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Breakfast

Eating the World Every Morning

A Perfect Breakfast, Nourishing and Unpretentious

May.09.16

A Perfect Breakfast, Nourishing and Unpretentious

by Jodi Bosin

Eggs in Japan

The schedules of businesses on the island had proved to be unpredictable. A phrase about “island time” comes to mind, though no one here bothered to use an adage to excuse unpunctuality. On Naoshima, an island in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, life is so serene it doesn’t even matter.

One of the so-called “art islands,” Naoshima is a surreal place, filled with sculptures, gorgeous museums designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, and a series of artist-renovated homes called the Art House Project.

I like long mornings, so I’d set out for a bakery that allegedly opened at 8 am, where I’d planned to spend a few hours before the Art Houses opened. Upon arriving around 8:30 I found it closed, with no activity inside and no indication of when it would be open. It didn’t make sense to walk back to my hostel, so I resigned myself to wandering. I saw a sign for a supermarket and made my way over but it, too, was closed. I began to lose hope for breakfast redemption.

Then I noticed a friendly wooden sign that said “open” in front of a house near the supermarket. I couldn’t see inside, but it seemed promising. I passed through the threshold, took off my shoes, and entered a café that seemed to be inside someone’s living room. The space was bright and filled with wooden tables. On the shelves sat an array of lovely vases, lamps, ceramic bowls, magazines, jars of preserved fruit, and flowers. A family of four sat on cushions at one of the tables, having breakfast. A TV was on in a corner, tuned to a Japanese cooking show in which an old woman was showing a young woman how to make the components of a meal. Attached to the main room was an average looking kitchen, cluttered with knick-knacks, piles of paper, and notes on the refrigerator, endearingly incongruous with the café atmosphere beside it.

I took a seat, and a kind-looking woman with graying hair in a ski vest and slippers came over with a menu. It wasn’t in English, but I gathered that the only choice was the breakfast set so I ordered it, accustomed by now to getting set meals without needing to know what they contained.

Soon after, she brought out a large black tray artfully arranged with coffee, thick buttered toast, a salad with the tasty miso dressing that seemed ubiquitous, yogurt with a kiwi sauce, and an egg with some salt. Like all the eggs that had graced the many bowls of ramen I’d had in Japan, this one was perfectly soft boiled, its yolk a bright, beautiful orange. The meal was simple and nourishing, unpretentious but somehow perfect.

Afterward I lingered awhile, in no hurry and at peace. Normally the sound of a TV would bother me, but I didn’t mind it. The family had left and it was just me in the sunlit space. The owner worked in her kitchen, washing vegetables, talking on the phone, unperturbed by my prolonged presence, a guest in her home. When ten o’clock arrived, I took my leave of the chance encounter and stumbled back out into the sunshine.

Is This the World’s Best Vegetarian Dish?

Dec.05.17

Is This the World’s Best Vegetarian Dish?

by Pranjali Bhonde

Misal in Pune

Its 11 a.m. on a Tuesday when I amble down the footpaths in the historic ‘peth’ area of Pune, in search of breakfast and the legendary misal at Shri Krishan Bhuvan.

Vendors in the bustling market area of Tulshibaug thrust their wares at me—a neckpiece, handkerchiefs, chappals, fruits, etc. I maneuver through the crowd and finally reach Shri Krishna Bhuvan.

Established in 1941, the place is all coy minimalism—a few wooden tables and benches and waiters darting in and out of their open kitchen. The tables are shared; it’s absolutely normal for a stranger to come and sit beside you. Thankfully, it’s a weekday and I don’t have to wait. The waiter asks me how would like my misal—normal, medium, or ‘picy’, hastily skipping the ‘s’. I order a medium with buttermilk. The misal arrives in record time, with a bowl of the ‘sample’ (curry, infused with ginger-garlic paste, freshly grated coconut, chillies, tomatoes, and potatoes) and bread slices.

The misal at Shri Krishna Bhuvan is prepared by combining poha (rice flakes sautéed with onions and curry leaves), batata bhaji (potatoes tempered with mustard, asoefitida, and chilli), chiwda (a mixture of dry rice flakes), and sev (noodles made of chick peas). It’s garnished with chopped onions and lemon, and topped with tari—a searing mixture of oil and spices.

The flavors of the coconut, ginger, and garlic beautifully unfurl on my tongue. In between bites of bread and misal, I take brave swipes at the red tari. Beads of sweat gather on my forehead. When it gets too hot to handle, I take large sips of the buttermilk.

Several tea-houses and corner shops serve misal, each with their own method of preparation. For people in my state, Maharashtra, misal is more than just a dish. It stands for camaraderie and bonhomie, and it’s also a perfect cold remedy. It’s a versatile dish: it can be an evening snack, but it’s common to eat it for breakfast and lunch, too. Don’t just take my word for its charms: in 2015, London’s Foodie Hub Awards declared misal the world’s tastiest vegetarian dish.

