Category Archives: Travel

Balti from Brum: Birmingham’s most celebrated curry

Balti from Brum: Birmingham’s most celebrated curry
Skip the fish and chips and make this delicious English-meets-Indian curry.

Skip the fish and chips and make this delicious English-meets-Indian curry.

Back in March, my fiance and took our pre-wedding honeymoon trip to the UK and Ireland. What excited me most about the trip (besides visiting the Doctor Who museum in Cardiff) was the prospect of sampling the many global cuisines that these countries have to offer. They have become a melting pot of cultures over the past few centuries due to English colonization, immigration, etc., and this in turn now characterizes their food and the way people eat.

While perusing the travel book I brought along, I learned of Balti curry, a now renowned English dish that was created in Birmingham (known as “Brum” by the locals) by North Indian and Pakistani immigrants in the 1970s.

This Punjabi-influenced curry is very aromatic, filled with warming spices, tomatoes, onions and cilantro, and can be made with meat, vegetables or paneer (an Indian fresh cheese). It’s a one-pot dish traditionally served in a metal or copper, two-handled dish called a “Balti”, which means “bucket” in Hindi. Instead of eating it with rice (or even silverware), the diner will scoop it up with naan or chapati flatbread. The best thing about Balti is that it cooks up quickly, like a stir fry, and can be completed in about half an hour — no need to watch over a simmering pot for hours.

Don’t be intimidated by the myriad of spices used in Balti: most of them can be found in specialty grocery stores that have a bulk spice section and the rest can be obtained from an Indian grocer (which is a culinary adventure in itself to visit). I’ve even seen a Balti spice blend sold at Whole Foods under their own brand. As for the protein, beef, lamb, pork or even vegetables can easily be substituted for the chicken.

No need for a passport here as you can take your tastebuds for a trip to jolly old Brum with this easy to prepare, savory Balti dish.
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Top food truck spots of SXSW 2012

Top food truck spots of SXSW 2012

Coolhaus' mobile gourmet treats include this red velvet ice cream sandwich.

The following is an article I wrote for the newspaper that I freelance for, Creative Loafing Tampa. There were plenty more of my favorite food trucks that I could have added to this list, but I unfortunately had the restraint of a 650 word count. Check back later for more musings on the fabulous food trailers and my culinary adventures here in Austin, Texas!

The food truck revolution was late rolling up to the Tampa Bay area, but here in Austin, Texas, it has its roots firmly planted and is one of the city’s main attractions — besides the amazing music scene, of course. Like most things in Texas, the food truck community is big here — one of the biggest in the country, actually, right up there with Chicago and San Diego as the top spots to find mobile eateries. Having moved to Austin from the Bay area almost a year ago, I’ve missed out on the great new food trailers I keep reading about that have been popping up in Tampa and St. Pete, but luckily I can get a taste of trailer food here — and plenty of it.

Like their compatriots in Tampa Bay, Austin’s food trucks aren’t just serving up hot dogs and hamburgers. Fusion food, ethnic eats, American diner classics, gourmet ice cream sandwiches and doughnuts and so much more are available at the “around 1,350″ food trucks and trailers in and around Austin as of today. (That’s according to MSNBC.com, which based its count on the number of permits given out by the Austin/Travis County Department of Health.)

Since there are way too many rolling restaurants to sample during the South By Southwest (SXSW) music/film/interactive festival going on in downtown Austin this week, I’ve compiled a list of a few of my many top spots that had either fantastic fare or free munchies (which are not mutually exclusive in all cases). So read on and pay some of these trailers and restaurants a visit the next time you’re deep in the heart of Texas.

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Around the world for $80: EPCOT’s International Food and Wine Festival

Around the world for $80: EPCOT’s International Food and Wine Festival

IMG_1931Last weekend I was fortunate enough to indulge in Disney’s International Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT Center. This marks the 14th year of an event that promises the chance to eat and drink your way around the world without ever having to break out your passport.

After attending this event for the past few years, I was pleasantly surprised to see that a majority of the regional menus had changed (after being exactly the same for the past few go-arounds) and that they’d added a few new cuisines, now up to 25 different international marketplaces. There were also more culinary classes and wine tastings to attend this year, many involving well-known food and wine celebrities like Iron Chef Cat Cora (who has a new restaurant, Kouzzina, that just opened at Disney’s Boardwalk), Andrew Zimmern (host of Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel), the Deen Brothers (yes, Paula’s boys) and lying TV chef Robert Irvine.
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Parkesdale Farms Market in Plant City: Buy local, save money!

Parkesdale Farms Market in Plant City: Buy local, save money!

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Have you been to the grocery store and seen the prices on produce these days? No wonder people don’t want to buy fresh food that’s actually good for them, when they can save a buck by buying processed, pre-packaged food that is full of chemicals and fake ingredients. It’s also dejecting to think how far food travels before it reaches our tables — going from farm to processing and packing plants, then shipped off hundreds of miles away to grocery stores.
I am making a personal effort to buy more locally grown food. It saves me money and it keeps the local farmers in business. Last weekend, I ventured out to Plant City to check out some of the local farmers’ markets and found Parkesdale Farms Market. Parkesdale Farm has been in operation by the Parke family since 1956, growing an array of vegetables, fruits, and various plants and flowers over hundreds of acres. They are now the largest strawberry, citrus, and produce market in Florida. Read the rest of this entry

Culinary Adventure: San Antonio, Texas

Culinary Adventure: San Antonio, Texas

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Last weekend I was able to fulfill a long-standing dream of mine: visiting San Antonio, Texas. Why San Antonio, you ask? Well, there’s the historic Alamo, the touristy River Walk, and many other cultural and historic sights. But this city has also been the mecca of Tex-Mex food in my eyes (and also a stop on my “BBQ of the U.S.” tour) for longer than I can remember.

I had been planning this culinary pilgrimage for almost two months, as soon as I found out I was going (courtesy of wonderful boyfriend and free airline tickets), and did extensive research on just about every Tex-Mex/barbecue/Mexican restaurant in town. My main goal was to stay away from eating on the River Walk as much as possible, since it contained mostly overpriced tourist traps with bland interpretations of the authentic Tex-Mex food I sought. This weekend getaway made me feel like Giada on one of her “Weekend Getaways” (minus the camera in my face). Read the rest of this entry