Coron / Only mermaids

 

My teeth clenched hard, tense, aware I was breathing but certain I may stop. Heavy deep breaths, telling myself to relax, then in pours a rush of cold salty water to my eyes, up my nose. Ok…just breathe, hold your googles, head back, blow your nose. Ok my googles weren’t quite free from water yet. I think it was fair to say Jade and I hadn’t quite mastered our diving training. The next 15 mins were spent half choking and spitting salt water, the other half offering moral support looking back into each other’s eyes, counting down our next emergency practice.  Our instructor came back to test us and gave us the thumbs up- we were mermaid ready! Channeling my inner Ariel, we kicked our way down to the deep blue oceans. 

Coron is all about the world that lays beneath the water- numerous sunken shipwreck and coral reefs. As we kicked we got closer to the Irko wreck. The long dark matter that sat amongst the many blue tones and small fishes. It’s uneven edges, where it has become part of the sea bed. It’s presence known to all around, as we swam around it. 

I felt like part of the documentary team exploring the titanic, as our instructor pulled us through the open door into the wreckage. Immediately your sense of gravity disappears. The boat on a 45degree, we swam through the archways, exploring each room no longer sure which way was up and which was down. Darkness pours into the room, we stay close as we make our way to the exit, a void of dark blue. Nothing to distinguish your location. You did not want to get lost down here, in that moment it was easy to see how one can feel trapped in a mass is space.  Before pondering too long on such a thought, we would move to the corals. A beautiful array of colours; schools of fishes, the spikes of sea urchins and slowing moving organisms, one minute closed the next an array of colours. A whole new world for sure! 

Japan/ Sushi

‘Oshii’ or as we would say delicious…four styles of sushi that I learnt from the lovely Reira

To serve 4 or about 40 pieces:

  • 3 Cups of sushi rice
  • 120ml of sushi vinegar
  • 3 cups of water, plus an extra bowl for keeping the knife and your fingers wet
  • 300-400g of fresh raw fish (we used salmon, fatty tune and seabream
  • Wasabi
  • Seaweed paper (Nori)
  • Veg as you wish- cucumber/ nettle leaves/ avacado
  • Dark Soy Sauce
  • Pickled ginger
  • Sesame seeds (for Californian rolls)

 

Norimaki style-

Wash the rice in cold water, place in saucepan and add 3 cups of water. Reira’s trick – The rice should come up half way up your finger, then the water would come up to you knuckle.

Add saucepan lid and on full heat bring to the boil. Once bubbling, reduce to a low heat. Leave for 10-15mins, until the water has absorbed. Take off the heat and leave to cool. ideally if you have a flat lid you canDSCF0244 - コピー turn the pan upside down, resting in the lid to cook further very, very slowly whilst cooling.

In a wide wooden bowl add a heaped serving spoon size of the rice. You could yous a salad bowl. You want something that is wide to cool the rice down and want conduct the heat, added benefit of the wood is the vinegar when DSCF0235 - コピーyou add it wont sit at the bottom as it would in glass. Add a large drizzle of the vinegar and fold in. Continue to keep adding more rice, then vinegar to evenly mix together. Ideally if you had another person they could fan the rice for it to cool as you mix. When nearly there taste- the rice should be a bit softer than al dente, slightly sticky and gluttonous with a subtle hint of the vinegar.

Now theDSCF0297 - コピー rice is ready time to get rolling! Put the sushi bamboo rolling matt on a chopping board. The rolling matt should have a varnished side, have this facing up. Now lay down the Nori, then put a few dollops of rice on the paper, leaving around 1.5cm gap at the top. Then  wet your fingers and use your knuckles to press it out. It DSCF0269 - コピーshould be only a few mm high.

Then take a pea size amount of wasabi and line down the middle evenly. Now, time to cut the fish. Slice with a sharp blade, each slice should be around 0.5mm thick. Don’t squeeze or press to hard- slice gently. Now the fish is prepared, you can add a layer of fish to the roll. DSCF0305 - コピー

Once the fish, has been added, and any veg you may like you can roll.  With your thumb and forefinger hold the corners, then with your other fingers press in the middle where the fish is and fold over.DSCF0306 - コピー Roll, once rolled press firmly, squeezing the roll. some rice may come out the edges, so using wet fingers push it back in and tidy it up. then unroll the may to leave you with the sushi roll.

When it comes to cutting, always cut in the middle, cutting each piece in half then half again and so on.  Fold some kitchen roll and wet, then wipe the knife so it too is wet. Then put the back of the blade on the middle, knife point tilting up, slice through in a semi circle motion. Once you have cut all the pieces, tidy them up and serve with dark soya sauce and picked ginger.

 

California roll style – (essentially inside out!)

