador you can buy pure peanut paste [very cheap] as well as peanut butter [very expensive – go figure!]).  

Bolón de Maní and the two sauces - Loja - Ecuador

Mine was bigger than a softball/baseball, and soft and warm with an obvious peanuty flavour.  It was served with 2 sauces: chile and coriander, and what tasted like spicy curry.   Absolutely delicious and enough for about 3 meals for me – all for USD$3!

Cecina at Mama Lola

I do use TripAdvisor as I travel, but find that their restaurant/cafe recommendations are a little hit and miss.  Probably because everyone’s taste-buds are different and I’m a bit of a self-admitted food snob.  But I decided to head out to try the #2 ranked restaurant in Loja – Mama Lola – which serves traditional Lojano cuisine.  I’m sooooo glad I did!

The first thing to know about Mama Lola is that it is extremely busy with locals coming in for lunch on weekends!  I was the only gringo there, but there was a queue out the door waiting for tables.  In the end I was joined at my table by 2 locals – a very common practice here and a wonderful way to meet new people and practice my spanish 🙂

Mama Lola restaurant packed at lunchtime - Loja - Ecuador

I ordered the Cecina, which is a very thin pork steak marinated in cumin and garlic, and one of the most typical dishes of Loja.   It usually comes with yuca and other accompaniments, and, in typical Ecuadorian fashion, I was presented with about 3 times as much food as I could possibly eat.

Cecina at Mama Lola - Loja - Ecuador

Yes – that’s potato bake, salad, pork, corn (top right), popcorn, two different sauces, and you can’t actually see the large chunks of yuca hiding underneath the pork steak.  It was very good, but I have to admit that I still prefer the fritada (braised pork) or hornado (slow-roasted pork) that you find in Quito.

Despite not being able to finish my meal, I spied the most incredible looking desert over on the next table and I figured I had to try it.  It turned out to be an amazingly light and fluffy cheesecake – the best I’ve ever eaten – and I have to admit I almost ordered a second one to take home with me!

Best cheesecake ever at Mama Loja - Ecuador. And beautifully presented!

Beautiful presentation as well!

And can you guess how much my cecina, my cheesecake and a large limonada drink cost me?  USD$7.25.   Ecuador is a fantastically cheap country for eating.

Repe at the Mercado Central

The other “must try” dish from Loja is a thick, hearty soup called Repe.  It is made from a base of green bananas, onions, garlic, milk, cheese and coriander, and tends to have lots of “bits” in it.

Repe de arveja con guineo - Loja - Ecuador

The one I tried at the Mercado Central was the Repe de Arveja con Guineo  – or Ecuadorian split pea and green banana soup.  And once again, it was cheap as chips (USD$1) and absolutely delicious.  Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad soup in Ecuador.  They really know how to do them well! 

I accompanied this with a typical herbal tea: Horchata Lojana – a warm, very sugary, rose-flavoured drink with spices.  It was OK, but I don’t particularly like sugary drinks (despite my sweet tooth), so it was both the first and last time for Horchata.

Horchata lojana - Loja - Ecuador

On my way out of the market, I decided to buy a tray of Lojano sweets including Bocadillos Lojanos (small squares of panela and peanuts) and Lojano figs. Not sure what the other ones were, but the bocadillos were definitely the pick of them!

Sweets from Loja - Ecuador

And on a last minute whim as I headed for the exit – I decided to try Sábila.  I had no idea what it was (the lady I bought it from couldn’t explain it to me) and I had never seen the word anywhere before – so why not!   Oh what a big, big mistake!

Sábila drink - Loja - Ecuador

Turns out Sábila is a drink made with Aloe Vera.  And although it has almost no flavour, I could not cope at all with the texture of it.  The best way I can describe it was that it was like drinking a jellyfish, and every sip I took, the aloe would stick to my lip and trail the glass as I moved it away from my mouth. 

It was beyond revolting!

I pride myself on being able to eat almost anything, but I have to admit I only managed about 3 sips and couldn’t do any more.  I gave the almost full glass back to the lady and took my leave 🙁

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Día de los Difuntos – Otavalo – Ecuador

The 2nd November is “All Souls Day” in the Catholic calendar, the “Day of the Dead” in Mexico, the “Día de los Difuntos” (Day of the Deceased) in Ecuador.  I didn’t realise it when making my plans, but Otavalo turns out to be one of the best places in all of Ecuador to experience this important day.

