Category Archives: stories

walnut-plum-chili bread

yesterday i visited a farmers’ market at Winterfeldtplatz in Berlin. i love farmers’ markets and flea markets so much. you can really experience all types of foods with all your senses. the market at Winterfeldtplatz is quite well known i think, so i visited it on a wednesday to avoid the saturday crowds. it was quite small, but it wasn’t crowded at all so it was really comfortable to walk around in. there were a lot of vegetable and fruit stands, and some random craft booths, but my favorites were a small espresso stand and a bakery stand with fresh breads and rolls. the espresso stand was run by italians who greeted you with “Buon giorno”. it reminded me of being in italy and i would love to go back soon. they had different types of espresso drinks you could buy that were all very cheap, and were also selling slices of tiramisu. it looked so delicious. but the serving was so huge and i knew i could never eat it all by myself and felt bad wasting any of it which means i would have somehow eaten it all and then felt sick for the next few hours… eventually i decided on an espressino, which is basically espresso with foamy milk. i’ve grown to like espresso a lot over the last few years. it’s a lot more bitter than coffee, but i’ve also stopped drinking sugar in my normal coffee so for me the flavor of it is quite nice now.

i didn’t intend on buying anything from the bakery stand that i visited, but the man working there was very nice and friendly (=good salesman). he said something in german and i did my usual polite smile and nod because i didn’t hear/understand what he said. usually this trick works and people smile back. but there are moments, like this one, when what they said was actually a question and not a comment and you feel them waiting for a response and looking confused on why you answered with a smile and kept walking. well he then switched to english and was quite nice. he let me try this special type of dark german bread that had plums, walnuts, and chili in it. at first this combination sounds off somehow, but the flavors are kind of mild and together it makes for a really tasty bread. the shape of it is kind of weird, and it’s actually really heavy (as in physical weight not how it feels in your stomach) so it’s not really a sandwich bread, but more of a snack bread that you could also throw at someone in self-defense if needed bread. german breads are typically darker and denser like this one. the guy recommended to eat it with a soft french cheese like brie which i did try yesterday evening. it’s good, but i tried it again today with butter and tomato slices and prefer this way better.

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goodies from KaDeWe gourmet floor

yesterday i visited the biggest department store in europe- KaDeWe. i never really buy clothes from department stores because they are too expensive for me, and somehow seem a little boring, but i would go everyday to the gourmet food floor of this department store if i could. it’s an entire floor devoted to gourmet (and less gourmet if you count the american products haha) food from all over the world. there are food sections where you can buy almost any kind of oil or spice you could think of, typical packaged products from various cuisines, millions of teas and coffees, and even food counters where you can buy stuff for home or eat right there. and it’s not like a normal mall food court at all. it’s very fancy and sophisticated looking. a lot of high-class business men and women and wealthier looking couples always seem to be enjoying lunch breaks there when i visit. i would like someday to be able to afford lunch there everyday. there is so much you can choose from. seriously, i could get lost. i was so happy and excited and overwhelmed i wanted to run around like a little kid. it puts your senses in overload for real. i like the bakery counters, and there is a french one that has so many beautiful pastries and desserts. they have macarons! AND, pain au chocolat… which is my most favorite pastry of all time. there are chocolate croissants in many places i’ve visited and a lot here in germany, but the french pain au chocolat is perfect and it beats all the rest. the ones i saw at the counter were as authentic as i could get without actually going to france i think. so i bought one of course. i also bought some italian espresso beans which was more of an impulse buy, but i couldn’t help but buy some. i somehow saved my french pastry until this morning and enjoyed it with a cup of my italian espresso which has truly started my day off perfectly. another counter i noticed yesterday was the tea counter. they had these huge chinese porcelain-looking vases with more types of tea leaves than you could ever imagine. each vase had a little bowl in front of it so you could smell it. i only sniffed a few because i was too excited to stay at one counter for too long, but they were such beautiful scents. i don’t know much about tea, but i can imagine any one i picked would be amazing. the american section is entertaining to me. everything is very overpriced, and the selections are things that i do miss very much from home, but they somehow make american cuisine look tacky. you can buy poptarts at 8 euros ($10) a box, piecrusts, marshamallows, swiss miss hot cocoa mix, bbq sauce, pepperidge farm cookies, peanut butter, fluff, and expensive single cans of soda. don’t get me wrong though, i can’t wait to eat all of these once i’m home, but for a much cheaper price. maybe these foods all look too processed and fatty to foreigners, but i’m sure there are other expat americans in berlin like me who are longingly eyeing the brown sugar frosted poptarts and duncan hines funfetti cake mixes.

