Mucilage Never Tasted So Good – Cacao Juice

Cacao juice tastes like nectar. Indeed, the Latin name for cacao is “theobroma” or “food of the gods”.  To learn more, you can read the wikipedia entry of this blog. In Peru, this juice is called “mucilage” which is the technical term for the white pulp that surrounds the beans inside the cacao pods.

I first tried this juice at Kjolle (co-located with Central), Pia Leon’s restaurant. It was a hot summer day and sitting in the tall open sheltered space of Kjolle was a respite from the bleeping traffic outside. While Kjolle makes many other fancy drinks, this unassuming looking drink (it has a watery whitish tinge) was a revelation. It tasted a bit like lychee, mangosteen, or green apples, but had a taste all magically its own.

The other place where I have tried it was at Maido. Their version was in a Gin and Tonic cocktail. I asked if they could make me a mocktail. They did. The presentation was beautiful and their version of this drink was thicker, so more like mucilage, than at Kjolle. People remarked that it would make a good dessert. It was a longer relationship drink as well because of the thickness and richness. They served it with a side visual of theobroma and its cousin the majambo/macambo bean which is whitish in color.

Majambo can also be roasted and eaten. It has a mild nutty flavor. I first tried them at El Cacaotal in Barranco. Since I wrote the blog posting about El Cacaotal two years ago, that store has moved and blossomed. It is a lovely place to just chillax.

On a side note, a friend was planning to make some cacao juice and it made me wonder how ones does that. There is a whole process which can be read about here. As this site mentions, there is already a company that sells packaged cacao juice, so I see it becoming more and more commonplace. Having looked up a recipe on Google, I’m not sure that it entails more than extracting the fruit, maybe blending it for consistency, and then putting through a strainer (this is the method for making juice here in Latin America).

The Best Things About Expat Life in Lima – Or, It’s Always Avocado Season

In celebration of Peru’s independence days, “fiestas patrias,” (July 28 is independence day and July 29 is a holiday for the armed forces and police), here is my posting about what I think is great about living in Lima. As I did for some of the other places I have lived, I have already written about what I don’t like about living in Lima. Before living in Lima, I had visited more than five times as a tourist. The first time was immortalized in this blog posting. Now that I’ve been here for more than a food-frenzied weekend, the following things are what I like about living here.

The food scene: The restaurants. It seems like every week, there is a new restaurant opening, and thanks in great part to Gaston Acurio, the culinary scene has become part of the national identity. There are fancy-foamy-intellectual dining establishments, fast food franchises, family-run restaurants, neighborhood favorites, and hole-in-the-wall secrets.

The immigrants: This is one of the reasons that the food scene in Lima is great. Thanks to the Chinese (Chifa is a normal word here for a Chinese food and restaurant, and it is as ingrained in the local food choices as hamburgers), the Japanese (Nikkei is the word used for both the food style and the Japanese Peruvians — this month celebrating 120 years in Peru), the Italians, the Lebanese, and all the other immigrants who have been been contributing to the deliciousness in Lima. Thank you to the newest (those two Thai restaurant owners, those Pakistani and Indian guys, that American with the chocolate shop, and those three Swedish ladies, that Mexican guy, and the Venezuelans, and all of those others whom I have yet to discover… I’m looking at you, shawarma palace!). Plus, many of the Peruvians are domestic immigrants — from somewhere else in the country (bringing things like their delicious cheeses… which I’m told is called “country cheese”).

The Palta Fuerte (the palta fuerte is too delicate and buttery to be exported, I’m guessing): It is always avocado season. When buying an avocado, the vendor will ask the day and time that you plan to eat it so that they can sell you one that will be ripe at the precise moment that you plan to enjoy it. “Palta” is the word for avocado in Peruvian Spanish. No one in Peru says “aquacate” even if they may know what you are talking about. At a restaurant, you can ask for a side of palta and it’s totally normal, like asking for butter (but better).

The juice (plus fruit and produce in general): the lemonade (they offer it made with pureed lemongrass at most places), the passion fruit, the orange juice, the blackberry juice. Plus, the pineapples are delicious and the mangoes have a season (like Edwardian socialites). The Edward mango is especially yummy as it has fewer fibers.

