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Friday, July 27, 2012

Wok-An Asian Cuisine

Would you prefer ‘Buffet’ or ‘A la carte’?

H says she would love to go for Buffet because there is a big variety to choose from and there is no hurry to eat, we can take our own sweet time to eat whatever we wish, Chinese, Japanese or Intercontinental food. There is lot to choose from and if we don’t like what is on display we can select the raw stuff and go to cooking station to get it cooked.

Sounds interesting, so family and I headed towards Puerto de la Cruz at ‘Trompo Centro Commercial’ to a special restaurant called ‘Wok’ that serves only buffet. The rate of the buffet varies with 15 Euros on weekends and 10 Euros during weekdays.

“Don’t rush to grab the food like some starving urchins” says B, “let us order drinks first”. The drinks are not included (“they need to make money on drinks”, informs H) so we wait for our order to arrive.

Whenever I go for buffet, I always make a round to see what is on display and make a mental note of the food that I might want to try. There is not much variety. There are only about hundred containers to choose from, and that includes soups, salads, starters, mains and dessert.

I don't have a very large appetite, therefore I must be very selective. I start with sushi, cabbage salad and boiled egg. How pathetic, I pick only two sushis from the variety of twelve different types. one is coated with salmon and other with dried mushroom. I soak each sushi in wasabi and soya sauce, add a bit of pickled ginger and take mouthful. tastes good.

My brother and his wife are pure vegetarian, so while they nibble on few  vegetarian finger food and salads, they order some food from cooking station. Within ten minute, a plateful of freshly prepared fried rice and Pakchoy arrive.

Pakchoy with sea weeds is crispy, stir fried and cooked in ginger. Brother has his Aha moments with every bite.

After my second round of finger food that includes assorted roasted chicken and some vegetarian snacks, I walk to select few raw stuff for cooking. I pick up shells, shrimps, black mushrooms, capsicum, squids, lettuce and carrots and head towards cooking station to make me a spicy dish.

I want to see him prepare, so I wait. He empties my plate of raw food in a big pan, adds water and lets it boil for five minutes. Filter out the liquid and keeps the boiled stuff aside. He has different containers of differently prepared sauces. He takes a spoon of one sauces, stir fries and then puts the boiled ingredients, add few more sauces, few spices and the plates it.

It is steaming hot, ready to eat.

Completely satiated I head towards dessert station that has fruits, sweets and big range of ice-creams. 
Did I tell you that I am a small eater? Well..they should have served Chinese tea for know.....

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

When in Spain, Eat like Locals do

I asked the kids at home if they would like to go the club for swimming. They didn’t want to go swimming but agreed to come with me to spend few hours at the club and probably try some Canarian food.

Our social club is a great place to spend few hours. It offers beautiful view from all sides and over looks the San Marco beach that has black sand. It is well-equipped club with tennis lawn, play area for kids, swimming pool, sauna, gym, indoor games room and a small restaurant.

We headed straight to the restaurant hoping to eat a typical Spanish food. The menu card had pizzas, sandwiches and few tapas.

We ordered squid fritters, French fries, salads and tortilla. The bread was freshly baked and the lunch was filling. I was hoping I had brought my chili sauce with me because Spanish don’t eat chilies at all and many times I find the food bland.

tuna salad

freshly baked bread

vegetarian salad which contained mayonnaise,pineapple and raisins

egg omelette called tortilla

squid fritters

Okay, I agree what we actually ate were just tapas, one of Spain’s great contributions to world’s gastronomy, and Spanish are seen indulging in this kind of tapas at any hour of the day, eating tapas and sipping beer or cortado (strong coffee) is their general passtime. It’s a good way to sample variety of tastes in short time.

Spanish eating habits are very much different from other Europeans. Spanish normally don’t have breakfast like a king but instead have small meals during day with a large meal during siesta time.

For breakfast they have freshly squeezed fruit juice, sweet roll, croissant or pastries. If you go early mornings out, you are likely to see Spanish enjoying freshly fried Churros with hot chocolate.

At around 11am you see them again in the restaurants having their bigger breakfast, that’s ‘merienda’ or ‘elevenses’ which is always sandwich or ‘bocadillo’ made from baguette and filled with anything from tuna fish, cured ham, cheese or meat.

Lunch hour is the feast time for Spanish people. All the shops close from 1:30pm to 4pm and it’s siesta time. Proper meals at eaten at this time which consists of lentils with chorizo, rice and fish/poultry/meat. Their meal lasts for an hour and it’s a grand feast followed by desert or fruits. Even the restaurants are full during this time with offers of ‘menu del dia’ that is a three-course meal with fixed price and includes starters, mains and desserts. Bread and drinks are also included in the price and sometimes coffee as well. This is more economical that ordering a la carte.

