Culinary Memoirs of A Biologist Who Loves Food

Welcome, Be Hungry, and Know Your Food!

"Know and learn from what you eat", this is the main idea of this blog that set by a young Indonesian biotechnology researcher, Adhityo Wicaksono. Currently in Bahasa for Indonesian restaurant reviews, English articles will be for international reviews. Enjoy reading this blog, and hopefully later you can understand the depth of foods and beverages of the world by looking it through details within culinary art!

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Zenraku Dashi Chazuke, Jakarta

It has been 3 months since I made a visit to Japan, and seriously, I still miss their colorful but simple food. I love Japanese food so much. For me their food is so natural (some people, especially some Indonesian think that it is too bland, not for me though) and their basic tastes are simple: sweet, salty, sour, and umami – and I like it. So in short, after my food hunting in Tokyo (Ikebukuro, Chuo, and specifically Tsukiji Fish Market), Kyoto, and Niigata (for sushi), I am still looking if I could have some again here in Jakarta.

A month ago, there is a new restaurant to try in Grand Indonesia, and it is a Japanese restaurant. As their sponsored ads were popped up in my Instagram feed, and it caught my attention, I decided to make it a try on their opening day (January 19th, 2018). Their spot is cozy, their food price is also good and reachable, and the taste is cool – let’s talk about it on my review!

“So, I know you know about ochazuke. What is it?”

Chazuke or ochazuke (お茶漬け) means to submerge in tea (ocha お茶漬), so basically is a rice dish, consists of rice (plain, white) with some toppings (from fish, beef, chicken, roe, or more), then poured with tea, or hot water, or dashi (出汁) a fish (normally made of drenched fermented bonito fish flake or katsuobushi 鰹節) and or kelp (kombu 昆布) based broth, which is rich in natural umami flavor that enhance the flavors of the main ingredients to the next level. Originated in Heian Period of Japan (794-1185), hot water is used. Later in Edo Period (1603-1868). Funny enough, in Kyoto, this dish called bubuzuke and when it served to you as a guest, that means you have been overstayed in the restaurant and THAT is a polite way of the restaurant servers to ask you to leave. But I believe in Zenraku, since the main theme is chazuke, it doesn’t mean that way! Hehe (but of course don’t stay too long and buy nothing, it’s improper!).

So I ordered two kinds of chazuke that day: Salmon – as my first impression to see if the fish is good, and tarako or pollock roe – my favorite topping in pasta and onigiri during my visit in Japan.

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Salmon Chazuke and by the way, this is typically the set that you get: The dish, pickles plus wasabi, and a pot of dashi

So their basic rice topping is chopped mitsuba leaf (三つ葉 – it is a fragrance and a bit spicy leaf), nori (seaweed), white sesame seed, chopped leek, and tempura crumble. In some dish I saw edamame or green soybean is also added. The salmon is partially broiled, mainly on the surface. It is delicious as I tasted it. Once I poured the dashi, wow it escalated! It is awesome!

Initially, I thought there is a tea added to the dashi, but actually it is a fish-based dashi and it brings a perfect amount of salty flavor (added into the dashi), to the whole meal!

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Tarako Chazuke

The second meal, Tarako Chazuke, I poured the dashi a bit gently over rice, not to hit the roe as it will change its consistency and probably the taste. In short, I keep it raw, while I use the dashi to enhance the flavor of the rest part and slowly sips into the roe. And wow, wow, it is so delicious. The combination of tarako saltiness and the umami, it is just spot on!

It is not enough!

So then I made my second visit (February 1st, 2018). If I love the foods, I will made my second visit. This time, I couldn’t spot the Japanese chef. So things rest to the main chef of the restaurant now.

Today’s decision: To try something new (so I tried the sampler) and I think I need more fish, but probably the different one (red snapper).

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Red Snapper Chazuke

Different from the salmon, red snapper is served as cubes, and already marinated with sweet soy based sauce. The sweetness balance the saltiness of the dashi. It has more flavor than the salmon and it is delicious!

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Sampler Dashi Chazuke – Left to right: Beef, unagi (broiled eel in tare sauce), and chicken.

An extra chopped thin omelette (tamagoyaki) is added into the chicken and unagi, and edamame is also added specifically in unagi. I like the beef as it is soft and kinda melted to the rice, the chicken is good, and the unagi, it is okay – the problem is the unagi is a bit hard. In conclusion, the beef is the best one among the three.

Then, I finished my meal. All my meals are awesome, I have to say. The atmosphere was relaxing, I’d love to make another visit again someday. The price is okay, it’s reasonable and matched the quality. The thing I needed to complain is the waiter/waitress. They’re still a bit clumsy and confused during the opening, and I got a wrong food. I believe they could make it better soon, so overall, I was enjoying my lunch!

ZENRAKU DASHI CHAZUKE

Food rating: 5 out of 5

Service quality: 3 out of 5

Grand Indonesia – West Mall LG Floor. Jl. M.H. Thamrin No.1, Kb. Melati, Central Jakarta, Indonesia. Phone: +62 21 2358 0486

Cards? – Yes, Debit – Mandiri and BCA

Opening Hour:

Everyday at 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

Price Range:

Food: Chazuke (IDR 49k – 72k, extra toppings IDR 12k – 38k, add ons IDR 4k – 12k), Others (IDR 15k – 42k)

Beverage: IDR 8k – 52k

Foursquare: –

TripAdvisor: –

Zomato: Link

Tips: It probably will be crowded during lunch or dinner hours.

