Monday, December 16, 2013

Foodie Find: Laura in the Kitchen

I think there's never enough foodies to know about right? At least I don't think so. I always seem to find a new foodie that I start loving - whether it's an actual person in my life, an author, a chef, a blogger, a Youtuber, you know name it. 

A little while ago, I came across Laura Vitale from Laura in the Kitchen series (Youtube name: Laura in the kitchen) and pretty much just started to watch all her recipes. An original Italian living in New Jersey, Laura is a dedicated cook on her Youtube channel and showcases high-quality video recipes with a specialty in Italian cooking (My favourite). She also dabbles in baking, bread-making, and lots more.

I personally have tried out a couple of her pastas and sandwich recipes and they were delicious. Although I watch her through Youtube, I feel as though we have very similar taste in food and that's why I'm recommending her to all of you :)



Sunday, December 15, 2013

"Sha3bi Shop" - Chili's Za3beel

This was the place that my entire idea of Sha3bi Shop began with. 

If you have grown up in Dubai or know anyone who has lived here for quite some time, then you would definitely know about Chili's Za3beel. I was introduced to this place years ago when I was in school and have since called this a little hidden spot only for true "Dubaians".

Prior to this year, it was actually just a small takeaway hut or "dukan" as it is termed in Arabic (meaning shop) in Za3beel area near world trade center. It had no name, no branding and I only learned the name of it from friends who were used to eating there from their childhood days. A small takeaway hut deserted by sand in Za3beel's residential area, it included one or 2 cooks working there. 

This year, it received a little makeover and is now branded as Oyoun Al Reem Cafeteria situated in a small plaza with a few other cafeterias. It looks similar to all other cafeterias in Dubai now. Still the same takeaway concept - or more like park and eat in the car because nobody waits to take these babies home. It's the best when it's hot. 

The original and best sandwiches that this place has to offer are simple and just so darn good. You choose your bread, either paratha (Indian bread) or regular "samoon" bread (toasted hot dog bun) and choose your filling of eggs or hot dog or mix - all come with a tomato-ish sauce . The special additions of kraft cheese spread on the bread/bun and crumbled Oman chips on top of your sandwich with hot sauce (not actually hot, just gives a kick in flavour) takes these sandwiches to a whole new level. Sounds so simple but trust me you're gonna have to try these. Yumm.

My personal favorites are hotdog with paratha:
 

 And eggs & hot dog mix on regular "samoon" bread" (added bonus - they toast this one!):


Have any of you guys tried Chili's Za3beel? What's your favorite sandwich?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Taste of Christmas Festival - London

One of the best experiences I had during my trip in London was visiting the Taste of Christmas festival (Thanks cousins for the amazing surprise!)

If you've ever been to Taste of Dubai, it's pretty much the same branding but the experience is on a totally new level. The concept is the same in which different vendors and companies have their own stalls set up with their products (such as cheese, olive oil, meat, wine, chocolate, etc) where visitors can taste and purchase. This was one of the best parts about this experience, the fact that you can actually taste everything for free. It not only made the night much more enjoyable (for me and my appetite) but it definitely allowed you to get an idea of what you could potentially be purchasing on a wider scale.

Here's my picture diary & some little facts I picked up... Enjoy!

Chutney's, mustard & preserves - Tracklements

Blue cheese - Cornish Cheese Company

This was actually the best blue cheese I have ever tried. My cousins agree too. Not too strong but still flavorful. Not surprised this is award winning cheese - definitely my first time trying a cheese that's won an award :)

Black garlic (heat-aged garlic)

This was another first for me. The taste was quite similar to licorice with a very faint distant essence of garlic. If you ate this with your eyes closed, I don't think you would believe it's garlic.

Rustic French Bread
 
Different types of goat cheese & brie 

Did you know that brie is better when it's more yellow? I didn't! I've always had white brie from the supermarket and it seems as though I've been missing out...

Italian goods from Sicily

I picked up two types of Pecorino cheese from here - one with walnuts and one with truffle. I actually can never say no to truffle anything - truffle oil, cheese, sauce, pasta, etc. Speaking of truffle, I got the chance to feast on some very fancy truffle at a different market in London called the Borough gourmet food market - definitely a must-see if you're ever in London.
 
