A Travellerspoint blog

Cookbook Part 3

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It has been an entire year since Ben and I embarked on the trip around the world. The work on the book continues, albeit slightly slower due to full time employment as a Travel Consultant. Now it is an issue of paying people to help finish it or continue to learn desktop publishing and other programs to finish the book on my own. The recipe testing has been completed but I do need help proofing the recipes so if anyone is interested please contact me and I will send you a few to try out. Taking time to reflect on the trip there are a few changes I would make but nostalgia always helps to blur the past and make you forget the nights spent in some Italian railway station where the only bathroom is a metal box out of the Hellraiser movies. Or getting sick in Korea and being bed ridden for a week. Or being groped by a drunk Korean guy while sleeping on a ferry. Or falling into a ravine while trying to herd goats back to the field. Wait . . . that all happened to Ben. I just seemed to always have good food and good company. I am already getting antsy for the next round of traveling; in November I get to go to jolly ole England and sometime next year Korea and Japan.

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Posted by CulinarySojourn 20:37 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Cookbook Part 2

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I've been pretty busy with this project and meant to publish an update before Thanksgiving. However, the holidays are always a bustling time of year and getting my taste testers and photographer together to eat the food can be a challenge. I have finished selecting and writing the recipes for the book, although one or two may still change as I keep fiddling with them. My wife is equally content with all of the food she gets when she returns home after working and aggravated that all I did was make a mess of the kitchen and sat at the computer with the cats.

The next step is to finish writing the entries; talking about the places, stories or people associated with each bite of food presented. Also a glossary is required due to wide range of ingredients used throughout the book. More importantly the alternatives to some of the more difficult to acquire ingredients. Depending on that some recipes may need to be replaced such as Ottoman ice cream which requires a special flour that cannot be easily/legally imported from Turkey. Once I can try some alternatives, such as konnyaku or guar gum, we will find out.

I'm on track with the timeline but Christmas is fast approaching. Once it hits my photographer won't be in the country and I will have to find another who wants some food in exchange for their artistic talents.

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Probably my favorite of the reconstructions has been the Turkish raviolis, filled with spiced beef and covered in tangy yogurt, sour sumac, sweet mint and fiery chiles, it hits all of right notes in the mouth.

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Peking style duck, followed by duck soup is the most time intensive project yet. Three days in the garage to dry and marinade, one day to roast and eat and another to make the soup. I gathered some friends that had lived in China and had them sample the mahogany fowl, complete with plum sauce and pancakes. Hoping that the last four days had not been in vain, I was almost reluctant to actually cut into the duck. Thankfully everyone enjoyed it. To much, it appeared, as I didn't have any leftover meat for the soup but the intensity of the broth was more than enough. Having done it once I will try the duck again, as I think the roasting part can be improved on. As I write this, there is another duck sitting in my freezer and we will have round two.

Posted by CulinarySojourn 14:59 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Cookbook Part 1

Its taken awhile to settle back into normal life and deal with all of the issues of not being home after 4 1/2 months. The cats are getting along again, most friends caught up with and now I have time to start work in earnest on the book that inspired me to do this in the first place. However, life still gets in the way. I sliced the thumb on my right hand open and having issues with handling a knife. Or a fork. Especially chopsticks. Still, I have created a outline and have worked on several recipes already. Here is a selection of the food I am working on as of now.

This dish here saved Moroccan food for me. All across the land, I found tasteless dishes. Well cooked, but lacking the flavors I expected from eating at restaurants here in the states and from cookbooks. Under salted and under spiced. We did use Trip Adviser and other online tools to try and find good places to eat but they were the safe places. On the edge of the gritty city. This dish here was served by a small eatery near the Blue Gate in Fes. Just another small restaurant amidst the dozens of others sprawling out from the plaza. The server no less aggressive than the other eight currently vying for our business. Luckily we chose this spot and had several great meals. This particular dish was a hearty stew of lamb and prunes. The lamb flavored refined by the sweetness of the dried prunes and the sharp, earthy, taste of cinnamon. The sauce was not overly sweet, the meat moist and tender. The large chunks of meat could be cut by your fork. Maybe not the best dish during the midday heat of late spring but for my disillusioned taste-buds nothing could have been more refreshing.

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This next food took awhile to track down in the streets of Istanbul. Our original plans were to head to central turkey where the dish is supposedly quite popular but the end of Ramadan prevented us from acquiring any transportation to Istanbul in time for our flight to China. I asked several restaurants throughout the city and only found them in a posh one near the Hagia Sophia. Only wanting this one item that was an appetizer, we ordered and despite much reluctance by the waitstaff to serve two guys one small dish we eventually got what we came for. Manti are dumplings from Muslim China and have spread through most of Central Asia. Having had it before it an Afghan restaurant in Baltimore, I was expecting either pot-sticker or ravioli shaped but instead the restaurant had made tiny dumplings the size of a penny. Inside was onion and lamb, and it was all topped in a tangy yogurt and tomato sauce. Creamy and acidic, it dripped from each tiny dumpling. Then they garnished with a generous sprinkling of dried chile flakes and mint, before mixing it all together.

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A debate has gone on a long time between a friend of mine and myself. There is a dish in Japan called okinomiyaki and there are two distinct styles: Hiroshima and Osaka. While the name translates as, "as you like it", the preparation differs. In the Hiroshima style, each layer is crafted and cooked separately before being layered together. First is the crepe, then the cabbage, then the chosen fillings and sauce. It is all finished with another crepe on top. Osaka style has everything mixed together into a thick, savory, pancake. While both good, I finally relented and must agree that Osaka makes the better okinomiyaki. The flavors have more time to come together and the generous topping of sweet sauce and mayonnaise (about 1/3 cup) really makes it a tasty dish. Not a everyday dish once you count the calories that would include the mayonnaise, bacon, fried egg and cheese.

