Myanmar

Myanmar: Baya Kyaw, Katen Joshi, Khow Soey, Spiced Coconut Sweet Potato, Green Papaya Vermicelli, Tamarind Sauce with Vegetables, Gin Thoke, Black Rice with Coconut, and Sanwin Makin.

This was such a fun meal, in large part because of the guest list. My parents were VIPs, coming to their first couch cuisine in Rochester. They were a huge help in shopping, as we went to three different grocery stories to get all the ingredients and, given that there was a big crowd coming, I bought enough food to feed my entire block. So, shopping was a feat. 

The cuisine of Myanmar (formerly Burma) is influenced by Chinese, Thai and Indian flavors, so it was a fun meal to plan for, prep and eat. During this dinner I collected money to be donated to BRAC, a NGO organization responding to the Rohingya refugee crisis.

It was so helpful and fun to have my parents meal prep with me, and a few other friends came early to prep, so it was a party just getting ready.

We soaked the rice, lentils and chickpeas overnight and I didn’t quite realize how overboard I’d gone on the portions until the ingredients blossomed overnight. Dad rocked the Sriracha shirt.


I didn’t do a great job taking pictures because I was having so much fun in the kitchen, but here’s what we made.

As an appetizer, we had Ma Kee Yae Tote Saya – a tamarind dipping sauce and vegetables. The tamarind dipping sauce was probably my favorite single dish of the night.

For an appetizer we made Baya Kyaw fritters with dipping sauce and these were a hit, though they required quite a bit of patience to fry correctly to avoid them falling apart (which I did not have, and thankfully Del did).

Lora made Gin Thoke – a delicious ginger salad, which I failed to get a picture of. We also had Green Papaya Vermicelli Salad.

The Spiced coconut sweet potato (scroll down page) was really tasty and some people’s favorite.

We made vegetarian curry using this Curry recipe but substituting chickpeas for the chicken. We ended up adapting the curry recipe quite a bit to make it more flavorful. We also made lentil soup (Katen Joshi), though we adapted this to make it more flavorful too.

We served everything with rice, egg noodles, vermicelli and a smorgasbord of toppings such as fried shallots, fried garlic, lemon wedges, chili oil, peanuts, etc.

My unfounded fear of running out of food led me to making two desserts: Black sticky rice with coconut milk, coconut sport strips (!), dragon fruit and mango as well as Sanwin Makin cake.

Overall I really liked the flavors of the meal and it was fun to have such a range of ingredients and flavors – spicy, salty, sweet, sour.

It was a blast to have so many friends and family (25!) in my space and I’m deeply grateful for community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yemen

Yemen: Shafoot, Aqdah with rice, Adeni beetroot salad, Fava beans with ghee, Khobz, Ghurayba, Shahee Mulaban

After about  a year hiatus from couch cuisine I’m back! I really missed it and taking a long break made me realize just how much I enjoy planning and hosting (and eating!) these meals. This spring I planned two meals connected to countries who are experiencing conflict and violence. First up: Yemen. Through the dinner I collected money to donate to the International Rescue Committee, an organization responding to the humanitarian needs in Yemen.

I’d never had Yemeni food before cooking this meal, and I’m now a big fan!

I started off by baking the Khobz bread.


There is just something about cooking bread that makes me feel like I can do anything. For a few minutes, anyway, until the kitchen fills with smoke because I’m using a makeshift system of a pizza stone and a cookie tray. But, it worked. 

Glorious, bread.

The main entree was Aqdah – beef stew. This takes several hours and smelled, and tasted, delicious. Totally worth the time.

I served the beef stew with the rice and Yogurt sauce used to the marinate chicken in this recipe as accompaniments for the beef dish. I loved the combo – so flavorful – and some people said the yogurt sauce was their favorite dish. I also served the beef dish with pickled lemon, which was a new item to many of the guests (and to me) and it was a bit hit or miss in terms of reception.

Speaking of favorite dishes, another favorite was the Fava beans with ghee. It was so simple and quick and quite tasty. I mean, ghee will do that 😉

I used these fava beans from the International Food Market, and this would be a great quick dinner.

For sides, I served Shafoot and Adeni beetroot salad. The shafoot consists of a yogurt sauce with some of the bread in it, a cilantro sauce and a fresh vegetable mix, all served with the bread – refreshing and tasty.

My food processor made the beetroot salad a breeze to make, and you might feel anger in your heart toward me if you try to make this without a food processor.

Dessert was Ghurayba cookies and Shahee Mulaban tea. These little cookies pack a lot of spicy punch. 

Basically, everything was a fan favorite and I would happily make and eat any and all of these dishes again. I’m also going to be on the lookout for Yemeni restaurants. 

