Welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast. My name is Inga.
So today we are going to speak about traditional national cuisines. Are you ready? John is going to tell us about tasty delicious dishes.
Okay, we’ll start with England then.
If you like. Now there’s lots of regional dishes in England. And don’t forget, there’s also Scotland and Wales and Ireland as well to throw in. Let’s start with England, and I think the dish that most people associate with English people is the fish and chips.
Oh, right, I know this fact as well.
Which is not that old in terms of traditions, and really, like most English food, has been borrowed from other people. Because the tradition of deep-frying fish in batter served first appeared at the end of the century before last.
When large numbers of Jewish immigrants moved Britain from places like Russia, and it’s their tradition of deep-frying fish in batter which caught on in London initially. And then it added with took French fries, chips, the soldiers coming back from…
Well, the soldiers in World War one in France would often be marching to the front and they pest the French farmers’ wives for food. And French farmers’ wives would often cook them fried eggs and chips. And Fries. And they brought the idea of chips back to England. And two things were married together only in the 1920s.
My grandmother, who was born in the north of England, said the first fish and chips shop started opening all over the country, and you used to… She used to go to the shops with a basin, to buy the fish and chips in a basin and take it home. But in the South they didn’t do that – they actually had in wrapped in newspapers, so old newspapers would be used to wrap it in.
What for, John? What for?
Well, to take it home! Cause the chips would be everywhere. Cause no one at those age in their house didn’t have any ability to take fried chips. You could do it, but it would be messy.
I have done. It’s still very messy and complicated, you have grease everywhere. And you know what? I don’t like it that much. So I don’t. So that’s fish and chips. The other thing – there is roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.
Roast beef is very simple – you just take a big piece of beef roasted. The Yorkshire pudding, however. Now, Yorkshire pudding is made the same way that Russians make pancakes. You make a batter from flour, eggs, milk and water, mix it together, and you can either make pancakes, or you put it in a dish with very hot oil at the bottom, pour the whole lot it, shove it in an oven and watch it rise. That’s Yorkshire pudding.
Is it the same… Does it have the same flavor as our pancakes?
Well, no, because hopefully what you’ve done it oil you put at the bottom – it’s the fat that’s come out of the meat, so it gets flavored with that, and you get it with beef, cause it’s savory, so you take it with roast beef.
In Yorkshire, traditionally, this was served first, Yorkshire pudding, and you had your roast meat and vegetables afterwards. Now this is because, so tradition has it that Yorkshire people are known for their meanness.
And they would feed you up with Yorkshire pudding which has the cheaper ingredients, so you’d eat less of the roast beef. That’s the tradition anyway. So it goes. So, tell e a bit more about Armenian traditional food?
Oh right. I’m from Armenia and of course we’ve our special dishes that we cook, and I cook at home, our special dishes. So our cuisine is one of the oldest cuisines of Asia, and the oldest cuisine in Caucasus. Based on the scientist, archeological excavations, it is known that Armenians were aware of ferments, how to cook bread, bake bread.
So that’s why we’ve got our special bread, lavash, it’s a pita, a kind of thin pita. We used to bake it 2500 years ago, can you imagine? It is known that they use 300 species, Armenians.
300 species of grass and herbs I should say, and flowers -we use it in our dishes. So the first thing that I’ve already mentioned – dolma, have you tried it? Dolma?
Dolma is.. It’s minced meat with vine leaves. Minced meat that is pork and beef. And we eat it with sour cream and garlic. It is very tasty, I’ll try to cook it for you one day.
One bright day. Harissa is also traditional, it’s a kind of a porridge, like English porridge, but it’s with chicken, it’s cooked with chicken and wheat. Basturma – it’s a kind of a spicy thing, spicy dried beef.
Dried beef in spicy covering – garlic and pepper, and it is spicy, really. We usually prepare it before Christmas and before New Year holidays. Kufta, it is also a kind of a traditional… Kufta. It’s a tender meat balls made of stewed beef.
I’ve had them. The ones I’ve had have been with lamb. Kofta. That’s the Greek version.
Yeah. They are. Lamajo – it’s a kind of pitas, with sauce and minced meat, very thin layer of minced meat, and of course, it’s spicy. If you don’t want to eat spicy…
Oh I love spices! I love spicy!
You can just ask – no spicy for me please.
I can also mention sujuk – it’s also thin dried sausage, very thin, which is also cold. We prepare it, we cook it, we prepare it before Christmas. Khorovats – it’s our barbecue, we call it Khorovats. It’s just a staple, staple dish for all holidays, Armenian holidays.
And one more thing I should mention, I’ve already cooked it home, yesterday, by the way – spas. It’s a kind of a soup with yogurt, with wheat. And with some herbs. Very tasty and light, a light soup.
