Sunday, 10 October 2010

Eating around the world

Working reception at the backpackers, as I am now, it has been intriguing to pop into the kitchen frequently and check out what guests are concocting for their meals. Given that each guest is from a totally different place in the world, and that they are restricted to, essentially, stovetop cooking (there being no oven available), it appears to be a lesson on combining your ethnicity with your ingenuity!

Last night, I watched (then sampled) as one inmate cooked up a pot of pasta, then pan-fried it in olive oil along with a block of soft cheese! An ‘interesting’ concept, and not one which would probably occur to many to whip up for their evening meal, but one which, with a tad more flavour adjustment, I would have been happy to have as my main meal for the day.

The Asians win, hands down, for the variety of meals they seem able to produce with minimal ingredients. I watched in amazement as three young people from Taiwan, with a surfeit of onions, made a deliciously-perfumed soup along with a mushroom and onion stirfry, and a vegetable and egg dish which resembled a dry curried cauliflower dish but contained no cauliflower. As I passed through the dining room, the three had just sat down and were helping themselves to a portion of each dish in the happy communal way of backpackers.

It is easy to trace the guests daily treks round the various tourist destinations when you look at what they’re eating each evening! The Bruny visitors return with a combination of oysters and cheese. The Salamanca wanderers come bearing fish, fruit and vegetables. The Airwalkers pick up bags of Huon apples, and snack on those for days to come.

But I think my prize goes to a French guest who has emerged from the kitchen a few times this week, to chat with me (en francais – just to help me brush up on my language skills! Bonjour Aurelie!), eating what I mistakenly took to be a small Maccas hamburger, but which, on questioning her about it, turned out to be a Nutella-filled two-crumpet sweet treat for breakfast! How enterprising is that?
Posted on by Rita


abi said...

It is amazing to see what people from different cultures can create in the kitchen, as you say particularly the asians - there is such an interested range of foods that can be made from very basic ingredients.

sir grumpy said...

Had any deep-fried Mars Bars from Scottish visitors yet, Rita?

Rita said...

We've had some wonderful Scottish visitors, but none of them have tackled the deep-fried Mars Bars, Sir G. We DID have three stereotypical Irishmen last week who amused me by spending mealtimes at Irish Murphys though - home away from home?

Cartouche said...

Reminds me of my student days, jar of this, tin of that scrape the mold off this, hey presto.
You know the poor old Scottish get a bad press on the food front for one abhorrent dish. The reality of fresh languistines, loch fyne oysters, georgeous scallops from Tarbot (make tassie ones look shameful) and all that fresh vegetables and fine whiskey. Jeez I miss the west coast of Scotland.


Anonymous said...

Rita, we had some stereotypical Sydney-siders staying at our house recently, funnily enough they spent all there time at the New Sydney!

They do have heaps of beers on tap and above average pub food, so it's nice. They also have a nice outdoor area out the back, where you can drink and smoke to your hearts content.

sir grumpy said...

PS Rita,

good news for tea drinkers.
Apparently US youngsters (18-24) are not all that keen on coffee, compared with their elders.
The coffee indutry is planning ways of luring them in (of course).
If they fail to, does this mean that I might be able to get a pot of ceylon in a Hobart cafe without having to wait forever for the froth brigade to get their beans?
To be fair to those coffee cafe specialists, they could go over to TEA!

Rita said...

So, Cartouche - you have some Scottish genes?
Anon 8.40 - the backpackers LOVE New Syd - many of them pop in there for the atmosphere and entertainment - but a common complaint is the price of their drinks...not being a NS frequenter, I have no idea about their drink prices in comparison to other pubs, but according to feedback received, they are head and shoulders above others, thus putting the backpackers off a return visit there. One drinks session there = all your allocated money for 'fun/entertainment' over the Hobart holiday time gone!
Tea rules, Sir G!

Rita said...

PS - Michelle whipped up some delicious-smelling congee yesterday following her return from a brisk walk up to the top of Mt Wellington! Love that initiative!

Dev said...

Every term we have an end of term International Lunch at our English school and the myriad of food amazes me and how a small number of ingrediants in many cases makes wonderful dishes. I have been introduced to Colombian, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Spanish and German food last term and love it! Now and then we add something Aussie to the mix but let me tell you Pavlova might be loved by us Australians but it considered way too sweet and "funny textured" for many of our Asian friends!

Anonymous said...

Hi Rita, RE the prices at New Syd, I actually think they are pretty reasonable.... Sure it's cheaper to get a $4 Stein of beer at the Tele, but the New Sydney has a wider product range (this obviously means increased costs and overheads) so whilst some of there products are more expensive than other places, you can understand why.....

