Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Good Food & Wine Show

If you're looking for something to do on the weekend of 7-9 November, get yourself along to the Good Food & Wine Show at the Convention Centre.

Ainsley Harriot seems to be the main attraction this year. You might have seen him as the host of the UK version of Ready Steady Cook. I actually got hooked on that show when I was living in Ireland and watched it religiously. He's a pretty entertaining presenter.

Other chefs making an appearance include Tobie Puttock, Matt Moran, Ben O'Donoghue and Alastair McLeod. Matt Skinner will also be there to give you the lowdown on wine.

As well as the chefs' shows, there are loads of exhibitors covering all kinds of food, wine & beer. Tickets are $20 through Ticketek.

Good Food & Wine Show
7-9 November 2008
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
Corner of Merivale Road & Glenelg Street
Brisbane 4101
W -

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Mice on Sticks

After my guinea pig post, I've been walking around trying to remember the weirdest street food that I've seen. Then I remembered mice on sticks. Pretty hard to beat that one.

When I was in Mozambique there was a kid on the side of the road selling mice on sticks. We stopped and bought a couple. Not surprisingly, no-one ate any of them.

I'd be keen to know the craziest street food everyone has come across - post up a comment on the weird and wonderful local foods you've eaten.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Guinea Pig

When you think of guinea pigs, the first thing that pops into your head is cute, fluffy things that little kids keep as pets. In Peru, guinea pigs (or cuy) are still cute and fluffy, but they're also considered to be something you cook up for dinner.

I'd read about eating guinea pig before heading off to Peru. I always like to try out as much local food as I can when travelling. Thinking I probably wouldn't come across guinea pig anywhere else in the world, I ordered cuy for dinner one night at a restaurant in Puno. One of my friends on the trip was crazy enough to order it as well. It was a modern, cool, upmarket type of restaurant, so we thought we'd be in safe hands.

After a bit of a wait, the guinea pig came out. It was served whole, flattened out on the plate and didn't look particularly appealing. We were getting looks from the other side of the table as if to say "are you really going to eat that?". The whole dining experience wasn't really optimised by one of our dinner party pointing out that you could still see the guinea pig's teeth.

My theory is that the restaurant staff bring the guinea pig out whole, just to get a bit of amusement in watching gringos like me try to eat it. After I'd had a bit of a go at it with my knife and fork, one of the waiters came over and asked if we'd like it cut into pieces. "Great idea" I thought.

Soon the guinea pig came back in more manageable pieces. It had been deep fried whole. Although I'd been told you were supposed to eat the skin, it was like lino and I would have been at the restaurant for the next week if I'd attempted to eat all the skin. The guinea pig on my plate was a pretty lean one, and there was hardly any meat on it at all. It didn't take long before we both gave up on the guinea pig and focused our attention on the vegetables on the plate, which were looking more mouth watering by the minute.

So the guinea pig didn't turn out to be a particularly filling meal and we headed off to the local supermarket late at night in an attempt to find a bit more dinner. Along with the enormous plate of tripe which I randomly ordered off a menu written in Swahili when I was in Nairobi, guinea pig is one of those local foods that I'm not in a big hurry to track down again. But I'd rather be trying guinea pig than lining up at the local McDonalds - it's all part of the travelling experience.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Peru Trip

Well I'm back from Peru after a brilliant holiday. The main reason we went to Peru was to walk the Inca trail and see Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu was of course amazing, but the rest of the country surprised me with its people, landscapes, culture and of course the food - all of which added up to a great trip.

I headed off to Peru with a bit of a stereotype in my head that all South American food revolved around chilli. That turned out to be way off the mark. Although chilli pops up in plenty of Peruvian food, it normally lends only a very mild flavour, rather than blowing your tastebuds out of your mouth.

The potato is the staple food in Peru, where they grow about 2000 different varieties (according to our local guides). Although some form of potato turns up as a side vegetable in pretty much every meal, there are some traditional dishes where the potato is the star, like ocopa (potatoes with a sauce made from chilli, walnuts/peanuts, huatacay and cheese), papa a la huancaina (sliced potatoes with a spicy cheese sauce) and causa (mashed potato with lemon, onion, chili and oil - often served with chicken, seafood or avocado).

Given the long coastline of Peru, seafood is also an important part of its cuisine. Lima is famous for cerviche, which is seafood marinated in lime juice, onions and chilli. The seafood isn't cooked - it's just served once the seafood has been marinated for the appropriate time. Cerviche is traditionally served with raw onion, boiled sweet potato and giant corn kernels. I had some fish cerviche in Lima, and it was delicious (see photo).

When it came to meat, I tried beef, chicken, duck, pork, alpaca and guinea pig (look out for the post on that one). Some of the traditional meat dishes are lomo saltado (slices of beef stir fried with with onion, tomato, soy sauce and chilli), arroz con pato (duck with coriander flavoured rice - see photo), papa rellena (potato stuffed with minced beef, egg and olives) and aji de gallina (chicken with a creamy spicy sauce).

We also came across some plants and cereals that I hadn't tried before - quinoa, kiwicha and kaniwa. Quinoa forms an important part of the locals' diet in the south of the country, especially around Lake Titicaca, where I had some delicious quinoa soups.

Peru has some fantastic desserts. My favourite was suspiro limeno, which is an incredibly sweet dessert made from condensed milk. It was so good I'm going to put up a separate post with the recipe. Other desserts include locally flavoured ice cream (like prickly pear or lucuma) and alfajores (small biscuits with a caramel filling).

Being a bit of a snack food addict, I was glad to find Peruvians shared my love of snacks. In every town there were snack stands on most corners, selling things like fried plaintain chips (my favourite snack in Peru), peanuts, Brazil nuts, crunchy fried corn kernels, biscuits and all kinds of chocolate bars. Most of these snacks cost 1 Sol (about 40 Australian cents) so I tried plenty of them.

Pisco sour is probably the most famous drink in Peru. Pisco is a grape brandy, made in Peru. Apparently Peru and Chile have an ongoing argument as to which country first made pisco. Anyway, the pisco sour is a cocktail made of pisco, lime juice, ice, sugar and egg white. It ends up as a fairly frothy cocktail and is served with a few drops of bitters or sometimes cinnamon (see photo). They taste great and plenty of restaurants would offer a free pisco sour to get you in the door. Now that I'm back in Brisbane, I'm on the hunt to track down a bottle of pisco. If you've seen any in your local bottleshop, please let me know.

We also got to try chicha, which is a home made corn beer (see photo). It tasted ok, although it's pretty filling. An enormous litre sized glass of chicha costs about 40 cents, so you can see why its popular with the locals. There's also a strawberry flavoured chicha for the ladies.

There are of course local beers (like Brahma, Cristal and Cusquena) and there is some wine made in Peru, although I didn't get to try any. My local drink of choice (when I wasn't drinking pisco sours) was Inca Kola.

Inca Kola, although called cola, is actually bright yellow and tastes like creaming soda. Not exactly what you'd expect from cola, but I was a big fan.

I also drank plenty of coca tea, especially at altitude. It's supposed to help out with altitude sickness. Generally it's made by just throwing a handful of coca leaves into hot water. Although they do grow some coffee in Peru, we had a hard time finding a good cup of fresh coffee. The hotels usually served this incredibly thick stuff, that was so strong it had to be diluted with lots of hot water and milk. One morning I made the mistake of pouring about a third of a cup of condensed milk into my coffee (thinking it was milk) only to end up with the sweetest coffee ever.

Of course there's no way I can do any justice to the amazing variety of Peruvian cuisine in one post, but hopefully this gives you some idea of the delicious food on offer in Peru. I've got a few more Peru posts in the pipeline, so keep your eyes out for those over the next week or so.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

food bling update

I know its been a while since I've actually put a post up. The last few weeks I've been working crazily long days trying to clear off my desk before a much needed holiday. After working 14 and 16 hour days, I haven't exactly been keen to sit down at the computer and tap out a few posts before bed.

Anyway the good news is I finally left the office, and now I'm in Peru. So food bling is going to be a bit quiet while I'm over here. In the meantime I'll be trying out all kinds of Peruvian food, like cerviche (seafood 'cooked' in lime juice), cuy (guinea pig) and pisco sour, the national drink. Tonight we're off to dinner at one of the top restaurants in Lima, Astrid y Gaston. The menu looks fantastic - if only I could understand a bit more Spanish.

Anyway its adios for now, but when I get back I'll have plenty of Peruvian tales to tell you about.