If you read this, then we have something in common – we both love travelling and good food! Even though we all want to go on a culinary journey around the world, because of the busy daily life and the monthly expenses, few people can afford such a trip. That's why we decided to take you to a virtual one. We will together visit several continents and 9 culinary destinations to learn more about the iconic dishes, desserts and drinks, to start speaking at least a little Japanese, to understand how to drink whiskey and to find out what the Israelis are arguing about. So, sit back comfortably and enjoy this read - your dream culinary journey is about to begin. Of course, this will be in two separate episodes: food and drinks. For the sake of balance.
EPISODE ONE: Cuisines
First stop - Mi amore, Italia!
When someone says Italy, everyone first thinks of fresh pasta and delicious gelato. This time we will shift the focus from tagliatelle with bechamel sauce and we will pay special attention to this classic dessert.
The history of gelato is related with that of Florence. It turns out that the dessert was invented by a chicken supplier in the 16th century in the midst of the Renaissance. An Italian family organized a cooking competition where the chicken supplier, Ruggeri, served a fruity, frozen dessert. He receives both the award and the place of the dessert chef in their castle. The recipe has become popular over time because the Italian family has transported it even across European borders.
Nowadays, gelato can be found around every corner in Florence, but you must be careful not to be misled. As is often the case with quality gelato, it is also very likely that you will come across synthetic duplicates of mass production, offered in squares full of tourists. The good thing is that the differences are obvious from afar - stay away from the "gelato" in neon color, which has an artificial aroma.
We say Arrivederci, Italia and مرحبا يا المغرب
After so much gelato, it's time to move on to the main dishes. Next stop… AFRICA!
Rabat, Morocco, North Africa
Moroccan cuisine is considered one of the most important cuisines in the world because of the remarkable variety of influences. In these dishes the long history of the country of colonizers and immigrants who have left their mark in more than one way can be traced. The cuisine of the first inhabitants, the Berbers, still exists today in the main dishes as tajine and couscous. The Arab invasion, on the other hand, has brought new spices, nuts and dried fruits, as well as the sweet and sour combinations.
The Moors have introduced olives, and the Moorish Jews have left behind their advanced storage techniques, which we see with the frequent use of canned pickles, for example. The Ottoman Empire has introduced barbecue (kebab) in Moroccan cuisine.
Thus, each dish was influenced by a different colony and culture, until the cuisine of Morocco has been formed as we know it today.
We set off to the next continent from our culinary journey to find out a little more about the dish that is never missing on any Armenian families’ table - the lavash bread!
You may not have heard of lavash before, but this is a traditional Armenian thin bread, which has always been a mandatory item on the table of every family since Ancient Armenia. It is still a tradition for the men in the house to prepare the meat, while for the mothers and daughters to take care of the bread.
The recipe does not require many products (only flour, water and salt), but the complicated part comes with the techniques of rolling and baking. First, the dough is formed into small balls, and then it has to be spread in the form of an oval pillow. Once the bread is ready for baking, it has to be placed on the walls of a tandoor oven using a special technique. This bread is so thin that it will be ready in just one minute, and sometimes in no more than 30 seconds.
There are many dishes that must be consumed with this type of bread, such as – the Armenian tripe soup Hash, any type of barbecue or in combination with fresh vegetables, tomatoes and potatoes.
We pass directly through the Mediterranean Sea and arrive in the country of every chickpea lover - Lebanon!
You don't have to be vegan to love hummus and falafel. These are the two most famous dishes made from chickpeas. In fact, falafels are becoming so popular around the world that Palestinians and Israelis are often arguing over which country the label "traditional national dish" belongs to. In Israel, you will often see cards with falafel and the slogan "Israel's National Breakfast", and some Palestinian cookbook authors claim that the Israelis stole and misappropriated the recipe.
To this day, there is much controversy as to where falafel came from, but one thing is certain: the whole world loves it and eats it regularly! That is why we have prepared a sample falafel recipe, so that you can prepare it at home some other time... As far as the others are concerned, let them fight while you are enjoying your homemade falafels.
We are heading towards China to study not only what they eat there, but also what lies behind the strange eating habits.
People often say that China is like another world, and anyone who is not part of it would agree that the Chinese live in a completely different way than anyone else. As you know, they do not use forks and spoons, but chopsticks. And if you order something resembling a familiar dish, you will be amazed how it has nothing to do with any well-known recipe. For example, you can try the Chinese "pelmeni" called gyoza (in Chinese jiaozi, in Japanese gyōza) to understand that apart from the principle of a wrapped small bite of food of the Italian raviolli, nothing else is the same. In fact, these are dumplings, which are made with meat or vegetable stuffing wrapped in a thin dough. They can then be boiled, steamed or fried. They are served with vinegar sauce and sesame oil, and the Chinese often eat them in addition to a soup.
You must be wondering what this strange name means and where it comes from. One theory is that the dish was not actually invented by a famous of its time chef, but by a doctor named Zhang Zhongjing. Jiaozi means "tender ears" because during the Eastern Khan era this dish was used to treat the cold ears of the poorer people during the winter.
You will be pleasantly surprised when you hear more such stories if you visit China… or at least when you sign up for a cooking course for Chinese cuisine – you will find this one and many other courses in our section with culinary adventures.
We are going to the no less interesting culinary destination Japan, where the words "azuki", "hamachi" and "yukari" are unknown to us, but our sixth sense tells us that they are related to something very tasty.
Let's start our Japanese cuisine lesson with a slight introduction to the language.
- “Azuki” is the name of a bush that produces dark red beans. They are used to make various dishes, but the most fascinating combo is with seaweed.