Live cooking show of holiday turkey

Gluten & butter free chocolates - The Chocolatier

Chocolate with 23ct gold leaf - The Chocolatier

This chocolate snapped above was interesting. Once I saw that it was written created for Arabian Royalty, I immediately asked the vendor what the story behind it was. She informed me that this particular chocolate made with gold leaves was created for the Saudi Prince as he requested a low calorie chocolate without compromising on taste and the gold leaves - well he is a Prince isn't he? I was intrigued, I then asked what his name was and she answered Ahmed. The other vendor working behind this business then came in on the conversation as he heard us and uttered "Yes, this chocolate was specifically made for the Abu Dhabi Foreign Minister". At this point, I thought things were sounding fishy and I replied informing them that Abu Dhabi is not part of Saudi Arabia and they just nodded so I decided to leave it at that :)

Hope you enjoyed my picture diary. It was such a great experience and I would highly recommend this to anyone in London during the holiday season. Have you guys ever been to Taste of Xmas?

Here's a little snap of my cousins and I at the festival!

left-right: Joanne, Dalia, Yasmin, Me

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Rated: Patty & Bun - London

Sorry for being missing in action for a little bit. I've just come back a couple of days ago from a holiday trip to London to visit family. 

I decided to do a quick little review of the well-known gourmet burger joint in central London, Patty & Bun. I have a really good feeling that if anyone who's lived, been or just knows London pretty well, that they've heard or tried this place out. 

On my first night in London, my cousin Dalia told me that she would take me to her favorite burger place and off we went... (with my review hat on!).

Situated in St. Christopher's place, pretty much a little area intersecting Oxford street that's packed with restaurants, we arrived to a line outside the restaurant with about 8 people already queued up (First impression, how long do we need to wait in the freezing cold?! ... however, if everyone else is doing it, may well be worth it?). 

So we hurried in line and the wait started. Minutes into our arrival, more and more people came and stood behind us to wait in line. The great part is that they had posted their menu on the wall outside where customers waited. Everyone in line, and I mean everyone, was only talking about what burger they wanted, which one was their favorite, what they tried last time, etc, etc, etc. The whole wait was a great big conversation about the burgers in this place. I was definitely excited and joined in on it.
Their menu is small (but to the point) and also caters to different varieties, from classic beef burgers, to chicken to lamb and even vegetarian. We pretty much had our minds made up during that 30 minute wait.

Once we got in, I noticed why there was a line to begin with because the actual space seats up to 30 pax but that's what made the experience even cosier. It was small, vibrant, energetic with mixed music from oldies to current singles and the vibes were definitely right. 

Photo credit to Patty & Bun Website

A group of three, we opted for 2 "ARI GOLD" cheeseburgers, 1 "Lambshank Redemption" burger with 2 sides of fries with rosemary salt and 1 "Winger Winger Chicken Dinner" chicken wings to start.

Dinner order at P&B

We started off with the chicken wings which were smoked confit wings with BBQ sauce and green onions.

"Winger Winger Chicken Dinner" Chicken wings

I am not the biggest fan of chicken wings, but these wings were the juiciest, tastiest and sauciest wings I've ever tried. The topping of green onions just added that extra freshness and crunch which made it all the more worthwhile. Finger lickin' good.

On to the burger, usually I go for a classic cheesburger whenever I try a new burger place out because if a place can't get a classic cheese burger right, then why are they a burger place?

So I got the "ARI GOLD" cheeseburger which consisted of a beef patty, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickled onions, ketchup, homemade smokey mayo and a brioche bun.

"ARI GOLD" Cheeseburger

Definitely a high quality beef burger. The meat was so tender and juicy (cooked medium and I'm usually a medium well but that's how it's done at P&B so I went for it!) The sauce was smokey yet tangy and the vegetables were fresh and crisp. Only downside was it was little bit of a mess to eat but I'd rather have a yummy burger with a mess than holding back on the yummy, you know what I mean?

Total price breakdown below (for 3):
1 x "Winger Winger Chicken Dinner" chicken wings = £5.50
2 x "ARI GOLD" Cheeseburger = £7.50 x 2 = £15
1 x "Lambshank Redemption" burger = £8
2 x Chips with rosemary salt = £5.50 x 2 = £11
Total (£) = 39.5 

In my opinion, food,  music and service was excellent. I know where I'm going first next time I'm in London. I'd definitely recommend this place for young adults and young couples and less for a family as it's quite packed, loud and cosy.

I've rated Patty & Bun - London a 5 out of 5!

