Cuisines

The worst smelling food in the world!  (Surströmming in Sweden)

Surströmming is a love-it-or-hate-it sort of food and this article is written by Nora Dunn, The Professional Hobo; a woman who sold everything she owned in 2006 (including a busy financial planning practice) to embrace her dreams of world-travel. She's been on the road ever since, traveling through and living in 55+ countries. She parlays her financial expertise in her work as a freelance writer, and on The Professional Hobo, she teaches people how to travel full-time in a financially sustainable way.

Photo credit: Nora Dunn from The Professional Hobo

Literally meaning “sour strömming (herring)”, it is fermented herring (fish). (Fermented ultimately being a euphemism for rotten, I think).

Surströmming quite accidentally came to pass in the 1800s, at the hands of a bunch of Swedish sailors who didn't properly cure their fish on their long sea voyage and it ended up rotting. When they ran into some Finnish sailors, they sold them their rotten fish to play a joke. A year later when the same boats crossed paths again, the Finnish asked the Swedes if they had more of that rotten fish – it was a hit! That's when the Swedes realized they might be on to something, and declared Surströmming to be a Swedish delicacy.

You’ll find cans of the stuff in the grocery store (alongside other types of herring, mostly pickled – which is delicious), and some cans are literally bulging at the seams. This is because the fermentation process continues beyond the canning, and in fact many airlines ban Surströmming because of the possibly explosive side effects at altitude.

And when you’re talking about rotten fish, explosions can be quite disastrous.

In fact, the Japanese released a study that cites the act of opening a can of Surströmming to unleash the worst smell of food in the world. This is a title I had formerly understood to be held by durian fruit, but after having the full Surströmming experience, I’d have to agree that it blows durian out of the water.

Despite its less-than-favourable smell, Surströmming is nonetheless considered a Swedish delicacy, and if some people enjoy it, then I simply had to see what the appeal was. This experiment in trying something new turned into a family affair with my hosts pulling out all the stops to make it an experience for me. Feel free to watch a video of my Surströmming experience here.

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese Dumplings

This lovely article on the delicious dish: Chinese Dumplings is by Will Wain-Williams and he can be found at his website: www.monkeystealspeach.com .

Will is a practitioner of Kung fu and for the past decade has been traveling Asia seeking out the most respected and authentic masters of martial arts.

Photo credit: Will Wain- Williams from www.monkeystealspeach.com 

There is a saying in China: in the south people eat rice, and in the north they eat dumplings. There are several different kinds of dumplings, which actually have totally different names in Chinese, however here I will focus on the most common type, Jiao Zi饺子.

Basically, dumplings are thin pieces of dough wrapped around a stuffing. The most common stuffing is minced pork with some kind of vegetable: usually cabbage or chives, however beef, chicken, mutton and even fish or shrimp can be used instead. For vegetarians, a filling of either egg or tofu with cabbage or some other vegetable is common. In the north, where dumplings are a common staple, they are most often steamed or boiled. However, people in the south often make a soup with them, which is called wonton (hundun混沌 in Mandarin).

Dumplings are said to be one of the most important features of a Chinese New Year’s feast, and sometimes a coin will be put in one: whoever eats it is said to get rich the next year! Making the dumplings is as important as eating them, and it is a fun activity which brings family and friends together. As a foreigner, if you are invited to someone’s home, there is a good chance they may ask you to make dumplings with them!

 

 

 

 

 

Portuguese Sweet Vinegar Dessert

This lovely article on the lip smacking dish: Portuguese Sweet Vinegar Dessert is by Paula and PK, long-term travelers over the age of 45 who left home in 2016. They can be found blogging at: www.outontheseaalone.com . Paula and PK aren't new to this nomad life; there have been 80 countries and several years of adventures prior. In their own words: “We didn’t think we would ramp it up to permanent at this age. Our approach is to live local, travel light and try and sustain ourselves financially as we go.  We backpack, house and pet-sit and where possible avoid the crowds. We blog honestly about life on the road, destinations and the quirks of this life”.

Photo credit: Paula and PK from www.outontheseaalone.com

In Marvão,a remote little hill-top village on the Portuguese/Spanish border, we recently had lunch in an empty restaurant on a sunny cold spring day, overlooking miles of fields below.

