{Seattle Scenes} Pike Place Farmers Market, Original Starbucks, Tully’s and Le Pichet

One sunny day (one of maybe 3 since I’ve been back in the PNW) my sister and I drove the three hours from Portland to Seattle to enjoy an afternoon in the Emerald City. We spent the afternoon wandering through Pike place market, smelling flowers, watching fish fly, drinking lots of coffee and lounging in the park. We also stopped by a French style cafe called Le Pichet, which was crammed with people and turned out to have some really tasty food.

I spent the entire time in Seattle fumbling around with my mom’s fancy camera trying to take fancy photographs. My sister found this greatly embarassing and declared, “I feel like a tourist and I used to live here!” Hopefully, her embarassment was not for nothing and you enjoy some of these Seattle scenes.

10 Indian Foods I Tried

While on my 5 week sojourn in India, I tried a few Indian foods. Ok, I tried lots and lots of Indian foods. Sometimes I stuck to the same ol’ favorites, like sag paneer and sometimes I branched out to things like goat (not so bad). And there were plenty of times that I skipped the Indian food and dove straight into some hummus. Apparently, an abundance of Isreali travelers in India means an abundance of hummus along the tourist trail. Fist pumps in the air.

During the entirety of the trip I took pictures of the new foods I tried. God bless, PZ for bearing with me on this one. Most of the time she was accommodating as I rearranged the table setting seven times and demanded that she not start eating until I’d taken three pictures of her food. And other times the hunger made her impatient. Can’t blame her there.

So here are a few of the foods I tried…

Masala Dosa

I’m just gonna go ahead and start with a favorite. I still get excited about masala dosas whenever I see a picture. The dosa is a fried bread made of rice flour. On the inside there are potatoes mashed a bit and mixed with spices (masala).

Masala dosas are commonly available in Southern India where rice grows more abundantly. Once we moved up north the dosas became a rare sight.

Another thing about masala dosas: they are a breakfast food. I would usually crave one around dinner time. After multiple nights of asking restaurants if I could get a masala dosa and receiving looks like I had just asked to eat pancakes for dinner (I’m ok with this too), I gave up and ate them for breakfast instead, even though a big bite of masala is not my idea of an awesome breakfast.

Lime Soda

This became another favorite on the trip. A lime soda = lime juice + soda water + sugar. This is the single most refreshing drink on a hot day in India and I’m not even a fan of carbonation. This drink is seriously good.

Warning: if you order a lime soda, the server might assume you want a salty lime soda. While it might be fun to say that you have tried a salty lime soda they taste like you’re eating a lime while swimming in the ocean. Gag.

Warning #2: Sometimes adding sugar to the soda water makes the drink explode and turns into a huge mess on the table and in the lap. Solution: add sugar with care or get someone who knows what they’re doing to add the sugar for you.

Thali

This is basically an all-can-eat platter of whatever is in the kitchen. Thalis are commonly eaten for lunch and come with a heaping helping of rice (mine had yet to arrive when I took the picture). The sides usually include a curry or two, dhal, a yogurt dish and a dessert. Also, this simply must be eaten with the hands. There’s really no other way.

Idly

Here’s another dish that is commonly eaten in the south. Idlies are made with the same rice flour batter as dosas, however idlies are steamed instead of fried. These idlies came with sides of a watery curry and a yogurt mixture. This is another food that is eaten more around breakfast and lunch time.

My honest opinion of idlies: too spongy. They do taste pretty good with the sides though.

Lassi

Mango lassi, banana lassi, coconut lassi, mmmm…I like lassies. These drinks are basically a blend of yogurt and fruit. A mango lassi during the peak of mango season is one of my all time favorite drinks.

Warning: lassies are typically served warm. So if you’re expecting a cool refreshing drink to escape the heat, this might not be it.

Gulab Jamun

I like to describe these as fried pancake balls covered in syrup. I think they’re mighty fine, though I can only eat a few because they are oh so sweet.

I for one like to watch people go nuts over gulab jamun, whether it’s observing the bustle around a vendor or a little girl asking her mom for more, more, more. These are clearly a popular dessert option.

