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markemorse

eGfoodblog: markemorse

251 posts in this topic

How-do. I'm Mark, I've just grown a very big moustache, and I'll be your blogger for the next week or so.

I live in Amsterdam, The Netherlands....yes, the very same Amsterdam that is home to one of eG's more revered foodbloggers, the lovely and talented Chufi. When snowangel asked me to do this here foodblog thing, of course my first concern (understandably) was that my blog would do nothing more than serve up a healthy slice of relative suckitude.

...but then I thought about it a little....and as many common tastes as The Chufe and I seem to have, we come from quite obviously different perspectives: I'm an immigrant here (5 years in March), and an American, and that immediately plunks she and I down at two distinctly different reference points: I think the Dutch Cooking thread (the reason I joined eGullet, BTW) and her foodblogs beautifully articulate where she's coming from.

I think I may be coming from an almost opposite direction. What i eat here in Amsterdam happens to consist primarily of other immigrating cultures' food...Indonesian, Surinamese, Antillean, Turkish, and Moroccan foods show up in our apartment on a daily basis. And what fascinates me about the Amsterdam versions of these kitchens is that they reflect all of the compromises and constant adaptation that immigration requires, and what we ultimately end up with is a set of multicultural cuisines that you can't really find anywhere else in the world. So, in showing you a normal* week for us, I hope I can show you some of the interesting hybrid grub that makes up our daily eating life.

* Actually, there is nothing normal about this week. It is the dead of summer holiday here: all of the music venues are closed, most of our friends and neighbors are out of the country, and a good number of our normal eateries are on on vacation as well.

I just realized how strange this sounds: "all of the music venues are closed". This directly affects our life because we are closely tied to one of the, eh..."alternative" music scenes here in Amsterdam. I'll probably elaborate on that eventually, but what it means is that most of our friends are musicians, producers, label owners, etc...and going out and seeing or playing music is the cornerstone of our social life. But every July and August the citywide music scene shuts down and almost everyone we know leaves town, either to play in festivals around Europe or to just get away until the season restarts in September. We have not yet mastered this "getting out of town" bit.

+++

I'm a bit of an insomniac, and summertime is especially tough because of all the daylight hours. So, I'm off to (hopefully) sleep for awhile, but I'll put my nose to the grindstone here as soon as it wakes up.


Edited by markemorse (log)

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gallery_6263_3_9533.jpg

About my teaser pic: the immigrant kitchen in which I'm currently most interested is that of Suriname. The item pictured is called pomtajer in Dutch, the most common English name is new cocoyam. Scientifically speaking, it's a member of the genus Xanthosoma.

Pomtajer is a tuber that provides the basis of the Surinamese national dish, pom, which I am in love with. This week I will 1) eat pom 2) make pom 3) try to convey what pom tastes like, because it's not really like any other one thing 4) try to convey what pom means to the Surinamese.


Edited by markemorse (log)

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There's not really a grand master plan for the week because I didn't know who would be in town, what would be open, etc. I had hoped to visit one of Amsterdam's most lauded restaurants during this blogweek, but I instead had to go on Saturday (two days ago), because my partner/wife/best bud Mara has to have jaw surgery on Thursday, and we don't know what her chomping capabilities are going to be after that....but you know, I remember that meal as if it was just yesterday (cue swirly harp flashback music)....

+++

gallery_28661_4926_14278.jpg

We'd been hearing great things about Marius for many months, and I finally decided that if I didn't make a special effort to go there, it wasn't going to happen, so we invited Chufi and Dennis and booked a reservation for Saturday night. The following pictures are quite obviously Chufi's.

The chef is Kees Elfring, a Chez Panisse alum. The menu changes based on what's in the markets, and there's a 4-course menu option with optional wine pairings. If you don't like something on the 4-course menu, you can choose a substitute from a handful of regular specialities. We all went with the 4-course menu and wine pairings because, well...it just looked great. We started with a deconstructed sort of ratatouille:

gallery_28661_4926_10069.jpg

with seared tuna, octopus, eggplant, tomato, and artichoke hearts. Very clean, fresh flavors, perfectly seasoned with a hint of cumin seed. Nice.