- “Hamachi”, believe it or not, is a type of fish.
- "Yukari" is a type of highly aromatic spice that is used mainly in the preparation of rice or pasta in Japan.
Fortunately, you can not only read about all these strange-to-pronounce words, but also taste them in a 5-course menu for two in combination with fine wines.
In 2013, UNESCO added the traditional Japanese cuisine (called “washoku”) to its list of intangible cultural heritage, which means that preserving this way of eating is vital for the survival of traditional culture. This was then only the second national traditional cuisine revered as such, after the French.
Traditional Japanese cuisine focuses on balance with cooking techniques that aim to make the natural flavors of the ingredients stand out instead of masking them into heavy sauces. The structure of the dish "washoku" relies on the principle "一 汁 三 菜" designed to accompany a bowl of steamed rice. These dishes provide a variety of flavors and colours, as well as a well-balanced, nutrient-rich dish.
So, before returning to our homeland, we will go to one last culinary – the place where it is always very cold, the territory where an infinite number of potatoes grow – Росси́я!
St. Petersburg, Russia
We arrive in St. Petersburg and we are already very cold! To keep warm, Russians often eat soups. One of the famous ones is called borscht - it originates from Ukraine and is based on beets. According to an authentic recipe, it also contains meat and a number of sauteed vegetables - cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes, and little sour cream.
Another iconic soup is shchi, made from fresh cabbage or sauerkraut. Each recipe includes different products, but you will often find it with potatoes, carrots, onions and a little meat (most often chicken). This soup can also be served in a glass to keep you warm as you walk the city streets. And if you like seafood, look for ukha soup - fish soup with clear broth, which can be made with any fish, as long as it is fresh.
After all, we are on culinary tourism, so it is right to try the national dish of the country, isn’t it? Well, these are the pelmeni! The dish resembles dumplings because a ball of minced meat is wrapped in a small amount of dough. Finally, it can be served without garnish - with just a little butter or dipped directly in broth.
If you do not like to experiment, and prefer to play it safe so that you won’t end up staying hungry, then you will certainly not go wrong with Russian pancakes. These are wheat pancakes that symbolize the sun and are an emblematic dish for the Russian Maslenitsa festival, which celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
EPISODE TWO: Drinks
Bonjour, chère France! We arrive here to taste a special Burgundy wine with a world-famous taste.
France is famous for its wine, and the Burgundy region may be small, but its influence is huge on the world of wine. The main focus of production there is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Burgundy is located in the east-central part of France and has 5 main wine-growing regions: Chablis - "sabers", Côte de Nuits - night slope, Côte de Beaune - the slope of Bonn, Côte Chalonnaise - the slope of Chalon and Mâconnais - the region of Macon.
The secret of this wine lies in the region - where 200 million years ago, the place was part of a vast, tropical sea. Weather has turned the seabed into calcareous soils. These soils are the secret of its spicy minerality, which is a hallmark of Burgundy wines. Well, this really can't be stealed by any competitor. Such wines are worth tasting!
Especially for liquid lovers, we will now visit Scotland for a glass of aged whiskey.
For decades, Scotland has been the country with the largest whiskey production in the world. That's why you hardly know a person who hasn't heard that whiskey is of а Scottish origin! However, few people know that during the last century, almost half of Scotland's distilleries have been closed due to global repressions, world wars and overproduction. It is believed that when small-scale whiskey distillation became legal in the 1920s, smuggling slowly disappeared, and brands such as Johnnie Walker has developed from a small family business to a global operation.
Over time, whiskey drinking has become a culture. That is why true connoisseurs are in no rush to drink it all at once, but to enjoy every sip, instead. Moreover, whiskey should be drunk in 5 steps:
The first step is to see the colors of the drink, which are part of the character of the whiskey and hint at how it was made. The newly-made whiskey is clear and acquires its color from the oak barrels used during maturation. The color can vary from brassy yellow to golden red or pale yellow.
Grab the glass by the bottom and swirl it with a horizontal palm until the whiskey covers the glass walls. Now, pay attention to the drops that flow back into the glass. Watch how fast they go down the side, because that reveals how light the whiskey is. The slower it flows, the thicker, older and heavier the drink is.
Do not rush to drink yet, because the third and very important step is to smell the drink, and not anyway, but with an open mouth. This way you will capture all the nuances of its taste. Shake the whiskey vigorously in different directions while you are smelling it, and you will feel the aromas being released, invading your senses.
Finally it's time to have a drink. Leave the whiskey to cover your palate. If you want, you can squirt a few drops of water - this will release more aromas, and you can lock them with ice. But this is definitely the step through which it is most important to enjoy the moment.
5. Finish it with pleasure
Now we don't mean to drink the rest all at once. As we said, true "experts" drink slowly. In fact, this is the moment when you will notice how the whiskey stays in your throat. The taste can pass quickly or it can have a long and warming effect. After such enjoyment, you will probably want to keep such a drink all to yourself, and we understand you. But (!) ... there is an old unwritten rule in Scotland: whiskey, like food, must be shared. In fact, that's where the well-known scene in almost every movie comes from, when someone sips from a flask of whiskey, exhales heavily and offers his mate the same.
We land in Sofia because our culinary journey is coming to an end. We traveled a total of 32,260 virtual kilometers, visiting 3 continents and 9 countries.
If you want to get to know any culinary cuisine even more closely and learn even the smallest details in it, choose one of our cooking courses here: https://en.giftcometrue.com/collections/cooking
If you like to eat more than to cook, check out our various tasting suggestions at https://en.giftcometrue.com/collections/dining
食欲 or in other words Shokuyoku!