Friday, February 28, 2014

The Travelling Nutmeg: Street food and Sidewalk Factories

With only a short period in transit and a tummy to feed, my visit in Beijing became sort of a hunt. I needed something tasty, hygienic and I was hoping at least 20% healthy. I came across an alley of street vendors in Sanlitun 三里屯 that offered quite an array of foods. There were 15 RMB Mojitos, fruit bowls of pineapples, watermelons and cantaloupes, home made fries and these...





all ready to be grilled to my 'delight'. I have yet to come across extremes such as larvae and oysters in Chongqing so it being 2014 and all, I got excited. Then I remembered my trip in a couple hours and thought of how an upset stomach would reek of embarrassment. In other words, I punked out. Yup, I know ... shame on me. Now I'm left to wonder what could have been.

However, I did find something tasty, hygienic and 100% healthy. Freshly squeezed and bottled fruit juice.

This particular vendor offered Orange, Pomegranate or a mixture of both. No added water or sugar. For my blend, he squeezed 5 of each fruit and after straining, capped my bottle with tight, factory precision. This meant that this juice could last at least a week unopened.  Give me this over a sidewalk Mojito anyday! And did I mention how smooth and sweet it was? Better than any drink on the shelf. Although I did miss grilled frog and its accompanying belly ache, this was definitely a worthy drink for a worthy cause. Check out the juice making process below!


Which would you have chosen, grilled delicacies or 100% pure juice on the sidewalks of Beijing? Let me know below!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Big Sis taught me: Double Fig Bread

Common Fig

I'm blessed to have a sister with a sweet tooth that's larger than mine. She especially loves a moist fruit bread so for her birthday the only shopping I had to do took place in the supermarket. This bread features two main ingredients and they are both called Fig. First is Rock Fig, a local name for dwarf bananas in my home town. Second is the Common fig which I shed light on in 'Green Thumbs and Red Fingers'. Given the rarity of this fruit in Grenada, I had only one shot to get it right. Some shoddy baking soda got in the way of perfection but I promise that if you get all you ingredients in order and up to date, you will have the most delicate tasting fruit bread.



Double Fig Bread

3 Rock Figs, mashed equivalent to one large banana
3 Common Figs, diced equivalent to 1 cup
2 cups flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp mixed essence
1 tsp all spice
3/4 cup plain yoghurt
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven at 375 C.
2. Mix sifted flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and all spice. Set aside.
3. Mix yoghurt and Rock Fig together and set aside.
4. Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs one at a time.
5. Add essence and yoghurt banana mixture and mix in well.
6. Stir in the dry mixture and end by folding in Common Figs.
7. Bake for 40 mins at 400 C or remove when tooth pick comes out clean.
8. Cool and slice..Happy Bday Sis!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bite me: Corn and then some

Corn in Grenada is mainly harvested in August, therefore during rest of the year, there is an abundance of corn dishes to enjoy. Roasted corn on the cob is like a definite favorite. It's a popular street food that involves roasting an ear of corn, in its husk, over a coal-pot fire. Like with any roasted or barbecued food, personal preference is applied. Some love it black and crunchy (well done), others prefer golden grains that are lightly singed (rare). I'm more of a medium rare kinda girl, perfect balance. Of course be prepared for the yellow and black spangled smile that will follow you for the rest of the day.

Roasted Corn on the Cob

We have another winner in Coucou. This is made by cooking cornmeal in a variety of seasonings and ochro (Caribbean kid's broccoli) and allowing it to set in a casserole dish. Most times, it's served with callaloo and ochro, stewed fish or any dish with a tasty gravy. Leftovers can be fried for breakfast the next day. In China, my African friends introduced me to the mama of the family, Fufu. It is considered sacrilege to use anything but cornmeal, water and salt as other ingredients would get in the way of the flavours of the accompanying meat sauce. It is also fluffier in nature and more filling.

Local Coucou and Callaloo

Coucou's sweet variant is called Conkie. Cornmeal, pumpkin, coconut milk and spices are mixed and steamed in banana leaf packages.  Sweet potato and raisin are sometimes added for extra texture and flavour.

Conkie compliments NB Photography

My hearts beats for Asham. After the corn is removed from the cob, it is parched, ground and finally sweetened with white or brown sugar. Asham was the source of powdered faces and hands for many '80s kids, especially when the Feast of All Saints drew near. In Trinidad it is called Chilli Bibi and served in cones.

Asham compliments Reggaetreats.com

Corn is extremely versatile and cultures have found many ways to manipulate it. What do you do with corn in your country? Feel free to share below.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Travelling Nutmeg: Can you smell the love?

It is Valentine's day and no matter how much you try to ignore it, passing couples, pink and red decor and cravings for chocolate will be around every corner. So I give in and I celebrate with my partner in crime...good old faithful 肚子 Dùzi (belly).

These are some of the cherished moments we have spent over the past couple of weeks.

Breakfast:


Bang Bang
He loves a traditional breakfast of Bang Bang. Bang Bang is a local flat bread made from cassava after it has been grated, fermented and washed. It's then shaped and roasted. After eating one of these with a cup of cocoa tea, he is so satisfied, that I have to call him at lunch time. Sometimes, we skip it all together.



A lighter option is this oat and flax seed porridge flavoured with local spices and sweetened with condensed milk.

Lunch:


Falafel Pita at Umbrella's Beach Bar
Lunch is a new twist on an old favorite. He loves Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans), so this Middle Eastern dish hits the spot. The falafels are spicy, covered in greens and super healthy. Perfect for any vegetarian.


Snack:

Fruit plate
A fruit plate of sweet paw-paw and tart carambola coupled with fresh coconut water and jelly is easy on Duzi without being too filling.