Then, risotto with monkfish and mint:

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I think this was my favorite dish of the evening...you forget how light a risotto can be in the right hands. Next up was duck with chanterelles:

gallery_28661_4926_43145.jpg

Also delicious, the duck was done perfectly, the jus was totally soakupable with Marius' great house bread. It was at this point in the meal that the wine pairings began to impair my critical faculties and, frankly, I can't tell you much about the cheese plate:

gallery_28661_4926_36853.jpg

But I know Chufi can. The highlight for me was a raw cow's cheese at the 5 o'clock position that I can't remember the name of, but the homemade panforte-like fig bread was very good as well. And we finished with a flourless chocolate cake with creme anglaise and a Reine Claude and cherry clafouti/tart:

gallery_28661_4926_40665.jpg

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It was a very enjoyable meal, we definitely had fun, and there was absolutely nothing wrong with any aspect of the service or the food, it was unobtrusively excellent. I do think that this particular menu was the tiniest bit boring for me...I like food that makes me say wow, and while this was all very well-executed, I never had a wow moment. Maybe my first bite of duck. Or the desserts.

Anyway, I'd go back in a second because there was every indication that the chef was totally in control of what he was doing, and the restaurant itself is completely comfortable and relaxed. I'd just hope for a bit more zing! pow! zap! next time.

After dinner we returned to the monkey sculpture we'd stumbled across before dinner (and how often can you say that?):

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And then we 4 monkeys went our separate ways...


Edited by markemorse (log)

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Good morning and welcome to the world of blogging! I have been happily anticipating this blog for a LONG time :smile:

What i eat here in Amsterdam happens to consist primarily of other immigrating cultures' food...Indonesian, Surinamese, Antillean, (...)

This is really an undiscovered world for me and I am hoping to learn a lot this week.

Also delicious, the duck was done perfectly, the jus was totally soakupable with Marius' great house bread. It was at this point in the meal that the wine pairings began to impair my critical faculties and, frankly, I can't tell you much about the cheese plate:

gallery_28661_4926_36853.jpg

But I know Chufi can. The highlight for me was a raw cow's cheese at the 5 o'clock position that I can't remember the name of, but the homemade panforte-like fig bread was very good as well.

Stilton at 9, then Tomme de savoie, Tomme de Chevre, one I don´t remember, Epoisses, and another chevre.

Blog on!

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Apparently sleep is not in the cards for me at the moment. So let me start to talk about Suriname cooking, because I know I'll run out of time or energy or both this week and this is to me one of the most distinctive areas of Amsterdam eating, and there's almost no good information about it in English on the web, etc.......

The unifying force behind much of the food I'll be eating this week is something called the Indische keuken. "Indische" is a word that you will see on hundreds of restaurant signs in Amsterdam, and the concept is essentially the "Indies' kitchen"...referencing the cooking of the Dutch colonies of the East and West Indies. This is worth lingering over for a sec: the idea of a single, ubiquitous hybrid kitchen that combines the tastes of Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. What are the unifying ingredients here? Anyone? In the spirit of interactivity, I'll let some people try to hazard some guesses b4 I just plow didacticly (and split infinitively) onward.

+++

In other news, I've just had some breakfast:

gallery_28661_4926_13664.jpg

Fa Chong, a Chinese/Surinamese chicken sausage glazed with a bit of maple syrup.

gallery_28661_4926_6041.jpg

I am a big huge sucker for sausage and maple syrup together. In fact, I think I can offically declare maple syrup my Favorite Food Ever, but only when it's served with something salty. I'm complex like that, what can I say.


Edited by markemorse (log)

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Hey, Mark:

I'm an insomniac also! Since you're an American Expat, can you recommend where some of us homelanders will be able to find the foods/ingredients you're going to showcase? (Online, nearline or otherwise!)

