Archive for May, 2019

Huelva – a walk by the river

Posted in Andalusia, Huelva, Huelva Province, Spain on May 29, 2019 by gannet39

The starting point for this walk is the Muelle de Riotinto, down on the bank of the Odiel River. The long pier was built by Rio Tinto in 1874 for loading ore onto ocean going ships.

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The Muelle del Tinto is still standing and is enjoyed by joggers, dog walkers and romantic couples.

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From the pier you can walk along the River Odiel which has a nature reserve along its banks. You’ll definitely see a lot of curlews, herons, egrets and fish, and if you’re lucky, otters and sea eagles.

Along the way one of the first things you’ll come across is the Estadio Nuevo Colombino. This is the home of Recreativo de Huelva, the oldest football club in Spain, which was founded by British mine workers in 1889.

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After this you’ll encounter a swathe of oil refineries and factories built courtesy of Franco in the 50s.

Next you’ll come to the marina and boating club where you can stop for refreshments. A short distance further on and you get to Punta del Sebo, the confluence of the Odiel and the Tinto rivers, which is marked by a towering Cubist statue, the Monumento a Colón.

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The statue commemorates Columbus who in 1492 first set sail for the New World from nearby Palos de la Frontera with crews made up of local sailors. It was a present from donors in the US to mark this historical voyage. Many people think the statue is of Columbus himself but it actually depicts a navigator looking towards the West.

The walk from the Muelle del Tinto to Punta del Sebo takes one hour each way, if you don’t dawdle.

Huelva – tapas in the centro part three – other places

Posted in Andalusia, Centro, Huelva, Huelva Province, Spain with tags , , , , on May 24, 2019 by gannet39

Huelva has so many good places to eat in the centre that I’ve had to break it down street by street. My favourite places are in my Part One – Calle Vazquez Lopez post but some of these are very good too, and the same for Part Three. Everywhere mentioned is on my map.

Puro Chup Chup (Intermediate B+), 6 Calle Rábida, www.purochupchup.com

I came here for two reasons, firstly to try their international fusion cuisine for a change from the norm and secondly because they’re open Sunday evening, albeit with a reduced menu. Inside the restaurant is bright and modern and the staff are really very nice.

To start I had their Banh Mi de Cordero, Pina Asada y Encurtida con Pepinos, Chile Fresca y Salsa “Lamb of God” (lamb, roasted pineapple and with pickled cucumbers, fresh chilli and salsa) which was served in a hot dog bun. Although it was nothing like the real thing (it should be pork in a crispy baguette) , it was still tasty (B+). However the sweet “Lamb of God” sauce that was slathered on the top of the bun made it quite difficult to eat without making a mess.

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I followed up with the Chateaubriand which arrived looking like a Modernist painting. The bits and pieces you can see in the photo include Apple Chutney, Foie, Pistachio Yoghurt, Apple Pearls and tiny Ice Cream Cones containing Afuega’l Pitu, a cow’s milk cheese from Asturias with a long history.

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This all went well with a couple of glasses of a decent Garnacha (B).

For dessert I had the deconstructed Tiramisu as recommended by my excellent waiter. I’m not usually one for coffee based desserts but this one was really good (B+), and very filling.

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With this I had a glass of fantastic Muscat dessert wine by Jorge Ordóñez from Malaga. There are four sweet wines in their line and this is called Victoria #2. It’s one of the best muscats I’ve ever had (A+) and I have since ordered a few bottles on the internet from www.decantalo.com for about €17 a half bottle.

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However I’d advise against having this Portuguese almond flavoured digestive (C). It tastes like marzipan and I could virtually feel my teeth rotting when it was in my mouth.

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Total cost €30.90. Puro Chup Chup is a nice change from the usual and I’d love to go again to try some of the other items on their menu.

Bar Paco Moreno (Elementary B+), 18 Paseo de la Independcia

Bar Paco is a plain and simple place with nothing going for it other than it’s excellent seafood. It’s a good place to try the excellent local prawns, Gambas de Huelva. They’re the best in Spain in many people’s opinions and you can get them here on the cheap for just €8 for 250g.

I also tried the fried cuttlefish, Chocos Fritas, which aren’t something I usually go for, but they were pretty good here.

At the bartenders insistence I also had a tapa of Adobo, the house special. Sadly though I could only manage one of these deep-fried vinegared fish (D+). It’s a rare foodstuff that defeats me in Europe but I just can’t get my head round this style of preparation. Biensamabe Adobo (dogfish) is another similar local speciality I just can’t find a way to like. Think you need to be brought up on it…

I’ll be back for the prawns though, and lots of them.

If you’re staying at the Hotel Monte Conquero, this place is just over the road.

strong>El Picoteo de la Rocina (Intermediate B+), 5 Calle Pablo Rada, open all day Sunday and Monday (which is unusual).

This place is a Lonely Planet top choice and it was also recommended by a local who said it’s a good spot for Sunday lunch. It’s always rammed so either reserve or get there as soon as it opens (9pm in the evening). Its popularity might explain why the staff seem so stressed, or perhaps they are chronically understaffed. Either way they seem to be running around like headless chickens with little time for pleasantries.

I began with some good Jamon Bellota (B+).

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Next I had the gruff waiter’s suggestion of Entrecot de Ternera Gallego, a huge slab of Galician veal (500g I’m guessing) which was excellent (A-). However they were a bit stingy with the chips and I wasn’t that keen on the gloopy sauce on the side.

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With this two glasses of an excellent Ribera del Duero (A) called Melior by Bodega Roble de Matarromera who also made the nice verdejo I had at Portichuelo. Finally, with some Manchego Curado, the total came to €45.60.

Bar Pappi’s (High Elementary B+), 6 Juan Antonio Perez Baez

A Guardian pick but also on my radar from a previous visit. It’s a twenty minute schlep from the Hotel Tartessos but worth it as they’ve been locally famous for their tapas since 1981.

They specialise in Andalucian montaditos, round buns filled with a extensive choice of fillings. I started with the El Mambo; seasoned chicken, Serrano ham, alioli and lettuce, which is their best seller.

I can also recommend the tapas of Musakas de Berenjena y Calbacin con Boloñesa (moussaka with aubergine, courgette and Bolognese sauce)…

…the Brocheta de Pulpo (grilled octopus paprika)…

…the Bola de Rape (battered monkfish cheeks with ham and mayonnaise)…

I think this was the Solomillo. By this point I was too busy chatting with my neighbour who was going to study in my hometown Sheffield!

My notes say this is the Hojalbre but it doesn’t look like puff pastry. It wasn’t on the menu but I managed to get it by showing them a picture of it from Trip Advisor.

There’s a good choice of wines. I enjoyed the Rioja especially.

And finally some dessert. Don’t ask me what it is but I’m sure it was good.

By the time it came to the brandy I was chatting with the friendly owner. The atmosphere definitely lends itself to meeting people so it’s a good place to practice your Spanish.

A plain, ordinary place but the tapas are good quality and quite imaginative. Definitely recommended.

Taberna Gautine (Intermediate C), 4 Calle Miguel Redondo

I really wanted to like this place but I wasn’t impressed by the food. Neither are the locals as it never seems to be busy. The international influences the Guardian mention didn’t seem so apparent when I went, perhaps because Pura Chup Chup has cornered the quirky fusion market.

