Hidden gems of the culinary world

No matter where you travel, you have to challenge yourself to the local delicacies, as the chances are you’ll never eat it back home. After all, travel is about experiencing the differences and understanding how others live their lives. Admittedly, it doesn’t always work out, however, if you take a chance on the dishes below, I am certain you will not be disappointed. 

Bird’s Nest Soup, China 

China is home to one of the most expensive delicacies in the world: the bird’s nest soup. Dubbed the “Caviar of the East,” the soup’s high cost comes from the dangerous retrieval process of the nests and the painstaking cleaning they need to undergo before being certified safe to eat. It is often cooked with rock-sugar and served as a sweet dessert, highlighted by a soft gelatinous texture from the nest. Some also cook it with warm milk instead of sugar. To cook, you cannot simply microwave or boil it, it needs to be gently and slowly steamed in a double boiler after being soaked with warm water. Different fruits and syrup can be added before serving. 

Mofongo, Puerto Rico 

Made of fried green plantains, mofongo is a must-try Puerto Rican dish. It is often mashed with garlic and mixed with pork cracklings, before being shaped into a ball and served in a pilón (a mortar). While the classic mofongo is made of chicharron (fried pork rind), variations now exist that range from vegetarian options with garlic broth to shrimp and chicken. To cook, you need to make the broth and the mofongo separately to ensure premium taste. 

Sambal Goreng Tempeh, Indonesia 

If you are looking for something vegan, Indonesia’s sambal goreng tempeh is high on plenty of visitor’s favourites list. Simply take tempeh and fry it in a wok before throwing in sambal, a smooth paste made from the crushing of tamarind, shallots, garlic, galangal powder and red chilis. Temper it with some sweet soy sauce and serve with rice cakes or coconut milk rice. The result is a crisp and flavourful meal that anyone will devour. 

Kapenta with sadza, Zimbabwe 

Due to the large fisheries that harvest kapenta, pronounced locally as ‘matemba’, this beautiful fish delicacy is almost exclusively eaten in Zimbabwe. Before cooking, the kapenta is dried in the sun for a day, before being stewed in a traditional recipe with tomato and groundnut sauce. Served with cooked sadza (ground maize) or rice, the kapenta is the epitome of traditional cuisine across the country. 

Dolma, Turkey 

Dolmas, also known as stuffed grape leaves around the world, are made with different variations. The original Middle Eastern recipe of this appetizer involves a jar of grape leaves, parsley and onion. While cooking, you must take good care of not ripping the leaves and leave them to dry on the cutting board before removing its stem. After assembling its filling (rice, vegetable broth, garlic, onion and lemon juice), you can place it in the lower-mid portion of the lead where the stem used to be and roll the leaf until the filling is no longer visible. Proceed by putting the dolmas onto a pan simmered in olive oil before heating. The real experiment here is the spices: from oregano to mint to thyme, let your taste buds come to life with this recipe.

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Monique Santoso

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December 2021
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