I lived in Germany for 1-1/2 years and traveled to Amsterdam regularily - unfortunately, I was a silly college girl and spent more time at the Mad Dog than in fine eating establishments! (The Mad Dog was an infamous hash bar associated with mostly tourists whose "two-for-one hash night" on Thursdays caused many of us college students to cut Thursday afternoon and Friday classes. :hmmm:

We always stayed at a "hotel" called The Hotel California - you didn't rent a room you rented a bed in a room with whomever got there first - guys, girls, all nationalities, all "persuasions"...

Later we discovered renting a bunk in houseboats on the canals - tiny, claustrophobic, cramped, but cheap!

Unfortunately I had yet to discover my true foodie inclinations, and remember only the delicious fries (frites), wonderful waffles and Heineken. (Sound like the diet of a silly college gal spending too much time at the Mad Dog?) :raz:

I do also remember wonderful afternoons strolling the canals, musing at the rijksmuseum, renting bikes and going as far away from town as we could manage.

Can't wait to see another side of a wonderful city! A wonderful addition to Chufi's already priceless blogs.

Blog on, and please, don't hold back on photos - of food or picturesque scenery!


Jamie Lee

Beauty fades, Dumb lasts forever. - Judge Judy

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Wonderful to see you blogging, Mark!

The unifying force behind much of the food I'll be eating this week is something called the Indische keuken. "Indische" is a word that you will see on hundreds of restaurant signs in Amsterdam, and the concept is essentially the "Indies' kitchen"...referencing the cooking of the Dutch colonies of the East and West Indies. This is worth lingering over for a sec: the idea of a single, ubiquitous hybrid kitchen that combines the tastes of Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. What are the unifying ingredients here? Anyone? In the spirit of interactivity, I'll let some people try to hazard some guesses b4 I just plow didacticly (and split infinitively) onward.

I'll hazard a guess that the unifying ingredients have a lot to do with spices, most native Dutch cooking being bland.


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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btw, mark I would appreciate the names of the shops where you get your 'exotic' groceries.. pictures would be even better ofcourse...

Hey Klary, I'll be doing some in-depth shopping trips tomorrow I hope, but for now I can say that I get all of my "exotic" shopping done at the three places on my block. Just now I went to go take pictures of these joints, but my dangblasted camera battery died almost immediately. So, I'll go back and take real pictures next time...

+++

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This is Bario Market, or "the Turkish guys" as we tend to refer to it. They are a trio (or more) of superfriendly brothers just down the block, and they've got almost everything we need on a weekly basis: great vegetables, high-quality canned bonito in olive oil, good sardines, great fresh mint and coriander, fresh bread, pasta, semolina, beans, etc. etc. etc. I love these guys, and we try to shop here as much as we can (vs. shopping at a chain grocery store).

+++

gallery_28661_4926_5461.jpg

This is Toko Hangalampoe, a Surinamese/Hindustani toko right across the street from the Turkish guys, and this is where I get my tropical ingredients: sambals, chiles, limes, boniatos, plantains, coconut, besan, long beans, etc. But also general Asian stuff: for example, you can see the rows of oyster sauce bottles just under the word "toko" in the pic above.

gallery_28661_4926_14697.jpg

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I picked up a snack here just now that I'll show you in a minute.

+++


Edited by markemorse (log)

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...Since you're an American Expat, can you recommend where some of us homelanders will be able to find the foods/ingredients you're going to showcase?  (Online, nearline or otherwise!)

Hey Jamie Lee, you should be able to find most of the raw materials for these dishes at Asian grocers who focus on Indonesian or Malaysian ingredients, and Mexican grocers are good sources for the more South American ingredients like cassava, boniato, plantain, calalloo, etc. There's not too much here that I couldn't have found when I lived in Atlanta for example....I'll keep my eyes out for a relevant website though...


Edited by markemorse (log)

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Thanks for all the support, guys...really!