Día de los difuntos - Otavalo - Ecuador

The tradition (particularly strong amongst the more indigenous peoples of Ecuador) is for families to visit the cemetery, taking food and drink for a picnic on the grave of the deceased.  Yes, you read that correctly, ON the grave of the deceased.   The idea is that the souls of the dead visit on this day, and families need to provide plenty of food so that these souls can gain strength to continue on their journey to the after life.

I asked at the hostel when the celebrations started, and they advised me that between 11am and 1pm would be the best time to see what was going on.  So off I set in the blazing sun to the indigenous cemetery.  It was not hard to find – really, you just had to follow the crowds!

Follow the crowds - Día de los difuntos - Otavalo - Ecuador

Lining both sides of both access streets were people selling flowers, wreaths, fruit (especially sweet pepinos), and food.  Lots and lots of food – the most popular seemingly being the fish Tilápia, fried, of course.

Everything the deceased could need - Día de los difuntos - Otavalo - Ecuador

Fresh flowers and wreaths (top), food and fruit (middle – sweet pepinos are the greenish things), hornado (roast pork) and tilápia (bottom)

And everywhere you looked, there were women selling the most traditional of treats for this particular occasion – Guaguas de Pan (bread babies). 

Guaguas de Pan - Día de los difuntos - Otavalo - Ecuador

These are sweet breads shaped like babies (guagua or wawa means “baby” in Quechua) that have been wrapped in swaddling (note, they don’t have arms), and decorated with colourful icing.   They can be plain or filled with a fruit jam, and in some parts of Ecuador, they can also take the shape of an animal.

Food and flowers purchased, the families then entered the cemetery to find the plot of their deceased.  And what a spectacle it was!

Día de los difuntos - Otavalo - Ecuador

It was absolutely packed!  And full of action!  From people tending the graves

Tending the grave - Día de los difuntos - Otavalo - Ecuador

to musicians playing for the deceased

Praying and music - Día de los difuntos - Otavalo - Ecuador

to everybody laying out a picnic on top of the graves.

Picnics on the graves - Día de los difuntos - Otavalo - Ecuador

It was incredibly difficult to move and find a place to stand to take it all in.  It was just amazing to see such a healthy attitude towards death!

Healthier attitude towards death - Día de los difuntos - Otavalo - Ecuador

After about 2 hours of wandering around, I left with a touch of sunstroke (why I didn’t put my hat on, I don’t know!) but returned at 2:30pm to see how the day had unfolded.  Wow!  What a difference!  There was almost nobody left at the cemetery!

After the party - Día de los difuntos - Otavalo - Ecuador

3 hours later and the cemetery was almost deserted!

It was a great opportunity though to wander around admiring the freshly-tended graves and marveling at the bootprints that trampled the dirt mounds.  I felt really self-conscious walking all over the graves, but it is what everybody did and nobody blinked an eye.  

After the party - Día de los difuntos - Otavalo - Ecuador

I was also surprised at the lack of rubbish left behind in the wake of so many people and so much food!  Very a-typical for such a large gathering in general, and for Latin America in particular.

From the cemetery I headed back into town for a very late lunch and decided I had to go the full traditional spread.   So fried TilápiaGuaguas de Pan, and Colada Morada – a thick, sweet, drink made with purple (or black) corn, spices and berries.  Yum!

lunch - Tilápia, Guaguas de Pan, and Colada Morada

The Día de los Difuntos really was quite a sight and if you happen to be in Ecuador on November 2, I’d encourage you to definitely experience it.

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Tripa Mishqui in La Floresta – Quito – Ecuador

There is no shortage of places to eat in Quito, including a multitude of restaurants that cater primarily for tourists.

And although there is a growing culture around Container Food Parks (ie small cafe/restaurants made from shipping containers) and Food Truck Parks in Quito and other major centres, I have found that in many cases they are quite up-market and don’t necessarily sell typical Ecuadorian Food.

For this reason, my preference is actually to eat in local hole-in-the-wall joints, in the markets, or on the street – and one of my favourite spots for street food is Parque La Floresta, where food carts are set up and start cooking every evening from about 5:30pm.  

Parque La Floresta - street food carts - Tripa Mishka - Quito - Ecuador

The only food on sale is very typically Ecuadorian, and the specialty is Tripa Mishqui – or BBQ tripe.   