Chai

Ok, I cannot lie, this is not really a picture of chai. It’s a picture of coffee. How I made it through 5 weeks in India and 700 cups of chai without taking a single picture is beyond me. It just fell through the cracks somehow.

Chai is black tea (typically Assam black tea) made with milk, masala (spices) and a whole lot of sugar. This stuff is available everywhere and we were often offered cups by complete strangers, which we usually accepted.

The best cup of chai I had was in Jaisalmer while I was visiting a family. The mother made the chai from scratch with extra black pepper and hardly any sugar. So good.

Since I brought up coffee earlier, I’ll go ahead and describe it: very sweet and very creamy. Not my favorite.

Aloo Tamatar Masala

Breakdown: aloo tamatar masala = spiced potatoes and tomatoes. This was one of my go-to dishes in India, because I love potatoes and tomatoes. Throw in some seasonings and I am a happy girl. Sometimes this dish came very spicy and other times it wasn’t spicy at all. This one tastes good with rice or chapati.

Egg Burgi

Here’s an example of a dish that I randomly pointed to on the menu. Sometimes that’s just what you gotta do when you want to try new things. Overall, I really enjoyed it, but I’m a glutton for eggs.

Basically this dish is scrambled eggs with spices. It’s fun to wrap the eggs in the chapati (similar to a wheat tortilla), take a big bite and then lick all the juices off your fingers. Maybe that’s just me.

Ker Sangri Curry and Gatta Curry

 This is a meal of desert dishes we enjoyed while overlooking the desert view in Jaisalmer. We asked our waiter to bring us dishes specific to the region and here’s what we got. Plus, we ordered a side salad for some crunch, not a dish native to the desert.

Ker Sangri is a type of long bean that grows in Jaisalmer. Our server brought us the ker sangri cooked in a sweet and spicy yellow curry. Gatta curry is curry with dumplings made of chickpeas inside. The chickpea balls added an interesting taste and texture to the dish. I was sad that we waited until our last day in the desert to try these dishes. Now, I must live off of this one fond eating experience until I return again.

Mutton Saagwala

Mutton (goat) was on the menu at virtually every non-vegetarian, Indian place we ate. Being that PZ and I are recovering vegetarians we were always a little hesitant to branch out in our repertoire of meat eating experiences. One day in Agra we grew brave and decided to finally try mutton.

This dish is mutton prepared in a spinach and potato gravy. We both love spinach and hoped that the addition of a different meat in something we already like would make the process go smoothly. And for the most part, it did. The mutton wasn’t too bad. It reminded us a little of beef with lots of fatty pieces attached. It was fun to try something new, but I don’t think we finished this dish. I still prefer vegetables.

What’s your favorite Indian food?

5 Food Blogs to Make You Hungry

Ever since I’ve come back to the States cooking has become my religion, the kitchen my sanctuary and these food blogs my bible:

  • La Tartine Gourmande: This food stylist and photographer makes food look too pretty to eat.
  • Seven Spoons: The combination of anecdotes and recipes are a treat to read.
  • The Pioneer Woman Cooks: I think I bookmarked 95% of her recipes to try when I returned from Peace Corps. Sometimes I scroll through her posts as fast as I can so that the photos appear like a movie. You’ll get what I mean when you click on the link.
  • Steamy Kitchen: I could plan out meals for a month with this blog. There is enough variety and inspiration to keep me scrolling through recipe after recipe.
  • smitten kitchen: This blogger will make an asparagus salad look fancy and fun to make.

Also worth checking out: The Kitchen Sink, the kitchen generation, Sunday Suppers, Sprouted Kitchen, pictures and pancakes, Picky Palate, honey & jam, delicious: days, eat live run

Nepali Food: Dhal Bhat and Beyond

I had this same conversation with Nepali friends about 17 times.

“What are some good Nepali foods I should try?

“Dhal bhat.”

“Ok, and what else?”

“Just dhal bhat.”

“You only eat dhal bhat?”

“Mmmm yeah.”

My investigations, however, revealed this to not be entirely true. There’s more than just dhal bhat to the food in Nepal.

First things first, what is dhal bhat?

