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Red or White: How to Choose the Right Wine for Your Dish


 

Red wine goes with meat, white wine goes with fish – A myth or reality?

Our lives are all about important choices and decisions that we make on a daily basis.  Some of them are easy to make, others take more time to consider. To pick a good bottle of wine to match your dinner is certainly one of them. And I bet that at some point we all have relied on the advice that red wines go with meat and white wines go with fish. So is it a myth or reality? It is one of the most popular questions I’ve been asked through my wine career and tasting experience.

When it comes to wine one can never give a definite answer. Many world famous sommeliers would even say that it’s a complete nonsense. At the same time such a notion does exist and can be fairly useful. For example rich red wines are able to make fish have metal taste. And delicate white wines can lose their charms at the presence of a good steak.

What are the basic rules of pairing?

Let’s try to look more closely on the menu and the wine list to see how they can work together. Albeit the best pairings are those selected during your own tasting experience, there are certain rules that I will recommend to follow.

 – Don’t try to make wine taste the same as your food. Take into consideration how heavy and acid to your palate the wine is, or if it’s oaky or crispy. If you are about to enjoy a delicate food, don’t pair it with oaky and powerful Shiraz as it’s going to kill the food taste. Pinot Noir would be a better choice in this case. Fatty meal will go very charmingly with crispy white wines like good Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.

 – Always consider sauce as an important part of your dish. When you pick a wine think of what kind of sauce it goes with.  For example, grilled or oven baked duck/goose will go fine with rich whites from Alsace region, mature Bordeaux and Burgundy reds. Fatty marinated duck pairs with young tannin Bordeaux, Californian Cabernet and Merlot, as well as some white wines like Alsace Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris. Duck with apples and oranges with sweet sauce will go interestingly well with some sweeter whites like Riesling Auslese and Sautern.

More pairing examples

 – Best wines to pair with chicken

Grilled or baked chicken has a great variety of both red and white matches: white Burgundy wines, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, light red wine from the North of Italy, Bordeaux, Spanish sparkling wine and easy going Champaign.

 – Best wines to pair with red meat

Full bodied, tannin red wines are perfect with rare beef, lamb, and steak with fruit or sweet & sour sauces. Grilled lamb is great with red Bordeaux, New world Cabernet Sauvignon, Spanish Rioja and Ribero del Duero wines, if lamb has herbal or spicy sauce it makes a wonderful match with Pinot Noir.

Kebab goes well with Zinfandel, Shiraz, Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. But if it has intense garlic sauce try Sauvignon Blanc.

If you choose to enjoy a burger with a glass of red wine, it will match with young Beaujolais, Chianti, Zinfandel, or light Cabernet.

 – Best wines to pair with fish

This may come as a surprise to you, but salmon makes a perfect match with elegant red wines like Pinot Noir, Merlot, light Bordeaux. If you look for more conservative marriage on your palate then treat it with white Burgundy: Mersault and Chablis, Rieslings, Chardonnay, especially from New Zealand.

Red mullet is a Pinot Noir delight as well as most good full bodied whites. Sardines go well with white Greek wines, Soave, Verdicchio.

Somber (mackerel) pairs wonderfully with Sauvignon Blanc, English whites, white Rioja.

Remember that delicate fish demands delicate whites like those from Burgundy, Rieslings from Alsace and Mosel areas.

Fish and chips find its fans as well. As a matter of fact it’s quite liberal in terms of wine matching. You can start from simple whites to more interesting ones like Sauvignon Blanc, Gavi or Pinot Blanc. Or simply go for sherry or beer if we are in an English mood indeed!

It is all about following your own palate

As you can see when it comes to wine there is always a choice that is unlikely to be limited. Red or white the choice is yours. Follow your own palate. We gave you a range of recommendations and food pairing examples that you can fire away with.

The food is able to influence and even alter the taste of wine, it can make it taste better and worse that’s why a thoughtful concept of food and wine relationship can promise a pleasant marriage with a good aftertaste. We’ll continue speaking about it next time.

Bon appetit!

Disclaimer: Remember that wine contains alcohol that is bad for your health

 

Svetlana_Kasparova

This article was written by Svetlana Kasparova, a wine expert who has been working with wine estates across Europe for over eight years. She is a graduate of the famous wine school “Entoria” and a Wine Games medalist.

Svetlana runs an online course “Become a wine expert in 3 days”, you can learn more about it here:

 
 
Become a Wine Expert in 3 Days | Online Introductory Wine Course

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Herbs de Provence: Recipes and History

Every single country in southern Europe has its own signature set of herbs and spices. Only real culinary masters still apply the knowledge of single herbs and food matching, whereas most home kitchens use ready herbs mixes to bring the desired aromas of the Mediterranean cuisine.

