Favorite Dish of Spain

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Internship Spain with Kaeli Gattens

There’s nothing better than a traditional Paella from Spain. It’s best if it’s cooked slowly over an open flame, but if that makes you nervous, cooking over medium hot charcoals works just as well! There are many variations of ingredients in Paella, but traditionally chicken, pork, squid, mussels, clams and shrimp as well of lots of veggies are what make up this tasty rice dish. Really the ingredients depend on the region in Spain you are in and whatever ingredients are more available. If you are close to the coast, the more likely you are to see more seafood. Whereas if you’re further inland, you’ll probably see more meat.

The trick with this dish is cooking the rice perfectly. People crave that crispy texture of the rice on the bottom of the pan with sticky, moist rice for the rest of the dish!

Homemade Noodles in China

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Internship China with Meghann Lau

Meghann is currently participating on the Internship China program. Below she describes some of her favorite food that she discovered! Noodles are an essential part of Chinese cooking. There are a wide variety and the ingredients and preparation often vary by region. Looks like Meghann found a gem of a restaurant!

“The pictures show two different “la mian,” or pulled noodles, dishes. They are from my favorite little hole in the wall shop about 15 minutes from my apartment! The noodles are all handmade by an awesome Muslim-Chinese family when you order.”

Tudou Niu Rou Mian Noodles

Hongqiao Niu Rou Mian Noodles

Homemade Noodles

The Last Supper

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A Taste of France with Raúl Zavaleta, Aide Abroad Intern

The saying goes “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” but in certain cases I would rather do as myself. I am fairly open-minded when it comes to trying new things since I like a good adventure but every now and then I have my reservations. I recall my last supper in France, two summers ago when I tried frog legs for the first time (ribbit ribbit).

Food in France is absolutely delicious as the French take great pride in their cuisine. The first time I met my French host mother she was direct with me, “I will cook good, healthy food.” She wasn’t kidding and I was more excited about her cooking than I was about sight-seeing the Lyonnais monuments. I knew she was a food connoisseur and as such she took her food seriously, we never ate a meal with less than three courses and bread and wine were must-haves at the dinner table.

For six weeks, I enjoyed pastas, stuffed tomatoes, homemade pizzas, and chicken fondues and never did I imagine she had a surprise up her sleeve for my last meal. I remember sitting outside in the patio sipping my rosé, a pink-colored wine, when my French mom came out of the kitchen with a platter of fried goodies. At first glance, one would have imagined it to be fried chicken strips as even the shape of frog legs resembles chicken strips.

She placed the platter on the patio table, looked at me and smiled, and said, serve-toi, serve yourself.

I grabbed my plate and helped myself to a good serving. I tasted one leg. “Hmmmm delicious,” I thought and continued on with my dinner. After a while I had to ask what new treat she had prepared. “Ça c’était délicieux Malou. Qu’est-ce que vous faites? Du poulet, bien sûr?” (It was delicious Malou. What did you make ? It must have chicken.) She grinned and answered, “Non, c’est les cuisses de grenouille ! ” (No, it’s frog legs.)

In any other circumstance I would had probably passed the opportunity to try the tasty delicacy but in hindsight it was a delicious experience. In all fairness, my French mom had told me about previous students she had hosted eating frog legs but it never occurred to me that she was responsible for the experience. She explained that most students are hesitant to eat frog legs since it’s not a popular dish in the States but that after trying her recipe, most students are in love. It may not have been love at first sight but frog legs were the perfect ending to my adventures in France.

Thank you Malou for giving me a taste of France I will never forget!

 

A Tiny Delicacy in the Philippines

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AAG Philippines with Erin Wingerter, Office Manager

Naturally after thoroughly enjoying a giant stuffed squid at a restaurant I wanted to try and cook my own. To celebrate the completion of my first two weeks in Manila I decided to go for it. At the grocery store I could not find any squid so I asked the fish guy if they had any squid. He smiled a smile that said, “Really? YOU are going to be cooking squid?” He directed me toward the below squid. I was disappointed at the size. I plopped a few of them in a bag and started to walk away.

I paused, spun around and asked, Do you have anything, ummm, bigger?

He laughed out loud and motioned for me to follow him. I won’t tell you where I got it (that’s between me and fish guy).

As you can see he obviously understood my go big or go home mentality.

I picked up the remaining ingredients I would need for the meat stuffing and rushed home, excited about the prospect of cooking my first ever squid. I had previously found a recipe for cooking octopus. I assumed that squid and octopus are pretty similar so I could cook them the same way (keep in mind that my cooking experience in Austin has been putting cereal in a bowl and adding milk).

I only had one fairly small pot so Tiny (yes, I named my giant squid) had a bit of a cozy fit during his final moments.

I know you are on the edge of your seat now wanting to know just how wonderful my squid turned out. Life isn’t a fairy tale kids. After 20 minutes (according to the octopus recipe) of boiling in it’s own “juices” I wasn’t sure how to check and see if it was done so similar to meat I stabbed it. To my surprise and dismay “Tiny” began to leak black as night ink. Hoping this was just a little that didn’t get washed out I decided to cut “Tiny” open. Not great. I about fell on the floor laughing. Apparently I should have taken the time to get a recipe for an actual squid.

Final product? A lovely meat, garlic, onion and eggplant stuffing with sweet chili sauce. Delicious! Granted not what I had in mind when I first started out but a highly entertaining experience and now I can say that I have cooked a giant squid (I don’t have to include that “Tiny” was not actually edible when all was said and done).

So get out there, take a risk and try cooking an international dish!

Tasty Traditional Treats in Buenos Aires

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Volunteer Argentina with Stephanie Schneidau

Before I came I anticipated beef, dulce de leche, empanadas, and more beef. However you can really see the fusion of different cultures and the immigration influence in Buenos Aires through their food. 

When I was taking Spanish classes my first two weeks, I picked up on the trend to head to to the bakery, panaderia, during our 20 minute break. Medialunas were my usual choice, which are crossiants with a sugar glaze on top and can be found at any bakery in Buenos Aires and even at Burger King here. They can be eaten at any meal and are usually enjoyed with coffee. In addition medialunas are sometimes filled with dulce de leche, a carmel-like cream, or with a jelly. The variety at the bakeries are amazing, every time I go I am still able to try something new. Here dessert is a given and it is assumed you will always order one after your meal.

This is bife de lomo, which is a tenderloin steak that was BY FAR the best steak (and cheapest filet) I have ever eaten. It was topped with a mushroom glaze and came with a side of fried potato balls.

In Buenos Aires, you will often come across restaurants that include a parrilla, which is a huge grill with all meet is cooked including ribs, tenderloin, chorizo sausage, and much more. The smell alone will attract you inside.

Also there are street trailers all over, especially along the river selling choripan. This is chorizo sausage on a white bun and then you top it with any veggies and sauces of your preferance.After a late night out, this was the perfect meal the following day.

Empanadas can also be found all over the city and for a very reasonable price of 4 pesos…so not even 1 US dollar! They are typically filled with beef, chicken, vegetables, ham, or cheese. I had no idea that ham was so evident in Buenos Aires. Before I came I preferred a turkey sandwich but have taken a strong like to ham now.
 
Last is the strong Italian influence in Buenos Aires. From pizza to pasta, there is an Italian restaurant on every corner. My favorite is pizza with ham and pineapple. Mozzarella cheese is hugely popular here and is so fresh! As an appetizer you will often see people eating a plate of salami, ham, mozzarella, and olives…along with a glass of Argentina’s local wine, Malbec.

Beans meet Rice in Costa Rica

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Volunteer Costa Rica with Inga Hajdarowicz

No one who has ever visited Costa Rica is likely to forget gallo pinto, and those who have not visited rarely understand how people can be so enamored of rice and beans. Needless to say, the picture of this traditional dish comes first to AIDE Abroad’s desk from Inga Hajdarowicz who is happy to share her culinary experience while doing her Volunteer Costa Rica program with AIDE Abroad.

Gallo-pinto Costa Rica

Traditional Costa Rican meal, Gallo Pinto. Though many variations exist, the dish at its most basic is composed of pre-cooked rice and beans fried together.

When the beans and rice are combined, the rice gets colored by the beans, and the mix results in a multi-colored, or speckled appearance. Gallo pinto means “spotted rooster”, thus the name fits with the colored rice. The host serves it hoping that those eating it will be fooled into believing it contains chicken, the lack of which is disguised by the texture and speckled appearance of the bean and rice mixture.

Casem team Costa Rica

Inga and her team in Costa Rica!

Interested in going to Costa Rica during your Winter Break – read more.

Vegetarian in Peru

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Internship Peru with Michael Ladd

Michael Ladd in Peru

Michael Ladd at his dream place, a land of mystery and rich culture—Perú.

My family here is extremely kind.  My host parents are always telling me that they want me to feel comfortable in their home and that their house is also my house.  As always, the food is an interesting situation because Peruvians eat meat very frequently, or at least it seems to be so.  Therefore, I have been eating a great deal of cereals such as quinoa, vena and rice, tofu (soy meat), potatoes and things of that sort.  All across the Andes the potato finds its way to the table for most meals.  This is largely because, as it turns out, the Incas were very skilled in agriculture and they developed more than 3,000 types of potatoes.  These and quinoa and kiwicha are important parts of the diets of Cusqueñas because they’re all-in-one meals.  You can get just about everything you need from any of these three Inca staples.  I know, you’re probably blown away, right?  It’s okay if you’re not as excited as I was when I learned of these miracle foods.

moray, Peru inca argiculture

This is Moray, the place was constructed by the Incas to serve as an agricultural laboratory. Each level in this laboratory has a distinct microclimate.

Corpus Cristi Festival. 

People walk from every district in Cusco carrying their Saints and Virgins to the Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas.  The farthest district from the Cathedral is San Jerónimo and they walk for many hours to arrive there.  A typical dish served during Corpus  is “chiri uchu” which consists of: guinea pig, corn cake, cocha yuyu (a type of algae), fish eggs, steak, cheese, and a sort of salsa.  In restaurants and in the streets as well, guinea pig was being sold.  I’m vegetarian and, therefore, have not tried this traditional dish, but I’m okay with that. I still enjoyed a concert during festival to listen, hangout, and celebrate.

corpus cristi festival, Peru

People walk carrying their Saints and Virgins to the Cathedral.

michael in his Peruvian dance group

I was fortunate enough to participate in one of these dances titled “Unay Carnaval.”

Andes tasty drink, cicha

I went to Saqusaywayman to see the celebration of Inti Raymi, or Party of the Sun in English.  It was a huge and amazing production and I didn’t have to pay to get in!  One other cool thing is that I ran into a guy, Rolando, from Quillabamba who arrived with me in Cusco about a month ago.  I didn’t think I’d ever see him again.  It was a great surprise.  We made the climb up to Saqusaywayman and watched Inti Raymi together.  After we chilled in a market and chatted over a chicha de quinoa, which is one of the tastiest drinks I have ever tried.

Inti Raymi, or Party of the Sun

Celebration of Inti Raymi, or Party of the Sun taken place at Saqusaywayman, Peru.

chica de quiona, Peru

While “chicha” is most commonly associated with maize, the word is used in the Andes for almost any homemade fermented drink, and many different grains or fruits are used to make "chicha" in different region.

Australian Delicacies

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Grub hunting with Cassie Byard

Aboriginal Australians, who live in remote areas inland, eat food that is easily available in the bush. They do not raise cattle and do not cultivate the land, but they have a strong knowledge of the environment and how to benefit from it.

Grub hunting

In the past, the wichetty grubs formed an important insect food in the diet of Aboriginal Australians living in the desert.

Grub hunting

Shovel in hands, ready for grub hunting.

the roots of the witchetty bush

The witchetty grub is a term used in Australia for the large, white, wood-eating larvae of the cossid moth, which feeds on the roots of the witchetty bush (named after the grubs) that is found in central Australia.

Cooking Grub

Edible either raw or lightly cooked in hot ashes, they are sought out as a high-protein food by indigenous Australians.

witchetty grub

The grub looks like a white large worm.

witchetty grub

The raw witchetty grub tastes like almonds and when cooked, the skin becomes crisp like roasted chicken, while the inside becomes light yellow, like a fried egg.

WINE TASTING AND PISCO SOURS IN CHILE

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Drinks in Chile with Nery, Executive Assistant

Nery with Pisco Sours

Nery ready to taste Pisco Sours

Chilean wine is one of the most exquisite in the world. During my visit in La Serena, we had a late dinner business meeting at one of the local restaurants where their specialty is steak and wine. The Coquimbo region is well known for the production of Pisco and table grapes.  So tasting wine seemed like a must-do that night. The local restaurant offered varieties of Chardonnay, Carbernet Franc, Carbernet Sauvignon and Merlot. That night, I tasted different Merlots and accompanied them with fresh Marraquetas (fresh bread), butter and mouthwatering short ribs.

Wine tasting in Chile

Wine tasting in Chile

Pisco Sour was another drink that we tasted the night before we left La Serena. This sweet-tart, cold, and refreshing national cocktail of Peru, is consumed in Chile as well. Made of pisco, lemon juice and sweetener, this sour formula makes every occasion more enjoyable.

Pisco Sours, Chile

Pisco sours, a popular Chile beverage

The meal we had that night at Mario’s Restaurant, a small, local place located a few steps from the beach, consisted of choritos (mussels) in green sauce, oysters, gambas (shrimp), machas (razor clams), scoop of flaked crab, locos (abalone), and rice. Wow! As I type this, my stomach is growling for this appetizing sea-food and my mind reminiscing a memorable night at La Serena.

Food and Wine, Chile

Fresh seafood paired with Chilean wine

Chilean Cafe

Chilean Coffee

We hiked up to the Cerro de la Virgen, just north of Santiago. The view offers vast panoramas of the entire Elqui Valley and the city of Santiago. However, it’s hot up there and a refreshing drink is always needed. So we tasted this traditional drink named Mote con Huesillo (husked wheat with peaches). Though its appearance may not be the best, it is sweet and refreshing. Just perfect for a Sunday afternoon at the mountain enjoying the nice view of the Chilean capital.

Mote en Chile

Refreshing traditional drink, Mote con Huesillo

Hong Kong

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Eating Our Way Through Hong Kong with Kim Hulse, AAG Senior Account Manager

Street-side eateries at the Temple Street Night Market

After wandering around for hours at this must-see market, allow yourself to get shown to a table at one of these tiny, outdoor restaurants. We grubbed on some delicious flat noodles and bok choy (Chinese cabbage) in oyster sauce.  We washed it down with Tsing Tsao beers all for under $7 US.  The group of guys next to us had the chili crabs and they looked phenomenal as well.  I knew we should have went for the crab!

scarfing noodles at night market

Scarfing noodles at night market.

Freshest Seafood at Tung Po

This place was the REAL Hong Kong.  A huge, super loud, packed room filled with plastic tables and chairs, water tanks galore with endless amounts of live creatures, and bowls of beer on every table.  That’s right, bowls, not glasses.  It was so great to see tons of locals gathered around gigantic tables playing dice or drinking games and laughing up a storm. Since this was one of June and Alex’s favorite places in the world for seafood, we let them order.  Soon our table was filled with black bean and chili clams, garlic shrimp and crab, eggplant casserole, and the best chicken that we have ever had, complete with crispy skin.  And we never eat the skin….but oh lord, was it good!

garlic crab, eggplant Casserole, and Bean chilli clams

Garlic crab, eggplant casserole, and bean chilli clams

crispy chicken with garlic

Crispy chicken with garlic...the skin was the best!

curry crab

Curry crab.

Shanghainese in Central

Again, thanks to our lovely host Doug, we were taken to another dining gem,  a great place in the Soho district of Central on Hong Kong Island.  We went to meet up with another one of Doug’s friends from high school, Kathy and nestled into our quaint little booth and started off with glass noodles and sliced pork.  We then had some steamy spring rolls and pork dumplings with liquified pork fat.  You have to bite off the top of the dumpling, let it cool, and then suck out the fat and then toss the dumpling in your mouth.  It sounds gross, but it was heaven.  I promise.  We then cried our eyes out as we inhaled a fantastic tofu dish in red sauce.  So painful, but so worth it.

pork fat dumplings

Pork fat dumplings.

So as you can see, Hong Kong totally lived up to our expectations.  We are so glad we stopped of here and were taken such good care of.  Thanks again June, Doug and Joseph!!