One day in Da Lat was enough to eat a lot of amazing street food (the earlier the better) and try out new Vietnamese desserts, drink morning coffee with local men, stay at a hostel run by the craziest and most welcoming family and where they make family meals and encourage spooning your neighbor by putting the beds very close to each other.
I used to be such a picky eater, there used to be a loooong list of ingredients I refused to eat. Even when my interest in food and cooking grew and the list gradually got shorter, the thought of eating certain ingredients or dishes was simply horrifying. Bananas, mushrooms, everything that sounded really exotic or was just simply new to me, I would not eat.
Then I moved to Beijing and I had to step out of every comfort zone that I had. New friends, different language, different culture, different food and no kitchen. Some things were easier to adjust to than others: food was one of the easier ones, living without a kitchen was definitely not.
When I went back to the Netherlands last summer I couldn’t wait to try out all the new recipes I had been wanting to make for over a year, and inspired by all these new experiences I found my way back into the kitchen. One day I suddenly realized I had made pasta with mushrooms for dinner with this banana-date cake for dessert. I had finally conquered all of my silly food quirks. I now firmly believe that mushrooms are awesome, bananas are my favorite fruit snack and I will never let a chance go by to try out new flavors and ingredients.
Even though I’m not really cooking here, I still love strolling over the Beijing markets and discovering new products. In this part of the photo series you can see the colorful summer fruits (pics were taking in October 2012 when it was still pretty warm), vegetables, pickled foods and nuts. Not only the products available are different from back home, also the way they stall them is radically different from what I was used to. That will be even be more clear in next post, in which I will show pictures of the meat department..
As you might have seen in earlier posts, I’ve started making recipe videos. Since the videos are in Chinese and I assume most of you don’t understand what I’m saying, I’ll also post the recipes in English. I made this Eton Mess for my second video last weekend.
I find it hard to express the tastiness of the dishes in Chinese, cause I’m just not a fluent Chinese speaker and it doesn’t come naturally (yet). So I wish I would’ve filmed the reactions of my roommates when they ate this dessert. They were having continuous foodgasms, with expressions of eternal bliss and producing sounds that probably made the neighbors frown.
I don’t know many desserts as easy and enjoyable as this one. So if you want to impress someone – maybe even let him or her moan
a little – with minimal effort, this is the dessert to make.
I arrived at my parents’ place late last night. My dad made me bitterballen (a Dutch snack) and then they sent this tired jet-lagged girl to bed. I woke up before 6 am and immediately was energetic, it was already 1 pm in Beijing after all, so I got up and started my first day back home.
I think it goes without saying that one of the first things I did was baking a cake, or at least make an attempt. It didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped though. It started with using the wrong chocolate. I only realized that I had been chopping up milk chocolate when it was too late, so I decided to just use that one. And just when I patted myself on the shoulder for not letting the butter burn, I clumsily poured some of the sizzling hot butter over my own hand – ouch. I ended up whisking the eggs with my right hand and having my left hand under the cold tap to stop the cooking process of my fingers (sorry for killing your appetite).
But despite these small (painful) setbacks, I ended up with a delicious cake that has a crunchy outside, a soft inside and is filled with soft pieces of pear and chunks of chocolate. Having baked my first cake since almost 6 months makes me feel better than I’ve felt in a long time and it makes up for any burning fingers or mean jetlags.
For the last one and a half week I have been eating like a queen. Every meal I had was made by someone else – either served to me in a restaurant of bought from small food stalls on the street. Almost every single thing I ate was incredibly delicious and even though food in Beijing is much more expensive than in other parts of China, it still is very cheap compared to Dutch prices.
Yesterday I was scanning through some pictures I took from my last couple of weeks in the Netherlands – things I haven’t blogged about yet – and then I started missing Western food and cooking. When I saw the pictures of this tiramisu I got an instant craving for it. Me and my housemates had it as a dessert after this porchetta. I’ve added a little bit more limoncello than the recipe said and it gave the tiramisu a delicious lemony flavor without being too overpowering. It got us all pretty tipsy though.
I don’t like bananas. The picture in the cookbook looked so incredibly luscious, I just had to make this cake. And I reasoned that a little sticky caramel sauce would make everything taste incredibly good. Boy, do I hate to say these words: I was right. The cake is airy and light, it has pieces of banana in it, but it’s not densely packed with them. The crunchy exterior of the cake gives a nice contrast to the soft inside and the cake itself isn’t extremely sweet, so the caramel sauce brings a good balance to it. So even me, a banana-disliker, liked this cake. After taking a piece of my own, I placed the cake on the kitchen table of my student house and left it there to be judged by my housemates. When I entered the kitchen the next morning there was only an empty plate and a dirty knife left.
I have this long bucket list in my head with all the things I want to make and bake – some day. The items on that list all sound pretty delicious to me, but they end up there because they are not your (/my) typical put everything in a bowl, mix and pour it in the baking tin recipes. This sabayon recipe has been on the list since March, but I only gathered my courage to try it last Wednesday – I know, I’m really living on the edge. The thing with this recipe is this: it is dead simple. It’s like the easy recipes, but even without the oven time. You actually do put everything in a bowl and mix and except for slicing some strawberries into pieces, that’s all there is to it. So don’t let the fancy name or whisking egg yolks au bain marie scare you off and go make yourself this delicious dessert tonight.