French cuisine is no exception. Its herb mixes vary significantly by region, according to the available plants: they may or may not include stalk celery, leek, savory, purple sage, and rosemary or orange zest.

Bouquet Garni

One of the most known herbs mixes is called “bouquet garni” – a composition made of aromatic herbs, tightly bound together or wrapped in a muslin, so that it can be easily taken out of the pot when a dish is ready. Usually bouquet garni includes 2-3 parsley stalks (but no leaves, as they are too tender and might make the broth look muddy), thyme and 2-3 bay leaves.

A few centuries back, a predecessor of bouquet garni was called “paquet”, which was described by a famous French chef Pierre de Lune i one of his essays: “A piece of lard (for modest days), cut leek, thyme, clove, chervil, parsley”.

Fines Herbes

Another popular French herb mix is called “fines herbes” – a combination of finely chopped fresh herbs. It is widely used in sauces, cottage cheese, omelette, as well as dishes with meat and vegetables.

Mostly, “fines herbes” includes parsley, chervil, tarragon, nebuka and cut leek. Many chefs also include celery stalks, fennel stalks, basil, rosemary, thyme and bay leaf, however these herbs are more commonly used separately or as a part of bouquet garni. The mixture of “fines herbes” can also be made with dry herbs, but in this case a big part of the aroma intensity is lost.  The proportions might vary, and it is usually added at the end of the cooking process and is not taken out of the dish before serving, unlike bouquet garni. Adding fines herbes on the top of omelette, asparagus or goat cheese can make a simple dish a highlight of any meal.

herbs-de-provence-recipe

Herbes de Provence

“Herbes de Provence” are considered to be the youngest member of the herbs mixes family in France. This term has only been used since 1970s and it usually refers to the mix of typical herbs of Provence, which can be fresh or dry. Nowadays however the composition does not always include herbs grown in Provence exclusively, and can consist of thyme, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, basil, chervil, tarragon, lovage, savory, sage, bay leaf and fennel. When you find Herbes de Provence outside of France, it might also include lavender, but lavender is never included in the original version.

In old times the herbs were never cultivated and were picked by hand in the wild. Nowadays they are widely cultivated by large producers as well as small family farms all over the country, but the largest amount of herbs sold in France itself surprisingly comes from abroad. Bay leaf is imported from Turkey, marjoram from Egypt, thyme from Morocco, rosemary from Spain; other herbs are imported form Poland, Albania and China. In other words, if you see a tagline “Herbes de Provence” there is no guarantee that the mix was produced in France.

Herbes de Provence are widely used for grilled meat and vegetables, fish, sauces, pasta, tomato-based recipes, soups, pie fillings, salad dressings … there is no end to their application! But if you are looking for the most classic recipe – take a look at ratatouille, a vegetable sauté made with young zucchini, aubergines and tomatoes.

Herbes de Provence became so famous worldwide, that it is easy to find them not only in the supermarkets and regular food markets, but even in the souvenir shops and airports, packed in elegant glass jars and ceramic vessels. The fact that they can be preserved for months makes them indeed a perfect travel companion, and of course a kitchen must-have. If you happen to travel in the region – don’t miss the chance to take a pack of Herbes de Provence home, and it will instantly bring the smells and tastes, and with them the memories of Cote d’-Azur to your house. 

Just remember, every mixture will  never be the same. Many French chefs create them for their kitchens personally, according to their own taste preferences, and the most dedicated culinary masters even pick them in the wild themselves. Some of the chefs refuse to use the pre-made mixtures at all, explaining that “even their Grandma never mixed everything together and knew which herb goes with what”. If someone has mastered the art of food and herbs matching, nothing can convince her to switch to ready-made mixtures. The real masters know, that rosemary goes best with lamb, juniper berries with game, sage with pork and potato, fennel with fish, thyme with rabbit, tarragon with chicken and basil with tomatoes ….

This guest post was contributed by Natur Produkt (“Натур Продукт”), the first Russian media project a natural, environmentally friendly life style. It shares knowledge about how to make our lives and surroundings better. The original text of the article (in Russian) can be seen here.

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World’s Biggest Pumpkin Festival in Ludwigsburg: Photo Essay

Happy Bellyfish got a chance to visit the world’s biggest pumpkin festival in Germany – here are our impressions in a short photo essay!

Pumpkin needs no extra introduction: everyone is familiar with this giant berry, that takes a prominent place not only on our plates. Even if where you grew up pumpkin wasn’t a staple during the autumn months, you probably still remember an image of Cinderella’s carriage, a giant pumpkin turned a into a golden vehicle, just on time for the ball.

 

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Truly, it is difficult to find a berry, which has more applications than a squash! There are numerous pumpkin recipes, turning it into soups, pies and even curries. It is a world-famous decorative item, and a central piece of Halloween celebration. Carving masters can turn a pumpkin into a masterpiece! In some countries, dried squash is used as vessels and even as musical instruments.