Have you guys tried Patty & Bun in London? What would you rate it?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"Mina Simeena Mithl 3ajeena" - Persian Dill & Lima Bean Rice

Photo credit to theshiksa.com

If you know Arabic, you can understand what the title means but not sure why I've put it. And if you don't know Arabic, you're just staring at a yummy photo of rice - and that might be enough :)

Basically, while I was a child growing up, I used to be very chubby and my skin was very white so my family decided to make a little jingle that goes like, "Mina Simeena mithl 3ajeena" which translates to, Chubby Mina like flour (cooking flour). I guess it was fine to call me chubby because it was in a song, right? 

So I decided it would only be appropriate to give praise to the yummy dishes that I used to feast on growing up, and still do enjoy them occasionally. I mean after all, there was a song involved so I think it's necessary...

The first dish that comes to mind is Persian Dill & Lima Bean Rice with Chicken and a cucumber/yogurt salad. The title self-explains what the dish consists of. So simple but so tasty. But let me tell you that the rice is the star of the dish. I used to always gobble up just the rice with the salad on top, and sometimes without, and be a happy camper. I always tell my mom when she's making it, the more dill, the better. It makes the rice greener, give beautiful fragrance and the taste is just unbeatable. I absolutely love this herb - it always livens up a dish, even with chicken, salmon and vegetables.

In Persian, this dish is called Baghali Polo, similar to Arabic as we say Timan o Baghila, meaning Rice and Lima Beans. One prized bit about this dish is the crispy part of the rice at the bottom of the pot which is actually not as easy as I thought to get perfectly. I know that in Iranian cooking, they like to add saffron to the bottom to get a yellow tinge crust which makes it look even more appealing when you unveil the rice upside down from the pot to your serving dish. The crispy part in Persian is known as tahdig and in Arabic, hakaaka. It is said that the talent of the cook is measured on their ability to produce quality tahdig/hakaaka. No pressure?

Photo credit to theshiksa.com







Have you guys tried this dish before? What dishes take you back to your childhood?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Home Sweet Home: Lamb Qeema (Minced Meat) with Saffron Rice

Lamb Qeema (Minced Meat) with Saffron Rice

Every once in a while, my mom whips out a traditional Middle Eastern dish (or feast I should say). It's usually a dish that takes a little more time (or a couple more hours) than the day to day meals we typically have on the busy weekdays. 

This past Friday, my mom treated us to a delicious Lamb Qeema served with Saffron infused rice. Delicious might be an understatement.

This dish is primarily a curry but without the runny sauce - it's more of a reduced sauce that's stuck to the meat without the liquid (Did that make sense?)

If I were to describe it, I'd say it's pulled lamb with a million and one different spices pressure-cooked for hours in a tomato based curry (hold the sauce). Some of the spices included are cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, preserved lemon, garam masala, chilli, coriander seed ... - it's kind of like all the spices you can think of? There are many different variations of this dish and the one that my mom prepared, she added lentils. But not too many. The star of the dish is the saucy (hold the sauce) meat. Just go with it.

One thing my mom taught me about this particular dish is that when you're cooking the meat in the pot while it's simmering away, you should stir it with your wooden spoon and make one wish while continuing to stir. I'm not exactly sure where this tradition has come from but we all took turns stirring and planting our wishes in there. Let's see what happens? By the way, have you guys ever heard about this or tried it? 

Wishes simmering away...

Any who, I surfed the web and saw that there are so many versions of this dish usually stemming from Middle Eastern, Indian, Mexican and Pakistani flavors. Some like to add potatoes, peas and different minimal veggies. Definitely makes sense since we all share most of the same spices that goes in this dish.

And here's my first (of many) servings of Mama's Lamb Qeema:

From FeedMyTasteBuds Instagram

To follow me on Instagram and see my food diary on the regular, please follow me on www.instagram.com/feedmytastebuds

Friday, November 15, 2013

Take me away to... Spain



I thought it would be interesting to do a tasty travel wish of the month to a place where I haven't been to yet or would love to go back to.
This month, I have my wishes set out on EspaƱa!
Besides the culture, beaches and beautiful colors, here's a couple of dishes my taste buds are lusting after...

Pisto Manchego

Coming from the region of Murcia and La Mancha, Pisto Manchego consists of tomatoes, onions, eggplants or courgettes/zucchinis and red pepper in olive oil. In some parts of Spain, they like to top it with a lightly scrambled egg. I can picture eating this in a cute village sharing it among family and friends. Delish!

Patatas Bravas

This falls under Spanish tapas and is usually served in bars or small restaurants. Fried potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce. There is something similar to this called "Batata Harra" in Lebanese cuisine which has potatoes mixed with garlic, chili, coriander and fried together in olive oil.

