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Jamaican Patties in Toronto

 A Jamaican patty is a flaky turmeric flavoured turnover filled with a Caribbean spiced beef, vegetable, or sometimes salt cod stuffing. They are available almost anywhere a large Jamaican expat community resides. Jamaican patties are one of the most common and popular street snacks in Toronto. Unlike London UK where patties are found mostly in the areas with a large Caribbean population,
Jamaican patties can be found city wide in convenience stores, gas stations, and even the subway. People are very opinionated about who makes the best patties here, and you can find many blogs and forums with long discussions on the subject. In general most people agree that Randy's patties at Oakwood and Eglinton are the best, with Tinnel's and Allen's representing the East end and Patty King and Caribbean Queen of Patties being two of the downtown favourites. I used to get them at Rap's when I lived up at Eglinton and Marlee, and at Alberts when I lived on Vaughn Road.
Having some of Matouks Calypso sauce to dip in makes the patties even better and a Grace ginger beer rounds out the Toronto patty experience. Frozen Jamaican patties are available in almost every supermarket with Patty King being the best of the brands

I think some of the best patties come from inside the Bathurst and Warden subway stations at Bakery on the Go. Many people agree and these 2 places sell great patties as well as coco buns so you can make a coco bun/patty sandwich which is delicious, cheap, and filling. Slice a coco bun in half and stick a patty inside. It's both sweet and hot.

Coco Bun Patty Sandwich Photo by bionicgrrrl
A Toronto Patty Sandwich!
Although coco bun patty sandwiches are well known and quite popular in many places, there is a type of patty sandwich that I believe is a unique Toronto invention and possibly one of the only truly Torontonian contributions to the culinary world besides back bacon sandwiches. The "Toronto Patty Sandwich" as I will call it, is a Jamaican patty split and filled with lettuce, tomato, cheese, mayo, and some kind of coldcut. It's a real thing and was available in independent donut and snack shops all around Toronto. It was a clever way to use day old patties with the lettuce and tomato re-moistening the pastry. I used to buy them all the time at a donut place at College and Grace in the early 90's. These Toronto Patty Sandwiches are more of a legend now, as chain donut shops and coffee places take over downtown and push out the independents. But I'm sure you'll able to find them still, probably in some little strip malls tucked in various corners of the city. Please comment if you know of any places that serve these.
Anatomy of a Toronto Patty Sandwich
 Toronto Patty Sandwiches are an odd guilty pleasure that many people find repulsive. Here is a funny video of a guy in Toronto admitting he likes them with a worried friend talking to him about the situation via a phone message.

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Ping Gai - Laotian Grilled Chicken

In 1999 I spent 2 months travelling from Muang Sing at the China-Laos border down to Don Det by the Cambodian border making my way along the entire length of Laos by bus and boat. By bus I mean something with a motor and wheels.

various methods of trasportation in Laos
The number of different ways to get around Laos is incredible and one of the most memorable experiences one can have. Every time I meet someone who has been to Laos we eventually get to swapping horror stories about getting from one place to another. Our truck got stuck in a ditch trying to pass an elephant. The bus was so crammed with rice and textiles I couldn't feel my legs. The bus broke down and we had to wait in the middle of nowhere for 7 hours until a truck full of pineapples picked us up. there were live chickens tied together by the legs in the seat next to me. The stories go on and on.

It is advisable to pick up a couple of khao jee pate sandwiches in a market before you leave as most of the time the only breaks you get are quick stops to put something on or off the vehicle at small towns and villages. Usually the only food and drink you can get are sold by hawkers shoving their wares though the open windows of the bus. Something on a stick is the most popular choice with many options available. Roasted eggs, spicy cockroaches, chicken hearts, water rat, and the tasty and more familiar ping gai chicken. I've tasted them all, and other then getting cockroach wings stuck in my teeth, it was a pleasant experience.

Barbecued Rat for Sale. Photo from http://www.tienchiu.com/travels/laos/laos-random-photos/
Cockroach Vendor
Ping Gai Chicken photo by Recovering Vagabond
Ping gai is a flattened and marinated chicken piece skewered on bamboo and grilled. In Thailand it is called kai yang and is often sold by Isaan vendors street side with sticky rice and som tam, a spicy and salty green papaya salad. Isaan people come from the North East of Thailand bordering Laos and the Mekong river and have a similar rural lifestyle and culture to the Tai in Laos, the major ethnic group in the country. Urban migration has brought many people to cities like Bangkok and the Isaan food vendors have become familiar and popular to all Thais.