Dhal bhat is a platter of food centered around a heaping helping of rice (the bhat). The platter includes a vegetable, such as spinach, usually some curried potatoes and a pickled item. Oh yeah, and there’s dhal (lentil soup) which often comes in a bowl on the side. Once you have your platter, stick your hand in there, mix it all up and start shoveling it in you mouth. Trust me, you’re weird if you don’t do this.

Sometimes the sides do change. Somethimes there’s bitter cucumber instead of spinach or chicken instead of potatoes. Extra sides, such as an egg or some buffalo (yes buffalo), can usually be ordered as well.

Ok, so the dhal bhat changes up sometimes, but do people ever eat something other than dhal bhat?

Yes.

Dhal bhat is commonly eaten around 9 in the morning and around 9 at night. This leaves plenty of time for some snacking. Breakfast is not a major meal. Why would it be, when lunch is at 9 AM? If my Nepali friends did eat breakfast, which many did, it was usually a cup of milk tea or milk coffee with some bread or cookies.

There’s also some snacking that goes on during that long stretch between lunch and dinner. Really, who doesn’t want to eat between 9AM and 9PM? While we were trekking, PZ and I passed a school when the children were on snack break. They left the school grounds to fill up on snacks from the local shops. These snacks were the sorts of things you’d expect kids to pick out. Some candies, chips and ice cream.

Some of my Nepali friends liked to snack on momos and thukpa. These are Tibetian dishes that are readily availible throughout the cities in Nepal. Momos are dumplings filled with veggies and meat, like buffalo. Tuk pah is a noodle soup with a sort of sweet and sour taste to it. Can’t decide which to eat? Try a mixed tuk pah. It comes with noodles and momos in the soup.

Two More Foods to Try in Nepal

Roxi, a millet wine that tastes like hard liquor but is real nice on cold nights when it’s heated up.

Yak cheese. Actually, it’s nak cheese since yaks are male, but it’s stilled called yak cheese because who know’s what the heck a nak is? Side note: I googled the word for female yak and came up with nak, dri and nuk. Could someone please agree on a word for a female yak and get back to me on that? Thanks. Anywho, the cheese isn’t much to write home about (even though I am). It’s not terrible, a little on the salty and oily side, but jazzes up a piece of plain bread. Mostly, it’s something you eat so that you can go home and tell everyone you ate yak cheese, I mean nak cheese.

Bangkok Street Food

Lost debit card means cheap eats. Meaning, I have been living off Bangkok street food for the last two days and I have to say I’ve done pretty well for myself.

Typically, when I come to Bangkok I have just spent a few weeks at site living on all Thai food. Trips to Bangkok are usually my chance to fill up on foreign food and desserts.

Since I can now only afford to eat street food, I decided to turn it into a game of sorts and chose as many different dishes as possible so I can post them here.

This has been especially fun because I will say goodbye to Thailand by the end of the month and now I have a tribute to Thai food to look back on.

So here’s what I’ve been eating so far…

Suki

This is one of my favorite street food dishes. This is suki nam muu, which means suki as a soup with pork. I also like to order suki hang muu which is stirfried suki with pork and no soup. The name comes from the japanese dish sukiyaki, but the street food version shows little resemblance to the Japanese version.

This version is sweet and salty with glass noodles, egg, pork and vegetables. The sauce on the side is sweet and spicey and holds the power to make you sprint to the bathroom in the middle of the night, not that that stops me from pouring it in.

Pad Kra Pao

This is the first dish I learned how to say in Thai after phad thai and phad see ew. What a relief that was. I’d been living off those two dishes for days by that point. To this day it’s still a dish I buy frequently when ordering for myself.

Pad Kra Pao means stir fried Thai basil. This version is stir fried pork with Thai basil and fried egg (pad kra pao muu gap kai dao). I love the way the fried egg tastes with the pad kra pao.

This dish can be out of control spicy sometimes. Avoid this one if spicy is not your thing or ask for with without chilis (mai sai prik).

Laab

Sometimes this is written as larb instead of laab, but that is the ugliest word I have ever heard. It’s pronounced similar to lob, as in to lob a tennis ball.