The chocolate: Go to El Cacaotal. That is my one must-do for visitors, for newbies, for chocolate haters… now serving hot chocolate and coffee!

The cultural offerings and activities: cooking classes, chocolate tasting lessons, Cordon Bleu courses, surfing classes, dance schools, wine tasting lessons, the circus, theater productions, gyms, yoga, concerts, archery sessions, wine and paint classes, museums, open studio nights, expos, marathons, fairs, farmers markets, and almost any other activity that you can imagine in a metropolis (there is always something to do). Even comicon.

The walkability: they even have ciclovia. Yes, you can walk here. There are sidewalks, parks, and hiking trails.

The neighborhoods: I like that there are actual neighborhoods, farmers markets, barrios, districts, parks, malls (mega ultra modern and local “centro commerciales”), and the coast (its own microcosm).

The positive attitude toward expats/foreigners: Generally, as a foreigner, I don’t feel hate or suspicion from the locals. The Peruvians are,  generally, pro-American culture, and certainly pro-European culture. While most Peruvians don’t approach/talk to foreigners, they also don’t harass them and follow them around (as would happen in other countries where I have lived)… It’s funny, the little things one appreciates. As a foreigner, one can have a life here without being a circus act.

The security: I am completely amazed to see people out jogging, with headphones on, at night. Granted this is along the more patrolled streets but I am still amazed. Utterly. Amazed. Every. Single. Day. Really. Still. Ah-maze-ed.

The view of the ocean: Yes. It’s amazing. Beaches too. If one likes sand.

The public toilets: Almost all grocery stores and malls have public toilets. One has to remember to not flush the toilet paper, but, at least they have toilet paper, although, not always in the actual stall — so get it beforehand.

Delivery: Like in Bogota, almost anything can be delivered.

The taxi prices: $2 for a basic short ride of a few miles. Sometimes $7 for an hour’s ride.

Help: there is always someone to carry the groceries, the taxi drivers help with luggage, the doormen help with stuff, and domestic help is a normal part of life here. I’ll write more about that in a separate posting. Aside from the domestic cleaners, there are nannies, gardeners, drivers, porters, dog walkers, DJs, caterers, dishwashers, movers… you name it. I have an “event tech” whom I hire for parties. I may change that title to “event engineer” as engineer seems to be the new generic term for “trained” (I was chatting with a taxi driver who told me that he used to be a “production engineer” — he potted yogurt in a lab. He chose to drive a taxi because the yogurt potting only paid $670 per month, double the minimum wage, but he makes double that as a taxi driver, even though he works double the hours. But, at least, he is his own boss).

The prices for dental care: as with most things, one can pay lots of money for dental care, but one can also get good dental care for $17 (cleaning and checkup). But, if one wants to pay $170, one can. Many of the dentists have trained in other countries and their certifications in those countries may not be valid here.

The prices in general: from picture framing to groceries, to clothing alterations, to the above mentioned items.

And, did I mention the palta?

Cinderella Coconuts

KrtwBZ0Cn6EzfSF7pwoInpyVVu9l2-x1Jb5rv646Tc5KrW8WTTAawxCdXkAfcc5WlqU7g2bYoo2G718FPw8Vra9W9ufVKgjv8n1X4SugZTkmiYMPBNG4k4pIpdWREc4dn8cVOabvnV9E-KoFuDmu2_dMyWFp2MS6tgBstPxKHQqw5dwoZ_41-z61HwIf Cinderella sold coconuts… she’d do it from her chariot, right? In Port of Spain the coconuts are sold from gold chariots. I’m not sure why. But that’s how it is in this nook of the West Indies.

OpWIjVODusuDlyzJJ2o9cdsoIxMgMG0Si5zHqJU4kET7UXWYsj2jqqXRVYiX4WPwdVplkhkwlHxEnQc523RhiAy9-dJUyedwMEzHM8uCqdvubY64DVhs1V0UFt4YN7JyMa6zzFG8d608-TFfssyMsXscRHr9dKivThEtR74drAHWu8pIoFvj9a7d79It costs ten Trini dollars (about $1.30) for a coconut. If you like the water to be sweeter, get the “jelly” coconuts. These are pale green on the outside. They have less water and the flesh is like jello. After you’ve drunk the coconut, the salesman will split open the nut so that you can scoop out the flesh with the “spoon” that he’s already cut from the husk. If you prefer more water, get one of the more mature ones. They are more brown on the outside.

