Sunday, October 22, 2006

My List of 50 Foods To Eat Before You Die

The list of Fifty Foods to Eat Before You Die from the BBC has Thai and Chinese food, but somehow they omitted Indian food. Probably because it is such a given in England and something that they might take for granted. Indian, Italian and Jamaican food are virtually the only sustenance in Britain, if you get tired of meat, pub fare or burgers.

Speaking of Indian food, t
he Missus loves #1 Chicken Makhanwala and this recipe is a fair approximation to the one we usually order. This dish melts in your mouth.

#2 The
Australian Lobster is the “J-Lo” of lobsters, because it is all tail. The way Scoma’s prepares it, well, let’s just say it is far more delicious and delicate than the lobster you are used to eating.

Regular readers of my blog know that I love #3
Burritos. Not that horrendous stuff that they serve you at convenience stores or in what passes for a Mexican restaurant east of the Mississippi. But an honest, to God, burrito. That means quality meat that is preferably marinated, but should at least be roasted or slow-cooked. Last but not least, are the fillings. Good beans, quality onions, guacamole, salsa, fresh sour cream, and cilantro.

Regular readers also know that I’m always looking for a good #4
Lobster Roll.

If there is one thing that the English do well more often than not, it’s #5 Prime Rib. Too many people in the world have experience mediocre good prime rib and not known it. The perfect compliment to prime rib besides “mash,” is #6
Yorkshire Pudding.

#7 Burmese food. Burma is not just between India and Thailand geographically, but also from a culinary standpoint as well. Especially with Burmese curry, which taste-wise is the exact middle to Thai and Indian, but with more turmeric. Check out the
Burma Superstar menu, to get an idea of Burmese fare.

The perfect accompaniment to Burmese curry is #8 Platha, which the menu lists as “Indian influenced pan fried layered bread.” That is as accurate a statement as can be made in such a small line, but I think that would give people the impression that they’re actually talking about
naan. Platha is not as heavy as naan and is more croissant-like in layers and texture.

Forget about the quesadilla, #9 the
Pupusa it’s at. It’s all about the cheese and this is the one thing the Salvadorians can lord over the Mexicans.

I would say that for the most part, what passes for Mexican food outside of the Southwestern states, is barely acceptable. Though the influence of real Mexican food is spreading and you all will catch up with us, eventually. One of my favorite all time Mexican dishes is #10
Chile Verde. One of the best stews ever and even the worst cook would have to work hard to ruin it.

The sister of chile verde is #11
Chile Colorado, which is also the not too distant relative of the original chili that was served to the cowboys on their cattle drives. No beans of course, or technically, it’s not chili.

Many a gourmet is familiar with #12
Tiramisù, but how about the dessert’s near cousin, #13 Zuppa Inglese, or “English soup.” An odd and terrible name, for one of the world’s most heavenly desserts.

The grandmother of a filmmaker friend thought I was out of my skull when I tried to describe the #14 Bistecca alla Florentina (Florentine Beefsteak) to her. Because Italian steaks tend to be much smaller than their American counterparts, so she thought I was telling one big fish story, too many. Yet this steak is the biggest, juiciest cut that there is in Italy and in Europe. I’ll let
Traveltuscany.net describe it…
The word Bistecca is derived from the English “beef steak” and the Bistecca alla Florentina is a porterhouse cut believed to have been introduced to the region by wealthy English residents in the 1800s. The Bistecca alla Florentina is made from the meat of the Vacca Chianina (pronounced Kee-a-nee-na), a large white breed of cattle that takes its name from the Chiana valley and was originally raised in this region for agricultural work and also to pull carts. But it was found to yield wonderfully tasty and tender meat, and is now valued for this attribute. The people of Florence consider the Bistecca alla Florentina one of the highest expressions of Tuscan gastronomical achievement, and, after eating my fill at the Trattoria Sanesi, I agree with them.

Moving to the other side of the globe…Vietnamese food is about fresh ingredients and simple, not overwhelming tastes so that there is nothing to inhibit your enjoyment.

#15
Bi Cuon (“be-kwan”) are sometimes called Vietnamese spring rolls with shredded pork, pork skin, mint leaves, garlic, lettuce and sometimes, rice noodles in the filling. I could liken the outer skin to a soft tortilla, but it’s made out of rice paper and not deep-fried like Chinese egg rolls.

Start with dough for a baguette, then make sure that is lighter and less crusty than its French counterpart. Take shredded carrot, julienned cucumber, fresh cilantro, salt, pepper, rice vinegar, and your favorite meat, lightly seasoned to perfection. Then imagine that combination tasting twice as good as you could ever make it, then you would have #16
Bánh mì. Like I’ve said before in my blog about the Wiki entry, “nobody calls them ‘Vietnamese hoagies.’ That's like calling spaghetti, ‘Italian chow mein."