-AW-

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2018 – Fresh Start!

Hey guys! It has been a wonderful 2017 and I hope this year I can write many food stories here!

Let me start everything by flashback from 2013, the first road as a food blogger and writer. If you wondered why I decided to become someone like this, you maybe know: I was inspired by Anton Ego in Ratatouille and Gordon Ramsay. It is a head-up start. As I eat here and there, sometimes I was wondering about why things are quite fluctuative here in Indonesia, especially Jakarta. People were experimenting their own creations and MOST of Indonesian bloggers I know, they are simply saying “The food is good! Try one!” and “The restaurant is a good place for hangout, come there!” but they made me wonder a big question:

WHY?

In 2013, I met various talented chef and awesome restaurants during my career as food journalist on ShoppingMagz. But sometimes, I also met some cringey restaurants which tried to present me mediocre foods, but they wanted me to promote them. I also remember one story that they didn’t want me to review their food but they wanted me to promote their restaurant. Another story, this one is a quite tragic one: I found some really good restaurant, they are unique, had some original recipes and creations, sadly they were unpopular an even went to bankrupt.

WHY?

That’s my question, again. Then it lead me to write my own articles here where I could explore my writing style and telling people the truth. I was then decided that I have to be a food critics in Indonesia!

But it was SO HARD.

Reason? One, many of us are stubborn.

Me: Your food should be better if you add blablabla *ingredients*, don’t you think?

R: But, I think it was great this way

Two, many of us love to make a weird trend, called in Indonesian “kekinian” (direct translate: “nowadays”; simply “caught the eyes of the youths”). They add Nutella, Ovomaltine, green tea powder (2014-2016), now rainbows and tons of melted cheese like mozzarella and raclettes (2017ish). People loves it. From that, I just realized that I’m, most of the time is a food purist. I love martabak manis the way it is: with chocolate sprinkles, grounded peanuts, grated cheddar, a bit of toasted sesame seeds, dash of condensed milk, and some spread of butter. Yum. This beats all those Nutella. Whatever you say!

Three, you make a critique, a deep one, and people started to hate you. Even if they said that they need an input. Man, do you need an honest input that would help you to had a research on your business, or you are actually need someone to promote you?

Four, you can’t limit man’s imagination. No matter how purist you can be and no matter how idealistic are you toward food, of all variants of a single food, there will be some good ones. Even if you want to find an original version of food, let’s say, a traditional gudeg of Yogyakarta, in one of its original town, there are a lot of varieties of it. Some claimed that they used the original recipe. They’re not wrong from some perspective.

Last, five, the more you travel, explore the globe, visited many nations, you will learn that:

  1. You could rate some foods because you already know the best one or the original one
  2. You could rate some foods, compared them with another as long they are good. Reason: Why bother with the bad one?
  3. Sometimes you don’t need to rate some food because some experience are beyond a mere rating and honestly, beyond any explanations, because when you eat it you are simply enjoying it!
  4. Some foods are also don’t need a rating because you are trying to educate people to know what’s the original version looks like, and how it would change in different places, and how if people trying their best to tweak them

Don’t get me wrong, criticizing some foods, drinks, and a restaurant is fun sometimes and I will continue doing it in the future, but I’d rather not doing it if those are really really bad (in my rating, below mediocre or below 3 out of 5) because it will spread a bad vibe to myself. And I will writing more rating-less food articles as I will go travel in more places in the future!

In my start of 2018, I’m deeply inspired by this guy and his YouTube channel: Mark Wiens. He’s an awesome traveler and food vlogger. He always seems to enjoy his meal and his trips in various countries and I believe that he LOVES whatever he does.

Love

Let’s start 2018 with that. Let’s spread good vibe and positivity! And last but not least, I wish all the best for us this year, I wish I could travel in more place around the world in tandem with the growth of my scientific carrier!

Note:

  • I am open to food promotion and endorsement, after I tried it. So if you interested in my concept, give me one first, I’ll do my work next. I will never review something that is not good for my taste buds, because it will make me lying. Contact me as the e-mail address written on the “About Me” page.
  • I would love to review an original concept rather than the common one. I love uniqueness and originality.
  • I will only review modified or fusion foods and drinks that don’t defy the original idea. I’m a purist. I love authentic sushi more than the fusion one.
  • I’d be happy if someone would sponsor me to have a culinary journey in some regions.

-A.W.

Sea Pineapple Sashimi – When You’re Eating Plant-like Animal

Some people might asked me, “What is your strangest meal you’ve ever had?”

A decade ago, I might answer swordfish. It has chicken-like texture while has a fish like flavor, so I mentioned it like when you eat a chicken in the sea. Five years ago, I might answer sea urchin roe. It has a creamy, pasty, like consistency with there are some sea-like flavor you might be confused to imagine. Even I wrote an article about it (in Bahasa Indonesia).

Now? Whatever I mentioned, it felt just nothing.

Nope, I’m not eating some random insects nor worms (although it might be considered staple food in some part of Asia, for example the sago worm in West Papua region), but no, even I’m not eating insect… whatever I’ll show you, will probably make you think that insects are something normal. And for God’s sake, it is not poop!

