Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hungry in Hungary

We have been staying in Budapest, Hungary for the past 2 nights. It is so hot right now! A big change from the cold weather we were experiencing in Portugal just a month ago. I wanted to try some traditional Hungarian food so we went to Café Kör for lunch yesterday. To cool ourselves down we tried Hideg Szamocaleves (Cold Strawberry Soup) as an appetizer at lunch time. It was very refreshing and tasted like a soupy strawberry smoothie.

I decided to try out the Rakott Kel (Layered Savoy Cabbage). It tasted like a "rolled cabbage" dish that my mom sometimes makes us for dinner. It is a dish made by cooking the cabbage leaves in salty water, layering them with cooked rice and ground meat flavored with paprika, pouring sour cream on top and baking it in the oven. It was topped off with a glob of sour cream and it was really good!
Hubby tried the Hungarian Veal Paprikash. (He always waits so patiently as I take pictures of his food, haha!) This is a classic Hungarian dish with pasta-like noodles in a thick sour cream and paprika sauce.
We also had a typical Hungarian Cucumber Salad called Uborka Salta. It tastes like Japanese tsukemono and is sprinkled with some spicy paprika.
For dessert we had Gundel palacsinta, which is a traditional Hungarian dessert of crepes stuffed with ground walnuts covered in chocolate sauce. It was very, very good. I love how it was a different twist on the typical French style crepes I've had. After lunch, we went to visit Szechenyi Thermal baths of Budapest.
It was so relaxing and so much fun!Café Kör
1051 Budapest,
Sas u. 17.
Tel: 311-0053

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Halušky in Slovakia

Where in the world are we now? We are in Slovakia! We arrived hungry yesterday so I searched the streets of old town Bratislava for some traditional Slovakian food. Our hotel receptionist reccomended 1. Slovak Pub which serves a wide range of organic Slovakian food.
The 1. Slovak Pub was a very interesting restaurant with individual rooms that present eras ranging from the old pagan times up until the revival era of the 19th century. It's a popular place for students and they even give free soup to students who bring in exams that scored A's! Slovakia is a small country not known for their cuisine. I decided to try the national dish, Halušky. Bryndzove Halušky is very similar to gnocchi and are small dumplings made out of flour and potato. The little dumplings are smothered in the local sheep's cheese called bryndza and sprinkled with fried bacon bits. I have to admit, the dish is not very pleasing to the eye. It looks like a dish of fat worms covered in puke, but it much better than it looks. I liked the texture of the dumplings, but the sheep cheese leaves an interesting after taste.
Hubby had the cesnakova polievka, a hearty garlic soup in a bread bowl. It tastes like something you would want to eat when you have the flu on a cold winter day.
After our tummies were filled we took the local bus to visit Devin Castle. This Slavic castle was founded in the 8th century and is located on top of high cliffs that provide a wonderful view of the Danube River and the city.1. SLOVAK PUB
Obchodná 62
811 02 Bratislava
SLOVAKIA
tel.:+421 2 5292 6367

Friday, June 20, 2008

What I've Been Eating in Istanbul

Today is our last day in Istanbul and I realized that I've barely been posting about what I've been eating! Hubby and I are starting to run out of money$ so we haven't been able to eat out at nice restaurants... but thats okay, we've been eating plenty of yummy and cheap street food! And I didn't get any food poisoning yet either! (knock on wood) Of course we had the obvious, Döner kebab, seen all over the streets of Istanbul. They slice off the juicy meat that has been roasting and turning round and round on a spit...for who knows how long. But it is so good!
We had Döner kebab in pita.
And Döner kebab wraps.
For dinner today I had Balik Ekmek, a grilled fish sandwich with an insert of tomatoes, lettuce, and onions.
mmm...fishy!I got hooked on this yogurt called Kanlica. They sell these yogurts on the ferry boats and they top them off with a heap of powdered sugar. Very addicting.Yesterday, hubby and I made a trip to Buyukada, one of the nine Princes' Islands and had a cheap ($1USD) lunch of börek. Börek is a Turkish pastry stuffed with meat and cheese.On every street corner is a man selling Turkish bagels (simit) from a cart. Smit is kind of like a big sesame bagel. It's only about 50 cents and tastes great, but I wish I had a side of cream cheese with it. People eat it straight up (without any butter or cream cheese), and it's so big that it could be your entire lunch.A big thank you to Peter (the guru of Greek food) from Kalofagas for giving me the advice to visit the Nevizade area. I would have never known to check that place out. It was a street full of restaurants, bars, and plenty of great food vendors. We went at night but the street was bumpin' with lots of people.
I literally went crazy and tried everything. This Tava, pictured above, was sooo good that hubby and I kept going back for seconds. Tava is a stick of fried mussels and they topped it off with some creamy garlic sauce. While there, we also tried Midye Dolma. Inside the shell of the mussel is stuffed with spicy rice. When you buy the Midye Dolma (about 50 cents each) the vendor opens the shell, squirts it with lemon, and uses one side of the shell to scrape out the inside so you can eat it straight from the shell. It tasted like paella and has an amazing burst of flavor. Ahhh Kumpir, one of my favorites. Let me break it down for you... it is basically mashed potatoes, inside of a baked potato, topped with potato salad. Seriously... you will go into a food coma after you eat this. This potato is huge! And you get to choose from a variety of toppings. This triple potato threat was awesome!
Everyone on the streets were eating kokorec, a lamb intestine sandwich. I thought I had enough lamb intestines in Scotland when I tried the Haggis there, but the vendor insisted I try this sandwich... on the house!