On my friendly waiter Daniel’s recommendation, I had the Mejillones de Carbon; huge charcoal grilled mussels from Galicia which he said were better than the small local ones. If I’d known how big they were and how far they’d travelled I’d have ordered something else as I wasn’t too impressed (C).

The Huevos “Pa Romper” con Presa Iberica; lightly fried goose eggs with shoulder pork and cured ham were very rich and also too much for one and I left two of the yolks. The combination with the ham worked very well (B+) but the presa was oversalted and left me cold (C).

NB As I understand it Presa is a specialized muscle within the shoulder. It’s quite tender and juicy, but leaner than either the Plumas end loin or the Secreto flank steak. Pa Romper seems to be a reference to a Reggaeton track (huge in Spain).

To drink I had an Albarino with the mussels and a glass of Vizcarra, both of which were okay (B).

I also had a half racion of local cheeses which were great (A/B+).

When I asked for a brandy the waiters said they didn’t have any but I spied one of my all-time favourites; Ximenez Spinola ’10,000 Botellas’ which I was gobsmacked to get at only €8 a glass. It’s priced the same as Luis Felipe which is also €8, which is crazy as they both cost about €90 for a bottle. Ximenez Spinola is a local bodega so maybe they get it on the cheap. I went back a few nights till I drank the bottle dry.

Even more great tapas in part three, coming next!

Huelva – tapas in the centro part two – Avenida Pinzón

Posted in Andalusia, Avenida Pinzón, Centro, Huelva, Huelva Province, Spain with tags , , , , , on May 19, 2019 by gannet39

Avenida Martín Alonso Pinzón is the main pedestrian street coming off Plaza de las Monjas, the main square in the centre. It’s the street which has the highest concentration of my favourite tapas bars and as luck would have it’s also the same street as my hotel, the Hotel Eurostars Tartessos www.exehotels.com (decent breakfast, nice reception staff but the gym is a joke).

There are so many other good places to eat in the centre so to make everything more accessible I’ve broken them down into three separate posts of which this is the second. All the places mentioned are on this Google map.

D Alutura (Intermediate A-), 8 Avenida Martin Alonso Pinzon

Another favourite. A fun, modern place just up the street from the Hotel Tartessos.

The food is very good but I also like the design of the bar which has two tiers of tables running along the length of one wall to maximise space.

It’s quite fun sitting up high but surely there must have been some tipsy people who have tumbled down the steps at some point.

Not sure if eating at this height would pass health and safety in the UK.

I had the Croquetas de Queso Azul, a half portion of Jamon Bellota and the Milhoha de Presa, finishing with some cheese. All excellent or very good (A/B+).

The Paco Garcia, Martin Berougo and Carramimbre wines were pretty decent too (B+/B).

I had nice friendly service from an older guy but I think the younger ones could smile a bit more.

Another grumble was they wanted to charge me €14 for a glass of Luis Felipe, a favourite brandy of mine.

Granted it’s a top notch brandy but €10 would be more reasonable. Hoever they also do copas of cheaper Magno for a reasonable €4.50, and the waiter is very good at pouring. Video here.

A great place, check it out.

Kalaka (Intermediate A), 20 Avenida Martín Alonso Pinzón, www.kalaka.es

This small but very popular place is fortuitously located directly opposite the Hotel Tartessos where I was staying.

It’s very hard to get in, for lunch or dinner, so reservations are essential.

I went for lunch and had a very tasty Ensalada de Pollo (A)…

…and the Porcini Rissotto which was top notch (A+).

Both together came in at the ridiculously cheap price of €6! I really need to come here again.

Garum (High Intermediate A), 4 Avenida Martín Alonso Pinzón, www.garumrestaurantes.es

According to the teachers I worked with in 2015, this is the best arroceria (rice restaurant) in town. They were kind enough to invite me for a late lunch to celebrate the end of the Christmas term which was an offer I just couldn’t refuse!

We began with some top quality Jamon Bellota from nearby Jabugo, a town that I’m told has nothing going for it other than the fact the area around it produces some of the best cured ham in Spain.

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This can be tested by raising the plate to a vertical position. If the ham sticks to the plate and doesn’t move, it’s a sign that you have the best stuff. It was indeed sublime (A).

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After this some nice clams in a garlic sauce (A).

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And some of the famous Gambas Blancas de Huelva.

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For the main, a seafood paella utilising some of Huelva’s fantastic seafood (A). I just wanted to keep eating it but I had to stop for fear of appearing too greedy.

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One of the teachers Carmino was from Galicia and I put it to her that her region of Spain had the best seafood in Spain due to its colder water. She was very diplomatic with her answer, perhaps because her Andalucian husband was sitting next to her, and just said that the species of sea life in the Med and the Atlantic are completely different and so don’t bear comparison (the delicious white shrimp above being a case in point), which of course is completely true. I still think that cold water seafood has more flavour though as the creatures need to take on more fat.

The wine selected to go with the seafood was a local white called Barredero which at only 12% was soft and light, just what was needed (A). It seems a popular choice in Huelva as I was offered it again at Azabeche.

The dessert of choice for my fellow diners was pineapple from Costa Rica which is typically eaten around Christmas time in Spain.

This is an excellent restaurant and somewhere I’d love to go again. Bear in mind though that you need at least two people to share a rice dish which is rarely made for just one. There is another branch of Garum in nearby Punta Umbria.

And finally a couple of cautionary tales…

Gran Via Uno (Intermediate C-), 1 Avenida Martin Alonso Pizon

Another Guardian pick, but I had a bad experience here sadly. The Croquetas were cold in the middle but the young guy who served me tried to tell me they were okay. I think that because I was English, he thought I didn’t know what a croqueta should taste like. I insisted and got them back warm, but they were still just average (C).

I then tried to ask what kinds of Rioja he had and was subjected to a long and fast explanation of Rioja wine, obviously thinking that because I was English I didn’t know anything about Spanish gastronomy when in fact I’d be willing to bet I know more than he does. Our relationship broke down at this point so someone else came to serve me and I got a glass of Bai Gorri Crianza without any fuss.

The main of Ventresca de Atun was nicely cooked and quite good (B) but the vegtables I got with them had a strange and quite unpleasant earthy flavour and I only ate half (D+).

The Vina Barradero I had with it was okay though.

I might be persuaded to go again but next time I’d rather sit in the posher restaurant area rather than the gloomy tapas bar.

El Ambigú (Intermediate D), 479 Plaza las Monjas, NOW CLOSED!

While we were at Garum, the teachers also told me the place next door was good, or at least the meal they’d had was. Unfortunately that wasn’t my experience when I went for lunch a couple of days after the wonderful meal at the arroceria.

To begin with I had really poor service from a young and rather dim member of the staff who responded to my query about what the specialities of the house were by reeling off a list of everything they sold.

The situation was rescued by an older waiter who brought me a menu with the specialties (!), San Jacobo Casero (deep fried cheese and ham, similar to Flamequin) and Berenjenas Rellenas (stuffed aubergines), clearly displayed. Unfortunately they didn’t have any aubergines and I’m not a fan of Flamequin so I settled for a rack of prawns and a glass of wine. The wine was fine but the prawns weren’t very fresh as their darkening heads showed. Rather than have anything else at this place, I decided to go round the corner to Azabeche to finish my lunch.