We came for lunch purely by chance. We were house-sitting in the town of Valencia de Alcántara, in Spain, just 10km away. The opportunity to drive across an open border and be in another country in a few minutes never loses its appeal. We had set off randomly into Portugal and saw Marvão as we drove,  perched high on a granite outcrop. Marvão Castle dominates the skyline and it’s a stunner of a ruin. The village itself is tiny, with stone walls, cobblestone lanes and few cars. There was no one there and we wandered around until we found a small hotel with an empty restaurant with great views.

The waiter was thrilled to have customers and kept popping by our table to chat about food, wine and the area. Things haven’t changed much over the years in this rural part of Portugal (the Portalegre District) and the food represents that. It’s hearty and based on what is available locally and seasonally. Our waiter was particularly keen that we try a local specialty, sweet vinegar dessert. I’m a huge vinegar fan, so we ordered more wine, told him to sit down with us, and we all gave it a go.

Why would you make a dessert with vinegar? Apparently, the dessert evolved because centuries ago, egg whites were used to starch clothes, leaving a lot of spare egg yolks. Times were tough, so people made the best with what they had. The dessert uses the left-over egg yolks and adds local vinegar (by-product of wine making). It’s a strange dish with a texture like cream, but because the vinegar is boiled with milk before adding the egg yolks, there are curds throughout. The taste of the vinegar is very subtle, the overall dish is incredibly rich and it’s rather odd.  Try as I might, I can’t find a recipe for it online, and I suspect it’s not high on the list of best known Portuguese desserts. One thing I should have asked the waiter, but didn’t, was if they ever froze it, because I suspect it would make an incredible ice-cream. The verdict? The waiter loved it of course, PK focused on his wine and avoided having too much, and I’m honestly still thinking about it. We all toasted it at the end though, and agreed that with a glass of chilled dry Madeira, it was a very Portuguese experience.

 

 

 

 

 

Speckknödel - An Adventure in South Tyrol’s Alpine Cuisine

The following article by Vin & Kate is on the delicious dish: Speckknödelsuppe, a South Tyrolean classic. Vin & Kate are the owners and creator of their website: throneandvine.com

 Fall in love with South Tyrol as they bring you the insider's guide to Italy's best kept secret.

Photo credit: Vin & Kate  from  throneandvine.com

While trekking in the heart of South Tyrol’s Dolomites, my wife and I stumble across the Schgaguler mountain hut — an inviting rustic gem set off a trail in the largest high-altitude prairie in Europe, Seiser Alm (also known as Alpe Di Siusi).

I order a tall Forst beer and browse through a list of homemade South Tyrolean specialties. My grumbling stomach settles on Speckknödelsuppe, a South Tyrolean classic that translates to bacon dumpling soup. Speck is a cured, lightly-smoked ham resembling bacon or proscuitto and knödel is a bread dumpling. Making speck follows age-old principles of using a little salt, a little smoke and lots of fresh mountain air.

The tradition of South Tyrolean dumplings goes back to the 13th century. A fresco in the medieval chapel of South Tyrol’s Hocheppan Castle illustrates a man eating knödel.

My bowl of Speckknödelsuppe arrives just as I am finishing my last gulp of beer. Naturally, I order another. The dish consists of two baseball size dumplings in a clear broth. All of it’s made from local ingredients. In no time, I dive in.

Cutting into the soft, compact balls with a fork (using a knife is an insult to the chef), I inhale an aroma of fresh Alpine herbs. Flavors of chives, onion and parsley among the bits of speck dance around in my mouth. I relish each bite that follows. Nothing can distract me from this heavenly meal. Not the breathtaking views of the Dolomites. And not the sobbing child nearby who learned farm chickens are not for petting.

Though the two dumplings plopped in my bowl seems like a small meal, each Speckknödel packs a punch. I will not be leaving this table hungry. I finish my last bite and loosen my belt a notch. We have mountains to conquer. I am ready.

