Do you know that there was a food festival in Bordeaux the last week-end? I’m highly sure that you don't. Words have it that this yearly event is the biggest food festival in the region. Do I believe that? Well I do, since I witnessed the grandeur of it first hand the last few days.
The weather has been cold lately: this year winter comes sooner than expected, but it didn’t keep the tourists from attending. Especially since this 4th festival is sponsored by three timed Michelin starred chef Pierre Gagnaire. This chef originated from the South East of France but fell in love with Bordeaux when he visited it that he even opened a restaurant here. And who could blame him? I mean everyone I know loves Bordeaux – Bordeaux city, you know, the world’s best city of 2016. As for me, I’ve been landing here for the past 6 years and I’m a goner from the get go.
I was so excited about this event. I always love and admire French cuisine. What I find even more exciting though, is that the festival was not just about the art of French cuisine, it focused especially on South West cuisine and its many specialties from vegetables, herbs, condiments to fruits, meat, seafood AND wine. The wine here is world famous, even in Vietnam when we hear about Bordeaux, we think about wine ;).
There is this French song about how being friends means to share bread and wine with each other, how sweet!
The festival took place right in the heart of Bordeaux city and lasted 3 days, from Friday 17 to Sunday 19 November, with a wide variety of activities offered by many restaurants, chefs, apprentices and local farmers/producers. I found myself wishing for super powers to multiply myself in order to attend all the activities of the festival. From the top of my head, there are local products fair where you get to taste everything from food to wine, cooking workshops for adults and children, showdowns and competitions among chefs, food and music events, banquets at night, food photography conference and film, seafood auction, and of course, a myriad of interesting treats from restaurants who are partners of the event.
There was enough events and food to satisfy the most gourmands out there. Some of the events are prepaid, like the banquets, most are free however. There was also this privileged ticket of only 10 euros that offered you the possibility of 10 tasting treats from restaurant owners and producers along with promotions from partners of the event. And honestly you couldn’t go wrong with this opportunity because the treats were divine, just look at this lobster burger for example...
Quebec is honored this year. I always admire those breathtakingly beautiful mountains and forests and the people's, actually I mean the men's, lethal charm. Just take a look at Garou and see for yourself. And the women are too beautiful for words really with luscious hair and gorgeous complexion... Sigh. But I digress, let's get back to our festival. Since they have great fruits and vegetables there, it's no wonder they have some of the best products too, especially the cranberry cream which is a sort of fruity liquor if I guess it right.
Coincidentally or not, there is an international food photography festival in Paris at the same time as this food festival. And so we had the opportunity to savor the 40 masterpieces created by top photographers and artists. The theme of the festival is 'gastronomy and haute couture'. Below are some examples of when food and fashion collide...
All in all it was a lovely and exciting event. I usually hate to go to events like this alone but surprisingly, I had not even one moment to get bored. All of my time there was spent looking, tasting, discussing and smiling. And honestly just trying to make the choice of which activities to attend was enough to keep my mind buzzing all the time. I just wish myself to be more rigorous and strong to attend all events for 3 whole days but I have to keep myself in check until next year then. I'll definitely come back for the next round ;).
Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
We continue our journey through the flavors of my childhood with another Grandma recipe, ciulama, a traditional Romanian classic. Derived from Turkish word çullama, it sits on the threshold of the many influences in Romanian cuisine, and it reflects my paternal Grandmother's mixed Turkish heritage. Ciulama is at its basics a béchamel sauce dish, allowing for one of the most enhanced elevation of the main ingredient: either chicken or mushrooms, sometimes combined. In other words, if you want to taste the essence of the chicken or mushroom flavor in a dish, this is one of the best presentation recipes to achieve that.
Today, I am presenting the honey mushroom (Armillaria mellea) ciulama, but you can perfectly use any kind of wild mushrooms or champignons, or you can use a mix of fresh and dried wild mushrooms, since the main value of the recipe is allowing you to infuse your palate with mushroomy taste. For a perfect Romanian experience, do not miss tasting it with mamaliga, my version of mamaliga for this recipe being a softer, creamier polenta.
INGREDIENTS for honey mushroom ciulama (4 servings)
500g honey mushrooms (or other wild mushrooms)
1 medium onion
75g flour (3 full tbsp all-purpose flour)
100g sour cream
1 chopped parsley bunch
IMPORTANT: this is a dish that you cannot leave on the stove at any preparation stage, so prepare to be glued to the stove and to stir continuously during the following steps. It is quick though!