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I went to the toilet first though and the washroom was a mess as well which was the final turn off for me. In their defence they had only been open a couple of days, the signs on the windows from the previous restaurant were still on the windows, but all the same this was not a good show from a restaurant pretending to be better than it actually is. I’d like to say they’ve got their act together now but they’re getting absolutely slated on Tripadvisor.

So you it is possible to get bad food in Huelva, but generally speaking I ate extremely well. Even more tapas next!

Huelva – tapas in the centro part one – Calle Vazquez Lopez

Posted in Andalusia, Calle Vazquez Lopez, Centro, Huelva, Huelva Province, Spain with tags , , on May 12, 2019 by gannet39

Locals used to joke that the statue of Columbus in Plaza de las Monjas, the main square in the centre, is pointing the way to all the good restaurants. It’s true that there are some very good places along Calle Vazquez Lopez but times have changed and there are now better and more modern places along Avenida Martín Alonso Pinzón, the other main pedestrian street coming off the square. I’ve broken them down by giving each street their own post, and written a third post about other places in the centre. They’re all on this Google map here. You’ll find a few more posts if you click on the Huelva link.

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So, in order of preference…

Azabache (High Intermediate A), 22 Calle Vazquez Lopez, www.restaurante.azabache.com

This higher end tapas bar is really hard to get into. I’m not exactly sure when it opens (8pm maybe?) but it would be advisable to get here as soon as it does most nights, and definitely at the weekend. It’s open Monday too but that’s not a good day for seafood so while you’ll easily get a spot at the bar, there’s not much on the menu. I went three times in all.

My favourite dish was the Ensalada de Berenjenas; a puree of roast aubergines and red peppers in olive oil and topped with Jamon Iberico (A).

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I ordered some Habas (broad beans) but these somehow became Gambas Rebozadas, battered and deep fried prawns, which were fine (B). If I’m going to eat prawns though I ‘d much rather have the grilled Gambas Blanca for which Huelva is famous.

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I also had Taquitos Corvina (chunks of sea bass) a la Plancha (B) and battered and fried Lenguado (sole) which needed boning but was also fine (B).

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I also had the Revuelto de Gurumelos, scrambled egg with earthy local wild mushrooms (B+) but it was a bit pricey at €14.

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My biggest regret about my visit to Huelva was not having the Huevos de Chocos (cuttlefish roe) at Azabache. I’d never had them before and they are supposed to be really good here. They need to be really fresh and are usually just served a la plancha with a bit of mayo on the side.

Glasses of wine cost €2.20, a little expensive but the quality is good. The local white wine Barredero seems to be the first choice here to go with seafood, as it was in other good places.

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You usually get a free chupito (shot) at the end of the meal and everyone seemed to be having something called Gecko which I’d never heard of before, so I ordered a double. It turned out to be caramelised vodka, very sweet and sickly but a good dessert substitute in small amounts (B).

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It’s much better to stick to their Limoncello, which seems to be quite popular in Andalucia. The one they have here is made in the province and is surprisingly good (B+).

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There’s a restaurant in the back but it seemed to be booked up with groups each night with no tables for single diners. This was the week before Christmas though so it might be different at other times of year. The whole place was still buzzing when I left at 11pm on Saturday night.

Portichuelo (High Intermediate B+), 15 Calle Vazquez Lopez www.restauranteportichuelo.com

This place is highly rated by some people on the net and by the Frommers guide. I visited it twice and liked the food but not the atmosphere particularly although they do have a terrace in the square outside, unlike Azabeche below.

On my first night I sat in the restaurant at the back where dishes cost a couple of euros more. I had a decent Rabo de Toro (B+) and two glasses of Rioja for my main.

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For dessert I had a slab of the deceptively named Tocino de Cielo (bacon from heaven), a speciality of Jerez, which I think is essentially another member of the flan family. It was much too sweet for me though (C). With a glass of PX the bill came to €27.

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On a second visit they were very busy but there was still space at the bar. I had their ‘obligatory’ house speciality, the Revuelto de la Casa (scrambled eggs with potato, jamon and green peppers) which was very good (A-) but served on a cold plate and a bit pricey at €13.

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I also had Albondigas de Chocos (cuttlefish balls which were very intense in flavour (B-).

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With two glasses of slightly effervescent Verdejo called Melior by Bodega Roble de Matarromera (A), the total came to €20.40, which is a bit on the steep side.

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Abacería La Abundancia (Intermediate B), 48 Calle Vázquez López

This place is just down the road from Azabache and gets a mention in the Rough Guide. I come here when I can’t get in at Azabache. It’s a bit small and lacking in atmosphere but the food is fine. I like the Albondigas de Carril (B+).

More great tapas bars on Avenida Pinzón next!

Andalusia – San Fernando – eating around Calle Real

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, San Fernando, Spain with tags , , , , , , on May 11, 2019 by gannet39

Calle Real and its side streets are where all the best restaurants and bars are. See my next two posts for alternatives. Map here.

This is the best place in town for food in my experience…

El Patio de Benitez (Intermediate A), 2 Calle Hermanos Laulhé, www.elpatiodebenitez.com, closed Monday

I was brought here by my local colleagues, Edite and her husband Wakim. This is their favourite place to eat in San Fernanado and I can understand why, the food is very good and the atmosphere is nice.

We shared a bottle of Beronia Crianza (B+), a good Rioja readily available at all Spanish airports, and several tapas (all A/B+/B).

The tapas we had were…

Crujientes Rellenos de Queso de Cabra y Berenjenas, crispy stuffed goat cheese and aubergines.

Saquitos de Bogabantes, ‘little sacks’ of lobster.

Barriga de Atun, tuna belly.

Albondigas Vietnamita, meatballs in a sweet spicy sauce.

Pluma con Reduccion de Mostaza Verde y PX, a tender pork neck cut with reductions of green mustard and Pedro Ximenez wine.

Lagarto Iberico (a cut of pork between the loin and the chops).

Pringaito de Carne al Toro, (a beef stew).

My favourite (A) was the Tosta de Setas, Jamon y Roquefort (Toast with Mushrooms, Ham and Roquefort).

The final bill came to just over €60 for the three of us, which is excellent value.

De Javier Taperia (High Intermediate B+), 58 Calle Real

This is a good place that has been #1 on TripAdvisor for quite a few years. The food is very good but I have a gripe with the fact that it calls itself a taperia but there are no tapas on the menu, only platos, ie big portions, which are a bit expensive for the non-sharing single diner.

One night I had this excellent Tataki de Atun Rojo de Almadraba, Wakame y Gazpacho de Tomates Verdes; traditionally caught, seared Bluefin tuna on a bed of seaweed with a green tomato gazpacho (B+).

It cost €14 which might seem expensive but it really isn’t for such top quality fish.

They have a good selection of local wines so I tried a few. I began with a local Palo Cortado called Monteagudo which was great (A).

The Tempranillo/Syrah/Cab Sauv blend by Fabio Montano scored well too (B+).

As did the (non-local) Rioja from Lopez de Haro (B+).

Latascona Gastrobar (Intermediate B), 54 Calle Real

This is a bright modern place on the main street selling a mixture of traditional and modern fusion cuisine. The service was nice and friendly and I liked the jazzy soundtrack.