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The last two dishes for today are both from Bulgaria, although you can find variations throughout the Balkans. Sofia was a difficult city for us. Unlike the majority of the places we visited, there is no similarity in the alphabet and the people were not as openly friendly. Most of the places we found to eat was simply fast food. Luckily for us the city of Sofia has a non-profit group that does culinary walking tours of the city. Completely free and they will take you around and show you the restaurants serving the best of the local food and using the freshest ingredients. The first is a national dish of Bulgaria, tarator. This is a great summer soup. Dill, garlic, walnuts and cucumber are whisked together in yogurt before being thinned by water. The chilled yogurt and cooling cucumber provides respite from the heat while the fresh garlic and dill is healthy for you. The crushed walnuts and cucumber provide texture to the soup.

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Another great meal was cabbage rolls. These are fairly ubiquitous throughout Europe but despite being a common dish, it can still excite the taste buds. We got ours at a small eatery and decided to head to one of the numerous parks in the city to enjoy the nice weather and watch the people of Sofia. These had a filling of a mixture of pork, veal and rice. A hint of mint was also present to cut through the heavy meat flavor. The meat was wrapped in cabbage leaves covered in a tomato sauce. Paired with a bowl, or this case glass, of tarator and you have a great Bulgarian meal.

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Posted by CulinarySojourn 14:24 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Final Leg

The day has finally arrived. We are heading back home from this long trip after 18 weeks. While Stacey and Ben finish packing up all of luggage I had one last thing to do. After failing to secure tickets for Monday, my friend Wesley and I got up early, around 6am, to wait in line to get tickets for the sumo tournament that was being held in Tokyo. Most of the advance tickets had already sold out and we were not going to pay $95 anyways. While we were in the nosebleed seats, the stadium was pretty much empty as the main wrestlers don't enter til around 2pm with the grand champion matches held around 5pm. Sumo is a wrestling match that is steeped in Shinto traditions. The ring itself is a sacred place and there are several purification rituals they do throughout the day to keep it so. The purpose is to either push or throw your opponent out of the ring or to have any part of his body, other than the souls of his feet, touch the ground. The ring is raised and several times the wrestlers would tumble off into the crowd.

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For lunch we had chankonabe. This is the traditional dish served to sumo wrestlers to increase their weight in a healthy and nutritious way. While there are different styles, this one had chicken, cabbage and mushrooms in a fish stock. It was actually rather light and, having only eaten a rice ball from a convenience store hours before. was filling.

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From here it was a scrabble on several different subway/train lines to reach the airport on time. Once we got our tickets and made our way through security (Ben lost his North Korean wine as he forgot to put it in Stacey's checked luggage), we met up with one final person on the trip. My mother happened to be flying through Narita airport just hours before we left Japan. She is on her way to Singapore for a tour of SE Asia and if I had done better planning I could have joined her and extended my trip a few more weeks. However, I had no money left and Stacey would have been very angry with me.

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From Tokyo, we flew to Los Angeles and onward to Portland. For reasons I will never know, it would have been $1,200 more to fly on Delta's direct flight to Portland that Stacey was on, then it was to fly via Singapore Air and Alaska Air via LAX. As it was, I prefer non-American carriers and enjoyed several Singapore Slings and watched some summer blockbuster movies that I had missed. Due to the international date line, we arrived 12 minutes before we left Japan. Since I got up early, it was about 30 hours that I stayed awake other than a few minute naps on the plane. Arriving in the evening, I wanted to make sure I was tired and could fall asleep. Stacey was waiting for me due to her earlier flight. I immediately went and got Sichuan and Mexican food within a hour of landing.

Ben and I have traveled over 25,000 miles for this trip and now I must return to a regular life and begin compiling and testing recipes for cook book. It might be audacious but I hope to have a rough draft by Thanksgiving and have it edited by Christmas. Thank you for reading and to all who have helped me along the way. I will continue to post updates on this blog as the book comes together.

Posted by CulinarySojourn 13:02 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Kamakura, Japan

Kamakura was once the seat of power in Japan centuries ago and still hold onto some of those traditions. The main draw is the second largest Buddha in Japan (the largest is in Nara). This one is made of metal and was once housed in a building but a tsunami destroyed its lodgings long ago. Kamakura also has several festivals throughout the year with the biggest one held twice. This festival is for yabusame, or horse archery. The main road in front of the shrine (which incidentally, is called Yabusame Road), has sand pours into a wooden frame for the horses to run on and there are three wooden targets placed evenly along the road. We initially found a nice spot in the shade near the second target but due to an old man complaining, the priests moved us to the third target. In typical Japanese fashion they apologized profusely for the inconvenience. This spot worked better though as we could see the entire run as well as the finish. Some of the riders would be going to fast and there was not much room for the horses to stop. One rider jumped off his horse when he lost control. I have a video but can't seem to upload it here.

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We also stopped by a shrine where you could wash your money in order to gain some more. All I had on me was some single yen coins, so even if it doubled it still wouldn't be worth anything (1 yen = 1 cent).

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Other than extremely expensive delicacies or full course meals, Kamakura is only known for sweet potatoes. As we were heading back to Tokyo, we only had a small snack of purple sweet potato croquettes and baked sweet potato ice cream. Other than the color, purple and regular sweet potato tastes the same. The breading was crispy and is the filling a nice change from normal croquettes. As for the ice cream, the baking gave it more flavor and developed the sweetness. It was odd with the ice cream texture but not the weirdest thing eaten on this trip.

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Posted by CulinarySojourn 11:15 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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