Monday Meal Review: Bahrain

This is meal #13 in my personal challenge to eat one meal for every country in the world.

“Shrimp Balls?” my husband asked, frowning. ”We’re having Shrimp Balls for dinner?”

“Yeah. Like Meatballs. Only Shrimp. You’ll love them.”

Technically I was lying since I never had a shrimp ball in my life, I wasn’t looking forward to trying them, and  I wasn’t even sure why I decided to make them.

I know. You’re wondering where my integrity is.

I promise you, my heart is in the right place. Sometimes little white lies are necessary if I’m going to beat his Picky Eater Syndrome. Trust me.

Still unsure? Well, let me tell you a secret.

He was a big fan.

He liked the shrimp balls more than I did.

So there.

Roasted Eggplant Dip (Uukkous Al-Badinjan) [Recipe]

Smooth and spicy Eggplant Dip

What I liked most about this dish:

I’m in love. Really in love. As in… I’m never making baba ganoush again. As you know, I am a big fan of making food ahead so that I can enjoy the party. In typical fashion, I blended this sauce up a day ahead, giving the flavors time to mellow and mingle before eating. The result? Perfection!

This dip is at once smooth, smoky, spicy, and pungent. Like salsa, Uukkous Al-Badinjan is versatile and can be used as a dip or to sauce your meal. I particularly enjoyed mixing a little in with my “sweet” rice. The smoky flavor of a properly roasted eggplant goes perfectly with the lingering heat of the chili pepper and the pungent kick of garlic and lemon

Salt is like eyeliner for this recipe… make sure you put enough to make the flavors pop!

What I liked least about this dish:

Roasting eggplant for over an hour … in an already hot house … in Oklahoma … is a terrible idea. Luckily for me, we have a grill. I promptly fired her up (yes, her. My grill’s name is Samantha) so I was able to keep the heat OUT of the kitchen. I even think grilling the eggplant (on the top rack) lent a char-grilled depth of flavor to the sauce that would not be obtainable in the oven.

Thanks so much, Samantha!!

Bahraini Shrimp Balls (Chebeh Rubyan) [Recipe]

Bahraini Shrimp Balls

What I liked most about this dish:

The tomato-tamarind sauce really made the shrimp balls shine. Although my recipe does not require low and slow cooking, I cooked the sauce all afternoon, mostly because I didn’t have anything better to do with that burner while Ava napped. I had a feeling the somewhat flat flavors just 30 minutes into cooking would deepen and intensify as the sugars caramelized. Boy, was I was right. By the time we ate this sauce, five hours later, the natural sugars in the sauce turned a rich brown, it thickened up into a hearty “stew” like sauce.

What I liked least about this dish:

This was my first time eating Shrimp balls. I had a little trouble getting past the taste of “fishy” meatballs. A few bites in, however, I found myself really enjoying the flavor (along with everyone else).

Getting into the nitty gritty, I hate the fact that I do not have a food processor big enough to puree one pound of shrimp. I do have a teeny tiny processor that is a part of my immersion blender set. The mixture would have fit fine in 4 batches, but I tried to force it in 3. I had shrimp oozing and spilling and clogging. Not to mention I was running back and forth between the kitchen and laundry room, where I was doing the pureeing, so as to not to wake Ava up from her nap.

The whole situation was ridiculous.

Point is, you need a normal food processor to make this recipe.

Other than not having a food processor, the biggest problem with this recipe was that the shrimp balls needed to be cut with a knife because they got surprisingly firm. I think there are two ways to avoid this. First, cook the shrimp balls as briefly as possible so they don’t get tough. Second, make them half the size I did so they are more “bite-sized” and don’t need to be cut.

Rosewater Rice Pilaf (Mulhammar) [Recipe]

Rosewater Pilaf - Mulhammar

What I liked most about this dish:

The rice won everyone over at our Bahrain Global Table. Each bite of nicely separated rice grains came enrobed in a subtle hint of sweetness and the haunting flavors of rosewater and saffron. The slightly sweet flavor is a perfect compliment to the spicy Eggplant Dip. My palate never had time to get tired of sweet or spicy because each bite contrasted the last.

