Tag Archives: food

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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Nuuk – Greenland

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!

View from my great Airbnb - Nuuk - Greenland

Loved my Airbnb accommodation in Nuuk. The weather could have been better for my arrival though!

To be honest, I didn’t get up to much in Nuuk.  Partially because there really isn’t much to get up to, apart from more boat tours up fjords to glaciers.  And partially because after 2.5 months of bad or no internet, I had some catching up to do, and 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 - Katuaq Cultural Centre - 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 - 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.

Old Nuuk - Greenland

The mall is in the multi-story building you can see at right of the image, and you can see some of the other newer buildings over the back. And of course Nuuk has gorgeous surroundings!

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

Nuuk murals - 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!

View from near Café Inuk - Nuuk - Greenland

And these images 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.

Nuuk at midnight in summer - Greenland

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).

Greenlandic Tapas - Katuaq Cultural Centre - Nuuk - Greenland

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!

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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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Almaty’s Green Bazaar – Kazakhstan

Dennis’ “Golden Quarter” walking tour was fantastic, but it wasn’t the reason I initially contacted him.  Those of you who have been following along for a while won’t be surprised to know that he also offers a foodie tour in the Green Bazaar of Almaty.   Of course, I was in!

Green Bazaar entrance - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Entrance of the Green Bazaar

We were met by another traveler – Benjamin from the US – and headed in to start off with a traditional Kazakh lunch at one of the restaurants in the market.  

The menu looked like this

menu at restaurant - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

I’m really having a hard time getting used to not being able to read anything or understand anything.   I’m so used to travelling in Latin America where, now that I speak Spanish, everything is easy.    Dennis translated for us and made some recommendations, and we ended up with a few different dishes.

Both he and Benjamin ordered Plov – the very typical rice, carrot, meat dish that is really, really tasty.

Plov - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Just to be different, I ordered an interpretation of beshparmak, which usually consists of flat noodles topped with onions, meat, and horse sausage.  This version was called “meat, Kazakh-style”, with the meat broth mixed in to form a soup.   This was also good, but I thought the Plov was tastier.

A version of beshparmak - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

And we decided to share a serving of Manty, dumplings with pumpkin, meat and herbs inside.   This was made even better by the ladzhan – a chilli side that is often served on the table.

Manty - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

All rounded out by tea, of course.   This time tea with lemon 😊

lunch - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

We each paid 1,200 Tenge (less than US$4) for all this food!

lunch - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Next thing was to head off to explore the Green Bazaar itself.   First of all – the whole place is incredibly clean, and looks like it has been organized by a person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder!   It is immaculate!

Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Everything has its place – there is the section for dried fruit and nuts and the like

Dried fruit and nuts - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

The section for pickled items, where Dennis had to sweet talk the security guard because you are actually not meant to take pictures in the Bazaar.   However, because Dennis knows all the vendors there, they allow his guests special privileges 😊

Pickled things - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

The section for dairy produce – where we were plied with samples of all the different products by this lovely lady who is a friend of Dennis’ wife.

milk products section -Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

We tried a variety of different sweets – some made from cheese products and condensed milk, some made from grains and condensed milk.  All were delicious, but my favourites were those with the more caramel flavours (ie the ones with the condensed milk 😉 )

milk products - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

We tried fresh camel’s milk.   Now – this is not the first time I’ve had a camel-milk product.   Back when I visited Mongolia, I have the distinct memory of visiting a family and being given a massive hunk of camel’s cheese.   It was almost inedible!   See, the thing about camel’s milk is that it is a VERY tart/sour taste and is VERY strong.   My first sip of the milk here took me right back to that hunk of camel cheese I endeavoured to eat 9 years ago…

We also tried the dried salted curds – again, something I encountered in Mongolia, and again, not my favourite thing to eat in the world (actually, the Mongolia trip is the only trip I’ve ever done where I have lost weight).   I don’t exactly remember what it was like in Mongolia, but this one was extremely salty … I don’t think I’ll be buying some for the road, though it does keep incredibly well!

dried salted kurds - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

From there we headed over to the meat section, where they use the whole animal – absolutely nothing is wasted.

meat section - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Nothing is wasted. Yes, those are sheep heads in the bottom image!

This included a section specializing in horse-meat (very common here) and particularly horse-meat sausages.

horse meat section -Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Almost right beside, was the smoked and cured meat section, where we indulged in yet more samples – this time of the dried horse-meat sausage (very tasty!) and a salami that had been made out of horse-meat.