Shri Krishna Bhuvan, 1164,
Budhwar Peth Road, Tulshibaug,
Budhwar Peth, Pune,
Maharashtra

Breakfast Curd: It’s All About the Pot

Nov.29.17

Breakfast Curd: It’s All About the Pot

by Charukesi Ramadurai

Curd in Sri Lanka

We are still bleary-eyed as our car makes its slow progress through the streets in Sri Lanka’s south. Our flight landed at an ungodly hour in the morning, and my husband and I are headed from Colombo’s international airport to Yala National Park.

The streets are empty, the dozens of villages dotted along the stretch slowly coming to life. We have been looking for breakfast, but nothing is open yet. Crossing the coastal resort towns of Tangalle and Hambantota, we reach Tissamarahama, when these shops first begin to appear. The first sign that catches my eye is Jayasuriya Curd Shop.

Wait, wait. What is a curd shop?

Our driver, Anand, turns to us in the backseat—taking his eyes off the road, as is his habit—to gush over the delights of the local curd. As he talks, we notice that both sides of the highway are lined with open stalls (with and without signboards) selling curd in shallow earthen pots.

Known as mee kiri, this is Sri Lankan curd, traditionally made from buffalo milk. The milk’s high fat content gives it an unmatched creaminess. The curd is made through natural fermentation, with tiny spoons of old curd added to milk that’s boiled for two hours to reduce the water content, then cooled to room temperature. It’s then sealed with paper and set aside for 12 hours (usually overnight). A part of the secret to this curd’s taste and texture lies in the coarse and porous nature of the baked clay pot (kiri hatti) in which it’s set, which provides natural insulation.

Stomachs rumbling, we pull over at a relatively uncrowded shop. Sanduni, the smiling teenager whose family has been in this trade for several years, welcomes us with a shy smile. She has even set up a hut with makeshift chairs and tables; a couple of local men seated on rickety plastic chairs pour a generous quantity of a viscous brown liquid on the yoghurt in their cups.

This Sri Lankan treacle, known as kithul peni, is made from the toddy (kithul) palm and is a perennial favourite among locals. Somewhat like maple syrup, it is smooth and thick, without the cloying sweetness of sugar or honey. Kithul-tapping is carried out by specific communities in Sri Lanka, with both men and women collecting the sap from trees and then boiling it to produce treacle (as well as jaggery, another natural sweetener).

As we dig into our kiri—we can’t bring ourselves to pour quite as much kithul as the locals do, especially because the curd has an innate sweetness—we chat with Sanduni while Anand acts as interpreter. Like other families in the village right behind this bustling highway, hers also makes and sells this yoghurt—over 250 pots a day.

Kiri with kithul is a most delicious and satisfying breakfast. We buy another pot for later in the day, the thought of kiri for dessert after lunch running through our heads.

[Looks at Photo] I’ll Have What They’re Having

Nov.28.17

[Looks at Photo] I’ll Have What They’re Having

by Tayyaba Iftikhar

Katlama in Lahore

One of my earliest memories is of eating gigantic, deep-fried flatbreads smothered in spices at my grandparents’ home in Lahore. The bread was delicious, and according to my mother, after we had come back from our trip I ordered my father to search the city for a katlama like the one we had in Lahore.

I had forgotten about that, until I visited Lahore again many years later. I had only come for a day, and the original plan was to set off for home early next morning, but the smog deterred us. We were in the car debating where to get breakfast as we waited for the haze to clear. The long fingers of dawn had crept up across the horizon, and the municipal workers were sweeping the street. It was strange to see a city, usually bustling with people, clogged with traffic, so empty, quiet, and vulnerable.

We drove to old Anarkali Bazaar in central Lahore, named after the legendary figure, Anarkali, a courtesan that the Mughal Emperor, Akbar, supposedly ordered to be buried alive. The bazaar was shrouded in fog, but we caught glimpses of the British and Mughal architecture. A few nameless roadside stalls were open, and there was a small queue of people in front of them. We watched as one of the vendors lit a fire under a huge, blackened wok full of oil. Another person behind him deftly rolled dough into sizable balls.

I asked him for breakfast recommendations. He parroted a list of options: halwa puri, channa cholay, katlama, qeemay ki tiki (sometimes known as qeemay ka katlama), etc. We ordered the katlama and qeemay ki tiki. The vendor produced a large rolling pin and worked on the dough, stretching it. He threw a blend of chili powder, pomegranate seeds, and crushed cumin in a thick mixture of besan (chickpea flour) and spread it all over the dough. He then carefully tipped it in the sputtering oil until it was completely submerged.

The vendor, between flipping the katlama and drinking his second cup of chai, told us that the bazaar was at least a century old—perhaps even older than that. They opened shop at six every morning, except on special occasions such as an urs or mela (the festival to mark the death anniversary of saints), where they opened even earlier to accommodate devotees. The prepared food was usually all gone within two hours.

There was no place to sit, and like other bystanders having their breakfast in front of the stall, we tore off pieces of hot katlama right there. There was a delightful crunch of the pomegranate seeds, and the bread was flavorful and crispy around the edges. We started on the qeemay ki tiki: a deep-fried, flaky pastry pie filled with spicy minced meat. There was grease on our fingertips and on the sides of our mouths; pastry flakes scattered across the folds of my dupatta; meat and pastry and bread in our bellies. And my favorite part: it was even better than how I remembered.

