A Travelling Foodie Down Under- Chapter 2

Yes the burgers worked out. After locating buns that were like the ones we use back in Canada and also finding “Gourmet” patties that were 65% off and also not the size of a post-it note (thus not needing to make my own) things went great. The only real change was the bacon. More on that n a sec.

The differences that this simple meal could have had are small but I’m still happy to have been able to a create comfort food that was nearly identical to what I’d have made back home. As I said I was looking for and found buns like you can buy in Canada. Not that there is anything wrong with Aussie burger rolls as they call them. On the contrary, we both have enjoyed using these thin, fluffy and great tasting rollsbuns in the past, I just wanted the feel of home. As for the patties, while I was going to simply make my own I happened on a freezer that held some higher priced seafood and other items and noticed the red sticker on the normally $21 pack of 6 high-end burgers. This was a no-brainer and so bought 2 packs. I love that Aussie burger patties are sold fresh and in different flavours but they are very small and shrink even further when cooked. This is not good when the buns are the size of a kaiser (messes with the ratio).

In the last post I mentioned that I’d explain the quotes around the word bacon. I should say that what is served here is in fact bacon but it’s in a different guise to what we’re accustomed to in North America. There are a few different bacon types Baconthat I can pick up in the local markets. The first is the Rasher style (bottom right) that anyone who travels has likely seen before in places like Britain. This bacon consists of the loin which is very similar to Back or Canadian Bacon as well as the fat strip it attaches to. In Aussie the loin alone is known as “Short Cut” bacon and can be bought separately (this is what I often buy). Third is “Middle Bacon”, consisting of rashers with the loin removed. This looks rather like what we would call bacon in North America and when I first traveled to Britain many years ago I found it amusing to think upon seeing the rashers that English bacon was a combination of American and Canadian bacon (okay, it was amusing only to me) but I was wrong about it.

The wondrous and at the same time horrible thing we refer to as Bacon in Canada is actually cured and sliced pork belly. (I can still get it if I look here, they refer to it in the markets as “Streaky” Bacon but it’s less common) Rashers and Canadian bacon come from the shoulder and back areas of the pig respectively. So, what we have is bacon from three different areas of the animal and each with it’s own characteristics. Canadian bacon for example is very lean. Rashers while they contain some fat are still slightly leaner than the pork belly bacon that we are so very addicted too.

I don’t want to offend those who love their Rashers, personally I like them a great deal as well.  They are however not a superior item. It could be argued that the cut of meat is better but the end product is what counts here. When I read or hear from Aussies that it’s superior to what they often call “mostly fat” all I can do is smile, they’re loss. Pork Belly has been used as a form of currency and the market even today is an active futures exchange. As for the notion that there is too much fat on it… I’ll concede that often the lower quality brands of bacon can be mostly fat but “lower quality” anything is just that. A good quality bacon which is smoked and thick cut is truly a beautiful thing and is for those who love food to pork products as highly marbled Wagyu is to beef. Often times in cooking with meat “The Fat Is Were It’s At”. It may not be healthy, but its addictive in both taste & smell and can truly make a dish once added. Everything’s better with bacon.

Yes, I’m aware the internet photo of the bacon shows what appears to be ham and not actual Canadian Bacon. 

A Travelling Foodie Down Under- Chapter 1 :)

It’s been a very long time since I last posted and while the creative flame may have flickered it never goes out.

What made me decide to begin adding to this site again was the fact that we’ve been living in Australia now for nearly 5 months and I’ve yet to really comment on the food we’ve eaten. Given that in the time here we’ve seen a great deal of the country and eaten hundreds of meals I figured it was certainly a good opportunity to write a little about them. Combine this with the fact that Nancy is working and my company back in Canada decided to wait until I was 14,000 KM from home to inform me I’d not be working for them while here. Basically, I have time on my hands.

