Vietnamese Coffee Flan

Once again I have a bonus recipe for you! I couldn’t help myself when I saw this coffee flan recipe and thought I NEEDED it in my life.. you might want it in your life too 😉

Vietnamese flan as you could have easily guessed is a French-inspired dish that came to be from French colonization. The true origin is from the Roman Empire due to their domestication of the chicken and conquering most of Europe. Using methods that the Greeks used, they adopted egg baking techniques in order to create the first flan.

France and Spain were two main countries that cherished their flan and added their own signature to the dish. The French refer to their flan as crème caramel and prefer to only use milk over cream with their preparation. In Spain, flado (or flat cake) was very popular and they were the first to add the caramel sauce to the base. The first flado dates back to medieval times when large quantities of eggs and dairy was combined together to make a custard. From Spain it traveled to Mexico, where they created the several variations of flan- coffee, coconut, and chocolate (to name a few).

So you will need to be patient for this one.. as tempting as it is to try it early it’s very important to let it set in the fridge to chill for the recommended 8 hours to insure it has set properly and fully cooled. I found this recipe to make my flan

We really enjoyed this one, however I was unable to get it to flip over and have the caramel running down the sides like the pictures you typically see (I had to cut slices 😅). The instant coffee was a nice and simple way to infuse the flavor into the flan making it taste similar to a coffee ice cream (so yummy!). This is another recipe I could see myself making in the future and share with others that have never had the decadent flan.

Off to Grenada for our next recipe, see you there!

Vietnam Day 4 – Caramel Shaking Beef and Asian Cucumber Salad

Hey guys welcome to our final Vietnamese entrée. Today I made shaking beef with an Asian cucumber salad. Shaking beef is a traditional meal that also has French influence. It can be mixed with various vegetables or without like this rendition. I followed Jet Tila’s cookbook 101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die to make this super simple yet incredibly delicious dish. Another great thing about both the salad and beef is that there were minimal ingredients required and it was done in less than 30 minutes! That is my kind of meal!

You can find the recipe for the cucumber salad here.

It is key to cut the beef thin and not to skimp on the garlic (but that goes without saying). Once your wok/fry pan is hot you “shake” the pan to constantly mix and cook the meat. Jet suggested serving the meat with a slice of baguette or French bread to absorb the juices of the meat.. we listed and boy was he on the money there!

This was the tastiest and ironically the simplest out of the bunch we made for Vietnam. The meat was very savory and tender. The cucumber salad was very refreshing and actually paired well with the meat. The bread soaked up of the liquid goodness on the plate and left us craving more. This meal proves that you don’t need all the fancy gadgets or ingredients to make an amazing meal. We thought it was worthy of a 9/10!

Next week we travel to the tropical Grenada to serve up a highly rated meal.

Vietnam Day 3 – Bánh Xèo

I have been very excited to try this dish. I have watched several videos and feel ready to tackle it. I am concerned I won’t get the right crispy texture of the crepe, but time will tell.

Hailing from central Vietnam these fancy crepes are usually filled with prawns and pork along with various vegetables. To make the crepe you use a combination of rice flour, turmeric powder, and water. Bánh xèo literally translates to “sizzling cake” which is what you should hear as it is cooking in the pan. As it cooks you add in your filling and once it gets to the desired crispiness you fold it over and serve it with greens, herbs, and a dipping sauce.

Unfortunately we did not hear the sizzle that was expected and after SEVERAL attempts to change the batter consistency and remake the batter with my gluten free flour we could not make this special masterpiece. What we had created was more soft and chewy textured “thing” that was hints of turmeric flavor. We could not fold our crepe because it wanted to break and tried it as an open faced dish. Disappointed and extremely frustrated I picked at our final result not enjoying the textures I was experiencing in my mouth. So it is safe to say this was another failed recipe that we will remake in the future with hopefully more success. I will not share the recipe I had gone by because who knows maybe it was poor interpretation of the instructions. Let us know if you have a go-to recipe that is bullet proof for us to try.

It is safe to say our next recipe was extremely successful and delicious! Stay tuned my faithful foodies

Vietnam Day 2 – Bún Bò Xả Ớt

On our second day in Vietnam we made another traditional dish known as bún bò xả ot. This dish translates to beef with lemongrass and chili and is refreshing to eat in the heat of the summer. I opted to try some pork I had bought since I would be using beef another time this week. The recipe Ian followed can be found here.

Ian thought the dish was straightforward and an easy one to make during the week. He substituted crushed red pepper flakes instead of the chilis since we could not buy fresh ones at the store. He felt the amount of salt that was asked for made the cucumbers a little too salty.

We thought this dish was delicious! There was a strong presence of ginger and lemongrass with every bite which was well-balanced by the cucumber. The light fish broth was very good and helped keep the dish from being too spicy. It was a hair too salty for us (which is saying something coming from Ian!) but overall had good flavor and was a unique dish.