Here is a video of som tam being made the traditional way at a floating market in Bangkok. a good recipe can be found here: http://www.thai-info.net/thaifood/somtam.htm

Ping gai is a fairly simple dish with just a few ingredients, but the flavours are bold and delicious. Like som tam and many other street foods there is no specific measurements or recipes and one learns by doing. When I googled ping gai to see what other people's opinions were, I was pleasantly surprised to find The Queen Mother Cafe in Toronto to be a top source for recipes on the web.  The Queen Mother/Rivoli was one of my first jobs out of George Brown in 1987. I had the pleasure of working with Noy Phongnanouvong, a great woman who has been cooking Laotian style food with some of her family at the Queen Mum and the Rivoli since 1978. I can therefore vouch for the recipe's authenticity and use it as the base for my own, which is slightly more elaborate with elements of the traditional dipping sauce jiao mak len incorporated into the marinade.

Ping Gai Recipe

Cut three chicken legs into drum and thigh and marinate in the following for a couple of hours.

4 cloves crushed garlic
1 tbsp cracked black pepper
1 tbsp chopped lemongrass
1 tbsp ground palm sugar
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp sambal oelek
1 bunch chopped coriander leaf

substitute brown sugar for palm sugar if it is unavailable
Soak 6 chopsticks in water while the chicken marinates, then skewer the chicken pieces and grill on a barbecue. serve with som tam and sticky or jasmine rice.

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Bake 'n' Shark - A Trini Speciality

I was at the Caribana Festival in Toronto this weekend and happened upon a stand selling Bake 'n' Shark, a sandwich invented and made famous at Maracas Beach in Trinidad. Seasoned and deep-fried pieces of shark are stuffed inside fried batter bread and topped with cabbage, lettuce, onions and pineapple pieces. A large variety of condiments are available to flavour the sandwich as you will.

I've never been to Trinidad , but the sandwich I had was very tasty and the woman who sold it to me swears it is the authentic recipe just as you would get at Richard's stand at Maracas Beach. Richard's started making Bake 'n' Shark in the early 80's, and since then many stands have started selling the same thing, making it a kind of tradition in the area.
After receiving my sandwich I immediately headed for the condiments and topped mine with tamarind sauce, scotch bonnet, and shadow bennie sauce. Shadow bennie is an herb specific to the Caribbean and similar to coriander leaf.

The sustainability of shark meat is not very positive right now so kingfish, tilapia or another dense meaty fish would be a good alternative if you want to make this at home. Personally I think the enjoyment of the sandwich is the texture of the bread and the sweet and sour condiment mix you top it with so I could recommend deep fried chicken bits or even alligator meat as a good alternative.

The recipe for the "bake" is from secretfoods.blogspot.com and works great. The tamarind sauce recipe is something I've been making for years for samosas and goes well with this dish.
"Bake" Trini Fried Bread 

This is the bread that is served with shark to make the famous Maracas Bay shark and bake. The bakes are simple and quick to prepare. Yield: 4 to 6 bakes
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
1 teaspoon sugar
Vegetable oil for frying
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and sugar, and mix with a fork. Add enough water to make a dough and knead gently. Cut the dough into 4 to 6 pieces (depending on how large you want the bakes to be) and roll each piece into a ball. Let stand for a few minutes.
Flatten the balls of dough until they are about ¼ inch thick, and fry in hot oil until they are brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Kind of like a pita bread.

Tamarind Sauce

½ tamarind pulp
1 cup water
½ cup sugar
1 finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove
1 or 2 shakes scotch bonnet sauce
chopped fresh cilantro

mix all ingredients in a sauce pot and simmer for about 15 minutes. Puree with hand blender and chill.
Cut your protein ( kingfish, chicken, etc.) into 1 inch pieces and marinate in some lime juice, sprinkling of sugar and salt. Dredge in flour and deep fry until crispy. Slice open the "bake" and fill with meat pieces shredded cabbage and pineapple. Top with tamarind sauce and any other condiments you think will go well and enjoy.