Put cling film over the rolling matt. Scatter seseame seeds, then add the rice as you did before. Add veg and fish, then the nori ontop. Once you have done this a little more rice, you could get fancy and add a thin layer of cooked egg! add wasabi, then role as you did before. Before cutting remove cling film, Slicing sushi will be harder so ensure knife is always wet.

So if you have lots of people and can’t be assed to spend the time rolling then this style is for you.

Temaki  (Basically you make your own cone)

Put the Nagi in your hand, add a dollop of rice, then add wasabi and the fish and bend into a cone shape.

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Finally one for the picnics.

Temari

Get a square of cling film, lay the fish down in a cross pattern, add thin layers of veg if you like then add a dollop of rice. fold the cling film around the dollop to form a ball, tighten the edges and twist. you can leave them in the cling film until you are ready to eat, remove layer and all the tasty balls await you!

Inle lake/ Stilted

It’s so bloody cold. Dressed to tan, we wrap the blankets around us, as the water splashes back and the air hits us hard. The long narrow boat cuts through the water, through the hazy grey setting, as we lookout to a what seems like a sea of pale blues and whites. The river is wide and on either side is the occasional spouts of the green and muddy brown marsh land.  Entering our vision, are what seems like flamencos; gracefully stood dancing on the water surface, long silhouetted lines of their extended legs, forming balletic postures.  In our sight were the famous long boat men. Each with a foot wrapped around long sticks, as they guide their boats and fish.  We had arrived at Inle Lake, a cluster of villages living on the nearl water, home to over 70,000 people!

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Unlike in Kerala, where man made banks had been made around the houses, these villages sat wholly on the water. house raised on stilts and boats parked underneath. As you go through you can find temples, monasteries, markets, silversmiths, silk makers, blacksmith. Rowing through the villages, past the small raised spaces you can start to feel claustrophobic, the idea of being prohibited to this defined space. Yet on the other hand you are in awe at the way they have utilised the space, wondering how different it would be to live in this way moving from boat to station, to pavements or large spaces to run free.

The most innovative use of the water is the floating gardens. You see men hauling green gloopy weeds out of the river into their boats, as it engulfs all around them, sure to soon sink the boat,  yet they keep on loading. Later they will use bamboo poles to create an initial structure buried into the ground, where they will then weave the greenery around them creating a layer which they can then add compose to grow above. Lanes of fruit and veg will start to grow, a women on very narrow boats can then weave through piking up the produce as they reach out on the very edge of the boat. Watching this happen makes you think what the world could be like if we continue to flood all around us, the way we may have to life- on the edge of a boat!

 

Malange/ A simple life

DSCF7618Cycling through the dirt tracks, you can hear the giggles of children ahead. Entering the village, they wave, big grins eagerly awaiting our arrival. Some shy, they grasp at the leg of their mothers, poking their head around to see what all the excitement is about.  Today, we would visit four villages and be given the same warm welcome throughout. They would embrace us into their homes and show us the up most hospitality.

As part of the tour we would learn about the way of life, how each village was governed by their elder, their elected leader. If someone did wring they would discuss it as a village, Whilst the Burmese laws did of course apply, they very much run in isolation, only elevating matters to authorities if required. They explained the struggle they face and their collective objectives- security, electricity, more resources for education and medical security.  They would receive help from the government, but still looking for ways to see how they can improve their quality of life. Each village working the farms or local trades to earn a living and now welcoming in tourists, to show them around and feed them. Collectively they would take it in turns to cook dinner, distributing the wealth angst the four villages.  Despite, having little, working hard and facing some fundamentally living challenges these people seemed genuinely happy. They were sat around laughing together. To an extend they are living hand to mouth, not driven by the same competitive nature that drives the west.  Of course not all is as it seems on the surface, but to see so many with what seemed like genuine happiness in their faces, perhaps there is something to be said for less is more.

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Bagan/ Finding Nirvana

Sun creeps through the blinds and the chants of prayers, which have become our new alarm, ring loud around us. Throwing my tierd heavy body out of bed, into the shower and out the door, I would stand absorbed by the morning routine that awaited my eyes.  A stream of red robes, hung off the shoulders of young boys, shaved heads, bare foots as they stood patiently in line each holding out their bowl to collect food from the village. These were young men in training, a right of passage for all boys to enter a life devoted to Buddhism. Once they have learnt the teachings of Buddha and spent several weeks living on the monasteries they may choose if they wish to return to their families and lives or continue to the path of enlightenment.

