Travel PhooD: Going Greek

So it’s been a while since any of us have checked in and since I have to finish a talk for a conference next week, it’s naturally the perfect time to post about my adventures in Greece.  I was there in April this year with a friend, travelling from Athens to Naxos, Santorini, and Crete, before returning to Athens.  Expectations were relatively high to begin with – I love Mediterranean food (well, all food in general) – and we were travelling over Easter, so we were off, with open minds and empty stomachs…

Our flight landed at 2am and we had a very interesting, stray-dog laden walk to the hostel.  Not much on the food front on the first night, but the orange trees lining the streets gave off the most incredible scent.  Alas, the oranges were not for eating but rather to throw at the police…

Our tour guide, whose name now escapes me – Yannis? – let us have lunch at Monastiraki.  Yes, it’s very touristy, but we were hot, hungry, and short on time.  We both had a souvlaki pita at Thanassis and I’d have to say, in retrospect, it was probably one of the best things I ate in Greece.  I had some pretty amazing food but I can still remember the juicy texture of the souvlaki after 4 months.  YUM.  Hands down, best investment of 2€ the whole day.  We couldn’t get enough of it, so we went back for dinner and had moussaka and a large Greek salad with pita and tzatziki.  Everything was fresh and fantastic, and the salad had the most generous piece of cheese I’ve ever seen on any salad.

Two days later, we boarded a late afternoon ferry for the island of Naxos.  I had pretty low expectations, I must admit – I’d never heard of it.  Now that I’m wiser, I can highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend that you visit!  What an amazing place!  We arrived shortly before midnight and people running off the ferry and whisked away into cars headed to (orthodox) Easter midnight mass.  Firecrackers everywhere!  Our driver from A1 Soula Hotel dropped us off at his church (so nice of him!) so we got to watch the festivities for a bit.  The next day was Easter Sunday, so I woke up with absolute determination that I was going to have roasted lamb for dinner.

We woke up bright and early on Easter Sunday and took a walk along the St. George Beach and in town.  Somewhere along the way, we ran into the lovely Sunni, whom we’d met the night before because we were picked up at the same time from the ferry.  After a full-day photo tour of the island, we sat down for coffee at one of the cafes along the harbor and indulged in some dessert – kadaifi, moist orange cake, and a cream horn. We later met Jeff (?) from the States and the four of us went to dinner together.  Our server was a bit standoffish, but the owner/promoter was really charming and I’d promised him earlier that we’d go back and try his roasted lamb.  Joanne and I both had it, Sunni had roasted vegetables (a-MAZ-ing), and Jeff had a large salad.  The lamb was crispy, fatty, and just…fantastic.  They even gave us four red eggs – you’re supposed to knock your egg against everyone else’s and the last person with an intact egg wins.  Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to try the local liquer, kitron.

The next morning saw us off to Santorini, where there was more souvlaki-ing at Lucky’s, along the main boulevard through Fira, ice cream waffles at Perissa beach, and a nice dinner at Mama’s House – stuffed peppers and catch of the day.  A sailing trip to the volcano took us out to Restaurant Tonia on the island of Therasia before we headed off to Crete.

The ferry ride from Santorini to Crete was by far the most horrifying boat ride I have ever been on.  It was even worse than the sometimes-sketchy ferry ride between Hong Kong and Macau, where the ferry tends to skip over the waves.  No, this was probably 100x worse.  There’s nothing like the feeling of dread when you see massive 4 m waves rolling toward your boat as you’re trying to navigate through a storm – yay, window seat!  Now, the Greeks have been sailing for millennia, so I figured they wouldn’t have tried to sail through this thing if they thought it was dangerous…but I couldn’t help feeling that there was a very real chance we could all drown in the Aegean Sea.  Needless to say, we were in no mood to eat when we arrived in Heraklion.

