Sunday, May 31, 2015

* Eating 52 Countries In 52 Weeks - Week 4 - MOZAMBIQUE

One of the best ways to learn about a country is through their kitchen. In preparation for our visit to the Mozambique Steak House in Laguna Beach this week, we learned that Mozambique's cuisine as well as its entire culture is heavily influenced by the Portuguese . Thanks to Vasco da Gama, even the official language of this eastern African country is Portuguese!

We were lucky to be seated at the rooftop with a beautiful view of the ocean. The short lunch menu displayed the Portuguese influence we've learned about earlier as well as traces of Indian and Muslim Arab flavors. We ordered the Chicken Curry and Peri Peri Chicken as the entrées and the sampler plate as the appetizer.

Sampler plate was a true representation of all influences on this coastal African country. The two very large prawns were accompanied by sausage and a chicken skewer that was perched on top a slice of grilled pineapple drenched in peri peri sauce.

What made my grilled chicken dish very exciting was the generous side of peri peri sauce and saffron colored Mozambique rice. The steamed vegetables balanced the rest of the platter nicely and convinced me that I was having a very healthy meal. Peri peri (aka piri piri) sauce is made from a kind of African bird's eye chili and is very zesty despite being quite spicy. I must admit the vegetables definitely helped to put out the fire.

The verdict on the chicken curry was that it was more like Indian curry rather than the far eastern Asian cuisines. Again very pleasing to the eye and the palate, especially with the side of apricot chutney and tzatziki sauces, and Moroccan rice.

Dessert menu was as interesting as the lunch menu. Our eyes landed on the Portuguese Hot Butter Pudding that was served with whipped cream and fresh berries,

and Ripieno - real fruit sorbet served in real fruit shell.

 Having tried yet another cuisine from the other side of the globe, we left through the garden where colorful exotic birds were displayed, making a wish to return and enjoy more of the food in the future.

See you at our next pan-cuisinal adventure in a week.

Bom apetite!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

* Eating 52 Countries In 52 Weeks - Week 3 - SCOTLAND

Sometimes the cuisine you are pursuing is not found at a restaurant. In search of Scottish food, we found ourselves in the midst of the Highland Games at the Orange County Fairgrounds where the men in skirts outnumbered the women in pants. We knew we had to find Haggis - the dish that equated "Scottish Food" for whomever we asked. We stopped at the MacLaine clan's booth where Rick's co-worker and friend was standing clad in full clan regalia with framed pictures of Moy Castle on Isle of Mull. He already knew why we were there so he gave us a briefing on the basics of Haggis and other Scottish pies and told us where to find the said food.

Since it was still early, we decided to walk around the fair, to see the pipe bands, sheep herding dogs, caber tossing contests, young dancers and the many vendors that sold kilts, swords, sgian dubhs, spiral hair ornaments and sporrans. 

When we decided we were hungry enough to purchase a variety of food to share and sample, we made our way back to the haggis stand. Before we had a chance to put in our order with the elderly lady with the attractive Scottish accent, the big burly guy in the back shouted "no more haggis!". While the young girl next to us walked away with the last serving of haggis, we sadly placed our order of meat & mushroom pie and Scottish pie before those ran out as well. These are dishes that the moment you sink your teeth into the outer crust, they take you back to the days when you were little and your mum served you the best comfort foods fresh out of her oven. The meaty fillings of both pies made us close our eyes and savor the simple yet fulfilling taste, exchanging the paper plates back and forth between us.

Like every good food there was not enough so we found another booth where they sold Bangers! Bangers are Scottish kind of sausages typically served with mashed potatoes. They were mild tasting unlike the spicy sausages of Italians or Germans and we got ours with fries. Honestly not much different than regular sausages you would find anywhere else but nonetheless Scottish.

Moral of this week's culinary adventure is "get your Haggis while you can!"

See you at our next pan-cuisinal adventure in a week.

Ith gu leòir!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

* Eating 52 Countries In 52 Weeks - Week 2 - CAMBODIA

This week Cambodia was on our plate. We picked Monorom Cambodian Restaurant in Long Beach as our destination and did a little bit of web-surfing to find out what uniquely Cambodian dishes we should look for on their menu. One website gave us a list of 13 essential Cambodian dishes adorned with entertaining descriptions like "Khmer Muslim Beef Curry is what your Cambodian-Jewish grandma would make for holidays".