Those who have read my Ecuadorian Street Food post from last year know the story of how I was inadvertently tricked into trying tripe for the first time by chefs of Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory about 19 years ago (it really wasn’t their fault – it looked like sweet and sour chicken so I took a huge plate.  It most definitely was NOT sweet and sour chicken 🙁).  And how, when I tried a very small sample of the Tripa Mishqui last year on a Street Food tour  – I was extremely surprised to discover that I really, really liked it!

During my several months here in Quito this year I’ve tried the Tripa Mishqui in a few different places, but by far the best is at Parque La Floresta.   The spices pack a ton of flavour and the tripe is well cooked so that it loses that horrible texture it has when cooked in other ways.

Parque La Floresta - street food carts - Tripa Mishka - Quito - Ecuador

Get chatting with the very friendly vendors – who will always try to entice you to their cart with a free sample

and then grab your bowl of various types of corn, salad, tripe and Ecuadorian aji (chilli) and prop yourself up at one of the permanent standing-height tables that the local council has thoughtfully provided.

Parque La Floresta - street food carts - Tripa Mishka - Quito - Ecuador

You can see the permanent tables (with people standing around them) on the left

You can pre-empt (or post-empt) your tripe with (in my opinion) Quito’s best Empanada de Viento – a deep-fried “wind” empanada that has a tiny amount of cheese inside and which you dust with sugar – from a couple of carts up.

This somehow slightly mournful calling of the street cart vendors (to my ears at least) is very typical of what you hear all around Quito – but guaranteed it is inviting you to some awesome tasting food!

And the other amazing thing – the cost!  My plate of Tripa Mishqui cost US$2.50 and my Empanada, just USD$0.75.

Even if you think you don’t like tripe, I’d encourage you to have a go at the Tripa Mishqui in Parque La Floresta.  You may be just as surprised as I was!

 

Update on 9 November, 2018 – It turns out that the Parque La Floresta food carts also have the best Fritada in Quito!  An enormous plate of the most incredible pork + mote + habas etc for USD$4.   Now I’m not sure what to have when I go there!

 

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Eat Portugal – Part 2

Back in January, I ate my way through many of the Portuguese treats on offer in Porto whilst visiting my friends for a week.   Well, 6 months later I was back.  And having just stretched my stomach enormously by trying as much of the typical food in the Azores as possible, there was more to try on the mainland as well!

More Porto food

I arrived in Porto to be greeted with a box of my absolute favourite Portuguese treats – Jesuitas from the Confeitaria e Pastelaria Moura.

Then, a few hours later, it was off to the seaside for a delicious feed of grilled Sardines – very Portuguese – and one of my absolute favourite dishes!

Sardines - Porto - Portugal

First of all though, as a starter, I tried Mílharas – a large plate of fish eggs.  These were delicious but there was a heck of a lot of them!  I think you are meant to share…

Mílharas - Porto - Portugal

Fish eggs

I also horrified my friends and the waitress by ordering hot milk with the meal (something I re-discovered last year in La Palma, El Salvador).  Well, I felt like something warm and didn’t feel like tea or coffee, and when you don’t drink alcohol – there is a rather limited selection!

Other bits and pieces I managed to try while I was in Porto this time:

Limonetes

Need I say, more sugar and eggs brought together in another great Portuguese pastry. Apparently some prefer the Limonetes to the Jesuitas, but the Jesuitas still win for me.

Limonete - Portuguese Treat - Portugal

The Limonete was good – but the Jesuita is still the best!

Farturas

These are very much like the spanish Churros but, in my opinion, even better because they are fluffier!   Fried dough + sugar + cinnamon – you can’t go wrong with this combo!

Farturas - Portuguese Treat - Portugal

The Fartura is the fatter one poking out on the right. Compare with the Churro that you can just see on the left – the vendor gave it to me as a bonus.

Natas from Manteigaria

Yes, I ate a lot of Natas last time I was in Portugal (my second-favourite pastry after Jesuitas), but the ones from Manteigaria are special.  Apparently the pastry is made with even more butter!

Natas from Manteigaria - Portuguese treat

Thanks for the photo Pedro!

Bacalhau assado no forno com batatas a murro

Translated, this is “roasted cod with punched potatoes”, and it is made with lots of garlic and olive oil.  Pedro’s mum made this very traditional and amazing dish for me, and followed it up with a beautiful dessert of a queijada and fresh fruit.  Million thanks for the lunch – it was wonderful to meet you guys!

Bacalhau assado no forno com batatas a murro - Portugal

Bacalhau assado no forno com batatas a murro for main. Queijada and fresh fruit for dessert!