Brace yourself…

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That red thing…

That thing’s called sea pineapple. No, it’s not SpongeBob’s home. It is actually a tunicate (Urochordata), in Japan some people mentioned it as Hoya (ホヤ), scientifically called Halocynthia roretzi (Von Drasche). If you wondered what is tunicate, it is also called “sea squirt” and called to be the ancestor of modern fish.

Let me say this straight: That thing is rooting (you can see the root above) on the ocean floor and has a single-spaced heart, it was told so… later it evolved a capability to swam freely, and become fish. Mind blown, right?

Enough with the scientific things, how about its taste? More importantly, how could we eat it?

I found this alien-like fauna in Tsukiji Market, Tokyo, Japan, in the morning, when I had sightseeing around the place with my little brother. Amongst some indulgent produces like oyster, unagi or eel, premium cantaloupe, then… you see this. At first, I was reluctant to buy it. Aside to save my money, I also had a “conflicted feeling” when I see it. But then my wacky part of my brain took action, and this conversation happened…

Me: Excuse me, can I have this and eat it here?

Shellfish Monger: Sashimi?

Me: *kinda shocked, but what else could possibly done to eat it in its original form* Yes

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The sashimi form looks even more bizarre…

In disclosed way (the view was blocked because the distance and the fact that they put a barrier in the chopping area, probably to prevent any mess), I just wondered how do he managed to turn it into some kind of delicacy. All I heard was the sound of shell peeling by knife, then he added a splash of soy sauce, and put some toothpicks on it. And there you go…

Me and my little brother were never feel more confused that time. But we decided sooner to just simply dig it an sink it (as Rhett and Link said).

The verdict about the taste, it has some similar texture and taste like when you eat oyster. However it was a bit more chewy, but not rubbery, you can still bit it and flow it through your mouth. The taste was stronger, but weirder, I’m not sure, but it was a bit metallic but I’m not sure up till now. It was told that this unique flavor comes from unsaturated alcohol substance called cynthiaol (Nguyen et al., 2007).

To conclude everything, it was a unique, bizarre, and awesome at the same time to had this as something you could it in the morning during your trip in Japan!

Reference

Nguyen, T., Taniguchi, N., Nakajima, M., Na-Nakorn, U., Sukumasavin, N. and Yamamoto, K., 2007. Aquaculture of sea-pineapple, Halocynthia roretzi in Japan. AQUACULTURE ASIA, 12(2), p.21.

Where to buy:

Tsukiji Market, Chuo, Tokyo, Japan.

Price: JPY 600 per piece.

-AW-

Yubari King Melon – World’s Most Expensive Melon!

Everybody loves melon. They are sweet, some are crunchy, some are soft and melts when you take a sip in your spoon. Did you know that there is a melon so expensive, it was once sold in auction for USD 23.5k?? Guess what, Yubari King Melon from Japan.

The melon is a hybrid cultivar (Cucumis melo ‘Yubari King’ – Hybrid between Earl’s Favourite x Burpee’s “Spicy” Cantaloupe. When you can see below, the coloration is golden orange, and it’s beautiful… and also you can see there is only small part of subdermal flesh is available, contrast to normal melons.

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Sliced Yubari melon in Tsukiji Market, Tokyo

Yubari King Melon is one of the fruits produced in Hokkaido, the northern part of Japan. As you can tell, the climate is dramatic.

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Fruits of Hokkaido in Tsukiji Market, Tokyo. You can see some specials: Yubari King Melon (JPY 800 per cut) and Pink Strawberry (JPY 800 per stick)

I made a quick research today (here and here) : It was said that the plant was kept in unfriendly climate of Hokkaido so it grown specially in the greenhouse. Only one fruit grown per plant, maximizing the sugary photosynthetic input only to one fruit. The farmer cut the badly grown female flower and pollinate it manually using paintbrush. To prevent sunburn, EACH fruit was capped with “hats”.  In the end, it was said that only the “strongest” fruit survive until harvesting time. The harvested fruit stem was sniped nicely by the farmer to keep it aesthetically appealing, to complement the perfectly round fruit.

Okay, for the taste…

It was crunchy and sweet, very sweet! Although honestly it is not as sweet as Indonesian melon I bought in my home country, the flavor is very consistent. I believe that you will get the same premium sweetness if you buy another Yubari melon, while in here, you may get the plain one or the sweet one. Another aspect is the subdermal flesh to main fruit flesh ratio. Normal melon has larger subdermal flesh, Yubari melon has smaller part of subdermal flesh. You can basically eat the flesh to the nearest bites next to the rind! Well, it is worth it the price.

Where to buy:

I bought it on Tsukiji Market, Tokyo, Japan. Some recommendations say to check it on Sembikiya Market in Tokyo.

-AW-

Unagi Hashimoto, Tokyo

I love to eat unagi ever since my first try a long time ago. If you ever wonder what unagi is, it is a Japanese term for eel, specifically, grilled eel (unagi kabayaki, うなぎ蒲焼). I remembered the first time eating it on Sushi Tei Indonesia in around 2009ish, the moment when the quality of restaurant is still very good (now most of the unagi is chewy, and sliced thinly in smaller portion). And now it is very very hard to find a good unagi, and probably if you found one, the price will suck your wallet dry. The declining population of freshwater eel is also contributing to this rarity.