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figs and a homemade pizza

as i mentioned before, i’m temporarily living in berlin for a few weeks to house sit a friend’s apartment. the last few days i stopped at the grocery store a few times to stock up the kitchen. i’ve been eyeing the figs lately, and ended up buying one yesterday. i really like buying new food because i’m curious of the taste, but i also like experimenting with different ways of preparing food. i’ve never eaten a raw fig before, and i’m not really sure why. i like fig newtons, but even those i haven’t eaten in a very long time, and i don’t think those can be considered the equivalent of a real raw fig. i googled (like i do everything these days) on how to eat a fig. i wasn’t sure if you can eat the skin, or if you have to cook it, or how to know when it’s ripe. on a side note, one of the reasons i don’t eat seafood often (besides not caring for the taste) is that i usually don’t know how to eat it. i always feel so awkward and embarrassed trying to figure out which parts are edible and which parts will make me look like a dummy if i eat them. anyways, back to figs. there were lots of recipes online for baking figs and adding them to sweet and savory dishes. but there were quite a few articles mentioning that  you can totally eat them raw, skin and all. i did come across a really simple way of serving them with creme fraiche and honey, and i decided to try that because it just sounds nice. and the images from the recipe were so pretty, so that is what probably won me over. basically all you do is quarter the fig, and then serve with with a dollop of creme fraiche and drizzle some honey all over. easy peasy. and i have to say that a fig is probably one of the prettiest fruits to be photographed. it didn’t taste like much to me, i’m not sure if i ate it maybe too soon and it wasn’t exactly ripe enough, or maybe it’s because i added the extra flavors and i didn’t pay attention to the fig. the texture was nice though. and combined with the honey and the cream it was still very tasty.

later in the day i made a homemade pizza. i couldn’t find packets of yeast in the store i was at, so i bought a little bag of bread flour which already includes it. i haven’t ever made a homemade pizza before i think, but it turns out it is oh so easy. i followed the directions on various recipes on how to make dough, just skipped the step about adding the yeast of course. on top of it i put creme fraiche, arugula, tomatoes, zucchini, and mozzarella. before adding the toppings, i sauteed the tomatoes and zucchini with garlic first, and then added them on top of the cream and arugula. then it only had to bake for maybe 15 minutes and it was done! creme fraiche has turned into my favorite pizza topping. it’s so common over here in europe, and i’m afraid when i go back to the states i won’t find it as often, or it will be double in price. here it’s unbelievably cheap. i bought a mini tub yesterday for 30 cents. and it goes with everything. i think when you add it to recipes, the frenchiness of the name makes it sound super fancy without actually doing any super fancy tricks.

oh yeah, and also i had a beer with it. pizza and beer always is good together, and in germany you can buy single bottles, which means you can make many beer tastings! 

