One of the interesting parts of travel is the food you eat in each country. Every country has some dishes that are special to the place and the people. Often they are dishes that are eaten to celebrate a special occasion - a festival, Saint's day, or some other festivity. Other foods are unique to a
country. When we say "lasagne" we think Italy, "Moussaka" we think Greece. Many have a story behind them. So for those of us who love our food.... this is a big part of our travel experience.
Before we left to visit our son and daughter in law in Japan they asked was there anything we particularly wanted to eat . My reply was "something cooked on the table top." Japan has some delicious food shared and enjoyed around a table with the pot either filled with boiling water, or sitting on a fire brazier set in the tabletop much like an indoor BBQ. They slice the meat extra thin and it just melts in your mouth. Vegetables are added to the mix and you have a delicious and very social meal.If you are cooking shabu shabu which is cooking in the boiling water.....when the meat and vegetables are almost finished, you can then drink the water with the meat and veg bits and pieces as a soup.
The first time I visited Japan I was surprised at the bakeries which were full of French inspired pastries, delicious bread and other treats. I hadn't realised the Japanese had a cake culture. One of their interesting cakes found in Kyushu is the sponge cake "castella" introduced by a Portuguese missionary over 400 years ago. It is often bought to give as gifts. The Japanese tradition of Omiyagi where you take a small gift......often food, back to workmates, family and friends when you have been away, makes it a perfect gift.
In England we just had to have at least one "pasty" when we were in Cornwall. Traditional to this area these meat pies have swede, potato and meat in a semicircular pastry case, with a thick rolled edge. A traditional miners meal taken underground....the thick edge made a good handle for dirty hands... thus keeping the rest of the pie free from germs.
By the time we left Morocco we had sampled a whole variety of tajines. Chicken, pork, beef or meat balls with often dried fruits, preserved lemon, and tomato, are cooked in the tajine. The meal is also given the name tajine. So you eat a tajine cooked in a tajine!
The tajine cooking utensil is made of thick earthenware, often plain, though some are painted. With a conical lid, the dishes are designed to capture the steam and return it to the food so little water is required in the cooking. Important for those who have very limited water supply. Traditionally cooked over a fire, they are often done on a stove or in the oven these days. The tajine dish is delicious and the preserved lemon and dried fruits such as figs, apricots, prunes, dates etc give a particular flavour that says Morocco. Couscous is often the accompanying dish.
In Portugal we were keen to try their specialty.....a small custard tart. These tarts are everywhere. Any shop that sells food seems to have some in their cabinet. With a flaky pastry that was really crisp and a sweet baked custard filling... these tarts were very moreish.....although we managed to resist most of the time!
Before we arrived, it was difficult to pinpoint just what were the main traditional Portuguese dishes apart from the custard tarts. Fish is a staple and served simply with boiled potatoes and salad usually.
We really enjoyed a meal traditional in Madeira we didn't see anywhere else in Portugal......beef skewers. The meat was BBQed on a large skewer traditionally made from a laurel branch and with laurel leaves threaded between the meat that was presented, hanging from a metal stand and was really delicious....especially with some good Portuguese red wine! Vegetables or salad were served separately.
We were surprised in Shanghai to have some difficulty sourcing traditional Chinese food. Shanghai unlike most Chinese cities was built for a more cosmopolitan population and does not have a cuisine special to the city. There are certainly huge numbers of international franchises such as Subway!
At Yu Gardens we decided against joining the queue for the famous Chinese dumplings being turned out at a great rate. The queue would have been about a kilometer long! They must be very delicious dumplings.
A meal we really enjoyed was crispy duck with Chinese pancakes. These pancakes split open and you put a thick slice of duck with the hoisin sauce and vegetables between the two layers, and eat like a sandwich. Yum.....truly delicious!
Generally, my impression is that many cakes are now universal in many cultures and countries We didn't come across any cakes that were unique to the countries we visited. Next post I will tell you about one!
Here I am after two months travel. With the best of intentions I planned to write on this blog. But unfortunately, many sitebuilders are not ipad compatible, which is a real disappointment.
These days hotels and accommodation don,t seem to provide computers for guests, as it is largely unnecessary. Many have iphones which they can use to update their websites, or notebooks which are too heavy for the kind of travel we like to do.
Free wifi is largely the norm in most countries which is wonderful....just a pity the ipad is not a tool to use to work on my websites, as that is all I had.
We visited countries as varied as Japan, where our son and daughter in law live, England where our daughter and son in law live at the moment, Morocco, Madeira, mainland Portugal and Shanghai which made a good stopover on the way home... although the heat and humidity made sightseeing very uncomfortable.
Funnily.... we had had similar or hotter temperatures for several weeks but the drier climate made it all quite comfortable.
There were only two places where we had no wifi connections. It certainly makes travelling a whole different scenario to even 5 years ago. Booking ahead for accommodation was easy.
Wanting to know where to eat in Shanghai .....out came the ipad to browse the forums for recommendations.
Emails to family and friends or comments on Facebook are a far cry from the days when you had letters sent to a Post Restante address where your mail was held for a length of time for you to collect. If you were late it could well have been returned to sender by the time you reached your destination.
Many people use their ipads for a camera and storage of phjotos
Tomorrow I will talk a little about the food and baking we encountered.
It is nice to be back!
Brought up baking from a young age I love to make delicious cakes to share with family and friends. Much like my mother, I can be one of those cooks who measure by "eye" rather than with a measure, and invariably add in or take out ingredients depending on what is in my cupboard. However, I do also appreciate the need to follow a recipe exactly for best results, as the "pour it in" method is really for those who have done a lot of baking over many years. I use this method for new recipes. So come share my recipes and learn some baking skills if you are not confident.