I know that the best unagi is served in Tokyo and Shizuoka area. The question was, where to buy it?

Thank God, last November I had a chance to visit Japan! My goals are food, study, and family. To have a remarkable culinary trip, to meet my potential professor for PhD and for research collaboration, and to walk with my brother and my new family (me and my new siblings, long story to tell).

And then, I found this:

There are only few traditional restaurants on this planet made their mark to The Michelin Guide, and even has certified with one star! So then me and my little brother, Arif, went to the Chuo neighborhood, we went to the designated location using Google Map, commuted along Yurakucho Line from Ikebukuro Station to Edogawabashi Station, and ended up in the exit no. 4.

It was our last day to travel in Tokyo before we went back to Indonesia again. The day was already getting darker, and cold. Then we walked and walked, and we arrived in the restaurant. There was a warm feeling by seeing it. It is, not only a restaurant, I said, it looks more like a house, a home for someone.

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The warm front door

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It looks and feels like a home, right?

Then we went in through the sliding door, it was quiet. Some men and a couple talked in their seats in farther distance.

“いっらしゃいませ!(Irrashaimase! – Welcome!)”

An old lady greets us, then she leaded us to our seats, “Is it okay if you seat on tatami?” We nodded as we agreed, and she smiled when we made an attempt to seat in (painful) Japanese manner, “Sit normally, it is okay” then she showed us the English menu of the restaurant. There was normal unagi don or grilled unagi over rice bowl (うなぎ丼), unagi kabayaki or grilled unagi served without rice (うなぎ蒲焼), and unagi shioyaki (shio means salt – 塩, yaki means grilled 焼き) or unagi served without the sweet tare (たれ) sauce, more to the unagi original taste – suitable if you want to try the real taste of the eel. We ordered the medium sized unagi don. Then the old lady handed us a warm wet towel and a cup of lukewarm green tea. We feel so much at home.

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The restaurant interior, seen from my little brother seat perspective

It was quite long, it maybe took 20-30 minutes to serve, but we understood since they grilled the eel from scratch, we know that it would gonna worth every yen we spend there. Then, the renown dish arrived. We glanced, we gulped, and we were amazed… so much.

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The Unagi Don (うなぎ丼) Set with Various Pickles, and (not included but given for free) The Green Tea

The dish was so simple, so humble, yet appears so majestic. You can tell it was properly grilled and done by a very passionate person in a kitchen.

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The grilled unagi over the rice

The rice was so uniform, sticky, and in perfect consistency, you can grip them while using a chopsticks no matter it was already glazed with the sauce on the top. The eel meat was so fluffy yet melted like butter when you cut them with chopsticks. As I grow in Indonesia, we always thought that unagi is sweet. We were wrong. It has deep flavor comes from both the fat of the unagi, and the soy sauce or shoyu (which normally salty) but added with some sugar to make a tare sauce which sweetness only tasted for a bit. There was only one downside for the dish, we had some eel spines, but we managed to pick them and we’re fine to continue.

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The various pickles

When we eat unagi, we are normally also served with pickles or a dried spice called sansho (山椒) or Japanese pepper from a plant called Zanthoxylum piperitum (L.) DC. As sansho is for addition of peppery flavor, the pickles are for neutralizing the taste bud. Here, they have one salty pickles made of cabbage, and two from radish or daikon – one in original taste (a bit salty) and one in sweeter taste. If you eat the unagi and the pickles in returns, you can relive the flavor of unagi for again and again. It was fantastic!

Then we finished our meal, in the same time, we were thankful for the meal! I said to the old lady, “This is the best unagi (we ever had)!” (“これは最高なうなぎです!!”) and she thanked us and she said that she’s glad. Then we paid the meal and leave. We wish to have the experience again one day in the future for more!

 

UNAGI HASHIMOTO (うなぎはし本)

Michelin Guide Star: 1 out of 3

My Rating: √√√√√ (4.9 out of 5)

2-5-7 Suido, Bunkyo-ku, Chuo, Tokyo. Phone: +81 33811 4850. Website: Link

Closest Station: Edogawabashi (Gate 4), Yurakucho Line

Open Hours:

Everyday except Thursday – Lunch: 11:30 am – 02:00 pm, Dinner: 04:30 pm – 08:00 pm (last order at 07:30 pm)

Price Range:

Small Dish: JPY 250 – 700

Main Dish: JPY 700 – 4000 (Unagi ranged from JPY 2600 – 4000)

Beverage: Green tea (Ocha) is free, the rest JPY 550 – 900

Foursquare: Link

TripAdvisor: Link

Notes: It is a quiet restaurant, it is a nice place for romantic or easy dining. Not for family visit.

-AW-

International Food! (Part 5) – Ghanaian Jollof Rice

Man, it has been more than one year since I wrote my last article. I supposed to write this one down in August 2016, but apparently due to a hectic transition of myself, I had to prioritize some other things first and I haven’t had any time to write this down.

Okay, so short story, I went back from Finland to Indonesia and I have to search for another place, somewhere in this world to continue my PhD, while now I become a teacher for university preparation school in Jakarta, where I teach high school students for biology subject. Back to topic, some moments before I went back to Indonesia, my good friend, Kofi from Ghana, taught me how to cook a special dish originated from his home country! Here it is:

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Veggie Jollof Rice!

