Sunday, March 29, 2015

SABIH, ISRAEL

Executive summary By darmansjah

Falafel’s little brother combines fried aubergine and hard-boiled egg with tahini, amba (Iraqi-style mango chutney) and chopped vegetables to create a cheap, filling and healthy meal served in a pitta. Boiled potato, chopped parsley, and tomato and cucumber salad are also used for the pitta’s stuffing, which is salted, sprinkled with finely ground pepper and garnished with an extra dollop of tahini.

ORIGIN Traditionaly eaten by Iraqi Jews on Saturday morning , sabih – known as bid babinjan (‘egg in aubergine’) in Baghdad-was brought to Israel by Iraqi immigrants in the early 1950s. for years appreciated mainly in Tel Aviv’s suburbs among large populations of Iraqi Jews, the dish has recently become popular with Israelis in the city’s more fashionable quarters.

TASTING Ask an Israeli of Iraqi origin where to find the best sabih and chances are they’ll tell you about long-ago Sabbath mornings in Baghdad. Traditionalists swear by old-style sabih, on offer from hole-in-the wall vendors with chest-high glass cases and a few bar stools, while modish feinshmekerim (connoisseurs, in Israeli slang and Yiddish) often champion sleek shops featuring audacious fusion dishes. What everyone is looking for is the perfect mixtures of complementary flavours and contrasting textures. As you bite through the pitta, the warm aubergine will meet crunchy, spring-green parsley, jicy tomato with soft morsels of egg, tangy amba mixed with crisp slivers of onion, and the heat of green chilli, mellowed by creamy tahini.

FINDING IT Hippo Falafel Organi in Tel Aviv serves up both traditional and innovates takes on the dish (from US$5.15; 00 972 3 609 3394).

Saturday, March 28, 2015

PHO-VIETNAM

Executive summary By darmansjah

YOU could call pho (feu) a noodle soup, but to put it so plainly would be a grave injustice. Commonly eaten at breakfast, it’s a combination of beef stock-with notes of onion, ginger, star anise and coriander-rice noodles, chillies and beanshoots, which is topped with slices  of beef brisket, chicken or meatballs and a squeeze of lime.

ORIGIN Pho, which has its origins in the cuisines of France and China, was popularized around the end of the 19th century. The Vietnamese took the rice noodles from their northern neighbor and a taste for red meat from the colonialists, and created something entirely new. Some say that pho is derived from the French dish pot-au-feu, while others argue that it is Chinese in origin, stemming from ‘fan’, a Cantonese word for noodles.

TASTING Pictures dawn breaking across Vietnam, with the background hum of scooter engines yet to reach its mid-morning crescendo. The pho sellers have set up stalls, some little more than a battered collection of metal pans, while others offer plastic tables; whichever you choose, it’s the broth that matters. The broth is the heart and soul of pho, and should be rich and deeply flavoured. The noodles should be freshly made-soft with a hint of firmness-while it is best to use chillies that are mild rather than fierce. Bean sprouts add a satisfyingly crunchy texture, and with a dash of fish sauce and a squeeze of lime, breakfast is ready.

Finding it : The Quan An Ngon restaurant in Hanoi has gorgeous garden and does exemplary pho (from US$2.30; 00 84 4 3942 8162).

Friday, March 27, 2015

CHURROS, SPAIN

Executive summary by darmansjah

The Spanish take on a doughnut, the churro is a long, delicately-ridged tube (the dough is piped through a star-shaped nozzle) that’s deep-fried until golden, dusted with sugar-or sometimes cinnamon-and then dunked into thick hot chocolate. Sold in churrerias and from stalls in the street, this is an Iberian breakfast to beat them all.

ORIGIN The churro sheep was a breed known for the quality of its wool. The shepherds who looked after them were only able to cary the basics, which in Spain was fried bread-simple and easy to cook on the go. Sugar was later sprinkled on top and the star shaped form became popular, allowing the outside to crisp up while the centre remains soft. In some parts of the country, these deep-fried treats are knowns as porras.

TASTING You have the hangover to end them all-the sort that renders normal conversation impossible. Even thinking hurts. However, you catch the scent of sweet, frying dough, stop and look around, and spot the stall. A great vat is filled with boiling oil and the fresh dough, pushed through that star shaped nozzle, is plopped in. there is a delectable sizzle; no more than a minute passes before the crisp, piping-hot tubes are sieved out, drained and sprinkled with sugar. The first bite is red-hot and deeply addivtive-a crunch followed by blissful softness. A few more bites and it’s gone. The second churro disappears in record time.  By the time the hot chocolate arrive, you’re coming back to life, your grimace replaced by a sugary grin.

FINDING IT The chocolateria San Gines in Madrid serves some of the finest churros in the country (US$2.60-US$5.60; 00 34 91 365 65 46).