Spontaneous Vacation/Pineapple Rice

We were at the grocery store the other day and I was perusing through the fresh produce when I noticed some delicious looking pineapples.

I’ve selected fresh pineapple before, but the truth is I didn’t know how to pick out a good one. As I stood there fondling the prickly fruit, my husband returned from the other side of the store with a gallon of milk in hand. He placed the milk in our cart and realized I was staring at pineapples.

“I love pineapples!” he said, seemingly reading my mind. “We should get one.”

He reached into the pineapple display and grabbed a more-yellow-than-green-or-brown pineapple, brought it close to his face and smelled it, and then gently tugged at the leaf at the fruit’s top center.

He explained – and I later googled his facts to verify – how to pick out a ripe pineapple.

You can tell a pineapple’s ripeness by its color, scent and by gently tugging on a leaf.

The closer to ripe the pineapple gets, the more robust the scent. An unripe pineapple’s scent is faint.

Also, the top center leaf will easily pull from the fruit when fully ripened.

So we brought home a good, ripe pineapple, and my excited husband cut it open as soon as we got home and began eating the sweet tropical delight.

But I had more in mind than simply eating the pineapple alone. I was thinking of my time in Southeast Asia, and a dish that quickly became a favorite – Pineapple Rice. Pineapple Rice is basically fried rice with pineapple and shrimp.

Pineapple Rice is known as a popular Thai dish, but something I found out firsthand is the fact that, though it’s popularity is not in question, it’s not actually a Thai dish; which really confused me because nearly every Thai restaurant I’ve ever been to serves the dish.

But during my travels, I spent time in Thailand, where locals told me that Pineapple Rice is not part of their diet, nor do they consider it an actual Thai dish. In fact, I only saw the dish in restaurants in touristic areas.

I first tried Pineapple Rice in Singapore, in Golden Mile Complex – the Thai market in the city. And I ate the dish often during my time in Asia.

When I think about the dish, I think of my dear friend Bere.

Several years ago, Bere and I traveled together to Indonesia on a whim for a several days, for a relaxing miniature birthday vacation.

I had just gotten back to Singapore from a long work trip and was at home when my friend, Bere, began texting me.

After our greetings, I told her I was back at home and asked what she was doing.

It was a random Monday for her, so it was strange that she was able to communicate with me during work hours.

“I took the week off work,” she told me.

I replied, saying, “We should go somewhere!”

She upped the ante with a suggestion: “We should go to the beach!”

It was the middle of December, and my birthday was only a couple of days away and I had been gone for work, so I was planning to take the rest of the week off, so I agreed.

And just like that, we decided to leave and go to the beach; Bere suggested Bintan Island in Indonesia, which was a two-hour ferry ride from Singapore.

Within an hour after texting, we met at the ferry terminal, bought tickets and headed to Indonesia.

On the way, Bere made hotel reservations, and we were set.

At the hotel where we stayed, there wasn’t much around, so most of our days were spent napping in the room or lying on the beach.

The beach was beautiful, with crystal clear waters and golden sands.

To this day, that trip remains one of the most relaxing times of my adult life.

We spent a couple of days resting and relaxing at one of the most beautiful beaches in that area. And I ate lots of Pineapple Rice.

Bere is a vegetarian, so she was able to eat the dish as well – she just picked the shrimp out.

I remember trying other foods during that trip, and wasn’t impressed; but the Pineapple Rice was a continual delight.

So now, when I think of Pineapple Rice, I think about Bere and our spontaneous trip to Indonesia and how she remains one of my best friends and favorite travel partners.


 

PINEAPPLE FRIED RICE

2 -3 People

(All the ingredients are approximation, add or change ingredients to taste)

 

1 Cup of cooked white rice (cold, or day old if possible) – Check how to make a better rice

10 Shrimp

1 egg

1/2 Yellow onion finely cut in small pieces

2 Green Onions chopped

1-2 Medium-sized Tomatoes, seeded and chopped in 1/2 inches pieces.

2/3 Cup Fresh Pineapple, cut into 1/2 inches pieces. (*If you can’t find fresh pineapple, use canned pineapple drying with a napkin as much juice as you can.)

1/2 Cup of roasted unsalted cashews

1 tsp Soy sauce

1 tsp Fish sauce

1 tsp Curry powder

1 tsp Sugar

1 Sliced Cucumber for garnish

1 dash of White Pepper

1 dash of Salt

2 tsp Cooking oil (vegetable, olive or whatever you regularly use in your kitchen)

 

PREPARATION

Before starting, mix all the dry ingredients (curry, sugar, white pepper, salt) in a small cup. Mix wet ingredients (Soy sauce and Fish sauce) in a separate small cup. Set aside.

(You are free to skip this step and serve direct while cooking.)

In a big frying pan, heat on medium-high and sear the shrimp until pink and on all sides. Once it is ready, take it out of the pan, and drain the excess oil and set a side.

Using the remaining oil (and adding a little more if necessary), add the egg and scramble. When the egg starts changing color (half way cooked) add the rice and stir until it is mixed (around 2 minutes).

Add onions and mix for approximately 2 minutes.

Add dry ingredients (curry, sugar, white pepper, salt) and half of the wet ingredient mix (soy sauce and fish sauce), keep stirring until the rice grains are separated, and the seasoning has covered all the dish (about 3 minutes).

Add pineapple, shrimp, cashews and the other half of the wet ingredient mix. Stir approximately 3 minutes.

Once the pineapple is darkened and the rice is dry, turn off heat. Add tomatoes and the green onions.

Serve the rice garnishing with the whole shrimp on top and cucumber on the side as garnish.

 

Vegetarian version:

Omit the shrimp and egg (vegan)

Use coconut oil and add spice it up with some garlic and fresh ginger.

