Chicken for Dessert: Tavuk Göğsü

What did you have for dinner?

You don’t say.

How about dessert?

After a long wander through downtown Izmir, Turkey, I was craving something sweet.  Baklava would have been an easy choice, but I wanted to try something different.

Not knowing more than ten words of Turkish – including the topic of this post – I entered what appeared to be a pudding restaurant.

Izmir, Turkey - Chicken Dessert (Tavuk Göğsü)

After a few probably misconstrued hand gestures, I received a plate of tavuk göğsü, which in Turkish means chicken breast and likely originates from the early Ottoman Empire.  If you are into archaic recipes, you may also know this dish as blancmange.

Yes, shredded chicken, as well as milk, sugar, and cinnamon all play an important role in this dish.  Is this the balut of desserts?  No.  In fact, upon tasting it I had no idea that this somewhat weird food contained poultry.


 

Imagine that–eggs for brunch, fried chicken for dinner and this edible flotation device to finish off your day.  Could you foresee this as the next fad?

Mansaf (منسف‎), Jordan’s “National Dish”

Truthfully, I have mixed feelings about rice.  In countries where it is one of the staple starches – as opposed to it being the go-to starch – I either never want it or expressly want it.  For example, in China, even though noodles (wheat) is a northern thing, from having lived in the south for the majority of the time, I only ever want rice.  But with Indian food, with its naan and dosa, rice should stay far away from my plate.

It doesn’t make much sense, hey?

Cut to Amman, Jordan, located in a region known both rice and bread such as pita.  Now, although I can drown a plate of rice in olive oil, my favorite condiment, with the pita you can sop up olive oil, hummus and other mezze (side dishes).  Pita: 1, rice: negligible impression.

At the same time – are you ready for it? – rice is food.  I like food.  I like rice.  Enter mansaf, Jordan’s “national dish:”

Amman, Jordan - Mansaf (Jordanian National Dish)

Huzzah, it was also served with pita

Mansaf is a rice- and lamb– focused meal cooked in jameed (dehydrated goat’s milk yoghurt) and topped with almonds and pine nuts.  It’s difficult for me to get excited about pilaf-style mains, but I’ll give Jordan credit for adding banchan, in this case olives, peppers and an ashtray, that help distract from the monotony of the dish.


When you travel, do you try to seek out “national dishes?”  What is your national and/or regional dish?

Chinese Guilinggao: Turtle Jelly, as Bitter as its Consumers

Turtle jelly, or 龟/龜苓膏 (guīlínggāo), is considered one of many types of 凉茶 (liáng​chá), or Chinese herbal teas.  It’s not good.  The end.

Ah, no, I won’t do that to you.

The preparation of the tea is centuries old.; It was thought that making a powder of a “golden coin” turtle plastron (bottom part of the shell; nowadays if they are used at all, shells from not-so endangered but soon to be endangered turtles are used) and combining it with various herbs de jour would benefit one’s skin and gradually lead towards a healthier complexion, as well as being the same kind of panacea as every other facet of Chinese medicine.  Though, since its main focus is skin care, considering the typically ominous skies in many mainland cities, business should be booming.

Kaiping, China- GuiLingGao (Turtle Jelly)

I tried a glass on a whim while in Kaiping, China.  I happened to wander by many an herbal tea shop, taking a whiff of things that were never welcoming when I decided to dive right into the unpleasantly bitter water bed that is guilinggao.  And talk about bitter!  You see, my usual refrain when speaking with a drink vendor is 不加糖 (bù​jiātáng), or “don’t add sugar/no added sugar.”  Apparently, you’re supposed to add something sweet to it, obviously to counteract its bitterness.  Yes, well which of the other thousands of healing properties does that also negate?

As stated above, if you’re interested in trying it and you’re near a Chinatown, you might have a good chance.  Turtles may not even be listed in the ingredients, but do you believe everything you read (excluding this blog, of course)?

New York Restaurants: One Entebbe Roll, Please

Inwood, Manhattan, New York - Sushi Falafel Kosher Restaurant

West 181st St. in Manhattan, New York is home to a large Dominican population.  Can’t you just tell by the sign?

