You can't travel, but your taste buds can: around the world in four recipes
Take yourself on a gourmet getaway without leaving the kitchen. Some of the Sunday Times Lifestyle team recall standout dishes they enjoyed on their travels, and we share the recipes so you can taste these memorable meals for yourself.
Matthew McClure, production manager
THE MEMORABLE MEAL: RED CHICKEN CURRY (SOMLAR KARI SAEK MOUAN)
It was a little restaurant with the best view of the famous Angkor Wat temple complex. It was not much to look at (typical plastic chairs and tables), but the food and service were amazing.
I'm not sure if it's there anymore, but I ordered a chicken curry with a coconut-milk iced drink and the combination was sheer perfection. The curry was flavourful and not overly spicy, with fresh local vegetables added to tender, moist pieces of chicken breast in a light sauce.
Needless to say the ambience was an important part of the meal, with the ancient towers of Angkor Wat just within sight through the haze of the midday heat.
Cambodian food offers a myriad of unique ingredients that give it that distinctive Asian flavour, yet it's not as heavy with the chilli.
This dish is made from scratch with a homemade red curry paste called kroeung, but if you can't source the ingredients or don't have the time to, at a pinch you could use a red curry paste, although you won't be replicating the authentic flavours.
Red kroeung paste:
2 stalks of lemon grass, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, peeled and chopped - or use a small onion
2 Asian lime leaves, cut into thin strips - or zest of two limes
A 3cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
5ml (1 tsp) ground turmeric powder
A 5cm piece of galangal, peeled and grated - or use 5ml (1tsp) dried galangal
Pinch of salt
1 bird's eye chilli
3 large red peppers, seeded and chopped
45ml (3 tbsp) vegetable oil
90-150ml (6-10 tbsp) red kroeung paste, to taste
4 chicken breast fillets, cut into blocks
1 x 400g coconut milk
1 large onion, roughly chopped
5-8 yard-long beans, cut into 2-inch pieces or use green beans
1 small eggplant, cut into blocks
1 large potato, peeled and cut into blocks
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into blocks
750ml - 1 litre water
30-45ml (2-3 tbsp) fish sauce
5ml (1 tsp) shrimp paste
30ml (2 tbsp) palm sugar - or use brown sugar
5ml (1 tsp) salt
- Combine the kroeung paste ingredients in a blender, adding ¾ cup of water slowly, as needed, blending until a smooth paste forms. It should be a deep red colour. Store any leftover kroeung paste in the freezer until ready to use.
- For the curry, in a large heavy-based pan or wok, preheat the oil and add the curry paste and stir for one minute.
- Add the chicken and 1 cup of the coconut milk and stir to combine with the curry paste. Cook for 2 minutes to allow the flavours to develop and it becomes fragrant.
- Add the onion, beans, eggplant, and potatoes and stir to combine. Add the remaining coconut milk and water, along with the fish sauce, shrimp paste, palm sugar, and salt. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to the boil, then decrease to medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are soft.
- Serve over rice.
Yolisa Mkele, features writer
THE MEMORABLE MEAL: EFO RIRO
If you took a melting pot and lobbed New Delhi, Johannesburg, Dubai and a less scantily clad Miami into it, you would still only capture about 80% of the flavour of Lagos, Nigeria.
The assignment was simple: attend a music festival, have a good time and come back with a story to tell. Only good sense compelled us to leave the still-raging party at 6am.
Sampling hangover foods has become something of a speciality and in this spirit I decided to try something authentically Nigerian. So it was that, as I was sitting in the poolside shade with oversized glasses, a plate of efo riro arrived on my lap. The first mouthful brought an epiphany. Like Nigeria itself, efo riro is brash, loud and absolutely lifesaving."
Efo riro is a rich vegetable side cooked with or without fish or meat and served on top of Nigerian fufu, rice, yam or boiled plantains. In Nigeria they use a leaf called amaranth; morogo or mature spinach leaves are a good replacement. The base of the dish is a rich and spicy tomato sauce, obe ata.
For the obe ata sauce:
1 x 400g can whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
1 red pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1 medium red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic
1 x 2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 red habanero chilli, sliced off the stem (take care as it's a very hot chilli. If you prefer a milder version use another chilli and scrape out the seeds)
30ml (2 tbsp) sunflower or canola oil
For the efo riro:
1kg amaranth greens, or morogo or spinach
30ml (2 tbsp) sunflower or canola oil
1 onion, peeled and minced
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
15ml (1 tbsp) tiny dried shrimp (available from Oriental stores) or use 10ml (2 tsp) shrimp paste
15ml (1 tbsp) fermented black bean sauce (available from Oriental stores)
5ml (1 tsp) ground turmeric
15ml (1 tbsp) red palm oil or use coconut oil
350g of cubed beef or 3 smoked mackerels or smoked white fish fillets, about 90g each, skin and bones removed and fillets flaked (about 1½ cups)
- Combine all the obe ata ingredients except the oil in a blender and puree on high until smooth, working in batches if needed. The liquid from the can of tomatoes should suffice, but you can add up to ¼ cup of water if necessary to get the puree going. It should give you about 3 cups of puree.