Our appetites returned the next day and we went out for lunch at Mouragio Maria in Rethymno, which I noticed actually has a lot of bad reviews online.  The waiter in front is really slimy, so I can relate a bit, but since it was off-season, they didn’t try to pressure us into having fish (though they did lie about the free drinks – good thing we didn’t order anything other than the one bottle of water) and let us sit there for as long as we wanted.  We had a Cretian salad, stuffed peppers, and meatballs, and the bill came out to be 40-50€, I think.  Pricey, for sure, but it was worth it for the view.  Would I go again, though?  Probably not.

We were on the overnight ferry back to Athens, which was a relatively painless night, and spent our last day in Greece eating more souvlaki at Othanassis, running into our Argentinian friends (whom we’d met by chance twice on two different islands on the trip), and having dinner at Oinomageirio to Paradosiakό in Plaka.  What an amazing end to the trip – grilled halloumi, seafood risotto and deep-fried fish with roasted garlic spread.  Highly recommend this place!

Were my expectations of Greece fulfilled?  It’s a hearty YES from me.  Friends, do yourself (and the Greeks, given the current economic situation) a favour and book your next vacation to Greece.  If you’re not dazzled by the crystal clear blue seas and friendly people, you can always occupy yourself with ouzo and wonderful food.

Next stop: Istanbul!

Thanassis: Mitropoleos 69, Monastiraki, Athens

Oinomageirio to Paradosiakό: Voulis 44A, Plaka, Athens

Lucky’s Souvlakis: Fira

Mama’s House: Main Square, Fira

Ode to Brussels sprouts

No, this is not a poem about the tiny cabbagehead. It’s a short note about this particular cruciferous veggie and how it had suffered injustice in the hands of too-eager cooks.

Brussels sprouts have been described in not so flattering terms as a detestable vegetable in terms of texture and taste, as stereotyped by kids hating the stuff more than broccoli. And this stereotype only exists in the Western side of the world, as it is very rare (or even nonexistent, as far as I know) in Asian cuisine.

Recently, this has been the case: Asian grad student (i.e., me), meet Brussels sprouts–Brussels sprouts (or in Dutch, spruiten), meet Asian grad student. Grad student goes “WTH is this tiny cabbagehead?!”

How can something so tiny and cute be so maligned in pop culture? One word: overcooking. This little one is soooooo easy to overcook.

(Courtesy of Wikipedia, because my camera died on me)

(Courtesy of Wikipedia, because my camera died on me)

This tiny veg has sinigrin, which is responsible for the disagreeable taste of overcooked sprouts (it gets degraded in high heat, splits off from its sugar molecule…and did I tell you that it has a sulfur atom or two in its structure? Hence the smell and taste).

But…its propensity to be easily overcooked is a plus for a harried grad student–this only means that it has an absurdly short cooking time, so whipping up a simple leafy side dish (or a main) is just under 8 minutes of cooking time (go past it–ugh!).

Here’s one treatment of this veggie that I did, without looking for an actual recipe. My kitchen philosophy lately is–grab whatever and go.

Simple sauteed sprouts in sesame oil
Materials
– Brussels sprouts, bases chopped, spotty/brown/hole-y outer leaves removed (if head is too big, cut in half)
– Garlic, minced (amount is variable, but I love garlic!)
– 1 Tbsp (or thereabouts) peanut oil or RBD coconut oil (or any mild, bland oil)
– Black sesame oil
– Salt and pepper, variable

Methodology
– Blanch prepared sprouts in boiling salted water for 2-3 mins. or until the heads turn bright green. Pour in a colander and cold-shock the batch with cold running water from the tap. Drain well.
– Heat peanut or coconut oil in a big frying pan or wok (medium high). Toss in minced garlic until it turns light golden brown and the garlicky smell is apparent.
– Toss in the drained sprouts. Season with salt and pepper. Stir-fry them for 2-3 minutes, or until they are lightly coated with hot oil and garlic.
– Drizzle with black sesame oil, toss and remove from heat immediately.