Sandes de Pernil

Basically a pork sandwich made with sandes de lombo assado (the bread) and pork thigh.  We (well, Raúl did – Pedro and I went and grabbed a table) lined up at Casa Guedes – a very traditional tasca (tavern) for 1/2 hour to order this very tasty quick bite.

Icecream from Gelataria Portuense

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know that I’m a mad icecream fan.  In January, we were supposed to visit the Gelataria Portuense for what was touted as the best icecream in Porto – but it was closed for renovations.  Needless to say, we rectified that situation this trip, and I can definitely say it is some of the best icecream I’ve ever had!  Very smooth, and you can’t go wrong no matter which flavour you choose!

Amazing Icecream at Gelataria Portuense - Porto - Portugal

Regueifa com manteiga and Galão

For my final breakfast in Porto this trip, Pedro, Raúl and I headed downstairs to partake in this very traditional Sunday-morning special.  Yes – it is bread and butter, with coffee served in a glass rather than a cup 🙂

Regueifa com manteiga and Galão

Thanks guys for yet another awesome time in Porto!  Let’s see what you can find to feed me next trip 😉

Great friends at breakfast in Porto - Portugal

Me, Pedro and Raúl having Regueifa com manteiga and Galão for breakfast

Food from the Algarve

After leaving Porto, I headed down on the train to the other end of Portugal.  This was my first trip to the Algarve region – Portugal’s “summer playground” – where my friend, José, and his family were spending 3 weeks on vacation.  

Jose's family and me

I was only there for 3 days, and we mostly ate at home (still loving the grilled sardines!), but there was definitely time to try a few things 🙂

Sopa do Mar

We went out to a very specific restaurant, Restaurante Ideal in Cabanas, to have their famous Sopa do Mar.  This is a slightly spicy and very tasty seafood soup served in a bread bowl.  In an effort to eat enough but not too much (already a bit of a lost cause by this time) I scraped the insides of the bowl to add bread to the soup and only dunked the top in.  Delicious!

Sopa do Mar - Algarve - Portugal

Doce de Vinagre

Though of course, you can’t just have a main course, and after the soup I couldn’t resist trying the Doce de Vinagre – “Vinegar Sweet”.   After all, it sounded intriguing … how do those things go together at all?   Turns out it doesn’t taste like vinegar at all, as one might suspect.  Instead – it is yet another take on a milk + egg yolk + sugar confection, where the vinegar is just used to curdle the milk into clumps. 

Doce de Vinagre - Algarve - Portugal

Tigelada

More milk+sugar+egg yolks.  More deliciousness!

Tigelada - Algarve - Portugal

Dom Rodrigos

Finally, I bought one of the most traditional pastries from the Algarve region to take with me on the flight to Madrid.  Dom Rodrigos come wrapped in brightly coloured metallic paper and are a concoction of egg yolks+sugar (no surprises there) but also almonds, which are very typical of the region.

Dom Rodrigos - Algarve - Portugal

And so ends my latest foray into Portuguese food!  Like last time, I reckon I put on at least 1kg during my couple of weeks there, but everything is so tasty and my friends are total enablers 😉  

Thanks guys!  I’ll be back!

 

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Eat the Azores!

For the second time this year I found myself visiting my friends in Portugal and eating waaaaaaaay too much food!  This trip I added a few more Porto dishes some others from the Algarve, but this post focuses on the food of the Azores, where I spent 5 days exploring the largest island – São Miguel.

For those unfamiliar with Portuguese autonomous territories, the Azores are a series of 9 volcanic islands located between Europe and North America.  Given that they are separated from Portugal by over 1,000km, they have their own unique dishes, and my friends Pedro and Conceição were determined to have me try as much typical Azorian food as possible during my short stay! 

It all started with a drink that can only be found on the islands – Kima.  A masterpiece of slightly fizzy, sweet passionfruit juice (those who know me well know that I love anything with passionfruit) that the wasps loved as much as I did!   Much better than Passiona!

Kima - Azores - Portugal

Then some Bolos Lêvedo when we got home from the hot springs at 11pm on the first night (and every breakfast thereafter)! 

Bolo Lêvedo in Conceição's kitchen

Photo: Pedro Torres

These are like English Muffins, but sweet, and absolutely awesome with butter.  Very, very addictive!