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No wonder, that pumpkin has become such a celebrated berry, with numerous festivals held around the world.  The biggest pumpkin festival in the world is held in Germany, in a small town of Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart. The event is set in a beautiful Blühendes Barock Garden of the Palace.

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The grounds are covered with the countless types of pumpkins of all shapes, colors, sizes and flavours. Almost all are available for sale – but one should be careful, as not all of them are edible!

… some of them resemble melones
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… some of them are so fragile that they might break when you simply lift them

 

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… some of them take exact same color as tree leaves, transitioning from summer to autumn colors

 

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…some of them have more familiar shape, but it doesn’t make them less fascinating

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A big part of the festival is dedicated to the pumpkin art – you won’t believe what kind of figures can be made fro these oh so familiar berries!

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This year’s theme was largely dedicated to circus.

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One of the highlights of the festival is pumpkin carvings – it is unbelievable what can a real artist do with it, giving a pumpkin such a real shape and faces expressions, that it almost looks alive!

Some works of the finalists of the carving competition:

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A real “pumpkin village” with cute and funny characters was on display:

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The most prominent place is given to the most special Pumpkin of the event (yes, I have to write it with capital “P”) –  the Europe’s biggest pumpkin, which weights over 1100 kg. Here are the Pumpkins which are only half in size:

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On the last day of the festival everyone is invited to smash the pumpkins, which have been displayed during the event – a pleasure not worth missing!

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How many types of pumpkins can you name? 

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Top 12 foods to try in Argentina

Argentina’s countryside, natural beauty, cosmopolitan cities make it a must-visit country for travellers looking for newer destinations. 

Argentinean cuisine is a blend of cultures, predominantly Spanish, Italian, and Indigenous, but with a touch of Welsh, German, and Swiss cooking styles.

Asado (barbeque), empanadas, chorizo and dulce de leche based pastries are common dishes in Argentina, but there are many popular regional recipes and their variations to explore.

La Pampa is the home of asado while the urban areas of central Argentina serve you European favourites like pasta, pizza, fritters (croquetas), stews (pucheros) and sausages (embutidos). Andean-Inca inspiration is seen in corn dishes like humita and tamal.

Mesopotamia is synonymous with yerba mate. The cooking style of Guarani tribe is reflected in the region’s fresh seafood and cassava based dishes. Patagonia is famed for its seafood, sheep meat, dulce and chocolate cakes, and berry jams.

Argentinean are foodies who love entertaining family and friends with home cooked meals. This guide takes you on a culinary trip and explores top 12 traditional foods across Argentina.

1. Asado

asado_argentina_barbeque

Photo Credit: Carlos Adampol Golindo

Asado refers to any meat or vegetables that is grilled on an open fire grill (parrilla). While barbequed meats or asado is an essential part of South American meals, this can be considered as a national dish in Argentina.

While beef, pig and lamb parts – offal, ribs, sirloin, chitterlings, steak flank, kidneys and sausages are usual suspects, you’ll find other meats (like Llama, kid, and whole pig or goat), cheese and vegetables being barbecued in communal settings.

Asado meats are not marinated and Argentineans have grilled versions that are different from their neighbours. Asado al disco is cooked on a plough disc placed on metallic legs, while asado al horno de barro is grilled in an adobe oven.

Black pudding (morcillas), sweetbread (mollejas), baguette bread (marraqueta), salads, and Chimichurri (herby-spicy sauce) are served with various grilled meats. 

2. Chorizo/Choripan

 choripan_argentina

Photo credit: Miriam Ramos

You won’t find an asado meal without a serving of meat sausage (Chorizo). Pork blood sausages are more common, but there are plain pork, boar and beef chorizos. It may sometimes be served with arepa, an unleavened, maize flour patty with or without stuffing.

Street vendors and restaurants serve a chorizo roll or sandwich (choripan). This is the Argentinean equivalent of a hot dog or burger. Chorizo is grilled, topped with chimichurri (herb and vinegar sauce) or salsa criolla (with vegetables) and served in crusty slices of bread.

3. Empanada

empanada-argentina

Empanadas may be common in South America and Spain, but each region has its own style of making it. A gift of the Moors, empanadas in Argentina aren’t always sweet. They are essentially breaded stuffing that are baked or deep fried. You’ll find diverse stuffing from meat, eggs, lamb, goat, beef, chicken, and ham to cheese, blue cheese, quinoa, goat’s cheese, and vegetables like sweet corn, potatoes, pumpkin, zucchini or tomatoes.

A popular street food, Sweet empanadas contain berry jams, dulce de leche, sweet potato paste and are topped with raisins, cinnamon or sugar. Markings on the pastry folds reveal the type of filling inside.