Light. Is it a cold soup?
You can eat it as cold, you can eat it hot. It is very light and very tasty. Yogurt and wheat, nothing else, nothing else.
Which ingredients commonly are used in English cuisine?
Well, potatoes. We do eat, still, quite lots of potatoes, but a lot less than we used to. 50 years ago potatoes were served with every main meal of the day, possibly two meals a day. Since approximately the 17th century people in Britain have been eating potatoes, a lot.
However, as our ethnic makeup for the country has changed, and people’s tastes have changed with them, people now eat a lot more rice, an awful lot more pasta. When I was a child back in the 60s, having spaghetti bolognaise was seen as something exotic, wow! Not potatoes!
And we never had rice or pita bread. That was just, oh I don’t think my mother knew what it was. And certainly my grandparents didn’t. But now – potatoes can be a bit of a nuisance, you peel them. There’s always pasta – you throw a packet into a bowl of boiling water and it’s done.
So the proportion of potato eaten has dropped massively over the years, especially with rice and pasta now. We still eat a lot of bread. As for ingredients – people don’t cook much in Britain these days. They…
They prefer to eat in the restaurants or cafes?
No, they just don’t like, they either order it pre-cooked – the ready meals are said to have grown out of all proportion to anything else. So supermarkets now have lots of easy prepared, already cooked meals – just stick in the microwave or stick in the oven for 20 minutes and it’s done. So you don’t need to be cooking.
People are very busy nowadays John, so that’s why there is no way, they want to eat quickly and buy something quick and cook it at home.
But at the same time the number of programs devoted to cooking has increased. So people like watching other people cooking, but eating out of the microwave.
You can buy it in a supermarket, but please – try to learn to cook. By the way, do you cook John?
I try. I made my first ever cake earlier this year.
With cream? Cake with cream?
Yes. With cream, yes. I’d never made one before. There are one or two things that I’ve tried that didn’t work – but yeah, I liked doing it.
Every day. But when you are busy, when you have many lessons…
I have something simple like…
A toast in the morning. So what about for lunch, for dinner?
Oh I just make some coleslaw salad, love coleslaw. Potato salad.
Coleslaw? What is coleslaw?
It’s just a salad made from raw cabbage, raw carrot, raw onion and mayonnaise. You shred it all up and mix it together.
Potato salad is cold boiled potatoes, preferably new ones with their skins on. Cut up, not long before they go mushy, and again, mix it with mayonnaise and chives if you get it, but you can’t. Those green onions.
Oh, okay, I got it, I got it. But what do you prefer John – to cook dishes or to cook sweet things?
Oh main course of course. I don’t cook many sweet things cause I don’t eat them. I don’t eat them.
Oh you don’t eat sweets. You don’t need it.
The reason I cooked this cake was for somebody’s birthday, not mine.
Let’s speak about commonly known dishes. For example, in Italy it’s pasta, in Belarus it’s potatoes. What is the symbol food of your country?
Oh as I said it used to be potatoes, and now…
Everything has changed, yes. The thing that people fill up on to get the majority of their calorage used to be potatoes, pasta in Italy, potatoes in Belarus, rice in South-East Asia. But of course more people in Western Europe they don’t have to eat potatoes, now they eat more and more meat, eat more and more takeaway food, pizzas, fish and chips, still the most popular takeaway. But the dish people like most in England is…
Is… Is tandoori chicken masala.
Tandoori. Is it cooked in tandoor?
It’s meant to be, yeah. So it’s… In the 1950s we had a large number of immigrants from South Asia to come over to Britain and settle. And some of them started opening little restaurants. And Indian Bengali cuisine spread and approximately every street in Britain now has an Indian restaurant on it.
And going out for an Indian, even though they are not genuinely Indian – Bangladeshi, but everyone refers to them as Indians has become somewhat of a tradition – and they eat curry or most people do. And tandoori chicken tikka masala, which is a version of a South Asian…
It’s grilled and then you pour masala sauce over it. It’s quite creamy and somewhat sweet. Not too hot, but a little bit hot. And naan bread, people go mad over naan bread, which I suppose is not similar to lavash, but…
I’ve tried actually – no.
Do you need some special ingredients like curry, or what else you need?
The chicken part isn’t too difficult, because you have a powder that is already mixed.
It’s cheat. It’s the naan bread. Now you need a different type of flour, and you really need a tandoor to cook it in. You can’t do it with a grill. But I can certainly do curry Thai dishes. I prefer to do them on a barbecue actually. Shashlik.
So you get the chicken curry in the marinade, and the barbecue spices, stick it on a skewer and put it on the heat.
Usually on a barbecue or in the oven.
I got one specially for that.
Well if I was in England, I’d probably do it every time the sun came out.