From the same
blog entry, there was Irving Café’s #17 “Special Chicken.” "Special Chicken" is just that and certainly not in the context to condescend. Light fluffy rice, jasmine, I guess. Broiled chicken, cucumbers, fresh cilantro, carrots marinated in rice vinegar, and a fine rice vinegar-dipping sauce to compliment the taste adventure.

Reggio di Calabria is a city on the toe of the boot that is about to kick Sicily. I stayed in a town just north of that and one of the local pizzerias had this treat, #18 Arancini, or “little oranges.” They are deep fried, saffron-risotto balls. They are filled with mozzarella or provolone, onions, peas, mushrooms, ham, sausage, and ground beef. I had them with mozzarella, peas, onions and ground beef inside, as well as cheap saffron and this is one of the rare occasions where you don’t want good saffron at all.

All of you have had pasta and a few of you have had risotto, but it’s not the real thing unless it tastes and feels like you’ve eaten a butter and saffron cloud. This #19 Risotto alla Milanese recipe is a good approximation, though there’s a secret or two that every good Italian cook won’t let you in on, just what makes theirs superior. Good butter and real Parmesan are essential. Gran Padano cheese will do in dire emergencies.

On a cold day, nothing beats #20
Udon, with beef in particular. Anyone who has seen “Tampopo” or has eaten good Japanese food, knows that the soup base means everything. Likewise with the Vietnamese counterpart, #21 Pho. Pho is excellent stuff, though I tend to avoid the style served with beef tendons or squid balls (clean up your mind, it’s balls formed from squid…never mind).

One of the best Thai soups is #22
Tom Ka Gai, or “chicken coconut soup.” The best thing for heading off a cold at its onset.

If there is one thing that Jews and Russians can agree on, that’s #23
Blintzes, their take on the crepe. My favorite? Filled with ground beef and topped off with sour cream.

Everyone else seems to prefer theirs filled with cheese, but my favorite variation of the cheese blintz is the Italian version, the # 24 Sofficini. Unfortunately, I can’t find an accurate representation or recipe of this dish on the Internet, even after twenty minutes of searching. The variation I had in Italy, was a crepe, covered with bread crumbs and fried. It was filled with melted mozzarella, but it wasn’t heavy at the ingredients sound.


I loved enchiladas as a kid and as a teenager, not so much now. You won’t see me in Mexican restaurants that have “combination plates” because they tend to be the least authentic and I prefer authentic Mexican cuisine or taquerias, to the less authentic places. For the most part, they serve enchiladas that are tomato paste, marginal cheese, marginal shredded beef, and a mush that is somehow meant to represent refried beans.

The antidote to such mediocrity? #25 Enchiladas Suiza or “Swiss enchiladas.” This recipe is a good representation. This dish is so good, even the lowliest of frozen food companies hasn’t figured out how to ruin it yet.

If you find yourself in the
Emilia Romagna area of Italy, you have to try #26 Tortelli di Zucca (which loosely translated, means “pumpkin ravioli”). Sweet pumpkin-filled pillows, covered in a butter and sage sauce, topped off with freshly grated Parmesan. I do have a problem with the recipes I found online as I definitely don’t remember the presence of mustard powder, biscotti di amaretti (amaretto cookies) or potatoes.

#27
Jambalaya is my favorite Cajun dish. Andouille sausage, chicken, shrimp, tomatoes, and sometimes, even okra is welcome, to one of the best stews ever. The quick version is equally as tasty.

A few Asian fusion and Vietnamese restaurants serve a #28 Roasted Garlic Crab that I suspect has some French influence, because butter is one of the main ingredients. Garlic, butter, plenty of black pepper, and sometimes red pepper too, depending on the restaurant. At some restaurants, the spices are similar to the next dish on the list, #29 Maryland soft shell crabs.

I remember the first time I had these, I thought they were too small to eat. Then someone explained to me that you don’t crack the crab, but you eat it whole. I replied something to the effect of, “what do I look like, a sea otter?” Because realistically, I look more like a river otter, but that’s beside the point. Next thing I knew, I ate about a dozen of them and I’ve developed a life long addiction to both soft shell crabs and #30 Old Bay Seasoning.

Old Bay Seasoning has celery salt (celery seed and salt), mustard, red pepper, black pepper, bay leaves, cloves, allspice, ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon, and paprika. Basically, an American take on curry or garam marsala. It’s a perfect start for a spice rub, or you can use it on any seafood or mayonnaise-based salad. I love it in potato salad and I can’t imagine #31
Crab Cakes without it.

#32 Texas-style Barbecue. I’m partial to recipes with molasses, brown sugar, paprika and hopefully a good like hickory or mesquite will be involved.