4. Matambre

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Photo credit: Ruben Mendez

Matabre, as the name goes, literally kills your hunger. This stuffed dish is wrapped in a roll of thinly sliced meat. The fillings usually include spinach, tomatoes, carrots, onions, herbs, olives and hard-boiled eggs. The wrapped food is then simmered in stock, baked or grilled until the meat is tender enough. The sliced Matabre is served as an appetizer, but is a complete meal by itself.

5. Milanesa

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Image credit: Amancay Maahs

Italian-inspired, Milanesa is shallow-fried breaded meat. Slices of beef are seasoned with salt and spices, dipped into beaten eggs, rolled in bread crumbs and shallow-fried or baked. This is also served as a sandwich filling or along with French fries. Other versions include chicken (milanesa de pollo) and soy burgers (milanesas de soja) for vegetarians.

When you order a cabollo (horseback), you’ll be served milanesa with fried egg topping. La Suiza comes with gruyere cheese, while tomato sauce and cheese are added in La Napolitana

 

6. Pizza (Argentinean style)

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 Image credit: Paula Fernandez

The Italian culinary effect extends to pizzas, but Argentineans prefer a thicker crust. These pizzas have less tomato sauce but so much cheese, that the Mozzarella drips from the sides. If you don’t want all that extra cheese to go waste, order a chickpea pancake slice, Faina, to soak it up.

You’ll find regular toppings like tomato and mozzarella, margarita, and ham with cheese. Pizza options include corn, hard-boiled eggs and pineapple. Typical garnishes are oregano, green olives and chilli flakes.

 

7. Dulce de Leche

Postre

Image credit: Amancay Maahs

Dulce de leche is nothing but caramelised and sticky condensed milk. In Argentina this is used as jam, pastry topping or spread for bread and snacks. You’ll find it in everything from empanadas and cakes to short-bread cookies and flan. Argentineans love their Helado, creamy and thick ice cream, with a generous topping of this milk and sugar sauce.

 

8. Alfajor

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Image credit: Vinicius Pinheira

This is a Moor delicacy, which found its way into the country through the Spaniards. When two crumbly shortbread cookies are sandwiched with dulce de leche, jam or mousse, you get an Alfajor. Modern versions of this cookie sandwich are dipped in chocolate or topped with coconut shavings.

 

9. Provoleta

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Image credit: Laurel F

Another Italian-inspired food, provoleta is herb-infused, grilled provolone cheese.

The grilled cheese is crisp and slightly browned on the outside, while the interior is smoky and sloppy. This dish gets its sharpness and pungency from toppings like chilli flakes and oregano. For added flavour, some serve it with olive oil and chimichurri. Usually made with cow milk, goat cheese version of provoleta is more acidic and creamy.

 

10. Llama Steak

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Image credit: Lian Chang

Llama steak is a speciality in Northern parts of Argentina. While the meat has an earthy flavour, it’s lower in fats making it a healthier alternative to beef. This dish can be enjoyed on its own with salads and other sides. You’ll find llama steak in empanadas stuffing and other dishes including stews.

 

11. Humita

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Image credit: Marcos Katz

A staple dish among indigenous people in the Andean, humita serves as both main course and savoury side. This dish is basically a mash of fresh corn, milk, spices, onions and goat cheese. The mashed mixture is wrapped in corn husks, tied with husk string and boiled or steamed. The empanada version with corn is also called empanada de humita.

 

12. Locro

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Image credit: Vera & Jean-Christophe

This wholesome stew, is served on May 25 to mark Argentina’s revolution. The national dish contains pork or beef slices, white corn, peas, chorizo, squash, pumpkin and white beans. Locro is flavoured with bay leaf and cumin. A dash of chilli-paprika salsa, quiquirimichi adds a spicy touch to this stew.

Have you tasted popular foods from Argentina? Which one is your favourite among these top 12 dishes?

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Top 12 foods to try in Vietnam

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Fried Spring Rolls (Nem Ran/Chagio)

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Photo credit: Kirk Siang

Fried spring rolls may not as healthy as salad rolls, but are nevertheless delectable and crunchy. The filling is usually an assortment of veggies or meat enhanced with spices and herbs and enclosed in a thick rice wrapper. This is deep fried and served with fish or peanut sauce.

 

Baguette (Banh Mi)

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Photo credit: poritsky

This is a staple found on the streets of Vietnam. While this bread is inspired by the French, Vietnamese chefs have made it their own by creating unique fillings. Standard sandwich stuffing in Northern parts is pork liver pate and margarine. Stuffing in the South is varied and includes greens, grilled pork, radish, carrot, cucumber, cheese, chilli sauce, sausage, fried eggs, herbs and cold cuts of meat.