 

Try this recipe and share with us through #johastable

Vámonos de Pinta / Elote Cocido

 

Hace un par de semanas compramos maíz fresco de un mercado local. Mi marido tenía la intención de cocinar algo con él – ya fuera el pan de maíz de su bisabuela, o grits, o algo más. Honestamente, no recuerdo lo que estaba planeando cocinar; Pero a medida que la semana progresaba y la vida siguió avanzando, el maíz permaneció sobre la mesa, sin cocer.

 

El otro día estaba viendo las mazorcas y decidí hacer un bocadillo que atañe a mis raíces mexicanas – Elote Cocido.

 

Elote cocido (maíz cocido) es una merienda que se puede comprar en las calles mexicanas. A menudo consumida durante las celebraciones patrias. Es el maíz hervido en una mezcla cremosa, con queso, picante, insertado en un palillo.

 

Mi decisión de hacer esta botanita (pasapalo) trajo a mi mente, un recuerdo particular que inundo mis pensamientos: Recordé la única vez que “me fui de pinta” (me jubile/falte a clases) – cuando estaba en octavo grado (Segundo de Secundaria).

 

Nunca fui mala estudiante durante la secundaria – no tuve malas calificaciones; Nunca reprobé alguna materia. Yo era social; me llevaba bien con mis compañeros y maestros; participe en actividades extracurriculares, e incluso inicie un grupo de música (tocaba el “cuatro venezolano,’ un instrumento de cuerda muy parecido al ukulele).

 

Fui estudiante un poquito arriba del promedio, pero, sobresaliente hasta mi ultimo año de secundaria (noveno grado), cuando mis calificaciones tuvieron una mejora muy notable.

 

Un día, mi amiga Paty y yo decidimos irnos de pinta. Nadie sospecharía de nuestro plan.

 

Tenía que ser perfecto. Así que tomamos una semana para planear y preparar.

 

Podrías estar preguntándote ahora mismo, “¿Por qué saltar escuela?”.

 

Yo era una chica de iglesia que se llevaba bien con todo el mundo y trataba de portarme bien… pero siempre me ha gustado aventurarme, y he disfrutado los desafíos. Yo sabía que esto, haría subir mi adrenalina.

 

Así que después de nuestra semana de preparación, llegó el viernes cuando haríamos nuestra huida a la libertad. Fue sólo unas pocas semanas antes de los finales, por lo que el año escolar estaba por terminar.

 

Aquella era la semana de la “Feria de Ciencias” – por lo que había muchas caras de estudiantes y maestros ausentes en las aulas de clases, así que sería difícil para los prefectos saber por qué no estábamos en la escuela.

 

Salimos de nuestras casas vestidas con los uniformes escolares y nos reunimos afuera de la escuela. Nos subimos a un autobús y tomamos el metro, dirigiéndonos al tradicional lugar donde los niños se iban de pinta en aquel tiempo (no se si ahora lo sigan haciendo): Chapultepec.

 

Chapultepec está en el centro de la Ciudad de México, y alberga un bosque, parques, un zoológico, un castillo en una colina, un lago, un museo – un montón de cosas divertidas que hacer mientras no estas en clases. A veces, es referido como los “pulmones de la ciudad”, debido a sus vastas zonas verdes.

 

Cuando llegamos, vimos a nuestro alrededor y nos dimos cuenta que muchos niños de otras escuelas tuvieron la misma idea que nosotras. Había un montón de niños, vestidos con uniformes de secundarias de todos los extremos de la ciudad.

 

Ciudad de México es la ciudad más grande del mundo, alrededor de 30 millones de personas viven allí, por lo que la probabilidad de que hubiera otros niños que decidieron saltar escuela ese mismo día era bastante alta.

 

Era un lugar fresco para simplemente ir a esconderse por un día.

 

Caminamos súper felices. Nos sentamos y tuvimos un picnic, comiendo lo que se suponía que era nuestros almuerzos para el desayuno.

 

Fuimos al zoológico y pasamos un par de horas ahí. Pasamos el tiempo simplemente caminando por el parque.

 

Después, llegamos al lago, y decidimos alquilar una canoa. Se veía divertido.

 

Pero alquilar una canoa resultó ser caro para nosotras.

 

Afortunadamente, mientras estábamos esperando que nos atendieran, empezamos a hablar con un grupo de muchachas que estaban formadas y venían de la parte sur de Ciudad de México. También se habían ido de pinta ese día.

 

Nos dijeron que necesitaban meter dos personas más en las dos canoas que ellas estaban alquilando, así que bien contentas saltamos dentro de su canoa!

 

Mientras estuvimos remando alrededor del lago con nuestras nuevas amigas, un grupo de niños de nuestra edad que venia en otra canoa nos vieron, y comenzaron a hablarnos.

 

Empezamos a bromear con ellos. Nuestras bromas eran inocentes y amistosas, y los muchachos nos preguntaron si queríamos cambiar de barco; algunas de nosotras entrar en su canoa, y algunos de ellos saltar a las nuestras.
La idea era que nuestro grupo se hiciera mas grande, y sumando a los chicos pasar el resto del día juntos con mas diversión.

 

Por alguna razón no me gustó esa idea. Yo era muy escéptica.

 

Eran buena onda (chéveres), pero yo no los conocía.

 

Así que yo, junto con algunas de las otras chicas, nos quedamos en nuestra canoa, mientras las chicas que querían mezclarse con ellos, se pasaron al otro bote. Nos pasaron sus mochilas, y otras pertenencias para hacer espacio, para la gente extra que estaría en su canoa. Paty era una de ellas.

 

Cuando los muchachos y las muchachas comenzaron a mezclarse en las canoas, un par de los chicos se pararon entre los dos botes y comenzaron a sacudir la canoa de las chicas.

 

Las otras chicas y yo vimos a una distancia segura, mientras su bote se sacudía y todas cayeron al lago. Incluyendo a mi amiga Paty!