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Grillbarmad - Danish Fast Food

frikadeller meatball sandwich

Traditional Danish fast food unfortunately is declining in popularity. Hotdogs at pølsevogn on the streets are still quite popular, but classic grillbarmad is slowly being replaced by more exotic foreign fast foods like falafels, bagels, pizza and american burger chains.
Grillbarmad is a style of food served in grillbars, small neighbourhood hole in the walls that serve simple takeaway food rooted in Danish culinary tradition.

danish fast food

Similar to chippys in the UK, grillbars often cater to the after club scene and provide comfort food for hangovers the next day.

Here are some classic items on a typical grillbar menu:

Pølser - various types of Danish hotdogs
Bøfsandwich - a Danish burger with ketchup, crispy onions, remoulade and pickles
Ribbensandwich - thick slices of roast pork, red cabbage, and pickles on a bun
kyllingesandwich - grilled chicken with lettuce, tomato, and mayo on a bun
fiskefilet - breaded fried fish with pommes frites and remoulade
Frikadellesandwich - danish meatball burger with red cabbage, crispy onions, remoulade and pickles
Biksemad - a fry of small beef cubes, potato, and onion served with beets and fried egg
Pølsemix - french fries topped with cut up hotdog pieces, raw chopped onion and  curry ketchup
Brændende kærighed - fried bacon cubes and caramelized onions in gravy over mashed potatoes
Boller i karry - pork meatballs in mild curry sauce on mashed potatoes
Buggi burger - a very large burger (up to 1 pound) with tomato, lettuce, and mayo (no one seems to know what "buggi" means but it is used on menus all over Denmark)

biksemad polsermix
Pølsemix and Biksemad
There are several different styles of grillbar and what they offer varies.

•  Pølsevogn. I wrote an earlier article on Danish hotdog stands you can read here
•  A pølsebod is like a korvkiosk in Sweden offering hotdogs as well as pommes frites and bøfsandwiches
•  A Pavillion tends to be in the countryside near family campgrounds and parks. It serves the above plus ice cream and breakfast items
•   Havnegriller lie outside harbours in coastal towns and have plated items like battered shrimp and fries, wienerschnitzel, pølsemix, and frikadeller
• Gryden such as "Vikinegryden" and "Den Sorte Gryden" can be found in larger towns and serve all the Danish grillbar items as well as steaks and roast pork for takeaway

danish grillbar

kinagrill denmark
Danish Kinagrills
a Kinagrill offers pølser, ribbensandwich, and sometimes biksemad as well as old school Chinese food for Danish tastes, like sweet and sour pork balls, chop suey, giant eggrolls and of course boller i karry

vesterbro kebab shop
    The other major type of grillbar is a shawarma grill which offers middle eastern food with pommes frites as well as kyllingesandwich and fiskefilet. In Copenhagen, Vesterbro and Nørrebro have a rivalry over who has the best shawarma. I side with Nørrebro.

danish grillbar

A unique grill bar by the Copenhagen airport is Flyvegrillen. This grillbar has been operating on the edge of the runways since 1972 catering to plane-spotters and families. It offers all the classics and has model airplanes hanging from the ceiling.

Recipe For Frikadeller Sandwiches

Frikadeller is the national dish of Denmark. I used to buy frikadeller sandwiches at a  smørrebrød takeaway at Nørrebros Runddel, but it's long gone now. I translated this recipe from 'Frøken Jensens kogebog' which was released in 1901 and is considered the definitive source of 19th century Danish cuisine.

200gr ground veal
200gr ground pork
100-150 ml flour
300-400 ml. milk1
2 eggs
1 finely diced onion
2 tsp. salt
pepper to taste

frikadeller meatball sandwich1. Beat the pork, veal, flour and onion together in a mixer until well blended
2. Slowly add the eggs and milk a little at a time while mixing
3. A good frikadeller farce needs to be homogeneous and well blended
4. Let the mix rest in the refrigerator for an hour
5. Form into oblong egg sized balls
6. Fry in butter on both sides until well browned and cooked in the centre

frikadeller meatball sandwich

remoulade red cabbage crispy onions
To make the sandwich you need the standard Danish condiments pickled red cabbage, bread and butter pickles, crispy onion bits, ketchup, and remoulade. Remoulade is a danish specialty which is difficult to find outside Denmark. Blending tartar sauce with some mustard and finely chopped gherkins is a close approximation. If you live in Toronto Hansen's Danish Bakery on Pape ave sells bottled remoulade from Denmark.
 Slice the frikadeller in halve and serve on a toasted kaiser roll topped with the condiments.

