more Marrakech food and sights

My last post on Marrakech. But more Morocco to come!

A man was selling mint from giant sack, right on the street.

mint for sale

mint for sale

Fried fish. Mark, our guide, said that it wasn’t worth eating seafood here and that it would be better on the coast. Also, notice the Activia sign. I had no idea that stuff was so far reaching!

fish and yogurt sign

fish and yogurt sign

Lots and lots and lots of colourful tagines for sale.

tagines

tagines

Mutton, anyone?

butcher

butcher

Garlic and spices for sale on the side of the street.

garlic and spices

garlic and spices

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Pandan Agar Agar recipe

I am going to a potluck dinner today! (More on that another day.) I wanted to bring something a little different that some people may not have tried before. This is a South-East Asian vegetarian and dairy-free gelatin dessert that uses a couple of ingredients that may seem exotic to people unfamiliar with food from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines or Malaysia.

Pandan Agar Agar

Pandan Agar Agar

Pandan leaves (also known as pandanus or screw pine leaves) are a plant that is often used in South-East Asian cooking and appears in desserts, flavoured rice, curries, etc. The taste and smell of pandan is uniquely floral and slightly grassy. It is often paired with coconut; in fact, if you buy something that is coconut flavoured and it is green coloured, it probably has some pandan in it as well. People sometimes say that pandan leaves are as important to South-East Asian cooking as vanilla is to Western cooking. In Edmonton, you can purchase pandan leaves frozen from Asian grocery stores like T&T Supermarket and 99 Supermarket. I picked up pandan extract at 99 Supermarket.

pandan extract

pandan extract

Agar agar is a derived from an algae and is often used as a substitute for gelatin. It is most commonly used in South-East Asian and Japanese desserts, but sometimes gets used as a general thickener for food. You can sometimes find them in Asian grocery stores as long, dried strips, flakes or as a powder.

I originally was going to use a recipe that I found on the Internet or from a cookbook, but all of the ones I found weren’t quite what I was looking for. I ended up doing a test run and finally settled on these measurements as my preferred recipe.

Pandan Agar Agar

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup water
400 ml (approx 2 cups) thick coconut milk (use a higher fat milk – the one I used had 17 g of fat per 1/2 cup)
2/3 cup sugar
3 tsp powdered agar agar
approx 1/2 tsp pandan (also known as screw pine) extract (also sometimes called essence or paste)

Directions
Place the water, coconut milk and sugar into a pot and bring to a low boil.

Sprinkle the agar agar powder into the pot slowly while continuously stirring the mixture. Be careful because the powder can easily clump in the liquid if you add it too quickly. If it does clump, then break it up as much as you can and keep slowly stirring until the lumps dissolve in the liquid.

Slowly add the pandan extract until the desired green colour is achieved. I added 1/2 tsp, but really the amount added depends on your preference.

Place the mixture into molds or a casserole dish and let cool. Agar agar will become solid at room temperature, but it will solidify faster in cold temperatures. I generally let the agar agar cool down a little bit, and then pop them into the fridge. I recommend making your layer about 1/2 inch tall or less; once you get much bigger than that the mixture will settle toward the bottom and the top part of the agar agar will become translucent. The flavour will fall to the bottom as well.

Once cool, unmold or cut the agar agar into squares, rectangles, parallelograms. I used a small cookie cutter to create fun shapes.

N.B. Alternatively you can use pandan leaves and make a pandan juice instead of using the extract. To create the juice you take about 8 long leaves and rinse them. Chiffonade the leaves if you can, or at least try to slice them into as small pieces as possible. Place them into a blender with 2/3 a cup of water and puree. Strain the mixture with a cheesecloth. If you substitute the juice for the pandan extract, remember to reduce the amount of the water in the above recipe to 1 cup.

This dessert can be made vegan if vegan sugar is used. It is Celiac-friendly as well, but you probably need to use the juice instead as I am not 100% sure the extract is gluten-free.

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Las Vegas

When I decided to go on a trip to Las Vegas, I knew I wanted at least one fancy pants meal. After doing some reading about the various places in Las Vegas, I settled on L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon as the place where we’d have our most expensive meal, to be eaten on the Saturday before we went to a showing of KÀ.

LAtelier de Joël Robuchon

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

I’ve actually had my eye on this upscale chain of restaurants for a while now. I had planned on going there while in Hong Kong last year, but on the only day I had free I wasn’t feeling hungry at all and ended up going to sleep early instead of trying to find my way there. Because of this, L’Atelier was high on my Vegas to-do list.

