food · international

Review: Awaze Ethiopian Eritrean Restaurant

My first day in Raleigh was great! Along with the main event I attended (more on that in a couple of days), I also got to try a new Ethiopian restaurant. Despite coming to this area several times, I’d never known about any restaurants specializing in Ethiopian/Eritrean cuisine until today, when I researched it and discovered one less than 10 minutes away from my hotel.

Awaze Ethiopian Eritrean Restaurant sits unassumingly in a strip mall. Its simple storefront doesn’t begin to capture the deliciousness that lurks inside. I was greeted by a friendly young man and was seated immediately. I ordered the veggie platter, which, according to the menu, had 4 different vegetable sides. My order arrived quickly and everything looked delicious. To my surprise, there were actually SIX sides on the platter. I was delighted!

(from left to right) Misir azifa (sauteed lentils), fasolia (green beans), kik alicha (yellow split peas), miser wot (red lentils), tikil gomen (cabbage), gomen (collard greens)

The order came with a generous side of injera (flatbread). I ate to my heart’s content. As I ate my last few shreds of injera, the waiter asked if I wanted more – his timing was impeccable! However, I was stuffed and couldn’t eat another bite, so no more injera for me.

Mmm, injera

I was thoroughly pleased with the quality and flavor of my food, as well as the great service. I noticed that Awaze had been awarded for being the best Ethiopian restaurant in Raleigh. The honor is obviously well deserved. I can’t recommend this place enough! If you love Ethiopian food and you’re in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area, you must visit this restaurant. You won’t regret it!

culture · international

Fun With Portuguese

I slacked with my Portuguese studies but I recently got back into my routine and I’m excited about learning more of the language. For the record, I’m learning European Portuguese, since I expect to go to Portugal before I travel to Brazil. But let’s be honest: I’d take either location: I’m not picky about which one I visit first!

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Portuguese has a lot of words and definitions shared with Spanish, but make no mistake: studying Spanish isn’t enough to get by in Portuguese. Familiarity with any Romance language will help with Portuguese comprehension. I always breathe a sigh of relief when I see or hear a word and it means what I *think* it means.

Pronunciation, on the other hand, is a completely different animal. I’ve taken French and Spanish, and certain tricks of pronunciation elude me: the same occurs while I’m practicing Portuguese, too. I really love is the tendency to add a subtle “sh” sound at the end of some words ending in the letter “s”. It almost sounds like what most Americans would consider a lisp, though it’s actually a completely acceptable sound. In fact, disregarding the subtle “sh” would likely make it clear to any native speaker that you aren’t one of them.

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All of that being said, I love the sound of Portuguese, and I’m excited that I’m learning little phrases here and there. If I didn’t mention it before, I’ll mention it now: I’ll be sharing my language learning tools on this blog. For this post, I’ll be sharing one podcast that I’ve used to help me with learning Portuguese.

Portuguese with Carla has incredibly thorough language instruction and the lessons are long enough where you can really start “training your ear” to the language. Carla and her husband Marlon not only teach Portuguese but they also give neuroscientific tips, offering research and techniques related to improved language learning. I’ve been having a lot of fun listening to them and practicing along. I generally listen to the podcast but I also have checked out their companion YT channel, since I occasionally need to see what is being said so that I can get a better “feel” of the conversation. If you’re interested in learning Portuguese, I highly recommend this website/podcast/YT channel!

Here’s one of Carla’s videos, for your enjoyment:

food · international

Trying My Hand At Portuguese Food – Vegan Caldo Verde

I’m still studying the Portuguese language (more on that in a future post) but I know that part of learning about a culture includes exploring the cuisine. And, as a self-proclaimed foodie, I find that immersing myself into the culinary aspects of a culture does wonders for my overall excitement. So, I tried my hand at preparing a traditional Portuguese dish. Here’s my story about it.

I looked through various online sources to find out what makes up the bulk of the typical Portuguese diet. What I found was a lot of seafood and vegetable dishes, and a wide array of pastries. Fortunately, I love ALL of these, so I was excited. I wanted to start with something simple, so I decided to try making caldo verde, a traditional Portuguese soup that gets its signature green color from its sole green ingredient, kale.