The Salmorejo con Costrón de Algas, Huevas de Lumpo y Mojama, or tomato and bread soup with seaweed croutons, lumpfish roe and air-dried tuna was an interesting take on an Andalusian classic (B+).

The Medallon de Ternera, Foie Caramelizado, Gratén de Patata y Salsa y Boletus, or medallion of veal with caramelised foie, potato gratin and a mushroom sauce, was nice too (B).

Café D’ Anvers (Intermediate B+), 22 Calle Gral. García de la Herrán, m.facebook.com

In 2017, after eating well at El Patio de Benetez, Edite and Wakim brought me here for an after dinner G&T.

Wakim especially likes his cocktails so you can bet this is a good place. Certainly the lady server knows how to make a good one. Here she’s pouring the tonic down the bar spoon so it keeps it’s fizz.

Thanks for a lovely evening out guys! 🙂

Pastelería La Mallorquina (Intermediate B), 42 Calle Real

Just over the way from the Hotel Salymar, this is the local cake and coffee institution. I enjoyed the tuna empanada and a slice of pine nut tart here (both B).

I’ve always stayed at the AC Salymar (Intermediate C) www.hotelsalymar.com. It’s relatively modern and well located on Calle Real but doesn’t really have much else going for it.

To my knowledge the only other four star hotel in town is the Hotel Bahia Sur www.hotelbahiasur.com which is in a shopping centre and a fair way from the town centre, so I was happy to put up with the Salymar.

Ignore the next two, they’re closed now and the reviews are just for my memory only…

El Real de Velez (Intermediate B) 40 Calle Real, NOW CLOSED

I came to El Real on my first night in town in 2015, after binning the takeaway Bienmesabe I bought at Freidor El Deán (see next post), simply because it’s near the hotel and I’d arrived in town too late to go further afield. Rather than going on the rating Trip Advisor gives a place I like to check out the most reviewed establishments which is why I ended up in this modern but tatty and otherwise nondescript restaurant.

As they had no local delicacies on their menu I had their tuna salad, some croquetas and Guisos Calamaritos; squid in a saffron stew with rice, all of which were edible but unexciting (B). Their 2014 ‘Yllera’ Verdejo was okay (B)

Asador El Anticuario (Intermediate B), 2 Calle Cayetano del Toro, NOW CLOSED

I came to this place on my last night in 2015. Recommended by a local, it’s next to the town hall in the Plaza del Rey, on a street with a few other restaurants. I was the only customer, possibly because it was carnival week and everyone was in Cadiz having a good time.

I had the Tartar de Atun Rojo (Bluefin tuna, thankfully now recovering in numbers) which tasted tired (B-). I also tried their Carilladas Iberica which were fine (B).

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See my previous posts for food in other parts of San F. Huelva is coming next!

Andalusia – San Fernando – lunch time around Plaza Hornos Púnicos

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, San Fernando, Spain with tags , , , , , on May 10, 2019 by gannet39

This post is primarily for my colleagues as Plaza Hornos Púnicos is just a roundabout near the school I was working at and not an area to go out in the evenings (see my other San F posts for that).

However, in the middle of the roundabout you can see the mildly interesting remains of four pottery kilns which are of Carthaginian-Punic and Phoenician origin (hornos púnicos y fenicios) and date from between the 6th and 1st centuries BC. They were dedicated to the manufacture of amphorae and other containers for transporting fish, as well as other everyday objects. It’s the only archaeology in San Fernando that can be viewed by the public that I’m aware of.

There are a couple of places near the school where I went to eat lunch…

Disparate (Intermediate B+), 1 Avenida Almirante León Herrero, disparate.business.site

This is a gourmet spot just a few minutes’ walk from the school. It’s on the roundabout, over the road from the kilns.

The service is nice and friendly but painfully slow, although you do get an amuse bouche will you’re waiting.

I had the Callos de Bacalao con Garbanzos y Setas de Temporada, a tasty soup stew of cod guts, chick peas and mushrooms (B).

With bread and water it cost me €11.40.

Bodegon Andalusia (Intermediate C), 10 Calle Rafael Alberti

I was brought to this everyday place for lunch in 2015 by John the school owner (more of whom in my Cadiz carnival post!).

I gave the ‘Bienmesabe’ another go and liked it more than I did at El Deán (C+) but it still didn’t live up to its name for me (‘good taste’).

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Everything else was okay here though (B) and it was very busy and popular.

In early 2017 when Bodegon Andalusia was at #2 for San F on Tripadvisor, I got this update from a friend who found it “all rather beige. I thought the fish was frozen. Didn’t have one decent tapas to recommend and thought most dishes had been microwaved. Nothing really disgusting (except local fish) but not good either. So maybe give this one a miss as well!”

I went back in late 2017 and unfortuantely had to agree with her. The meatballs in a tomato sauce were C- and the chips were C. However it’s hard to argue with a Menu del Dia that costs only €7.50.

So while it’s still popular, it seems this place has gone down in quality in recent years. Disparate around the corner is probably a safer bet.

For some post-prandial exercise you could go for a stroll in the unnatractive but nearby Parque del Barrero where you can catch a glimpse of the world-famous Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada. As well as having a famous library, this is where the official time of Spain is set on atomic clocks. Free guided tours are available on request but are on weekday mornings only.

If you’re desperate to wash some clothes (as my colleagues often are) and you can squeeze it in between work, there’s a lavandería autoservicio called Lava+ www.facebook.com at 1 Calle Muñoz Torrero.

It’s all on my map here.

Please see my other posts for better places to eat…

Andalusia – San Fernando – tapas around Plaza de las Vacas

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Plaza de las Vacas, San Fernando, Spain with tags , , , , on May 9, 2019 by gannet39

Plaza de las Vacas is a scrubby square next to the castle, about a ten minute walk north east from the Hotel Salymar. Map here.

I’ve walked past the castle several times without realising. It’s been made so featureless that it’s virtually unnoticeable.

There are a few tapas bars around the square and a very famous music venue nearby…

Venta de Vargas (Intermediate B), Plaza Juan Vargas (no number), www.ventadevargas.es

Since opening in 1921, Venta de Vargas has become a legendary place in the history of Flamenco. Local boy and the most famous Flamenco singer of all time, Camarón, first sang here in 1959 when he was only 8 years old. His 2006 album is named after the venue and this video was shot there.

There were no flamenco shows when I was in town unfortunately but I still came to sample their traditional Andalusian cuisine.

I had the Croquetas de la Tia Maria which are actually made from leftover Puchero, a local stew (B).

Also a plate of Gambas Blancas Cocidas (€19 for 250g, about a dozen prawns) which were fine but I’ve had better (B). With a couple of glasses of mediocre Rioja Crianza, the bill came to €30.

So, average food, but still a good place to come if you can get tickets for the show. Check the website for info.

This next little bar is one of my favourite places in town…

Peña La Bandurria aka Guichi de Guerra (Elementary A) Plaza de Las Vacas, no number (north side of the square, midblock)

This tiny place is what’s known as a ‘gúichi’. a wine tavern where you can drink vermouth on tap and nibble on charcuterie and cheese. Why its nickname is ‘Güichi of War’ I don’t know as it seems a very friendly place.