Sauté the honey mushrooms for about 10 minutes in half of the butter. Do not overcook them (however, honey mushrooms are "harder" mushrooms so for this quantity, 10 minutes is the proper time to soften them). Put them aside.
In a nonstick pot, use the rest of the butter to sauté the chopped onion, until translucent (tip: add a few drops of water to prevent it from browning and use low heat, always stirring). Since this is a white dish, it is important to keep the onion white. It takes about 4 minutes to achieve that. Add the flour and a pinch of salt and mix quickly with the butter/onion, "frying" the flour a little bit, and when it starts coloring (don't let it get brown or burn), begin to gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming. When it starts to boil, reduce the heat and add the sour cream, continuing to whisk for about 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms in the mix. The consistency at this point, when you add the mushrooms, should be that of liquid cream. Continue to mix and stir for about 6 minutes. The result should be a thick cream texture. Keep in mind that the sauce will continue to thicken when cooling a little, so put it aside when it already starts to feel like sour cream.
INGREDIENTS for mamaliga (4 servings)
600g cornmeal (malai)
1/2 tsp salt
Mamaliga can be cooked in many ways and it traditionally needs a cast-iron kettle, yet this is a simple recipe you can prepare with any nonstick pot, just make sure the pot is deeper, since it tends to splash a little during boiling and a shallow pot won't do. Add the salt and heat the water to boiling point. When the water is boiling, add the entire cornmeal quantity and use a whisk to mix it (again, you need to prevent lumping). When it starts thickening and begins to "splash", reduce heat to very low and continue to mix with a wooden spoon (traditionally one uses a wooden paddle/stick called făcăleţ, but a wooden spoon or pot stick will do), for about 10-12 minutes. If you feel it is too runny, you can sprinkle a little more cornmeal in the process, towards the end, and mix it in. The final proper consistency should be of a very thick porridge. Overturn on a wooden plate or platter (be careful, it is hot)
Serve hot, with chopped parsley and for an even more authentic taste, use a wooden spoon. Rediscover the taste of mushrooms!
Let's pin it!
Traditional Vietnamese beef curry is a hot-free, creamy, nutty and buttery dish. Dip warm pieces of bread in this salty sweet and nutty flavorful stew for a whole-pot-meal autumnal experience!
The first thing to know about Vietnamese curry is it is not chili hot, and thus is kid-friendly.
In Vietnam we don’t have a curry cult like Thai curries. We only have one kind of traditional curry, and that is the yellow one. The yellow color stems from turmeric and curry powders. The first one is added for color and not for the taste. That’s why you can hardly smell any turmeric in the curry.
The traditional version is made with coconut milk. The whole stewing process will help the beef and vegetables to absorb the coconut milk and in the end we will have creamy buttery rich vegetables and beef. I saw and tasted the newer version of curry where ordinary milk is added. I find that ordinary milk makes the curry creamy and less heavy than coconut milk. You can experiment with ordinary milk if you want. I like both versions by the way.
The chosen meat can be beef or chicken. The vegetables in traditional Vietnamese curry are always carrot and potato but I also see people adding taro root. Taro root has a creamy taste of its own with a distinctive nutty flavor. I find the potato absorbs the flavor of the curry stew more readily than the taro. However the taro root is better suited for curry stew in cold weather as it retains the hot temperature longer than potato, and it is also healthier with more dietary fiber and is gluten-free (!). For today's curry, I'll stick with the traditional version using potato and carrot. Let's begin!
500 gr beef shank, cut into small cubes/chunks
300 gr potato, cut into cubes
200 gr carrot, cut into thick chunks then divided in halves
3 teaspoons of curry powder
1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
1 tablespoon of grounded lemongrass
1 whole lemongrass, slightly pounded
1 small chunk of Ginger root, crushed
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
200 ml of coconut milk
150 ml of water or broth
1 teaspoon of salt,
20 gr palm sugar or brown sugar
3 tablespoons of fish sauce
Cilantro and chili for garnish (optional)
Marinate the beef with salt and grounded lemongrass for 1 hour.
In a pot, heat a bit of vegetable oil then sautée the crushed garlic and ginger root until fragrance. Put in the marinated beef, turmeric powder and curry powder and sautée for 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium low. Pour in the coconut milk, water then add palm sugar, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce and the slightly pounded whole lemongrass and let’s stew for 45 minutes to one hour with lid covered. If you use pressure cooker, 15 minutes will do.
Next add the carrot and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce. Cook on medium heat for 15 minutes.
Lastly add potato and a bit of water if you need to. Again let it stew for 10 minutes.