Only one problem with caldo verde – it normally contains chourico (chorizo), a type of pork sausage. I don’t eat any pork, so I had to adjust the recipe. I tried making it twice, and both times turned out well, though my second attempt (using a combinations of Trader Joe’s soy chorizo and Field Roast Italian Sausage, though next time I’ll replace the Italian sausage with Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Sausage) was more of a success.

First try: caldo verde with Field Roast Italian Sausage only

I also used a blender, as opposed to mashing the potatoes by hand. It’s much easier for me to get the consistency I desire by using the blender. It also made the food prep portion easier – I could chop the potatoes and onions coarsely because the blender would take care of the rest of the work for me.

The soup is luscious, filling and very easy to make. It’s also pretty inexpensive: it contains a lot of common ingredients and can easily be tweaked for your taste. I’m going to share my recipe below, as well as the recipes I reviewed while coming up with my own version of caldo verde.

Second try – even tastier since I added the Trader Joe’s soy chorizo along with the Field Roast Italian Sausage slices

Caldo Verde (serves 6)

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped into large pieces
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (approximately 2-3 cloves)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 gold potatoes, chopped into large pieces
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups veggie broth
  • 4 cups kale, chopped into bite-sized or smaller pieces
  • 1/2 pack Trader Joe’s soy chorizo, sliced to the size that you prefer (it’ll crumble up so the sizing doesn’t matter)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 pack Field Roast Sausage of your choice
  • salt and pepper
  • Add oil to a large pot, and warm over a medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and stir. Cook until translucent (about 4-6 minutes).
  1. Add potatoes, water and veggie broth to the pot. Stir to combine, cook until potatoes are soft (about 15-20 minutes).
  2. Turn off heat, and scoop out potatoes and onions, using a slotted spoon or straining spoon. Place potatoes and onions into a blender, along with some of the broth. Blend until smooth.
  3. Return blended ingredients to the pot, and stir well with the remaining broth. Add chopped kale, and cook over a low heat. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes, or until kale softens. Season with salt and pepper
  4. Add chopped sausage, and stir well. Warm for an additional 5 – 10 minutes (make sure the the sausage is heated thoroughly).
  5. Serve while hot.

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Close up of the finished product, second time around

I used AllRecipes, Olivia’s Cuisine and Leite’s Culinaria to create my recipe. Many thanks to them for such clear directions! I couldn’t have done it without their recipes as templates. Muito obrigada!

 

art · international

Portuguese Contemporary Art in Richmond, VA

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting one of my favorite museums, Virginia Museum of Fine Art (VMFA) to view the exhibit, Contemporary Art from Portugal. As you all know, I’m currently studying the Portuguese language so this exhibit was an obvious choice. Also, last month (June) signified Portugal’s 900th anniversary of being a sovereign nation (Go Portugal!)  so there are nationwide events commemorating this incredible event. This exhibit was one of many of the commemorative events happening all over the country, and I’m delighted that my hometown participated in the festivities.

I’m beginning to really love contemporary art: this is REAL progress, as I’m a huge fan of Impressionism and Neoclassicism. I’m opening my horizons and making an effort to embrace newness and innovation, and I was very pleased with the exhibit. I’m  happy that I got to learn a little about some of the artists representing Portugal. These artists are tremendously talented and are a great representation of what this wonderful country has to offer.

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Info card from the exhibit

The exhibit featured work from Helena Almeida, Fernando Calhou, Ruy Leitão, and several other notable artists. The exhibit was small but impactful: I was fascinated by the the drawings and paintings enough to start doing my own research on Portuguese artists. As with pretty much all research that I do, I learned of a rich cultural heritage among Portuguese contemporary artists. I am fascinated by what I’ve learned and I’m eager to learn more as time goes on.

In the meantime, here are a few of the works that I viewed. If you are interested in checking out the exhibit for yourself, it will be at VMFA until July 22, 2018, so you still have time. However, if a trip to Richmond, VA is out of the question, you should check out your local museum to see if there are any Portuguese art or cultural exhibits on display. Just go to Facebook’s Month of Portugal page for details

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culture · international · life curation

My Cultures and Identities Course is Completed!

