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Posts Tagged ‘national dish’

 Click the above “écusson” pic for a direct link to the interactive map and website for the history of L’ Ilot Sacré.

L’ Ilot Sacré got its name after a battle of the local restaurants, land lords and associations in the 1950-ties against promoters who saw big bucks to be made. Just read the history in the above mentioned website. They wrote it better than I would.

My contribution: just some suggestions about the places where you will get good to excellent quality food or where you can go sniffing the local atmosphere, sipping coffee, enjoying a beer or other drink while watching people. Although it is a popular and touristic area, you still can enjoy the buzz, just be attentive to avoid tourist traps. Just don’t forget the place is prime location and that means pricier than in less popular neighbourhoods. So, no real cheap deals available!

 Two of the most popular streets in  L’ Ilot Sacré are called ‘Rue des Bouchers’ and ‘Petite Rue des Bouchers’. That translates like ‘Butcher street’ and ‘Small Butcher street’. A lot of restaurants are attracting patrons while lots of seafood and vegetables are on display on ice, in front of the resto. A waiter at the door will be soliciting you in any possible language. As my wife and I walk by, it’s all “Ni Hao” from left and right… 

In general these are the places where you take some nice souvenir pictures with your friends and family. Just don’t eat there. They might propose Belgian, French, even Italian, Portuguese or Spanish cuisine. Many of the very young kitchen staff are sometimes not even trained cooks, but people from all over Europe including Eastern Europe, the Balkan, North and Sub-Saharian Africa.  Nothing wrong with that, unless they got declared ‘cook’ after half a day training!

 

Let’s point out some addresses  in  the neighbourhood. For drinks and watching people:

Delirium cafe –

A La Mort Subite-  (translates as: At A Sudden Death) 

Inside "A la Mort Subite" - Click the picture

Inside "A la Mort Subite" - Click the picture

Le Roy d’ Espagne –

Toone estaminet –

Beer shops, restaurants, taverns all over the place – I suggest “Aux Armes de Bruxelles”  – “Restaurant Vincent” – “Scheltema” – “L’ Ogenblik” – “Le Marmiton” etc…

More to follow in Part II, coming soon.

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We flew Air Asia before in 2004 but this was a first for a direct return flight from Hong Kong to Penang. Not a disappointment at all! Agreed, one has to walk a bit more to get to the airplane and you have to walk up a flight of stairs to get in the plane. So what? Even the POTUS has to do that on AF1!

3 hours and a few minutes after take off we walked through immigration, got us a taxi ticket and were on our way to savour Pg Food Paradise for a week. After getting rid of our luggage at mom’s place, we took the car and went for FOOD!

Kedai kopi Sin Hwa, Burma road, Pulau Tikus: here we come!IMG_1222

 

Sin Wha coffee shop

It happened to be “Malay New Year” this Monday 21st, so the place was crowded. No problem to wait for about 30/40 minutes because at the end of the tunnel there was something better than light: namely Char Koay Teow!

In the mean time we had some refreshing drinks and then, 75 minutes after landing + 40 minutes waiting:

CKT at Sin Hwa coffee shop  

However, the CKT was ok but did not convince me as being one of the best. Maybe the cook was under much pressure because of the many customers that day. It seemed to us that the dish was a bit off balance and a little too oily. I noticed he made batches for 4 to 5 plates at one go. Perhaps that influenced the finesse of the taste?

 Then again: hear, hear… are we too picky? We will try again on a next visit. And yes, even if we are critical, the CKT still was tasty!

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At the corner of the street, facing Kopitiam See Kong was a hawker stall selling Malaysian pancakes. A big crowd around was telling the best marketing publicity story ever… One day I’ll try the pancakes, even if I don’t have a sweet tooth!

pancakes

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Steak frites is another signature dish from traditional local cuisine in Belgium. Sure you’ll find great beef meat in other regions ( think US beef, Argentina beef, Japanese beef, Scottish beef etc… All are succulent yet different in their own ways.) The differences make it typical ambassadors of  their own native regions.

About the local popular Belgian beef breed/race:  “BBB” or Bleu-Blanc-Belge (Belgian Blue-White also known as Belgian Blue). Look what Wikipedia writes:

“Belgian Blue cattle are a beef breed from Belgium, known in French as Race de la Moyenne et Haute Belgique. Alternative names include Belgian Blue-White, Belgian White and Blue Pied, Belgian White Blue, Blue and Blue Belgian. The sculpted, heavily muscled appearance is known as “double muscling”, and is a trait shared by the Piedmontese breed. They are named for their typically blue-grey mottled hair colour, although it can vary from white to black.

The Belgian Blue has a natural mutation of the gene that codes for myostatin, a protein that counteracts muscle growth. The truncated myostatin is unable to function in this capacity, resulting in accelerated lean muscle growth. The defect in the breed’s myostatin gene is maintained through linebreeding. This mutation also interferes with fat deposition, resulting in very lean meat. Cows bred to double-muscled bulls are often unable to give birth naturally, requiring a caesarean section.

