I was in the ancient land of pharaohs and mummies for nearly two weeks before venturing north to Cairo. Coming from India where vegetarian food is bountiful, spicy, and vibrant, I knew that eating in Egypt would require an adjustment period. What I didn’t expect was how much of a gamble the tastiness of a meal would prove. I’d tried koshari from a popular spot in Luxor, a wonderful mix of large and small noodles, brown lentils, an oily tomato sauce, crispy fried onions, and a thin vinegary hot sauce. A few days later in Aswan, the same dish was lackluster at best; undercooked noodles, mushy lentils, and minimal seasoning. Same thing with fuul (fava bean strew) and tameya (fava bean fritters, Egyptian falafel). The slow cooked beans could be creamy and delicious, with fritters crispy and hot. But more often than not the fuul was bland and the tameya was dry.
Fried Rice – serves 2 (generously) or 3 (normally)
I’m well aware that the point of fried rice is use up leftovers, but I make this most often as a planned ahead-yet-super-lazy-supper. Though the days are getting longer, it’s still chilly out and we’re all craving delicious, carby, comforting foods (and even I am starting to out-noodle myself). Running to the grocery store to grab a few veggies for dinner becomes much less enticing between the coat, boots, hat, scarf, gloves, and four flights of stairs (no elevator in my building), so I need meals that I can make with ingredients I always have on hand.
I had a Hinge (the dating app) boy over for dinner. We ate a delicious Indian-Thai hybrid of a curry: red curry paste, coconut milk, and a medley of Indian spices formed the broth which held asparagus, red peppers, mushrooms, and cauliflower. Served over thick rice noodles with lime and cilantro, I can only assume he liked it since he devoured three bowlfuls. I had baked this banana bread earlier that day, and we were just finishing a piece as my roommate Marianne) and her girlfriend walked in. Greetings were exchanged with much enthusiasm, and as he watched Marianne cut herself a slice he proclaimed how incredible it is, how he would have eaten more had he any room left in his belly, and that she was going to love it, LOOOOOVEEE IT.
I landed in Singapore to stifling heat and humidity and coincidentally, a hostel bunkmate from my hometown. There’s nothing like making a friend on the other side of the world who shares your accent and area code. As Roxanne and I journeyed North to Malaysia, she told me about her plans to head to the Perenthian Islands for inexpensive PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certifications. My prior experience diving was in Hurgada, Egypt, towards the start of my seven month voyage. I shouldn’t have gone as I was fighting an oncoming cold, but my couch surfing host had organized the excursion and I didn’t want him to think me uncool. Inevitably, the high-pressured chilly water kicked my sickness into high gear, and I was only able to complete one dive before spending the rest of the boat ride throwing up and sleeping. I spent the following two weeks wickedly ill, needing three doses of antibiotic butt injections to shake the infection. Now three months later I was ready to redeem myself and venture under the sea anew.
This sounds like such a weird collection of ingredients, but alas, I needed to clean the fridge out of the few bits and pieces that I didn’t want to incorporate into another meal – half of a mushy sweet potato, broccoli stalks – because I knew I was going to use the florettes for lunch (making garlicky gingery broccoli and crispy tofu), three tomatoes that had started off life so beautifully but after a week of neglect were looking rather soft and forlorn, and leftover dill from family friends who had come for dinner bearing the most incredible vegan creamy mushroom and celery soup (that was garnished with dill).
I went on a first date with this guy I met on Hinge, let’s call him Kevin, after weeks of rain checking due to stomach and life complications. I was grateful for his patience. We had originally planned to go for falafel in Saint-Henri, at a very good restaurant, Sumac. But you order at the counter before sitting down, and the idea of having to figure out what I was having/if we were sharing/how we were dividing payment, before any proper interaction, gave me low key anxiety. Instead, I proposed Il Focolaio, a pizzeria I’d heard of years ago in a Youtube video and had yet to try. Their menu intrigued me, 77 pizzas, with topping combinations ranging from tofu and vegetables, to classic medleys of cured meats and cheeses. They have the options of wholegrain or cauliflower crust, vegan cheese, and fake meats, in addition to all the traditional toppings you can think of. What a woke pizzeria. Suffice to say, I wanted to go.
I ate some seriously incredible curries on my travels around Asia. Creamy sag (spinach) paneer in Northern India, green bean curry with black mustard seeds in Sri Lanka, and of course, a dahl-cious amount of lentil soups and stews, eaten with rice, chapati, or roti. One of my favorites curries was eaten in the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia, a thick spicy coconut broth, rich with the spices I’ve always associated with Indian cuisine, and filled with fat rice noodles and vegetables. It was a heady blend of flavours.
I grew up in a home with an open door policy. Friends dropped by for lunch last minute and we were grand central for large dinner parties. The fridge was flung open for casual meals with guests and it was a “help yourself to leftovers + salad + good toasted bread” situation. But for suppers (or large lunches) my mom and I carefully plan the menu and cooked elaborate feasts. The table was always full from the multitude of dishes we prepared. If my mom knew that you loved blueberry pie or hated cinnamon, she wrote it down in her entertaining book and it would appear/disappear from the meal. My grandfather’s moto “if you go home hungry it’s your own damn fault” rang true. Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up between being my mom’s assistant, and hosting my own plethora of dinners and dinner parties.
The last two days in Montreal were marked by intense rain storms, winds of 100km/hr, and power outages. I slept over at my parents house in order to help them host a family lunch… we ate in the dark by candle light after running outside to stop our neighbour’s carport from rolling into our car. It was a close call. Needless to say, Fall is turning to Winter and that means it’s time to add easy, delicious, and satisfying soups to our repertoire.
I spent three wonderfully intense weeks in Vietnam this summer. Big cities were an endless whirlwind of motorbikes, street food, and humidity. I didn’t expect to be so blown away by the beauty in the North, from the overcrowded boat tour through limestone pillars in the Cat Ba Archipelago, to the serene beauty of the Ha Giang Loop, a three day scooter ride on vividly green, winding mountain roads through farm land… Vietnam took my breath away.