Empinadas

Empinadas! Golden pastry stuffed with either beef/chorizo/chicken/veggies. I have a sweet spot in my heart for savory pastries and this fits just perfectly.

Gambas Ajillo

Shrimp, garlic, paprika, olive oil, parsley = yummy tapa!


Seafood Paella

Paellas are like a celebration on a dish. So many flavors, colors and I do very much love the sharing concept of it too. I have tried a couple of paellas and I feel I haven't had the best one yet - probably because I need to go to Spain and have it there!

Sangria

Always served in a pitcher, Sangria consists of red wine, chopped fresh fruit, a sweetener and either 7 UP/Sprite. Set against a nice beach, cool breeze, good company and you're good to go... :)

Churros with hot chocolate dipping sauce

Finish off my travel dream with a sweet. Churros are often referred to as the Spanish doughnut. It's basically a fried dough pastry sprinkled with sugar and served with a chocolate sauce. These babies are all over Spain from street vendors to restaurants and can be eaten as a breakfast, lunch, dinner or casual snack.


Have you guys been to Spain? What did you eat? Any recommendations?

P.S. All pictures are credited to Pinterest. To follow my full travel wish diary and many more, please follow me on Pinterest! You can find me on www.pinterest.com/minaghulam

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tips & Tricks - Saltier for sweeter?

Photo credit to blog.khymos.org

Did you know that adding salt to your fruit can make it taste sweeter?

I didn't know this until recently and tried it on pineapples and it definitely brought out their flavor!

It's practiced a lot around the world and in many countries, they apply different toppings to their fruits to enhance their sweetness or flavor.

Here are a few examples:
In Mexico - they use lime, salt & chili
In Philippines - they use soy sauce
Taiwan - they use dried prune powder
In several parts of Asia - they place their cut up fruit in a bath of salted water

Next time you have fruit (especially unripe ones), try adding a tiny amount of salt and see what the difference is!

Note: Don't go crazy with the salt as this might end up taking away from the taste of the actual fruit!

Have you guys tried this before? What fruit did it work well with?

Rated: Mom's Food Restaurant

Photo credit to Mom's Food Facebook Page

I've heard about Mom's Food Restaurant and drove by every time I left from JBR but haven't had the chance to try it until a couple of days ago. It's situated right next to Park Island Residence on the street behind JBR - The Walk.

We made a reservation for 6 outside as the weather is getting nice and cool in Dubai. Once we arrived, our table was ready and staff was very accommodating (I don't know if it's just my mom but whenever we go out, regardless if we have a reservation or restaurant is full, the mission or hunt I should say, for the best table begins: which view should we look at, what's the best noise level, will the staff see us from this table and the list goes on... Maybe this is where I get my critiquing/reviewing skills - hmm).

Ok. Back to the review!

The first thing I do usually is evaluate the overall concept of the restaurant and if it's really aiming for what it's communicating in terms of cuisine, ambiance, music, decor etc. Mom's Food message is home-style cooking with Mediterranean cuisine. However, the restaurant did look like pretty much any Lebanese restaurant - Nancy Ajram playing in the background, the sheeshas and the menu includes 90% Lebanese food with the occasional Seafood Paella, Greek Moussaka and Quattro Staggioni "Saj". That was a little bit confusing.

On to the food, we grabbed an array of Mezzas (or Arabic starters for anyone outside Dubai). We chose tabbouleh, fattoush, baba ghanouj, Mom's kubba, hindbeh and Mom's hommos. The starters were served with fresh baked bread which was nice and hot and assorted pickles & olives. I have this thing wherever I go that if hommos is served, I have to try it. I have to always try the hommos. I don't know why but I have to compare it and see if it's good. Once I saw that they served a "Mom's hommos", I thought I should definitely give it a try. 

The starters came pretty fast which left a good impression of the promptness of service for the rest of the meal. The baba ghanouj, kubba, hindbeh and Mom's hommos were very good. The hommos was topped with fried almonds and cumin (Although it did say parsley as well in the menu but I guess they were out of parsley?) The only thing I would add to it is one more drizzle of olive oil as it needed a little more smoothness to garnish but nonetheless, still munched it down. Also, make sure to order extra pomegranate syrup to top off your baba ghanouj - takes it to a whole different yum level.  Since I am quite a fan of tabbouleh, I've had a couple of them in my day and I have to say that their's is not the best and did lack some seasoning. Fattoush was also a little dry.