Basic spirits are $7 for example, which some may feel is expensive but I have paid twice that in some bars and restaurants.

Christina said...

Yep, that's what I was going to say.
Phil and I went again last night and I dscussed the bar prices with Phil and his opinion is that there is an extensive range of boutique beers available and of course these may be more expensive but compared to say the Republic bar it's on par. I wanted Jim Beam which they don't stock so settled for a Maker's Mark bourbon which is a little more expensive but it only cost $7 which is pretty good I think. We shared a bottle of Storm Bay merlot which at $30 plus a little is comparative to other places.
I also took the liberty of discussing this topic with the head bar guy on the night, mentioning your blog post, and his quick response, because they were busy, was "well they are backpackers", not meant to be disparaging, but just stating a fact. Not a lot of disposal income for the pleasures in life I think he meant.
Our meal was once again really good. I chose the scallop entree which at $17 I thought slighly expensive but they were cooked beautifully. My main was a chicken caesar $15 which was great.
Phil had fried whitebait, $10, and it was lovely. He also chose the aged rib eye at $35 and while delicious, it was ordered medium rare , and delivered medium to well. He did clean the plate though. Not as good as the Republic's for the same price was the verdict.
A thouroughly enjoyable experience.

sir grumpy said...

Crikey, I remember the days not long ago when Hobart pubs gave you cask wine, red or white.
If you were lucky it was Brown Brothers from their huge casks.
But often it was Coolabah or Stanley.
We're very posh now.
As for beer it was usually just one tap one, Cascade, with a very slim stubby selection from the fridges.

Cartouche said...

Well apart from the discreet freckles and the odd bit of me that has the ginger gene, I'm 100% English.or at least thats how I feel. On the other hand I used to get the the urge to rape and pillage on a Saturday night, drink copious amounts of alcohol and tell the magistrate he could take my money (fines for d&d) but he would never take my freedom, But then most dickheads in their 20's go all William Wallace braveheart at some point.
No alas, I worked and lived up in Scotland a fair bit for a while.


sir grumpy said...

Why the ALAS, Cartouche old boy?
Some of those Caledonians can be extremely charming.
Not those soccer supporters from Glasgow, but the real people.

Rita said...

Thanks for the New Syd drinks pricing followup Christina and Anon. As I said, I'm not a NS frequenter (or any pub frequenter, for that matter), so have no idea what constitutes good or bad prices/value with pub drinks, but would assume that your average backpacker has about the same amount of disposable income as a mortgage payer from the suburbs?

Yes, I have noted that they are very cautious about how/what they spend their money on, but the money all goes into local coffers (ie tourist venues, pubs, restaurants, cafes, supermarkets, tour companies, hire car places, bus companies, cruise boats, camping shops, Telstra shop, electronic shops and the list goes on). Locals who patronise pubs would also have similar amounts to spend (ie be on a fixed budget), except maybe not at the above-mentioned outlets.

I think it's a harsh bow to draw to dismiss their opinions with a dismissive "well, they're just backpackers". If you want to look at it like that, you could argue in favour of their opinions being more valuable, as they have the experience/benefit of having drunk whatever their drink of choice is at many pubs around the world, and making their comments within a more worldly context.

I'm not dissing the NS barman's opinion, or yours Christina, but suggesting that there is an alternative way of regarding the backpackers spending habits.

Christina said...

Just like to reiterate Rita, the barman didn't say they were "just" backpackers, he said they "are" backpackers and his comments weren't meant to put anyone down in any way shape or form.
He just meant, as you have said that they are on a budget, maybe a bit tighter than the average Joe I would think as most of them have saved hard to have some time off and go off exploring.
Being a mortgage payer from the suburbs myself I do know what it's like to live on a budget.
If my comments offended you Rita I apologise profusely but you seem to have read so much into such a simple statement.

sir grumpy said...

They probably spend a lot more than those well-heeled toffs who visit on those gigantic cruise liners.
A shopkeeper pal says most scuttle back on board for lunch and dinner because it's all paid for.
And they've had their included big breakfast before setting off round Hobart.

Anonymous said...

Ok... so now we are sort of onto the whole mortgage subject :-)

Why is it the Holy Grail in Australia to own a house?

I rent. Cos its cheaper. Probably sounds stupid and I know that when I retire, I wont have a house to sell --- Thems the breaks!

I do frequent a lot of pubs, bars etc and to me a lot of the prices are similar and/or close for many drinks.