It’s oozing with atmosphere with hams hanging from the ceiling, pungent cheeses sitting on the back bar and ancient paraphernalia hanging off the walls. On both my visits there were several people wedged in chatting with the owner, an old chap whose father opened the bar many moons ago.

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To go with my glass of wine, I tried the powerful ‘Emborrao’ goats cheese (B+), one of twelve cheeses on sale, with Picos (small breadsticks).

This amusing poster on the wall tickled me (sorry about the blurry pic). It lists health problems and their remedies, all of which are different types of alcohol!

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A good place to practice your Spanish should you be feeling sociable. Good luck understanding the accent!

Bar Leon (Elementary C+) Plaza de las Vacas, no number (east side of the square)

One evening I decided to try another local speciality, the Tortillita de Camarones, where tiny prawns are mixed into a chickpea batter (with wheat flour, chives, parsley, salt and water) and deep-fried. The chickpea element is a Genoese influence according to my research.

They were okay (B) but not ‘the best ever’ as one reviewer claimed. I wasn’t feeling the atmosphere so I barhopped to the next place below as soon as I finished eating.

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El 15 (Elementary B), Plaza de Las Vacas, no number, (north east corner of the square)

Next stop was this marisqueria two doors down from the above. I came here at the suggestion of the waitress in El Real to try yet another local delicacy, Cañaillas, or sea snails. They are so popular here that Los Cañaillas is also a nickname for the local people! They were fine but nothing mind blowing (B).

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There are a couple more bars in the square that I didn’t get to try.

This next place is a stonesthrow from the Hotel Salymar but I include it here as it’s on the way back from Plaza de las Vacas should you still be peckish.

Freidor El Deán (Elementary B), 57 Calle Real

This fish frying establishment is 200 years old so I thought it’d be a good place to try another local speciality ‘Bienmesabe’, or Cazon en Adobo, which is dogfish (a small shark) that has been marinated in vinegar, battered and deep fried. Sadly I wasn’t keen (C) as I found the vinegar overbearing and the flavor of the fish not to my liking, so it’s probably an acquired taste.

The shop sells other fried foods though so it’s still a good place to get fed quickly as it’s handy for the hotel.

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So as you can see, there’s lots of culture in San Fernando if you’re prepared to dig it out. Please see my other posts for more places to eat and stuff to see.

Andalusia – walking and shopping around San Fernando

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, San Fernando, Spain with tags on May 8, 2019 by gannet39

San Fernando is a small town on the other side of the bay from Cadiz.

This is the first of four posts about the town, the other three are about places to eat. Everywhere mentioned is on my Google map.

Although San Fernando might not seem particularly special at first impression, the town has several claims to fame.

The town has very strong maritime and naval links. El Panteón de Marinos Ilustres, a mausoleum for famous Spanish sailors, as well as a training school for NCOs, the Naval Museum, navy barracks and an old royal shipyard are all located here. The navy’s Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada is one of the most important scientific centers in the world.

San Fernando is also where the Cádiz Cortes, the first national assembly to claim sovereignty over the whole of Spain first met in 1810. It met in the building now known as the Real Teatro de las Cortes.

It’s also the birth and final resting place of Camarón de la Isla, considered by many to be the greatest Flamenco singer of all time.

San Fernando is also famous for its food. The inhabitants are nicknamed Cañaíllas because of their love of eating a local sea snail from the Bay of Cadiz of the same name.

The Andalusian classic dish of Tortillitas de Camarones, a deep-fried mixture of tiny prawns and chickpea flour, was invented here.

While I’d say the Tortillitas are worth a go, another famous local dish called Biensamabe, aka deep-fried vinegared dogfish, is not.

San Fernando is also known as “La Isla” (The Island) because it’s located on an island surrounded by salt marshes (hence “Camarón de la Isla”). So another nickname for the locals is “Isleños“. Salt production was once a major industry in the area.

There are two indoor food markets quite near each other; Mercado de San Fernando behind the old town hall and Mercado de San Antonio on Calle Juan Van Halen, a side street a bit further along Calle Real. Neither are particularly impressive but they are good places to pick up local ingredients to take home, or for a hotel room picnic.

In 2017 I did my shopping at El Almacen del Pata Negra, a deli at 20 Calle San Diego de Alcalá, around the corner from Mercado de San Fernando.

My local colleague Wakim had recommended a local cheese; Emborrado by El Bosqueño www.quesoselbosque.com, a mature sheep’s cheese from the Sierra de Grazalema (the highlands of Cadiz province), so I purchased a whole wheel of it here for €50. I can understand why it came third in the 2016 World Cheese Awards because it was superb (A).

I also picked up another local product; a bag of salt from Salinas San Vicente www.salinasanvicente, the last working saltern in San Fernando. The seemingly severe and unsmiling owner threw it in for free which was nice of him.

Wakim also recommended the Moscatel Pasa de Chipiona although I didn’t know where to look for it so I missed out. Next time.

In terms of architecture there’s not much to see. Most of the buildings you can see in the gallery are along Calle Real, the main pedestrian street running through the city. Although many of them are quite old (1755 was the oldest date I noticed), none of them are particular beauties.

There are a few newer buildings if you like that sort of thing (I do).

If you’re looking for a place to walk or run, or indeed to lie in the sun, you could make your way to Playa Camposoto. Just turn south down Calle Real and keep going as straight as you can (see map).

You’ll see a few salinas, salt collecting channels, along the way. It took me about an hour and ten minutes to walk one way from the Hotel Salymar to the beach after work one day.

Next time I’ll try the Salina Dolores trail to the north west of the town.

The next three posts are about good places to eat in different parts of San Fernando…

Laos – Vientiane – a visit to Buddha Park

Posted in Laos, Vientiane with tags , , on May 7, 2019 by gannet39

You’ll see a similar picture of this impressive reclining Buddha on the front of a lot of postcards in Laos. The image on the cards has been made to look quite old, as if the Buddha were an ancient carving, but in fact it’s a concrete statue that was made in 1958.

It’s one of the many unusual exhibits at Buddha Park, or Xieng Khuan in Lao, which means “Spirit City”.

It’s the brainchild of artist, and mystic, Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat who filled the park with images of strange creatures, humans and demons from Buddhist and Hindu mythology.

As there wasn’t much to see or do in Vientiane, other than visit yet another wat, Aki and I went to check it out one day.

The first structure you come to looks like a circular pill box with a bizarre radio mast.

The entrance is through a demon’s mouth. There are three floors inside that you can clamber around. They are supposed to represent earth, heaven and hell.

It’s my least favourite exhibit as there’s nothing particularly pleasant to see and it’s full of concrete dust. The rest of the park is quite fun though, in a twisted kind of way.

Click on the photos to expand them if you’re on a computer.

And that was the end of my time in lovely Laos. I’ll have to go back as there’s plenty of lovely countryside I didn’t have time to see. Got to keep on trucking though. Off to Spain next…

Laos – eating and drinking in Vientiane

Posted in Laos, Vientiane with tags , , , on May 6, 2019 by gannet39

To be honest I nearly didn’t come to Vientiane as it doesn’t seem to have much going for it, certainly in comparison to Luang Prabang. However I felt bad about not visiting the capital of Laos so I came for a couple of nights before heading back to Bangkok. I had a couple of fun experiences in the end though, which made it worthwhile…

My map of Vientiane is here.