All the shops close around 8pm, and Spanish people socialize after 8pm, eating tapas and sipping beer, to return home around 10pm.

Dinner is very light, just soup, salad and maybe a sandwich while enjoying their favorite TV programs in Spanish language only.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Vegetarian Tortilla

Tortilla is the favorite snack in Tenerife and is available in every bar and in a restaurant. It is normally an egg dish that is stuffed with assorted meat, fish or vegetables. I had blog earlier about this Spanish omelet. I had a guest from Panama city who had demonstrated her way of preparing this dish.

Since this requires egg, therefore this could be limited to non-vegetarian folks only, right?


Vegetarians can be quite creative and those who cannot eat egg will find a way to relish this dish by finding a suitable combination that will replace egg.

Today when I entered the kitchen, I saw M prepare the vegetarian version.

So what did she do to change it to a vegetarian dish. I walked closer to have a look. She was mixing 1 tbsp of wheat flour, 1 tbsp of corn flour and 1 tbsp of gram flour with 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of milk.

Good enough, egg is the binding ingredient, well this flour batter would serve the purpose too.

So all she needs to do was to prepare the vegetarian stuffing.

She finely chopped the onions, red and yellow capsicum, coriander leaves and green chilies and set them aside.

Potatoes are must in a tortilla dish. Some use the boiled potatoes and some use deep fried. But M is the careful cook and tries to avoid fried stuff, so she diced two potatoes in small bits and steamed them.

For vegetable stuffing, she fried 1 tbsp of garlic in 1 tbsp of olive oil and then added chopped cabbage, carrots and mushroom, and stir fried till they were tender.

Now was the time to mix gently all the steamed potatoes, the stir fried vegetables, onion, red and yellow capsicum, coriander leaves, green chilies and avocado into the flour batter.

The mixture was gently transferred to a non stick frying pan, covered and cooked on medium flame for 12 minutes.

after 12 minutes, it was flipped over to other side and cooked for another 7 minutes

The Spanish enjoy this dish with hard drinks, vegetarians will enjoy this with fresh fruit juice. I tasted a difference at all, so much resemblance in taste too....

PS: But those who are still interested in using egg. You make take 6 eggs. separate the egg yolk and beat the whites till they are stiff. then add egg yolk and all the other ingredients and follow the same method.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sharpen the Knife

People who have full time live-in maid have one great advantage, that they ask their maid to do all the chopping and cutting for them. But there is risk there. Only the person who cooks knows, in what way a particular vegetable has to be chopped. When chopping for noodles, they have to be chopped in string style, long and thin, when it is for rice dish, it needs to be diced into thin tiny pieces, for veggies to be cooked on high heat, they need to be chopped slant wise and for plain cooking just round circles will do.
It becomes important to chop them yourself rather than giving tutorials to the maid. But then, we will not chop if we don't enjoy it.
There is pleasure in cutting only when we have a sharp knife. No?
Using a sharp knife is as important as using the right kind of knife. With blunt knife there is exertion and too much effort as we struggle to chop, and if we are not careful, the knife may skid and move slantwise chopping a part of our finger too. Ouch!
Over the years, I have used different kinds of sharpeners, metal sharpeners, rough stones or rubbing of two knives in opposite directions.
This is the stone sharpener that I am using nowadays. I had picked this up during my last trip to Bangkok. This has a stone ring in the center that rotates while sharpening the blades.

But the best sharpened knife till date is still those done by professionals who do rounds in narrow streets and sharpen the knife on rotating wheel.
They have a certain knack.
While sharpening the knife the most important thing is consistency. They hold the blade at exactly the same angle for every stroke.

These guys know the correct techniques for sharpening the blades, keeping at certain angle to acquire the correct sharpness.

After every stroke, they check the blades.

The stone wheel is attached to the wheels and while he cycles the wheel, the rotating stone wheel is used for sharpening the knife, sometimes throwing sparkles due to friction.

There are large varieties of knife sharpening stones that are used, and are available in different types, sizes and material compositions.  Carborundrum (Silicon carbide) is the most popular type of material used for knife sharpening stones, the others are made of diamond stones, Arkansas stones, ceramic wet stones and Japanese water stones.  These sharpening materials are quarried of varying grits which are relative to their sharpening function. Smaller grit numbers give the stone a coarse surface which is initially used to get rid of the blade’s imperfections and those with higher grit numbers on the stone gives a finer finish.
Many years ago I had seen a Bollywood film 'Zanjeer' in which Jaya Bacchan plays the role of a lady who sharpens knife and there is a song too...Chakoo churri..tej karalo...
Get the drift??

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