Discussion
Cooking time. When you do the math, the total cooking time is 6 minutes, tops. That’s little under 8 mins, after which you’re past the point of no return and the veggie turns into something hateful and a complete waste of time and resources.

Cold-shock. This is a measure to ensure that the veggie is not overcooked. Sprouts are notorious for storing heat in their compacted leaf-heads, so even though they’re drained from the blanching liquid, the heat will cook them from the inside. As you may notice, I did not score the bottom of the sprouts before blanching–damaging the veggie in that manner increases the risk of overcooking. Might as well cut the sprouts into half before blanching, so you’d get to see how the inside looks while cooking.

Peanut or coconut oil? And what’s RBD? Peanut oil is actually tasteless. And can withstand high heat without getting degraded. Coconut oil is better–that is, RBD (refined, bleached and deodorized) coconut oil because it doesn’t degrade into trans-containing oil at high heat and is bland. Using a mild, bland oil brings the natural flavor of the key ingredients (sprouts, garlic, sesame) to the fore.

Properly cooked sprouts taste–? Wonderful. Au naturel, it has a pleasant nutty flavor to it, which complements well with the aroma of fried garlic and sesame oil. The bitterness is absent, or, if you choose to focus on it, a very minor note that gives an earthy dimension to the dish.

I like pairing this dish with a simple main one–like pan-grilled sausage, or a serving of well-aged chicken-and-pork adobo. And lots of rice, of course.

Weekend Cooking and Island Chicken

Olá! Tudo bem! My name is Carole and I’m a new PhooDie!

I seldom cook on weekdays. After working in the institute, I head straight to the gym. Then, by the time I get home, I’d be too tired and too hungry to cook. BUT, I have to make sure that I eat the right amount of proteins and vegetables during dinner and in my packed lunches. My solution: cook freezable food. I would cook a big batch of two or more dishes in the weekends, freeze them, and just reheat them when I need them. The more delicious they become when frozen (just like adobo), the better.

Here’s one of my favorite recipes (from my healthy recipe source, prevention.com):

Island Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

  • 1 can (225 g) unsweetened pineapple (crushed) with juice
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp lime juice (lemon works just fine too)
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 chicken breast halves, skinned and boned
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar (I usually use 2-3 tbsp of honey instead of sugar)
  • 1 tsp minced jalapeno (or piri piri)
  • 1 tsp cilantro, minced
  1. Strain the pineapple, set aside the juice and refrigerate the pineapples.
  2. Mix the pinapple juice, soy sauce, honey, garlic and red pepper flakes. Use this to marinade the chicken for at least 4 hours.
  3. When the marinade is ready, cook the chicken in the marinade until the juices run out when you puncture it with a fork or a knife.
  4. Take out the chicken and transfer the marinade to a saucepan. Reduce it until it has a saucy texture.
  5. For the salsa, mix the reserved pineapples, onions, brown sugar (or honey, in my case), lime juice, jalapeno and cilantro.
  6. On a dish, pour the sauce over the chicken and top it with the salsa.
This dish freezes quite well. If the salsa and chicken are frozen separately, they can last up to 2 weeks. It’s also like adobo, it tastes better when eaten after refrigerating/freezing.
Here’s a photo of the chicken after cooking. I didn’t make the salsa because I ran out of onions.
I love eating this dish with rice or potatoes and some veggies. Here’s how it looked like in my lunchbox today:
In Today's Lunchbox: Island Chicken with Baked Potatoes and Steamed Broccoli

It was the right lunch for a picnic in the gardens of Gulbenkian. 🙂

Florian’s Easy Schnitzel

Schnitzel is one of those quintessential dishes that the Germans actually make and eat on a regular basis (unlike Chinese Chop Suey – I’m not even too sure what that is…).  The Mensa at our university serves schnitzel at least once a week, normally with some kind of sauce, but it can also be eaten as is, hot and freshly fried from the pan and perhaps garnished with a slice of lemon.

