Jun 292013
 

The best part of our Diani weekend probably includes our best meal in Kenya so far–yes, I said it!  Best meal in Kenya so far.  We went to Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant on Saturday night, which is a famous restaurant in Diani literally set inside a coral cave.  We were tipped off by our diving buddies earlier in the day that we should make reservations (they were also going that night for the second night in a row) so we did that as soon as we got back from diving.  The restaurant will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel which is really nice.

We had no idea what to expect when we arrived, but it was even more beautiful than I imagined.  When you think coral cave, you think dark and maybe a little…damp?  Well they have decorated the place amazingly, and it was very warmly lit with a huge opening at the top so you can see the stars.  Very very romantic.

Beautiful Coral Cave

Beautiful Coral Cave

We started with a great wine from Simonsig, one of our favorite South Africa wineries.  We had visited Simonsig during our 3 month stint in Cape Town during business school and it’s still just as fantastic.  Sometimes it’s hard to get really good wine in Nairobi, even at the nice restaurants.  Mike had prawns in this to-die-for sauce and I got the grilled lobster.  So so good.  I was thinking to myself maybe the trip to Diani is worth it just for this meal!

Yum!

Yum!

 June 29, 2013  Posted by at 3:35 pm Diani, Food, Kenya Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Apr 212013
 

Last night Mike and I met two other couples at Little Sheep Hot Pot on Ngong Rd.  It’s just west of Adams Arcade, Green House.  Little Sheep is a restaurant chain in China and has quite a few locations in the US too.  My mom and I went to the one in Beijing in 2008.  It’s debatable whether or not the one in Nairobi is an official chain or if they just took the logo and name. 😉  The restaurant is literally in someone’s house that was converted, so the dining tables are in 3 different rooms, complete with floral wallpaper and paper lanterns and decorative fans hanging.

There were the classic two broths, chicken herbal and spicy.  Sometimes the spicy broth is way too hot for me with the Sichuan peppercorns, but last night it wasn’t too bad–just right!  I ended up using the spicy broth the most.

Our Meat and Vegetables Cooking in the Herbal Broth and Hot and Spicy Broth

Our Meat and Vegetables Cooking in the Herbal Broth and Hot and Spicy Broth

With 6 people, we got to order a bunch of different plates: thinly sliced lamb and beef, lotus root, two different types of noodles, seaweed, dong tofu, shitake, tofu skin and sheets, dumplings, and fish balls.  And believe me, we ate it all!  Our heat plate wasn’t working and then we blew a fuse, so they had to replace it.  There was a lot of fiddling with the outlet and the extension cord under Mike’s seat.  So it took a while to get it boiling so we were hungry by the time we could eat the food.  The good was great–I’ve really missed hot pot!  Reminds me of when we were in China and we had it all the time there.  I think that’s where Mike got sick of hot pot. 😉

The owners of the restaurant are really nice.  They’re from China (we think Jiangsu province?) and apparently they’ve been in Africa for 10-15 years.  She was really cute, coming over and speaking Chinese to us and saying “I like to listen in on your table since you speak such good English!” (there were 3 Chinese speakers are our table).  There’s quite a large Chinese population here; I think someone told me 30,000 Chinese in Nairobi?!  So quite cool that you get the “real” Chinese food in Nairobi, not American Chinese food.  Funny, huh?

For dessert, we topped it off with sweet sesame soup dumplings (tang yuan).  Yum!  Hope we go back soon.

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot - Thumbs Up!

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot – Thumbs Up!

 April 21, 2013  Posted by at 4:11 pm Food, Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »
Feb 172013
 

Last weekend, one of my coworkers took me out on Saturday night to a local restaurant called Pots and Palms.  It’s on Riverside Drive in the Office Park (yes, an office park called Office Park).  I got there first and sat at the bar to wait for my friend and I’m pretty sure I was the only non-African there and looking conspicuous.  Then my phone was running out of juice and I needed to save the battery to call a driver to pick me up afterwards, so I just sat at the bar drinking my Coke looking around.  Really hard to sit still by yourself at a bar while waiting for someone!

Anyway, she arrived and I had some roast chicken and chips masala (spicy fries).  Food was regular pub-type food but the real reason people go to Pots and Palms is the live band.  I guess it’s Congo style and they played music from all different African countries.  The band was awesome and played non-stop, no breaks for at least 2 hours.   A lot of people are regulars (like my coworker Beatrice) and the band knows your favorite song.  No one was dancing at first but then they started to play her favorite song so she dragged me on the dance floor and pretty soon lots of people joined in.  Then the dancing just kept going all night.  It was a ton of fun and the music was fantastic.  I’ll have to get the songs from her so I can share here.  Beatrice told the lead singer my name, so then of course every song he was calling me up to dance and chanting “Christina!” randomly throughout the songs.  Hilarious!  The band was definitely a funny mix – the lead singer who was from Congo but wearing a traditional Nigerian costume, the blind keyboard player wearing a bow tie, and the drummer in a baseball cap, and a saxophone player.