I finished my Cultures and Identities in Europe course a few days ago, and I’m excited to share what I learned with you all. I’ll discuss what I enjoyed about the platform, FutureLearn, then I’ll dive into the course specific details and my take on what was offered in this class.

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For starters, I’d never completed a course through FutureLearn before. I was familiar with the website but never did any of the classes, so this was a first for me. I was really impressed with the structure and content of the course that I completed. This was well-suited to online learners: an appropriate mix of video and written content that thoroughly cover the subject matter while keeping the students engaged. I also loved how easy it was to access the course and complete the modules according to my schedule.

The course, as outlined, takes about 3 weeks to complete. However, additional time is allowed, so if you miss a few days of study, you can easily go back and make up those sessions. The program has transcripts and closed captioning for impaired students. I was impressed with the amount of care that went into producing this free resource. However, if students are interested in access this course indefinitely, or obtaining a certificate of achievement, FutureLearn charges a fee (currently $59) for lifetime access.

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Now that the general information is out of the way, let’s talk about the class. The class is broken down into 3 general sections: European Identities, European Memory and Heritage, and European Creativity. Each section delves into the history of the topic, the current state of the topic, as well as the politics that have influenced each of these areas.

The course defines Europe, European identity as well as European culture, then it explores all of the factors that have previously and currently have defined these concepts. I really loved learning about how Europe has created policy to embrace diversity as well as how Europe intends to approach cultural and creative programs outside of the economic perspective.

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I really enjoyed this course and, while I don’t plan to purchase lifetime access, I can easily see myself signing up for this again in the future, just as a refresher. There was a lot of good information in this course – I’m glad I signed up and completed it!

 

international · life curation

Learning a New Language

Hey friends! I’m excited to share my latest learning adventure. Of course, I’m still studying Inside Opera and Cultures and Identities in Europe (I wrote about the courses here and here). But I also took on another learning experience because, well, it felt like a good idea!

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I’m studying Portuguese after visiting the Embassy of Portugal a few weeks ago. I love the language and I’m looking forward to becoming proficient over time. As it turns out, I have a few Portuguese speaking friends that are eager to help me practice, not to mention I have a lot more resources at my disposal than I did when I studied French and Spanish years ago.

For starters, I’m using YouTube, podcasts, digital textbooks, and media to learn Portuguese. Also, there are some excellent groups online (specifically Facebook) that can connect language learners with native speakers to practice or even to ask technical questions. I’m still assessing which resources are the best in my opinion, but as soon as I have a good list of resources, I’ll definitely share them here!

Are you all currently studying any languages? Let me know in the comments below!

food · international

Review: Le Mandigue Restaurant

Happy Friday, friends! Today is a first for me: it’s a West African food review!

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(photo from Le Mandigue website)

I have never been a fan of the West African dishes that I’ve tried. I’ve had egusi, fufu and jollof rice, but I just wasn’t wowed. However, I really wanted to try something different. So I decided to give West African food another try.

I order from Le Mandigue in Philadelphia. As an aspiring vegetarian (that fails frequently!), I wanted to opt for a meatless entrée. So I got the vegetarian fried rice and steamed vegetables. I also got degue, monie callama and kallah, which I didn’t realize at the time were all desserts.

Here are some photos of the meal:

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Fried vegetable rice and steamed vegetables (cabbage, peas, corn, potatoes)

Dege (dessert)

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Closeup of monie callama

I ordered through UberEats and my food arrived quickly.

The fried rice was tasty and substantial. The steamed vegetables were well-seasoned and weren’t overpowering at all.

And the desserts! I How did I not already know about these amazing deserts?! These were the most interesting part of the meal. Dege reminds me of the rice pudding or tapioca pudding available at some Indian restaurants: creamy, sweet with a hint of sourness (probably because it’s made with sour milk). It’s the mix of flavors that make this such a multidimensional dessert. Monie callama is like a liquified jelly, yummy and smooth, with tapioca-like starch suspended within. Just yum!

I wish I could have enjoyed this in the restaurant but alas, I ordered it to my room. However, I will be sure to visit the restaurant in person when I return to Philadelphia. I’m so looking forward to it!