- Heat sunflower/canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Add the puree and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until the sauce is reduced by about a third, 18 to 20 minutes. It should make about 2 cups.
- Meanwhile for the efo riro, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. Pick the leaves off the amaranth, morogo or spinach and discard stems. Once the water is boiling, blanch the leaves until bright green and just tender, about 2 minutes. (You can work in batches if necessary.) Cool greens in iced water, drain well and squeeze dry.
- In a large frying pan heat the oil over medium-high. Saute the onion and red pepper until softened, about 6 minutes.
- Add the dried shrimps or shrimp paste, fermented black bean sauce and turmeric. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute, lowering the heat if necessary to avoid scorching.
- Stir in the obe ata sauce and bring to a simmer, then add the beef, if using. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce thickens slightly, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Season with salt and stir in the red palm oil. Cook for 1 more minute.
- Add the greens to the pan and stir to coat with the sauce. If not using beef, gently stir in the flaked fish. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the greens and fish are warmed through, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste.
Elizabeth Sleith, travel editor
THE MEMORABLE MEAL: BRINJALS WITH HONEY (BERENJENAS CON MIEL)
A few years ago, I spent some wonderful weeks mooching around southern Spain. At the time, I was a vegetarian and while the trip was divine, food was a challenge. Anyone who has been to Andalusia will know that it's a virtual butchery on the streets, where jamon iberico (Iberian ham) hangs in every window. My boyfriend was in heaven but my choices were limited - especially since I didn't eat fish either.
Thank goodness there was always gazpacho, but the dish I ended up eating on almost every outing was this one: fried brinjals with honey, a divine and sticky tapas treat. I still remember the Spanish way to order it: berenjenas con miel.
Serves: 4 as a side dish
2 large brinjals, cut into rounds or 5cm x 1.5cm batons
500ml (2 cups) milk
Sunflower or canola oil for frying
125g (1 cup) flour
Coarse sea salt
45ml (3 tbsp) quality runny honey
Zest of 1 lemon
- Place brinjal slices in a single layer on a lined baking tray and sprinkle with salt. Cover with another layer of greaseproof paper and press down with another baking tray. Stand for 20 minutes to drain.
- Remove slices and place in a bowl and pour over the milk. Cover and allow to stand for a minimum of 2 hours or you can leave it overnight in the fridge.
- In a deep frying pan preheat 3cm of oil. Place the flour on a dinner plate, remove the brinjal from the milk and dredge in flour. Fry the slices in batches so as not to overcrowd the oil, and cook till golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towel and season with a light sprinkling of coarse salt.
- Pile up on a serving plate, drizzle over honey and lemon zest and serve immediately.
Toni Jaye Singer, digital editor
THE MEMORABLE MEAL: EMPANADAS
Offered free tickets to see Argentina's famed gauchos show off their horse skills on a farm outside Buenos Aires, I was lured by the promise of an epic asado - what South African can resist a braai?
But the array of beautifully grilled meat was forgotten after I had my first bite of an empanada. These tiny half-moon pies, stuffed with meaty fillings and served as snacks, were so addictive, I don't think I ate anything else that day.
This recipe is inspired by one on the Food Network's website. Easy to make, these empanadas freeze well too — if they last that long.
360g (3 cups) flour
15ml (1 tbsp) baking powder
10ml (2 tsp) sugar
125g butter or baking margarine
180ml (¾ cup) chicken stock
30ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
500g beef mince
30ml (2 tbsp) tomato paste
30ml (2 tbsp) vinegar
10ml (2 tsp) ground cumin
5ml (1 tsp) chilli powder
5ml (1 tsp) dried oregano
5ml (1 tsp) salt
5 cloves garlic, finely crushed
2 red peppers, chopped
1 onion, chopped
Oil for frying, optional
- For the dough, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Rub in the butter. Beat the egg and stock together using a fork. Slowly add the egg/stock mixture to the flour. Using a round-bladed knife, bring the dough together. Knead gently, cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- In a nonstick pan preheat half the olive oil and add the mince and cook till mince is cooked through. Drain off fat and set aside.
- Add remaining oil to pan and combine tomato paste, vinegar, cumin, chilli powder, oregano, garlic, peppers and onion and cook till ingredients are soft. Add beef and simmer for 5 minutes. The mixture should be moist but not dripping wet. Pour off excess liquid and cool completely.
- Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the dough to 0.5cm thick and cut into 10-15cm rounds. Spoon on some of the mince filling, don't make it too stuffed as it can burst during baking, and fold over in half to close. Use a fork to press and seal edges.
- Either deep fry the empanadas for 5-7 minutes turning halfway, or bake, brushed with egg or milk in a preheated oven 180°C till golden brown, about 15 minutes.