Happy camper right here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

بالهناء والشفاء – Libya

Libya: Shakshuka, hasa adas, couscous bil bulsa, khubzit housh, agras batata mabshura, mseyer, yogurt dips, magroodh

This is couch cuisine meal #46! And the third in my trio of learning more about our global neighbors impacted by recent political actions.

IMG_3501

Kristina generously offered to help with the shopping and cooking. Here’s some of the bounty I used for pickling that she brought from the public market.IMG_3466

I made mseyer, pickled vegetables, which we served with the couscous bil bulsa.

IMG_3490

After getting an early start on the meal with the pickled vegetables, I made the dessert since I knew it would be time consuming. And it was. I made magroodh – date filled semolina cookies. They were definitely a one time labor of love that I will not repeat! They were tasty but definitely tried my patience.

I made Libyan bread, which was also a bit of a trial and the dough took lots of TLC. It didn’t cook evenly, but my friends kindly said they liked it that way 😉

Bundle of bread!

IMG_3485

We made potato fritters, presumably for an appetizer, but I got so behind in my prep from the cookies that I hadn’t started these by the time folks started arriving. Philip to the rescue once again.

IMG_3873

IMG_3498

I think the dish of the night was the humble lentil dish – hasa adas (I did not add the bread at the end as the recipe calls for). Onions for days.

IMG_3480IMG_3491

IMG_3486

I’ve been wanting to make shakshuka for awhile,  honestly in part because it pops up all over my instagram feed as a weekend brunch fav. My version was not quite so instagram-able, but it was fun to make and a good pair with the bread.

We made several yogurt dips, one spicy and one mild. I was a fan of both. IMG_3492

Trevor capturing another candid about which I ask myself, what is my face doing?!IMG_3872

IMG_3868

The company was delightful and the meal turned out well despite a few harried moments. My favorite part was crowding around the table for leisurely conversation and dessert. All the good stuff.IMG_3503

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

بالهنا والشفا – Syria

Syria: Pita bread, conchiglie with yogurt and peas, fattoush, freekah salad, labneh balls, root vegetables with labneh, harak osbao, mujadara, baklava

This was one of my favorite couch cuisine meals and a really special evening. I was inspired by Cook for Syria, a supper club that is “a celebration of Syrian cuisine in aid of the largest humanitarian crisis of our time.” Most of the recipes we used came from their great website. We collected money to donate to The White Helmets, a volunteer group of Syrians who act as first responders in the Syrian civil war. I was thrilled that 25 people joined for the meal. Josh took this wonderful picture of (some of) the group. Melody-5

Emily co-hosted the meal with me, and it was wonderful to collaborate on menu planning, shopping, and cooking. Del spent hours helping with prep as well. Thanks, friends!

Melody-2

We had quite an extensive menu, and (spoiler alert) everything was delicious. Definitely one of my favorite meals in terms of food in addition to the meaning behind the evening and the lovely crowd.

IMG_3362

The pita bread turned out really well and I didn’t need to use my backup plan of going to a local restaurant and ask them to sell me stacks of pita bread. It was so fun to make and I was giddy that it worked. There’s something about making bread that just thrills me. IMG_3340IMG_3341IMG_3342IMG_3343

Pile of pita!

IMG_3351

Since we made so many dishes, I didn’t do the best job of documenting the prep for each dish. This conchiglie with yogurt, peas and chile dish was a hit, though I failed to take a picture of it. We made fattoush, which is refreshing and tasty.

 

Next up, green freekah salad. Freekah is nutty and smoky and this is a bright, fun salad and you can see just how pretty it is thanks to Josh’s photography skills.

Melody-4

Now, I’m about to go on a little tangent. I’m currently obsessed with labneh. Ob.sessed. I ate it at Cedar Mediterranean restaurant and immediately fell for the creamy, tangy delight of goodness. I needed lots of labneh for this meal, so when I discovered that the International Food Market sells many brands, I decided to get one of each and do a little taste test. IMG_3335

Emily and I had fun trying and rating each brand. This was my favorite.

IMG_3336

We made labneh balls as an appetizer, and these were so easy and fun to make. We had a bunch of “toppings” to roll the labneh in, including za’atar, smoked paprika, pine nuts, pistachios, sesame seeds, and oregano. IMG_3339

Melody-1

How pretty is this?

IMG_3385

We also served labneh with root vegetable slaw and with roasted vegetables. Lots of veggies in this meal.

 

 

I mean, doesn’t this color just make you smile?

Melody-3

We also served some labneh sprinkled with za’atar and drizzled with olive oil to scoop up with the fluffy pita. I could eat pita and labneh everyday. There was some labneh left after the meal, and I proceeded to spread it on everything – toast, omelettes, grilled cheese. So, so good. Try it. Okay, I’ll stop with the labneh love. 🙂

IMG_3363

Next up, harak osbao, a lentils and pasta dish. So good! IMG_3372

The night before the meal I panicked that I’d run out of food since there were 25 people coming. So I added another dish, mujadara, at the last minute since I could make it out of ingredients I had on hand. Unfortunately I didn’t document which recipe I used, but it’s lentils, rice and fried onions and was a hit. Here’s an example recipe, though I don’t think it’s the one I actually used. Of course, we did not run out of food, and even after sending everyone home with leftovers I had leftovers for a week! Perfect.