 

El lago estaba asqueroso. El agua tenía un olor terrible, y una gruesa capa de algas verdes.

 

Después de que cayeron, tuvimos que rescatarlas. Las miradas de algunas de las caras de las chicas estaban llenas de devastación.

 

Yo no estaba tan devastada… Aunque fue feo para ellas, moría de risa!

 

Finalmente salieron del agua. Con un olor terrible… No pudimos rescatar su bote.

 

Encontramos algunos rociadores que se prendían automáticamente para regar los jardines alrededor del parque. En los que las chicas, incluyendo Paty, pudieron limpiarse un poco. Por suerte, Paty trajo una blusa extra ese día, y pudo al menos cambiarsela. Así, seguimos caminando un poco más, hasta encontrar algo de comida.

 

Teníamos mucha hambre, así que nos detuvimos en un puestecito para comprar elote cocido. Ese fue el aperitivo perfecto para terminar nuestro día en Chapultepec, y nos dirigimos a casa.

 

Por supuesto, en el camino a casa, pasamos a la Feria de Ciencias. Nos aseguramos de ser vistas por varios amigos y maestros, para así tener una coartada perfecta.

 

Fue un día divertido y memorable para mí. Y lo mejor de todo es que no nos cacharon!

 

Nuestro plan había funcionado, y tuvimos un día de libertad, hicimos nuevas amigas, tuvimos un montón de risas y una buena merienda.

 

Por desgracia, Paty tuvo una reacción alérgica grave en su piel, por la asquerosa agua del lago en la que cayo; por lo que no pudo salir de su casa por varios días.

 

Aun así, el recuerdo del día en que nos fuimos de pinta estará siempre en nuestros corazones.

 


 

ELOTE COCIDO

 

Esta botana es súper fácil de hacer. Estos son los sabores base de muchos platillos mexicanos, y hay muchas variaciones. Así que pruébalo, y se creativo!

 

Ingredientes:

 

Mazorcas de maíz.

 

Agua

 

Mantequilla

 

Mayonesa

 

Queso Fresco rallado (Si no puedes encontrar queso fresco, usa queso parmesano)

 

Chile en polvo (Chile piquín)

 

Limón

 

Sal

 

Pimienta

 

Palillos para brochetas (para insertar y sostener las mazorcas) – Yo no tenia palillos para brochetas, así que usé palillos chinos.

 

INSTRUCCIONES

 

Limpia el maíz

 

En una olla lo suficientemente grande en el que se puedan sumergir las mazorcas completamente en el agua. Hierva el maíz por cerca de 15 minutos, o hasta que el grano esté blando.

 

En un tazón o una bandeja, esparce el queso

 

Saca el maíz del agua con unas pinzas de cocina. Sostenlo con una toalla (para que no te quemes la mano) e inserta el palillo/brocheta en el centro de la mazorca.

 

Sosteniendo ahora por el palillo, extiende la mantequilla sobre el maíz y luego cúbrelo con una fina capa de mayonesa.

 

Coloca el maíz en el queso y ruédalo para cubrir todos los lados.

 

Sazona con sal, pimienta y chile piquín, al gusto.

 

Exprime el limón sobre el Elote y a disfrutar!

Skipping School / Elote Cocido

A couple of weeks ago we bought some fresh corn from a local market. My husband intended on cooking something with it – either his great-grandmother’s cornbread, or corn grits, or something else. Honestly, I don’t remember what he was planning to cook; but as the week progressed and life ensued, the corn remained on the countertop, uncooked.

So, the other day I was looking at that corn and decided to make a snack that speaks to my Mexican roots – Elote cocido

Elote cocido (cooked corn) is a Mexican street snack often consumed during national celebrations. It is boiled corn covered in a creamy, cheesy, spicy mix, eaten on a stick.

As my decision to make this snack recurred in my mind, one particular memory flooded into my thoughts: I remembered the only time I ever skipped school – back in my eighth grade year.

I was never really a bad student throughout prep school – I didn’t make bad grades; never failed a course. I was social; well-liked by classmates and teachers; participated in extracurricular activities; I even had a music group (I played the quatro, a stringed instrument like the ukelele).

I was an above-average student that made average grades – up until my ninth grade year when my grades began showing marked improvements.

One day, my friend, Paty, and I decided to plan a day of deceit. We were going to play hooky.

But it had to be perfect.

So we took a week to plan and prepare.

“Why skip school?” you may be asking. I was a church girl who got along with everyone and always played nice … but I loved adventures and challenges, and this, I knew, would get my adrenaline pumping.

So after our week of preparation, the Friday came when we would make our escape into freedom. It was just a few weeks before finals, so the school year was winding down. The week of the science fair – so there were many faces missing from classrooms. It would be hard for administrators to know that why we were not in class.

We left our homes dressed in our school uniforms and met outside of the school. We boarded a bus, and headed to the traditional hang out spot when kids would skip school at that time, Chapultepec.

Chapultepec is in the middle of Mexico City, and hosts a forest, parks, a zoo, a castle sitting atop a hill, a lake, a museum – plenty of fun things for us to do while not in class. It’s sometimes referred to as the “lungs of the city,” due to its vast green areas.

When we arrived, we looked around and realized a lot of other school kids had the same idea as us. There were tons of kids, clad in uniforms from schools on every end of the city.

Mexico City is the largest city in the world, with 30 million people living there, so the likelihood that there would be other kids deciding to skip school on that day was pretty high.

It was a cool place to simply go hide away for a day.

We walked around excitedly. We sat and had a picnic, eating what was supposed to be our lunches for breakfast.

We went to the zoo for a couple hours, and spent hours simply walking around the park.

Then we came upon the lake and decided to rent a canoe. It seemed like it would be a lot of fun. But renting one canoe proved to be expensive for us.