We rated it 7.5/10, it might have been higher with beef but I doubt it. Next we will attempt to make the Vietnamese crepe banh xeo.. to find out if we were successful or not stay tuned!

(58) Nepal – Dal Bhat

Mountain Sinai. Source: Gadsventure

Today we travel back to Southern Asia to the country of Nepal. These country is situated mostly in the Himalayan mountains (home to Mount Everest) bordered by China, India, and Bhutan. Due to its location in a harsh environment it is considered one of the least developed countries in the world. Nepal is known to honor their cows due to Hindu religion (one of the most popular religions of Nepal) which means they will not kill their cows even when they stop providing milk. At that time cows are released and the community will care for the free cows. How cute!

Cuisine of Nepal can be broken up into regions and understandably has strong Asian influence. Such regions are Himilayan, Newars, Khas, Lohorung, and Terai. Each have specific dishes and cooking preparation methods that are unique to the region (with some overlap). Today’s dish dal bhat is a lentil curry, sometimes soup-like in consistency, that is eaten throughout the country and neighboring China and India. Traditionally it is served over rice and is vegetarian or vegan dependent on the oil used for cooking. It’s served at the 17,000 ft base camp on Mount Everest to fuel the brave hikers on their journey to/from the summit. The recipe I followed can be found here.

This meal was super-duper easy and healthy. I don’t cook with lentils often, but I was intrigued by the mix of spices (which I admit did not measure out when preparing). Additionally it has few ingredients and is inexpensive to make. Have I caught your attention now?

We enjoyed this meal and the blend of spice giving a mild heat to the dish. The lime and cilantro helped balance the heat. It was by far the best lentil dish we have ever had. Ian felt that adding salsa would have made it better, but what doesn’t salsa make better? We rated this dish 7.25/10 and recommend it to anyone who has never had lentils before or enjoy the flavors of cumin, turmeric, and cayenne. Let us know what you think by dropping a comment below!

(56) Singapore – Chili Prawns

The majestic merlion of Singapore. Source: Travel Awaits

Hey guys, we are in Singapore! This beautiful country borders Western Malaysia and is guarded by the mythical merlion (seen above). This figure came to life from the combination of its previous name Singapura (lion city in Malay) and honoring the the past, modest fishing village that the country started as (hence lion head and fish body). Singapore is known for its ban on chewing gum, affordable street food, and its summer-like weather year round (it is situated near the equator).

No that isn’t guacamole, I could only find green chilis

For a smaller country Singapore is well-known for its incredible cuisine, especially seafood. Rice, noodles, and other meats are also found in many of its dishes, but today we pay tribute to seafood. I was originally going to make the very popular chili crab, but I couldn’t buy any crab locally.. only crab meat for crab cakes and that wasn’t going to cover it. So the next best thing was chili prawns (or shrimp).

The dish consists of a sweet and spicy chili sauce that simmers prior to the addition of the seafood of choice. At the end a beaten egg is mixed in briefly and the dish is removed from heat to serve over rice or noodles. Luckily I had some leftover coconut rice which paired wonderfully! This dish is so good that it’s mentioned in the top 50 best dishes on CNN. The recipe can be found here.

So we loved it, obviously. It was sweet with a mild heat, the ginger and garlic coming through well. The egg made the sauce creamy and delightful, just make sure not to let it sit too long so the egg doesn’t fry. Our only suggestion would have been some vegetables added to the mix to complete the meal. We absolutely loved it and will be making it in the future! It was rated 8.5/10.

(54) Malaysia – Nasi Lemak

Sorry for my little hiatus we were off camping! With the warmer weather we have also decided to go down to 3 countries a week so we can enjoy the outdoors and get more active! Alright now on to the Malaysia!

Walking the canopy walk in Gunung Mulu National Park. Source: Maps of the World

Malaysia is a southeastern Asian country situated by Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, and Thailand. It is made up of two regions, West Malaysia (or Peninsular Malaysia) and East Malaysia (or Malaysia Timur). Western Malaysia makes up 40% of the total country and is known for its rainforests, mountains, and sandy beaches along with some of the tallest skyscrapers of the world. Eastern Malaysia is home to many nature reserves, National parks, and rural landscapes. One of these National Parks, Gunung Mulu National Park (pictured above) has incredible bridges you can walk in the canopies of the rainforest, the largest cave chamber in the world, and the pinnacles which are jagged limestone peaks that are as high as 50 meters (164ft).

All special ingredients and foods we haven’t tried before!