YSPfHrZtBnaE8ryboievIKPIgA_H83zLp5PTryt4mMb32uYC1edZbl6s6uhNCe-onVl1AQ4wEBiYSCWUzBn8ABNEG-pZek_PlrcqPmkXHdz_XXybbVgOYn9DnRi4viv1x6lASQNUIg_kjydf6hCwgO2GNzRfU7dXjxBr0PPAFZyyRbIUhfe7c3pw3xThese chariots are open for business in the afternoons. If they can find someone who’s the right fit.

Will I See You Again, Charco? A Restaurant I Will Return To In Uruguay

Warm, freshly baked rolls and olives to start the meal.
Warm, freshly baked rolls and olives to start the meal.

“How is the food?” “Delicious, but it makes me sad.” “Why?” “Because I can only eat this.” “But, we have more food in the kitchen.” “But I have only this one night.”

Smoked salmon, calamari with tartar sauce, and panko crusted shrimp with mango salsa.
Smoked salmon, calamari with tartar sauce, and panko crusted shrimp with mango salsa.

This was the conversation I had with my young waiter who looked like he had stepped out of a commercial for polo and Polo.

I had wandered around Colonia for a few hours when I heard the lap of waves at the end of a cobblestone street. Charco restaurant is down at sea level, perhaps even a bit below. They have a counter along the windows so that one can sit facing the waves while eating.

The shrimp with mango salsa.
The shrimp with mango salsa.

I managed to get a table because I wanted to eat dinner at 5 p.m. Apparently later that evening, all the (seven) tables were reserved. Charco is the “house” restaurant of a hotel. The hotel only has seven rooms (or something like that) and next time I visit Colonia, I might try to stay there.

A seat with a view.
A place setting with a view.

My seafood platter was good. I loved the fresh tart pomelo juice (I like my juice fresh and I’ve tried quite a few!).

Fresh pomelo juice in a curvacious glass.
Fresh pomelo juice in a curvacious glass.

But, what I really impressed me was the freshly baked mini breads (and the olives) which came out as an appetizer. The bread had been baked like Italian pizza with corn meal on the bottom. This helps to keep the bread from sticking to the oven but it also adds a crunchy sweetness to the rolls. Warm, buttery, and sweetly corny. All six for me!

The hotel as seen from the street.
The hotel as seen from the street.

When I chatted with the waiter, who spoke beautiful English, I asked him if he was from Colonia. He was. I asked if he had seen some of the world. He had. I asked if he thought that Colonia was the best town in the world. That was why he came back.

A mysterious door at the end of a street. Don't resist!
A mysterious door at the end of a street. Don’t resist!

Juice with Milk or Water?

In Colombia, the hot chocolate is usually made with water and the fruit juice can be made with milk. Colombia is famous for its fruit and many are served as juice. Almost every restaurant offers fresh juice and when you order it, they will ask you how you want it. For strawberry juice, I usually order it “en leche” which is “in milk.” The juice with milk reminds me a bit of a mango lassi. If the juice is tart, I usually order it in water.

Frothy juice at Andres Carne de Res restaurant.
Frothy juice “en leche” served in a bowl at Andres Carne de Res restaurant.

Artfully Learning Spanish Two

Here’s another doodle about learning Spanish. The previous one was not as much fun to draw as this one with the octopus.

A glass of juice with squid, por favor.
A glass of juice with octopus, por favor.

It makes me laugh to think how delighted I would be if I used this phrase incorrectly and someone actually brought me a glass of juice with an octopus in it (that would be a lesson I would never forget!). Considering my “100 challenge” to match my 100 in Dhaka, I imagine that I have many glasses of juice in my future. I don’t think any new list I compile will match the popularity of my list of 100 restaurants in Dhaka… but, who can predict what the google bots will pick up?

FAQ: Where’s the Best…. in Dhaka?