Cured products - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Then there was the dried/smoked fish and caviar section

dried fish - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

The spices section

spices - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

The honey section – Kazakhstan is very proud of its honeys

honey - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

And the “eastern medicine” section, where you could buy brews to cure all manner of ills, as well as other more exotic things like frogs, snakes and crickets.

eastern medicine - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

I actually tried one of the dried crickets dipped in honey – the vendors were all looking at me so expectantly!  

Eating crickets - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Eating crickets with honey in the Green Bazaar. To be honest, it wasn’t great…

All I can say is thank goodness for the honey!  That was lovely, the rest of it really just tasted like dry dust…  And yes I was kinda chewing on what felt like wing-bits for a while afterwards…

Our final stop was downstairs to the fresh produce section.  This was less nice than upstairs given it was quite dingy and dark – and the produce mostly consisted of root vegetables, herbs and apples.   Almaty actually means “apple”, and Kazakhstan is renowned for its apples.   They are particularly proud of the Aport apples – which grow to be quite large.

fruit - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

Then to top it all off, I actually had a tomato that tasted like a tomato 😊   Those of you who know me, knows this is one of my ultimate tests of food … and it was delicious!

tomatos - Green Bazaar - Almaty - Kazakhstan

 

Recommendation:

If you are interested in markets and trying local foods, can definitely recommend Dennis’ Green Bazaar tour with Walking Almaty.

Cost:  USD$30 + cost of the meal (~USD$5)

Time: 2 hours

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Eat Porto!

So, if you’ve been reading along for the past year, you know by now that I have an obsession with typical foods of whichever country I’m visiting.   Portugal was no exception – and I have to admit – it has some of the best treats on the planet!   I reckon I put on over a kilo during the week I visited 🙁

I was very slack at taking photos of the dishes I ate while in the Alentejo region with Jose (trust me, there were many, and all of them enormous), so tried to make up for it in Porto!

And it all started with a classic:  the Pastéis de Nata – a rich egg custard in layers of crisp, flaky pastry.

Nata

I love these things (best when dusted with cinnamon as well), and I’m not alone.  It is possibly the most popular Portuguese pastry, and you can now find them all around the world. 

Given I was hungry, I also had a Rissóis de Camarão (shrimp croquette) – a very popular Portuguese snack – from the same place.  It is basically prawns in a type of béchamel sauce, wrapped in pastry, breaded and deep fried.   Also very good!   Yes, I have a savoury AND a sweet tooth 🙂

Rissol de camarão

Next up:  a heart attack on a plate, and Porto’s typical dish – Francesinha.  The “Little Frenchie” is definitely not for vegetarians, consisting of bread and layers upon layers of different types of meat, then topped off with melted cheese and a tomato and beer-based gravy.

Francesinha

Heart-attack on a plate – Francesinha

Healthy?  It most definitely was not!   Tasty?  Well, it did have a lot of flavour, but the problem was that I didn’t particularly like the flavour.  Having learned what the ingredients are, I suspect this was due to the beer-based gravy – certainly it was that part of the dish that was giving me the most problems.   And although another of my friends graciously offered to switch dishes with me, I ate my way through it … taste-buds becoming more and more numb to the taste as I progressed.   Loads of Portuguese can’t be wrong … but I won’t be ordering it again 🙂

In the evening, we wandered over past the Monumento aos Heróis da Guerra Peninsular to the Mercado Bom Sucesso.    This monument commemorates the victory of the Portuguese (the lion) over Napoleon’s French troops (the eagle) during the Peninsula War (1807–1814), but unfortunately what I saw was a lion humping an eagle on top of a very tall column!   A million apologies for the irreverence 🙁

Monumento aos Heróis da Guerra Peninsular - Porto

The Mercado Bom Sucesso is an awesome place to eat, filled with lots of little cafes serving all sorts of different things.  In keeping with my theme of trying little bits of alcohol, especially if they are typical, I had a go at Poncha – the typical drink from Madeira island.   It is basically aguardiente (the alcohol), sugar and juice from a fruit in season, and wasn’t too bad (I still struggle with the taste of all alcohol).  I did manage to finish it 🙂

Poncha

Poncha, typical drink from Madeira island

And it was here that I found my favourite Portuguese treat (apart from the Nata of course). The Jesuíta!   Created by the Jesuits (no prizes for guessing there), it is a triangular confection consisting of layers of thin, flaky pastry, with a thin filling of egg cream, and topped with a crispy, sweet, cinnamon-meringue crust.    

Jesuíta

My favourite Portuguese treat – a Jesuíta from the Mercado Bom Sucesso

It was heaven!   I was so impressed, I ordered them everywhere else I went around Porto – but none was as good as this first one from the Mercado Bom Sucesso.

