Friday, August 31, 2012

Warabi Mochi

Warabi Mochi
Tokara, $4

Mochi is one of Japan's staple foods, a rice-based dough that can be eaten sweet or savory.  While most mochi is made from mochigome, a short-grained glutinous rice, other foods that share mochi's characteristic chewiness are sometimes also known as "mochi".  Warabi mochi gets its springy texture not from rice, but from the starch of bracken ferns.  Translucent and slightly slippery, warabi mochi is a classic Japanese summer sweet, the mere sight of which gives some relief from heat and humidity.  Tokara's version is served with molasses syrup and a dusting of kinako, a powder made from toasted soybeans. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Shave Ice

Shave Ice
Shabu Chic, $3

Come summer, communities throughout Asia and the Asian diaspora keep their cool by eating man-made snow piled with with their favorite toppings.  In Hawaii, "shave ice" is drenched in neon-colored syrups, while the Japanese cover their kakigori with stewed fruit, rice dumplings, beans, or green tea, the Chinese eat their baobing snowballs with "eight treasures" such as grass jelly or peanuts, and Filipino halo-halo features bright purple ube and decadent flan.  In almost every case, condensed milk is the favored final touch.  

At Seattle's Little Saigon Fest, restaurant Shabu Chic was offering its own take on the pan-Asian treat:  shaved green tea ice with strawberries, mango, and red beans, glazed with a touch of the ubiquitous condensed milk. 

Viking Days

Danish Hearth, $3

As populations shift and tastes change, the mark of the Scandinavian cultures that shaped many of neighborhoods on Seattle's north side seems to be fading:  the Van de Kamp's windmill in lower Queen Anne is a distant memory, the Scandinavian Bakery building is now a Thai restaurant, and Scandinavian Specialties is Ballard's last remaining source for Nordic imports

But the frenzy of the Nordic Heritage Museum's " Viking Days" celebration suggested that while those cultures may be less obvious today, they are neither gone nor forgotten.  The Museum's parking lot was crowded with Viking reenactments and historical displays, demonstrations of traditional crafts, retail stalls, and plenty of food.  In addition to the usual beer and grill tents, there were regional "hearths," booths dedicated to the foods of a particular country. 

The Danish Hearth's line was longest and slowest, but it gave customers a front row seat as expert volunteers cranked out the only item on the menu:  æbleskiver.  Cooked in special cast iron skillets with dome-shaped indentations, these spherical pancakes are served with jam and a sprinkling of powdered sugar (above).

One volunteer worked non-stop to meet the demand for fresh batter (left), which was then passed down the line to the cooks stationed at portable stoves (right).  

Each new batch started with a hemisphere's worth of batter (left).  As the underside of the batter skinned over, the cook used a skewer to lift the cooked section partway out of the pan, allowing more of the uncooked batter to contact the skillet. 


Little by little, the hemispheres became bowls, then Pac-Men (left), then spherical golden-brown æbleskiver.

At the Icelandic Hearth, there were thin slices of vínarterta ($1), sawed off of a towering stack of cardamom shortcake layered with spicy prune jam.  The recipe for "Vienna cake" dates back to at least the mid-19th century, when European pastry chefs began to have access to refined white "Vienna flour."  It's been a popular cake for Icelandic celebrations ever since, with even fancier rainbow-striped versions made by using a variety of different jams.  After the cake is baked and constructed it is wrapped tightly, then set aside to age for up to two months.  

 After running out of Finnish rice pudding early on, the Finnish Hearth substituted a Norwegian almond cake ($1), as moist and rich as slightly aerated marzipan.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pabla Indian Cuisine

Pabla Indian Cuisine, 6.99/lb

Pabla Indian Cuisine is a restaurant, grocery, and confectionery that traces its roots as a family business back to a restaurant that opened in India in 1947.  The Renton outpost has one big distinction:  its kitchens and products are certified kosher, opening it up to a whole new client base. 

Among the housemade mithai are familiar favorites such as milky rasgulla (top left) and creamy kalakand (top right), as well as confections featuring fruit and nut flavors including cherry (bottom right) and cashew (bottom left). 