frikadeller meatball sandwich

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The Travelling Rib Show

Every summer a phenomenon known as Ribfest takes place all over North America. Professional "rib teams" travel across the country competing in rib cook-offs against one another for top spot in several categories including: Best Ribs, Best Sauce, Best Pulled Pork, and the Peoples Choice Award. In the past 10 years the ribfest has become an increasingly popular event drawing thousands of visitors and creating a circus/carnival atmosphere wherever it stops.

Toronto ribfest

All the teams surround their BBQ pits with colourful banners proudly proclaiming the pedigree of their wares. "Best Ribs Louisville 2006" says one. "Best in Show Nashua New Hampshire" proclaims another. Out front of each pit stands a tout drawing the customers in to try the ribs, or chicken, barbecued to perfection by the waiting teams.
Coleslaw, beans, girls in cowboy hats, and bands playing ZZ Top or B.T.O all accompany the stacks of ribs on the grills.

Toronto ribfest

 On June 3, 1972 the first formal barbecue cook off, The World Championship Cow Country BBQ Cookout in Uvalde, TX, started the ball rolling and barbecue cook-offs have sprouted up all over since then. Chicago is said to be the home of the first ribfest, but major events are held from Dallas,Texas to Timmins, Ontario. The Toronto Ribfest draws about 150,000 people to Centennial Park every year.
Vendors selling corn, candy apples, and blooming onions, as well as children's carnival rides tow their rigs from town to town every weekend. One couple from Florida I spoke to spends their whole summer earning tuition for school working these events. Maybe one year I'll become a "rib carny" for the summer and join the BBQ circus.

Toronto ribfest

There is no way I can give you my rib sauce recipe. Not because its secret, but because I don't measure any ingredients and it comes out different every time. Coleslaw is the perfect side for ribs and the coleslaw they make in North Carolina known as Lexington Red Slaw is one of my favourites, So I'll give you my recipe for that instead. Lexington slaw uses ketchup and hot sauce instead of mayonnaise to give it extra tang.
Lexington Red Slaw

2 lb white cabbage shredded
 1 red onion chopped
1 red pepper diced
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
few dashes of hot sauce

combine and serve with grilled ribs and baked beans

Lexington red slaw recipe

You can see more photos of Toronto Ribfest 2011 at my photoblog - http://adventurefoodiephoto.blogspot.com/2011/07/toronto-ribfest-2011.html

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Violet Ice Cream in Côte d'azur

Tourrettes-sur-Loup is a small medieval village set in the hills about 15km from Nice, France. The village is famous for cultivating violets which are used in the perfumes made in nearby Grasse as well as in specialty confectioner shops in the area. A "violet festival" is held every march when the flowers bloom. A parade as well as a "bataille des fleurs", where villagers throw flowers at each other, celebrate the occasion

violet ice cream tourrette sur loup

It's a nice place to walk around and in the centre of town is a boulodrome to play petanque (a French version of lawn bowling). It's a relaxing place to hang out and you can drink a coffee or pastis while watching the locals play.
violet ice cream tourrette sur loup
 Ice cream flavoured with Flowers is popular in Côte d'azur, and in Nice Fenocchio is famous for it's rose, orange blossom, and jasmine flavours. In Tourrettes-sur-Loup a small glacier called Tom's uses the local violets in their ice cream. A cone of violet flavoured ice cream with a crystallized violet garnish costs about 2 euros. I found it quite perfumey, but it doesn't taste too strong. Tom's is a tiny place, but Tourrettes is small, so if you ever happen to be there it won't be hard to find.