IMG_3371

For dessert we made two types of baklava, traditional walnut, and an almond version thanks to Emily’s brilliant idea.

 

There are few things that smell as enticing as baklava baking.

IMG_3358

It was a feast, indeed!

 

IMG_3380

The evening was filled with such great company….Melody-6

…with the dishes and mess to prove it. A sight that makes me deeply grateful. IMG_3381

IMG_3369

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

بالهنا والشفا – Sudan

Sudan: mahshi, addas, gorraasa, nyaba, mish, basbousa, teas

It’s been an intense few months, and getting back into the swing of couch cuisine was like a balm. I planned my spring 2017 couch cuisine meal lineup in an effort to use food to bring people together to learn more about our global neighbors impacted by the executive order on immigration. First up, Sudan (still to come this spring are Syria and Libya).

Like many countries, Sudanese cuisine is influence by the broader region, so some of the dishes overlap with other countries’ cuisines. I loved planning, cooking and eating and this menu:

IMG_3161

First, mahshi – stuffed peppers and zucchini. I grew up eating stuffed peppers and admittedly was not a fan as a kid (sorry, mom!). However I decided to give mahshi a chance and it was a fun and colorful dish to prepare. I substituted small peppers for some of the larger peppers to make it more of an appetizer size, and I also used a meat substitute for the beef to make the dish vegetarian friendly.

How pretty is this?! I had fun mismatching the colors.

IMG_3185

Several hours later…

IMG_3189

Next up, addas, a red lentil stew. This is the primary recipe I used, though I added some other components from other recipes, namely lime juice, grated ginger, garlic, coriander and turmeric.

IMG_3196

Addas is eaten with bread, of which there are multiple common varieties in Sudan. I made gorraasa, a Sudanese flatbread. I was really pleased with how it turned out! It’s described as a spongy tortilla, and the cookery was similar to making crepes.

I made two side dishes to also serve with the bread. Nyaba, a peanut and greens paste, had me a little skeptical but it was tasty and it was Trevor’s favorite dish of the night. (I substituted vegetable bouillon for the chicken bouillon and used spinach for the greens).

The mish might have been my favorite dish, as yogurt and cheese are my dear friends. I had to adjust this recipe a bit as I didn’t have nigella seeds and I didn’t add jalapeno as there were several guests who are not big spice fans. But I served the dish with harissa on the side to add in for us spice fans. Both the mish and the nyaba were great with the gorraasa.

IMG_3162

For dessert, basbousa. This was fun to make, made my apartment smell great, and was also fun to eat. This recipe offers several variations for the syrup. I used 1 clove and 1 cardamon pod and had rose water to add in for people who are fans.

I also made iced hibiscus tea and served a variety of teas with dessert using my grandmother’s tea set.

IMG_3209

Trevor always gets candid pics of me explaining the meal, and here we are repping the Sudanese flag colors.

There weren’t many leftovers from this meal, which is usually a good sign! Cheers.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

慢慢吃 -Taiwan

Taiwan: gua bao, beef noodle soup, vegetable stir fry, shaved ice, bubble tea

(Note: I decided not to include a Taiwanese flag because it’s a debated issue).

img_2654

This meal required some research on the perfect bubble tea, and Trevor and I were quite happy to do extensive research in preparation. 🙂 Weeks in advance we scouted out local bubble tea places and took notes as we prepared to make homemade bubble tea. Spoiler alert: it’s easy and awesome.

img_2674

First up, gua bao for an appetizer. Gua bao is a pork belly bun so we also made a vegetarian version with braised tofu. Philip made an amazing braised tofu with the same spices used in the pork. Here’s the recipe I used for the buns.  I used the trick I’d previously learned to cover the lid of a steamer with a towel as a substitute for a bamboo steamer.

Here’s the pork belly recipe (I think these are the recipes I used and I think I used a different cut of pork but memory from November is failing me slightly). I made my own mustard greens. 

img_2732

Next up: beef noodle soup, and a vegetarian version with vegetable stock and mushrooms. Here’s the beef noodle soup recipe I used, though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as I found the broth to be way too sweet.

And some more veggies which I failed to document. I think it was mostly bok choy and garlic.

The real hit of the meal was dessert. Shaved ice and bubble tea. For the shaved ice we used the food processor and had various toppings of sweetened condensed milk, canned and fresh fruits such as lychee and mango and red beans.

img_2731

And the favorite, bubble tea! I bought several types of tea but my favorite is Thai milk tea. Trevor rocked the tea prep.