This location of L’Atelier is located right next to the casino floor and they had the doors propped open, which meant that some of the casino sounds filtered into the restaurant. Part way through my meal they closed one of the doors and most of the sounds went away, so at some point I actually forgot we were right next to the casino. Next to the restaurant is Robuchon’s other restaurant at the MGM Grand, Joël Robuchon at The Mansion (which I considered for my list but crossed off due to the price). And next to that fantastic entrance (look at the chandelier in the foyer!) was the KÀ Theatre.

Joël Robuchon at the Mansion and KÀ Theatre

Joël Robuchon at the Mansion and KÀ Theatre

In Las Vegas, L’Atelier is a one-star Michelin French restaurant. A majority of the restaurant’s seating is at a bar surrounding and facing the open kitchen, similar to a sushi bar. An important part of the dining experience here is watching the kitchen staff make your food. It is for this reason that Robuchon calls this series of restaurants “the workshop,” or L’Atelier.

bar seating at LAtelier de Joël Robuchon with the casino viewable through the window

bar seating at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon with the casino viewable through the window

The decor was very modern with lots of reds and blacks. The kitchen was decorated by large vases of fruits, eggs, and vegetables floating in water, as well as giant fake apples and round hanging greenery.
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Famoso, Edmonton

Famoso sign

Famoso sign

I have finally sampled pizza nirvana (or at least as close as you can come when you are in Edmonton).

A group of friends and I trekked over to the south-side Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria for a get together on Saturday. Greedily, we decided to order one different pizza each – that way we could try many kinds and share slices. It was a little bit too much pizza to eat (many of us took home leftovers), but we were happy to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of good eating. They were all excellent pizzas, but I admit I did have a couple of particular favourites.

Famoso’s pizza uses highly refined, low-gluten flour imported from Italy. This means a thin, crispy and light crust. No greasiness here – just the light taste of olive oil and fresh ingredients. Pizzas come with 2 sauces depending on which pizza you order; the pizza rossa (red), which consists of San Marzano tomato sauce made of crushed tomatoes and basil leaf, and the pizza bianca (white), made with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and oregano pizza sauce. Also, while many of the pizzas contained cheese, the amount of cheese on the pizza is a lot less than what you find on North American pizzas. I love cheese, and I was surprised at how little I missed having so much of it on a pizza slice.

Pizza #1 – Margherita – fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil, with added extra toppings of olives, onions and roasted mushrooms. Was yummy but had a few too many olives for my taste.

Margherita pizza

Margherita pizza

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Restoran Khaleel, Malaysia – roti

A couple of breakfasts were spent eating Malaysian flat breads at Restoran Khaleel, an Indian place near my hotel.

Restoran Khaleel

Restoran Khaleel

(By the way, “restoran” is Malay for “restaurant,” by the way. There’s this odd logic once you catch on to how Malay works… “ambulans” is “ambulance,”  “polis” means “police,” “Amerika” is “America, and “air” means “water.” Okay, that last one is a bad example, but you know what I mean.)

Roti canai (pronounced chan-ai, in Singapore called roti prata) is a favourite of my family, and is one of the few Malaysian dishes that we have access to here in Canada. It’s made of wheat, is pan-fried and (when done right) is layered inside a bit like phyllo. To eat, you rip off a piece and dip it in curry. At this place, they served it with a lovely chicken curry.

Roti canai with chicken curry

Roti canai with chicken curry

While there, we also tried another kind of roti, a roti tosai. Roti tosai is made from rice and lentil flour. It’s thinner, more crepe-like, and is steamed. They also served it with three dips – a lentil curry (middle), a yellow curry (right), and a spiced coconut milk chutney (left). I really liked this as it wasn’t greasy like roti canai can be, and the variety of sauces made this dish interesting. (And no, I didn’t have Sprite for breakfast. Those culprits were my siblings.)

Roti tosai and roti canai

Roti tosai and more roti canai

Did I miss Western breakfasts like toast and eggs and cereal? Not one bit.

Restoran Khaleel Sdn Bhd
Gurney Drive (a.k.a. Persiaran Gurney), Georgetown, Malaysia

Sugar cane juice and coconut water

It’s hot in Malaysia. I had to remember to keep drinking liquids because it was so hot, even in the month of May. And after a while, you get sick of drinking water. Instead of going for sugary pop, I took advantage of easily available street drinks.

Sugar cane juicer

This juicer made access to fresh sugar cane juice easy and quick.

These green coconuts had their top sliced off and you could drink the water. Was also given a spoon to eat the young coconut meat.

These green coconuts had their top sliced off and you could drink the water. Was also given a spoon to eat the young coconut meat.