South Tyrol offers several knödel variations including Speckknödel dumplings without broth. Another popular dish, Knödel Tris, consists of three different dumpling varieties: one with speck, one with cheese and one with spinach. After three trips to South Tyrol, this savory version has become my favorite. Those with a sweet tooth will want to try dessert knödel — a delectable treat made with lush plums.

To learn more about the fascinating flavors of South Tyrol and this Alpine wonderland crowning northern Italy, be sure to follow our adventures at throneandvine.com

 

 

 

 

 

Portuguese Fish Stew

The following article by Talek Nantes on the delicious Portuguese Fish Stew, is as you rightly guessed from Portugal! Talek is the owner and creator of her website: Travelswithtalek.comTalek has traveled to over 100 countries and still counting. Check out her amazing website and join her on her adventures!

Photo credit: Talek from Travelswithtalek.com

There is no one correct way to make Portuguese Fish Stew. The Fish Stew can contain all types of seafood including shrimp, lobster squid and octopus.  It can also contain several types of fish; sea bass, tuna or sardines.  Portugal being a sea-faring country surrounded on three sides by ocean, it was only natural that seafood would be a key ingredient of many Portuguese dishes. But the one ingredient that is mandatory in a traditional Portuguese fish stew is the cod.   

There is a reason why cod holds such an important place in the traditional cuisine of Portugal, the western-most European country. Portugal was one of the most important contributors in the European Age of Discovery. Today we study the exploits of Fernando Magellan, the first person to circumnavigate the globe, Bartholomeu Dias, the first to round the African Cape of Good Hope and Prince Henry the Navigator under whose stewardship Portugal took a leadership role during most of the fifteenth century in searching for route to all the corners of the world.

The Portuguese sailors, and all sailors that came after them, would not have been able to survive the long trips from Europe to the Americas had it not been for the sustenance provided by salted cod.  In the early 1500s the trip from Portugal to the New World would take several months under the best of circumstances. With no refrigeration and rodent infestation on the ships, cod could be salted, dried and kept for some time.  When ready to consume, the cod was soaked in water and was edible. A true lifesaver under the harsh circumstances. Any food ingredient with that kind of versatility was bound to become a staple in the country’s diet.

Today Portugal has the highest fish consumption per capital in Europe and the noble cod continues to be the star ingredient. It is said that one can cook cod a different way every day of the year; stewed, grilled, boiled, steamed, with any number of garnishes, and never make the same dish twice!

Despite modern day cooking options, cod continues to be mostly used dried and salted.  The fishing traditions of the Atlantic continue to be followed by the Portuguese today just as they have been for centuries. 

It is intriguing to imagine how different the world would have been had a simple food like cod not been a factor on the ships of the Portuguese explorers.  Would they perhaps have experimented with alternative foods with different properties? Would that have worked as well? Would they have waited longer before beginning their explorations allowing other countries to gain the first European footholds around the world?  What would the New World look like then?  We’ll never know the answers to these hypothetical questions, but we can still enjoy a delicious Portuguese Fish Stew.   

 

 

 

 

 

Pork Shoulder with Pepper Sauce (Varkensschouder met Pepersaus):

The following writeup on the delicious Pork Shoulder with Pepper Sauce is  a traditional Flemish dish by Theresa Ladner

Theresa is a mostly stay-at-home mom who drags her husband off travelling as much as possible. When she’s not travelling or momming, she likes to write, experiment with cookery, and speak about herself in the third person. Find her at adventures-in-middle-aged-travel.com

Photo credit: Theresa from adventures-in-middle-aged-travel.com

When my husband and I were travelling through Belgium we ended up staying one night in Ypres. Ypres has been around for over 2,000 years; it’s located in the County of Flanders in West Belgium and has a population of about 35,000. It was famous for it’s textiles and was quite a powerful medieval trading centre. It was raided by Romans in the first century BC and was almost completely leveled in WWI. The inhabitants opted to rebuild as similarly as they could to the original, using money from war reparations. 

We had made a reservation at a restaurant near our hotel, but upon speaking with the owner of a local bar, we changed our plans. He described the food at De Ruyffelaer as, “Something your grandmother might cook... if she were Belgian.” We were sold.

