Who doesn't like to eat, right? Well as long as you're gonna do that it might as well be with gusto and flair. We all love to make new discoveries, sample some delightful entrees and desserts, and maybe even enjoy a tropical drink to start things off. Then, many times we want to share what we've discovered.
This section is all about that... what I found, sampled, loved and am now sharing with the world (or at least those who just happened to find my little corner of the world here in this blog). So sit back, enjoy, see what I've discovered and then get on out there in this great big world of ours and make some delightful discoveries of your own. And if we're lucky enough, maybe you'll share what you've found with the rest of us!
Disclaimer: Please note that I am not compensated for any of the descriptions or recommendations I give below in this food section. These are just my personal opinions based upon what I experienced and liked.
© 2015 All rights reserved worldwide - Steven Graham Photography
What's Cookin' in Mexico?
If you're a fan of good, flavorful, Mexican food, then this section just might make you a little jealous. Having lived in the state of New Mexico, USA, I've grown especially fond of New Mexico's version of Mexican food. It's not the same as Southern-California styled Mexican cuisine, Tex-Mex or even that of our neighboring state, Arizona. And believe it or not, it's not even quite the same as what one can find "south of the border" in old Mexico either. Strange? Perhaps, but every locality has its own way of doing things, so it's always fun to try new things!
New Mexico has a flair and a very unique way of preparing their version, and the most common question one hears when ordering authentic, New Mexican food is, "Red or Green?" as in, "Do you want red or green chili sauce on your order?"
Both are very good, but most of the time, the "Red" is a bit (or a lot) hotter than the milder green, which is more flavorful (in my humble opinion) than the Red. If you can't make up your mind and you're not sure just say, "Both" and you'll get half Red, and half Green chili sauce over that burrito or your enchiladas.
I happen to love Chicken Enchiladas, so whenever I try a new restaurant in any state of the US, or any other country like down in old Mexico, Central America (Nicaragua), or even as far away as Southeast Asia (yes, even some places way over there have pretty good Mexican food), I always order Chicken Enchiladas so I have a good, consistent base of comparison.
To me, a good Mexican meal will consist of chips and salsa, Mexican rice, frijoles (refried beans), and an entree choice of either chicken, beef or pork enchiladas, tacos, tamales, burritos, chimichangas or fajitas. Of course a nice cold cerveza (beer) or even an icy-cold Margarita will do nicely to start with.
And if there's room afterwards, I love Sopapaillas (a soft, warm, hollow, deep-fried pastry puff that you bite off a corner of and fill with honey). They're magnificently tasty. Hungry yet??
Now, I'd like to share some of what I've found...
Chips and Salsa are always a preferred way for me to begin any Mexican meal. In most places I've found them to be included in the cost of the meal and you can usually request a free refill when you run out. That's a blue-margarita up top by the way.
They do things a bit differently in Merida, Mexico on the Yucatan peninsula. Most of the time it's actually "Mayan" cuisine and not true Mexican food. There's a restaurant that I found in Merida called, "El Chile Habanero" and they do a really nice job of preparing more traditional Mexican food.
What I ordered above is the chicken enchiladas. They even asked me if I wanted "red or green" chili sauce. I chose green.
So here we have 4 chicken enchiladas topped with sour cream, grated cheese and red onion, along with Mexican rice, tortilla chips placed in refried beans on one side and guacamole on the other. The verdict? Excellent - every bite!
What's Cookin' in Nicaragua?
I've found that Nicaragua has a unique cuisine and cooking style of its own. Surprisingly, it doesn't seem to be as spicy (flavorful) as the food of its neighbors to the north. Gallo pinto (rice and black beans) is a national favorite that everyone seems to enjoy. It's actually quite good and nutritious. Breakfast, lunch, dinner - you're likely to find it alongside your entree any time of day or night. I've enjoyed it many times both in Leon and Granada where I stayed in each city for 3 months in one, and 2 months in the other.
Now, I'd like to share some of what I've found...
This breakfast was served at a restaurant called "Le Turon" in Leon, Nicaragua. I ordered scrambled eggs and with it came gallo pinto, white cheese, fried bananas and a flour tortilla. The total cost? Just $3.40. USD.
And now for lunch... this was served at one of my all-time favorite places to hang out: Via Via in Leon, Nicaragua. It's a restaurant. It's a bar. It's a garden getaway where you can hop into a hammock and take a siesta after a meal or just enjoy the tropical garden scenery in the midst of the restaurant.
What you see above is a chicken breast with garlic sauce on the side, fries, rice and a side of veggies. Not shown are the 3 beers I had with lunch, plus a bottle of water to-go, all for a modest cost of $12.58 USD.
Who wants pizza? This pizza at Antonino's in Leon, Nicaragua was every bit as good as it looks: Pepperoni, shaved ham and cheese. Excellent! And look who dropped by below...