The vast majority of our travel tends to involve cultures and food which are very different from the ones we have in Canada. I viewed living here in Aussie as more akin to my time in California- different, but not THAT different. While this statement is fairly close to the truth I didn’t consider the fact that we’d actually be “living”  here for more than a year and not merely staying a month or travelling through. I didn’t think this distinction was large enough to warrant mention but it truly does.

There are the surface things that for all intents and purposes are what we’re used to. I can go to McDonald’s or KFC (if I really wanted to), or pick up Subway sub, but going shopping regularly and having to actually plan normal daily meals has made me realize the differences are quite noticeable. Some of this is due to living in regional Victoria but not as much as all that.

I can say without exaggeration that every meal I’ve planned and attempted has been a struggle to some degree. From the Worcestershire sauce that was so strong and odd tasting that it destroyed an entire batch of chili that I’d cooked all day to having to special order and wait a week for clams because they don’t even have canned ones and when they did arrive they were precooked and frozen, things are just different enough to be a problem.

All of this and what follows has been compounded by the fact that the kitchen in our house here has barely the tools to make anything. We’ve bought knives since there were none, borrowed pans from neighbors and had to think about if we in fact have what’s needed to make any meal we plan. Yes, we adapt. We’re smart and flexible, but until you’ve tried it you really don’t know what it’s like going back to the days when you had 1 sauce pan, no mixing bowls, only cookie sheets for baking etc. Frankly, I had more when I moved out of my folks place.

I’ll stop my whinge about the kitchen now and get back to the topic at hand.

Being in a culture where much of the foods are seemingly very similar to those we’re used to in North America or Europe one could be forgiven if they believe that they can easily make familiar dishes, but again it’s the living here that makes the differences so much larger. I’ve had to be careful when buying beef for example as the common names for the cuts are completely different and on more than one occasion we’ve had to chew through leathery meat because I bought what appeared to be what I wanted. Spices and vegetables are named differently as are many of the things you might want to pick up on a Saturday morning shop.

One example of something that is not named differently but is still completely foreign is Hollandaise sauce. Now, I’ve had this yummy item on meals in probably a dozen countries and other than slight differences in flavor it’s been quite consistent. We’ve discovered however that here it’s not the same at all. As a matter of fact it’s very often poured on from a shelf-stable foil or tetra pak. sauceHaving made Hollandaise for many years I know that it is fragile and consists of a good deal of dairy. Both of these would preclude a shelf-stable liquid. None the less, here it is and after sampling it in several places around Australia we requested my parents bring over a supply of the not too bad powdered version we sometimes use at home in Canada. Nuff Sed.

I’ll deviate from my description of things not good and different for a moment and place praise where it too is deserved. The Aussies really know how to make meat in tube form. This is so much a good thing that at a given moment there are 3-4 kinds of sausage in my freezer, right now there are 4. While the basic BBQ variety that looks alarmingly like a hot dog is the exception, all other versions I’ve tried have been great.

sausages

Another sausage by the way is far more likely to be “thrown on the barbie” for you by your host than a “shrimp”. Sorry to burst your bubble on this subject but “I’ll throw another shrimp on the Barbie” was an ’80’s marketing campaign aimed at North Americans and nothing more. An Aussie doesn’t even use the word “shrimp”, they call them “Prawns”. I’ll add another nail to that coffin by stating that “Prawns” are priced via a market that is akin to gold in this country and if they are being served to you then you must be very special indeed to your host.