Soukvimarn Cuisine Lao (Intermediate A), 133 Chanthakhoummarn Rd, Chanthabouly district, ວຽງຈັນ 01000, soukvimarn.business.site

I came to this excellent restaurant for lunch at the suggestion of my friend Aki.

I can’t remember what we had exactly but I’m guessing it was a chicken salad made with wonderfully fresh and flavoursome ingredients.

And they do a good rendition of Chicken Laap, the national dish.

I do remember however that it was really good and I wanted to try a lot more things from the menu, but time and belly space didn’t allow unfortunately.

Pho Zap2 Thatdam (Elementary B), Rue Phai Nam

As a big lover of noodle soups I was intrigued to try Lao Feuhr, the Laotian version of Vietnamese Pho. Pho Zap is reputed to make the best in town.

Lao Feuhr differes from Pho in that the stock is usually made from pork bones and the noodles are served with pork or chicken rather than beef which is expensive in Laos.

Pho Zap’s version is topped with pork meat and the pork stock features star anise and cinnamon. Fresh herbs, bean sprouts and lime are added to the bowl. Raw green beans, lettuce and whole chilies are dipped in Jeow and eaten separately.

Both these eateries are very near That Dam, an ancient stupa that the Lao believe is the home of the city’s guardian spirit, a seven-headed water Naga.

A few other bits and pieces caught my eye in the area.

La Terrasse (Intermediate B), Th, Rue Nokeokoummane, ວຽງຈັນ

This French restaurant was a favourite of my friend Bev who used to live and work in Vientiane a few years back. She used to come for a steak or a burger and fries as a change from sticky rice. I followed her lead and had a steak with peppercorn sauce and chips which was just what I needed at that point in time.

This next place however was a bit of an eyeopener…

Bor Pen Nyang Bar (Intermediate A), Quai Fa Ngum Street, the riverfront street

I stumbled across this place by accident when I was walking along the riverfront and heard the loud music coming from the top floor of a building, so I went to investigate.

The scene that greeted me was like a bar in a Vietnam war film with lots of local bar girls carousing with men from all over. Not sure if they were working or whether they just like to party but it made for a very sleazy atmosphere. It’s a big place and you can eat as well as drink here but the focus of the room was around the pool table where some serious players, of both genders, were getting their hustle on. Some serious pool-playing skills were on display.

I put my name down on the waiting list by letting the waiter know I wanted a game. I waited for an hour before I got a game which I spent having an interesting chat with a retired British teacher about the life of an ex-pat in Laos. A teacher’s pension goes a long way here apparently. I played two games, won one, lost one, and had my Margarita pinched fairly early on. An edgy, seedy place, just how I like it!

There is one more thing you could do in Vientiane…

Laos – eating cheaply in Luang Prabang

Posted in Laos, Luang Prabang with tags , on May 5, 2019 by gannet39

When I’m travelling for work, I tend to eat out at more upmarket places (see previous post), simply because I can’t afford to get ill. When I’m on holiday however, I’m up for taking more chances…

Detailed addresses are hard to come by in LP but you’ll find both these places on my Google map.

Riverside Barbecue Restaurant (Elementary B+), by the river on Khem Khong Road, near the junction with Kitsalat Road

This is a very popular dining experience with locals and tourists alike because it’s cheap and a lot of fun. It’s the local version of Hot Pot or Steamboat where you cook your own food in a heated stock at the table. The Laotian stock dish also has a hot plate so you can also barbecue simultaneously.

First you pay a set fee to the lady at the till and then she sends a waiter with some hot coals for the charcoal burner on your table.

Then you go to the buffet table to choose what you would like to cook and eat. You can return as many times as you like as it’s all-you-can-eat. My tips are to avoid those little frankfurters and load up on the mushrooms.

The waiter provides some cubes of fat to oil the hot plate and away you go.

Now I have to be honest and tell you I had a bit of a dicky tummy the day after this meal. However I don’t want to put you off as it’s a fun experience and you might have better luck than me. As a precaution, make sure you cook your food well and avoid pre-cooked food that could have been standing around for a while. I thought I had but it may well have been something else that caused my problems. Bon chance!

Unknown Noodle Shop (Initial A), no address but it’s on the other side of the street from the entrance to Wat Sen temple on Sakkarine Road, around the block from Tamarind

You’ll see the stock pans simmering away on the street and the staff and customers sitting outside on plastic stools. The Khao Soi here is described by someone on the web as the best in Luang Prabang, and I can’t disagree.

Apparently they sell out as early as 10am so it’s best not to leave it too late.

If your not averse to playing food roulette, the night market in the alley parallel to Kitsalat Road has heaps of street food vendors selling interesting wares.

And that was the end of my delicious experience of Luang Prabang. Off to the capital Vientiane next…

Laos – eating and drinking at the upper end in Luang Prabang

Posted in Laos, Luang Prabang with tags , , , , , on May 4, 2019 by gannet39

As you’d expect in a popular tourist destination, Luang Prabang has heaps of good restaurants. I’ve put many of them, including the ones below, on this map.

One of the best ones is also where I did one of my cookery classes (see previous post)…

The Tamarind Café (Intermediate B+), Kingkitsarath Rd, Luang Prabang, www.tamarindlaos.com, 11am-10pm

This was a favourite place for me to eat in Luang Prabang so I came twice. They focus on making traditional dishes with typical ingredients and do it very well.

On the first visit I started with Miang; a plate of fillings (aubergine and tomato rice pastes, fresh aubergine, green beans, lemongrass, peanuts, garlic, galangal, chillis, shredded lime leaf, noodles) which are wrapped in green leaves.

I think this leaf is from the plant of the Betel Nut, although I’m not sure what it’s called in Lao.

Feeling adventurous I had the Orlam Gai, described on the menu as Luang Prabang ‘Stew’. Based on aubergines, it also contains chicken and ‘local greens’ so I guess it varies according to what’s available.

I was particularly interested to taste the Mai Sakaan or ‘spicy chili wood.’ That I had seen in the market (two posts ago). It was interesting, the wood has a numbing flavour similar to Sichuan peppercorns, but the stew as a whole was just okay.

I’m a big fan of sausages and they offer a selection here. Sai Ur Mur is the unflavoured generic name. Sai Ur Mur Kun is spicy and herby while Sai Ur Mur Kwai is also spicy but made with lemongrass, galangal and buffalo meat.

I also had Cua Het Gati, or Stir Fried Mushrooms, made with coconut milk, galangal and kaffir lime leaves.

This is Soop Pak, a ‘salad’ of seasonal greens and veg tossed with basil, ginger, galangal, sesame seeds and Padaek fish sauce. For the ‘adventurous palate’ according to the menu.

They also have a good range of cocktails. Amongst others, I tried the Mekong Sunset (made with Ahn Sum; an edible purple flower, Lao Lao (rice ‘whisky’), lime and honey), the Tamarind Cooler (okay but not as moreish as my beloved Tamarind Margarita), all to good effect.

I also tried their straight Lao Lao, of which there was quite a selection. The classic Purple Rice was the best, and I quite liked the Honey Lime, but the Starfruit, Tamarind, Banana and Ginger versions are best steered clear of.

This is a good spot to try Laotian food. Nothing blew me away but it was all very interesting.