At first glance, I thought it was a bit confusing why there are some European spices, rice, and tomato are like gathered together in a potluck, then I realized the backstory of Swedish colonization in Ghana. Much like the cultural exchange between Indonesia and Netherlands (mentioned in my old article written in Bahasa Indonesia).

As I remember, you only need some chopped ginger, garlic, onion, chopped tomato (or bottled Marinara sauce), tomato paste, oregano, some salt and pepper, and also chicken for additional topping and Basmati rice as major ingredients. To mash the ginger and garlic, you can use pestle and mortar, or you can go traditional and use Ghanaian Ayewa instead!

ayewa

Ayewa

First, boil some chicken legs, add some salt and pepper.

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Mash the ginger and garlic

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The result

Chop the ginger, onion, and garlic for sautéing. Mash more chopped garlic and ginger, and add into the boiled chicken for extra flavor. Roast the chicken for later topping for rice, and leave the stock for making tomato sauce, keep boiling until more oil appeared on the surface.

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Chop the onion

Hot the pan, pour some olive oil, add the garlic and ginger, and then the onion. Add some pepper and salts.

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The chicken (top) prior to roasting, and sautéing pan.

Add chopped tomato and tomato paste into the pan, sprinkle the dried oregano. Pour some of the chicken stocks, reduce it until the oil separated on top of the pan.

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Mixed with tomato

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Tomato reduction oil, poured into the rice cooker bowl

Add the oil from tomato reduction and some of the tomato sauce part into the rice cooker bowl. Pour the uncooked rice, and mix well. Add some frozen vegetables if desired.

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Add the uncooked rice

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Balance the mixture, so it won’t be too oily, but not too plain as well

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Add some water to cook the rice. Switch the cooker on.

Cook the rice on rice cooker. Alternatively, you can cook it on stove as well, although it will be longer to done.

Assemble the chicken, sauce, and rice.

It will be like this:

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Jollof Rice with Chicken

Enjoy!

Part 1 – PaF International Food Night

Part 2 – Peruvian Lunch and Bunny Chow

Part 3 – Venezuelan Street Foods

Part 4 – Medieval Dishes

-AW-

International Food! (Part 4) – Medieval Lunch at A.D. 1393

I had a chance to go around the Second Restaurant Day in August 11th, 2016! On that day, I visited a food tent built only at the following day on the park of Turun Linna (FI: Turku Castle). The place caught my attention as they mentioned in the restaurant day website that they serve medieval food. And so I went there…

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A.D. 1393

As I walked, as someone who watched Game of Thrones like me thought I hope this is not the tent diorama of Red Wedding or something in Jeoffrey’s wedding this food tent named A.D. 1393 looks like something out of the medieval age, built by the peasants around the king’s castle. Later, I was to getting so curious on what kind of food they serve there.

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The book where all the recipes come from.

I saw some people dressed in medieval style and then I saw some foods. Firstly I asked them about how they managed to recreate the food, and they answered that they got the reference from a book called “The Good Wife’s Guide”, a translated book, translated by Gina L. Greco and Christine M. Rose.

Wow… that’s really interesting! So how’s the food?

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Boiled Pike with Yellow Sauce, served with bread, Saffron Rice, and Creamy Spelt

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The Yellow Sauce for the fish

I was amazed on the simplicity of the meal I had.

Me: How did you cook this fish?

Woman: We just simply clean the pike, dice them, and then boil them in the water with salt.

Me: That’s it??

Woman: Yup!

The flavor of the fish is very natural… I mean, it’s so natural, the… fishy flavor are still there! Even the spikes are still there. Although the yellow sauce (I forgot to ask on how it’s made) gave a bit flavor in it. The rice and spelt are also unique for me. The saffron rice has a near risotto like flavor, but more bland except the taste of cream, same for me on the spelt.

Woman: To make the rice and spelt, cook each of them with 50:50 of water and milk until they soften and absorbed the liquid. Add egg yolk and mix them until their texture are like carbonara pasta. For the rice, add a bit of saffron.

Ummm… I don’t know if I forget but… no seasoning at all mentioned by the book? Or is it because spices are pretty expensive in 14th century?

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Pea Soup with Bread.

The pea soup has better flavor than the fish in my opinion. We have a good combination of onion and pea sweetness in it.

Me: How about this pea soup?

Woman: We boiled the whole onion, chopped it, and add the pea to the mix.

Me: Nothing more? For the seasoning?

Woman: Well, salt and pepper… and also white wine.

It amazed me, honestly. I never know a method of cooking the onion by boiling them and diced them and then placing them back in the pan for sautéing with oil. Later, white wine and water are added and reduced. To enhance the flavor, salt, pepper, and ginger is added.

I read a book about medieval food before, a Roman book made by Apicius (first written cookbook in history). I saw many… well, I’m not sure that bizarre is a right word, but… intriguing way to cook in earlier time. Less flavor and the ingredient’s natural flavor is the key.