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Buddhism for these people is more than a religion, a way of life. It is integral to their being.  It distinguishes their values, their beliefs, behaviours.  Like a Holy Communion or Bar Mitzvah, they will grow up to learn the teachings, celebrating their entrance into the monasteries, spending weeks away from their families.  Monks wondering the streets is a common site, as people continue to dedicate themselves to the teachings of Buddha.  A country adorned by temples. When Looking out to Old Bagan, to the earthy washed landscape of dry baron land, ancient temples take to the horizon.  Walking across the land, amongst the temples, there is a sense of calm, stillness across these quite grounds. Grounds that have been respected, worshipped for centuries.  It is these pagoda’s and temples where the people spend their time. When travelling you see limited places fro entertainment, cinemas, sports, clubs all limited, if at all. it is the festivals at the temples that people part take in. As a result you notice, how gentle, kind the Burmese are, they are modest and respectful. Despite, all they are subjected to  by the rulings of the country, they have faith, they stay true to what they belief in.

 

 

Yanon/Opening the gates

Just 8 years after Mayamar has opened its gates to tourist, how unscathed will it’s lands be? How much influence of the west already have seeped through the South Asian culture? Well it was day two and I was sat in a resteraunt that despite the Burmese chatter surely could have been some hipster New York/ London hang out! What I later to came to understand that though the people and way of life is still very much unaffected. Businesses, restaurants, cafes are quickly emerging, and when they do they are modern, clean, trendy, most only having been built in the last three years; creating a juxtaposition between what is a very poor Asian country, with very western over designed spots geared to western middle class wealthy tourists.

As we walk around the city, and hear the tales of its streets unravelled, we come to appreciate the corruption that the country has been subject to.  We were told the stories of it’s leaders. how this somewhat developed city was once the hub of East Asia, the main port to access the rest of the world. With rich natural resources from teak wood to rubies it positioned itself as a leader. However, once in the hands of it’s military leaders they used the countries economic development for personal gain leading the country into a deep depression. The country was locked down, no exports, no tourists should enter all communications would be prohibited and censored. The papers controlled.  Only in the last few years do locals have access to sim cards. Prior to this the military insisted, that to own a sim would cost you thousands. they did this to limit communications. When people started to realise the way of lives of their Asian neighbours and the true cost of things, they pushed back. Today, they are still fighting for democracy, but while they wait you can see the evidence of their history around you.  Run down backstreets, with locals living with very little, close to the beautifully ornate temple and statues, in part a sign of their religion, in part a mark of the military ego who commissions it. Signs of guerrilla activist groups encouraging change. Grand buildings of English architecture from when they once reigned. Shops selling basic white goods, where they are starting to catch back up with their developed neighbours.

 

My favourite thing I came to learn though was of the hanging plastic bags from the streets. it turn out that the cheapest floor I a building to buy is the top, as the bottom can be used for commercial use.  As a result the locals live several floors u p and to save them from walking down to collect their morning paper they leave a plastic bag out on a piece of string to pull it up once it has arrived!

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Nepal/ Momo’s

serves 6-8

  • 1 kg flour
  • 1/2 kg of cabbage finely chopped
  • 5 Red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 budles green onion, finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 3 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chilies powder
  • 2 teaspoon

MoMo Masala

  • 3 teaspoon sunflower oil
  • 3-4 tablespoon ghee
  • Salt to taste
    Dough Wheat Flour
  • Adequate water

Tomato Sauce

  • 1⁄2 kg Tomatoes (roasted or grilled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of corriander powder Green Coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
  • 2 teaspoon garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chopped ginger
  • Salt according to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder or 5 piece green chillies!

Peanut Sauce

  • Peanuts Fried
  • 1⁄2 kg Tomatoes (roasted or grilled)
  • 2 teaspoon garlic & ginger each
  • Pinch of tumeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon corander powder
  • Salt according to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder

Dough for wrappers: Add about 3 glasses of water, mix the flour . In a large bowl combine flour and water. Mix well, knead until the dough becomes homogeneous in texture, about 10-15 min. Cover and let stand for at least 20 min. Knead well again before making wrappers.

Mix all the filling ingredients in a mixer, combine it in a large bowl with meat. Mix well with hand, adjust for seasoning with salt.

Give the dough a final knead. Take a ball, roll between your palms to  spherical shape. Dust working board with dry flour.  On the board gently flatten the ball with your palm to about 2-in circle.  Make a  few semi-flattened circles, cover with a bowl. Use a rolling pin to roll out each  flattened circle into a wrapper.    try and keep the edges thinner to hold thei shape.Hold the edges of the semi-flattened  dough with one hand and with the other hand begin rolling the edges of the dough  out, swirling a bit at a time. Continue until the wrapper attains 3 inch diameter  circular shape.  Repeat with the remaining semi-flattened dough circles.  Cover with bowl to prevent from drying.

Fill by holding the wrapper on one palm, put one tablespoon of filling  mixture and with the other hand bring all edges together to the center, making the pleats. Pinch and twist  the pleats to ensure the absolute closure of the stuffed dumpling.