Monorom means "comfortable, convenient" in Khmer and that is exactly what welcomed us at the small restaurant along with the smiling faces of the staff. We browsed the menu that (thankfully) came with pictures and looked for the few picks we noted from the afore-mentioned webpage.

First came the drinks: The delightfully lavender colored Taro Shake tasted like butter cookies and the creamy Cambodian Ice Coffee was made with condensed milk. While we sipped our beverages, one of the staff came and sat at a table with a plate of food to eat (since it was once again mid-afternoon and there were no other customers other than us). Watching her we learned the Cambodian way to eat: She held fork in left hand and spoon in her right hand. She then pushed the food back and forth between the two utensils loading up the spoon with the fork. We were surprised she was not using chopsticks.

A medium sized TV played a Cambodian movie (I think) that resembled a Bollywood-like musical. Since the volume was turned off, we did not hear the music, however the dance was very interesting. A large group of beautifully groomed men and women danced gracefully shifting their bodies from side to side very slightly and only moving their hands in small circular motions.

Our orders of Bai Cha Kroeung (Lemon Grass Chicken) and Bai Cha Kahtna (Broccoli w/ Crispy Beef) were served with rice and a savory broth soup. The looks of the dishes definitely resembled the foods we've experienced from Cambodia's neighboring Asian countries - Thailand, Vietnam, China- but the taste was surprisingly mild - not too spicy, not too sweet, not too sour. We discovered that the Cambodian food is tasteful without exaggeration just like their dances.

We were pleased to see a Cambodian family come in for a late lunch, reassuring us that the food we were having was very authentic and not retrofitted to the American tastes.

The next dish was Nom Banh Chok (Khmer Noodle) which is a special celebratory dish that is prepared with bouquets of herbs that is usually served at weddings. One vegetable that was mixed in with the noodles had the layered purple look of red onions and the texture of ginger to the bite but did not taste like either. When our waitress came back to ask how our food was, I took the opportunity to ask her what the vegetable was and once again we were very surprised when she said it was purple banana flowers! She seemed very pleased that we were showing great interest in the food and asking questions. She came back a few minutes later with a picture of the banana flowers on her iPhone.

When we left Monorom, we were comfortably full and pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed this new cuisine. We definitely see more Cambodian food in our future.

See you at our next pan-cuisinal adventure.

(anjoe-in pisaa ao-y baan ch'ngain)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

* Eating 52 Countries In 52 Weeks - Week 1 - INDIA

We started our challenge with the easier to find Indian Cuisine on our first week since our original choice of Swedish Cuisine was only available at the local IKEA and we decided we should do better on our first attempt at this culinary adventure. 

Knowing that India has a wide and deep cuisine expanding to all points of the compass, we were hoping to hit the buffet at Natraj Cuisine of India in Laguna Hills to sample much variety. However, by the time we arrived at the restaurant mid-afternoon the buffet was no more.

We browsed the rich menu while we broke little pieces of Roti that was immediately served in a nice arrangement, garnishing them with different hot sauces that were already on the white linen laid table. We ordered Lamb Tikka Masala and Saag Paneer with Rice, Papad Paneer Rolls and the Bread Sampler - Kulcha with Keema, Layered Paratha, and Plain Naan.

Papad Paneer Rolls arrived first as the starters. These very delicious bite size fried cheese covered in urad flour (papad) were a good lead to the more saucy dishes that followed. While the Lamb Tikka Masala looked gloriously colorful next to the muddy shade of Saag Paneer they were equally decadent wrapped in the various kinds of bread we ordered.

कृपया भोजन का आनंद लीजिये !

Monday, May 4, 2015

* Eating 52 Countries In 52 Weeks - A New Challenge

I have been away from my blog for a while now due to changes to life and work. During this away time, I met someone very special. Someone who enjoys life and its novelties as much as I do and in exactly the way I do. Our natural instinct to undertake challenges combined with our common interest in traveling and world cuisine led us to the inevitable quest of "Eating 52 Countries in 52 Weeks".

The idea is pretty simple however execution is the challenging part. Since we are not able to travel to all of the 52 countries we selected, in a year, the larger part of our search for World Food will happen in and around Los Angeles. Every week we will visit a restaurant with unique food from one of the countries we have on our list and will blog about the experience each Sunday.

We are hoping you will follow us in our adventure and share your comments and recommendations along the way.

Bon Appétit!