I’m now going to light on a subject that is a bit touchy to Australians… Meat Pies or just “Pies” as they call them. Like meat in tube form I have a very strong attraction to these things and as such have sampled, well… let’s just say several across the country. I wouldn’t be caught dead putting tomato sauce (no, it’s not ketchup) on one like the locals do but hey, don’t judge me. Australia Day: Aussie IconsWhat’s odd is that unlike sausage, pies have so far been disappointing. This is odd since again like meat in tube form the pie is everywhere and eaten by everyone. Because of this you might expect that they too are perfected, oh, you’d be so very wrong. This having been said, every single one of the pies I’ve eaten that’s made at a bakery or  by someone in there home has been wonderful. Conversely, every single one I’ve bought in a supermarket in either fresh or frozen bake-at-home form has been… not so good. Part of the issue has been (and there’s no nice way to say this, so I’ll just put it out) the pastry used in every single frozen pie and many of those from a market deli is a form of biodegradable wheat-sourced cardboard. You could tile a floor with the stuff. Any pastry that has to be cut with a steak knife if you want to extricate what’s inside is not going to be good. Painfully, all 9 brands I’ve tried seem to use this same recipe.

Making things with the humble pie even more unfortunate is the fact that one would be hard pressed with some of them to actually find any meat inside or if you do to identify just what animal it might have come from. I won’t go into the gory details but when every shop. butchery, grocery, bakery, gas station and restaurant in the country serves them in large numbers there are bound to be shortcuts taken.

I’ll stop here as I’ll be picking Nancy up from work soon and seeing if the “Bacon-Mushroom-Swiss Burgers” I’ve planned with Aussie “Bacon” (I’ll elaborate next time) work out.

It’s Official!!

It’s taken a long time and several failed attempts by myself, friends of friends, booking agents, locals in Tokyo and our hotel concierge but I’ve finally received confirmation that we are booked for dinner at Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza in Tokyo.

For those of you who are not familiar with this restaurant I’ll give you the lo-down.

Sukiyabashi Jiro and specificallythe Ginza location (there are two. One run by Jiro Ono’s son) is often considered to be the holy of holies when it comes to traditional sushi. The 89 year old Itamae (sushi chef) and owner Jiro Ono is recognised by the Japanese government as a national treasure and is considered to be the greatest sushi chef alive today. Even the snooty Michelin folks have awarded this little 10 seat store with 3 stars. I’ve wanted to dine here for years and being given the chance to visit Tokyo made trying to do so an imperative.

Not that deciding to TRY and book was in any way even close to a guarantee that we’d be able to do so, after all this is ranked as the second most difficult dinner reservation in the world to get. I’ve worked for more than 2 months at this and am still in awe at the effort required.

Anyway… we’ll be eating the best sushi of our lives and having it prepared by the living legend that is Jiro Ono in just over a week. I’ll let you all know our thoughts on this once in a lifetime experience when I post from Tokyo.

What can I say?…… SCORE!!!!!

The Traveling Foodie — An Update –

The date of departure for our Round The World trip is fast approaching (20 days) and for anyone who’s read the previous post on the subject I have an update.

The vast majority of the items listed for us to do are still in place, the changes are that we are no longer going to be heading to Tokushima. Getting to the island has proven to be logistically more difficult then we’d expected and with our time constraints we’ve cut it out. The result is that we won’t be experiencing the ramen there and will have to sample that style elsewhere.

We will now be having the pleasure of dining in the second tallest building and tallest tower in the world, the Tokyo SkyTree. While getting tickets to this attraction was via a Japanese only lottery system since it’s opening last month until after we have left I’ve managed to (via a great deal of difficulty) acquire two tickets. We will likely be among a very few foreigners who will be in the tower until the day it’s fully open to the public.

I’ve also decided that we’ll be dining at Sapporo Kanihonke while in Nagoya. While this is not a traditional Japanese restaurant I love crab and there is no place that has a menu approximating a Mecca for lovers of crab like this.

When in Korea we will now be heading to Gyeongju and indulging in some of the best traditional Korean dishes that can be found. We’ll sample Ssambap with its 30+ side dishes and Gyeongju’s famous Hwangnamppang bread to name a few.

