Month: February 2012

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Menu: Mali

Question: What does Supergirl, a tea party, and gluten free food all have in common? They all make an appearance during this week’s Malian Global Table. That’s pretty epic. And oddball. The perfect combination, if you ask me. I kept things simple this week, as I’m still recovering from last week’s surprise birthday celebration for my mom. What sounds good to you? Recipe: Mali’s Gluten-free “Pancake Donuts” (Maasa) [Recipe] Made with millet and rice flours and topped with a flurry of powdered sugar, this addictive snack comes from Mali’s street vendors. To be honest, I couldn’t decide what to call it. I finally settled on Pancake Donuts. I don’t know what else to say. The name speaks for itself. Mega. Vanilla Ginger Bissap [Recipe] Hibiscus tea with smooth vanilla undertones and a bit of snap from fresh, grated ginger. Sweetened to taste, this will take you to your happy place. *All recipes and the meal review will be posted by Monday morning.

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About the food of Mali

Mali is a dusty daydream away, down a lazy river, where dotted villages slip by, one by one, until forever. Of course, my first encounter with Mali wasn’t nearly so romantic, once I dug into the details. You see, I was watching a video on YouTube. When I read the caption I about fell over.  Here is what it said: “This footage was taken on a 3 day trip from Mopti to Timbuktu on a cargo pinasse. No stopping. No toilets. No beds. You should try it.” Wowzers. Talk about a challenge, considering there’s a half dozen other people on the boat (at least). No privacy and incredibly unusual circumstances – there seems to be an open fire in the bottom of the boat, where fufu is being prepared over gently undulating pools of water. Quite the travel experience. Located in the heart of West Africa, straddling the meandering Niger River, Mali has very different food in the north as compared to the south. In both areas, a wide assortment of sauces are the staple …

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Monday Meal Review: Maldives

THE SCENE I’m not sure words can really do this past week justice. So I’m going to give you a visual presentation of my mother’s surprise birthday weekend in Florida, which just so happened to coincide with the week we ate sunny, tropical Maldives. First, of course, there was the surprise. And, boy, howdy. Mom sure was surprised. She knew she was flying in from Boston to visit her son Keith, but she had no idea her three other children would be there (including me), plus three grandchildren (including Ava). We came from Oklahoma, my brother Chris came from Virginia, and my sister Elisa and children (Amanda and Donovan) came from New Jersey. I thought she might fall over from the shock. And she almost did. Thankfully, she quickly recovered and we all had a really nice week in Florida. We ate our meal, which of course meant Mr Picky filmed it. Eating the whole fish was quite the topic of discussion. Especially one particular eyeball, which my nephew almost ate. While it eventually went untouched, …

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Maldivian Sliced Custard | Bis Haluvaa

Let’s capture sunlight in a pan… and pretend it’s all the way from Maldives. You only need three ingredients: ghee, sweetened condensed milk, and eggs. A pinch of salt is nice, if you’re feeling adventurous. Whisk the eggs and condensed milk together… and cook over a double boiler until very hot and thickened. This will take several minutes (about 15-20 for me). Melt in the ghee and continue whisking until thick and pulling away from the sides of the pan and resembles mashed potatoes or thick polenta. This can take a while (45 minutes for me), so make sure you have a glass of wine, or a bubbly spritzer to keep you occupied as your arms develop muscles you never knew you had. Don’t rush it or the custard won’t set enough to slice. Now is a good time to mention an important note: I tried to do cook this custard without a  double boiler – I’m usually very good at this… but I was on my brother’s stove and because it was electric I …

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Lomi Lomi

I almost can’t believe how easy it is to chat with people from around the world now a days – to get to know each other – to learn from each other – to celebrate each other. To raise a glass to each other. Sometimes I get recipe ideas from books. Sometimes readers email me recipes. But today’s recipe for “Lomi Lomi” comes from an altogether different place. And it sparkles like the ocean on a sunny day. Last week I knew nothing about this poolside sipper. In fact, had I not begun a conversation with the Four Seasons Maldives on twitter, @FSMaldives), I would not be sharing it with you today.  Lomi Lomi is snowy and tropical, sweet and tart, spicy and refreshing. Since it only contains three ingredients, the drink comes together very quickly. I am still in shock that hotel staff was able to suggest this drink to me from halfway around the world, and tell me how to make it … in less than 144 characters. When you can tweet a recipe, …

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Roasted Whole Fish from the Maldives | Fihunu Mas

You should have seen my brother’s face when I told him we were going to make whole fish for our Maldivian Global Table. His eyes about popped out of his head. In fact, my entire family – both brothers, my sister, mom, niece and nephew – was wary of the idea.  While eating the whole fish is rare in the United States, we knew from experience that our family was in for a treat. We ate this meal in Florida, as part of a celebration of my mom’s surprise 70th birthday, so I had a bounty of fresh, beautiful fish at my fingertips. Nothing had been previously frozen – it was glorious. I chose two large, bright-eyed grouper (almost $40 each) and began the process. I whipped together the marinade in my brother’s blender. Typically, locals mix together a combination of hot chili peppers, spices, and aromatics. In a fit of inspiration, I added the coconut milk as most every recipe in Maldives contains some form of coconut. The end result is a very moist sauce which gives …