+++

gallery_28661_4926_7723.jpg

So, right...the Indische kitchen. Around 1900, the first significant groups of migrant Chinese seamen began showing up in Amsterdam, and their numbers steadily increased despite the unstable environment of the first half of the century, largely due to the tendency of Dutch shipping companies to hire Chinese sailors as strikebreakers. After the wars, in the late 40s as society was putting itself back together, the Chinese population in the Netherlands began to do what they've done in so many other places: open restaurants. For many Dutch people, Chinese food was the first non-Dutch food they'd ever tasted.

Where this story gets especially interesting for our purposes is that, just about this same time, the former Dutch colony of Indonesia had been granted independence (in 1949). Almost 300,000 Dutch-Indonesians entered the Netherlands in the 30 years after World War II. As you would, the existing Chinese restaurants immediately began adapting their cuisine to suit the waves of Indonesian immigrants and Dutch workers returning from Indonesia, by subtlely modifying their spices and adding dishes like nasi goreng and sates to their largely Cantonese menus.

This period is also when the first tokos began cropping up (a toko is an Indonesian food shop), and really this is where the "Chinees-Indische" kitchen begins. In the 70s, when Suriname was granted independence, a similiar migration wave occurred, and the Indische kitchen expanded to include this cuisine as well. More on this in a bit.

+++

Pictured above: Long Chie, the Chinese-Surinamese place that's next door to Toko Hangalampoe. I will probably get takeout from here tonight, it's not circuitblowingly awesome, but it's 20 meters from my front door and frankly...we just had two weeks of houseguests: good times were had, but also we had not enough sleep, too much booze, etc. I need a bit of downtime.

+++


Edited by markemorse (log)

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Hello and welcome to the community of foodbloggers, Mark! I'm looking forward to seeing Amsterdam's multiculti culinary side, and you're already off to a good start. Also: Apparently, my mustache didn't disappear -- it just grew a bit and migrated across the Atlantic to some white guy's face. :wink:

The unifying force behind much of the food I'll be eating this week is something called the Indische keuken. "Indische" is a word that you will see on hundreds of restaurant signs in Amsterdam, and the concept is essentially the "Indies' kitchen"...referencing the cooking of the Dutch colonies of the East and West Indies. This is worth lingering over for a sec: the idea of a single, ubiquitous hybrid kitchen that combines the tastes of Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. What are the unifying ingredients here? Anyone? In the spirit of interactivity, I'll let some people try to hazard some guesses b4 I just plow didacticly (and split infinitively) onward.

Is curry one of them? I know that curry is perhaps the one spice that is common to both Jamaican and Indian cooking, and when a vegetarian Indian restaurant around the corner from where I live reopened claiming to serve "East and West Indian vegetarian cuisine", the only thing remotely Caribbean I could identify on the menu were curry dishes--the real Caribbean restaurants around here are light on true vegetarian fare, unless you count the sides.

Language nit: Would "keuken" also translate as "cooking"? I recall a Dutch fellow I knew a while ago pointing out to me that the Dutch and English languages are actually pretty close to one another, and there are certainly plenty of words in Dutch that sound very much like their English cognates.

In other news, I've just had some breakfast:

gallery_28661_4926_13664.jpg

Fa Chong, a Chinese/Surinamese chicken sausage glazed with a bit of maple syrup.

gallery_28661_4926_6041.jpg

I am a big huge sucker for sausage and maple syrup together. In fact, I think I can offically declare maple syrup my Favorite Food Ever, but only when it's served with something salty. I'm complex like that, what can I say.

Let me second the call for information, either from you or from others reading this blog, about where to obtain the foodstuffs you feature in the United States. Those sausages look delicious!

Maple syrup and sausage go very well together. I wouldn't be embarrassed to confess to your insistence on sweet-savory pairings here at all. (Kettle popcorn, OTOH, I just can't warm up to.)


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Is curry one of them?

Yes! I'll elaborate in a bit.

Language nit:  Would "keuken" also translate as "cooking"?  I recall a Dutch fellow I knew a while ago pointing out to me that the Dutch and English languages are actually pretty close to one another, and there are certainly plenty of words in Dutch that sound very much like their English cognates.