 

Crepe Wrap (Bánh xèo)

bahn_xeon_vietnam_foodPhoto credit: Mor

French influences have inspired this popular dish. This crispy rice crepe is stuffed with bean sprouts, cooked shrimp, eggs or pork, and herbs. Banh Xeo is wrapped in lettuce sheets or rice paper, and often garnished with mint, mustard or basil leaves. Banh Xeo is served with Nuoc Cham, a sauce with spicy, sweet, sour and salty elements.

 

Rice Noodles with Beef (Bún bò Nam Bộ)

bun_bo_nam_bo_vietnam_foodPhoto credit: butforthesky.com

This broth-free noodle bowl contains grilled slivers of beef and bean sprouts topped with herbs, fried shallots, fish sauce, chilli sauce and peanuts. Bun Bo Nam Bo is usually served with the dipping sauce, Nuoc Cham, which usually contains papaya slices and carrots. The lack of broth ensures that rice vermicelli and other ingredients retain their crunchy or chewy textures.

 

Pork on Thick Noodles (Cao Lầu)

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Photo credit: Alpha

Nothing represents the true diversity of Vietnamese cuisine better than Cao Lau. If Banh Mi and Banh Xeo were inspired by French foods, this dish is inspired by Japanese and Chinese cuisine. Thick wheat noodles meet juicy pork slabs in a Vietnamese herbs-infused broth with hints of star anise and mint. Add some greens, bean sprouts, peanuts, prawn (wonton) crackers or rice paper, and you have a classic dish that’s a hit with the crowd.

 

Sticky Rice with Chicken (Xoi Ga)

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Photo credit: jennifer yin

With rice being a staple food in most of Asia, and sticky rice featuring prominently in South-East Asian cuisine, can Vietnamese food be any different? Glutinous rice is not a side dish or stuffing wrapper here, but serves as a main course. The bed of rice is garnished with delicate chicken strips, native herbs, and fried shallots. A dash of soy sauce and sesame seeds enhance the subtle flavours of Xoi Ga.

 

Egg Coffee (Cà Phê Trứng)

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Photo credit: Anthony Tong Lee

If you’re used to black coffee or latte, Ca Phe Trung will shock your taste buds. Made with condensed milk, this hot coffee is served with a foamy, whipped egg topping. This popular beverage is served in small cafes and specific tourist areas. Different bean strains are used to create this dense coffee with a meringue-like garnish and sweeter-than-usual taste. Take a look at our Vietnamese egg coffee recipe to replicate it home. 

 

Banana-flower Salad (Nộm hoa chuối)

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Image credit: Fahara F

Vegetarians will find enough eating options in Vietnam, but none can match the exotic tang of Banana-flower Salad. The purple banana flowers are peeled and thinly sliced before being lightly tossed with green papaya chunks, carrots, cilantro, peanuts and soy sauce. The resulting salad is crunchy, chewy and delectable. You also get meat versions with chicken and fish sauce

Steamed Rice Cake (Bánh bèo nhân tôm)

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Photo credit: Jen Leung

Bánh bèo nhân tôm is more than steamed, rice flour pancakes. The thin pancake sheets are filled with shredded lettuce, cucumber slices, bean sprouts, fried shallots, chopped shrimp, scallions, sliced pork sausage and ground beef. As a final touch, the rice cake is given a generous drizzle of fish sauce. 

Do you feel hungry for all the delicious Vietnamese foods now? Take a look at famous cooking classes and food tours in Vietnam!

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Top 12 Foods to Try in Tuscany

Tuscany is a dream destination for tourists who want to connect with nature, enjoy a lazy day with breath-taking views, or explore the rich historical past and thriving culture.

With Italian food topping the world’s favourite cuisine list, a visit to Tuscany won’t disappoint the food enthusiast in you. Unlike cheesy pizzas and pastas found outside the country, locals use basic, fresh and everyday ingredients to create simple, filling, healthy, and yet flavoursome dishes.

Food in Italy has distinct regional ingredients and influences, despite retaining common food elements. Pasta, bread, cheese, olives and olive oil, fresh vegetables, legumes, fruits, sea food and meat form the base.

Fresh, local produce and limited ingredients characterise typical Tuscan cooking. This central regional cuisine is based on the “no food wastage” concept. Antipasto revolves around a variety of unsalted breads, soups, cured meats and sausages.

Steaks, wild game and seafood feature in the second course with fresh salads, sautéed or grilled vegetables, and bean or chicken stews for company. Tuscany doesn’t have a dessert culture, unless you’re talking about Prato’s biscotti or its gift to the world – Gelato.

Enjoy this virtual guide of Tuscany’s top 12 delectable foods, even as you dream of a trip to this enchanting place.

Crostini di Fegato (antipasto)

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Image credit: Conan

In any town in Tuscany, you begin the meal with antipasto which includes affettati misti (cured meat) and varied breads. Crostini di fegato is a popular dish where earthy-flavoured chicken liver pate is spread on thinly sliced and toasted bread. You’ll also find bruschetta or crouton versions with chicken, smoked ham, veal, duck or goose meat, and other topping like onions, capers, anchovies, tomatoes, porcini mushrooms or mozzarella.

