om nom'ing abroad

Om nom nom’ing abroad – A culinary tour through Nepal

I’ve just returned from another whirl-wind adventure abroad – this time to Nepal. Some may remember the Yak-filled two-weeks I had in China and Tibet.  Personally, I was a bit worried Nepal would end up being the same. However, I’m happy to report that the Himalayas appropriately divide Nepal and Tibet in both geography and food. The cuisine was very much more influenced by India, but with just a hint of Chinese. In other words, pretty damn good.

Here’s a bit of what I enjoyed…

A sort of Thali with crispy rice as a pre-dinner snack

Delicious steamed pork momos with a spicy carrot coriander dipping sauce - enjoyed at a random road-side diner in the middle of nowhere

Great little snack of a fried egg and two types of pancake (one very similiar to dosa)

More momos... This time half steamed, half fried, filled with buffalo. Delish!

And while not actually in Nepal, I couldn’t help but stop by the Dairy Queen during our connection in Oman for a Butterfinger Blizzard. It was just as delicious in Arabic as it is in English

A culinary photo tour of China and Tibet

Way back in September, I spent an incredible two weeks split between Beijing and Lhasa. We had a few days in the big city and then a two-day smelly  train ride across the country and into the heart of Tibet. We saw mountains (like, the mountain – Mt Everest), we ate yak, we ran out of breath walking up a flight of stairs thanks to the altitude, I tried lung for the first time (no, thank you) and generally had a wicked, crazy time.

Here’s the evidence…

Crunchy tofu

All this for just £10/person and soooo much better than Chinatown

 

Yak dumplings

Proper Peking duck

Sweet tofu with edamame

Hot pot beef with dumpling and chilli

A yak feast in Tibet (lots and lots of yak - which wasn't really all that nice)

om nom nom’ing in Iceland: Fjöruborðið – Stokkseyri

You simply can’t go to Iceland without having lobster. Lots and lots of it. Which is precisely what we did at Fjöruborðið, a small, but famous seaside restaurant on the southern coast of the country, about a 45 minute drive from Reykjavik.

The menu is simple. You choose how much lobster you want, the trimmings and wait until the bring you out a bowl of goodness.

We chose the 3-course feast, which started with an incredibly rich bowl of lobster soup scented with a hint of nutmeg and luscious chunks of tender lobster meat. The communal main course came with 300g each of lobster, new potatoes, salad, couscous

Each lobster was smaller than I would have imagined – more the size of a giant giant GIANT Tiger Prawn. Messy and succulent, each was an absolute delight, smothered in the best garlic butter I’ve ever had. And even though 300g doesn’t sound like a massive amount, I had never been so full in my life by the time we finished.

We waited about 30 minutes before we could even contemplated dessert. I’m still not sure it was a good idea to have it at all. On one hand, the giant Mars Bar Meringue, fresh Carrot Cake and decadent Chocolate cake were all incredible, but on the other, I think my stomach could have likely burst by the end.

The meal was amazing, but I have to say the highlight of the experience may not have even featured food at all. On the drive back to Reykjavik, we stopped on the side of the road to take pictures of this:

The perfect end to a perfect evening.

Fjöruborðið
Eyrarbraut 3a
825 Stokkseyri
Iceland
Tel: 00354 483 1550

om nom nom’ing in Iceland: Cheap eats in Reykjavik

Two things about Iceland that you need to know before you read this post:

  1. It’s awesome
  2. I’ve always always always wanted to go, so regardless, I’m probably going to be a bit biased

But seriously, what an amazing, bizarrely wonderful place. In three days, I managed to hit the beach, see a glacier, trek through mountains, get up close and personal with a giant waterfall, go whale watching (though admittedly I spent the whole time below deck, violently sea sick), eat puffin and whale (perhaps in retaliation for not being able to see them on a boat), and not once see the night sky.

It’s also not as expensive as one would have you believe – at least food wise. Our proper nice meal was lobster at Fjorubordid in the slightly dodgy-looking/slightly-charming seaside village Stokkeyri, but in all honesty, it deserves its own post.

Instead, here is a quick roundup of cheap eats in Reykjavik should you find yourself there on a limited budget.

In terms of Icelandic cuisine, you must absolutely not miss what is literally the most popular restaurant in Reykjavik: Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. Just your normal everyday hot dog stand.

For about £2, you get ‘the works’ a classic Icelandic mix of spicy mustard, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion, and remolaði – a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish. It was amazing.