The next morning started with a Queijada de Vila Franca Do Campo, yet another concoction of egg yolks, sugar and milk dreamed up by the nuns in the 16th century, for morning tea.   This queijada is traditional to the island of São Miguel and there is a similar one – Queijada da Graciosa – which, no surprises, comes from a different island in the archipelago: Graciosa.   It was yummy (of course), but not as tasty as some of the other treats I’ve tried in Portugal (the Jesuita is still my favourite).

Queijada de Vila Franca Do Campo - Azores - Portugal

Had to hang out until 2pm for lunch, when we had a booking at Tony’s Restaurant in Furnas for me to try one of the absolutely essential foods of São Miguel – the Cozido das Furnas.  This is basically a dry stew that has been cooked for several hours in a volcanic fumerole near the town.  You must pre-order it, as the restaurants need to know how many of the large metal pots of layered chicken, beef, pork, blood sausage, cabbage, carrots, potatoes and yams they need to prepare, and then get them out to the Caldeiras da Lagoa da Furnas early in the day for cooking.

Cooking the Cozido de Furnas - Azores - Portugal

Each hole can fit two of the pots and is labeled with either the name of the restaurant, or a number (locals can also bring their Cozidos here to cook) so there is no confusion as to who owns which dish!  We were fortunate enough to see one local couple bring their food to cook, and the process of burying it.

Cooking the Cozido de Furnas - Azores - Portugal

Back at Tony’s, we started (after 48 minutes of waiting!) with the usual fresh cheese, bread and Molho de Pimenta da Terra  – Azorian spicy sauce.

Fresh cheese, bread and spicy sauce from the Azores - Portugal

And then a few minutes later, out came the Cozido.  It was absolutely enormous (this was a plate for 1 person) and piled high with meat, veggies and rice.

Cozido de Furnas - Azores - Portugal

This was a plate for 1 person!

I didn’t touch the rice, ate about 1/3 of the veggies and couldn’t quite make it through all the melt-in-your-mouth, falling-apart meat.  And even with that, I’d eaten about 4 times as much as I should have.   Oh my stretched stomach!!  

There is a very distinct flavour to the Cozido that you would be hard-pressed to identify if you didn’t know how it was cooked.  Definitely a tinge of sulfur present there…  I wonder why they don’t do this in Rotorua, New Zealand?

And although I was over-full from the Cozido, there always has to be room for dessert.  We ordered the passionfruit and the red bean dessert, but they bought us a bonus pineapple dessert for taking so long to get our cheese and bread to us at the beginning of the meal.  All incredibly delicious, but oh my over-stretched stomach!!

So much desert - Azores - Portugal

Fortunately, that was all the eating involved on Day 2, though I never really recovered for the rest of my time in Portugal 🙂  It didn’t stop me from trying things though – after all – how often does one make it to the Azores?

The next of the typical Azorian dishes I had to try was the Chicharro – fried Atlantic Horse Mackerel with Molho de Vilão (another special sauce).  I have to admit, of all the things I tried in the Azores, this was my absolute favourite!  You really can’t go wrong with fried fish and this was super-super tasty, especially when dipped in the sauce.  Didn’t go much on the pickled onions though…

Chicharro - fried mackerel - Azores - Portugal

Favourite dish – Chicharros at the Restaurante Costaneira in Ribeira Quente

Then, when we got home on Day 3, Conceição had bought some Chorizo paste for us to have as part of a light dinner.   This is a brilliant concept and one I hadn’t come across before.  Basically, you take a chorizo, remove the meat from the casing, and puree it with butter.  Voilà!  Chorizo paste.  We had it with a few different types of bread (the darker one is Massa Sovada – a sweet bread from the Azores), fresh cheese and the spicy Azorian sauce.

Fresh cheese, chorizo paste and bread - Azores - Portugal

Day 4 saw us in Ponta Delgada (the administrative capital of the Azores) for lunch, where I could try 2 of the remaining “key” Azorian dishes.   I started with a 1/2 serving of Lapas – limpets cooked in a garlic, butter and red pepper sauce.  These were a little like mussels, but much milder in flavour.

Lapas - Limpets - Azores - Portugal

I followed this up with the Morcela con Ananas – blood sausage with pineapple.  I’ve eaten blood sausage many times before and really like it – and the pineapple (lots of pineapple grown in the Azores) helps to cut through the richness nicely.