Keuken is a noun that translates as "kitchen", so it would really only translate as "cooking" in the same way you can use "the Dutch kitchen" to refer to Dutch cooking. Sorry for the confusion...

And I will definitely try to find online sources for any extremely rare ingredients...Sandy, do you have stores nearby where you can buy Caribbean tubers? I seem to remember my local Mexican or Cuban places doing a pretty good job of covering this territory back in the States.

+++


Edited by markemorse (log)

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gallery_28661_4926_11331.jpg

Pictured: Bara vendor's stand from my Saturday visit to Amsterdam's Kwakoe festival.

+++

A quick dossier on Suriname: it's a small country with a complicated history in northern South America, nestled between French Guyana to the east and Guyana to the west. Brazil is on its southern border (you can't see me, but I'm pointing it out on a map right now). It was a Dutch colony for 300 years or so, and like many plantation cultures, the workers initially consisted of imported slaves and later cheap contract labor. It's the sources of these migrant workers that makes this an culinarily interesting development.

Slavery was abolished in 1863, and thereafter Hindustani laborers were brought in to replace the slaves, primarily from areas around Calcutta and the Indian states of Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh. Chinese migrant laborers began showing up as well around this time, and Javanese were also brought in from Indonesia to fill the labor demand.

Today (well, as of 2005) Suriname's population breaks down ethnically like this: 37% Hindustani/East Indian; 31% Creole (ethnically mixed descendants of West African slaves); 15% Javanese; 10% Maroons (descendants of escaped West African slaves)...and the rest are made up of Amerindians, Chinese, Dutch, and Jewish groups (Source: Wikipedia).

So you can see that this is an exciting bunch of influences that have to somehow jockey for position in the Tastebud Derby of the Indische kitchen. Add these to the existing Chinese and Indonesian elements, and there you have it.

OK, OK, enough academic shenanigans. let's eat!


Edited by markemorse (log)

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For lunch I went downstairs and got a few Surinamese snacks. From Toko Hangalampoe, a bara:

gallery_28661_4926_1003.jpg

And from 4 doors down, a place called Swietie Sranang, I got two sandwiches, a broodje moksi meti:

gallery_28661_4926_1820.jpg

and a broodje pom:

gallery_28661_4926_14208.jpg

I'll explain these in a sec.


Edited by markemorse (log)

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I'm SO glad it's YOU!!! Another voice in the Dutchfood arena, of all the new flavors and spices and sauces that have become a part of the dining landscape.

The clafouti made me want to go pit all those big old maroon beauties in the bag in the fridge, to make one for dinner. And Chris would be right with you on the sausage/maple syrup thing, though ours is a lot more plebeian, downright redneck (of which we're very proud): Conecuh sausage from a locally-famous shop down near his birthplace in Alabama---not-too-juicy long fingerlinks of pepper-specked sausage, with a little dipping bowl of sorghum, just like the kind he used to help his Grandpa cook off way back when.

MMM---good food to look forward to, and a lively escort, as well as a bit of nostalgia kindled by a place we've never been---how GOOD is that!!??

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This is worth lingering over for a sec: the idea of a single, ubiquitous hybrid kitchen that combines the tastes of Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. What are the unifying ingredients here? Anyone?
How about Tamarind?

Fascinating perspective Mr. Morse. I share your multi-cultural culinary curiosity. Once you leave the US of A, it's like eating for the first time and there is an endless parade of dishes to check out and try. Those shops are an impossibility stateside - lucky bastard! :raz:

Having once been active along the fringe of the alternative music scene, I recall a lot of fast food combinations. Amsterdam looks like a heaven for that stuff.

Blog on


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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OK, what did I eat?

+++

A bara as it's made here in Amsterdam is a Hindustani deep-fried black lentil fritter with whole cumin seeds and minced celery leaves in the batter.

gallery_28661_4926_15167.jpg

Seems pretty straightforwardly Indian until you taste the relish on top: buck up! you in habanero country now (actually it's adjoema, another variant of the scotch bonnet/habanero strain), and man is it hot. Sometimes I really like punishingly spicy food, and this fits into that category. Obviously, you can choose to have the peper relish on the side, but that sounds pretty wussy to me.