Also not to be missed, the lobster soup at Saegreifinn – The Sea Baron. Luscious and rich, with huge chunks of fresh lobster. We ate outside looking over the harbour of fish boats, and it was a total delight.

And of course, what trip to Iceland could be complete without trying those adorably cute puffin and morally-compromising whale? We tried both at Tapas Barinn, an Icelandic/Spanish small plates restaurant in the heart of the city that had a dining room darker and redder than Satan’s soul – which means none of my pictures turned out. So here’s this instead:

The verdict? I liked both. Smoked puffin tastes like smoked duck, and surprisingly Mink Whale tastes like beef. They weren’t the kind of thing I’d jump through hoops for, but both were pleasant enough!

My surprise of the trip was the hamburger at Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar (“Búllan”), considered to be the best in Iceland. For about £8, you get a burger, fries and a coke. It was an absolute bargain, and truly was up there with the best I’ve ever had. It put #MEATEASY and The Meat Wagon to shame.

It is more than possible to eat well on a budget in one of the most expensive countries in the world. Reykjavik isn’t huge – only about 180,000 live there – so you really can see and do (and eat!) quite a lot in a few days. It was one of the best trips I’ve had, and for about two weeks I’ve been telling everyone to go. If you get the opportunity, take it.

 

Senhora Mae: om nom nom’ing in Portugal

Trying to figure out where to eat in Lisbon there are a few things that keep popping up: Pastéis de Belém, pretty much anything ‘cheap Peri Peri’ (more on this later) and Senhora Mae.

Ranked no. 20 on Trip Advisor‘s best restaurants in Lisbon (out of 554), not budget breaking and located on the lovely hilly streets of the Alfama neighbourhood, I knew I had to try it.

Specialising in ‘modern’ Portuguese cuisines, Senhora Mae has had accolades across the board for their bold and innovative style. Oddly enough though, I couldn’t really see what was ‘Portuguese’ about the menu at all. It’s not a bad thing, just a bit of a misnomer.

Though the inside of the restaurant – with its exposed rock, beautiful oak tables and smart lighting – was beautiful, I couldn’t be tempted away from the Senhora’s rather modest patio with a view of the famous Tram 28 rumbling by every few minutes and the sound of Fava music lofting from the apartment next door. It was a good vibe.

I ordered a glass of wine and some bread with a lovely sun-dried tomato spread, but my eye was taken to the mains – odd combinations, that they were.

My immediate reaction was that the chef was pretty damn ambitious. The menu was rather large and there were a lot of different cuisine-types to boot (Duck burgers to Sweet and Sour Shrimp with Papadoms).  I was hoping it wouldn’t be disastrous (Jack of all trades, etc) and was eventually tempted by what sounded simple enough: Enrolado de Vitela c/ Amêndoa e Puré de Maçã – Rolled veal w/ almond and apple puree (14.00 €):

While it was not at all what I was expecting, somehow they pulled it off. Sure it was a bit pretentious; sure it was nearly a foot tall; and sure it had everything in it but the kitchen sink, but it worked.

The veal was sliced thin and tender, wrapped several times around a bit of spinach and mushrooms, housed in a crisp wonton and topped with a generous disc of goat’s cheese, a poached apple and caramelised figs. It should have been all wrong, but there was enough savoury to balance out the sweet. Naturally after finishing off the monster, I was stuffed. Dessert was absolutely not an option.

I’m guessing if my ‘simple’ rolled veal arrived GIANT, with everything but fireworks, the rest of the menu is the same – a recipe for disaster, surely. In fact, upon returning to London, I came across a 2/10 review from Cara at Ms Gourmet Chick for that very reason. So the only thing I can warn is: go to Senhora Mae with few expectations. You may leave happy, you may leave slightly confused, but no matter what, you will leave with a full stomach.

Largo de São Martinho 6
1149 Lisbon, Portugal
218 275 599

Pastéis de Belém: om nom nom’ing in Portugal

When I first told friends I was going to be in Lisbon over the Easter holidays, the first reaction was generally, ‘Oh my god, you HAVE to go to Pastéis de Belém for their custard tarts’. Taking good advice to heart, I ventured out within about 3 hours of arriving to the famous bakery and cafe (open for business since 1837) in the Belém district of Lisbon, just a 10 minute train ride outside the city centre.