Great Live Music at Pots and Palms

Great Live Music at Pots and Palms

This was when Mike was still in Mozambique for work so it was ladies night for me and Beatrice.  I’ll have to bring him back another time.

 February 17, 2013  Posted by at 4:26 pm Food, Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »
Feb 162013
 

Last weekend was Chinese New Year’s – 新年快樂!I was lucky enough to be invited over to a new friend’s house to be a part of their Chinese feast.  It was a mixed crowd, but mainly Americans in their young 20s (I was the old one there!).  There are limited Chinese groceries here so you definitely have to improvise a bit.   I’ve been told the Chinese grocery store is in a place called China Center (of course) but I haven’t made it there yet.

For dinner, we had dumplings (pork/cabbage and vegetarian), fried rice, cucumber salad, sweet dessert dumplings, and then randomly a homemade nectarine/pear pie for dessert.  I made dumplings often enough in the States that we always usually have frozen dumplings on hand for a quick meal or snack.  But there are always dumpling wrappers you can buy in the store.  Not so much here.  So we  had to make our own dumpling wrappers, which is a pretty labor intensive job.  The host didn’t have a rolling pin, so I brought mine but everyone else helping had to use drinking glasses to roll out the dough!  I think also there was too much water in the dough and the wrappers ended up being really soft and falling apart when we boiled the dumplings. =)  But the ones that we fried in the pan turned out great and delicious!  It’s usually 3 parts flour to 1 part water for the dough, but I think the flour is different here, or blame it on the altitude, it just turned out differently.  It’s funny because I’m sure every Chinese family makes their dumplings a different way so the filling was definitely different than how I usually make them.  The little things you notice.  But definitely still yummy all the same!

Rolling out a ton of dumpling wrappers!

Rolling out a ton of dumpling wrappers!

Boiling homemade dumplings

Boiling homemade dumplings

Unfortunately, Mike was traveling in Mozambique for work so he couldn’t join.  But he was hanging out at the beach all weekend without me so don’t be too sad for him. =)  It was so nice to have a little bit of my annual tradition here in Nairobi and maybe next year Mike and I will be hosting our own group of friends.

My hosts for Chinese New Year

My hosts for Chinese New Year

 February 16, 2013  Posted by at 4:23 pm Food, Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Feb 092013
 

Mike always likes to joke that I love Chinese noodle soups so much I’ll probably turn into one.  It’s true, I could eat them ALL the time.  There is one noodle soup that would probably be my last meal because it reminds me so much of home, my mom, and always makes me feel better when I’m down or feeling sick.   It’s passed down from my mom, and I’m sure I’ll be making this dish my whole life.  It’s a chicken broth base, and there’s no chicken broth here, so I’ve been making my own.

My Feel-Good Bowl of Noodle Soup

My Feel-Good Bowl of Noodle Soup

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 spring chicken (1-1.3 kg or 2.5 lb)
  • 2 onions quartered
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ head Chinese napa cabbage (I use the top half)
  • 6-8 dried shitake mushrooms
  • Wheat noodles
  • Optional: bamboo shoots or sliced water chestnuts

 

  • Soak the dried shitake mushrooms in hot water for a couple of hours until soft all the way through.  Using dried mushrooms has more flavor than fresh shitake mushrooms but I’ve used both.

 

  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil.  Put in chicken, onions, 3 whole cloves of garlic, and bay leaves.  I use frozen chicken and it’s fine—just remember to take the plastic pouch inside out.  Skim any sediment that rises to the top.  Keep at a simmer for 3 hours.  Add salt to taste.
  2. When broth flavor is to your liking, strain the broth and put it back in the pot.  Let the chicken cool a while and peel all the meat off the bones.  It should pretty much fall off the bones.  Set meat aside.
  3. Slice shitake mushrooms and napa cabbage.  Mince the last clove of garlic.  Heat up oil (I use grapeseed oil) and sautee garlic 1 minute until fragrant.  Throw in the mushrooms and sautee for a few minutes.  Then put in napa cabbage to cook a bit.
  4. Once the cabbage has softened a bit, pour the broth to cover vegetables and simmer until cabbage is soft.  You can add in bamboo shoots or sliced water chestnuts here if you want some extra texture.  Put the chicken meat in and cook your noodles in the broth to give the noodles extra flavor.
  5. Once noodles are cooked, you’re done!  We like to add a little spicy sriracha sauce at the end and tear up a sheet of dried nori (seaweed) to put in the broth.