This pizza must be good. Even Matt Groening, American cartoonist, writer, producer, animator, and voice actor for "The Simpson's" TV show ate here at Antonino's and left a souvenir behind. I couldn't resist posing next to his hand-painted cartoon character.
Pictured above are two of the national beers of Nicaragua that I've tried: Victoria and Tona. In my book, Tona is the clear winner.
Who couldn't be talked into a relaxing siesta in a hammock after a meal here? This restaurant and bar "Via-Via" never gets old. Good food. Good beer. Good conversations. Good prices.
It's a favorite meeting spot for expats, backpackers and tourists in Leon, Nicaragua. In fact, there's a backpacker's hostel just down the corridor to the left of this picture.
Bigfoot Hostel and Tours is across the street from Via Via. They can even include you in a volcano-surfing tour if you're up to the adventure! Or hop into one of their huge, canopy-covered, open-air trucks that leave daily to their other hostel on the coast at the town of Las Penitas, where you can swim, eat, party and spend the night, then return to Leon the next day.
I did that once and would encourage everyone to enjoy the experience, and if you prefer, you can get a private room instead of staying in one of the usual bunkbed-filled, dormitory-type rooms that hostels are known for.
That's what I did, but be forewarned - it can be a bit noisy until about 2am with exuberant, fun-loving guests playing ping-pong or other fun activities.
It's is a youth hostel after all!
And here it is - Via Via in Leon, Nicaragua. Be sure to drop by when you visit. You won't be disappointed.
Here I am on the left with some of my new friends that I met at the Harvest House Guesthouse in Leon, Nicaragua where we were all staying. We walked over to VIa Via to enjoy some beer, a meal and good conversation. Unforgettable!
What's Cookin' in Cambodia?
On the other side of the world in Southeast Asia lies an exotic land known as Cambodia, sandwiched in between Thailand and Vietnam. Like other countries on the Indo-China peninsula, Cambodia is hot and humid with only two seasons: Dry and Wet. But no matter which time of year you arrive in Cambodia, it's gonna be hot. Not extremely so, but it takes some getting used to.
Many visitors, in fact 1 million of them arrive each year in Siem Reap, Cambodia to see the ancient temple complex called Angkor Wat. This amazing group of temples is an incredible architectural marvel. The main one that everyone comes to see took over 30 years to complete almost 2,000 years ago!
Almost as exotic as Angkor Wat, is some of the cuisine that can be sampled here in this part of the orient. My absolute favorite is curried chicken over rice. And the particular curry I've had here is by far the best I've ever enjoyed, and that includes trying it in the US, the Philippines, Thailand, Nicaragua and Mexico.
The curry I'm bragging about can be enjoyed at the "Red Piano Restaurant and Bar" on the corner of one of the busiest parts of downtown Siem Reap, known as Pub Street which happens to be by far, mostly pedestrian traffic. Pub Street is recognized as an international tourist destination with its exotic tourist shops, indoor and outdoor restaurants, markets and legitimate massage parlors, along with a wide variety of indoor and outdoor bars. Nightclubs can also be found.
Pub Street is mostly for walking and is family-friendly and entertaining for all ages.
Now, I'd like to share some of what I've found...
Well, here it is - the best curry ever! At the "Red Piano Restaurant and Bar" on Pub Street in Siem Reap, Cambodia, be sure to ask for their "Panang Chicken Curry." It's not hot, just spicy, and you get a very generous portion that comes with jasmine rice as seen here.
Usually, it comes with your choice of drink: iced tea, soda or even a frosty mug of Angkor brand beer which is quite good. The total cost for this wonderfully, habit-forming culinary experience is only $5.00 USD. No wonder I kept returning - over and over and over again. Hey, if you're gonna have an addiction, this ain't so bad!
Here's a typical view of one part of Pub Street at night: Street vendors selling fresh food, along with a wide assortment of made-to-order tropical fruit-smoothies and other items. It's always a very pleasant distraction as you walk along taking in the sights.
Travel Tip: Do it in style and take a ride in one of the many, colorful Tuk-Tuks you'll be sure to encounter. They're a most pleasant way to get around: a canopy-covered, motor-bike-pulled carriage, also known as a taxi. You sit on one of two love seats facing each other. They're very comfortable. It's a fun and budget-friendly way to tour the city!
Here's one of those Tuk-Tuks that are so fun to ride in. $2.00 USD is all it takes to get around just about anywhere in Siem Reap. This is part of Pub Street and there are many fun and incredibly interesting places to explore, or grab a bite to eat or just cool off with your favorite beverage while you relax and people-watch.
Personally, I think these Tuk-Tuks are so much fun to ride in and are so cheap, that I almost find myself making excuses to go somewhere, anywhere, just so I can ride in one. After all, I'm helping out the local economy and making people happy!