What about in Russia? Do you prefer to buy it or are there any places in Russia, in Novosibirsk that sell this kind of dish?
Not really, not that I know of. I go to Gorozhanka, I saw packet of curry powder, I bought it and used it.
Not the same, but it’s okay. It tastes alright.
Something like that, yeah.
Okay, so. What about… What dishes do you have on special occasions, for example, Christmas?
Okay, now. We recently did a podcast and you talked about putting a coin in a dish, what was that?
A bik cookie. And you put it and you mentioned it was a large coin, so people didn’t choke. I’ll come back to that in a minute. So, Christmas then. Traditionally in Britain we would’ve had a roast goose.
Anyone who’s read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens will remember that it’s a goose that scratched Fowley, given in the end by old Mr Scrooge I think. And traditionally it was a goose but with the second world war, with American soldiers over here, turkey became of more interest, cause Americans eat more turkeys, cause that’s where turkeys come from.
Right. And they always have them at Thanksgiving. And then a man called Bernard Matthews started a turkey farm in East Anglia, and he managed to grow them quickly and cheaply et cetera. So turkeys were now available at a relatively cheap price.
Before they were incredibly expensive. And so turkey replaced goose for Christmas day. So a massive great turkey, with all the trimmings, which is stuffing and pigs in blankets, which is little sausages wrapped in bacon, and roast potatoes, and sprouts, which are my favorite vegetables.
Cause lots of people hate them. I love them. They are meant to give me a terrible whim, but I still love them. And after that, if that wasn’t enough to eat, cause by this time you can barely move, you have a Christmas pudding.
A Christmas pudding is a plum pudding which made of suet, which is beef fat, flour, and lots and lots and lots of dried fruit. And it’s usually plied with brandy, or sometimes whiskey, quite a lot of alcohol in it as well.
It’s steamed, yeah. And inside it’s also treated – it used to be traditionally – with coins. People don’t do this anymore, because it seems unhygienic. But…
You can wash it, really wash it.
Unlike the sensible people in Armenia, people used to put sixpences in it, sixpence is…
No, a very small coin, less than a centimeter across, in diameter. And you put a silver sixpence in there, and I wonder how many people have choked on it on Christmas day. That’s possibly why it’s not done anymore. But it wasn’t anything to do luck – you just put a sixpence in it.
It doesn’t mean anything.
So what for to put a coin there?
In our culture it’s like – you are a lucky person this year, it has meaning, sense.
Well with sixpence, when people used to do this 50-60-70 years ago, sixpence was actually quite valuable. Six old pennies was half a shilling.
You are rich, you got it, sixpence, you’re rich.
If you’re a child and you have sixpence, you can buy quite a lot of sweets with that.
Okay. Which traditional dish John do you like to prepare most often? Traditional.
Well what I like to do and what I do often are two different things. What I like cooking is roast beef, I like doing that.
Yes. I quite like cooking Christmas dinner. It’s quite palaver but what I do most often – I think is… I just do things with pasta. I make sauces.
Of course pasta, it’s easy.
Or as I say, I keep eating salads – I make potato salad probably twice a week. And I make coleslaw twice a week, you know, just knocking on the salad, it’s quick. But I don’t seem to make big meals here in Russia anymore, just little things, there’s only me.
Just pasta, maybe some sauce.
Do you cook pasta with some salads or pasta is enough for you to have lunch only with pasta?
With cheese? Or it doesn’t matter?
No, it’s usually some sort of tomato paste, onions, garlic, maybe a little bit of kolbasa, peppers, onions, mushrooms. That’s the usual thing.
What about Russian food John? What do you like in Russian cuisine?
Right. I love beetroot, I love beetroot.
You boil it and eat it in salads or how do you cook it?
I eat it cold in salads. I have grated it up, mixed it with garlic and mayonnaise, as I’m told they do in Belarus, and I also do, I’m very fond of borsch.
Borsch is tasty! It’s full of vitamins, it’s tasty!
I do like Russian soups, I do, yes.
Really? What else of Russian dishes?
Well I’ve tried making the pirozhki?
With potatoes? Or with minced meat? Or with liver?
I think I made them with cabbage.
Oh, with cabbage. It is also very tasty?
Light version, light version.
Oh and cabbage cooked! I like red cabbage cooked.
Do you try to cook pirozhki, pies, for the first time in Russia?
Maybe your relatives tried that?
No no no, I was giving a Russian food for Christmas – try this. Just experimenting.
Okay. But what do you prefer? You can cook borsch, okay, different soups. But your preferable dish?
You tried for the first time in Russia, it was wow.
Oh I see, it was… Ah! Yes! Solyanka?
There are a lot of ingredients there. I’ve never tried to cook it by the way.