Enjoy!

 

Feb 082013
 

We’ve been meeting mutual friends in Nairobi to try to build up our friend network here.  It was really easy to get “adopted” into a group in Dar, but here it seems people are more spread out and do their own thing.  It’s also not very common to meet Americans.  We had brunch at Le Rustique in Westlands two weekends in a row to meet some new friends.  It’s a great courtyard restaurant we sat in the garden area.  It has a fun playground for kids, complete with trampoline and rope swing.  All the kids just run around barefoot.

Cute Le Rustique Creperie

Cute Le Rustique Creperie

Garden Tables Next to Playground

Garden Tables Next to Playground

Le Rustique is known for its crepes and the spicy sausage crepe is very good.  Decent eggs benedict with smoked salmon and nice cappuccinos.  It’s been great meeting at places close to our apartment while we don’t have a car since we were able to walk there in 20 minutes.  It’s located on General Mathenge Drive, one block behind Westgate mall.  These meet ups have been really nice because we’re able to get tips on a lot of things like where to buy x, and recommendations on cars and things like that.  It’s tough to find stuff online here (no Yelp here—I should start one) so everything’s by word of mouth.

 February 8, 2013  Posted by at 6:37 pm Food, Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Feb 042013
 

One of the first trips I did when I got back in January was to Accra, Ghana.  The flight is about 5.5-6 hours from Nairobi—quite a distance!  I had a 3 day business trip where I was going to run a digital workshop there.  I didn’t have much of a chance to sightsee since I was rushing home to make it back to celebrate my birthday with my hubby.  Accra is like a more developed version of Dar I would say.  What was hilarious was I found out One Direction was in Accra the same days as me because in the digital workshop I decided to see what was trending on #ghana.  Ha!

Sunrise from My Hotel Window

Sunrise from My Hotel Window

I did get to see a little bit of Accra one night when a coworker was nice enough to take me out.  Accra is much more like Dar, with its hot humid weather and its along the coast.  I didn’t get to see the beach during the day, but I heard it’s pretty nice.  My coworker took me to a Chinese restaurant (because I’m Chinese?) on Oxford Street which is a busy, happening street downtown.  The food was okay but I suspect we didn’t order what the Chinese people order when they eat there. =)  Then we went to Tawale, which is a reggae beach bar right on the sand.  The reggae was LOUD.  Wow, I could not hear a thing.  But for a Wednesday night, there were a decent number of people out.

The thing I loved most about Ghana was the food!!!  Wow, it was so good and this is just me having the food that was provided at lunch at our workshop.  It was spicy and had so much flavor.  One day we had spicy goat light soup.  They call their clear broth soups “light” versus the thicker groundnut soups.  I actually thought it was beef at first, the goat didn’t taste gamey at all and was really tender.    A lot of dishes are accompanied by banku, which is fermented corn and cassava dough and tastes like sourdough.  The maize version here in Nairobi is called ugali but doesn’t really have much of a flavor.  I really loved the banku.  A great combination with the spicy dishes.  Then there was spicy mushrooms and yam leaves.  I must get the recipes from my coworkers there and I’ll be sure to share them here!

Spicy Chicken Stew with Rice

Spicy Chicken Stew with Rice

All in all, I really loved Accra and hopefully next time Mike and I can go visit together and for longer.

 February 4, 2013  Posted by at 5:33 pm Accra, Food, Ghana Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Feb 032013
 

It’s been over a month since I’ve posted.  Sorry about that.  It’s been a whirlwind of visiting home for the holidays and hectic craziness at work.  Last I wrote I was about to take off for the US for the holidays.  Mike and I spent 6 days in LA, 6 days in Chicago, and 1 night in DC for a wedding.  That last travel day was horrendous: DC to LA, 6 hour layover in LA, LA to London, 8 hour layover in London, London to Dar, 6 hour layover in Dar, then finally Dar to Nairobi.  Whew!  We were beat.

But here are some of the highlights from our visit home.

We got to spend a half day in NYC because we had to spend 1 night there due to our flight layover on the way back home.  This was really nice because it broke up our flights a bit and we got to see NYC at one of my favorite times: Christmas!  It was freezing and we didn’t have our cold weather gear with us, so we were lucky enough to borrow some things for the day since we were staying at my brother’s apartment.  Early morning, we took the subway to Grand Central and walked along 5th avenue to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and the beautiful windows at Bergdorf’s.  They always have the best windows!