The sandwich was spicy, and had the distinct taste of... well, intestines. Although, very kind of the vendor to offer this sandwich for free... I felt bad that I couldn't finish the whole thing. I'm not too sure if I am a fan of this sandwich of lamb guts. Sorry.We washed all that food down with some Efes, Turkish Beer. This beer is pretty good, considering that most of the country is Muslim and don't drink alcohol.For dessert we had Turkish ice cream, also known as Dondurma. I've never had ice cream made from goats milk before. It has a different consistency than regular ice cream and has a fun and interesting chewy texture to it. Dondurma also has a lower level of lactose which is wonderful news for people slightly lactose intolerant like me. The fruits in Istanbul were really good too, especially the cherries. Well, I have to go and catch my flight to the next destination now... Goodbye Turkey, until we eat... I mean meet again.

The Turkish Bath

We had a looong day of sight seeing including the Blue Mosque...an icon of Istanbul. Haghia Sophia... The "church of holy wisdom," is among the world's greatest architectural mosques. Basillica Cistern... A ancient, vast underground water cisternand Topkapi Palace (including Harem). For 400 years the Ottoman sultans ruled their empire from this huge palace. To say we were tired is an understatement.We decided to wind down and go to a Turkish Bath (or Hamam) to relax and get a massage. We chose to go to the Suleymaniye Hamam since it was co-ed. The Suleymaniye Hamam is a historic Turkish bath built by the famed architect Sinan in 1550. I really didn't really know what to expect, although I watched the 1997 film "Hamam" a while ago...
We started off by relaxing in a warm room called a sıcaklık (like a sauna) for about 45 min. There is a large marble stone in the center of the room where people lay down and relax, when you look up to the domed ceiling there are small glass windows that shine down beams of light. The corners of the room had little niches with fountains where you can clean yourself with hot or cold water. After soaking up the steam and sweating up a storm the Tellak (or masseurs) came in. Our tellaks were young Turkish men... they started off by scrubbing our bodies with soap and washing our hair. I found it very odd to be washed by a strange man, of course I was wearing a bathing suit but it was kinda weird. Still, strangely enjoyable? Then they gave us full body massages which felt amazing after walking all day. The Turkish Bath was quite an experience and it was exactly what we needed.
After the massage we went to the cooling-room to cool down and enjoy a cup of Turkish tea. I feel like my batteries were recharged and I'm ready for another full day of sightseeing. Bring it on!

A Turkish Experience

I don't know how authentic of a Turkish experience it is... but the other night hubby and I went to go watch a Turkish folk dance and belly dance show. It's more of a tourist trap, but we had a lot of fun. The belly dancers were beautiful and made me want to try my hand at belly dancing... but I won't be belly dancing any time soon with the gut I'm growing on this vacation. haha.
Drinking Turkish tea (çay), on the other hand is a truly authentic Turkish experience. Everywhere you go you see people with tiny glass cups in their hands, swirling their spoon and sipping this type of black tea. You drink the tea with cubes of sweet beetroot sugar. I love the delicate little glass cups that show the glimmering color the tea.Turkish tea is typically prepared using two stacked kettles (çaydanlık) especially designed for tea preparation. Water is brought to a boil in the larger lower kettle and then some of the water is used to fill the smaller kettle on top and steep several spoons of loose tea leaves, producing a very strong tea. I saw this man selling tea at the Grand Bazaar the other day. The tea salesman carries this huge silver tea caddy on his back and bends forward, holding a hose until the teacup is filled.I want to take a Turkish tea set back home but I'm afraid it would break because we still have close to 2 weeks left of travels...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Where East Meets West

Today hubby and I took a trip up the Bosporus. The Bosporus is the straights seperating Europe and Asia, which join the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. So this morning we had breakfast in Europe and then we had lunch in Asia! In this photo you can see the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge with Asia on the right side and Europe on the left.The ferry took us to Anadolu Kavagi, where we hiked up a long and greuling hill to reach the ruins of the 15th Century Yoros Castle. Yoros Castle sits on a hill surrounded by steep bluffs overlooking the Bosporus and has breath taking views of the Black sea. It was all worth the long climb...We had a wonderfully simple and healthy lunch of grilled fish in the small fishing village called Anadolu Kavağı, on Macar Bay. There were lots of cute little fish restaurants where they grill your fresh fish outside by the water.I had the grilled Dorado fish.Hubby had the grilled Sea bass. It was all simple, fresh, and tasty.When we got back to the city, I even had dessert! Baklava!!! I love Baklava and I promise that I'm going to challenge myself to attempt making it once I get back to the States. They seem to eat a lot of pistachio in Turkey, so a lot of the Baklava I see use pistachio nuts instead of walnuts, but it is equally as good. What is there not to love about Baklava? It's sticky, gooey, crunchy, flakey, and oh so sweet!

KONYALI
Sirkeci Lokanta
02125139610 (3 Hat)

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