Luckily for us, while in line we had made friends with a group of girls from the southern part of Mexico City who were also skipping school that day.

They told us they could fit two more people in the two canoes they were renting, so we happily jumped in!

As we canoed around the lake with our new friends, a group of canoeing boys our age took notice of us and started talking to us. Our banter was innocent and friendly, and the boys asked if we wanted to switch boats – some of us go into their canoe, and some of them come into ours.

The idea was that the group of guys and the group of girls would hang out together the rest of the day.

I didn’t like that idea. I was skeptical. They were friendly, but I didn’t know them.

So I, along with a few of the other girls stayed in our canoe while the girls that wanted to mingle with the boys were in the other. They passed us their backpacks and other belongings to make room for the extra people that would be in the canoe. Pati was one of them.

As the boys and girls started intermingling in the canoes, a couple of the guys stood up and began rocking the boat.

I watched from a safe distance as the boat tipped over and everyone fell into the lake.

Including my friend, Paty.

Mind you, the lake was disgusting. It had a terrible smell and a thick layer of green algae.

After they fell in, we had to rescue them, which we did. The looks on some of the girls’ faces were filled with devastation.

I was less than devastated. Actually, I was laughing really hard!

They finally got out of the water. Very stinky. And we found some sprinklers around the park where all the girls, including Paty, were able to spray themselves clean.

Luckily, Paty brought an extra shirt that day, and she was able to change, so we walked around a little bit more before finding our way to get some food.

We were very hungry, so we stopped at a street vendor to have elote cocido. That was the perfect snack to end our day at Chapultepec, and we headed home.

Of course, on the way home, we made our way over the science fair. We made sure that we were seen so we’d have an alibi.

It was such a fun, memorable day for me. And what made it all the better is that we didn’t get caught! Our plan had worked, and we had a day of freedom, new friends, lots of laughs and a great snack.

Unfortunately, Paty had a bad allergic reaction on her skin from the disgusting lake water she had fallen in, so she was unable to leave her house for several days, but the memory of the day we skipped school will forever be forged into our memories.


 

ELOTE COCIDO

This one is really easy to make, but the flavors are the base of many Mexican foods, and there’s many different variations. So try it, and be creative!

 

Corn on the cob

Water

Salt

Pepper

Butter

Mayonnaise

Shredded Queso Fresco (If you can’t find queso fresco, use Parmesan cheese)

Chile Powder

Lime

Skewers to stick through the corn – I didn’t have skewers, so I used chopsticks

 

Shuck, clean and boil corn for about 15 minutes, or until corn is tender.

In separate shallow bowl or cookie sheet, place cheese

Remove corn from water and with a towel (so you don’t burn your hand) insert skewer into the cob. Holding with the skewer, spread butter on the corn then coat corn with a thin layer of mayonnaise.

Place corn in cheese and roll to coat.

Season with salt, pepper and chile powder, to taste.

Squirt fresh lime onto the elote cocido and enjoy!

Maita’s Arepas; How to make Arepas in 10 easy steps

Maita’s Arepas

We have a market near our home that sells locally grown fresh vegetables for great prices. Like green, red and yellow bell peppers for $ 0.69 each, or bags of large carrots for just $1.

It’s wonderful to my husband and I, because we budget a certain amount of money each week for groceries and also because it allows us to purchase great fresh produce for healthy meals.

Last week we bought some fresh sweet corn – my husband intended to either make grits or cornbread with it.

He didn’t.

But seeing the ears of corn reminded me of a time in my youth, when I lived in Venezuela. And they reminded me of my grandmother, Isabel. We called her “Maita.”

I remember visiting Maita knowing that she was going to cook arepas, a Venezuelan bread made from corn meal, thicker than a tortilla, but thinner than a biscuit. She would cook something different each visit, but one thing always remained a constant in her kitchen – the arepas. And when Maita cooked arepas, she made them from scratch.

Maita was from the countryside, but lived in a town, so her house was not like the countryside she grew up in. But she had a miniature farm of sorts.

She had ducks and chickens, all kinds of herbs and vegetables, several fruit trees – all on a small scale compared to the farm she and my grandfather, Abuelito Gabino, owned in another area.

She had a grinder on the corner of the heavy, red, wooden dining room table. She would use it to grind fresh coffee, corn, meats, and grains.

My brothers and I would fight over who would get to grind corn and coffee for her. Anytime we arrived at her home and saw the corn sitting on the table, we would get excited at the prospect of using the grinder!

I see now that she was subtly making us work, but at the time, we just thought it was fun.

So once the corn was ground, she would make corn flour, then would add the flour to some salt water and mix it. She never used measures, but cooked on sight, scents and tastes alone. Even if there were a recipe, she may not have been able to read it anyway.

Maita grew up in an era of dictatorship in Venezuela; an era when women were not permitted to attend school, so she never learned to read or write. But she was no fool, and nobody could make a fool of her.

Though she couldn’t read words, she could read people, and knew when others were trying to cheat her, which, as she grew older, rarely happened. People actually began to fear her because of her straightforwardness, sternness and stubbornness.

She, to me, was proof that nothing can limit you except yourself and your attitude toward life.

So, once the flour became a dough, she rolled the dough into balls and formed the arepa discs with her hands. Her hands were like decades of life lessons and large family gatherings.

As a young woman, she adopted four of her nieces and nephews after their mother – her sister – died. So while in her early-to-mid 20s, Maita was caring for her mother and four children, all by herself. She went on to marry Gabino by age 30.

For years before marriage, she honed her culinary skills out of necessity.

She used her hands for everything.

I remember each arepa having indentions of Maita’s small-but-strong fingers.

Her fingers were as strong as her will – a will that decided life wasn’t going to determine her success or her children’s success. A will that never allowed her to give up.