Visiting the Tree

Visiting the Tree

Fantasmical Bergdorf Holiday Windows

Fantasmical Bergdorf Holiday Windows

It was funny that after being away for so long, we definitely had moments that lit us up, like: Starbucks!  Egg sandwiches with manchego and chorizo from the market!  Subways!  Oh New York, how I love thee.

Then it was off to LA, where the jet lag hit us pretty bad for about half the week.  LA is always busy packed because I have a lot of relatives and friends to see.  You can bet that every meal is planned!  It was all about what do we want to eat that we can’t get in Nairobi.  For us, that’s Asian food and sushi.  They have it here, but it’s nowhere close.  So we went to the usuals, Cho Dang for soon dubu (Korean tofu stew), Nozomi for the uni bowl (sea urchin sushi), Din Tai Fung for soup dumplings, and of course home cooked food for Christmas.

Mom and Eric Noshing on Korean BBQ

Mom and Eric Noshing on Korean BBQ

It was nice to walk around Hermosa Beach one night and we got to see an amazing sunset.  The ocean was jet black and the sun was already down, but the horizon was still lit up with orange.  It was surreal being at the end of the pier and staring into the blackness.  It was unusually clear that day, not a cloud in the sky.

Beautiful Hermosa Beach Pier After Sunset

Beautiful Hermosa Beach Pier After Sunset

After LA, we headed to Chicago to see Mike’s family.  Matt and Sue moved into a gorgeous new home so that was really fun to see and they a kitchen that is to die for.  We especially loved seeing our niece and nephew, Hailey and Mitchell.  Aren’t they the cutest?

Cutest Niece and Nephew Ever

Cutest Niece and Nephew Ever

Since it was freezing in Chicago, we didn’t much outdoors, but Mike and I went on mall walks with his mom and dad at the huge Gurnee Mills outlets.  It was pretty hilarious because Mike kept trying to cut corners.  New Year’s Eve, Matt and Sue had some friends over and we cooked a huge feast of lobsters and steak.  We saved the lobster shells to make some stock, and had some delicious lobster risotto the following day.  I used this recipe and added 1/3 cup cream and shredded Parmesan cheese at the end.  Also added asparagus and mushrooms to give it some good texture.  So yum.

Chicago Fam

Chicago Fam

One really fun activity we did was going to Hailey’s school to collect chicken eggs.  Her school has a farm on the grounds where the kids can volunteer to help take care of it.  Hailey loves egg collecting, so we were lucky to have her show us the ropes.  You go into the chicken coop and reach in to collect the eggs on the shelves.  Then there’s a whole process of how you clean the eggs and check for any cracks with a light.  Was such a unique experience and we brought home some freshly laid eggs.  In total, we packed 98 eggs into cartons!  And that was the second collection of the day too.

Farmer for a Day!

Farmer for a Day!

After Chicago, we did a whirlwind 24 hours in DC for one of Mike’s college friend’s wedding.  Was fun to see his William & Mary friends and of course we always love going to weddings.

After that, it was time to head on the plane for the long long journey back.  It was so nice to be home though and we miss our friends and family very much!

 February 3, 2013  Posted by at 5:16 pm California, Chicago, Illinois, Los Angeles Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  1 Response »
Nov 272012
 

This was my first Thanksgiving away from my family, and it wasn’t the same without the usual comfort foods that you have with your family.  When you grow up in a Chinese household, there’s certain things that you grow up with that you don’t know is not the norm.  For example, Thanksgiving stuffing.  My whole life, I grew up thinking stuffing was made of sticky rice!  Imagine my surprise when senior year of college rolls around and I’m having a Thanksgiving meal at my sorority house.  I stop at the stuffing platter and say, “what’s this?”  My friends gaped at me in disbelief and were like, “C, you’ve never had stuffing before?!?!”  “Huh?  This isn’t stuffing, stuffing is made of rice!”  Side note: I also grew up thinking everyone put soy sauce on their hard boiled eggs or fried eggs for breakfast.  Anyhow, I was missing “Lin style” Thanksgiving and it made me jealous to Skype with my brother and sister in New York where they were cooking up the usual feast.  The past 5 years, my sister always came up from DC to New York to visit me and my brother for Thanksgiving.  My poor mom was battling a cold, but she did end up making turkey and stuffing a few days late!