I wonder how was the medieval food of my country looks like…

Part 1 – PaF International Food Night

Part 2 – Peruvian Lunch and Bunny Chow

Part 3 – Venezuelan Street Foods

Part 5 – African Jollof Rice

-AW-

International Food! (Part 3) – Venezuelan Street Food Lunch

For me, I feel sad to leave Turku. The place is really inspiring, calm, and I also have a lot of good friend there. Before I went off from Finland, my good friends, Diosa and Jens made a memorable farewell party of Venezuelan street food! Venezuela is Diosa’s home country. I was very excited at the moment because like I said in the previous blog article, Southern American food is something new and rare for me! As in my previous review on my Peruvian lunch, Venezuelan food has similarities with them as they also mainly use corn as their basic ingredients.

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Arepa

The center of attention would be this arepa. This maize-based bread is staple in Venezuela and it’s good to eat it like we normally eat sandwich. Interestingly, it has nice corn fragrance and aftertaste. To eat the arepa, we mixed it wit some other stuffs:

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Reina Papiada

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Carne Mechada

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Caraotas Negras

Reina Papiada, Carne Mechada and Caraotas Negras served as main fillings of the arepa this time. Reina Papiada is a pulled chicken tights, mixed with creamy avocado sauce consists of onion, leek, garlic, mayonnaise, corn oil, salt , and pepper. Carne Mechada is pulled beef with tomato sauce. Caraotas Negras is black bean and pork. To make them taste better, we add them with cheese, or some sauces.

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Sweet Corn Sauce (top) and Bacon Sauce (bottom)

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Guasacaca

Sweet corn sauce, bacon sauce, and Guasacaca are the creamy sauces. Of all, Guasacaca is the most known sauce traditionally from Southern America, including Venezuela. It’s composed mainly of avocado, lemon juice, and garlic. For me, sweet corn sauce will be nice to combine with Reina Papiada, while Guasacaca is for Carne Mechada. I didn’t eat the Caraotas Negras and bacon sauce since I’m not eating pork. The combination of chicken and corn, and beef and Guasacaca are truly amazing!

ve-arepa-con-gallo

Arepa + Reina Papiada + Corn sauce + cheese

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Arepa + Guasacaca + Carne Mechada + Cheese

Other than the Arepa mixes, Diosa and Jens made us this…

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Ensalada de Gallina (SP: Chicken Salad)

Ensalada de Gallina is a fresh pulled chicken salad made of pulled chicken tights, leek, onion, potato, carrots, asparagus, and more. It has rich flavor but really fresh to eat as an appetizer or in-between meals.

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Alfajores de Maizena

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The sandwich version.

Alfajores de Maizena is corn-based cookies. We ate them as whole, or mixed like sandwich, bound with dulce de leche (milk-caramel-based sauce) and sprinkled with shaved coconut. For a sweet tooth like me, it tastes amazing! I love the sweetness of the caramel and the corn, and the fragrance of the corn popping out from the cookies!

I had a wonderful last lunch with my friends that afternoon. I wish I can see them again in the future…

PS:

aw-jl-dsv

My special thanks to Jens and Diosa! Wish to see you guys again in Japan! 😉

Part 1 – PaF International Food Night

Part 2 – Peruvian Lunch and Bunny Chow

Part 4 – Medieval Dishes

Part 5 – African Jollof Rice

-AW-

International Food! (Part 2) – Peruvian Food and Bunny Chow at The First Restaurant Day

Thing I like from many things in my journey at Turku, people are so festive for many celebrations. There are many celebration held throughout the year. For example, one of the enjoyable event for me is the restaurant day. There are two restaurant days in a year: The first one was in May (21st) and later in August (21st).

The restaurant days are held in ALL country of Europe and everyone may open their own restaurants with their own specialty dishes. Normally, when people are about to open their restaurant, they enlist themselves to the restaurant day event website, so other people who would like to find something to eat may see where and when the restaurants are throughout the countries.

On that day, May 21st of 2016, I was going around the city with my good friends, Diosa and Jens. I was curious as they (also with my lab supervisor, Adolfo) mentioned that there are some Peruvian students open their own Peruvian restaurant for a day! When before I mentioned that I’m so rarely tried African dishes (before I met Joel and Kofi, I ate… an apparent African dish, made by my friend, Dwiki), I NEVER ate any Southern American dish in my whole life!

So then, we gathered at 11 AM on Student Village. As we enter the house, they were selling many foods, cakes, and some drinks (Chicha Morada and Chicha de Jora).

Peruvian Causa Rellena

Causa Rellena

Causa is a basic name for a dish made of yellow potato, mixed with lime (hence it taste a bit sour), onion, chili, and oil. Rellena is Spanish for stuffed. So combined, it’s stuffed (well, because it’s mashed potato, the word is layered) causa. Causa rellena is like a sandwich of mashed potato, filled with pulled chicken meat, veggies (corn, peas, and paprika), with mayo (I think). It tastes good and solid enough to give you power as a morning starter.

Peruvian Tamale

Tamales

Tamales is a dish normally found in Latin countries (I read that it also available in Mexico), made of boiled mashed corn, mixed with some spices, meat, and in this case black bean, tomato, and boiled egg, and placed in folded banana leaf and steamed. I love the tangy flavor from the spices and tomato and bean. It reminds me of chili con carne. I’m not confused, I believe they used paprika and cumin for the spicing.

