Monday, December 20, 2010

Adventures in food

It's a lovely -7C today. Not looking forward to going outside!

Living in Amsterdam about a decade ago helped to open my eyes to some of the diversity of world foods. I've always had a fondness for Japanese food, having lived on Okinawa as a child, but in Amsterdam food was similar enough to what I was used to that I was often surprised by the subtle differences, including apparent European opinions about American foods which were surprising. For example, the "American Style" potato chips (advertised as "the loudest taste on Earth") were covered in paprika.

Filet Americain
This tastes better than it looks
Photo by FotoosVanRobin
Then there was the Filet Americain, a rather strange, but delicious, raw meat dish. The US has one of the few cultures which doesn't have a "standard" raw meat dish, but I was already pretty used to it because my mother used to toast sourdough bread, spread mayonnaise on it, and cover that with a mixture of lean ground beef and spices. Yum! To this day I find that I often prefer steak raw to cooked.

However, my favorite food discovery has to be the raclette grill. What is a raclette grill? Imagine if Rube Goldberg decided to make a fondue set. 'Nuff said. Basically, cook a bunch of potatoes to go with your meal. You serve a bunch of meats and cheeses with it. The cheese goes into little dishes which slide under the grill and you put whatever food you want on the grill top.

Electric Party Grill
Raclette makes for a
very fun meal.
There's also a cheese named raclette, often is unsurprisingly served with the raclette grill, which I first enjoyed in Calais, France, with friends of my wife. As it turns out, it's also known here in the Netherlands and we've purchased a grill and enjoyed a raclette for my wife's birthday. It's also a fantastic dinner with children or guests because you're cooking your food at the table and, as my wife explained to me il n'y a pas des regles (there are no rules) when enjoying a raclette. Toss mushrooms, shrimp, beef, whatever, on top of the grill and when your cheese melts underneath, scrape the melted cheese over your potatoes and start some more cheese melting.

I have no idea why raclette isn't well known in the US, but for sheer food entertainment value, it's tough to beat. Buy one, invite your friends over, and have a blast.

Pssst: click the image of the raclette grill and it will take you Amazon to buy one. They're great.


  1. Why must you make your American friends do math? (tee hee hee)

  2. "It's a lovely -7C today. Not looking forward to going outside!"

    Sounds like you could use some erwtensoep then!
    What do you think of the Indonesian influences in Dutch and Chinese-Dutch cuisine?

  3. @Job: I prefer the mustard soup, thank you. It's yummy!

    I can't say I've had enough Dutch cuisine to really have a good handle on that. Most of my food is heavily influenced by American or French cooking (via my wife). For example, yesterday's lunch as blanquette de veau over rice. Absolutely delicious, but again, not something I had ever had before.

  4. @the secret vegan: that's 19 degrees Fahrenheit (though evidently you did the math)

    You're right, though: I should have had the Fahrenheit version up there too. About half of my blog audience is from the US and I keep forgetting to pander to their archaic measurement system :)

  5. Fahrenheit is one of the stupidest forms of 'measurement' known to man. I'm surprised it wasn't developed by the US Goverment. Look at its history and tell me that's not one of the most backward, hacked-together, moronic ways to come up with a measuring system.

  6. I was introduced to a grill that looked like an old hubcap with holes punched in it, in Thailand.
    Or an metal soup bowl turned upside down, then the edge is stretched and folded up to form a kind of basin along the edge about 1" deep and slightly wider. The central hub is punched full of narrow slots.
    This is placed on top of a cast-iron holder that's filled with red-hot coals.
    you fill the basin along the edge with water for cooking whatever you want to cook, then drape meats of assorted types on the center.
    (Everyone drapes their own favorites on the grill, and keep replacing stuff as they pick it off to eat)
    The place I visited was an 'all you can eat' place(less than 100Bath/person. Drinks were expensive, though.)
    Places like that aren't listed on any tourist guides, though, and they don't really cater to tourists. (I was invited by a couple of taxi-drivers that I had gotten to know during my stay. Nice way to spend an evening. Food and jokes. And evn with all the taxi-drivers around, not a single one asked me if I was interestd in 'ladies' or cheap suits... )

    I saw the 'hubcaps' for sale at the Chatuchak weekend market, but not the holder. Maybe I'll try to find both parts next time I visit?

  7. I need one of those grills. That looks like a lot of fun!