It hasn’t felt like Thanksgiving or holiday season here because it’s been so incredibly humid and hot; it feels like we’re in the dead heat of summer.  Hard to get in the usual holiday mood.  On actual Thanksgiving day, Mike and I went over the Heather and Griff’s apartment for some roast chicken.  It was a last minute thing but so nice to celebrate with some friends we’ve gotten close to here.  We had two roast chickens, butternut squash, (bread) stuffing, green beans, and corn.  It certainly was a feast!  It’s tough cooking here since the ovens are so small, so you really can only cook a couple things at a time.  It was late by the time we finished, and of course no one has Thanksgiving off here!  We were definitely groggy the next day.

Roast Chicken Instead of Roast Turkey

Me, Mike, Heather, and Griff with our Thanksgiving Spread on a Kanga Tablecloth

On Saturday, we had another Thanksgiving gathering at our friends Jacie and Dan’s house.  Around 15 people were there and we each brought a few dishes.  They ordered a 22 lb (!) turkey from a butcher here and it indeed was enormous.  They roasted it for 6 hours.  There was so much food that night as everyone had brought a ton.  Turkey, mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, stuffing, cornbread muffins, salad, pasta, chili, cranberry sauce (from Nairobi since they don’t have cranberries here!), pumpkin pie, and more.  Needless to say, we were stuffed.

Massive Counter of Food

Expat Thanksgiving

Then we hooked up this guy’s laptop to the projector screen since he has NFL pass and watched the recorded game of Detroit vs. Houston.  All the ladies were getting bored near the end so we switched on to Just Dance and played on the Wii for a bit.  THAT was hilarious and we even got the guys to join in for a few rounds.

So I am thankful for this incredible adventure Mike and I are on, thankful for the good friends we’ve already made here, and thankful to be able to chat frequently with my family back home.  It’s been a great two months so far, and we actually have more news to share!  I recently accepted a job and we are going to relocate to Nairobi.  Since Mike’s job is regional, he was able to get a transfer approved from his company.  My job is in digital marketing with a large mobile carrier there, so I’m incredibly excited that I was able to get a good job here.  We will miss Dar a LOT (especially the ocean), but we are looking forward to getting to know Nairobi as well.  I start work next week after a 9 month hiatus!  Will I remember how to do it?

 November 27, 2012  Posted by at 8:49 am Dar es Salaam, Food, Tanzania Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Nov 212012
 

Mike and I are totally hooked on Ethiopian food.  I often get cravings for it, it’s so good.  So far, we’ve been to Addis in Dar and Habeesha.  The other one that’s often recommended here is Rohobot, which looks like the front courtyard of someone’s home.  It’s run by an Ethiopian family and their little boy is often running around with a toy.

We went with our friends Jacie (American) and Dan (British but Africa-born) after grabbing some drinks at the Waterfront restaurant at Slipway (where we are currently staying).  It’s on Ali Bin Said, a dirt road off of Haile Selassie Rd, close to Wonder Welders.  Rohobot is cheaper than Addis in Dar, so probably more sustainable choice if you wanted your regular fix of Ethiopian food.  We got a ton of food and it only came to $13/person including drinks. Addis in Dar usually comes to $20/person with drinks.  Funny again how our restaurant “expensive” scale changes so quickly in a different environment, compared to what we used to pay in NYC.

Jacie and Dan have been in Dar many years, so we let them do the ordering.  We got some beef tibs (grilled cubes of meat with onion and rosemary), beef in berbere sauce, chickpeas, lentils, cheese, tomato salad, and shiro wot (peas).  Each “dish” comes out in a small bowl that your pour over the injera bread.

Pouring deliciousness onto the injera

Here’s what our injera platter looked like before we put the shiro wot and beef tibs on.  The shiro wot you pour near the cheese and eat those together.  Dan got these chili peppers filled with tomato salsa that were SPICY.  Woo!

Clockwise from top: Tomato salad, chili peppers stuffed with tomato salsa, beef berbere, lentils, cheese, chickpeas. Doesn’t include the beef tibs and shiro wot.

Needless to say, we devoured the entire thing.  So we’ve actually been back to Addis in Dar a second time and the food actually wasn’t as good as the first time we went there.  I’m not sure if it was inconsistency, or if it just doesn’t work as well with two people since you don’t get as much variety?  We still love the ambiance there, it definitely has the best atmosphere with all the tables on the deck under the starry sky (what do they do in rainy season?).  But in terms of food, we decided Habeesha in Nairobi was #1, Rohobot second, and then Addis in Dar.   So I guess I should re-title my Addis in Dar post since I had proclaimed it best Ethiopian food of my life.  Ha!  I do love when it just gets better and better.

Full Platter and So Excited About It