The following recipe comes from Florian, my boyfriend.  Schnitzel, like most meat products here, is usually made of pork, but chicken and turkey are also frequently used.  For an authentic Wiener Schnitzel, veal should be used.  He normally uses prehammered schnitzel (you can buy it like any other cut of meat from the supermarket here in Germany) and breads and fries it himself.  However, on the day we went shopping, they were sold out of schnitzel, so he substituted with turkey breast instead, and absolutely hammered it into the ground flattened it with the back of a frying pan on a cutting board on the floor.

Ingredients (makes 2)

  • 2 pieces of schnitzel or chicken/turkey breasts
  • 50 g flour
  • 100 g Paniermehl (bread crumbs)
  • 1 egg
  • pepper
  • salt
  • canola oil for frying

  1. Flatten meat using a hammer/frying pan if not already flat.
  2. Put flour, egg, and bread crumbs into three separate plates.
  3. Mix a pinch of both pepper and salt into egg.
  4. Using one hand, coat the schnitzel evenly with a thin layer of flour.
  5. Using the same hand, transfer the schnitzel to the egg and coat evenly on both sides.
  6. Transfer the egg-coated schnitzel to the bread crumbs and turn it with the other hand.  Pat the bread crumbs lightly into the schnitzel to coat evenly.  Place coated schnitzel on a plate for later frying.
  7. In a pan, heat canola oil (or any equally neutral frying oil) until a small ball of bread crumbs sizzles.  Add the schnitzel and fry approximately 3-4 minutes on each side, or until the coating is golden brown.
  8. Drain the schnitzel on a paper towel shortly.  Serve hot with a slice of lemon.

Thanks to Flo for making this (all I did was eat and take the photos, which really don’t do the schnitzel justice…it was very crispy and delicious)!

Oktoberfest Fare

Inside the Schützenzelt

Where: München, Germany

When: Annually, 16 days before and including the first Sunday of October

Prices

  • 1 Maß beer = 8.80€
  • 1/2 Bradhendl = 7.80€
  • 1 Kaiserschmarrn = 12.10€

Oktoberfest brings together three of the most important aspects (at least in the eyes of foreigners) of Germany: beer, dirndls and lederhosen, and wurst (and other grilled and roasted forms of meat).  The Wiesn is one of the biggest festivals in the world, and starts 16 days before the first Sunday of October.

There are all sorts of types of food – mostly carnivorous – to try: Schweinebraten or Scheinehaxe (roast pork or roast pork knuckle), a variety of würstl (I like Käsekrainer, a cheese-stuffed sausage stuffed in a bun), Kasspatzn (Käsespatzle, see Kookie’s post here), Reiberdatschi (shredded potato pancakes), and Weißwurst (white veal sausage usually only eaten before noon for breakfast, also see here).

They roast whole oxen here...and then put up the name of the ox that they just roasted.

I think Joanna’s favourite was Leberkäs (corned beef and pork), while mine was definitely the Brathendl (roasted chicken).  These come in half-chicken portion right off the spit, and are still crispy-skinned on the outside, fatty and juicy on the inside, and really, REALLY hot.  The only real way to eat them is to just pull it apart with your hands – the stalls provide moist towelettes to clean your hands off after it’s all gone.

More than 700 million liters of beer are drunken each year at Oktoberfest.  For the occasion, the Munich breweries that participate in the festival – Paulaner, Löwenbräu, Hofbräu München, Hacker-Pschorr, and local favourite Augustiner – brew a special type of beer called Märzen.  This beer has a slightly higher alcohol content than most beers, a property that helped the beer keep for longer in the old days when there was no refrigeration and people weren’t allowed to brew beer in the summer (because of the risk of fire).

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!