I’m now pretty much obsessed with homemade bubble tea.

img_2740

Trevor and Philip helped me prep the whole meal and we had a blast cooking together.

img_2735

Trevor always gets fun shots of me.

It was another full house for this meal, and despite the fact that the meal was interrupted by the fire alarm and a visit from the fire department (not my fault!) we had a lovely evening.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bon Appétit – Canada

Canada: poutine, pancakes with Canadian maple syrup, bacon, ginger beef, tourtière with green tomato ketchup, butter tartsflag_of_canada-svg

img_2507

This was a super fun meal and record setting in numbers – there were 18 people, including kids. I did a kid-friendly start time, so since I knew there were multiple kids coming I chose some kid-friendly items for the menu.

I’ve been wanting to make poutine since I started this project in Philly, but had trouble finding cheese curds in Philly. In Rochester you can find them in gas stations! Thanks, Canada! I had major help with this meal as Rob did all the frying of the fries, Tracey made the gravies, Lora cut all the potatoes, and Ashley made the dessert.

I need to give a big disclaimer at the beginning of the recipe section that I did a terrible job of keeping records of the recipes I used and since my browser history from November is failing me the links I have to recipes are ones that I think are the recipes I used based on my hazy memory.

Poutine is fries, gravy, and cheese curds and since there were several vegetarians coming to the meal I made two versions of gravy – beef and vegetable. First up, the stocks. I felt like a real cook making two different stocks.

The beef stock involved some new ingredients for me.

Vegetarian gravy recipe. 

Poutine is pretty much all my favorite things.

Pancakes and syrup and bacon kept the kids (and adults) happy.

Speaking of kids, I love this evidence of kids enjoying couch cuisine.

img_2536

Adena’s uncle is from Canada and he suggested the dish Ginger Beef, which is very common in Calgary. He kindly shared the recipe.

Ginger Beef

Ingredients:

1 pound beef (rouladen)

1 celery stalk

1 carrot

3 hot chili peppers

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Marinade:

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon cooking wine

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons ginger juice

1 eggwhite, lightly

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon hot chili oil (optional)

Sauce:

1 tablespoon wine

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 tablespoon vinegar

4 tablespoons sugar (can substitute brown sugar or honey, if desired)

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons water

chili oil or chili powder to taste

4 to 5 cups oil for deep-frying

Directions:

Cut beef into matchstick strips, cutting along the grain. (The meat is easier to cut if it is partially frozen).

To make ginger juice for marinade, peel and grate ginger. Squeeze out juice.

Mix four marinade ingredients. Add to beef and marinate for 30 minutes.

Begin preparing vegetables. Cut carrots, celery, and pepper into thin strips. Mince garlic. For ginger, use the leftover minced ginger from the preparation of ginger juice.

Mix the sauce ingredients. Set aside.

Beat the eggwhite and add water. Add flour and cornstarch. Mix the batter thoroughly. Drop the batter into the marinated meat.

Heat wok. When heated, add 3 – 5 cups of oil. When the oil is ready, add about 1/4 of the meat/batter mixture. Deep-fry the beef until golden brown. Remove and set aside. Let oil come back to original temperature and add more meat.

When meat is cooked, clean the wok. Heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. When oil is ready, add the vegetables and begin stir-frying. Pour in the sauce and let come to a boil. Add the deep-fried beef.

Toss quickly, and remove.

Sprinkle with sesame oil and serve hot.

img_2535

This ended up being the only pic I got of this dish as I was making it at the last minute. But it was great!

My favorite dish ended up being the tourtière. I made two: one meat version (traditional) and one vegetarian version. Tourtière is a meat pie and commonly eaten for celebratory meals, including Christmas Eve. The recipe I used had a completely AH-MAZING pie crust recipe that involved 4 (FOUR!) sticks of butter per pie. I made three pies and therefore needed twelve sticks of butter. Just for the pies. I had to borrow butter from Adena. Totally.worth.it. Here’s the meat version recipe (I substituted the beef stock I’d made for the chicken broth). I used the same crust for the vegetarian version and this filling recipe. 

img_2520

img_2531

Tourtière is served with a green tomato ketchup, which cuts the fat in the dish.

Tourtière is one of my favorite dishes I’ve made. It’s so comforting, hearty, tasty and fun. It’s not a simple or quick recipe, but it’s a treat for sure.

Ashley’s delicious butter tarts for dessert (or, actually, for appetizer since nothing was ready when everyone arrived and so Ashley kindly let us dig into the dessert as an appetizer!).

img_2528

I didn’t do the best job photographing this meal, but it was such a fun and tasty evening. Next time I may attempt making homemade cheese curds. Cheese for the win.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment