Ethiopian spiced butter

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One of my closest friends here in China is from Ethiopia. He’s doing a PhD at the university I teach at. He has cooked Ethiopian food once or twice, which was a great experience. Recently he gave me a bowl of Ethiopian spiced butter called ‘niter kibbeh’. This is a clarified butter infused with lots of spices such as cardamom, cumin and garlic. It is a deep yellow in color and has a distinctive strongly fragrant smell which reminds me of a curry.

In Ethiopia people use it on pretty much everything. You can use it to fry just about anything, and it will give of a nice flavor a the same time. I decided to use it for scrambled eggs, so that I could taste it with a clean palate. Although you could mainly taste the eggs, there was a warmth there and every other bite or so you would get a hint of the spices. In theory I think this is a great idea. I just don’t think this exact spice mix was right for me. There was something about it I didn’t quite like. Perhaps I should make my own.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 6

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Jicama

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One of he joys of travel for me is getting to know the country through its food. I always make sure to visit a local market and try out some street food to really get to the heart of the country. On such occasions I often come across fruits and vegetables I never got to try before. That’s how I met my arch nemesis the durian, from a street food vendor in Bali. In Mexico, when I ordered a fruit cup with chili, I received a mix of fruits hat included jicama, another first for me.

Jicama is a root vegetable native to Mexico that has spread to Asia and other countries. I’ve seen it at supermarkets here in China, but not back in Holland. The tuber is shaped like a drop of water and can be the size of a fist, or as large as your head. It’s usually eaten raw and has a similar crunchy texture to that of raw potato. It’s supposedly sweet though, and therefore often used more as a fruit, which is how it ended up in my fruit cup.

Having tried it, I can definitely see the comparison to raw potato. The texture was indeed eerily similar. I found, however, that it wasn’t just the texture that was so familiar. The taste itself also reminded me of raw potato, a little watery yet also a little dirty like the ground it grew in. I personally don’t quite enjoy raw potato as much as you might. Therefore this experiment of eating jicama was sadly a fail.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 3

One year online

Today marks the one year anniversary of my blog “off the bitten path”. It’s given me a handful of amazing readers, and even some friends, but most importantly it has given me a reason to keep trying new food and new things. I’ve learned never to say no to anything, as it the outcome may surprise you. After all I ended up loving the bull’s testicles in Poland, the crickets in Mexico and the corn ice cream in China.

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Not everything was a hit though. I still can’t get over the whale bacon in Japan. Same as the raw horse mane sushi. That was an absolute low. That and of course the infamous durian.

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Over the past year I’ve posted 365 reviews. Two of those were written by fellow blogger Paul. Now it’s time for a new phase for my blog. I will be posting less frequently. Writing every day is quite a challenge. At some point I felt my blog became a bit polluted with yet another potato chip or Oreo. I want to focus more on the really unusual things, which will not happen ever day. It will come with travel, but of course there’s plenty left for me to try here in China.

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Thanks to everyone for reading and liking my blog. I hope you’ll stay with me for year two. If anyone has any unusual food they might want to show on my blog, I’d be happy to have a guest entry here.

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Fruit cup with chili

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We look at fruit as a sweet treat. The natural sugars make it a great snack for dessert. Of course cooking with fruit is not new either. Think of pork with apple duck with cranberries. And yet we still don’t eat a fruit salad covered in salt and pepper. In Mexico, however, a common street food snack is fruit with ‘chamoy’. This basically is chili and lime.

I ordered a cup of my favorite fruits, pineapple and mango. It also had jicama, which I had never tried before. More about that tomorrow. I thought it was a great combination. You’d get a spicy sensation at first, which was then immediately cooled by the sugars in the fruit. The flavors of pineapple and mango lent themselves very well for this dish.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 8

Cinnamon bun Oreos

imageFirst I tried cinnamon candy Oreos, and now cinnamon roll ones. You might wonder if there’s much of a difference, but you’d be surprised. These ones tasted like actual cinnamon, instead of that artificial cinnamon candy flavor. The filling was pretty normal, and the cookie tasted of cinnamon, and yet I can’t give it a high score. The reason lies in the texture. The cookies were soft. Talk about a Limp Bizkit. I don’t know if it was meant that way, or if perhaps the packaging was broken, but it sure spoiled it for me.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

Tamarind water

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In Mexico you can often get a water with your meal, but when they say that they mean flavored water. Hibiscus is often used as well as tamarind. Tamarind is the sour bean-like fruit that hails from Africa that I’ve spoken about before. I ordered a tamarind water and was pleasantly surprised to see it was freshly made. Because of the acidity the drink was very refreshing. It did also have a certain sweetness to it. It was definitely a perfect drink for a hot day.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Mexican corn ice cream

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I have eaten corn ice cream before, but that was a prepackaged highly processed ice cream bar. This time around I came across some freshly made corn ice-cream from a street food vendor in Valladolid, Mexico. That made it a lot more authentic. On further inspection, the ice cream also contained real kernels of corn. The ice cream itself was super smooth and creamy like an Italian gelato. It definitely tasted of corn, which made the whole thing a little strange, but still delicious. Round two proves that corn can indeed be used as a dessert.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 7

 

Cheeseburger chips

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Another tube of Pringles, another disappointment? That was pretty much my state of mind upon buying this tube of cheeseburger flavored chips. I wasn’t disappointed however, as my first bite did indeed send of waves of cheeseburger goodness. To be more precise it reminded me of a McDonald’s cheeseburger with that so-called cheddar cheese. It didn’t taste of beef, but at least they got the rest of it right. Not bad, but not a big hit either.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Red velvet Magnum

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I told you before how much I love Magnum with it’s velvety center and crispy chocolate. They often have a limited edition with fruits or coffee or caramel, but in Mexico I found something a bit more unusual. A red velvet Magnum. It looked promising with swirls of red and white in the center. Unfortunately if it tasted like cake at all, it must have been a week old stale cake. It was almost like eating cardboard. I’ll stick to the original for now.

Fear Factor: 0 / Taste Test – 5

Spam sushi

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Nobody likes Spam. Well, that’s not entirely true. Hawaiians and Koreans love the stuff. It was brought to Korea by American soldiers, and has left its ugly scar ever since. It wasn’t a great shock then to find a spam gimbap, Korean sushi, at the airport.

The rice roll was filled with vegetables, crab stick and the aforementioned spam. With every bite you would get a different flavor. Like Russian roulette you would risk biting into the spam. Funnily enough when I did reach the spam, I didn’t actually mind. The flavor seemed to be washed out by the other ingredients, or perhaps these Koreans are just on to something.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 7