On arrival, we were delighted by the brick exterior and inside by the wood paneled room with checkerboard floors and kitschy decor that included dried flowers, antique cookie tins, and old radios. I ordered the Pork Shoulder with Pepper Sauce or, Varkensschouder met Pepersaus. Traditional braised pork is a staple in Flemish kitchens, although since it’s been around so long, I’m not sure there’s a specific history. It’s just a traditional dish that gets made all the time. If my grandmother had cooked like this, she would have had a difficult time getting rid of me.

This particular dish was very tender, savoury, and moist; served with steamed carrots and cabbage, and of course, the pepper sauce (gravy). The sauce gave it just the right slightly spicy tang. I was so full when we left that I went straight back to the hotel, to bed. If we had stayed another night in Ypres, I’m pretty sure we would have returned to De Ruyffelaer to try something different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khachapuri

The following write up on Khachapuri, a delicious dish from Georgia, is by Nate, a solo backpacker travelling the world (currently 32 countries over six continents) and the creator and owner of Travellemming.com

Photo credits: Nate from Travellemming.com

I lived all my life under the assumption that pizza is the apex cuisine -- a delicious and timeless dish that can never be topped. Then I went to Georgia (the country, not the state), where I was forced to confront my entire worldview after eating my first Khachapuri. 

In many ways Khachapuri is like pizza, only (dare I say?) ... better. It's traditional cheese-stuffed bread that can be served in many different styles. While Khachapuri can be found in many street stalls and bakeries, my favorite style -- Adjaruli Khachapuri -- is usually only served in restaurants. That's because it's topped with a runny egg and a slice of butter.

It makes sense that such a warm, inviting dish would originate in Georgia. Georgians are some of the warmest and most hospitable people on earth. Spend more than a few minutes talking to a local in Georgia and you are more than a little likely to find yourself invited (perhaps even kidnapped) into a "supra" -- private feasts that are held in households throughout the Caucasian country. Importantly, supras always involve copious amounts of wine. Indeed, they say that the average Georgian consumes 2 litres of wine PER DAY. While that may be an exaggeration, the Georgians undeniably drink a lot of wine. It's a wonder how -- but I have a theory that Georgians remarkable tolerance derives from khachapuri. The doughy, cheesey, creation is perfect to take the edge off alcohol (or, like pizza, as hangover food). 

But whatever its effects, you don't need to be inebriated to enjoy the crisp, crunchy edges and creamy center of a Khachapuri. I swear, the pictures don't do this magnificent creation justice. Give it a shot the next time you find yourself passing through the Caucuses. 

 

 

Cheese Fondue

Cheese Fondue is the classic dish of Switzerland. It is a dish made of melted cheese and other ingredients mixed in it (bit of garlic & white wine) and served in a lovely little ceramic pot, with a small burner underneath it to keep it at a constant temperature and hot. This dish is served with bread cubes, which with a fork you dip into the hot Cheese Fondue and have it. A very satisfying, warm, fulfilling dish on a cold day. This dish is a complete meal in itself and is a communal meal eaten together from one pot. No wonder, this dish is known as the National Dish of Switzerland! The word fondue comes from the French word, ‘fondre’, which means ‘to melt’  and so it’s  still not clearly known, whether this dish is originally from France or Switzerland…but both countries share and enjoy this dish in their own unique way.  

 

 

 

 

Shepherd’s pie 

Shepherd’s pie, which is made of minced lamb, is a meat pie with a crust of mashed potato. 

If the dish is made of minced beef, then it is called as Cottage pie. Shepherd’s Pie is a dish originally from the United Kingdom and Ireland, which is now made popular the worldwide.

One would wonder why this dish is called as Shepherd’s Pie….I leave that for you to find out 😉 , personally,  it doesn’t matter to me.

I find it to be the most satisfying and comfort food that could be had on a cold rainy day!!! And that’s exactly what we had on one of our trips to Killarney – A bubbling hot, freshly baked Shepherd’s Pie.

 

 

Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips is a popular dish of the English (British) and consists of fried battered Fish and hot chips.

In Britain and Ireland, its usually the cod and Haddock that is the fish used for this dish.

The Fish and Chips that I had for the first time was fried in beer batter and accompanied with mashed peas and chips…a hearty meal, after a long tour of Windsor Castle!!!!