Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Island Flavors in Antigua

A family vacation in Antigua was spent with great food, drinks and friends. The island's biggest exports are: cassava, corn, sweet potato, squash, beans, pineapple, pepper, tobacco, cotton, guava, sugar apple, soursop, etc. Roaming around the inlands by jeep, we were able to taste a lot of these, beyond the fabulous fish on the coast. That special red-haired lady in the bottom picture better think about visiting for a girls night in the near future! 




Balinese Snacks

Balinese peanuts, bananas, dragon-fruit and convenience-store dried-fish crackers were among our favourite snacks on the tropical island. We'd grab our bikes and hit the local market before departing for little adventures into the northern rice patties. After ditching the wheels, we'd hike through the hillside to farm openings and park ourselves (often above peoples' roofs) to chill-out for the afternoon. Another tasty favourite was Nasi Campur, the local meat/rice/veg dish, wrapped up in paper cones for later eating. New Years Eve we treated ourselves to some very crummy champagne which, after our three weeks on the road, tasted like a million bucks! 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Nasi Campur in Bali

New Years eve in Ubud, Nimmi and I found ourselves in the oversized kitchen of a very nice Balinese woman. The local dish, Nasi Campur, is comprised of rice, some type of meat or fish, tofu, veg, flat-bread, peanuts, and the typical rice crackers. Basa genep is used to spice the meat and vegetables. A combination of pepper, garlic, onion, chilies (often from Lombok), sesame, nutmeg, terasi, candlenuts, coriander, tumeric, galangal and ginger cover all of your taste-buds. After the delicious meal, we dressed up (as dressed-up as backpackers can get) and hit the centre of town in Ubud to catch some traditional Balinese dancing and fireworks.

Banana Leaf Meal: Tamil Food in Kuala Lumpur

45° Celcius and Nimmi and I thought we were going to melt, or catch ablaze, or keel over as we scooped spicy Tamil food into our mouths. Tucked into Little India of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,Vishalatchi restaurant was, by far, our best meal of the entire travels in Southeast Asia. No-nonsense workers carry around metal tins of stewed lamb, curried beer, rice dishes, cucumber yogurt, lentil porridge, fried fritters, and more to dollop on your...banana leaf (makes for easy cleanup when they, quite literally, roll up the mess and toss it out). Served with heaps of flatbread and the best chai I've ever tasted, don't venture into Vishalatchi's unless you can take the heat. Not only was the weather humid, but the spices used were tear-worthy (and totally amazing). You know you've found a good spot to dine when the benches are crammed with locals, businessmen, mammas, grandparents, and everyone in between. Bonus: we paid a little over $7.00 CAD each to feel like we'd never want to eat again. Ever. At all. Worse than Thanksgiving. The backpacks didn't move that day. Check out Mark Wiens' video below for a fuller review.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Malaysia: Hunt for Ikan Bakar

Ikan Bakar, or "blackened fish," is a Malaysian and Indonesian specialty whereby local fish is spiced with any variety of garlic, chili, turmeric, ginger, lime, galangal, or other regional herbs/roots, and then cooked on charcoals. The skin of the fish is incredibly crispy and the flesh is tender as butter. Something about the spice-blends, too, are madly addicting. Before departing for our Malaysian adventures, we watched enough of Mark Wien's videos to get our mouths watering. Upon arrival, after we finished the Thailand portion of our adventure, we hunted for the best spot to grab lunch in the backstreets of Kuala Lumpur. The picture you see below - a plate of what, I'm still not sure - was the best lunch we had on the whole trip. I think there was some fish, wilted greens, some type of slow-cooked meat shank, heaps of vegetables, tofu, and everything was smothered in spicy sambal sauce and chili oil. For the equivalent of $4 CAD, a lady took control of my plate and dolled out to me what she herself would have eaten (always the best way to go...). Admittedly, we were sweating and tearing up in the 40 Celsius climate eating chilies, but some nice gentlemen brought us glasses water... to help us out. ...Evidently with digestion and not the temperature factor. It's the Malay cuisine and Thai soups I miss most from our travels.

Mango Sticky Rice

One of our favourite desserts on the road, Khao Niaow Ma Muang, always seemed to remedy whatever backpacking debacle we faced on a given day. Nimmi and I ordered it every opportunity we had. The mangos were, without fail, ripe as sunshine and each restaurant or street-stand had their own take on the rice: creamy, sweet, plain, garnished, un-garnished, risotto-like, etc. As we pushed further into the Thai countryside, the quality of the dessert got better, but the best version we had was on the island of Koh Lanta. After a particularly rough day of motorbiking accidents and some healthy arguing, animosity ceased upon first bite of the decadent, coconut-y dessert. How many desserts can force amends to be made? Maybe cheesecake... but mango sticky rice was a first! Here's a good recipe I found, if boiling rice for a few hours interests you this weekend: Authentic Mango Sticky Rice Recipe