In Defense of Bad French Coffee

Nov.27.17

In Defense of Bad French Coffee

by Chris Newens

Espresso in Paris

It’s the bit of trivia I share more than any other: that France’s former colonial ties mean that over half the country’s coffee is still made from the lower quality Robusta beans. It forms part of my response to a common complaint visitors have about the French capital. Australians are the worst. As a friend’s brother from Sydney once memorably put it: “Lovely city, mate, but the coffee’s shithouse!”

I got the Robusta fact from this very publication. From Anna Brones’ great article about the woeful state of French coffee and the small but dedicated band of hipster-ish aficionados fighting back with single-origin filters, flat whites, and industrial chic. For a long time, the names of their establishments would be my next protest against the coffee snobbery of visitors. Their existence seemed important. As, for better or for worse, these days a lack of decent coffee also suggests a luddite city, out of step with the world.

I guess this was why I decided to bring up said businesses the other day when a friend visiting from California started to bemoan how stuck in the past Paris seemed.

“Not entirely,” I protested. “Like, it’s not all traditional bistros anymore. We’ll go to Café Lomi tomorrow, they’ve even got their own roasting business in—”

“Chris,” he cut me off, “in San Francisco, cars drive themselves.”

It was a watershed moment. I mean, self-driving cars might not seem to have much to do with good coffee, and I still don’t think that Paris really is stuck in the past, but it made me see that in some respects there’s no sense in forcing its small, artisan coffee industry into competition with the Brooklyns and Melbournes of this world. I resolved that the next time a visitor complained about the state of French coffee, I would respond by embracing its bad-ness.

Because here’s the thing: coffee in Paris is so much more than just a drink; it’s a license to be. That humble, bitter cup of espresso—made of factory- ground Robusta beans, and pressed through a coffee machine last cleaned when Carla Bruni was relevant—is the cheapest rent in the city. For the cost of two euros, it’s not unreasonable to linger in almost any Parisian café for upwards of two hours.

Compare that to even the very best siphon-brewed, locally roasted, Guatemalan Arabica and in my view, at least, it wins. Because time spent lingering in a Parisian café is the stuff of life. It is people-watching, or it’s reading through a stack of books, or it’s working on some never-to-be-discovered masterpiece, or it’s waiting for friends, or meeting up with friends; and it’s overhearing conversations and the clatter of the city and the rudeness of waiters (who’d probably be less rude if there were fewer people hanging out in their café for two hours on a single cup of coffee); and it means being invisible, while at the same time being an essential prop to one of the most iconic scenes that has ever existed. Yup, I’d take that over the Arabica any time.

Never Attribute to the Supernatural That Which Is Adequately Explained by a Golden Retriever

Nov.22.17

Never Attribute to the Supernatural That Which Is Adequately Explained by a Golden Retriever

by Martina Žoldoš

Pan de muerto in Mexico

It was mid-October when Fernando bought a fresh pan de muerto in a nearby bakery for the first time this year. It was warm and soft, lightly sweet, and smelled of orange zest and roasted sesame seeds: a familiar smell that would guide deceased relatives to the house two weeks later. While my daughter was loudly praising the bread’s taste, I remembered my first experience with it four years ago, before she even existed.

My small family—me, eight months pregnant, my partner Fernando, and our golden retriever, Pek—had just moved to Puebla and we were crashing at my parents-in-law’s house. Day of the Dead was just around the corner and my partner’s mother had set up an altar made of papel picado, a special type of ornamental paper with motifs of skeletons, photographs of the loved ones that had passed away, marigolds, candles, a glass of water, some salt, tangerines and guavas, a skull made of sugar, and pan de muerto. I was told that the deceased ones from the photos would visit us on the Day of the Dead, and treat themselves to the food placed on the altar. On the morning of Nov. 2, we discovered that someone really had feasted on these offerings: the bread was missing.

Pan de muerto, or bread of the dead, has a special meaning in Mexican tradition. Its circular form represents the cycle of life and death. It has a small bump on the top that represents a skull, while four shinbones, placed in a shape of a cross, reference the four directions of the universe or the four cardinal points according to the Aztec calendar, related to four principal gods: Quetzalcoatl, Xipetotec, Tlaloc, and Tezcatlipoca. It is believed that in the pre-Hispanic times, blood—obtained from human sacrifices—was added to the dough.

Today, the bread retains its traditional shape, but it’s made with different techniques, ingredients, and recipes depending on the region. In central and southern Mexico, they sprinkle it with white and red sugar or sesame seeds, while in other parts of the country they fill it with chocolate, dried fruits, coconut, nuts, cream, apples, or even pumpkins and parmesan cheese. Usually, it’s available only in October and November—the first of many signs that Day of the Dead is approaching. On Nov. 2, it’s impossible to find any other bread in any local bakery, so you involuntarily end up eating it for breakfast.

That morning four years ago, we set the table with pan de muerto, freshly squeezed tangerine juice, and hot black coffee. We were grateful for the opportunity to spend the day together, and satisfied with our first Day of the Dead. Our golden retriever was satisfied, too. He got his share of pan de muerto: the night before when nobody was watching.

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