So, that was the first day of eating in Porto…. and there might have been one or two other treats consumed in there as well :-/ 

Other typical food that I tried during my time around Porto:

Pastel de Chaves – flaky pastry with minced meat and spices inside.  This name of this pastry is actually protected by the European Union since 1995. 

Pastel de Chaves

Clarinha de Fão – a thin pastry, dusted with icing sugar and filled with chila pumpkin beaten with egg yolks. 

Clarinha de Fão

Bola de Berlim – essentially a Portuguese doughnut with an egg-yolk-based filling.

Bola de Berlim

You might be starting to notice a trend emerging with the sweet pastries … the Portuguese use a LOT of egg-yolks!   So bad.  But oh so yummy!

And finally, a couple of typical dishes cooked specially for me by my friends 🙂

Alheira – a delicious garlicky bread and game sausage – traditionally made without pork (follow the link for the story behind this).   Typically served with boiled potatoes and Grelos – a green leafy vegetable.

Alheira

The sausage is the Alheira

Pão-de-ló – yet another coronary-inducing dessert with so many egg yolks that you don’t even want to know about it!   I was a little worried that it was actually going to taste like egg yolks, but nothing like it!   Absolutely delicious – I went back for seconds, but thought I’d better stop at that point…..

Pão-de-ló

I absolutely love the food of Portugal and can’t wait to visit again to work my way through some more of the pastries and other goodies on offer – and to have another Jesuíta (or 10) from the Mercado Bom Sucesso.

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More Bolivian Food

As you might expect, I didn’t stop sampling Bolivian food even though I’d overstuffed myself on the Foodie Tour in La Paz 🙂   Here are some of the other Bolivian delicacies I tried in my 3 weeks in the country:

Salteñas

It doesn’t get much better or more Bolivian than this!  Essentially a baked empanada with what seems to be a slightly sweet dough and different fillings inside.  My favourite by far was the spicy chicken salteña from the salteña shop just up from the Alexander’s Coffee shop, right near the Plaza Avora in Sopocachi neighbourhood.   One of my all-time favourite street foods for only 7 Bolivianos each (~AUD$1)!

Spicy chicken salteña - Bolivian Food

Tucumanas

I found these to be quite similar to not-very-flavourful Samosas – deep fried pastry filled with meat, egg, onion and potato.   Turns out that instead of putting the flavouring in the filling, they allow you to choose your own by serving the Tucumanas with a variety of different sauces (olive, peanut, chimichuri, llagua, another that is a mixture of mayonnaise, tomato sauce and mustard) as well as onion salad.  6 Bolivianos each (<AUD$1).

Tucumanas - Bolivian Street Food

Buñuelos

Turns out that Bolivian buñuelos are very different to Nicaraguan and El Salvadorean buñuelos, and I’m afraid to say – nowhere near as good 🙁  Instead of nice fluffy balls of deep fried dough, the Bolivians make a flat pancake of deep fried dough to serve with syrup.

BUÑUELOS - Bolivian Street Food

Cuñapés

A cuñapé is kind of like a cross between a biscuit and a cake that is made out of either corn (the more yellow one on the right) or yuca and has a very strong cheese flavour.   They are more traditionally found in the jungle or the Santa Cruz region of Bolivia, but I came across these awesome ones in Sucre.  Very moreish!

Cuñapés - Bolivian Street Food

BTW – selling food out of little sidewalk displays like this is very common throughout Latin America.

Humintas

Wandering around the Mercado 25 Mayo in Cochabamba one night I came across a lady selling corn-based products with about a million clients surrounding her all hustling to be served.    I eventually pushed through to the front and asked what was on offer and what were the differences between the different products, as they were all called humintas.

Humintas - Bolivian Food

Bought a baked huminta and headed for the central park to eat it.  Oh my – it was heaven!  Promptly went back and bought 2 more of these and one of the boiled humintas to try (still really yummy but not as good in my opinion).   Was kicking myself for not finding this lady earlier in my stay in Cochabamba (it was my last night).  There was no question why she had such a crowd around her!  I reckon she would have sold everything she had within an hour.

Fruit Salad and Icecream

The upper levels of the Mercado Lanza (Central Market) of La Paz are a fruit-salad-and-icecream lover’s heaven!   Tons of fresh fruit that is sliced up in front of you (mine had banana, watermelon, orange, grapes, pineapple, strawberries, mango, papaya and apple), jelly, cereal, yoghurt, cream and icecream served all together in a massive parfait glass.  What more could you want?!  Given the number of locals that are up there and indulging at all hours of the day – apparently not much!  So I had to join them and do it 🙂  And all for only 10 Bolivianos!  That’s about AUD$1.50.