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schoko lebkuchen

two years ago, i bought this by accident at aldi here in germany. it was soon after i had moved here, and i was still in the homesick/culture shock adjustment mode of the transition. in the beginning i was a little nervous venturing out on my own for fear of getting lost. dessau isn’t very big, but it was overwhelming for me at first. grocery shopping was the first thing i became more adventurous about, like trying different stores and locations, and especially different food. it’s an interesting challenge learning how to go grocery shopping in a foreign country. i remember one day i was in the grocery store aisle for about an hour trying to figure out which was baking powder and which was baking soda. all i wanted to do was make cookies!! that day i had a lucky guess and celebrated later by eating cookies of course. well at aldi this one day, i wanted chocolate. and i figured you can’t really mess up with chocolate right? well, when i bought these and tried one later, it confused my tongue quite a bit. i was expecting a chocolate cookie thing, with some sort of chocolate or typical filling. my taste buds told me otherwise. have you ever drank a sip of water when you expected it to be something else, like soda? yeah, that feeling. after asking my good friend, google translate, it turns out it was chocolate covered gingerbread. lebkuchen = gingerbread. not something i would have bought on purpose, but it ended up being one of my favorite treats here. it’s only sold at “christmas time” (september to january-ish) and it’s in a category of other favorite european holiday things of mine (glühwein, stollen, christmas markets…). i’m bringing up this story because today i was aldi and was very excited to see these waiting for me. i was originally looking for glühwein, but i guess it’s still slightly too early in the season for that. i have absolutely no idea how to make these cookies, but i’m okay with that. this post isn’t about a recipe on making them, i just wanted to bring them up. they may be from aldi, but they are so perfect in their own little way. and eating them today tasted like eating christmas.

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avocados

i never knew i liked avocados so much. but now i really think i could eat them everyday, at every meal. then i probably would get sick of them, but for now i love them. sometimes i spread them on bread as i would with butter, and lately i’ve been eating them in salads and on tortillas. my favorite combination right now is avocados + marinated tofu, kidney beans, corn, and sometimes peppers and radishes. speaking of veggies, i’ve realized i prefer vegetables over meat. i don’t really eat much meat lately, partially because i don’t buy it. whenever i do, i sometimes have to throw it away because it always goes bad before i can eat all of it. i also don’t really miss it. i crave bread and dough quite often, but i’ve never craved meat. i could easily live without it i think. i feel healthier without it for sure. i consider myself a part-time vegetarian. and by part-time, i mean i only eat meat when it’s convenient. that probably sounds horrifying to real vegetarians haha. but really, if it’s just easier because i’m traveling somewhere and it’s the cheapest/easiest option, then okay sure. also, if someone prepared food for me that includes meat, i’m not going to turn it down. i also just love food too much to give up anything permanently and i like trying new things. but for now, meat is not on my grocery list.

 i’m also going to write quickly in this post about athos potatoes. these baked potatoes are from a greek restaurant here in dessau, and they have to be the best food i’ve ever tasted. since i’ll be leaving dessau soon, i’ve been practicing with my own recipe, seeing if i can recreate it. i’ve made it twice so far, and both times are still not as good as in the restaurant. the second time was closer though, so i thought i’d mention it so i don’t forget how i got there. it’s basically like a scalloped potato dish, but the sauce is sweet and tangy and cheesy at the same time. in one pot, i mixed together the sliced potatoes, butter, cream cheese, creme fraiche, some milk, and a bit of flour. after it heated up/almost boiled, i baked it in my toaster over for about a half hour. it’s not as good as the authentic restaurant recipe, but it’s getting close!

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homemade croissants

my first encounter with authentic croissants happened in Paris. it sounds typical, but the hype about French croissants exists for a reason in my opinion. my most favorite version is pain au chocolat, which is basically a croissant with chocolate inside. dough and chocolate = my favorite things. i’ve been to Paris only a few times, but each time i was able to enjoy a few of the pastries fresh from a bakery. i love the bakery culture that exists here in Europe. you can have fresh pastries any time of day, and you can actually find a bakery on every corner. the pastries are cheap too! in Germany, i find so many for under 1 euro! apfeltasche is a really good one by the way. back to the story i was telling, i think i have formed a lifelong romance with pain au chocolat. i tend to eat them very slowly to make them last as long as possible, and i wish i could have one everyday. i live in Germany now, and while they are not quite the same as in Paris, the chocolate croissants here will happily suffice. i ate some a few weekends ago in Dresden when i was visiting a friend. you can see in the picture how cute they look.