 

Pane Sciocco/Unsalted Breads

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Image credit: wikimedia

Unlike breads found in other parts of Italy, in this region, they are made without adding salt. This tradition is said to date back to the middle ages when Florence, the capital of Tuscany, faced a salt shortage. The other legend is that salt was severely taxed across Tuscany, forcing common folk to innovate their bread-making technique. Fettunta is a delicious dish that consists of grilled, unsalted bread served with garlic olive oil and sprinkling of salt.

Soups

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Image credit: Eliza Adam

In Tuscany, love for bread is matched by an appetite for soups. In keeping with their no waste motto, dry bread is added to some soups creating versatile dishes. Cannellini beans, tomatoes, kale, celery, carrots, onions, other veggies, black cabbage and stale bread are boiled together in ribollita. Pappa al pomodoro is made with day-old bread, tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil. Cannellini beans are the major ingredient in soups like zuppa di fagioli.  Acquacotta is a simple vegetable soup with poached eggs and pecorino topping.

Famous Tuscan Pastas : Pappardelle, Tagliatelle al tartufo, Potato tortelli

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Image credit: Wei-Duan Woo

Pastas are mainstay in Tuscan cuisine along with meat. Pappardelle is an egg noodle wide pasta, that served in wild boar, hare or goose meat sauce. The pasta dish may also contain artichokes, sausages and porcini mushrooms. For truffle lovers, there is the famous Tagliatelle al tartufo. This dish consists of pasta with other veggies or meat, and drenched in black or white truffle sauce. Potato tortelli is a stuffed pasta from Mugello served with game meat or ragout sauce.

Lampredotto

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Image credit: zhelen

Tripe is another regional speciality, especially in Florence. Lampredotto is popular street food made with the cow’s stomach. Thinly sliced tripe is cooked in broth and served on a sandwich with either green sauce (usually parsley) or red sauce (peppers and chillies). Try bagnato – wet bread version with tomato-tripe gravy. Panini di lampredotto is another dish with hot tripe spread over round rolls or wholegrain bread and topped with salsa verde.

Necci and Castagnaccio

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Image credit: ulterior epicure

This sweetish crepe dish is made with chestnut flour. Water and flour are the only two ingredients used. The batter is spooned on a frying pan and pressed by a ladle to spread it.  It can be eaten plain or served with fresh ricotta cheese from sheep’s milk. Other toppings include prosciutto, chocolate and chestnut honey. For a cake variation, try Castagnaccio made with sultanas, pine nuts, olive oil and topped with rosemary.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

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Image credit: Richard, enjoy my life!

Tuscan steak from Chianina (cow breed) is served al sangue (very rare) with white beans and roasted potato sides. The thick beef pieces, grilled on open fire, are nicely roasted on the outside while retaining soft fleshy interior. Other sides include salads with bell peppers and lemon wedges.

Cinghiale (Wild Boar)

food-in-tuscany-7Image credit: Wikimedia

Wild boar is found on most menus in Tuscan towns. You’ll find tenderized meat in stews like cinghiale in umido, roasted meat versions or pasta sauce. These are served with antipasto, panini or pappardelle, and usually accompanied by tartufo sauce and tomatoes. 

Cantucci/ biscotti di Prato

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Image credit: kraen

One of the few desserts in Tuscany, cantucci are crunchy and small almond-flavour cookies served with vin santo (desert wine). The double baked biscotti is dipped into the wine to soften it a little. Some enjoy these cookies with caffè ristretto (short expresso shot).

Panzanella

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Image credit: ben.timney

A cold salad made with bread soaked in balsamic vinegar. Wet bread slices are added to red onions, tomatoes, basil and topped with olive oil. Farmer versions of this summer salad contain sun-dried tomatoes, onions and cucumbers with olive oil and vinegar. Richer version of this salad contains capers and tuna.

Schiacciata

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Image credit: ilaria

A popular street food, Schiacciata is essentially a flatbread served stuffed or plain with olive oil and salt. The flatbread is either baked soft with fillings or crunchy. Stuffing includes cold or cured meats, cheeses and vegetables. Schiacciata alla fiorentina is a lemon scented sponge cake covered in vanilla and sugar. 

Torta di Ceci/Cecina

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Image credit: Visit Tuscany

A street food from Livorno, this savoury cake has chickpea flour as main ingredient. The thin cake has a soft inside with crunchy outside and comes with a generous sprinkling of black pepper powder. Cecina is also served sandwiched inside baguette or focaccia bread, with grilled aubergines as sides.

Would you like to learn about Italian cuisine, meet the real Italian chef or simply try local specialities? Take a look at the latest cooking classes, food tours and wine tours in Italy!