To be even more accurate, this part of town is also near a significant Jewish community.  That likely explains why this is a kosher restaurant (hence, the grand announcement of MEAT being added to the menu).  However, what could “more stuff” mean?  They’ve already got sushi and falafel, so how about a deferring slightly to the local demographics and offering mango mangú maki (巻き= roll)?  That is unless patrons already have a favorite sushi place.

Airport Spotting

Have you heard of the pastime called plane spotting?  It involves going to various points near an airport to take photos of aircraft and often to log the airplane’s registration number.

I like seeing different airlines, but I generally have only taken photos of the plane I’m about to board.  Not to mention, to jot down the registration number, you’d need a pretty good camera lens.  Currently, my best lens is a skyscraper roof, or by asking someone taller than me to take the photo…

Then again, I find airport spotting somewhat more interesting.  Take this Kenya Airways check-in area at Hong Kong‘s  as an example:

Hong Kong Airport (HKG)- Kenya Airways Check-In Baggage

I wasn’t boarding this flight, but I’ve seen similar bottom-heavy (as in the cargo hold) check-in processes when going to the Philippines and Ethiopia.  On the flip side, the US crams in the baggage in the overheads.  Still, I’ll bet this picture would make the Spirit Airlines CEO salivate.

Anyway, what’s in all of that luggage?  Someone go shopping for mobile phones at Chungking Mansions?  Well, if anyone knows how convenient Hong Kong is for prices on a variety of goods, it’s the mainland.

 

Kajang, Malaysia’s Satay City

Whether or not you want to spell it satay, sate, şiş kebap, or шашлы́к, at the end of the day it’s a few pieces of something, often meat, with a skewer poking through the center.

Naturally though, when in Southeast Asia, there’s a timeless argument over who “created” this convenient snack.  Could it have been the Thais?  Sure, according to them.  Malaysia?  If you ask a Malay.  Indonesia?  They’ve got my vote

On one extended layover in Kuala Lumpur, I decided to negotiate a deal with one of the airport touts to check out Kajang, a city relatively near KL that is best known for being Malaysia’s sate (the spelling used in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei) hub.  Shucks, I could’ve just splurged at the airport, seeing as there’s good sate throughout the country.

But then what type of food traveler would I be?

Kajang, Malaysia - Malaysia's Sate City (1)

“For the real flavor of Kajang satay”

There’s not much going on in Kajang for visitors beyond its recognition as a sate town, so my driver recommend that after eating at Sate Kajang HJ. Samuri, I might as well take the train back to KL.  I explored the downtown anyway, but the most happening place was a 7-11.

Anyway, onto the show…

Kajang, Malaysia - Malaysia's Sate City (2)

According to the waiter’s shorthand, I ordered 4 chicken (A= ayam), 2 lamb (K=kambing) and 1 beef (D=daging), along with extra bumbu kacang (peanut sauce).  Cucumbers (ketimun) are a common accompaniment, and since I was in Malaysia, I also ordered a teh tarik.

It was good, and they get more credit for only giving me meat, as opposed to adding gristle and fat.  This is in contrast to the lamb kebab vendors in China that really know how to season the skewer itself, as opposed to offering any real meat.

Nevertheless, unless you’re truly into food pilgrimages, you might as well stick to your neighborhood penjaja (hawker).

Five Exceptional Indian Foods

The traditional Indian food has been globally cherished and appreciated for the excellent use of herbs and spices, along with the medley of so many interesting ingredients which reflect its regional and cultural diversity is why the Indian food outranks that of other country. The food in India restores the ethnic and Dharmic believes and is shaped mostly by vegetarianism.

A very large and important role in shaping the Indian cuisine to what it is today is played by the various historical events such as foreign invasion, colonialism and trade relation. For example, the potato, a staple food in India was introduced by the Portuguese who also brought Chillies and breadfruit.

Each region of India has its own manner of cooking and well defined flavors. With Tandoori and Korma dishes from the North, hot and spicy from the south, chilli curries from the east, coconut and sea food from the west here is a list of five exceptional Indian dishes you need to savor and hold on to.

  1. LittiChokha

litti-chokha

Photo by Rahulpandey308, CC BY-SA 3.0

This quintessential cuisine is from Bihar, one of the most fertile place and a region which has hosted three well known religions- Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. LittiChokha can be served for any of the three meals and is even appreciated as a snack. The main ingredients are wheat and sattu (powdered gram or lentil) formed into small oval shapes with spices and filled with ghee (clarified butter). It is usually served with baiganbharta (a dish made from Aubergines and different spices) or alubharta. The littis are baked and flavored mainly with mustard oil, garlic, ginger and red pepper. Littis blend vibrantly and so they can also be served with different curries, preserving its traditional taste.

 

  1. Rogan Josh

rogan-josh

Photo by stu_spivack, CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the most aromatic lamb dishes with Persian origins has established itself as one of the signaturedishes from Kashmir. The name holds a very intriguing meaning to it. In the Persian sense roughan means “clarified butter” but it is also known as rogan which means red in color and other half of it is “josh” meaning heat or passion. Rogan Josh has been a part of the Kashmiri multi cuisine “Wazwan” whose preparation is considered to be an art and appoint of pride in Kashmir. It consists of braised lamb pieces which are rinsed in strong aromatic and mouth-watering flavors like garlic, ginger and spices like cloves, bay leaves, cardamom and cinnamon. The fierce red-color is due to the dried Kashmiri leaves which are treated to reduce the original heat. For people who enjoy having spicy flesh in extremely cold places, you are in for a splendid treat.

 

  1. Hyderabadi Biryani

hyderabadi-biryan

Photo by Garrett Ziegler, CC BY 2.0

Hyderabadi Biryani came into existence as Mughlai and Telgu cuisines blended and has been the staple food for the place ever since and is now acknowledged and appreciated worldwide. The main ingredients are Basmati, mutton, onions, spices, lemon, saffron and coriander. Some variations of this dish may include Chicken instead of mutton and is usually accompanied by Dahi chutney(yogurt and onions) and mirchikasalan- a green chili curry.

 

  1. PavBhaji

pav-bhaji

Photo by proccers, CC BY-SA 2.0

A dish whose origin can be traced back to the 1850s, PavBhaji is an Indian street food which originated as a Maharashtra cuisine. “Bhaji” is traditional Marathi name for any vegetable dish while “Pav” got its name from the Portuguese language which means small bread rolls. With a vibrant blend of vegetables, either whole or mashed, lavish dose of fresh tomatoes, a blob of butter and an optional choice of cheese and other toppings like dry fruits, the Bhaji is served with warm bread or pav usually fried in butter. PavBhaji is one of the most versatile meals in itself usually enjoyed in the evenings between lunch and dinner. So if you are looking for something that will keep you going till dinner, get your hands on this and you are good to go.

 

  1. RasMalai

rasmalai

Photo by Tom Ipri, CC BY-SA 2.0

Originating from Odisha this is one of the most famous desserts of the country The name RasMalai is taken from two Hindi words, “Ras” meaning juice and “malai” meaning cream. One of the most appropriate ways to describe this beautiful dessert is “a rich cheesecake without crust”. It surely sounds luscious doesn’t it? The basic ingredients include sugary white, cream or yellow colored balls (flattened) flavored with cardamom, making it almost irresistible. If you are looking for exquisite dessert after a satisfactory meal, RasMalai will be a blessing in disguise.

There are still much more delicacies out there for you to get enthralled by, as almost all Indian cuisines are exclusive and special for their own authenticity and strong cultural background but these dishes mentioned in the list above will give you a glimpse good enough for a trip back to India to explore the widely acknowledged and praised Indian Cuisines.

Author Bio:

Rohit Agarwal is an anthropologist by profession and blogger at www.Transindiatravels.com.He likes toexplore different places and has also done research in the widely distributed cuisines all over the world and writes about food on various blogs.