well, it inspired me to try and make my own croissants. i’ve tried once before back in February when i was baking props for my semester design project presentation. for some reason, in my head i think of accomplishing the “perfect croissant” equal with being an accomplished baker. it seems so daunting, and i expect it’s not something i will successfully master for years to come, hopefully i’m wrong. but practicing is so tasty. i get to make one of my favorite pastries and perfect my skills at the same time. making croissants takes a long time too, but for me baking has always been a way to relax and spend free time, so when i do have the time i don’t mind at all. i really love working with dough too. i’ll start to sound like a weirdo again and mention that i love the texture and smell of fresh dough. it makes me happy. the recipe i used back in February was quite easy and the pastries turned out pretty delicious, but the texture wasn’t the true texture i’ve had from bakeries in France. my goal is to eventually recreate that. i’m on a continuous search for the best croissant dough recipe, but this one i tried out last week. the results were again delicious, and i was very excited to see the texture resembling the croissants from European bakeries that i know so well. i made some normal croissants, and also experimented by filling some with dark chocolate. they were really lovely to wake up to in the morning and have with coffee. i haven’t perfected any specific recipe of my own yet for these, so i won’t retype the one i used from the website. i’ll keep looking for more techniques and tips, and i love croissants so much that i will use a cheesy cliché… but in this case practice makes perfect and my tummy happy.  

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a lot of really good food in china

i’ve been living in germany for the last two years, studying in grad school (which i just completed yay!), and while here have experienced so, so much good food. i tried keeping a separate blog for all of the food i was eating and making, but was apparently too busy for more than one blog. my main blog documented as much as possible all of the things i was experiencing while living here, like things i did and places i saw. there’s definitely some food in there though. this blog now is going to give my food the attention it deserves. i should have had this going to keep track of all of the delicious food i was able to try in europe, but for now it’s all stored in photo albums and my memory. perhaps if i’m in the mood to talk about them, i’ll bring them up and find some of my photos.

so starting now, i’m putting all of my good food photos and recipes here. i’ll begin by talking about my favorite foods that i encountered on my recent trip to china.

lotus root – the kind i had was sweet. there was sticky rice in the little holes of  each piece, and it was all cooked in some sweet sauce. i was able to eat it in almost every city we visited, but i really liked the ones i ate in Suzhou and Hangzhou.

dumplings and mantou!– “Wǒ xǐhuan mántou” that was one of the first sentences i learned (and remembered) from my chinese roommate. i’m not an expert on these, but i think mantou sometimes means different things depending on where you are in China. in the south near Suzhou, where my best friend lives, they mean steamed buns as well as steamed (filled) dumplings, but in the north i guess mantou only means steamed buns. i like them all, no matter where i go. anyways, i ate quite a lot of these throughout our entire trip. my favorite were in Suzhou, where they were filled with a sweet pork mixture.

bamboo shoots– tried these just because i wanted to eat bamboo, like a panda. we ate these in Hangzhou.

a-little-orange-patty-with-no-name- i actually don’t even know what this is made of. we were thinking it’s a fruit or vegetable, but i don’t even know what kind. we ate it on a special food street in Xi’an. it’s really, really great. it’s like soft and warm and sweet, but i can’t even describe what flavor it is. it’s a mystery, but i hope someday i actually figure out what it is.

jasmine iced tea– i had this in Suzhou. really sweet and really big

Hangzhou food in general– we visited a famous restaurant on a small island on West Lake that had really unique, local food. it was really great to eat foods that basically came from the lake we were sitting next to from that very morning. this plant soup was simple but tasty, and the plants were from the lake of course. this fish dish was special to the area, and it was cooked in a vinegar sauce. i usually don’t eat things with eyeballs, but i made an exception to taste something specifically local. i should have learned though to follow my own rules because i ended up swallowing a little fish bone by accident.

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