As I mentioned in previous post about the 100 restaurants I’ve eaten at in Dhaka, I will now answer some of the most frequently asked questions I receive. Most of these places are on my map of 99 expat places.

Where is the best sushi in Dhaka? At Izumi. This is probably the leading Japanese restaurant in Dhaka. On road 119 or nearby.

Where is the best sashimi in Dhaka? If you want sashimi (raw fish), then go to Goong, the Castle (a Korean restaurant that does many seafood dishes, raw and cooked).

Where is the best Thai food in Dhaka? Pan Thao on road 12 in Banani. Thai Kitchen in Gulshan is okay too. There is a new Thai place in Banani (two parallel streets behind Banani Supermarket) called Luam that makes a few dishes that are passable as well… Thai food is one of those ubiquitous cuisines you find advertised everywhere in Dhaka (along with Chinese and Italian).

Best steak? Goong. Even though it’s a Korean restaurant, they have imported beef there including Kobe beef (also called Wagyu — the famous Japanese breed of cows that get fed beer and get massages). The Steakhouse also has good steak. As does Diner 360 which has a bargain price as well.

Kobe or Wagyu beef at Goong restaurant.
Kobe or Wagyu beef at Goong restaurant.

Best Korean? Goong, the Castle.

Where is the most romantic restaurant in Dhaka? Mermaid Cafe has a few booth cabanas. Spaghetti Jazz has candles (well most do) and is dark. Panini in Banani has seating arrangements that allow for canoodling. See question below.

Where should I take my wife for our anniversary dinner? Le Souffle (it’s fancy and French), Spitfire, Saltz, Soi 71, Panini, Goong, Steakhouse. The restaurants in the Westin are expensive but they are romantic.

Which restaurant is best for taking children? Soi 71, Diner 360, Goong all have play areas or rooms for children. Istanbul has a castle for children.

Where is the best pizza in Dhaka? For American style, La Forchetta and Pizza Hut. For Italian thin style, Spaghetti Jazz and Bella Italia.

Where is the best burger in Dhaka? Have not found one I could eat all of but some like American Burger and the one at Panini was not as bad as I thought it would be.

What is the best ice cream in Dhaka? Movenpick.

Best cafe to hang out in? Northend Coffee Roasters, Cafe Italiano, Roll Express, Gloria Jeans

Where can I get the best dessert in Dhaka? Movenpick (eat in the cafe), Mr. Baker, King’s Confectionery.

Best bakery? King’s Confectionery, Mr. Baker, Do Mi Ok, Northend Coffee Roasters, and Bellagio.

Where are there nachos in Dhaka? Panini.

Where is the best fruit juice in Dhaka? Panini (ask for no added sugar, watch them make it in the sound muffling room), Roll Express, Saltz, and most places.

Best Turkish? Istanbul on road 118.

Where is the best fuchka (many spellings) in Dhaka? That guy in Lalmatia that I blogged about. If not him, Malaka (go up the escalator) in the mall next to the Agora shop on Gulshan.

Where is the best biryani in town? I can’t say. The Dhansiri restaurants do good local food.

Where is the best dhosa in town? Best in town is Roll Express, Time Out, or Dhaba.

Best Bangladeshi? Someone’s home but otherwise, it depends on what you want. Go to BBQ Tonight, Dhaba, or Nirob.

I will try to update this if I get asked other questions. These are my personal opinions since I have not been to the thousands of other restaurants in Dhaka.

***Is there an Ethiopian restaurant in town? Nope.***

Restaurants in Dhaka – Part Five

80 down… here are 61-80. Read roundup part one, part two, part three, and part four to read about the previous 60 eateries I’ve tried in Dhaka. Other than word of mouth (!), read about where I find the restaurants to try. I also scout for new places when I’m out and about and I welcome recommendations.

The lunch buffet at Istanbul is only 1000 taka.
The lunch buffet at Istanbul is only 1000 taka.

Orange and a Half cafe (7/13): New place! Cafe with coffee, shakes, desserts, and sandwiches. Located in Tejgaon, the industrial zone. The cafe is hip looking and located in the Shanta Western building. The owners want a “western” level place. Let’s see if they can reach it. For not, it’s coffee is okay, some of the sandwiches and cakes are okay… let’s see how they do once they have been open for a while. Their goal is to match Gloria Jean’s.