Mom's Hommos 
Tabbouleh and assorted pickles & olives
Left-right: Baba Ghanouj, Fattoush, Hindbeh
Mom's Kubba
When ordering the main courses, I was eyeing the Sea Food Moghrabeah which was explained to me as fresh shellfish and hamour with wheat dough mini balls - sounded interesting. However, after I was ready to order it, the waiter noted that they top it off with cheese. Then I got turned off. The idea of cheese melted on seafood doesn't sound quite right to me. Anyways, our waiter also pointed out that dishes served in pots are good for two so we decided to order one Chicken Bil Hommos Fatteh and one Chicken Barley Bake as these two come in pots as well as two Sheesh Tawook. I'm quite glad we were informed on the portion sizes as the mezzas were already leaving us almost full.

The main dishes came out pretty quickly like the starters which was positive. Our Chicken Fatteh was quite disappointing as it was drenched in oil and was too heavy to eat after 3 bites. Also, the chicken was very dry and rubbery. If you're planning to try the Fatteh, I suggest trying it with the meat. I can also recommend that this dish could be for 3-4 people especially after having starters prior to it. For the Chicken and Barley Bake, it was quite tasty and had a sweet kick to it as there was a strong cinnamon flavor to it. If you don't enjoy sweet with savory food and need sauce in your meal, then this isn't for you. The sheesh tawook were very good and fresh. The chicken was quite tender so it was a little frustrating why the chicken in the Fatteh was very hard. I would recommend for future to go for the Lebanese grills as I think that's more of their specialty.

Chicken Bil Hommos Fatteh
Chicken & Barley Bake

Grilled Shish Tawook

 After being very much stuffed, we decided to end the night with a fruit platter instead of desserts and a pot of Moroccan tea. I have to say that a lot of the time when I see fruits at restaurants, even high-end buffets, their fruit are always colorless and not ripe. This platter however was so vibrant and sweet - the mangoes literally melted in your mouth. Wash it down with a cup (or three) of Moroccan tea in the breezy weather and you're good to go.

Fruit Platter

Morrocan Tea Pot

Total price breakdown below (for 6):
1 x Tabbouleh = 20
1 x Baba Ghanouj = 20
1 x Mom's Hommos = 24
1 x Fattoush = 20
1 x Hindbeh = 20
1 x Mom's Kubba = 28
2 x Sheesh Tawook = 46 x 2 = 92
1 x Chicken Fatteh = 25
1 x Chicken and Barley Bake = 50
1 x Fruit Platter = 30
1 x Moroccan tea = 22
1 x Large Still Water = 10
Total (AED) = 361

All in all, the outdoor seating was nice, majority of food was good at decent prices and they have great service. I'd probably go back there again and try out some other dishes!

I've rated Mom's Food a 3.5 out of 5!

Have any of you tried Mom's Food? What would you rate it?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Ripe - Organic Farmer's Market!

I went to my first farmer's market visit in Dubai - so exciting! I've been to a couple in Europe during travelling but haven't had a chance to check the ones that are in Dubai. Ripe is an organic farmer's market at Dubai garden center which carries fresh and local produce.

Here's my picture diary to take you along...




Walking in to hear beautiful music by the saxophone player made the mood very much chilled and also fun!


Is there anything honestly better than the smell of freshly baked bread? You definitely know I sampled that rye bread. Mmm. Mmm. Mmm! I always find that bread with a lot more bite and crust has so much more character.



Organic and locally made beef & chicken sausages. 


They also carried a certain type of Australian dried meat called "Biltong" (shown in picture of the drying process). The texture is like beef jerky but the taste is almost like a bresaola that's been dried for much longer. If that makes sense :)


Fresh fish caught from the morning!


Seasonal vegetables and fruits. The beetroot on the right was so colorful and clean that my Dad actually uttered out the word "Beefroot" instead of beetroot when trying to call my attention to it! Haha.


Mini bananas (always just so cute) and assorted fruits and nibbles.


Vibrant green greens!


My Dad and I were so inspired after seeing these that we headed back inside the garden center afterwards and picked up Oregano and Basil seeds. So excited to start growing them!


Local fresh herb pot plants - that fresh mint smell was so enticing!
 

And a little something sweet to finish off your shopping. Selection included marble cake, crumble cake and brownies!

If you haven't checked out the Ripe farmer's market or any in Dubai for that matter, definitely give it a try. Even if you're not a foodie or into local/organic produce, it's a different experience and there's also a restaurant inside overlooking the garden center. After browsing on the Ripe's website, I am definitely eyeing that zucchini and cheese tart recipe! 

I will be checking out what other farmer's markets Dubai has to offer soon so stay tuned!

Love,

Mina