This next place is probably the best in town…

Restaurant L’ Elephant (High Intermediate B), Ban Vat Nong, Kounxoua Road, www.elephant-restau.com

Located in an old Art Deco villa, this is the most sophisticated restaurant in Luang Prabang, as the French name suggests. I liked it so much that I ate twice here.

The first time I had the Saveur de Laos tasting menu for about £15. Overall it was okay but a bit boring (B-). I was also starting to get tired of eating the same things by this stage.

The menu began with Tom Hom Prak I Leud (Betel Leaf Soup with Diced Beef).

On this plate from the front we have Mok Paa (Fish and Kaffir Lime Leaves Steamed in a Banana Leaf Papillotte), Ping Moo Saille Si Kry (Lemongrass Marinated Grilled Pork Fillet), Oua Si Kry (Steamed Pork Stuffed Lemongrass Stalk) and Kaipen (Luang Prabang river weed with sesame seeds).

This is Kroua Prak Lot Meet (Sauteed Vegetables and Luang Prabang Mushrooms).

And here we have the ubiquitous Laap Kai (Chicken Salad with Fresh Herbs and Roasted Rice Powder).

Unfortunately I wasn’t impressed with the Merlot wines I had (the first in a long time) although the Sileni Triangle from New Zealand was a bit better than the Classique d’Ardeche. They were a little vinegary so I don’t think they store them properly which is strange.

However it was heaven to finish with a balloon of Camus VSOP.

As well as a Lao menu they have a French menu so I came back to eat here again after being mildly poisoned at a cheaper Laotian restaurant the day before (see next post). After a month of local foods I really need something familiar so I went for the ever reliable sausage and chips, Merguez with onion confit, French fries and buttered veg.

Still craving meat I followed up with the Lao Buffalo Steak, basted with ‘Café de Paris’ herb butter and the usual trimmings.

On the first occasion the food had jsut been interesting but this time it pressed all the right comfort buttons. They do a decent Margarita here too.

Restaurant Les 3 Nagas (Intermediate), 18/02 Khem Khong, www.3-nagas.com

This is the restaurant of one of the best hotels in town which is located on the other side of Sakkaline Road. It’s in a beautiful colonial era building.

I’m sure the food is very good here but I just stopped in for an ice cream one day, and to have a peek at the lovely interior.

Their Rosella sorbet was a new one on me (B+).

In terms of bars, I quite liked the top floor terrace of Indigo House www.indigohouse.la, a nice hostel in the centre. They do a drinkable Strawberry Margarita (B-, not real strawberries) and the terrace gives you good views of Sisavangvong Road where the day market is. It’s definitely a good place to be during a rain shower!

Also, 525 Cocktails & Tapas www.525cocktailsandtapas.com has a nice terrace and seems to be a happening spot. The bar of the Avani+ Luang Prabang Hotel www.avanihotels.com is better for a quieter drink.

Laos – Luang Prabang – cooking Laotian food

Posted in Laos, Luang Prabang with tags , , on May 3, 2019 by gannet39

As I mentioned in my last post I took two cookery classes at two different restaurants while I was in Luang Prabang, both of which were really interesting and enjoyable. Not sure if the toque did me any favours though.

I chose them because they started with a trip to the market (see previous post) so we could know something about the ingredients we were cooking.

The first class was with Bamboo Tree www.bambootreerestaurants.com.

I went down to the restaurant first thing and met my fellow classmates; a nice Australian lady and her two sons who were planning to become professional chefs.

Linda the restaurant owner, chef and cookery teacher explained all the ingredients we’d be using.

Here she’s talking about the many kinds of rice in Laos.

All the prep had been done for us thankfully.

But we were hands on for the actual cooking.

Here I’m making Kai Pad Phet; fried chicken with red chilli paste and coconut milk.

The best thing we learned to make was the Oua Si Khai or Stuffed Lemongrass. First you make a cage by slicing through the white part of the stalk at different angles. Video from the second class here.

The cage is stuffed with mince meat (chicken or pork) that has been seasoned with garlic, shallots, fish and soya sauce.

It’s then dipped in cornflour, egg and breadcrumbs (panko in our case).

Finally the lemongrass stalks are shallow-fried before being cut in half and served. A brief video here.

It should be served with Jeow, a chilli paste made with chillis, galangal, lemongrass, fermented soya bean paste and sometimes buffalo skin.

We also made Ho Mok Pa, steamed fish wrapped in bamboo leaf packages held together with toothpicks.

Along with the fish inside the package was lemongrass, dill, spring onion, Lao basil, eggplants, chillis, coconut miilk, fish sauce, shallots and lime leaves.

Next up was Lap Kai; spicy chicken salad.

And here we have Tam Mak Hung; Lao green papaya salad.

To decorate this we were taught a bit of cucumber art. Video here.

This is the finished Kai Pad Phet.

And of course this was accompanied by steamed sticky rice. It should be soaked overnight and then washed in three changes of water. Traditionally in Laos it’s then cooked in a bamboo steamer.

And then we sat down and ate it all. A shot or two of the national spirit, Lao Lao rice ‘whisky’, helped with digestion.

So now I’m a bonafide Laotian chef!

My second class was at The Tamarind Café www.tamarindlaos.com/cooking-school.

Again we met in the morning at their Kingkitsarath Road Restaurant and were taken on a guided tour of Phosy Market (see previous post). After this we were bussed to their dedicated cookery school at another location outside of town.

The classroom is an open sided wooden building overlooking a pond with a kitchen garden behind it.

Growing in the garden, amongst many many other things, were Pea Aubergines, Sweet Basil and some unripe Passion Fruit.

Generally Tamarind seemed better kitted out for teaching large groups. We all had our own charcoal burners for example whereas at the Bamboo Tree there were only two stations for the woks. They could have taught a much larger group which may or may not be a good thing.

Again we had an introduction to the ingredients we were making.

We made Oua Si Khai aka Stuffed Lemongrass again but this time they were only dipped in egg and not flour and breadcrumbs as well.

Lemongrass can be quite expensive back the UK so it was good to hear that leeks, aubergines or courgette flowers could be used instead.

We were taught to make Jeow Mak Ken, a tomato version of the chilli dipping sauce that accompanies rice and vegetables. The tomatoes, garlic and chillies should be charred in the fire first.

They’re then chopped up and mixed with scallions, coriander, fish sauce, salt and lime juice.

The stomach bile was an optional ingredient but I reckon it gave my Jeow the edge.

We were also a new way to squeeze a lime, without getting the pips in your food. Cut three flaps around the edge as in the pic, squeeze each individually then fold them back up and squeeze out the centre. You can control how much you squeeze and you shouldn’t need to wash your hands afterwards. A revelation!

Whether limes usually have pips or not proved to be a controversial issue on my Facebook page. I did some research on the pip question and found that the limes typically sold in UK supermarkets are Persian or Tahiti limes and are indeed seedless. Petite Key Limes, on the other hand, contain seeds.

We also made Mok Pa, a popular dish of fish (catfish for us) marinated in herbs and steamed in banana leaves. Video here.

This time we were taught how to warm the leaf first to make it flexible.

We were also shown how to make a parcel with twine rather than toothpicks.

Also Laap, a minced meat ‘salad’ which is the Laotian national dish.