Ideas Manzil (11/13): International guest house with private set menus – Bangladeshi, Indian, Thai, European, and seafood. All the food was fresh. The antique shopping was also fun. Unique location much like a secret garden in Dhaka. You must contact them ahead of time to arrange the menu. Owned by an expat.

Mallika Snacks (8/13): Phoughka. It’s a local place and it’s more a snack place. Best phoughka in the Gulshan area. Very local place.

KFChicken (9/13) on Road 13: Batter fried chicken. The best fried chicken in Dhaka.

Sakura Golden Rice (5/13) near road 118: Chinese/Japanese/Bangladeshi. Reopened and still mediocre watered down food.

Istanbul (12/13): Turkish. Road 118. You can’t even tell you’re in Dhaka. It’s a massive multi-world restaurant with wood fire oven, Las Vegas painted sky ceiling, and a two level castle for children. They have a creamery on location and sell fresh cheese and bread. Soon will have a level with hookah/nargile/water pipe.

Topkapi (6/13): Buffet. Mostly Bangladeshi and Thai food. The papaya salad was not bad and it was spicy!

Emerald Thai (8/13): Thai. Located in Uttara near the flagship Arong store but very hard to find… interior decor is elegant but the food is not Thai spicy. Made for the Bangladeshi palate.

New Cathay (10/13): Chinese. This new location in Banani, on Road 11, is modern looking but the food and the waiters are as good as they have been for 25 years.

Gloria Jean’s (7/13): Cafe with food. Nice enough atmosphere inside and a place to hang out and grab a light bite to eat. Wi-fi and perky staff seem to be some of the reasons there’s hype about this place. I’m not really into it but then I don’t need a cafe to work from.

Nagasaki (7/13): Japanese. This place is like stepping back in time 50 years… there are holes under the tables so that you sit Japanese style but don’t have to sit on the floor if you are out of practice. Soggy rice. Not fresh sashimi. Located out in Uttara.

Just Juice (4/13): Juice and sandwiches. Has a few seats out in front and is otherwise a very small shop.

Attin (9/13): Arabic. Located on Road 27 in Gulshan, this is a hipster sort of place with a rustic loft feel. The middle eastern appetizers are not bad and the waiters are talkative.

Cuppa Coffee Cafe (7/13): Continental/Bangla-Asian. Located with a great view of Gulshan II circle, the people watching is the best thing about this place. Usual hit or miss with dishes covered in mystery white “special sauce” or red ketchup chili.

Baristo (8/13) – Road 6, Banani: Cafe/Italian/Smokers Lounge/Lounge. Opened in February 2013. Have the coffee while sitting in a car… this is a large place suited for large groups. Will soon have hookah/nargile/water pipe.

American Burger (7/13) – Road 11, Banani: Burgers and fries. Okay fries. Burger was okay. Small, take out sort of place with three tables.

Rush Tex Mex (7/13) – Road 6, Banani: Burgers and fries. The advertised Mexican dishes were mysteriously not available… small place with two booths. Fries were okay.

Spicy Restaurant (4/13) on Kemal Attaturk: Opened March 15, 2013. Usual burgers, kababs, banglese (bangla/chinese) stuff. Also has Wifi, I think. Has four booths (or half of the table is booth and the other side is chairs) and a table for six.

Atrium (7/13): Chinesey Bangla food. Some Indian. The lunch buffet for under 600 taka is okay. The exterior Japanesey garden and tables could be nice if it weren’t right on one of the busiest roads in the area.

Quesadilla (5/13); The quesadilla was actually okay. Not greasy and edible. The “Mexican pizza” was like a basic frozen pizza with some charred crumbled beefish added plus a few loops of green pepper. The nachos were a plate of fried wonton skins covered in brown beans, cheese, and decorated with swirls of “mexican” sauce — a slightly sweet pink sauce. The garlic bread with melted cheese was so tasteless as to be useless.

Istanbul restaurant bakes their own bread including this round bread called a simit.
Istanbul restaurant bakes their own bread including this round bread called a simit.

I’m encouraged by the emergence of new places. I’ll blog another time about the best places where I go more than once. Go out and explore!