A travelling feast to remember
These past two weeks, dearest readers, I've had the greatest fortune of being able to travel to several different countries that hitherto I hadn't visited, and immersing myself in some life altering experiences. Quite apart from that, however, has been the incredible opportunity for a flavour raider like myself to savour new taste sensations which has more than done the trick in reinvigorating what was inexorably on its way to becoming a bit of a jaded palate. I'd like to share some of them with you in the hope that you too can vicariously glean some of the gustatory pleasure I've had the privilege of encountering.
On Burgazada, one of many picturesque Turkish islands that punctuate the Marmaris sea, an unexpected feast at Yasemin (27A Gezinti Yolu Cd, 34975 Adalar, Turkey, +90-216 381 1740), a seafront restaurant that happened to be owned by a friend of the Turkish yacht charterer with whom we had just enjoyed a most bracing sail. The usual meze dishes were all present and accounted for, from an unbelievably tender kalamar tava comprising squid dusted in nothing but the most ephemeral of seasoned flour and then fried, to cacik, a cucumber and garlic infused yoghurt dish. But it's been the humble hamsi fish that has haunted me most evocatively since the meal on this horse-and-carriage dominated island. Larger than whitebait, but still considered a member of the anchovy family, hamsi as a meze dish is usually lightly fried and served without much more than a slice of lemon as its dance partner. The flesh was unremittingly sweet, perfectly juxtaposed by the crispy savoury notes of the head, and I understood, as I reached for yet another piece, why this fish is so sought after in Black sea cuisine.
From a small sailing yacht, I deftly hopped into the capacious embrace of a mammoth Turkish gulet, and I would be lying if I said it was just swimming in the azure sea that will forever be etched in my memory. The consistently tantalising cuisine prepared by chef Yasin all jostle for a seat in the front row of my favourite food memories, but the top of the podium has been firmly claimed by his hunkar begendi, a feisty yet restrained beef ragout that he served perched on a bed of creamy, smoky and utterly unforgettable eggplant with bechamel sauce. As integral to Turkish cuisine as nasi lemak is to we Malaysians, this dish once so mesmerised Napoleon's wife that she sent her cook to learn it.
From thence to Denmark, where fish is a gastronomic tradition that any visitor should eschew at her own peril, the requisite marinated herring dish—the one I ate had been steeped in herbs and marinated most languorously so that the flavours were indelibly stamped into the silken yet textural flesh—that is served with chive topped rye bread slices, red and white onions, capers, dill, and crunchy croutons of pork crackling, as a collective morsel yields a flavour sensation that can only fairly be described as quietly electrifying. But it's the Danish street food that's been the most illuminating find, and king of that has been the roast pork burger, where slices of pork belly with unapologetically hefty and crispy crackling are blanketed with lashings of red cabbage, pickled cucumber, and mayonnaise and then sandwiched between two burger buns and served in all its unctuous glory. Whoever it was who told me that Scandinavian cuisine was beige needs first a good telling to then two of these babies to forever alter that opinion.
If you have the good fortune, as I have had, to experience new things, whether it's food or just life adventures, grab it, and grab it fast, with both hands, dear readers, for who knows when such a chance may come around again? Enjoy your aidil fitri celebrations in peace and surrounded by love.