In fact, once married, she and Gabino had 3 sons and a daughter. All of whom went to college, graduated and had families.

She proved to me that your limitations don’t have to be your offspring’s limitations.

She would cook the arepas on a dry skillet and never used a spatula. She would flip each arepa by hand.

She even used her hands to discern if the arepas were ready. She had a way to tell when each arepa was finished – she would pick them up and slap them with her finger. She’d determine the arepa’s readiness based on the thumping sound it made.

She always made 2 giant arepas for Abuelito’s lunch, and even when we weren’t there to help her cook, we would eat her arepas because every day she’d send a basketful home to us by way of my father.

She lived into her 80’s and died in 2007, just a couple of years after my family moved to Mexico.

Maita loved cooking. She loved cooking arepas. But most of all, she loved cooking arepas for us. It was one of her many ways of showing how much she loved us.

 

Now, I’ll give you a quick tutorial of how to make arepas like Maita (without the fresh ground corn)!

 

* (In the US or other countries: You can find “Harina PAN” -A special Corn meal for arepas- in Latino stores or supermarkets with a wide variety of international items).


 

How to make arepas in 10 easy steps (tutorial with picture guide)

  1. 1 Cup of warm water (this is for enough arepas for 2 people) in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
  2. Add a teaspoon of salt to warm water.
  3. Slowly mix Harina P.A.N. into water

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until smooth

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until it thickens (into mashed potato-like consistency).

4. Let sit for a few minutes while you turn on the stovetop or griddle to medium-low heat and prepare your non-stick pan.

5. Roll dough into balls

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6. Flatten dough ball into arepa

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7. Place arepas on cooking surface on medium-low heat

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8. Cook approx. 7 minutes on each side (this really depends on the pan, but see photo below for what arepa should look like)

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and cover to keep moisture in

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9. Remove from heat once they are ready. You’ll know they’re ready when they make a hollow sound when thumped in the center (see video below)

When arepas are ready

10. Cut open and fill with cheese, meat, or anything you want and enjoy!

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Dulce Tailandia, Dulce arroz con mango

Amo Tailandia!

 

Todo sobre ella: su gente, sus paisajes, la comida… Si… especialmente, la comida.

 

Hace unas semanas – a principios de Abril – cuando se acercaban las fechas en que se celebra el Año nuevo Tailandés, quise celebrar con uno de mis platillos tailandeses favorito: Mango Sticky Rice (Postre hecho a base de Arroz con mango y leche de coco)

 

En 2011, pase un poco mas de un mes en Tailandia. En aquel tiempo, acababa de llegar a Singapur, y tenia un contacto en Tailandia que estaba encargada de un orfanato, a quien decidí ir a ayudar, y también para explorar el país, con la intención de mudarme como misionera ahí.

 

Y déjame contarte que de verdad tuve la oportunidad de explorar.

 

Cuando llegue a Bangkok, llame desde el aeropuerto a mi único contacto en la ciudad, para confirmar en donde nos veríamos. Ella contesto, y me dijo que no estaba en la ciudad por el momento “regresa después”.

 

“Regresa después??” Como si se tratara de mi llegando después del horario de apertura de un supermercado. Esto era mas serio que llegar después de que cerraron la tienda – Yo estaba en un país completamente nuevo y mi único contacto me acababa de decir “regresa después”.

 

Sentí mucho miedo. Este era mi primer viaje a un lugar completamente desconocido.

 

Me sentí frustrada, y tiendo a culparme cuando las cosas no funcionan.

 

Enmudecí y me quede paralizada. Pensando “vete”, pero no tenia dinero para pagar un viaje de regreso. No sabia que hacer, a donde ir, a quien llamar.

 

Ni siquiera sabia como salir del aeropuerto.

 

Mi plan había fracasado.

 

Volví a la realidad – Necesitaba hacer algo. No podía solamente sentarme en el aeropuerto de Bangkok.

 

Todos mis miedos de pronto tornaron repentinamente en una nueva fuerza.

 

No se si tu que estas leyendo, crees en Dios, pero en ese momento, sentí una fuerza tan grande desde mis entrañas que la única palabra para explicarla es Dios.

El me dijo “Viniste hasta acá desde México. Saca el mejor provecho de esta oportunidad”. Sabia que Dios me había llevado a Tailandia con un propósito.

 

Los planes cambian, pero siempre hay un propósito, y normalmente, es bueno.

 

Y fue así como las cosas empezaron pasar.

 

Mis primeros días en Bangkok me aloje en una habitación en donde el único sonido que podía oír durante la noche, fueron las ratas corriendo por toda la habitación.

 

Pero sabia que de alguna manera, las cosas iban a mejorar.

 

Pocos días después de mi llegada, una muy buena amiga mía, vio una publicación que hice en Facebook y me contacto. Me dijo que se había mudado recientemente a Tailandia y vio que estábamos en la misma ciudad, así que me ofreció hospedaje, para que me quedara con ella y su bella familia.

 

En ese momento, pase de dormir en una habitación junto a ratas, a dormir en una casa junto al lago!

 

Los acontecimientos que tuvieron lugar en ese tiempo son lo que dieron forma al amor que siento por Tailandia.

 

Me di cuenta de que no necesitas pasar un tiempo muy largo con alguien para convertirte en alguien notable en su vida.

 

Pase varias semanas entre Bangkok – La mega ciudad, Chiang Mai – las áreas extremadamente turísticas, Mae Sot – la frontera con Myanmar, y Korat – la zona de campos del país.

 

Decidí que me mudaría a Tailandia.

 

Mi idea era volver a Singapur, recoger mis maletas y volver a Korat en dos semanas.

 

Ciertas circunstancias cambiaron mis planes y nunca volví. Hasta el día de hoy, me persigue esa idea… preguntándome que habría sido aquello que no sucedió.