Malaysian cuisine consists of many things I have not tried (and will be trying today). It is made up of three ethnic groups: Malays, Chinese, and Indian. The common ingredients you can find throughout Malaysian dishes are chili peppers, Belacan (shrimp paste), coconut, lemongrass, tofu, seafood, soy sauce, tamarind, rice and noodles. The unofficial national dish of Malaysia is called Nasi Lemak and consists of many of the ingredients listed above along with two I did not see myself trying.. dried anchovies and sardines.

Nasi Lemak is made up mostly of a coconut rice that is cooked with pandan leaves, tamarind juice, and sambal ikan bilis (achovy paste made of chilis garlic, shallots, belacan, and small dried anchovies). It has other ingredients that are garnished around the main dish which allows you to get a different experience with every bite. Due to the array textures and flavors it is adored not only in Malaysia, but also neighboring countries and islands.

Although feeling a little uneasy I decided to tackle this new meal with an open mind. I did have to purchase several ingredients through Amazon since I was unable to find them in my local stores. Although it looked daunting, it was not too challenging to make. I still have not found a way to avoid burning the bottom of my coconut rice, but it was still successful. The recipe I used had several elements that together made up the dish (this being the traditional way) and looked quite nice once I plated it up.

I filled a tea bag with the pandan leaves for easy removal

We were pleasantly surprised by the dish, however the spice had us chugging water and milk. The anchovies and sardines were gave a salty flavor to the dish (make sure not to over season with salt). The egg, rice, and cucumber helped soothe my burning tongue after taking a bite of the very spicy sambal ikan bilis. If it wasn’t as spicy it would have taken a higher rating, but due to feeling like my mouth, face, and esophagus was up in flames we rated it 6.5/10.

Let us know what you think of this unique dish and if you handled the heat better 😅

(25) Sri Lanka – Shrimp Kottu Roti/Kothu Roti

Sri Lanka is known by two alternative names “The pearl of he Indian Ocean” and the “tear drop of India”. The first name comes from the beautiful tropical landscape, high levels of biodiversity and the fine gemstones found there. It’s second name can be easily be understood when looking at a map, as the tear drop shaped country appears to be falling from the southern point of India.

Wikipedia

Despite being such a small country, Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest exporters of cinnamon and tea. Cinnamon is actually native to Sri Lanka. The spice is processed by peeling the inner bark of the native cinnamon trees.

Sri Lankan Tea Country https://travelbible.co/sri-lanka

Tonight’s meal is Kottu Roti which is a famous street food from Sri Lanka. It’s said when walking the streets you can hear the rhythmic scraping and chopping as chefs prepare this meal with their steel hand spatulas. Here and here are the two recipes I referenced.

Lonleyplanet.com

Coconut Roti is a Sri Lankan flatbread that is both spicy and sweet. Below is the Dry ingredients, and the final dough ball once water is mixed and folded in.

The ball is then split into several smaller pieces that are rolled flat and then placed onto the frying pan.

The Final product is a sweet, spicy, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside flat bread!

Separately the shrimp and vegetables are heavily spiced and cooked.

The roti is then chopped and everything is mixed together for the final plating.

This dish is spiced well and is packed full of flavor with multiple layers of mild heat. The shrimp and roti provide a crisp texture, and the coconut infuses the dish with mild sweetness. We loved how the simple ingredients packed such bold flavor.

Final rating 7/10.

(11) Japan Day 1 – Tonkostu Ramen

Kon’nichiwa and welcome to Japan! This week we will be diving into Japanese cuisine making four traditional meals. Japan is an island country which is made up of over 6,800 islands- 430 of those being inhabited. Toyoko, the capital of this lovely country, is the most populated city in the world with a whopping 38 million citizens.

Source: Alfonso Calero

The first meal of the week will be authentic Tonkotsu Ramen executed in a modern way- time to break out the Instant Pot! Ramen is a popular noodle dish that is enjoyed around the world and prepared in various ways. The origins of ramen is debatable if you ask any food connoisseur, but it is actually thought to have come from China. Although the exact time frame is unknown, it is thought to have come to Japan when a man named Shu Shunsai escaped the Manchu rule of China with the recipe of ramen.

Another theory that has gone around is that a noodle shop of Toyoko called Rai-Rai Ken had Chinese cooks that popularized “shina soba.” Shina is a Japanese term for China, and soma was an already established dish of Japan. Ramen was referred to as shina soba until the 1950s.

If you admire ramen like us, you should check out the history of ramen at First We Feast.

So back to this recipe I tried- the use of my Instant Pot made it a breeze to prepare this meal. Traditionally it takes several hours to prepare the broth alone. The recipe I used can be found here. I was able to duplicate the recipe for the most part, but I could not get pork belly so I used pork chops.

This was another new experience for me. The broth was very rich and the pork was very well seasoned. I had never made a hard or soft boiled egg or cooked mushrooms before so again more new cooking experiences for me to store in my tool box! We thought the flavors fused together well giving it an average rating of 7/10. Next up, shrimp and veggie tempura!