 

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What to try on your Food Tour in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh)

Food in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) represents Vietnamese cuisine in both cooking elements and diversity. At first glance, eating out seems to be the favourite pastime for locals, given the numerous food stalls and amount of cooking that goes on.

From simple dishes to high calories meals, you’ll find casual dining spots, street stalls, and high end restaurants creating similar dishes but with a unique flavour and twist.

An interesting aspect of eating out in Saigon is the presence of eateries specialising in noodles, rice sandwiches or soups.  You’ll find pho, banh, cam and che joints across the city. The dishes may use a lot of common ingredients, but each one has an exclusive taste. These are single meal dishes served with different sides or sauces.

This guide isn’t focused on the top ten dishes, but the foods you should try when you plan a proper food tour in Saigon!

 

1. Bun Rieu

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Image Source: Thanh-Tung Nguyen

You won’t be wrong if you called Vietnam a Noodle Soup Land! Bun Rieu is made with crab stock and has a sweet, tarty, and seafood flavour to it. Tomatoes, long rice noodles and crab meat stock are the main ingredients, while some recipes add rice vinegar for sourness. The soup has toppings like deep fried tofu, meatballs, pork chunks, congealed pig’s blood, and crab paste. Some eat this with an extra garnish of shrimp paste, herbs, shredded vegetables, chilli sauce or lime juice.

2. Bột Chiên

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Image source:  Kirk K

The Chinese Teochew (rice cake) has found its way into many South-East Asian cuisines from Singaporean to Thai. While other versions include vegetables like radish and carrots, Vietnamese Bot Chien only contains sticky rice flour and tapioca starch. The bite sized rice cakes are lightly seasoned and fried in lard. These cakes are then topped with eggs, shredded green papaya or green onions, and served with a sweet-sour sauce made with vinegar and soy sauce.

3. Bún Mắm

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Image Source: Thy Khue Ly

Bun Mam is a soup noodle from Southern Vietnam. Not as popular as street food soups like Bun Rieu, this one has fermented fish sauce as a broth base. Vermicelli noodles are liberally doused in the dark coloured broth and topped with eggplant slices and meats like prawns, pork belly or squid bits. The addition of sugar and tamarind juice gives the noodle soup its tangy-sweet flavour.

4. Bánh Tằm Bì

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Image Source: Thy Kyue Ly

If you love coconut milk, you’ll enjoy this one. The dish comprises of a bottom layer of chopped herbs like sweet basil and Vietnam cilantro, followed by a layer of thick, sticky rice noodles, pork meat and pig skin scoops. Banh Tam Bi  comes with topping like green onions and coconut cream sauce. The soft noodles, delicate herbs and coconut cream lend a buttery texture and a sweet flavour to the dish.

5. Bún Bò Huế

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Image Source: Khanh Hmoong

If you’re bored of the usual Pho, try this beef based dish from Hue city that is quite popular in Saigon. Rice vermicelli noodles are served in beef bone and lemongrass broth. Other ingredients include beef slices, pork knuckles, ham and sausage, sweet onions, vegetables and ox tail. The dish has a distinct umami essence with a prominent sweet, salty and tangy taste.

6. Com Tam Suon

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Image source: Kirk K

Rice lovers will especially enjoy this popular street food in Saigon – Com Tan Suon. This dish with grilled pork chops and broken rice can be eaten at any time of the day. It is usually served with fish sauce, green onion infused oil, cucumber pickle, and chillies. Variations include Com Tan Suon topped with eggs, meatloaf, extra sausage and pork or pig skin.

7. Banh Khot

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Image Source Mộc Dzị

These pancakes sliders are as popular as Vietnamese crepes, Banh Xeo. A perfect snack, Banh Khot is made with leftover rice or rice flour, turmeric powder and coconut milk. The batter is cooked in a hot griddle into small golden brown pancakes with toppings like shrimp and green onions. Lettuce leaves, chopped herbs, mustard leaves and leafy greens, sweet fish sauce are served as sides.

8. Cơm Bình Dân

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Image Source: Tonbi Ko

This is rich (curry) dish similar to Malaysia’s Nasi Campur and Thailand’s Khao Gaeng. It is is a filling meal of rice and assorted side dishes including braised pork belly, fish, tofu stew, vegetables and meat. You simply order a bowl of rice and choose various stews and curries as accompaniments.

9. Ốp-la

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Image Source: Khánh Hmoong

While banh mi is a popular street food in Saigon, it can get repetitive after a while.  This crusty baguette sandwich is a tasty alternative. Pan-cooked eggs are served in a sandwich with slices of fried meat and caramelised onions. This fusion dish with sunny side up eggs has variations that include peppers and other ingredients.