 

Pero como dije antes, los planes cambian. Y siempre he sido del tipo de persona que sigue caminando a pesar de la tormenta.

 

Pensé en los altos y bajos de aquel viaje a Tailandia. Desde el temor aterrador que me paralizo al principio de mi viaje, hasta el primer día que salí a explorar la ciudad de Bangkok, comiendo Mango Sticky Rice (Dulce de Arroz y mango con leche de coco), ese viaje fue colorido con belleza total.

 

Recuerdo caminar por la ciudad, tomando tuk tuks, perdiéndome y encontrándome de nuevo una y otra vez. Me encontré un mercado en la calle (tianguis). Y me arriesgue a ordenar ese postre de arroz y mango.

 

Fue tan delicioso que cada que pude pedí el mismo postre en cada restaurante tailandés (probablemente si lo encuentro en el menú de algún restaurante local lo pido).

 

Todos estos pensamientos inundaron mi mente, supe que tenia que preparar este postre, solamente para satisfacer mi propio antojo.

 

No pude hacer el platillo inmediatamente. Porque se necesita equipo especial para prepararlo correctamente. Necesitaba comprar un Vaporizador de Bambú.

 

Encontré uno en oferta en un mercadito asiático local, pero se puede conseguir en línea por menos de 10 dólares.

 

Prueba esta receta y enamórate de Tailandia como yo lo hice. La preparación de este platillo requiere un poquito mas de dificultad que para otras recetas que he compartido (porque son varias cosas al mismo tiempo). Trata, valdrá la pena hacerlo.

 


 

DULCE DE ARROZ Y MANGO CON LECHE DE COCO – Mango Sticky Rice

(3 personas)

Ingredientes:

Salsa de coco dulce y Arroz:

1 Taza de arroz dulce glutinoso

2/3 Taza de leche de coco

1/4 Cucharadita de sal

1/2 Taza de azúcar

Salsa de coco salada:

1/2 Taza de leche de coco

1/4 Cucharadita de sal

1 Cucharadita de harina de arroz / Maicena

1 Cucharadas de agua

2 Cucharadas de Mung beans tostados/ Semillas de sésamo tostadas.

2 Mango fresco pelado y cortado cuidadosamente en rodajas gruesas.

INSTRUCCIONES:

[Arroz glutinoso y Salsa Dulce]

Enjuaga el arroz en un tazón y disipar el agua hasta que el agua sea clara.

Déjalo remojando en agua durante la noche (o por unas pocas horas antes de cocinar).

A la mañana siguiente, cuela y escurre muy bien el agua.

Pon el arroz a cocer en la vaporear de bambú. Coloca una tapa encima del arroz para guardar el vapor.
(Nota: Yo tenia un pedazo de gasa en la cocina y lo puse en la parte superior del arroz antes de poner la tapa, sólo para asegurarme de que mantenía el vapor.)

Cuece a vapor sobre el agua hirviendo durante unos 30 minutos.

Mientras se cuece el arroz, en una olla pequeña a parte, a fuego medio, mezcla la leche de coco, el azúcar y la sal. Revuelve hasta que el azúcar se disuelva y apaga el fuego.

(No quieres cocinarlo durante mucho tiempo, usa el calor sólo para mezclar los ingredientes. Una vez terminado, ponlo a un lado y mantenlo caliente con su tapa puesta).

Una vez que el arroz se ha cocido, vacíalo en un recipiente y vierte inmediatamente la mezcla del dulce de leche. Revuelve y tápalo muy bien.

Es importante trabajar tan rápido como sea posible para mantener el arroz caliente.

De esta manera, mientras descansa, el arroz absorberá todo el líquido del dulce de leche.

Deja reposar durante unos 20 minutos. Después de que el tiempo haya pasado, abre y revuelve cuidadosamente otra vez. Déjalo reposar por lo menos otros 20 minutos.

Si no tienes vaporera de bambú, utiliza una vaporera de metal con una gaza alrededor del arroz para evitar que caiga en el agua hirviendo al fondo de la olla. O puedes tratar en la estufa.

Yo nunca he tratado de hacerlo de esta manera, pero aquí es una sugerencia:

Por cada 1 taza de arroz añade 1 y 1/4 Taza de agua.

Deja hervir con la tapa hasta que haya absorbido el agua (No agitar). Una vez que ha absorbido toda el agua, retíralo del calor con la tapa puesta y dejarlo reposar durante 10 minutos.

Salsa de Coco Salada:

Mezcle la harina de arroz / Maicena en agua hasta que ese disuelva.

En una olla pequeña, agrega la leche de coco, la sal y la mezcla de harina con agua. Cocina a fuego medio-bajo

Revuelve hasta que comience a hervir y a espesarse.

Apaga el fuego y déjalo enfriar.

(No lo cocines demasiado tiempo, sólo hasta que hierve la primera vez y comienza a engrosar, de lo contrario la leche de coco se disolverá y tendrás que empezar todo de nuevo!)

¡Si tus Mung beans (Moon beans) o las semillas del sésamo no están tostadas, tu puedes tostarlas!

Para los Mung beans: Hierve en una olla pequeña hasta que estén suaves.

Una vez suaves. Cuela el agua y colocarlos en toallas de papel, para que absorba el exceso de agua.

Tuéstalos en una sartén seco a fuego medio durante 3-5 minutos o hasta que estén ligeramente dorados, revolviendo de vez en cuando.

Semillas de sésamo: solo tuéstalos en el sartén hasta que doren.

Sirve una porción del dulce de arroz junto a algunas rebanadas de mango y añade un poco de la salsa de coco salado en la parte superior del arroz.

Espolvorea algunas de las semillas tostadas de Mung beans/ semillas de sésamo.

¡Disfruta!

Tacos Dorados (Taquitos)

During the Easter season in most Latin American countries, many people refrain from eating meat. The month leading up to Easter is the Catholic season of Lent – and most Latin American countries have deep rooted Catholic backgrounds.