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Menu: Maldives

My mother’s surprise 70th birthday party has been in the works since this fall, maybe even as early as this summer. Well, it finally happened … and thank goodness because none of us could stand to keep the secret one second longer. We all flew to Florida, at my brother’s house. There was cake. There were cookies. And, under the palm trees, there was a spread from Maldives. All week I felt as though I was in the real place, soaking up the sun, sand between my toes, and smiling all the way from sunset to sunset. Stovetop travel  has never felt so real. What sounds good to you? Fihunu Mas [Recipe] Fresh whole fish rubbed in a blend of coconut milk, chilies, curry leaves, onion, cumin and chili powder. The fish is then roasted on the grill or in the oven until moist and flaky on the inside, and crusty-good on the outside. Maldivian Sliced Custard [Recipe] Just three ingredients make this sweet treat: eggs, sweetened condensed milk, and ghee. Lomi Lomi [Recipe] Sip your way to the …

Male, the capital of Maldives. Photo by Shahee Ilyas.

About the food of Maldives

The Republic of Maldives is a sunbathed group of islands southwest of India, dotted along the Indian ocean. Fish – specifically tuna – coconut, rice, and fresh fruit are the most popular tidbits from the region. Want some dried, crusty fish? They have it! Maldives Fish is a regional specialty of boiled tuna which is then sun-dried until rock hard. This sort of fish is often pounded and then integrated into coconut fish balls, curries, and sauces. Other fish, as well as with most meats, are most often enjoyed grilled or served in curry. Especially whole [Recipe]. On the side, you might find a spicy bowl of sambol – a popular hot sauce – or flatbreads, seasoned with coconut or onion. For dessert, locals cozy up to a bowl of juicy, fresh mango or papaya, rich custards [Recipe] made with condensed milk, and coconut sweets. Following British tradition, from colonial days, tea is served, as well as local specialties like Lomi Lomi made with ginger, palm sugar, citrus juice [Recipe], or even milk based drinks, as found in …

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Monday Meal Review: Malaysia

THE SCENE Ava presses the back of the spoon on the rice, smashing it down into the banana leaf. She looks up at me and smiles. “Mmmm” “Looks good!” I say, watching her sneak a bite of the par-cooked rice before adding another spoonful to the cone. Later, when we eat dinner, Ava wolfs down three sticky rice towers – taking care to balance each one on end first. There are so many fun foods for kids in this great, big world. There’s no reason to get stuck in a processed junk food rut. These towers of coconut rice (called lemang) from Malaysia are a great example. Making them captivated little Ava, just two and a half years old, for a good hour, helping me, watching me, and playing with her finished work of art. The joy on her face is so beautiful. So much more sublime than what a little piece of candy can bring – that’s the kind of joy that fades almost the second she pops it into her mouth. There’s something about playing …

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Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang is an art. And I could eat it every single day of my life. While there are many ways to make this flavorful curry, there are two things for certain – the dish must be slow-cooked until the flavor absorbs completely into the meat, and – secondly – the curry must explode with flavor. In a good way. The flavor part is the easiest. In fact, there are so many amazing ingredients – galangal, ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves to name a few – that you can’t help but make an amazing curry just by throwing them in a pot together. As for the slow cooking? Follow those famous words of wisdom and just  “Let it be.” NOTE: If you would like your hot pepper to grind smooth, simply soak it in hot water for half an hour. I like the little hot bits, so I processed it dry. Recipe inspired by the cuisine of Chef Norman Musa. Serves 2-3 Ingredients: For the stirfry paste: 3 stalks lemongrass, chopped 2 inches of thumb-thick …

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Toasted Coconut Paste for Curries | Kerisik

If you want to feel totally epic, trying making kerisik, a toasted, ground coconut paste that looks a great deal like natural peanut butter. Kerisik is used in Malaysia to thicken and flavor curries, like Beef Rendang. There’s something incredibly rewarding about making your own, whether you do it the traditional way (in a mortar and pestle) or the modern way (in a food processor). In just ten minutes your entire home fills with the warm smell of toasted coconut. For my kerisik, I used 14 oz package of frozen, shredded coconut (available at Asian markets and some latino markets). This makes about a cup of kerisik which you can then freeze for use whenever (and whenever) you need it. You can make as much or as little as you’d like. So, how to do it? First, thaw the coconut. You can also grate a fresh coconut, or use dried coconut (but that won’t be nearly as good, I’m told). Toast the coconut over medium heat in a large wok, stirring continually. In the first few minutes, the …

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Coconut Sticky Rice in Banana Leaves | Lemang

Today we’re going to make a tower… a tower of glorious height. And this tall, sturdy tower is going to be made out of rice. Our inspiration? The Petronas towers of Malaysia. Aren’t they stunning? I adore the fact that the skyscrapers are connected by a tiny walkway that seems to be a million, zillion miles up in the sky. But that’s a story for another day. The fact is, I am simply thrilled to make rice towers from Malaysia. You see, I’m falling more and more in love with glutinous rice which is the secret to building our edible tower. I first made glutinous rice for Laos and, yikes, was I ever scared of messing it up. After that Adventure, however, I learned that glutinous rice is much more forgiving than traditional long-grain rice. It’s very hard to screw up. Which means, of course, that I’ll be making it more and more. And add coconut milk into the mix? Let’s just call this recipe love at first bite. NOTE: For this recipe, you can …