And of course, there isn’t only meat and beer served at the Wiesn.  For those that have a sweet tooth, there are also plenty of choices available.  Crepes, chocolate or sugar-coated fruit kebabs, gingerbread hearts (more for decoration than eating), and roasted candied nuts can be found every few feet.  Our friends also recommended that we try the Kaiserschmarrn at the Schützenzelt (literally, the Shooters Tent, one of Löwenbräu’s tents), which they said was the best Kaiserschmarrn at the festival.  An Austrian dessert, Kaiserschmarrn is fried pancake bits, usually served with some kind of sauce.  Ours came in a hot pan with caramelised raisins and toasted almond slivers and a dish of pflaumen sauce (plum sauce) in the middle.  Excellent when it’s just hot out of the oven and it’s just starting to get a little cold outside.

So, after an excellent Oktoberfest this year…who wants to come next year? 😉

Herring in Amsterdam

Foodies have to try everything, right?  I’ve been travelling a lot this summer, and have been twice to Amsterdam in a month, so I felt it was finally time to try herring from a street stall.  Let me just note here that I don’t actually like raw fish very much (unless it’s smoked or sliced super thin) and only recently got over my sashimi-phobia, so my review of raw herring will probably be a bit biased.

One fine Sunday afternoon in Amsterdam after Dance Valley, David, Jeremy and I moseyed over to the floating Bloemenmarkt on the Singel canal to check out the flowers.  Surrounded by bright yellow waxed wheels of gouda and bucketfuls of tulip bulbs (fun fact: did you know the Dutch continue to donate 20,000 tulip bulbs to Canada each year in thanks for their contribution to the liberation of Canada and sheltering of the Royal Family?), it seemed like a great opportunity to finally try herring.  Is it typically Dutch?  No idea.  Were there a lot of tourists?  Most definitely.

The herring itself was simple to order, and came with the option of having raw onions and/or mustard on top.  It’s sliced into bite-sized chunks and served with a cute Dutch flag, which also served as the eating utensil.  My first bite was alright – a little fishy, but still somewhat tasty.  The onions were a definite bonus and, in hindsight, I should have asked for the mustard as well.  It looked like standard raw fish, though I feel like it could have been more salty.  However, it was the texture that really threw me off.  There seemed to be a bit of a slimy film on the fish skin – I should have expected it, since it’s fish, after all.  It was a bit difficult to finish the whole thing, but I finally got through it.

So the question is – would I ever eat it again?  Probably not raw.  It might also be a good idea to have it in a bun (Broodje Haring) with the mustard; I’d imagine this would be a pretty tasty snack.  The place we went to also had other options; there’s a Broodje Garnalen for the not-so-adventerous…

Phast Phood – One, two, three…onigiri!

Looks like PhDJ’s in an Asian summer spell with the recent posts–the siomai and the lunchtime haiku.  While the Western world is preoccupied with football and psychic octopi, from which takoyaki balls are made from, here’s another Asian food post.

Project Onigiri - the tools

In a recent care-package from home, my mother included my never-been-used twin onigiri molds.

Now, wait a sec…what IS an onigiri?

As is nicely explained here, onigiri is a pressed rice ball.  Well, “ball” here can come in different shapes, like triangles, cylinders…even Hello Kitty heads. Traditionally, onigiri were made by hand, hence the basic ball, triangle and cylinder shapes . Nori (a kind of seaweed, often roasted and pressed into sheets) wrappers are optional–though they serve as edible Saran wraps, as these rice balls are often packed by travellers.

Onigiri in mold

For this set of onigiri, I used a mold. For practical reasons–as much as possible (since it’s summer), I want to minimize hand contact with cooked food to prevent spoilage, AND I hate the feeling of sticky rice between my fingers!