This is a time when lots of seafood is consumed.

Growing up, though, my family wasn’t Catholic. So during the Lent season, we were one of the only families around that was eating meat regularly. (Also, my mom didn’t like cooking seafood because of the lingering fishy scent.)

Last week, as I was thinking about Lent and seafood, and the fact that my family continued eating meats throughout the season, I was reminded of a time I was served some of the best fish soup I’ve ever eaten.

Before you get your hopes too high, I’ll tell you that this post is not about that delicious soup – though I am going to track down that recipe for a later date. Now, in Mexico we eat tacos dorados with soup, much like in many places soups are served with sandwiches or loaves of bread. Today’s post is about that delectable, crispy bite of comfort that’s often served with a soup and can stand alone just as well – Tacos Dorados.

It was a few weeks before Easter in the early 2000’s when a college classmate and friend looked over at me and said, “Hey, let’s get a group together and go to Acapulco.”

So, naturally, as I am full of spontaneity I said, “Yeah! That would be fun. Let’s do it!”

Within 24 hours, a group of five of us were on our way from Mexico City to Acapulco – about a 4-5 hour drive. In the group were my friend and his brother and sister, and my brother and me.

We had family friends that owned a house in Acapulco, and were away on a vacation of their own, who said we could use their house during our stay, so we were prepared for a non-expensive miniature beach vacation among friends.

The only expenses we would incur would be food and gasoline.

Then, on our way to Acapulco, I remembered that I had a friend who lived right outside of the city – in El Coloso. This friend, Eli (pronounced Eh-lee), would eventually become my best friend, traveling companion, and maid of honor. (In fact, we always talk about how, in that time, we never thought we’d be living in a Malaysian jungle together, or getting a free flight to Hawaii together, or getting lost together in different parts of the planet.)

I messaged her, and she replied telling me she would be in class on the day of our arrival.

Once we arrived in Acapulco and reached one of the most known beaches, we looked around and were all, frankly, quite disappointed. That’s when I decided to call Eli, who had just finished her college classes for the day.

Eli brought us away from the touristic areas and to the most beautiful local beaches with golden sands and crystal clear water nestled in between two mountain peaks. Needless to say, we were excited to find such a lovely area, and we decided that is where would continue our vacation the following morning.

That next day, Eli’s mother – Mama Berna – sent, with her daughter, some fish soup and tacos dorados for us to enjoy on the beach.

I grabbed a taco and poured some soup in a container and tasted both. As expected, the taco was perfection, but the soup surprised me with its delicate and intrinsic flavors.

Usually, fish soup is strong – it’s aftertaste and smell overpowers

This soup, however, was not that. The fish wasn’t soggy. It’s consistency was pure. The vegetables had a nice fish taste, but didn’t lose their vegetable essence.

I remember thinking a hot soup would not be good for a day at the beach, but it was actually light and refreshing and perfect for a beach day.

Seriously, I will get that recipe and make it for this blog one day.

Maybe the reason I thought the food was so good that day was because Mama Berna did not know us – we were just friends of her daughter – and she went out of her way to show us such love and hospitality.

Mama Berna really became someone very special to me that day – even without knowing her until later. She made that food with love and gave it to us without asking for anything in return.

That day changed all my thoughts on fish. It made me more open to seafood – as my mother didn’t cook seafood and we didn’t live in an area where seafood was fresh and readily available.

My little brother, Jorge, on the other hand, was not as open to anything seafood. He refused to taste the soup and missed out on a real delight. He didn’t care about the soup. So we didn’t care about him.

“Whatever,” I said. “Just eat sand.”

So we ate. We finished the soup and turned toward that heaping plate of about 50 Tacos Dorados, which I had already enjoyed eating one earlier, with my soup.

They were gone.

Jorge had eaten the entire plate of Tacos Dorados.

Still, to this day, when I think of Tacos Dorados, I think of what they probably would have tasted like after that delicious fish soup. And in my dear brother, this is one of his favorite dishes.

All that said, this is a great Mexican dish to enjoy with friends and family, especially with little ones who like to eat with their hands!

 

Enjoy!


 

TACOS DORADOS

The biggest issue of Tacos Dorados is that you must have access to corn tortillas, or at least MASECA corn flour.

Either purchase corn tortillas from your local grocer, or follow the instructions to make tortillas on the package of MaSeCa. I like to make my own tortillas, which is pretty easy.

 

— To make corn tortillas, add water to MASECA corn flour (use amount directed on package) and salt; then knead. Roll into balls and flatten to thin-ness of a tortilla. Place on dry skillet on medium heat and cook both sides. —

 

The tacos, traditionally, are filled with cooked shredded chicken, beef, or boiled and seasoned potatoes.

DIRECTIONS:

  • Heat tortilla in microwave or stovetop, remove from heat, and place line of meat/potatoes in the middle of the tortilla.
  • Take one edge of the tortilla and reach toward the protein, and pull it toward the edge as you roll the tortilla tightly – Be careful not to spill out any of the meat/potatoes.
  • Once rolled, seal the end with a toothpick. The toothpick keeps the taco closed once placed in the hot oil. Use more than one toothpick if necessary.
  • Place oil (vegetable oil, canola oil, etc.) in a pan and bring to medium-high heat.
  • Place tacos into hot oil and fry until golden and crispy on all sides. If you have a fryer, this process is much easier.
  • Put the tacos on a platter with napkins or paper towels underneath to allow excess oil to drain.

At this point, once cooled, remove toothpicks and the Tacos Dorados are ready to be consumed. You can eat them alone as a snack, with a soup, or as a meal topped with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, avocados, salsa and whatever else your heart desires.

10 Tips to make your rice better

“You are what you eat.”

I guess it’s true, in a sense.