+++

Moksi meti literally means "mixed meats", and can be served with up to 4 meats: most typically it's cha siu, fa chong (or fa tsong), fo lam, and sometimes Peking duck. Sounds pretty Chinese. Except it's on a baguette, with pickles. And the sauce that's been slathered on the baguette here is another habanero/adjoema-based Java-style sambal. Not anywhere near as lethal as the bara relish, it's a very subtle, smoky heat that builds slowly but never burns you out. The fresh pickles, lightly dressed with vinegar and allspice, help keep things running cool.

gallery_28661_4926_12141.jpg

+++

And then there's the pom sandwich. Pom is the Surinamese national dish, essentially a baked casserole of chicken and grated pomtajer or cocoyam, flavored with orange and lemon juice; salted, brined beef called zoutvlees; tomato; celery; butter, hababero/adjoema, and nutmeg.

Everyone's recipe is a tightly held secret. The passion that surrounds pom and the way that it is discussed, debated, deconstructed, and delivered is comparable to American feelings about...maybe chili is a good comparison? BBQ is too ritualistic and mysterious, it's lighter than that. But still serious.

gallery_28661_4926_19017.jpg

I myself have no illusions about my pom recipe. Mostly because I have never tried my pom recipe, I'll be doing that later this week. But I'll post it in a few so you can see what this is made of and try to do some virtual tasting.

gallery_28661_4926_4735.jpg

+++

The broodjes from Swietie Sranang are nowhere close to my favorite in town: they desperately need to toast their baguettes before they stuff them so that the sandwich can maintain its integrity after you spread a good dash of sambal on there. Also, there's just not enough textural contrast...you just need a bit more crunch. But! It is right downstairs. And these were better-than-their-usual sandwiches today. And cheap, 2 euros-ish per sandwich. The bara was 1 euro.


Edited by markemorse (log)

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gallery_28661_4926_758.jpg

This is a pomtajer or new cocoyam. And this:

gallery_28661_4926_2051.jpg

is what you would use to grate it if you didn't already buy frozen, grated pomtajer like I did.

So here's the pom recipe I'm going to use, just so you get an idea of what it might be like. NOTE: Do not eat uncooked pomtajer, your tummy will hurt. Can't remember why, I'll look it up when I have a chance.

+++

pom (creole-style surinamese chicken and cocoyam casserole).

1 chicken, in pieces

1 kilo pomtajer/new cocoyam, grated

200g zoutvlees (highly salted beef preserved in pickling spices, I'll post a recipe for this if I can find one)

150g butter

3 onions, chopped

3 tomatoes, chopped

2 chicken boullion cubes

1 cup water

1/2 cup celery leaves, chopped

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

the juice of 2 oranges

the juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp palm sugar

freshly grated nutmeg

salt

pepper

Soak the zoutvlees in cold water for 30 minutes or so, then rinse and dice the meat.

Rub the chicken pieces thoroughly in a mix of salt, pepper, and the nutmeg.

Melt the butter in a sautepan, and brown the chicken pieces.

Add the onions, tomatoes, zoutvlees, herbs, bouillion, and water.

Mix the pomtajer with the sugar, the liquid from the chicken, and the orange and lemon juices.

Spread a layer of the pomtajer mixture in a baking dish and then place some of the chicken pieces on top. Keep doing these layers until the chicken and pomtajer mixtures are used up.

Bake for 90 minutes at 175C.

+++


Edited by markemorse (log)

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How about Tamarind?

Absolutely. This is one of the key "bridge" ingredients in fact. And tamarind juice is one thing that you can buy at almost all of the tokos, regardless of whether they are more East Indies or West Indies focused.

As for these common elements? Curry and tamarind for sure. Ginger is another...coconut as well. Coriander, too.