Peruvian Ceviche

Peruvian Ceviche

Ceviche is raw fish, diced, poured with hot-spiced lemon juice, and served with potato, sweet potato, red onion as topping, and Peruvian corn nut. For me, I can’t handle the food! It’s too sour and hot at the same time, so in the end, I only ate some bites of the fish, the potato, sweet potato, and the corn nuts. The unique thing for me is the corn nut. As I learned a bit about maize plant for my thesis, corn nut is quite strange for me. Corn nut is basically Peruvian corn kernels that turned into crunchy snack bites. It has some fluffy bites of starch inside the kernel, but it doesn’t pop like popcorn. This Peruvian corn is also known as Inca corn, it has long and large kernels.

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The Beverages

For the drink, I had myself a Chicha Morada. A sweet, purple non-alcoholic beverage made by boiling Peruvian purple corn in water with a big chunk of pineapple, cinnamon, cloves, and sugar. So in the end, you got a sweet, a bit sour, and aromatic drink. It tastes really good for me when it’s cold. Overall, Chicha is brewed or fermented drink made of corn. Although it’s non-alcoholic unlike its counterpart Chicha de Jora, I believe the similarity lies with the process as it requires hours to allow the flavors from the corn, pineapple, and the spices to mixed properly before served.

After we stuffed with the Peruvian delicacies, we walked to the City Center (or Marketplace, Kauppatori) to find something interesting before we go back home.

Then I found this… well, consider this one a bonus (other than the Peruvian food):

South African Small Bunny Chow

Mini Version of South African Chicken Bunny Chow

There’s a food stand selling South African unique dish called Bunny Chow. The reason of why I said it’s unique is because Bunny Chow is a combination of spicy, thick, curry (can be either chicken or red meat like lamb) served inside a bread.

bunny-chow_30_1-1-17_326x580

The Full Size Bunny Chow (Source: Link)

On the miniaturized version I had in Turku, I had chicken Bunny Chow. It served with bread in the bottom, topped with mayonnaise, and also with chopped cucumber, tomato, and coriander leaves. The taste is fine, nothing much because I couldn’t taste the curry flavor and the bread is too small, but if you like curry, you need to try this one!

PS: Thanks to Diosa and Jens for accompanying me during The Restaurant Day!

There are a lot of story about international food during my study in Turku, click one of these to see the others!

Part 1 – PaF International Food Night

Part 3 – Venezuelan Lunch!

Part 4 – Medieval Dishes

Part 5 – African Jollof Rice

-AW-

International Food! (Part 1) – PaF International Food Night

During my stay in Turku, I’m so glad that I could see many food from different cultures in the world. It’s so lovely to be in a place that become a mixing bowl of people! Here in this article, I want to share my experiences when I tried many dishes from Nepal to South Africa, from Ghana to Peru, and from Iran to Finland. In this part of my article blog (it will be continued on the next articles), I will share my experience in Åbo Akademi University, Lab of Paper Coating and Converting’s International Food Night!

The event was held in April 28th, 2016. On that moment, the only thing I regretted was I didn’t bring any Indonesian cuisine! Why? To be honest, despite of my cooking “experiments”, Indonesian food is still too complex for me to cook, if there anything simple like fried tempeh, it’s not available in Turku!

Well, you could make an Indonesian Fried Rice, couldn’t you?

Nope… I doubt that. I define fried rice as rice, spices, and then I cooked it in a pan.

Okay, let’s go to the event!

Funny thing, the event was started for me on the lunchtime of the following day! At the time, I remember my friend, Joel, brought a massive pot and many ingredients with him. Then when I walked to the common room of the lab, mmmm… it smells nice! Then this conversation happened:

Me: Guys, you cooking something for lunch?

Joel: Yeah, I sent e-mail to all of you, Did you get one?

Me: Mail? What mail?

Mahdi: That means you are not invited *put a trollface smile here*

Me: …………wait *opening my mail in my iPad* Oh, that mail… *cringe smile*

Then everyone started to gather in the table. I remembered Kofi helped Joel, also Mahdi, while making garri. Then, one by one, the food was ready to eat and all of them smell really amazing!

Ghanaian-Kenyan Garri with Beef Stew and Vegetables

Ghanaian Garri, served with Kenyan Stir Fried Spinach, Cabbage, and Beef Stew.

Honestly, I was never tried anything authentic from Africa, especially the cuisines. Getting this Ghana-African lunch for me is a wonder for me! In my mind, I thought African food would be simple, they have veggies, some influences come from Arabian countries and Europe, so maybe the meals are cooked with plenty of fragrant spices? In reality while I tried the dish Joel and Kofi cooked, yep, the meals are simple, but they are all packed with flavor! For this lunch carbo, we had garri. Garri was originated from Ghana, and it’s made from cassava root. The garri cassava powder was mixed with water and then it mixed thoroughly until its consistency turned into… well… something like mashed potato by stickier and harder. For the veggies, there were two kinds: cabbage and spinach. Then there is a beef stew. Of all spices and herbs added, coriander is the most dominant in flavor. Coriander leaves and stem was added into the dishes. Everything was fantastic and delicious! And they have the similarity with some of Indonesian way to eat: by hands!

Once we finished our lunch, everyone were prepared themselves for the night’s meals. I went back to my room and studied as the next day was biomimetic exam. Just about two hours later…

*Nara passed my room and wave his hand*

Me: Hi! Where are you going?

Nara: I will going to the Nepali restaurant with Mukunda to bring the food for tonight

Me: Ah nice! *then I followed Nara to Mukunda’s room*

Me: So… what food are you planning to bring tonight?