Shrub, the Elder, wouldn’t have that sour, constipated look on his face if he would put aside his hatred of broccoli and switch over to #33
Broccolini. It‘s a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale. A little olive oil, garlic, a pinch of salt, and you have vegetable that will win over any kid and even some adults.

I put #34
Star Fruit, just to add something exotic to the list. I’ve had it before and it wasn’t remarkable enough for me to remember. It costs a fortune, even when its in season. Yet, this is the kind of thing I’m going to buy once a month if I ever become rich, because that’s as decadent as I get.

As the Missus said, she won me over because of her #35
Baba Ghanoush, when that’s just the icing on the cake. The dish has eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, parsley, and the Missus adds olive oil, and loads of garlic. The one dish that I could eat every day of my life and not get sick of.
When we honeymooned in Jamaica, there was the jerked fare, plenty of fish, and #36
Curried Conch. A sublime food that is not as strong or heavy in taste, as other shellfish can be.

The Missus also makes some of the best #37
Steak Au Poivre. Hou là, magnifique!

Why not #38 Buffalo? It’s leaner than beef and it makes a better burger or stew.


One of the benefits of living in the San Francisco Bay Area, is the multitude of Ethiopian restaurants. With Ethiopian cuisine, in lieu of flatware, you use #39
Injera, a flat bread that you use to scoop up the food like #40 Doro Wat, their chicken stew.

Although I’m not a big steak tartare fan, I do love the Eithiopian take, #41
Kitfo. “Ground raw beef marinated in mitmita (a very spicy chili powder) and niter kibbeh (a clarified butter infused with herbs and spices).”

In Ethiopia, they call it the #42 “Sambusa.” They fill their pastry with lentils or ground beef. In India, it’s called #43 “
Samosa.” They fill theirs with potato, onions, peas, and exotic spices. The Burmese version is not altogether different from the Indian counterpart in filling and spices, but it‘s called #44 “Samusa.” They’re all equally delicious.

The Missus has just pointed out to me how jaded that I’ve become, that I would leave out #45
Crepe Suzette and #46 Peking Duck. These are foods that I once enjoyed, though not as much as my younger years. Still, they are two dishes that everyone should sample at least once, before they go on to the Great Kitchen in The Sky.

Another one that I can’t live without and that everyone should try at least once, is #47
Pesto alla Genovese, or “pesto” as we call it. In Italian, pesto means “paste,” so if you just say pesto to them, you have to specify that you mean Genovese-style pesto. My one peeve is when it is made with pine nuts and they aren’t ground. It’s pesto, not pine nut butter.

#48
Cannoli and if you have to ask what they are, your should’ve already booked your trip to New York City or Italy. You will thank me, as well as name your children after me...or you will name them "Italy" or "Italia."

#49
Chocolate Mousse, do I really need to add to those two words?

#50
Dim sum. It’s all about the shrimp (ha gow), potstickers, chicken and pork dumpings (gai siu mai and siu mai), pork buns (char siu bau), and big, fat, rice noodles. Filled with onions and dried shrimp.

Some of the dishes on this list will be taken for granted by those in the audience, due to their easy availability and to that, I say consider yourselves privileged. I had a hard time coming up with dishes towards the end, mostly because the list made me so hungry. A special thanks to the Missus, who contributed the last five and who shared in the non-Italian food adventures.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Rand said...

Wow, quite the list! Many of these I have never tried before. I'll keep my eye out for them now.

p.s. no Ramen noodles,eh?

Sun Oct 22, 10:57:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...

"p.s. no Ramen noodles,eh?"

Rand,

Mind you, ramen hit San Francisco back in the mid-70's and my mother fed it to me every summer. It's good stuff, and the staple of bachelors, university students, and people on budgets, all over the world.

Is it list-worthy? Hmmm...
; )

Sun Oct 22, 04:20:00 PM PDT  
Blogger haahnster said...

Holy sh*t!

For only the 2nd time in my life, I'm going to print something from a blog so I can read it more carefully. Damn, that's a long post.

Mon Oct 23, 07:35:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Beth said...

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ... I love Chicken Makhanwala. Gonna try this recipe. I had to quit reading the post, though, because I got too damn hungry.

Mon Oct 23, 09:57:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...

Haahnster,

I'm honored that you would want to print it and it's rare that I would print a blog post, unless it was this size. I have and still am, debating on whether to break it down into:

A) Five groups of ten.
B) Two groups of twenty-five or...
C) by ethnic cuisines.

Beth,

I'd add more ginger to that recipe, but that's just me. Hey, don't let the pangs of hunger be a detriment. This post is like a bowl of soup, some of the best stuff is at the bottom.

Tue Oct 24, 03:36:00 AM PDT  

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