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10 first bites

It is no secret that I love to eat and I always prioritise things that seem unusual when picking from the menu. Sometimes, when there are more options than I can manage on my own, I throw the puppy eyes at my dining companion in hope he/she picks up on my inner plea to order one of them… ;)

Last year, in writing the list of 101 goals, I added “10 things I’ve never tried before” and hope it’ll make food discovery more interesting. However, actually having dishes in front of me often translates to “busy eating, no time to think or take photos” and therefore writing this post had taken a little longer than expected.

10 new food

1. Courgette flower: semi-hidden here between a slice of chorizo and a cherry tomato, the courgette flower is bright to look at and delicate to taste. They don’t transport well nor last beyond a few hours after picking, so it’s not something that can be easily found in Paris (much easier in south of France though). It tasted like, well, courgette, but a “lighter” version. The flower also has a soft velvelty texture, like most edible flowers really.

10 new food

2. White aubergine: I have come across small Thai aubergine that finally makes the word “eggplant” clicks, and there are plenty of dark purple skinned ones everywhere. White aubergine, however, is new to me. Since it is one of the specialties in Santorini, I did not hesitated ordering one. It is similar in taste to the usual aubergine, but somewhat sweeter

10 new food

3. Fáva: in day-to-day English, fava would be understood to be broad bean but in Santorini, it is a variety of yellow split pea (here, that mashed light yellow component in the centre of the plate) that I understood to be different from that commonly used in Indian cuisine – split pigeon peas – to make dhal. Since I did not have both split peas side by side to make comparison, I can’t tell you which is better or how different they really are.

10 new food

4. Pigeon: roasted squab tasted a little gamey but succulent and tender, rather similar to duck meat come to think of it. My dish here was cooked on the medium-rare side, and paired very well with a rather rich foie gras ravioli which was tucked underneath the squab.

10 new food

5. Salak: snakefruit on its own tasted sweet yet slightly grated on the tongue, almost like unriped jack fruit, despite being juicy. The lobes revealed after peeling the skin off appear to resemble large, peeled cloves of garlic, with the biggest lobe containing a large seed. It is a most unusual fruit, and I do wish I can get them back in Europe but so far, none has been spotted.

10 new food

6. Seaweed stem salad: growing up in an Asian family means I’m fairly familiar with seaweed in cooking, be it for soup, or dish, or even as a snack – seaweed chips are really tasty! Yet this would be the first time I had seaweed stem (miyeok yulgi), marinated Korean style. Not as salty as I’d expected given the preparation had altered the ingredient.

10 new food

7. Langouille: I had been excited to try langouille, a type of andouille made using pig’s tongue, and a local specialty in the region where my in-laws live. Sadly it came in the form of a savoury muffin, all finely chopped up that I couldn’t quite make up what’s different about it from other forms of andouille. Pffttt…

10 new food

8. Aged beef: you may say, beef is beef, right? Nuh-uh. Aged beef is not your average beef. The burst of flavours that I did not imagine could come from beef – hints of caramelisation, musk, nuttiness – along with the tenderness not found in your usual steak had me wanting more. Sadly F loved his strip of aged beef very much too so I couldn’t coax him into giving me more from his plate.

10 new food

9. Crystalline iceplant: now here is one unusual leaf you should definitely try if you come across one. Known as ficoïde glaciale in French, it is juicy and crunchy, with a touch of citrus saltiness – something I feel I could easily pop into my mouth, one leafy green after another.

10 new food

10 (& 11). Sunchoke and salsify: serving “forgotten vegetables” is all the rage in the last year or so, and I am thankful for the reappearance of sunchoke and salsify on the table. We initially thought this soup, served as part of blind-tasting menu, was based on artichoke, potato and some kind of nut/mushroom mix but no, it’s actually sunchoke (also known as topinambour). Added to the mix: salsify, which to me tasted like a cross between parsnip and carrot. Definitely fun to play “guess what it is?” ;)

* * *

Even though this part of the challenge is now completed, I am not going to stop seeking out food that stands apart from the others on a menu. If anything, this little experiment had taught me that a brave eater is usually rewarded handsomely, when each bite brings something new to the plate: taste, texture, sight. Perhaps a notable exception would be the time I tried fermented shark a couple of years back. Now, that, was a true test of one’s relationship with food!

What have you tried recently that have been memorable, either in positive or negative manner? What do you think I must try if I ever come across it in the future, or that I should even keep my eyes peeled for it?



Category: 101 Goals, Food & Drink

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6 scribbles & notes

  1. Ah, Paul is familiar with topinambour and salsify with his botany knowledge! Topinambour was actually eaten a lot in France during World War II because of food shortages. It’s a tall plant that comes from the sunflower family, with bright yellow flowers that look somewhat similar to the sunflower. I’ve seen it growing on the side of the road in Ardeche, I might collect some having seen the elevated prices in the supermarkets now it’s “à la mode”!

    • Lil says:

      Yes, the forgotten vegetables, including rutabaga, were abundantly eaten during the WWII that people rather not see another piece of them in the years that follow. I think it’s great that they’re making a comeback since they are delicious, so definitely grab the free supply that you can get ;)

  2. med says:

    hooohoooo…yummy yummy….gotto seek and try out aged beef!!! ;)

    • Lil says:

      Definitely! May be tricky to find, since the process of beef aging is time-, work- and cost-consuming. You might have better luck in Oz?

  3. sila says:

    yum! :) the aged beef is something i haven’t tried but i’m not that big into beef. i prefer mine either rendang-ed to smithereens, or hammered thinly into carpaccio. i haven’t tried any of the fruit/veg items though. hmm. i am sadly behind :)

    • Lil says:

      I do quite like beef and a good steak, gnom. I miss beef bacon from the hotel in Sharjah… And oh, you have plenty of food adventures yourself so don’t sell yourself short there ;)

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