Edited by markemorse (log)

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And Chris would be right with you on the sausage/maple syrup thing, though ours is a lot more plebeian, downright redneck (of which we're very proud):  Conecuh sausage from a locally-famous shop down near his birthplace in Alabama---not-too-juicy long fingerlinks of pepper-specked sausage, with a little dipping bowl of sorghum, just like the kind he used to help his Grandpa cook off way back when.

Thanks for the kind words, racheld...I'm pretty sure spending too much time in Alabama is how I ended up in this sausage/sweet predicament to begin with...a dipping bowl of sorghum sounds pretty dang tasty right about now. I gotta go find some dinner.

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      Note: This information was taken from the official Newfoundland and Labrador web site.
    • By Gunnsr42
      Hello foodies. Tell us what work of art you're cooking for your meals these days. 
    • By chefmd
      My son married a lovely young lady from Yakeshi, Inner Mongolia, China.   Mongolian: ᠶᠠᠠᠠᠰᠢ ᠬᠣᠲᠠ (Ягши хот); Chinese: 牙克石; pinyin: Yákèshí
       
      We had a wedding in the US but her family also wanted to have a traditional wedding in China.  DH and I have never being to China so this was an exciting opportunity for us!  We spent a few days in Beijing doing touristy stuff and then flew to Hailar.  There is only one flight a day on Air China that we took at 6 in the morning.  Yakeshi is about an hour drive from Hailar on a beautiful toll road with no cars on it.  I wish we took pictures of free roaming sheep and cows along the way.  The original free range meat.
       
      The family met us at the airport.  We were greeted with a shot of a traditional Chinese spirit from a traditional leather vessel.  Nothing says welcome like a stiff drink at 9 AM.  We were supposed to have a three shots (may be they were joking) but family took pity on us and limited it to one only.
       

       
    • By Panaderia Canadiense
      Wow, this is my third foodblog for the eGullet….  Welcome!   I'll be with you from Palm Sunday through Holy Sunday to give you all a taste of the veritable food festival that is Easter in Ecuador.  As usual, I intend to eat on the streets, visit a plethora of small shops and vendors, and talk about (and eat copious amounts of ) the specialty dishes of the holiday.
       
      A bit of background on me and where I am.  I'm Elizabeth; I'm 33 years old and since the last foodblog I've ceased to be a Canadian expat in Ecuador, and become a full-fledged Ecuadorian citizen.  I run a catering bakery out of Ambato, and I deliver to clients on the entire mainland.  I've got a large customer base in nearby Baños de Agua Santa, a hot-springs town about an hour downslope of me to the east; I'll be visiting it on Wednesday with close to 100 kg of baked goods for delivery.  Ambato, the capital of Tungurahua province, is located almost exactly in the geographic centre of Ecuador.  It's at an average elevation of 2,850 meters above sea level (slightly higher than Quito, the capital) - but this is measured in the downtown central park, which is significantly lower than most of the rest of the city, which extends up the sides of the river valley and onto the high plain above.  We've got what amounts to eternal late springtime weather, with two well-marked rainy seasons.  Ambato has about 300,000 people in its metro area; it's the fourth largest city in the country.  But maybe the most important thing about Ambato, especially to foodies, is that it's a transport hub for the country.  Anything travelling just about anywhere has to pass through Ambato on the way; it gives us the largest, best-stocked food market in South America.  I have simply staggering variety at my fingertips.
       

       
      This view, which was a teaser for the blog, was taken from my rooftop terrazzo.  It is a fraction of the panorama of the river valley that I see every morning, and since Easter is traditionally somewhat miserable weather-wise, the clouds stick to the hilltops.  The barrio you can see in the middle distance is Ficoa, one of the most luxury districts in the city.  Ambato is notable amongst Ecuadorian cities for having small fruit farms (300-500 m2) still operating within city limits and even within its most established barrios - it's from this that the Ambato gets one of its two sobriquets: The City of Fruits and Flowers.  The tendency for even the poorest barrios to take tremendous pride in their greenspaces gives the other: The Garden City.  My barrio, Miraflores Alto, is a working-class mixture of professors and labourers, and my neighbours keep a mixture of chickens, turkeys, and ducks in their yards; someone down the hill has a cow that I frequently hear but have never seen.  Consequently, if the season is right I can buy duck eggs from my neighbours (and if the season is wrong, entire Muscovy ducks for roasting.)
       