The non-foodie parts of the trip will be even more exciting. Some of them are:

  • Fly on an A380 on the upper deck
  • Wander Ginza and Akihabara (where I intend to geek out on tech)
  • Take a river cruise in Tokyo
  • Check out the new mall,aquarium and other sites at SkyTree Town
  • Ride the Shinkansen Bullet Train around the country
  • Attend the Nagoya Grand Sumo tournament
  • Visit Nara park
  • Ferry  to Miyajima
  • See the memorials in Hiroshima
  • Ride accross to Korea on a hydrofoil
  • Visit the tombs in Gyeongju
  • Ride the KTX
  • Tour the DMZ at Panmunjeom
  • Explore old Delhi
  • Visit the Red Fort and Taj Mahal
  • Sleep in a palace
  • Explore Petra
  • Float on the Dead Sea
  • Experience the craziness of the 2012 Olympics(Thankfully Brief)
  • Explore the Irish countryside by car

I look forward to posting on our foodie fun while travelling and will do my best to keep you up to date with our experiences(technology allowing).

The Traveling Foodie…It’s going to be an interesting summer

As individuals who love both food and travel we often try to combine the two in an effort to satisfy both of these major passions at one time. This summer will once again be just such a opportunity.

We are going on what is refered to as an RTW if you’ll forgive the travel parlance or simply a “Round the World” trip. The plan is for us to be heading west from our Southern Alberta home and continuing to do so until some 27,000 miles, ten flights, several bullet trains, numerous subways, an unfortunate number of crowded commuter trains, a gondola, 3 ferries, one hydrofoil, an elephant, a horse, two camels, a few tuk tuks, a rickshaw, a jeep, one mini van, far too many taxis and a single tiny rental car with the wheel on the right later we end up right back here. Pheww… my chiro is gonna kill me.

We’ll be stopping first in LA where a 5.5 hour layover affords us the chance to head out and enjoy some Southern California munchies. We’ll then be boarding the world’s largest airliner -an A380- on which we’ve been lucky enough to be seated on the upper deck…score!!! (hey.. airplane geek here, okay?) while heading to our first major stop, Japan. Here we’ll be visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Hikone, Nara, Osaka, Tokushima, Matsuyama, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Fukuoka over three of the major islands in Japan. Next comes a ferry to Bu San Korea and trip North via Daegeon to end up in Seoul before departing from Incheon.

We next land in Guangzhou China for a quick layover and perhaps a little dim sum. From China we head to India and tour through the area known as “The Golden Triangle” where we visit Delhi, Neemrana, Jaipur, Fatehpur Sikri and Agra. We’ll also be visiting several smaller towns and such along the route.

Following India we will be stopping in Jordan and visiting Amman, Um Qais, Ajlun, Jerash, The Dead Sea, Mt. Nebo, Madaba, Wadi Mujib,  Kerak, Petra, Beida, Wadi Rum and Aqaba. Between the desert hikes, the heat and the camels I may be in traction following this. Thankfully I’ve booked a spa at the dead sea close to the end of this leg.

After a very fast-paced and travel filled month long trip we head to London where we’ll try very hard to escape the crowds visitng for the Olympics and finally fly to Belfast so we can spend a week or so relaxing and driving around the Irish countryside.

How does this fit being posted to ChowTown you may ask. Well, as Foodies we won’t be simply doing the touristy things most might on such a trip. We’ll also be doing the following special things along side our usual habit of sampling the best street food and local restaurants…

  • Dining at Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo. Where the master Itamae 86 year old Jiro Ono, widely regarded as the world’s greatest sushi chef will prepare an omakase meal the likes of which we are surely never to experience again in our lives.
  • Visiting the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market to select our own fish before having it prepared fresh at local restaurant.
  • Sampling a variety of Ramen in Tokushima, the home of Japan’s most famous soup.
  • Indulging in many of the unique foods in Korea such as sannakji (live baby octopus), one of the foods considered rather dangerous due to the habit it has of clinging to the throat and choking diners to death. (we’d wanted to try Fugu (Blowfish/Puffer) but it’s not in season.
  • A private cooking class and dinner with the owners of Naila Bagh palace in Jaipur India.
  • A home visit with an Indian family for a formal dinner.
  • Attending a special cooking class in Petra Jordan to learn local cuisine from a master chef.
  • A private food tour through the streets of Amman to sample the very best Jordan has to offer.
  • Dinner in one of Amman’s most popular Arabic restaurants with a local family.
  • Consuming my body weight in pub food, Guinness and Irish whiskey. :)

I’ll be posting on these adventures upon my return and providing pictures and maybe even some useful information… assuming I survive. :)

Some fun from the past

I was going through old posts and came across this one which made me laugh so much I’ve decided to repost it. Enjoy.