Walking up Rua de Belém, you can almost feel the air start to change. There’s a palpable difference as you approach the giant blue awning, not eclipsed by the fact that the two (yes, two – sue me, I was on holiday) times I went in a day and a half, there was a small army of people queued outside and around the corner just to get their hands on these tasty little morsels, more commonly known as ‘pasteis de nata’.

The good news is the queue moves fast. You order on one side give your ticket to the counter.

Less than a minute later, you have this:

The most mouth-wateringly fantastic bite-sized dessert I’ve ever had. Buttery, flaky crust with the fluffiest, creamiest custard I’ve ever had, torched with a crispy contrasting layer of burnt sugar on top.

Known for moving over 18,000 tarts on a weekend day, it’s no surprise that Pastéis de Belém tarts are still warm out of the oven when you get them. It’s also no surprise that the recipe is top secret. While you can get plenty of pasteis de nata in and around Portugal (and Nando’s apparently), they’re not like this…

These tiny custard tarts, dear readers, were worth the trip to Lisbon alone – and all for just 90 euro cents per pastry.

Om Nom Nom’ing in Austria

As you read this, I am currently en route from Malaga to Lagos in Portugal, having been lucky enough to secure the three days off between the Easter holidays and the Royal Wedding giving me a fantastic 11 days off in a row. But as I’m away now, I figured I may as well get this post up about my last trip: (very) late season skiing in Austria.

And while the snow was more of a slush, I still managed to get a bit of some downhill action. The rest of it was filled with meat. Quite a lot of it too. Schnitzels, sausages, you name it.

In fact, meat was pretty much the theme of the Austrian dining experience. For example the Bernerwürstel mit Pommes (Bacon-wrapped Sausages with Fries):

…and the good ol’ Würst mit Pommes, which oddly ended up resembling a half-peeled banana:

We also tried the local dessert – Germknö-del mit Vanillesauce und Mohn (Yeast dumpling with Custer and Poppy):


This was… interesting. I still don’t know if I’m a fan or not. The vanilla sauce was lovely, a custard with a velvety texture. The dumpling was fine, but the fig filling (that was a surprise) and crumbled poppy powder over top, made for an odd combination of flavours.

A favourite of mine was the Lungauer Kasnockn (Languor Cheese Dumplings):

Sampled at the top of Hochwurzen mountain on the only good day of snow we had, this was the only classic Austrian main course I had that didn’t didn’t have pork as the main ingredient. Somewhere between gnocchi and macaroni and cheese, it was dammed rich, but very very tasty.

But my favourite bit was just a little something we picked up at the market to go along with breakfast. Nutoka: the off-brand Nutella that made me giggle every time I screwed off the lid:

See you all when I’m back from the bank holiday extravaganza!

Michigan Roundup – Part 2

My trip home for Christmas and the New Year was an interesting one. It was the first time I’ve been back where I actually got to try some new places as well as the old.  Here’s a round up of all the places I didn’t get to write about a couple weeks ago in Part 1

California Pizza Kitchen – Jamaican Jerk Pizza

It’s probably quite easy to make fun of CPK. It’s a chain that charges almost $4 for a pop, after all. But it remains a decent stand-by when out Christmas shopping. It also happens that it was the first restaurant I ever worked in. There, at a sprightly 16-years-old, I learned how pizza didn’t have to mean ‘pepperoni and cheese’. My favourite pizza to this day at CPK is the zesty Jamaican Jerk. It’s spicy, onion-y heaven.

California Pizza Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Mind, Body and Spirits: Sage-crusted Pork Loin

This was my first visit to this independent Rochester restaurant. It’s a bit hippy-ish (they grow all their own produce in a covered greenhouse out back), but I liked it. The pork was coated in a sage and ciabatta crust and served with butternut squash risotto, swiss chard, cranberries and a brown butter vinaigrette. It had a presentation that reeked of the 80s (read: PARSLEY OVERLOAD), but I can’t fault the taste. Very few things in this world go together like pork, butter and dried fruit.

Mind Body and Spirit on Urbanspoon

Frita Batidos – Chorizo Frita and Twice Fried Plantains


Frita Batidos is the second restaurant from Eve Aranoff, who is really quite famous in Ann Arbor restaurant circles. She was also on Season 6 of Top Chef. Her flagship restaurant (modestly titled, eve, naturally) is one of my favourites. This new one is a departure. Inspired by Cuban street food, it promises fresh, authentic nosh. My chorizo frita was delicious; chips *ON* the patty, sweet chili mayo. Yum! The plantains were a big miss though. Apparently ‘twice-fried’ just means cooked and then doused in oil.