Morcela con Ananas - Blood sausage with pineapple - Azores - Portugal

The Azores are also known for their dairy products (they have very happy cows) so, of course, I had to try a local icecream or frozen yoghurt.   I went with the frozen yoghurt when we stopped at a cafe for a coffee.  Turns out chocolate goes much better with icecream than yoghurt!

Frozen Yoghurt with everything chocolate from the Azores - Portugal

Finally, I did manage to find a treat to rival my beloved Jesuitas!   The orange queijada at Chá Gorreana is a small parcel of moist, orangey deliciousness that is one of the best “cakes” I’ve ever eaten in my life.  Forget the tea!  This is the reason enough to visit the tea plantation 🙂

Queijadas and tea - Azores - Portugal

The one key dish I missed from São Miguel was the steak – purported to the the best in the world (though I’m sure many other countries would argue this point).  I just didn’t have enough time or stomach space to fit it in … so maybe there is another trip to the Azores in the future!

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cafe-inuk-nuuk-greenland.jpg

Eating Typical Greenlandic Food in Nuuk

After 2 weeks of hiking in great weather in South Greenland, I arrived to cold, wet and wind in the capital, Nuuk.  I was picked up at the airport by my Airbnb host, Rene, and taken to the accommodation.  It was absolutely awesome – my own space with a separate entrance, fridge, microwave and bathroom, and only a 5 minute walk to the centre.  Heaven for the next 5 days!

The very rainy view from the front of my great Airbnb in Nuuk, Greenland

Only a 5 minute walk from the centre of Nuuk! Highly recommended

To be honest, I didn’t get up to much in Nuuk.  There are plenty of excursions to keep you occupied, but after 2.5 months of bad or no internet, I had some catching up to do!  And I was enjoying Skyping with family and friends 🙂

It was snowing on my second day in Nuuk (yes, in the middle of summer) so I only headed out for lunch.   In my quest to try some typical Greenlandic food, I went to the amazing Katuaq Cultural Centre and decided on the Musk-Ox hotdog.  Wow!  That is a strongly flavoured meat!  Seriously, seriously intense flavor, and apparently not just because it was in sausage form … the meat itself is very gamey.

Musk Ox Hotdog with chips and salad at the Katuaq Cultural Centre in Nuuk, Greenland

While I was there, I heard another antipodean accent – and met Andrea – a Kiwi lady who had been living in Nuuk for 9 months.  She was absolutely lovely and essentially adopted me for the remainder of my time there 😊

Andrea and I in Nuuk, Greenland

The third day dawned bright and clear and so I wandered around the old part of town – which, with its small, brightly painted houses looks a little like a toy town.  All the newer areas of Nuuk tend to be apartment buildings – so there is quite a dichotomy of architecture in the capital.

Looking across the old part of Nuuk towards the newer section and mountains - Greenland

The mall is in the multi-story building you can see at right of the image. Nuuk has gorgeous surroundings

The nice thing about some of the older apartment buildings though – they have amazing murals painted on them.  Love this!

Large murals painted on the sides of 4 story apartment buildings in downtown Nuuk, Greenland

I took a break from hiking (there are two short hikes in the surroundings of the city), but did walk out to a few different viewpoints around town.  The view from the point near Café Inuk in particular is absolutely stunning!  The image below was taken at 9:30pm.  Yes, the sun is still up!

The view across the Nuuk Fjord to an iconic mountain from near Café Inuk in Nuuk, Greenland

And the images below were taken at midnight.   Nuuk is just a little south of the Arctic circle so the sun does set briefly (between about 11pm and 2am), but it never gets completely dark in summer.

Pink and purple skies over Nuuk, Greenland. Taken at midnight during summer.

The perpetual summer twilight in Greenland is beautiful

I returned to the café at the Katuaq Cultural Centre to try the “Greenlandic Tapas” on another occasion.  In amidst shellfish salad, mussels, prawns, marinated salmon, and another mini musk-ox hotdog (called a “mini hot-dog sled”), I also got to try fried whale meat.  The flavor was very unexpected – very, very mild and kind of fishy (yes, I know a whale is a mammal).

6 Greenlandic Tapas put together by the Katuaq Cultural Centre in Nuuk, Greenland. Shellfish salad, marinated salmon, mussels, musk-ox hotdog, prawns, and fried whale meat

From top left: Shellfish salad, marinated salmon, mussels, musk-ox hotdog, prawns, and fried whale meat

So, a very lazy time in Nuuk catching up online and hanging out with Andrea, Lars and their friends.  Lovely way to spend 5 days though – just chilling out for a while!