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The breed originated in central and upper Belgium in the nineteenth century, from crossing local cattle with Shorthorn cattle from the United Kingdom and probably with Charolais cattle. At first there were milking strains and beef strains of the breed. The modern beef breed was developed in the 1950s by Professor Hanset, working at an Artificial insemination centre in Liege province.”

280px-BlancBleuBelgeHow about this ox? Growing lots of yummy steaks! As said above their meat is very lean, so it does need some special attention while cooking . More about that later.

Second part about the fries… easy? Not really. Even in my native country it’s sad to see how those stalls selling fries are no longer an evidence regarding the quality. People want to sell but don’t want to work. Buying themselves pre-cut fries: what a joke!  The freshness of the product and the know-how of the cook must go hand in hand. Just compare it to making Char Koay Teow. It seems simple but finally it’s not!

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As for the fries, the potatoes that give the best results are the [big] Bintjes variety. Peel and cut into fries of 1 square cm large and about 8 to 10 cm long. Wash in water and make sure you get them dry with a kitchen towel. If no Bintjes are available, you will have to check different varieties before choosing. If the fries start to get dark brown spots while deep frying, the potato is useless. It’s a proof that they carry too much sugar. It helps a bit to blanch them for a minute in boiling water before deep frying but the end result will never be real good.

Deep frying in fat or oil? – Best result for taste is using 2/3 of vegetable white fat and 1/3 of horse fat. As nowadays the food police is always religiously concerned about eating as healthy as possible, their followers will be against using this kind of fat. The industry came up with special refined liquid oils as a ” less unhealthy” cooking method. The result is that taste-wise the fries are only a shadow of what they used to be in Grand-mom’s time… but, if it makes “them” feel better, so-be-it !!! However, I stick to the original whenever I can.  

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Regarding the frying pan, I suggest a high quality, electrical frying pan with a big oil capacity up to 5 liters and a very sensitive thermostat. When starting the frying use small batches of potatoes for avoiding the frying temperature dropping too fast. Fry the first time at temperature between 140 and 160 degrees C. The exact temperature depends on the oil and the quality of the potatoes. Don’t  fry till golden yet.

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After this first deep-frying keep the frites apart for at least half an hour on kitchen tissue that will absorb some of the oil/fat.

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For the final frying session heat up till 180 degrees C, fry the batch in a few minutes till crispy and golden. Take them out of the oil, shake to get rid of the remaining oil and serve with a pinch of salt.

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About the pics posted here: as I’m not living in Belgium I have no access to the white fat, Bintjes or BBB beef. So, I used vegetable sunflower seed oil.

Sunflower seed oil.

Sunflower seed oil.

 

Red potatoes (U.S.) who are the only ones I found to be relatively low on sugar.

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Australian tenderloin fillet steak.  BTW, if the steaks are very lean, ask the butcher some extra fat and pan fry it together with your steaks. It will enhance the taste. I always use extra fat when cooking BBB back in Belgium.

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This recipe was served with home-made black pepper cream sauce.

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Other traditional accompanying servings are “Beurre Maître d’Hôtel”, “Sauce Béarnaise”, the steak’s own “butter gravy”, “Sauce Provençale”… All all great if home-made. Please never use industrial sauces, gravies or mayonnaise. It’s an insult to your and my epicurean taste buds.

Bon Appétit

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mosselen

What makes a country, the size of Maryland, famous?

The bickering between Flemings and Walloons?  Its 6 (yes six) governments?  Being the Capital of Europe? Its chocolate and beer?              For me, it’s their fast food stalls serving fritten (fries) with different sauces and/or beef stew, chicken stew, satay skewers…

However the national dish in Flanders is not one to be found in that “fritkot” (fries-barrack) but in restaurants or at home: Mussels & fries.

The mussels come from Holland’s Yerseke and the Easter-Scheldt. There is a rumour that the Dutchies sell up to 70% of their annual mussel harvest to Belgium.

The cooking is very simple. No need for specials> Just wash the mussels 2 or 3 times in fresh water, then transfer them to a big pot. 

Chop lots of onions, lots of celeri and parsley; add white pepper. Put the pot on a high fire and pour some dry white wine in the casserole. Once the mussels open they’re ready to be eaten. Serve in deep soup plates and don’t forget to drink the bouillon as well.

As for the fries: deep fry them the Belgian way: first 3 or 4 minutes at 150 Celsius. Afterwards let them rest for 1/2 hour and finish frying them at 180 degrees Celsius till crisp.

Hint for the fries: use potatoes that are very low on sugar. “Bintjes” are the best but unfortunately not on offer all over the world. BTW, if no good potatoes available just serve the mussels with buttered bread. In fact, I personally prefer it that way.

Bon appetit!

mussels

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