Many times, you can tell the personality of someone by his/her favorite foods.

What is your favorite food? What does it say about you?

I, for one, am a chameleon of sorts.

I am strong when I need to be; tender when the time calls for it; vibrant and colorful, yet neutral. I’m passionate and determined, but have insecurities and fears. Sometimes I feel underestimated, and others have the potential to bring out the best (and worst) in me. I dare myself to do crazy things, conquer my fears, and understand that details usually tell a larger story.

One of the first things I ever learned to cook, and still one of my favorite things to eat, says a lot about who I am. It is something small, something often considered a complement instead of the “main dish,” something widely overlook, but has the potential to standalone and be incredible all by itself – rice.

We always ate rice. In Venezuela it’s basically part of the daily diet –

rice, beans and plantains. You find that in every country in the Caribbean.

During my first year in Mexico after moving from Venezuela, I decided to make rice.

I had seen my mother and grandmother making it, so I thought it would be a fairly simple task. All I needed was rice, water and salt. I thought that would be easy enough.

So I grabbed a pot and added water and rice and brought it to a boil. Then I grabbed what I thought was salt and added that while the water was boiling.

I made several terrible errors in that first culinary attempt.

First, I didn’t measure anything … and I actually ended up making all of the rice. All of the rice! An entire kilogram.

For reference, 1 kg of rice was about a week’s worth of rice for our family of 5.

It started cooking, and the rice almost grew out of the pot because there was so much and the pot wasn’t large enough for an entire kilogram of rice.

Grandma never measured. I had watched her. But now I know it was just practice; she had been cooking so many years, she had it down to an art. Rice was easy for her.

And I didn’t add enough water, so in the end I found some of the rice was overcooked while a lot of it was severely undercooked. The bottom was also all burned because I didn’t know how high or low the heat should be.

And the worst thing I did was that I did not use salt to season the rice. I accidentally sprinkled in Baking Soda.

It was a truly embarrassing effort on my part.

My dad and older brother – Julio – ate it out of respect (and hunger, I think), but my mom and younger brother – Jorge – wouldn’t eat it out of wisdom. Or fear. Or maybe both.

I’ll never forget their faces. Julio actually added mayonnaise to try to mask the nasty rice taste.

After that day, my mom decided to teach me how to cook rice. She started with an easy method to make it.

A 1:2 ratio of rice to water with added onion, garlic and salt.

Then, years later, when I was about 24, I moved to Asia.

One of the first times I encountered many types of rice all in one place, I was overwhelmed by the variety, styles and colors of rice down a couple of aisles in a grocery store in India.

I had never realized there were so many types of rice – hundreds of varieties.

Long-grain, medium-grain, short-grain, yellow, white, brown, Jasmine, aromatic, Chinese black, Basmati … that’s just off the top of my head.

My friend and I walked into the grocery store after having the idea to bring rice to an orphanage where we were working at the time, and asked an employee to point us toward the rice. He asked what kind of rice we desired and we answered, “just regular rice.”

“What kind of regular rice?” he asked as he pointed toward the two aisles completely filled with different types of rice.

That’s when I learned about rice. It’s many styles, flavors, and eccentricities.

Now, I’m in America. And have more than a decade of experience with cooking rice, and though I have never claimed to be the best at it, it’s something I truly enjoy.

Most people already know how to cook rice, so I won’t be sharing a recipe in this post, but I have compiled a list of tips to cooking rice, as it can take years to perfect the art.

I do not own a rice cooker – I’d rather cook my rice in a pot on the stovetop. While living in Singapore, someone gifted me with a rice cooker, but to be honest, I simply prefer the stovetop.

 

Here are 10 easy tips to making great rice:

  1. Respect the rice – Let the rice take the time that it needs in order to cook. They’re not mashed potatoes. Put the rice in the pot and let it cook.
  2. Exact double portion of water – rice should be cooked on a 1:2 ratio with water.
  3. Cook on low heat – be patient. If you try to rush the cook of the rice you will end up burning it and undercooking it.
  4. “No lo batas” – My mother and grandmother constantly told me this, which just means don’t stir it. You don’t want to end up making sticky, smashed rice. Once it’s in the pot, put on the lid and leave it alone until it’s ready.
  5. Don’t open the lid – The secret for a fluffy, perfect rice, is to allow it to steam. The steam inside the closed-lidded pot, while the heat is on low, is what actually cooks the rice. It’s not about the water boiling, it’s about the rice cooking correctly.
  6. Sauté or rinse the rice – rice has lots of starch. When you sauté with oil, it basically coats each grain, allowing the rice to be cooked and get fluffy without sticking to the other grains. It’s a beautiful chemical reaction. Make sure not to leave it in the pan too long (you don’t want to burn the rice before you start cooking it!). When you rinse the rice, the same happens because you’re cleaning the starch off, but you must rinse it several times, and very well, to assure the starch is rinsed off fully. Also, after washing, the grain is very sensitive, so you must be careful when you put it in the pot so as to not break the grains.
  1. Use chicken stock or beef stock – To make rice more flavorful, add a stock instead of water. Flavor your rice according to your meal instead of always merely having simple white rice.
  2. Add garlic, onion and salt – I always add these ingredients before I begin boiling the rice. I like to sauté the rice (see tip 6) with onion, garlic cloves and salt. I love the slightly more intense flavors I get from this practice.
  3. Use a good pot – Make sure the bottom of the pot is not too thin, and use a pot that’s size is proportionate to the meal. A thin pot will cause the rice grains to burn more quickly.
  4. Practice – “la practica hace al maestro,” or “practice makes perfect.” Keep going! And try adding your own special flavors to make the rice your own. Also, check out recipes for more advanced types of rice, like aromatic rice and risotto. In the future, I’ll post recipes of risotto, so keep an eye out for that!
  5. Have fun and enjoy!