East Greenland, here I come!

Discover more about Greenland

If this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours and accommodation available at Guide to Greenland.  

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Georgian Food – Georgia

Although we had fairly limited time in Georgia, I somehow managed to try a whole range of different traditional Georgian food.   It began with surprise tastings on the Tbilisi Hack Free Walking Tour (highly recommended!) and, with the exception of the first night where I was craving a really good steak, I tried something different for every meal.   Here is what I managed:

Stalin’s Favourite Wine – Khvanchkara 

Yes, I tried it.  No, I’m not drunk – the picture is blurry because it was dark inside and an odd angle (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!).   No, I still don’t like wine at all ☹   Can’t really say much about the wine given the previous comment – but they tell me it is a semi-sweet red with raspberry notes.   No idea what that means, but hey – I had to try it! 

Khvanchkara - Georgian food - Georgia

Georgian Bread

Traditional bakeries are often found underground, but all you have to do is follow your nose and look for the sign!

Bakery sign - Georgian food - Georgia

The Georgians bake a whole array of different bread and bread products, but the traditional bread is incredible – especially when eaten straight out of the “tone”.  This is a clay oven where a fire in the bottom heats up the sides and the bread is slapped against the side to bake.

Underground Georgian bakeri - Georgian food - Georgia

The tone is the large white pit the baker is lifting the bread from.

Puri – Georgian Cheese Bread

There are a whole slew of different varieties of Khachapuri, depending on region – but essentially the key ingredients are bread and cheese.   I tried two of the most famous types:

Imeruli Khachapuri is “The Georgian Pizza” – a circular round of bread with cheese inside

Imeruli Khachapuri - Georgian food - Georgia

It is salty (thanks to the cheese) and I couldn’t eat more than a slice!

Adjaruli Khachapuri – yet another heart-attack-on-a-plate!  

Adjaruli Khachapuri - Georgian food - Georgia

As “Serious Eats” puts it: 

A molten canoe of carbohydrates and dairy, the quantity of sulguni cheese alone in khachapuri Adjaruli is enough to land a lactose-intolerant friend in the ER. But the decadence doesn’t end there. Seconds after the bread is pulled from the toné, a baker parts the cheese to make way for a final flourish: hunks of butter and a cracked raw egg.”

I actually made this one myself at a (I have to admit) not brilliant cooking class I did – only the second time I’ve been disappointed by a cooking class.   And, like that previous cooking class, I didn’t particularly like very much what we cooked.   Khachapuri Adjaruli is incredibly rich (as you can imagine) and I only managed to get through about half of it.   The idea is that you mix the egg and butter through the melted cheese, and then tear off bits of the bread to dip into the eggy-cheesy mixture to eat it.

Lobiani

Another bread variation (have I mentioned how many carbs I’ve eaten in the past 6 weeks on this Silk Road trip??!!) – essentially a flatbread stuffed with spiced beans.  Incredibly cheap and filling, and a staple Georgian fast food.

Lobiana - Georgian food - Georgia

Khinkali

I’d eaten quite a few Manty as I traveled through the ‘Stans – Khinkali is Georgia’s version of dumplings. 

Khinkali - Georgian food - Georgia

The traditional ones are filled with meat and spices (Georgians have a particular love or coriander, much to my delight) with a “soup” trapped in the middle.   I hadn’t actually read how to eat these before I tried them, so committed massive faux pas (fortunately nobody was watching) by eating the topknot and eating them with a knife and fork – which meant that the soup was essentially lost.   Oh well.

Kada (Qada)

A traditional pastry that is full of butter and sugar, as all good pastries are.  However, the degree of butter and sugar in this one is particularly special – I only made it half way through before I had to save the other half for the next day!  It was incredibly rich!

Kada - Georgian food - Georgia

Churchkhela

Traveling through Georgia you often see long, brownish or reddish lumpy objects hanging in street vendor stalls and shops.  At a first glance, it is not at all obvious what these things are – my guesses were lumpy candles (Georgia is quite a religious country after all) or sausages – but I really wasn’t sure.

Churchkhela - Georgian food - Georgia

Turns out – they are something to eat – but definitely not sausages!  Walnut halves (in the east of Georgia) or hazelnuts (in the west) are threaded together on a piece of string, and concentrated grape juice thickened with flour and sugar or honey is then poured over the strands.  This is left to dry in the sun before another layer of the thickened grape juice is added, and this is repeated several times to build up a coating of chewy goodness.  The amazing thing is that they actually aren’t too sweet! 