Heat up a steamer, oil the steamer rack well Arrange uncooked momos in the steamer.  Close the lid, and allow steaming until the dumplings are cooked  through, about 10-15 mins.  Serve with sauces.

Pokhara/ Ohh balls!

img_3521Stood at the edge of a 200m drop. Everything feels light, I can’t feel the harness attached to me or the cord, expecting them to feel tight, they’re more like a lose backpack minus any weight! I look out at this vast expanse of nothing but air. This wide open valley which in meant to be throwing myself into- what the fuck am I thinking?! Why am I doing this? I know why because I’m bloody stubborn and two days ago at the top of a mountain decided to bungee to prove to myself I could! Right, get your shit together and jump. I’m nervously asking a gizzilon questions, you know so I don’t do something stupid and ohh I don’t know kill myself! Ok out of questions time to do it. 1, 2… I focus on the horizon of the mountain range, it’s just like jumping into a pool, 3 , into the pool I go. Nothing like a fucking pool! Shit!

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Every part of my body is screaming survive, stop falling,the valley is passing by me so quick the ground getting closer I’m scrabbling wanting to grab onto something, anything. My mind is racing so quick, it’s on overdrive taking in so much information that I don’t even get that stomach in your mouth feeling. Then before I can truely panic the cord bounces and I’m hurdled back up into the air, this time my stomach really is in my mouth and again my limbs are all over the place at a lose again! I’m sure this is where you would go into some air dynamic pose if you knew what you were doing, but at this point I’m still swearing and screaming! Then as I fall back down everything slows and goes quiet. I’m falling and floating through the air so so slowly, it feels almost serine, feeling the fresh air, seeing the edges of the valley, my mind is so clear and free of thought. A few seconds later and I’m just hanging, fat grin amazed I actually jumped, now pulling myself back up to be lowered into a boat. Bloody shit scary, but so much fun, can easily see how that could get addictive. 

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If your thinking about,  it do it! Pokerha, has so many adventure sports. Sat around the table at my hostel, there are a number of sleepy heads getting coffee down them at 6am about to set off on an adventure. From water rafting, paragliding or those loading the chocolate bars into their backpacks for a trekking to Everest base camp. 

The Himilayas/ Mountain life

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I stare at a steep uphill dirt path on the edge of the mountain, pushing myself up on the balls of my feet. “Erm so Raju is the next 5 days up like this…” “yes yes flat like this.” We laugh, “so this is flat?” “Yes, flat.” “No this is steep.” This shortly became a known as a Nepali flat. Essentially any part of the trek that didn’t have steps, our guide Raju, considered flat, just as anything without snow on it was a hill, to the rest of us definitely a mountain! 

Salt crystals dry on my face, as the cold wind blows over my face. The next few days would be spend up and down stairs and many a ‘Nepali flat’ ascending through ranging landscapes. Dry forest, crumbled stone with towering evergreens, ragged exposed rock walls, marked by the stream of a waterfall during monsoon. Following gushing steams, cold blues, frothing white water crashing over the greys and light browns of the rocks. The water washing calm oasis through the valley. 

A few hours later opening up to vast valleys, feeling tiny as you stare into the deeps vs, formed of luscious green. Feeling the force of how beautiful nature upon you- why have we destroyed so much of this elsewhere!  As you turn the bend,  you see the distant spotted houses of a village, delicately positioned like monopoly houses on the edge of a mountain. As near closer you pass the fields that these people live off, staggered along the steep face of the mountain; rice fields, vegetable patches. 

Trekking through these lands you grow a deep appreciation for the way of life for the people who live here. There are no roads so anything you consume in the mountain is grown here, or it has to be brought up. The first day of trek very much feeling like mary and Jospeh, walking with my stick in hand looking for a place to stay with my herd of donkeys. Having spent 3 hours walking up a zig zaged stoned staircase, as a bunch of donkeys carried heavy loads of gas, stones for building and food supplies from one village to the next in front of me. Just as the next day we walked the entire day with an old lady with a cardboard box which contained a chicken strapped to her head. She would walk for 2 days to deliver the chicken for sale to a guesthouse to cook with, earning just £15 for the chicken at the end of journey. Despite the number of tourist walking through here, life is still very simple, they have their families, they depend on each other and take only what the need something more of us can learn from I think. 

Philippines/ Mango chai pudding

IMG_5566Makes 10

  • 1 cup of coconut cream 
  • 2 tbs chia seeds 
  • 2tbs honey
  • 2 mangos 

Mix the Chai seeds with the coconut creams and honey. Leave to soak over night. (If you want the consistency to be more like Panna cotta leave for a day longer to solidify). 

Chop mango into cubes. Put half in a blender to make a purée. Pour purée into a large shot glass (or however big the dessert will be) top with the chia pudding then add some whole fruit the top. DONE!