See more pictures of my trip at Adventurefood Photo Blog
violet ice cream tourrette sur loup
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Socca in the Cours Saleya

Visiting Nice was great. I had some good food and fun times. The Cours Saleya market in old town is as touristy as it gets and I along, with many others, was eager to try the socca at Chez Theresa in the heart of the market. Socca is flatbread made of chickpea flour, olive oil, water, and salt. The batter is cooked over a charcoal filled drum in a large meter wide cast iron pan, cut into slices and served hot. originally from nearby Genoa it is known as farinata in Italy

socca cours salaya nice
Socca Pan
Theresa is known as "the queen of socca" and she looks and acts the part. Singing songs and telling jokes she entertains the crowd waiting for the next batch of socca to be ready. Her stall has been in the market since 1925 and Theresa has been running it for the last 27 years.

socca cours salaya nice
Sign at Chez Theresa
Here's a video of Theresa doing her thing:

 Make sure you visit her place if your ever in Nice.
See more pictures of my trip to Nice at Adventurefood Photo Blog
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Currywurst in Berlin

toronto currywurst berlin

One of the first things I felt I needed to do when I got to Berlin was to try currywurst. Luckily the hostel I was staying in was just a couple of blocks down from the Berlin's oldest currywurst place Konnopke's Imbiss in Prenzlauer Berg. Currywurst is a pretty simple but tasty snack that seems to be loved by everyone. A German style pork sausage usually bockwurst is deep fried, cut into pieces, and topped with a ketchup-like tomato sauce and curry powder, and usually served with french fries or a bread roll. This combination was invented in 1947 by Herta Heuer, who was influenced by American and British soldiers who loved ketchup and curry powder respectively. A plaque has been erected on Kantstraße in the Charlottenburg area of west Berlin in her honour.

currywurst berlin
from wikipedia
When you order your Currywurst you can ask for it skin on "Currywurst mit Darm" or without skin "Currywurst ohne Darm". Apparently mit Darm is more popular in West Berlin and ohne Darm in the East. If you order it "scharf" extra cayenne powder is sprinkled on top. If you get currywurst with fries, mayonnaise is usually added.

currywurst berlin
from jaunted
Like most local delicacies there is a debate over who serves the best currywurst in Berlin. I ate at Konnopke's, Curry7 in Kreuzberg, Curry36 also in Kreuzberg, and at Alexanderplatz from a "grillwalker". In my opinion Curry7 was the best, but it was after bar hopping at the many bars and patios in the area. Most cite Curry36 as the best. A map of popular currywurst locations in Berlin can be found here: http://gridskipper.com/.

currywurst berlin toronto

Most currywurst sellers have their own special recipe for the curry ketchup, but stores also sell ready-made curry ketchup, which is nothing like you get at a proper imbiss. Hela seems to be the most popular brand. I used to buy it at Aldi in Copenhagen and find it strangely addictive in it's own right. "scharf" is the only way to go.

A "grillwalker" sells wursts from a mobile kitchen strapped around his neck, a bit like a old time cigarette girl. I don't know if their unique to Alexanderplatz, but I didn't come across them anywhere else. Here is a video of grillwalkers in action.

Over 800 million currywurst are sold in Germany a year, mostly in little snack shops called imbiss. Imbiss usually sell other types of sausages on their own with condiments like the pølsevøgn in Denmark serve, as well as hotdogs, wiener schnitzel, frites, and sometimes burgers and döner kebab ( Berlin's other famous street food).

currywurst berlin

The Deutsches Currywurst Museum at Schützenstraße 70 near Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin is dedicated to everything currywurst and has fun interactive installations and events. For a more "upscale" experience similar to eating gourmet poutine in Toronto or gastro bánh mi in New York, you can have currywurst served on chinaware with champagne at Bier's Kudamm 195 on Kurfürstendamm in Charlottenburg.

currywurst berlin
Curry7 on Schlesische Straße in  Kreuzberg

currywurst berlin
Konnopke's in Prenzlauer Berg opened in 1930 - photo by Geir Halvorsen

currywurst berlin
Curry36 is one of the most popular night time currywurst places - photo by sophposh

 I have put this of the menus of several places in Toronto. I sourced locally produced knockwurst  and make my own version of curry ketchup to top it with. Here's my recipe:

Currywurst Ketchup
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 roma tomatoes diced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/4 white onion diced
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup ( this gives it a bottled ketchup consistency) 
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 tbsp madras curry powder
  • couple of shots of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp salt

1. Fry the garlic, onions, and curry powder in a little oil
2. add tomato paste and fry some more
3. add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about 15 minutes
4. Puree with a hand blender
currywurst ketchup recipe berlin
Homemade Curry Ketchup

Another interesting currywurst video:

currywurst berlin
My Currywurst

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