Tklapi

Almost always sold by the same people selling Churchkela, Tklapi are essentially enormous fruit Roll-ups made from pureed fruit that has been spread thinly onto a sheet and sun-dried.  There are many different flavours on offer, some sweet (kiwifruit, apricot) and some quite tart (for example, made from Tkemali, or sour plums).

Tklapi - Georgian food - Georgia

Karcho

A fantastic stew made from beef, walnuts, sour Tklapi and Georgian spices (khmeli suneli).  Very tasty!

Karcho - Georgian food - Georgia

Chashushuli

Another delicious Georgian stew with tomato and spices, and best served with fresh Georgian bread.

Chashushuli - Georgian food - Georgia

Chikhirtma

Georgia’s traditional chicken soup make with chicken, vinegar, egg and flour.

Chikhirtma - Georgian food - Georgia

Badrijai Nigvzit – Eggplant Walnut Rolls

This is a common entrée in Georgia and continues Georgia’s seeming obsession with using walnuts in their food.  Essentially long, thin slices of pan-fried eggplant with a paste of walnuts and spices rolled up inside.  Not as flavourful as I imagine it would be, but quite good.

Badrijai Nigvzit - Georgian food - Georgia

Unfortunately this is just scraping the top of the barrel of typical Georgian food, and it is all incredibly tasty.  Will have to go back to try some more!

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Kyrgyz Food

The first day in Bishkek, a group of us went on a walking tour with the amazing Aigol from the Green Apple Hostel to learn a little about the city.  I mentioned to her that I was really interested in the traditional food of the countries I visit and asked her to let me know if we came across anything very typical of Kyrgyzstan.

Along the way, we found this lady selling traditional Kyrgyz drinks in one of the many parks in Bishkek.  The options were: Shoro – a wheat drink, Tan – a salty yoghurt drink, or juice.   Aigol ordered the Tan and I had a sip of that – definitely not my thing.   So, I ordered the Shoro – oh my God – absolutely not my thing either.  I had to surreptitiously pour it out in the garden – I really couldn’t drink it!     Lesson learned – I don’t like traditional Kyrgyz drinks!

Traditional Kyrgyz drinks - Shoro and Tan - Bishkek

A little later on, everyone was up for the suggestion of Aigol that we finish the walking tour with lunch at a Kyrgyz restaurant.   It was quite a fancy place with an extensive menu … difficult to decide what to have!

I ended up ordering the most typical Kyrgyz version of “Beshbarmak on – Naryn”: horsemeat, long noodles, onion.  Yeah – not the tastiest thing I’ve eaten … I think I’m done with Beshbarmaks now 😊

Kyrgyz food - Beshbarmak on – Naryn - Bishkek

I also ordered a couple of traditional breads to go with it – Boorsok is a fried dough that is quite plain, but would be awesome with some sort of sauce or yoghurt to dip into. 

Kyrgyz food - Boorsok - Bishkek

And Kattama – fried layered pastry dough with spring onion – which was very tasty, and went down very well cold the next day for lunch as well!

Kyrgyz food - Kattama - Bishkek

Had a great lunch with Aigol and really appreciate her taking extra hours out to introduce us to some of the food of Kyrgyzstan!

We had another opportunity to try a very famous Kyrgyz dish when we visited the town of Karakol on our 3-day trip around Issyk Kul.   Our driver took us to what looked like a hole-in-the-wall place (but one that was very, very popular with the locals) so we could try Ashlyan-fu, the specialty of the town.

Ashlyan-fu restaurant - Karakol - Kyrgyzstan

Ashlyan-fu is a dish of cold, vinegary noodles with fish.   I didn’t find any actual fish in mine, so maybe “fishy bits” might be a more accurate description!   It was really delicious and had a bit of a kick to it as well (which was a really lovely surprise) – perhaps due to its origins as a Dungan dish imported from China.   This was served with a bread stuffed with potatoes, which was a nice counterpart to the spicy dish.

Ashlyan-fu - Karakol - Kyrgyzstan

Then, when we stayed in the yurt camp, I had the opportunity to try Kyrgyz Plov.  Very similar to Kazakh Plov, and just as tasty.  I do really like this dish 😊

Plov - Kyrgyzstan

So, very happy to have the opportunity to try several Kyrgyz dishes, and I reckon I’ll be back to visit this amazing country in the future!

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