Pabla Indian Cuisine
364 Renton Center Way #C60
Renton WA
425/ 228-4625

Friday, August 10, 2012


Aladdin Falafel Corner, $2

Go to Aladdin Falafel corner for the fresh and flavorful sandwiches but stay for the housemade Persian sweets.  Reevani are golden triangles that get their assertive texture from semolina, a type of course-ground flour more often boiled into submission in hot breakfast cereals.  Honey holds the whole thing together and rosewater elevates it to swoon-worthiness.

Aladdin Falafel Corner
4541 University Way NE

Seattle, WA
206 / 548-9539

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sluy's Bakery

Fatigmand (above)
Pepperkakor (below)
Sluys Bakery

Read more here:
"Giv os idag vort daglige brod."
                       -Motto on the Sluys' Bakery wall

The Norwegian immigrants who settled the area around Poulsbo in the 1880s were reportedly drawn to the familiar fjord-like contours of its hills, waterways, and distant mountains. 

If their descendants are similarly sentimental, they must be irresistibly drawn to the familiar aromas wafting from Sluy's Bakery in downtown Poulsbo's "Little Norway" commercial district.  Many of the buildings that line the narrow street are embellished with conspicuously Scandinavian touches, but for me it's the chance to "share" an experience with those pioneering Norwegians that breathes life into the town's decorative facades. 

Since 1966 Sluys has been owned and operated by the same local family.  They turn out famous products such as "Troll House" cookies, fresh "Poulsbo" bread loaves, iced sugar cookies shaped like Swedish dala horses, and "Viking Cups"--gargantuan cinnamon rolls smothered in snowdrifts of frosting. 

Pepperkakor (below) are a gingerbread cookie familiar throughout Northern Europe but particularly associated with Sweden and the winter holidays.  Each little square packs such a spicy punch it seems like hydraulics must have been involved in jamming a critical mass of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves into the dough.  The sparkling sugar topping this historic cookie harks back to the days when sugar was a rare luxury, used as a spice or garnish rather than a staple ingredient. 

On the other end of the spectrum are fatigmand (above), a palate-cleansing cookie that seems almost austere by comparison with pepperkakor.  Known as "poor man's cookies", these fried twists are crisp and restrained, relying on frying oil for a touch of richness and on the barest hint of cardamom for flavor.  Like pepperkakor, fatigmand are made in many countries, but they are most strongly linked to Norway, a country that only gained its independence from Sweden in 1905 and was known as Europe's third-world country for much of the 20th century.  Fatigmand are an edible reminder of the conditions that drove Poulsbo's founders to strike out in search of new opportunities. 

Sluys Poulsbo Bakery
18924 Front St NE
Poulsbo, WA

Butterscotch Budino

 Butterscotch Budino
The Loft (at Latitude Forty Seven Seven),  $5

The Loft's butterscotch budino (Italian for "pudding") is a rich custard made in-house with generous amounts of butter and brown sugar, served with caramel sauce, whipped cream, and a sprinkle of fleur de sel

The Loft (at Latitude Forty Seven Seven)
18779 Front St
Poulsbo, WA

Niederegger Eierliqueur Marzipan

Niederegger Eierliqueur Marzipan
Marina Market, $5.50

Although it looks like a typical convenience store from the outside, the Marina Market in downtown Poulsbo is more of a candy convention center.  Begun in 1998 with the intent of providing the area's many Scandinavian, Dutch, and European residents with the tastes of home, Marina Market offers a wide range of specialty food, with an emphasis on sweets.  The shelves of the "Licorice Shrine" groan under the aggregate weight of nearly 400 different kinds, sourced from all over the world (this selection which may soon earn Marina Market a spot in the Guiness Book of World Records).

The Market also carries a vast stock of old-fashioned and foreign candies and chocolate bars, including a range from Niederegger, a renowned German confectioner in business since the early 19th century.  Niederegger is particularly famous for its marzipan, a paste of almonds and sugar that can stand on its own in sculpted sweets, or act as a filling in pastries or bars.  Inside the bittersweet chocolate bar above, marzipan is combined with eierliqueur (aka avocaat), a German egg-based liquor.

Marina Market
18882 Front St NE
Poulsbo, WA
360 / 779-8430