Back to the food. This is a dish that comes from Loas and Northeastern Thailand (Issan). There are several different kinds of laab. It can be made with any kind of meat and served either raw or cooked. I, myself am not brave enough to try the raw version.

It’s made by chopping meat up finely, boiling it and then mixing the meat with mint, onion and chili. It’s one of the healthiest Thai dishes because the meat is boiled and not stir fried.

Since this is a Laos/Issan dish, it is usually eaten with sticky rice, which means you get to eat with your hands.

Kao Muu Tot Kratiem

Long name for a simple dish. This is just stir fried pork with garlic, lots of garlic. Muu tot actually means fried pork, but when you ask for this dish from a vender they will either use stir fried pork or fried pork depending on what works better for them.

This is actually the first time that I’ve ordered this dish for myself. I’ve eaten it with Thai friends and at school several times, but I never think to order it for myself. The food stand that I stopped at had a menu (most don’t) and this is what stood out to me.

Not enough?

Check out my posts about som tam and phad see ew.

 

Palm Fruit and the Profit of Life

Allow me to explain two things about Thai culture before we get to the juicy part of this post. The palm juicy part of it. Bahaha.

The Lemonade Stand

Business in Thailand is commonly operated out of the home. Whether it’s a thriving construction company or a simple boiled corn stand, there is often some sort of business happening at the house. I call these at home enterprises the Lemonaide Stands to simplify explanations and because a lot of them are literally stands on the side of the road, like the one photoed above.

The Profit of Life

“Gam rai chii wit,” which means “profit of life” is a Thai idiom used to describe life experiences that contribute to the richness of life. In Thailand the “profit of life” means stopping alongside the road multiple times between point A and point B. The profit of life in Thailand lays in the process of life. The experiences between point A and B are as important as point A and B.

I venture to conjecture that the “profit of life” and the “Lemonade Stands” are intertwined. The “Lemonade Stands” are possible because people do stop, browse and purchase in order to gain the “profit of life.”

Back to the Palm Fruit Story

At some point between stopping by a wedding and meeting up with some people in the Old City, we stopped at this palm snack stand. Immidiately, I’m annoyed because stopping for any nonessential things between point A and B drives me bonkers. I am not good at gleaning the “profit of life” by Thai standards.

In an effort to entertain my self on this stop, I took some pictures.

All of the snacks and sugars sold at this “Lemonade Stand” come from these trees

Behind the stand there’s this whole enterprise.

Palm fruit shells

Opening the fruit. It looks similar to coconut, doesn’t it?

Here’s the insides.

Washing the fruit

Packaging the merchandise to sell in front of the house and in town.

Several products are made from palm fruit. These are sugar discs.

Mmm they taste sugary

Finally, tasting the palm fruit. It tastes similar to fresh coconut. Not too surprising since they seem to be similar plants.

Clearly, this stop at the palm fruit stand turned out to be more interesting than I predicted. I guess there is some “profit of life” to making stops along the way now and then.

 

These Bananas Have to Pee! A Thai Dessert Experience

Trying desserts in other countries is always an interesting experience for me. A. Because desserts make me happy and B. because it’s interesting to see what people consider a treat. Some desserts look funky and are delicious, while others look funky and are just plain funky.

Today my host dad taught me how to make Gluwoi Buat Chee, which I thought meant “The bananas have to pee.” Turns out it means something along the lines of bananas dressed in white with some good luck thrown in there. In my defense, last week I learned that one of the Thai desserts is called “Young Woman’s Breast Dessert.” So I don’t think I was too far out of line when I thought this dessert made reference to a bodily function.

Making Gluwoi Buat Chee ended up being much easier than I anticipated. The ingredients are bananas, coconut milk, water, sugar and salt. The only time consuming part is making the coconut milk (which can be bypassed with a trip to the super market).

Other than that all that’s really involved is boiling the bananas and coconut milk together with some sugar and a bit of salt until the bananas are soft and the coconut milk tastes delicious.

And then you eat it! Here’s the cook with his bowl.

Oh, I’m sorry. Did you want some? Well, here’s a recipe to dabble with.