I think I’ll have to do this again…

From “YOU GOT HERE HOW?” posted in 2009

Okay, I’m going to admit that I stole this idea from a fellow food blogger, but it’s a good one so no regrets.

When you have a website you can check on a large number of stats about your site and those who visit. One thing you can view is what was typed into search engines such as Google that lead someone to your site. Some of the things that bring people to ChowTown make me wonder exactly how this happened, below are the top search phrases for that past week that make me scratch my head.

  • “drive through with line of cars” – Well, I know that any drive through should have a line of cars so as far as finding the one you want… good luck with that.
  • “walmartdotcomaki” – So is this the new online Walmart sushi site?
  • “flapjacks on the open grill” – If your batter is thick enough for this you probably shouldn’t eat these or you’ll be visiting a proctologist for a manual withdrawl.
  • “I like subs am looking for some recipes” – Okay, so you figured out that talking to your computer won’t get a response, but his ain’t much better, now tell the voices to be quiet.
  • “how do they out the meat together” – I don’t know and honestly I don’t actually want you visiting my site…please.
  • “red bowl” – I’m guessing this guy scrolled through 500 pages before finding ChowTown with this, and I don’t even condone the use of red bowls.
  • “spoiled beef recipe” – I really shouldn’t even admit that someone linked to ChowTown with this search.
  • “raw octopus lips tingle” – I don’t actually know what to say here and it frightens me to think what sites they were looking for…eeeewwww.

And the winner is…

After posting the strange things people typed into search engines that somehow lead them to ChowTown I kept looking farther back and found one I had to share with others because “A problem shared is a problem halved” and if I’m going to need therapy then so should you.

“naked sushi party skin infection” – Oh dear god!!, the mental image sears my mind. What’s wrong with these people?! I think I need a shower…

Authentic Japanese Village Steak Sauce Recipe

A while back I visited our local version of the Teppanyaki steak house (a store called  Japanese Village). I’ve been there several times over the many years it’s been around and on this visit I remembered that I always wanted to know the recipe for the “Steak Sauce” they served.

After some asking around I located a fellow who knows someone who worked there and knew the recipe. Even better they’d call me and read it from the actual recipe sheet at the store. It was fun to be texting back and forth while this person was in the kitchen at the restaurant getting one or two ingredients at a time while they tried to hide what they were doing. Very cool spy stuff.   The recipe produced a very large quantity that they made for the restaurant but I’ve been able to convert it to a smaller and more manageable size for home use. This is the only alteration made.

While the brand names of the ingredients used were not given, you should be able to get the right taste if you use high quality stuff.

I’ve had many..MANY requests to find this recipe and so here it is in all it’s glory. This is the original and not one of the guesses I’ve seen online. It’s simple and has that taste that keeps visitors to the restaurant pouring it on everything they eat there.

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup  Soy Sauce (Japanese Shoyu type)
  • 1 cup  Vegetable Oil
  • ½ cup Toasted Sesame Seeds
  • 1 Egg yolk
  • ½ tablespoon Dry Mustard
  • 1 Clove Garlic, large (Minced)
  • ½ cup Chopped Onion (One small Onion)
  • ½ cup Whipping Cream

Method:

  1. Place soy sauce, sesame seeds, onion and garlic in a blender and mix on high for 30 seconds.
  2.  Add remaining ingredients and blend until fine.