10. Oc

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Image Source Mark & Andrea Busse

If you’re looking for an unusual dish in Saigon, try this dish. Oc is basically saltwater snails cooked to your specification. This also includes any cooked shell food like clams, cockles, or crab. You choose the raw seafood and cooking method. Order small plates of snails that are grilled, steamed, sautéed, curried, fried or coated in chilli and salt. Enjoy them with a glass of beer.

11. Bò cuốn lá lốt

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Image Source: JualaDeArdilla

If you can’t have enough of beef, try some Bo la Lot. Wild betel leaves are filled with lightly seasoned minced beef and tightly rolled into tubes. These are grilled on charcoal giving the rolls a lovely smoky flavour. Bo la Lot is served with rice paper, herbs, leafy green, chillies and fermented fish sauce.

Have you tried these dishes in Saigon? Do you have your own favourites?

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All About Turmeric: Health Benefits & More

This unassuming rhizome, with a distinct golden-yellow trial, is the toast of the food world in 2016.

When turmeric latte (golden milk) is found on café menus and gets a massive following globally, you realise something important as an Asian. Your grandma and mom sure knew a thing or two, when they forced to drink your turmeric-milk all those years ago.

Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, isn’t entirely unfamiliar to the Western world. The scientific community and herbalists have been aware of its healing and medicinal properties for decades.

If you love your curries, then you’ve been reaping health dividends with this powerhouse root. Used in traditional cooking in many Asian countries, turmeric is also an important healing ingredient in Ayurveda.

Curcumin, which gives turmeric its rich colour, is considered an important weapon in the fight against life threatening illnesses. With over 3000 documented studies and numerous health benefits, turmeric is not your average culinary spice.

If you’re serious about weight loss, add a dash of fresh turmeric, preferably the root, to different dishes; from smoothies and soups to cookies, curries and multigrain breads. To speed up the absorption of curcumin by the body, add piperine rich foods like white and black pepper to turmeric-based recipes.

BENEFITS AND MEDICAL PROPERTIES OF TUMERIC

Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant. Curcumin, the active compound, is a polyphenol that can reverse the effects of oxidation and reduce free radicals in the body. What’s more, it boosts the production of antioxidant enzymes in your body, and may delay aging.

Turmeric provides protection and relief for dental health. Turmeric can be used as mouth wash to improve oral health. Gel and fillers containing turmeric can help treat periodontal diseases. 

 – Turmeric is a strong anti-inflammatory agent. While short-term inflammation protects you from disease-causing pathogens, long-term inflammation leads to chronic diseases. Turmeric inhibits inflammation molecules and offers protection against cancer, arthritis, heart disease and degenerative conditions.

 – Curcumin may enable weight loss. Curcumin can turn white fat (bad fat) cells into brown (good) fat cells, and help you in the battle against bulge. The inflammatory properties of turmeric can reduce obesity.

 – Turmeric has detoxifying properties. You can use turmeric to cleanse your organs of harmful waste, improve liver and gut health and promote better digestion. Have an eggplant curry or cinnamon-laced turmeric latte instead of processed foods and sugary drinks.

 – Turmeric is good for the brain. Decreased levels of brain hormone BDNF can lead to depression and cognitive degradations like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Turmeric prevent this from happening and improves cognitive abilities like memory by increasing the levels of this growth hormone.

 – Turmeric provides relief from menstrual cramps and pelvic pain. By stimulating both pain and pleasure receptors, turmeric can provide relief from sever menstrual cramps.

 -Turmeric can prevent heart disease. In addition to tackling chronic inflammation, curcumin also helps in proper functioning of lining in blood vessels. This can help regulate blood pressure and prevent many forms of heart disease.

– Turmeric consumption can help prevent cancers. It can reduce growth of tumours, kill cancer cells and prevent them from spreading to other organs.

While turmeric comes loaded with vital health factors, moderation is the key. There is something like herb overload, and turmeric is no exception.

Stay away from high dosages of turmeric and curcumin supplements to avoid side effects like diarrhoea, liver disorders, uterine contraction during pregnancy, and hair loss.

We are not medical professionals and provide this material for your information only. Please do your own research or consult your doctor.

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Tomato Festival in Spain in Pictures (La Tomatina)

Most of the festivals around the world involve harmless fun and bonhomie, despite the huge crowds they draw. If you want to experience the blood splattered look of a war zone, or simply improve your target practice, you’ll feel right at home in Buñol in August. This town in Eastern Spain plays host to the sauciest and juiciest food festival in the world – La Tomatina – the tomato throwing festival. (more…)

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Lavender in recipes and cosmetics: health benefits

Is it a flower? Is it a herb?

This purple wonder is both of these things, and more importantly, one of the favourite fragrances in the world from the time of ancient Egyptians and Romans. From embalming, anointing, and religious ceremonies to aromatherapy, healing and cooking, lavender had donned multiple roles across the ages. (more…)

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