Serve hot with rice or bread.
The size of the beef chunks depends on your cooking time. The quicker the recipe, the smaller the chunks. I cut mine really small, about 2x2 cm. The same principle applies for potato chunks.
Crush the whole garlic and ginger root with the knife’s blade, don’t cut them into pieces. This way we won’t have to deal with little lumps of garlic and ginger floating in the stew.
We cook the beef curry with the lid the whole time.
You might need to add water now and then. Always keep enough water to cover the beef and vegetables. Only till the very end when you cook the potato that the water can be reduced by letting it evaporate.
The purpose of using whole lemongrass is for it to release the essence into the stew since we used grounded lemongrass to infuse the beef earlier. You can throw the lemongrass away when the curry is done.
If you substitute potato with taro root, the cooking time will be longer.
Foggy, almost rainy. Inside, passing through the walnuts and apples in the window. A bookmark: Bertolt Brecht, I have been waiting for you today. Warm. Light. Smiles. The smell of paper. Pillows: shall I work or shall I dream? Wait, lucky! My work is a dream. Hot tea, crackers, biscuits. Darkest grapes. Seneca Anticafe: charm and inspiration.
A quick and healthy approach to a classic Vietnamese dish for autumn, this hot chili and lemongrass chicken dish will warm you up for days to come
This is a traditional Vietnamese dish for cold weather, and can you guess why? This dish has that subtle heat from red chili and the richness from garlic and soy sauce that can make you feel warmed up in no time.
The specialty of this dish is that it’s borderline between stir-fried and braised food. You will first stir-fry the chicken and then add the marinade and let it simmer and reduce to a thick sauce. This way the chicken will have a soft shiny glaze finish with a beautiful caramel color. Normally for this dish Vietnamese use different parts of the chicken, especially the dark meat of the thighs along with skin and bones. But since I think you’d enjoy a healthier dish made from chicken breast without skin or fat, I’ve made this recipe just for you. And the good news is, not only it is healthier, it is also quicker. All the more reason to hop in and discover this dish right now!
One word about the chili, Vietnamese use red chili because of the color and the heat. Since we will cook it for a bit, its essence will be released into the sauce and looses some of its heat. But if you don’t want the dish to be too hot, you can add only a half the red chili, or substitute it for a milder chili that you can find. Are you ready?
Ingredients: (for 2 servings)
2 chicken breasts (about 300 gr), cut into cubes
1 lemon grass, cut thinly then minced (or use 2 teaspoons of grounded lemon grass)
1 red chili, cut diagonally
2 cloves of garlic, minced
250 ml of water
Liquid for the marinade:
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of fish sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon of sriracha (optional)
1. First let’s marinade the chicken breast. For the marinade, combine the honey, oyster sauce, soy sauce, vegetable oil, minced garlic, lemon grass and chili.
2. Put in the chicken breast that you cut into cubes and mix. Let the marinade work for 15 minutes.
3. In a hot pan, pour in a bit of vegetable oil and stir fry each piece of chicken for 3 minutes. The chicken doesn’t need to be cooked through, it just needs to be seared on the outside.
4. Add 250 ml of water to the left-over marinade and add this to the pan. I usually add 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and 1 tablespoon of sriracha at this stage, but this is optional. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with the lid and let it cook for 7 minutes.
5. After that, remove the lid, return the heat to medium-high to reduce the amount of sauce. When the sauce thickens (around 2 minutes), take it off the heat.
Can you guess it? We're done! It’s super fast and easy right?
Serve this dish with rice and some veggies side dish.
Lemongrass is reputed to regulate high blood pressure, and so it is a perfect combination for this salty and spicy dish.
The marination is really important. Usually when cooking with dark meat, you can let it simmer to infuse the meat with flavors without worrying it'd become too dry. And since we use chicken breast for this dish, we must reduce the cooking time. That's why marinating the chicken will help it to absorb the spices and flavors without it being overcooked.
To prevent the chicken breast to dry during the cooking process (yes it still needs a little help), I add oyster sauce and vegetable oil in the marinade. If you don’t like oyster sauce, just add more soy sauce and vegetable oil.
Sriracha is optional since I like the added heat and color from it. The same is for fish sauce. The finish dish is quite salty because this dish is meant to be eaten with rice and vegetable side dish. The veggies should have natural sweetness to balance out the saltiness of chicken, thus cabbage is also a good choice.
Cover photo: Thao Uyen
A melting pot experience, in more than one way. Welcome to our Epicurean adventure!