Materials

  • Short-grain Japanese rice
  • Nori sheets
  • Savory fillings – I used canned salmon and leftover dal cooked in masala
  • Fine sea salt (optional)
  • Onigiri mold…or your ultra-clean hands (with a bowl of salted water nearby)

Methodology

  • Cook Japanese rice according to product instructions.
  • Rinse the insides of the mold.  You may sprinkle salt* to coat the inner walls.
  • Fluff rice. Half-fill the mold with the rice (do not press!). If you have fillings on hand, make a shallow well in the center.
  • Add the filling, then loosely cover with more rice. Cover with the other half of the mold and press down.
  • Unmold the rice ball.  Serve as is, or wrap it with nori.

Results and Discussion

Rice. Sorry to say, but our favorite staple–long-grain Thai rice–just doesn’t cut it.  I had to learn it the hard way in a previous attempt, with brown jasmine rice.  Japanese rice is sticky enough to keep its molded shape, but not too sticky and heavy like glutinous rice.

Salt? The simplest onigiri is an unfilled rice ball coated with salt with a strip of nori to keep sticky fingers at bay while eating.  Salt here serves as a flavoring AND as a short-term preservative (well, unless you bury it in salt, but the result will be very unpalatable BUT preserved).

Plain vs wrapped

Fillings? One great thing about onigiri is that anything that goes well with rice can be stuffed inside the ball, triangle, cylinder…what have you. 🙂 Just make sure that it’s sufficiently dry enough to not seep through the rice and make the structure crumble, nori or no nori.

No mold? Well, you can try using a small teacup + cling-film…or just have very clean hands dampened with salted water.

Wrapping up

What makes this dish as a perfect item for packed lunches and quick food for grad-school foodies is that this can be made in 15-minutes flat, provided that there are fillings on hand.  15 minutes–that’s the average time in cooking rice.

One, two, three, onigiri!

To simplify things further, especially for those watching their budgets and summer calories, the fillings can be made in advance and stored in the fridge.  Or the rice balls can be made in advance, wrapped in nori, then in cling-film, then placed in freezer bags and boxes before storing them in the fridge (or freezing them)–to eat them, just pop a piece or two in the microwave for a minute then it’s good as fresh.

I foresee a week of stuffed onigiri and a cup of fruit yoghurt for my lunch…

How to make a simple siomai

The city of Saarbrücken is peppered with Chinese restaurants. These family-owned establishments generally make their money by offering lunch and dinner buffets at affordable prices. The Chinese restaurant staples like stir fried beef, chop suey, noodle dishes, spring rolls and the ever so yummy fried duck abound.

Visibly missing are the steamed dumplings. I am quite surprised by it because back home, a Chinese restaurant is never without dumplings, may it be a fancy restaurant in the city or a whole in the wall in China town. They offer different types of dumplings, from the delicate har gau (shrimp dumpling) to the rugged siomai (beef or pork dumplings).

Back in grade school, I subsisted on 4 pieces of siomai at PhP 2.50 each and a cup of rice during lunch time. It was served complete with calamansi, soy sauce, and chili garlic oil.  Since then it has been one of my favorite viands and for the most part, one of my favorite afternoon merienda.

Three years in Germany, you can imagine how siomai-deprived I was. So in line with my new PhooD philosophy, I made my own.

MATERIALS & METHODS

Kookie’s Simple Siomai

  • 500 g ground meat
  • 1/3 cup diced carrots (small dices)
  • 2 small onions chopped
  • 1 tsp dried chives (in lieu of spring onions)
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • wonton wrappers
  • Chili garlic oil and soy sauce for dipping

0 Prepare your steamer by covering the surface with a thin film of oil. Start to boil water.

1 In a huge bowl, mix together ground meat, carrots, onions, chives, sesame oil, soy sauce, salt, and ground pepper

2 Fill in wonton wrapper with the meat mixture (~ 1 Tbsp)

3 Put siomai in the steamer and let it cook for 12-15 minutes.

4 Serve with dark soy sauce and chili garlic oil.

DISCUSSION

I finished an entire package of wonton wrappers with the amount of meat that I used. So you can imagine how much leftovers you’ll have if you live by yourself or even if you live with a couple of people. They keep for a couple of days once they’re cooked. If you think you can’t finish it within 3 days, share it with your colleagues. Ph.D. students never say no to food 🙂

The type of meat really depends on your taste. The ground meat can either be pork or beef or a combination of both. I like pork siomai more than beef but Aldi offers mixed ground beef and pork so I used that.