Frita Batido on Urbanspoon

Pacific Rim – Japanese-Style Sablefish

Oh, Sablefish, how I love thee. I could really write an essay on this dish. Instead, I will tell you that the silky rich texture of one of the best fishes on the planet is only enhanced 10-fold by the delicious soy-tamarind glaze and glass noodles. If you ever find yourself in Ann Arbor, make a special trip for this dish.

Pacific Rim By Kana on Urbanspoon

The Fleetwood Diner – Breakfast Special

Ok, it’s not exactly fine dining at the Fleetwood, but it’s good proper American breakfast, grease and all, and I love it. It was my last meal before hopping back on a plane to London, and for that (plus the streaky bacon), it was the perfect way to go out.

Fleetwood Diner on Urbanspoon

Till next year, Michigan – you were swell!

Michigan Roundup – Part 1

One of my favourite parts of visiting home for Christmas are the restaurants – specifically in Ann Arbor. I’ve posted a few of my ‘must-go’ places before, so I won’t bore you with the many details. Instead, perhaps a pictorial food journey of ‘Tree Town’ is in order…

Aut Bar – Eggs Benedetto:

My favourite brunch place doubles as Ann Arbor’s only gay bar at night. Their slightly twisted weekly takes on Eggs Benedict (this one with a yummy spicy ham) is always a winner. The potatoes are especially tasty.

Aut Bar on Urbanspoon

 

Pacific Rim – Big Eye Tuna:

For mains at Pacific Rim (my favourite restaurant and former place of employment before I joined the big bad world of PR), my dilemma is always ‘Do I go for my favourite, my other favourite, or my other other favourite?’ This particular time I went with my ‘other’: the Big Eye Tuna. Seared tuna with a wasabi cream, ginger-miso and sweet soy sauce, served over crispy rice with a daikon salad. It is superb.

Pacific Rim By Kana on Urbanspoon

 

National Coney Island – Original Coney Dog with Fries

And of course, what trip to Michigan would be complete without a trip to a Coney Island? Whether Kerby’s, National or one of the many ‘off brands’, the consistency of the chili that goes on that lovely dense meaty pipe, is just something that can not be replicated in the UK.

National Coney Island on Urbanspoon


Five Guys – Cheeseburger with hot sauce, bacon and ketchup with Fries

And to balance the hot dog, we must mention the glorious burger. Five Guys is a national chain famous for the accolades of President Obama, their anything-you-want-on-it-for-free toppings and the all you can eat peanuts. They made it to Michigan shortly after I moved away, but I’ve tried almost every time to make it back when I’m home. It’s melt in your mouth goodness.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

Part 2 including fried chicken, more BIG American breakfasts and the Cuban street food place du jour coming up soon!

Plane Food – Heathrow Terminal 5

I go to Heathrow at least a couple times a year, and not once have I ever had the pleasure of flying out of Terminal 5. No, I’m always in the absolute craphole of Terminal 4 with it’s exposed electrical work and rubbish duty free. So it was with great pleasure that my India flight was on BA and that FINALLY after nearly three years of being open, I got to see what all the fuss is about.

I knew I had two stops: Mulberry (for a bit of tax-free naughty handbag shopping) and Plane Food, Gordon Ramsay’s cleverly-titled outpost smack-dab in the middle of the terminal.

Trying to get myself on Bangalore-time, I opted for lunch before noon. I wasn’t massively starving, so I went with the small portion of the Smoked Salmon and Haddock Fishcakes with Harissa Mayonnaise and a side of chips

The fish cake was fried to perfection.  Perfectly light and crispy and flaky in all the right places. The harissa mayo was rich and spicy. (Have I mentioned I’m now in love with harissa paste? I received a jar with my Welsh Lamb recipe book and it’s the best thing ever. It’s not replaced sriracha as my favourite spicy sauce, but it’s a close second.)

The chips, thick-cut and gorgeous, were the perfect side dish. I loved that they were served with individual jars of ketchup and mustard too. Though I forgot to take a picture, it was a nice touch!

With a sparkling water, pot of tea and service, the bill came to £21 – totally respectable for a nice place to eat in an airport. My only grip is that they charge £1.50 per person cover. Cover for what? Bread? Tap water? I really really hate that. Either roll it in to the menu prices or don’t do it at all. Adding a conspicuous £1.50 for seemingly no reason just pisses people off.

Plane Food on Urbanspoon