I’ve now made pilaf a few times with basmati for this project. Each time it gets quicker and more automatic. I’m loving the improved texture of the rice and fear this project might make eating out even harder for me. (Anyone else hate paying $35 for food you could make better for $3.50?)

What I liked least about this dish:

I didn’t think I would like eating sweet, rosewater rice with fish, but this Rice Pilaf was spot on. A few weeks ago I would have said the extra steps to make this kind of rice (instead of just boiling, you rinse it, boil it, drain it, cook it). However, I’m both getting used to the technique AND I much prefer how the grains stand apart with a lovely tooth to them.

Apricot Fruit Leather (Quamar-el-Deen) [Recipe]

Fruit Leather in short strips or rolled up

What I liked most about this dish:

Just being able to say that I made fruit leather is pretty “sweet.” Also, I like being able to put healthy candy into my body, instead of the junk I usually gravitate towards (peanut m&m’s anyone?).

The concept of making fruit leather is very simple and there are endless variations on flavor. I even poured a jar of apple/strawberry sauce onto my silpat, spread it thin and dried away. With almost zero effort, this came out great (although it dried out in only 2 hours, so watch your time). Overall, I’m a fan and I’d love to play around with this some more. P.S. Fruit Leather is a perfect gift idea! Just be sure to separate pieces with parchment paper (or roll fruit leather up in a sheet).

What I liked least about this dish:

When I made my first batch of Fruit Leather, I misunderstood the signs of “doneness.” After 8 hours I kept checking the leather with my fingers, feeling for a smooth surface, with no more stickiness. Every time I checked the surface still felt tacky. Little did I know tacky is normal and I was ruining the leather. By the time I took it out it tasted like burnt sugar (even though it looked fine). If you aren’t sure yours is done, I would suggest little taste tests along the way to make sure you have the leather where you want it.

Another thing, Fruit Leather is not a very “desserty” dessert, unless you are on a hike. I would avoid serving this at a black tie dinner party.

Anyway, I made a second batch with some jarred applesauce and it only took 2 hours to be done. This was because the applesauce was thinner than my mixture and dried out faster. Check out how thin it was:

Fruit Leather Made thin with jarred applesauce

Ava’s Corner:

Ava got a stomach bug earlier this week. This was her first time puking, and boy did she! She got down to the bile and would not hold any fluids down, so we took her to the ER. We were there until 2 a.m. with a very bleary eyed sweetheart. She didn’t even cry, except when she was throwing up. I could tell it hurt. Mama and Papa definitely had more difficulty holding tears back.

Because of her bug, Ava was on really mild food this week. I did let her lick the Eggplant Dip before I added the hot spices, but that was about it. I would like her to try this again sometime, and I am sure I’ll make it again.

Share

Opt In Image
Hungry for more?
Be notified when National Geographic releases my memoir.

Simply fill in your details below.

Comments

  1. …NEXT TIME BITE THE BUG IN THE NIP WITH SIPS OF DILUTED APPLE CIDER VINEGAR. ..NATURAL NON-TOXIC DISINFECTANT …iT WORKED FOR ME THIS PAST WEEKEND …i HAD THE SAME BUG….AND IT WORKED FOR YOU WHEN YOU WERE A LITTLE CUTIE-PIE…

  2. Jessica Bennett says:

    Wonderful as usual. Just one thing, the recipe for the eggplant isn’t there.

  3. elisa waller says:

    I love the fruit leather strips idea!!! When my kids were in Preschool through 3rd grade I always packed their lunch boxes with a Healthy fruit leather strip from the health food store. All the other kids were eating those fake, unhealthy Roll-ups, but they weren’t! After 3rd grade, they realized it, and started leaving them in thier lunch boxes. BOO! MOral: send Ava to school with yours..yay! Thumbs up to the rice! <3

Speak Your Mind

*