Fruit salad and icecream - Bolivian Food

Cinnamon Icecream

Speaking of icecream, the most typical flavour of icecream in La Paz is cinnamon.   I have to admit it really smacks you up the side of the head to begin with, and I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not initially, but after a few spoonfuls and once your mouth goes a bit numb from the cold, it’s really quite nice 🙂

Helado de Canela - Bolivian Street Food

Jelly and Cream

I don’t know what this is actually called, and I have to admit that I didn’t try it, but one of the most popular street foods in Bolivia is cup of brightly coloured (and flavoured, I imagine) jelly with masses of whipped cream on top.  Loads of people buy it and it is sold everywhere.

dscf5480

Fresh Orange Juice

Fresh orange juice is a staple street seller throughout a lot of Latin America – and nothing we have in Australia comes even close to being as good as this.  In Bolivia, they make a great show of the peeling of the oranges – displaying the long peelings on the cart and scenting the air with a wonderful citrus smell!  About 7 Bolivianos (AUD$1) for a large cup.

Fresh orange juice - Bolivian food

Sopa de Maní

One of the most typical dishes in Bolivia – peanut soup.  I tried it in Cochabamba (where it originated) and it was OK, but nothing to write home about I have to say.  It was thick and creamy, but it really didn’t taste anything like peanuts…

Sopa de Mani - Bolivian Food

Fricasé

On the recommendation of Carlos at Hostel 3600 (great hostel!), I headed up to J&L restaurant (in a very small street off Boquerón in Sopocachi area – full of locals) where he goes every week for lunch.   I had intended to try the Chairo (which is what he has) but there was only Fricasé on offer – good thing was that was another food on my list to try.

Fricasé turns out to be very tender pork (again) with black rehydrated potatos and white corn in a soupy sauce.  It was absolutely delicious but they gave me about 4 times as much as I could eat!  This plate cost me 35 Bolivianos (~AUD$5).

Fricasé - Bolivian Food

Chairo

I ran out of days in La Paz to go back to J&B Restaurant to try their Chairo, so had it instead in the market in Cochabamba.   Hmmm… will need to give it another go at J&L Restaurant the next time I’m in La Paz I think, as this one didn’t live up to the expectations set by Carlos.  Basically a soup with meat, vegetables and lots of different grains in it.  

Chairo - Bolivian Food

 

 

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Cooking Class – Papas Rellenas – Sucre, Bolivia

Turns out cooking classes are very difficult to find in Bolivia!   However, upon looking at all the pieces of paper pinned on the noticeboard in Condor Cafe (highly recommended place to eat!) in Sucre, I came across an offering by La Boca del Sapo (the Toad’s Mouth).  

Moises, who runs the classes, decided to run cooking classes to help save up while waiting to obtain his visa to the UK- very entrepreneurial!  And he runs them out of his own kitchen, with a maximum of 4 participants.

Unfortunately I was really not feeling well this day, but went along anyway to learn how to make Papas Rellenas – one of the most popular and common street foods in Bolivia.   As the name suggests, these are mashed potato balls that are filled with something – in our case egg or cheese.

It is a remarkably simple dish, the most “difficult” part of which is making the sauce that accompanies it.  And even this is not difficult – chopping up tomatoes, onions and capsicum and then cooking them.

Papas rellenas - La Boca del Sapo - cooking class - Sucre

The fiddly bit is getting rid of all the eyes out of the potatoes, but then they too are super-easy — you just cook them in water until they are ready to mash.  The trick is to get the mash very fine – which turned out to require a fair amount of shoulder power when using forks to achieve this end.

Papas rellenas - La Boca del Sapo - cooking class - Sucre

Meanwhile, we also made some llajua – a spicy Bolivian sauce that is served with just about everything.   Crushed tomatoes, chilli and herbs basically – but I thought this stone and crusher that were inset into the bench were super-cool!   Had to be careful though not to crush fingers!

Papas rellenas - La Boca del Sapo - cooking class - Sucre

We then got a production line going with making the potato balls that had the egg or cheese (and in a couple of sneaky cases – egg AND cheese) inside.  These were then dipped in egg wash and flour before being deep fried.

Papas rellenas - La Boca del Sapo - cooking class - Sucre

The final product!   

Papas rellenas - La Boca del Sapo - cooking class - Sucre

To be honest, papas rellenas is far from my favourite Bolivian dish.  Quite bland in fact…  But it is what a lot of Bolivians eat!

 

Cost: $100 Bolivianos (assuming 3 or 4 people)

Time: 3 hours

 

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