Dinner:

Fish and Chips at Le Chateau Restaurant
Fried Fish and Chips is a classic Grenadian dinner. He isn't fooled by the extra greens on the side that attempt to make this look healthy. But it's pleasure eating, so he loves it anyway.


Dessert:

Banana Split at Le Chateau Restaurant
A local banana split featuring a favourite, nutmeg ice cream. Local chocolate sauce and peanuts seal the deal.


Moko Jumbie
This delightful treat is not just ice cream and brownies. Moko Jumbie is a stilt dance made popular in Trinidad. This dessert makes you feel like you can climb those stilts and dance all the way down Maurice Bishop Highway. If you are in the area, check Umbrella's Beach Bar on Grand Anse Beach for sweet bliss.

Trinidad Moko Jumbie Dancer


My tummy had more than enough treats since visiting Grenada and this is an experience that neither of us will forget.

But in all seriousness, don't forget to spread the love with everyone around. And not just today, Valentine's day. Everyday take the opportunity to show others you care. You will be one step closer to making the world a brighter place.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bite me: Belmont Estate Bon Bon Chocolates


If love were a language, chocolate would be its translator and Valentines day would be celebrated every day. Belmont Estate Bon Bon Chocolates brought me close to that kind of love this week. Belmont Estate, located in Grenada, is known for their award winning organic chocolate. When eating their bon bons, the rich, dark chocolate blends so easily with local fruit and nuts that you really do forget where you are at the moment. Here are the ones that captured my taste buds. I apologise in advance for the butchering you will see below.

Pâte de Mango: 

Mango lovers will enjoy the firm, yet chewy mango inside, which most definitely subdues the thin chocolate coating. No surprise there, since mango has been known to overpower clothes and body parts with its aroma since its existence. 



Sea Almond Praline:

Sea or Tropical Almonds are found on the beach and coastline and taste much different to typical almonds. It's a soft, salty crunch that makes you forget it's a nut because of the gentleness of the inner layers. I think it's the perfect center to this bon bon.



Condicion and Cashew Chocolate Crunch:

Condicion is a close relative of Carambola/Five Finger/Star Fruit. This acidic fruit blended with cashew nuts and chocolate ensures that no taste bud feels left out.



River Antoine Truffle:

Simply put, this is a shot of rum in a trufffle, and that's just after one bite, no make that a nibble. Local River Antoine Rum (75% alcohol content) made at Grenada's oldest rum factory is the Clyde to this Bonnie. Overall, it's smooth and fiery and makes you go 'oh', 'AH' and 'Can I have another?'




Soursop Truffle: 

Soursop, also called Graviola or Custard Apple, provides the bon bon with a creamy, mellow tart filling. Again, another beautiful fusion of fruit flavor and chocolate.


To find out more about Belmont Estate chocolate check the following link:




Friday, February 7, 2014

The Travelling Nutmeg: Where is my Oil Down?

With Grenada's 40th Independence being celebrated on February 7th, the week was filled with celebrations and colourful displays of patriotism. The kids and adults go all out to represent their country. Here are a burst of creative outfits from a queen show I attended.

National wear by various teenagers

If you're not Grenadian or you don't have a Grenadian relative/friend, you need to get one kuai yi dian (quickly). How else will you taste Oil Down? It's finger licking good. It's the only national dish in the entire Caribbean known to stop time and knock out the strongest of men.


It's a tight cook-up of salted meat, breadfruit, green bananas, local ground provision, dumplings, callaloo (dasheen leaves), in that order, covered in coconut milk and saffron or curry. Evolved varieties include chicken, salted fish, and whatever vegetables you desire. My first Chinese Oil Down even had prawns in it. As my good friend always says, don't hate, appreciate!

Coconut trophy
I am officially addicted to stealing sampling coconut before it is grated for fresh coconut milk. Guess old habits live to die another day.

Layers of an Oil Down
Layering is the key to a successful oil down and as a bonus the sticky bottom, locally called the 'burn burn' (pronounced as bun bun) offers the richest flavor of the entire dish so you know the possibility of leftovers is rare. Oil down is never limited by place, people or time. There is roadside, beach, and work oil down. It can feed a family days and is usually the official food of Independence week.

In addition to food and clothes, everyone will gather at the National Stadium to watch the parade of uniformed groups, be entertained by cultural performances and Venezuelan paratroopers and rebuff their national shine with speeches by government officials. Because at the end of it all, true loyalty to your country is celebrating its victories and doing the best you can to ensure more of them.

Bermuda Triangle cocktail

Cheers Grenada and Happy 40th Independence Anniversary to all my country mates at home and abroad!! Celebrate loud and proud!!






Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bite me: Damson stew


Grenadian damson tree laden with fruit
Fruit seasons are synonymous with fruit stews. Plums, tamarind and golden apple are boiled in brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and bay leaf for a sweet snack. Gummy bears and ring pops didn't stand a chance in my primary school days when these fruits were on the market.



My all-time favorite is Damson stew. Damson, not to be confused with Damsel, has as many names as the Caribbean has ethicities: gooseberry, sour cherry and jimbilin to name a few.

Th original damson fruit
It is extremely sour, making it the perfect balance to the sticky, sweet, spicy stew.

Red sour cherry stew compliments Caribbeanpot.com
Some people, and by some people I mean Trinidadians, add a couple drops of red coloring. That's patriotism for you.

As a kid, eating the stew went something like this:

1. Eat the sauce off the damsons.
2. Re-dip and re-lick. Do this as often as you like.
3. Finally, take your time with the soft flesh around the pit.
4. Repeat step two with the pit.
5. Attack classmates with the pit. Optional but preferred.

As much as I miss my childhood days, I promise this behavior is a thing of the past. What cherished childhood memories of snacks do you have? Feel free to share below.