August 20, 2011

Bunny Chow: South African Food Adventure

I've wanted to taste a Bunny Chow or the "Bunny" as it's called in South Africa for quite some time now.  For a variety of reason it just had not worked out, but finally this week it  happened.

I made a trip to Madiba in Brooklyn and was very excited to find a chill spot.  I spoke to the restaurant owner (Mark) briefly about why he opened up this restaurant.  He mentioned that he came to NYC in the early 80s because he wanted to live in a place where people were integrated.  In 1999, he chose to open this restaurant as a tribute to Nelson Mandela for what he did to unify the people of South Africa.  Mandela is also known as Madiba in South Africa, this is the name of the clan of which he is a member of.
The server mentioned that the traditional dishes of South Africa usually include pap; a porridge made of maize.  I was tempted to try one these dishes but I'd been waiting to try the bunny chow for so long I had to go for the bunny. 

I was a bit indecisive on what to drink so I asked the waiter to surprise me.  He chose a Joburg Joller for me (tequila, grand marnier, litchi juice garnished with litchi and lime).  Joburg Joller = joburg short for Johannesburg and Joller is someone who likes to have a good time. It tastes like a margarita only smoother.  Perfect choice for me since I love margaritas and I love lychees!

Joburg Joller
Organic Chicken Bunny Chow
Chicken Bunny (No Top)

Curry Dipping Sambals
I ordered the chicken bunny, which is a stew served in a bread bowl. It's also served with five dipping sambals (sauces): two different mango dips (one very salty and a sweet mango chutney); a salsa type with onion, tomatoes, and parsley; a cucumber and yogurt; and a banana and coconut milk dip.  I wasn't sure how to integrate these with the curry chicken so I decided to dip the bread topping in each of the sauces, I liked the mango chutney and the banana/coconut sauces the most.

I digged into the bunny and it was delicious.  It happened to be raining in NYC on that night, so this was definitely the perfect comfort food for a rainy night.  The chicken stew has a bit of heat, some subtle curry flavors and it's a mix of chunks of chicken breast with potatoes and other veggies.  I had to dip into the cucumber/yogurt dip a few times to cool down the heat.  It's definitely a very filling dish.

Time for dessert....
Malva Pudding
I asked the server to surprise me with dessert and he selected the Malva Pudding (not really a pudding).  The easiest way to describe this is to say this is like a pimped out muffin.  It's a warm spongy cake made with apricot jam, served with ice cream and a lychee.  This was really good, so good I ate everything on the plate except for the mint leaves.

This food adventure did not disappoint.  I'm glad I finally tasted the bunny chow and I would definitely like to go back to Madiba and taste other South African dishes.  Until next time, Buen Provecho!

195 Dekalb Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205
Phone: 718.855.9190
Closest Subway Stop: Fulton St (G), Lafayette Ave (A,C)

August 6, 2011

Memorable Food: Caracas Arepa Bar

Every once in a while I eat something that really stays with me.  This is not a common experience but when it happens I can remember the flavors, the textures and how I felt when I ate that food. 

I still remember the flavors of the stuffed tomatoes I had at a taverna near the church of Paraportiani in Mykonos in 2006.  The most delicious part of that dish were the chopped potatoes that were baked with the tomatoes, the potatoes soaked the olive oil and the juices of the tomatoes and simple potatoes were transformed into heavenly potatoes. 

I started this blog because the food at Ilili gave me the same sensation.  The food I ate was so memorable, I'll be thinking about it for years to come.

This week I had another one of those memorable dishes.  I went to Caracas Arepa Bar and I had La Sureña arepa. 

Venezuelan arepas are corn meal cakes that are fried and then baked.  They are stuffed with all kinds of fillings.  La Sureña at Caracas Arepa Bar is stuffed with chicken, chorizo, avocado and chimichurri sauce (which includes garlic, oregano, cilantro, olive oil).  The arepa was toasty on the outside, but soft on the inside.  The texture of the chicken and chorizo with slightly crisp edges and the creaminess of the avocado was a great balance.  The chimichurri sauce flavored every aspect of this arepa, it soaked into the arepa and infused the avocado with garlicky taste.  This is a MESSY food adventure, but definitely a memorable food adventure.

I cannot wait to go back to Caracas Arepa Bar and try some of their other arepas.  In the mean time I'll be thinking about La Sureña.  I hope you get to enjoy memorable food this week.  Until next time, Buen Provecho!

Caracas Arepa Bar
93 1/2 7th Street (Between 1st Avenue & Avenue A)
New York, NY 10009
Phone: 212.529.2314
Closest Subway Stop: 1st Avenue at 14th Street (L)