Reheating is a breeze. You can either re-steam them for 5 minutes or so. That’s just enough time for the meat to be warm again. Or the other popular alternative is to fry the siomai until the wrapper is golden brown.

For those of you in the southwest part in Germany who’s never tried siomai or craves siomai but don’t want to prepare it yourself, there’s a restaurant in Mannheim called China Restaurant Pavillon. They have a good selection of dimsum that I have not found anywhere else in Germany.

The address is

China Restaurant
Pavillon
Augustanlage 59
68185 Mannheim

5 Simple Rules to Eating Weißwurst

One of the things that’s good when somebody finishes a Ph.D. degree in our lab, aside from the consolation that there is an end to the misery, is the celebratory buffet afterwards. Traditionally thrown by the lab folks for the graduating student, I think all the Ph.D. students who graduated in the past two years in our lab, organized the buffet themselves (well with a little help from Mom). Where canapés are the norm, Kathrin broke the mold with her post-defense buffet.

You may remember Kathrin from one of my previous posts. She taught me how to make Spätzle from scratch. One thing I failed to mention was she’s from the great German state of Bavaria, home of Oktoberfest, the Dirndl, Lederhosen, and FC Bayern. Her family (parents, grandpa, uncle, and cousins) drove all the way from Bavaria to Saarland and brought with them kilos worth of Weißwurst.

I have stayed in Germany for 3 years now and I must say that I have never ever tried Weißwurst before Kathrin’s defense. It’s more of a Bavarian thing. I live in Saarland, where Schwenker, Merguez, and Lyoner are all the rage.

There are a five simple rules to enjoying a Weißwurst.

Rule #1: It must be cooked in hot water

Weißwurst is never cooked on a grill, unlike other sauseges in Germany. It is made with thin sausage skin which might burst when put on a hot grill. Instead it is poached slowly in hot, not boiling, water for 10 minutes. Never use boiling water as it is too hot for the sausage skin to bear.

Rule #2: It must be eaten before noon

We didn’t follow this rule because Kathrin’s defense was in the afternoon but, the Weißwurst is traditionally eaten before lunch. Why you might ask? It is prepared without any preservatives, ergo must be consumed as soon as possible, preferably the morning it was made.

Rule #3: It MUST be eaten with a pretzel and sweet mustard

There was one comedy moment during the buffet when Kathrin’s dad, who was manning the Weißwurst pot, sent one of our foreign students back because she asked for a piece of Weißwurst whilst having a piece of Butterkuchen on her plate. He was horrified by the idea of mixing the two together.

A pair of Weißwurst must be eaten with pretzel and sweet mustard. Not just any sweet mustard, I was told. It has to be Händlmaier Süßersenf. My other German colleagues started to disagree, but Kathrin shut them down with her very aggressive persuasive “Nein!”. She argued that Händlmaier is the original, therefore the only choice for sweet mustard.

I know I wrote a pair of Weißwurst. The other one was still in the pot.

Rule #4: It must be skinned before eating

Unlike most sausages in Germany which are eaten whole (not all at once!), the Weißwurst has to be carefully taken out of its skin before consuming.

There are several techniques:

  1. Suck out the contents from one end of the sausage, a technique called zuzeln.
  2. Make an incision lengthwise and remove the skin using your knife and fork.
  3. Slit one end of the sausage and with the skin flap caught between the knife and your thumb, peel the skin in one solid stroke.

Thorsten, our office’s biggest fan of Bavaria, taught me the third technique and I must say it’s the fastest way to get the skin off of the meat.