Mukunda: We’re planning to bring pakora and other stuffs for tonight.

Me: Ummm… can I join you guys to the restaurant?

Mukunda & Nara: Sure! We’re going in one hour from now. It’s still too early, you know…

Then we walked to Himalayan Kitchen, Nepali restaurant that I believe, it belongs to Mukunda’s friend.

Nepali Momo

Nepali Momo

Then, when I walked near the door, I saw an image of dumplings. It drove my curiosity.

Me: Mukunda, what is that?

Mukunda: Oh, that’s momo. It’s a dumpling filled with meat.

Me: That seems nice! Can I try some?

Mukunda: Sure, you can ask the waiter when he gets here!

Right, to be honest, I’m still ¾ full after my lunch. But well, for the sake of curiosity…

Nepali Momo (Inside)

Nepali Momo with The Spicy Chutney

The dumplings are made of spicy minced lamb and served with a light, curry-like, spicy chutney. It tastes amazing! I love when the strong flavor of the lamb mixed with the mild but rich flavor of the chutney. So yummy!

It was 4:30 in the afternoon. Then we walked back to the lab and placed the food in the class room (we turned it into a hall where we eat). As the clock was ticking to 6 PM, everyone came with their foods and astonished my eyes.

Finnish Korvapusti

The foods. The frontmost one are Ruut’s Finnish korvapuusti, a Finnish cinnamon roll.

Finnish Riisipirakka

Mari’s Finnish Riisipirakka (Rice Pasty)

Finnish Savulohi

ÄV’s (Nordic Style… I thought) Hot Smoked Salmon

We had two Finnish foods that night. Mari brought us riisipirakka, rice pasties, a creamy rice porridge placed in a frame of rye thin bread (is it bread?) and served with munavoi (FI: egg butter – hard boiled egg, chopped and mixed with butter). Minus the munavoi, riisipirakka is really amazing, I normally ate them for breakfast. Then also korvapuusti that Ruut brought. It obviously similar to normal cinnamon rolls, but as many Finnish sweet breads, it’s added with cardamon inside to bring a unique flavor and aroma. Other than that, ÄV brought us freshly smoked salmon! And later, Peter brought vispipuuro (Finnish name, also in Swedish klappgröt, whipped porridge) a light, fluffy, semolina porridge that normally mixed with frut flavor (commonly lingonberry) and eaten with milk (trust me, without milk, it will taste very strange).

Greek Spanakopita

Dimi’s Spanakopita

Going southwards, I tried Dimi’s spanakopita (σπανακοπιτα, GR: Spinach triangle). It was made with puff pastry, spinach mixed with Greek hard lefkotiri or kefalotyri cheese that made from goat cheese, bulgur wheat, and eggs. It tastes amazing, although I wonder why he didn’t use the phyllo pastry for it?

Dimi: Well, it supposedly use the phyllo pastry, but the problem in here is the humidity is low and it will become dry and fragile to fold, so instead I used the normal puff pastry

Okay, got it!

Nepali Pakorra

Mukunda and Nara-brought, Nepali (basically from whole Indian continent) Vegetable Pakora

Then finally I got to know what Mukunda and Nara brought. The vegetable pakora, chopped veggies, some peas, and mixed with (CMIIW) spicy pea flour and then fried and eaten with mint chutney. I like the spiciness of the flavor meet the zingy mint flavor of the chutney. Then also, they brought something amazing: Mango Lassi. That’s honestly THE BEST LASSI I’ve ever tried! The mango sweetness, the spices like anise and cinnamon, mixed together with sour milk… it’s so yummy!

Iranian Kashk-e-Bademjan

Mahdi’s Kashk-e-bademjan…

Iranian Kashk-e-Bademjan in Pita

…with pita bread

Mahdi made us Iranian Kashk-e-Bademjan (كش بدمجن; IR: Kashk and Eggplant). Kashk… or I forgot, a cream or something (I remembered it’s a milk-made product), mixed with eggplant, spices, crushed walnuts, and caramelized onion. The rich flavor tastes really good when eaten with pita bread (rolled). If it eaten with nothing, for me the taste is very strong and oily.

Indian Panipuri

Vinay’s and Rajesh’s Panipuri

As the event already minutes after it started, Rajesh and Vinay arrived with Indian street food, panipuri. It’s a fried hollow dough eaten with some toppings…

Vinay: As you can see there, you eat it by crushing the top side. That’s the tricky part: You have to make sure that both side is different; the top side is crunchy enough to be crushed when you eat it, but the bottom side is strong enough to carry the dough and all the topping.

The panipuri is a hollow dough, in this time eaten with spiced potato for the topping and poured with spiced water (puri). It has good taste and quite addicting to crack and eat them!

Then we spent the night by watching Mahdi’s presentation on Iran, some chats, then I went back to my apartment to study for the next day’s exam. It’s unforgettable night for my stomach as I learned many dishes from many countries. Still, I wish I could bring them some lemper (Indonesian coconut milk flavored sticky rice filled with spicy pulled chicken meat) and some sweets.

Next:

Part 2 – Peruvian Lunch and Bunny Chow

Part 3 – Venezuelan Street Foods

Part 4 – Medieval Dishes

Part 5 – African Jollof Rice

-AW-

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