       
      Today, I'll be doing my largest fresh-food shopping at the Mercado Mayorista, the largest market of its kind in South America - this place covers nearly 30 square blocks, and it exists to both buy and sell produce from across the country.  Sundays and Mondays it also opens up to a huge, raucous farmer's market where smaller quantities are available for purchase.  Sunday is the day of the freshest food and the largest number of vendors.  And I'm going to cross more than half the city to get there - I've moved since the last blog, and my new house, on the slopes of the river valley is further away than the old one on the high plain.  I promise to take many pictures of this - particularly close to the High Holy days, the Mayorista is alive with vendors and there will be special sections cordoned off for sales of bacalao, truly enormous squashes, and if it follows the previous years' trends, a festival of Hornado (about which more later).  Apart from mangoes, which are just finishing up their season, it is harvest time across the country, and the Mayorista will be well stocked with all manner of fruits and vegetables.
       

       
      To start us off, I'll demystify one of my teasers a bit.
       

       
      The Minion head that peeks out of my cupboard every day belongs to my jar of ChocoListo, the Ecuadorian equivalent of chocolate Ovaltine.  Since I gave up coffee for Lent, it's my go-to morning beverage.  ChocoListo normally comes in the plain white jar with orange lid that you see in front of the Minion; that's now my hot chocolate jar because I just couldn't resist when the company came out with the specialty jars.  I firmly believe that one is never too old to have whimsical things!
       

    • By therese
      Good morning, y’all, and welcome to the party chez Therese.
      As per the teaser, this week’s foodblog does indeed come to you from Atlanta, where I live with my two children (hereafter known as Girl and Boy) and husband (hereafter known as The Man). Girl is 11, Boy is 14, and The Man is old enough to know better.
      Atlanta’s huge: the total metro population is about 4 million, and there are no physical boundaries to growth like rivers or mountain ranges, so people just keep moving (and commuting) farther and farther out of town. Atlantans can be divided into ITP (inside the perimeter) and OTP (outside the perimeter), the perimeter referring to the interstate freeway that encircles the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods, separating it from outlying suburbs. The politically minded may note that these areas could be designated red and blue. I’ll let you figure out which is which.
      We’re about as ITP as it gets, with home, work, school, and restaurants all in walking distance. The neighborhood’s called Druid Hills, the setting for the play/movie “Driving Miss Daisy”. The houses date from the 1920s, and because Atlanta has so little in the way of “old” buildings the neighborhood’s on the National Register as a Historic District. Charming, sure, buts lots of the houses need some updating, and ours (purchased in 1996) was no exception. So we remodeled last year, including an addition with a new kitchen, and this week’s blog will look at the finished product.
      So, some encouragement for those of you presently involved in kitchen renovation, some ideas for those who are considering it.
      But never mind all that for the moment: What’s for breakfast?


      Dutch babies, that’s what. And even better, these Dutch babies are produced by my children, the aforementioned Girl and Boy. The first picture is right from the oven, the second is after the somewhat messy job of sifting powdered sugar on top. They are delicious (the Dutch babies, I mean, not the children) and a great weekend treat.

      The Man drinks coffee in the morning whereas I prefer tea. He's not up yet, having played poker last night. I'm hoping he makes it out of bed in time for dinner.

      I also eat fruit whereas he prefers, well, anything but fruit. This is not such a bad thing, as it means that I don’t have to share the fruit. Pomegranates are a pain to eat, but not so bad if you’re reading the newspaper at the same time. This one’s from California, but you can also grow them here if you’ve got enough sunshine (which I don’t).
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