And of course sticky rice, both white and red this time, which needed washing first.

Again it was steamed in a bamboo steamer.

After our labours it was time to eat our creations.

It was thirsty work obviously.

While we were there occasional torrential rain showers would add to the atmosphere.

Once we’d eaten we went back to make dessert, Khao Gam or Purple Sticky Rice with Coconut Sauce.

Hot water was added to grated coconut which was then squeezed and discarded. This left just the white coconut flavoured water which we then used to heat up some cooked red rice.

After garnishing with fruit jam and some sesame seeds we also added some fresh fruit such as Rambutan and Long Gong.

So you really must do at least one cookery class if you can. Of the two I’d say the Tamarind class was the best organised, most educational and in the best location but Bamboo Tree were good too.

That’s all for now. Tham Keo! Cheers!

Eating out in LP next…

Laos – Luang Prabang – walking round Phosy Market

Posted in Laos, Luang Prabang with tags on May 2, 2019 by gannet39

I took two cookery classes at two different restaurants while I was in Luang Prabang, more of which in the next post. Both classes started with a shopping trip to Phosy Market to look at the ingredients we’d be using, and many more we wouldn’t. On the second visit I saw lots of things I missed the first time, so there’s definitely plenty to see.

Phosy is the main food market in Luang Prabang. The fruit and veg is outside under umbrellas while the meat, fish and dry goods are under cover inside a large building.

It was really interesting to see so many different ingredients and have a knowledgable guide who could explain them.

Here she’s telling us about a common ingredient in Lao cuisine, Mai Sakaan ໄມ້ ສະຄານ, an ingredient that is best described in English as ‘spicy chili wood.’

Mai Sakaan is very fibrous so it should be chewed and then spat out. It’ll make your tongue tingle in a similar way to Sichuan pepper.

Other things were more recognisable such as…

Chillis ໝາກເຜັດ [ma᷆ːk.pʰét].

Garlic ກະທຽມ [ka.tʰíam].

Lemongrass ຫົວສີໄຄ houa sikai.

Banana Flowers ໝາກປີ [ma᷆ːk.pìː].

Bamboo Shoots ໜໍ່ໄມ່ [nɔ̄ː.mâj].

Another kind of bamboo shoot maybe.

Lao Aubergines ໝາກເຂືອ [ma᷆ːk.kʰɯ̌a] and Limes ໝາກນາວ [ma᷆ːk.náːw].

There are many other kinds of eggplants. These are berry eggplant ໝາກແຄ້ງຂົມ mak keng kom or what I’d call pea aubergines.

Green beans ໝາກຖົ່ ວເບີອ mak tua beua.

There are various kinds of gourds. At the top we have the Snake Gourd ໝາກນອຍຍາວ mak noi nyaow and at the bottom is the Angled Gourd or Silk Melon ໝາກໜອຍ mak noi.

These tiny gourds are called Gadawm ໝາກກະດອ່ມ mak gadawm.

Hog Plums ໝາກກອກ mak gawk, mak kok, a sour fruit.

Tamarind ໝາກຂາມ [ma᷆ːk.kʰǎːm].

These look like Oyster Mushrooms ເຫັດນາງລົມ het nang lom.

Here we have banana leaves…

… which are used for making “steamed food” ອາຫານຫນື້ງ ahan neung.

And there were many, many kinds of rice, mostly sticky ເຂົ້າໜຽວ [kʰa᷆w.nǐaw].

Other things were harder to identify and name.

Dill ຜັກຊີ pak sii is a popular herb in Laotion cuisine but I think this might be some other kind of plant, perhaps a river weed.

In other south-east Asian countries this is known as ‘fish mint,’ ‘fish herb’ or ‘fish leaf’ but I don’t know the Lao name.

Scarlet Wisteria ດອກແຄ [dɔ᷆ːk.kʰɛ́ː] aka Sesbania Grandiflora the blossom of which is eaten as vegetable in soups and curries.

Bottom left are I think cucumbers ໝາກແຕງ mak taeng whereas to the right are Chayote mak su, or what I’d call Christophines in a Carribean context.

Above those are a bowl of small Bitter Gourds. Centre left is Pumpkin ໜາກອຶ mak eu.

These I believe are Chayote Greens.

This is Cinnamon and perhaps another kind of Cassia bark.

Here we have what look like eels.

And I think this is a type of catfish.

Can anyone tell me what the follwing are?

In the indoor market the butchery section is not a place for those with a faint heart.

Congealed pig blood or pig blood curd/tofu is used in a lot of soups.

You can buy Buffalo Skin, either with the hair on or hair off.

The same stall sells Kaipen ໄຄແຜ່ນ [kʰáj.pʰɛ̄ːn], from centre to bottom left in the pic; dried sheets of edible green algae from the Mekong, a product for which Luang Prabang is famous. In appearance and flavour it’s comparable to Japanese nori.

This lady is selling me Lao-style fish sauce ປາແດກ [pàː.dɛ᷆ːk]. As Laos is a landlocked country, the local fermented fish sauce is made from river fish.

Back at the restaurant I transferred the contents of this murky bag into a water bottle in order to take it home in my suitcase. I dread to think what it would be like if it leaked!

Now we have our ingredients, let’s get cooking!

Laos – Luang Prabang – wats around town

Posted in Laos, Luang Prabang with tags , , , on May 1, 2019 by gannet39

After visiting several wats in Thailand I was now starting to suffer from chronic temple fatigue. However I’m really glad I took the time to visit Wat Xieng Thong en.wikipedia.org as it really is something special.

Built between 1559 and 1560 it is one of the most important monastries in Laos and a repository of traditional culture. Until 1975, when the royal family was deposed, Laotian kings were crowned here.

The main building is the Sǐm (ordination hall).

It’s decorated with multi-coloured glass tiles that glitter in the sun.

On it’s rear gable is a beautiful glass mosaic of the ‘tree of life’ which has become a symbol of the city.

Other decorations include carved gilded wooden doors depicting scenes from Buddha’s life.

Some black outer walls are decorated with a gold overlay.

A statue of Buddha resides inside.

There are several Stupas (prayer mounds) around the compound.

Next to it are three small chapels called Hŏr.

Other glass mosaics run around the sides of the Red Chapel.

Over the way is another hall called the Hóhng Kép Mîen where the ceremonial funeral carriage for Laotian royalty is kept.

It’s decorated with red-tongued nagas (river serpents).

More mosaics cover the walls.

I particularly love this tree with heart-shaped leaves.

Down the road is Wat Sensoukaram aka Wat Sene which was built in 1718.

It’s nicknamed the ‘Red Temple’ due to its red facade overlaid with gold.

It’s not as beautiful as Wat Xieng Thong but it has a few fun details.

The outbuildings house a standing Buddha, a chapel, a bell and drum tower, and a couple of ceremonial boats.

A short distance away is Wat Siphoutthabath.

It’s fairly unremarkable although it does have some nice carvings on its doors.

The reason to come here though is to climb the ancient staircase up Mount Phousi, a low hill that sits in the middle of Luang Prabang.

It’s not very high but you can get a view of the river and some of the town. Some people say it’s nice to come here to see the sunrise.

At the top is a small shrine built into the rock.

Which is the entrance to a tiny cave.

No doubt a good place for silent meditation.

All this walking about is good for the appetite…

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