Rule #5: It can only be partnered with Weizenbier (wheat beer)

This is not a strict rule, as not everyone are fans of Weizenbier. Traditionally, Weißwurst and Weizenbier go together. Weizenbier is not as fancy as wine, but unlike Pils that one can drink straight from the bottle, Weizenbier must be served in a Weizenbierglas.

Weizenbiergläser

So there you go, five simple rules to enjoy a Weißwurst. Abide by them while in the presence of a Bavarian.

These rules are Chef-approved!

Egg-citing? Egg-xotic? Tamagoyaki!

Aside from instant food, a quick, reliable complete-food source for a grad student is…egg.  Eggs.  Now, before you whip out your wellness-and-health magazines and condemn eggs as unhealthy, think of this in another perspective: cholesterol aside, eggs contain enough protein and fat to tide a starving person for a day.

(Also, eggs contain vitamin D—and it is hard to get a regular dose of sunshine here in Europe, so you might as well eat eggs.)

Yes, eggs are nutritious, and, cooked as is, very bland.  This blandness makes eggs very versatile in cooking, as it can take any kind of seasoning (not to mention cooking styles).  There’s the simple sunny-side up, there’s Julia Child’s omelet…and there’s tamagoyaki.

Chive-y tamagoyaki :)

What is tamagoyaki?

Simply put, it’s just an omelet. A Japanese sweet rolled omelet.  Usually found as a topping in sushis, or as a bento item (with octopus-cut sausages and cute baby veggies).  What makes this one different from other omelets is the distinct sweet-salty taste from sugar and soy sauce.  Nothing screams Asian (heck, even Japanese!) than this flavor profile for an EGG dish.

And, for an omelet, it’s pretty easy to do. No need for fancy tosses!

Materials and Equipment

  • 6 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • Chives, finely chopped (optional)
  • Cooking oil
  • Silicone brush / a square of kitchen towel
  • Silicone turner
  • Non-stick pan

Methodology

  • Crack eggs in a large bowl.  Add soy sauce and sugar. Beat with a fork or a pair of chopsticks…but never with a wire whisk (you don’t want air bubbles in your mix!).
  • Heat the non-stick pan at medium-high. Brush a thin layer of cooking oil on the surface.  Wait until the pan is hot enough (guesstimate by holding an open palm 1” above the cooking surface).
  • Pour a small amount of beaten egg in the pan, letting it spread into a thin layer.  Wait until the rims set and the egg-layer is not that fluid or runny.
  • With a turner (or a pair of chopsticks, or a fork), lift the nearest side of the omelet and begin rolling AWAY from you.
  • Brush some oil on the now-clean surface of the pan before pouring another layer of beaten egg (lift the egg roll to let the egg mixture spread over the whole pan).  As soon as it sets, roll the egg back towards you.
  • Repeat the previous three steps until you run out of beaten egg.
  • OPTIONAL: if you have finely-chopped chives, sprinkle some on the egg layer before it sets, then roll.
  • Slice the roll to show the spiral cross-section before serving.

Results and Discussion

No salt? Other recipes call for at least a teaspoon of salt for the mixture, aside from soy sauce.  I opted this out if only to cut the sodium intake.

Can I use other non-egg ingredients aside from chives? Yes, of course.  Finely shredded leafy veggies like spinach or cabbage, or even thin meat flakes can be used.  Or strips of nori.  Or, my personal preference is tamagoyaki WITH CHEESE (all the more I leave out salt, since cheese can be salty) and ham.

Can you eat this as is? Well, you can, if you add other ingredients like vegetables or meat.  It’s like your regular omelet, except that it’s rolled instead of folded (it’s easier to roll eggs than to fold them)…and is salty-sweet.

Wrapping up

Nothing screams fast food as an egg omelet.  And serving it as a tamagoyaki gives this simple, nutrient-dense dish an interesting spin for a hungry grad student.

And who says the only Japanese food a grad student can have is instant ramen?

Tamagoyaki on FoodistaTamagoyaki