We haven’t got this one, Armenians haven’t got this one. But Russians have with different ingredients there, when I see so a lot of ingredients there, I just think – oh my god, is it tasty? To try all these things together in one soup. Is it a sour or a sweet soup or?
It has lemon in it, it has a certain sourness to it. And I like that there are olives in it, I do like that. But it as a great revelation to me here was all the different types of smoked fish, of smoked salmon. In England there’s one type of smoked salmon – it’s Scottish smoked salmon, raised on a salmon farm in Scotland. It is very nice, but it’s also very expensive for the amount you get.
It’s much more expensive than in Russia.
Oh yes. Whereas here all the salmon is from the Pacific – none of it’s farmed, and it’s, you know, we couldn’t be further from the sea here in Novosibirsk, but it’s all nice and fresh.
You can find all this fish in the supermarkets.
But the smoked stuff – keta. That’s not even very expensive, it’s great!
How do you cook it by the way? In the oven or?
No, if it’s already smoked, you just eat it as it is.
Smoked one. You don’t cook it, just buy it already smoked.
Just buy it already smoked. I do actually sometimes use it for cooking – I make a sauce for pasta using some of that, some cream cheese, a few prawns, some peppers, some tomatoes, some basil. Which is very nice.
It’s already fine. It sounds already tasty.
And I sometimes cook it with scrambled egg.
Which is something no one in Russia seems to have. Toast?
Yeah, we don’t’ eat toast by the way. We don’t buy toasters, we don’t eat toast, so why do you prefer toast in the morning for breakfast? Why do you do it? What for? We prefer eggs, okay, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, sunny side egg, but toasts? Never.
Well we have the eggs but we put them on the toast. Toasts is a way to use bread that has nearly gone dry and a bit stale. Cause in the process if heating it gets softer in the middle, so you get crispy outside and soft inside.
Crispy outside and soft inside in the middle. And you can just put there scrambled egg.
On top. And it’s tasty, it’s quick, and you’re full. Everybody’s happy.
Toast with marmite, which is something else, and marmalade. Everything goes on toast.
Great! Very good! I should try some day, a toast.
You could get a toaster, it’s 700 rubles, something like that. A little one. You could get a toaster. They do sell them here, so somebody eats them.
Yeah, sure. Maybe, maybe, who knows. What about dishes John? What dishes are other countries particularly famous for? And have you tried them? I’ve got a special list of traditional foods of different cuisines.
Well you tell me what you’ve heard of, you tell me what you’ve heard of.
I’ve heard about China. Dumplings. So it’s very popular in China to eat dumplings.
Dim-sum I think they call it.
With minced meat, with stuffing of course, with vegetables. They make it with vegetables wrapped in dough. Georgia is well-known for its khinkali, it’s dumplings, same thing. Khachapuri. Khachapuri, it’s kind of a dough with a lot of cheese inside, a lot of cheese.
Ah, yes, I’ve heard of those. With lots of cheese.
There are khachapuri, adjarski khachapuri if there is an egg on it.
So there’s basically a long one, khachapuri, a long one with a lot of cheese in it and an egg. It’s also very popular in Georgia. Canada. They have a very interesting name of their famous dish is poutine. Can you imagine? Poutine, like our president. Poutine. Right. It’s cooked by chips, loaded with cheese and a rich gravy. Have you ever tried it?
Have you ever read about it? With this name?
No I haven’t. I’ve seen things similar to that in the United states. But no, I don’t know the name.
I know that Spain is famous for its paella. Paella, it’s a dish, it can be made of seafood, or meat – rabbit, beef, duck, chicken or even snails in it. And green vegetables of course. They use of course beans as well.
There is a layer of rice in paella. It’s also very popular. Greece is very famous for its suvlaki. Suvlaki. Have you heard about it?
This is to the Greeks like hamburgers.
Yeah. With lamb. It’s made with lamb or beef I think.
It’s kind of a fast food. Suvlaki is basically grilled, that has been marinated in a citrus and herb marinade. Very tasty.
That I have tried, in Greece, very nice. And they use sour cream as well.
What about your well-known dishes?
Well, about those that I’ve tried- I tried fish-head curry in Malaysia, which is more than just a head, you basically only have the tail off. So it’s the whole fish with its head sticking out, with the eyeball in it, and it’s the whole fish in a curry sauce.
And it’s quite hot. I also ate, also in Malaysia, I think it was stir-fried frogs with vegetables.
The whole frog, yes. I mean I’ve had frogs’ legs in France, and they tasted just like greasy chicken.
In France, yes. As did the alligator in the United States, tasted like greasy chicken. As did… Well, what was that bird I had in Malaysia? I can’t… I need a minute. Again, anything like that, like a snake, tastes like chicken. It all taste like chicken.
It’s not all the things I’ve tried. In Malaysia- hot.
What do you prefer to eat when you go to some special place – to eat their national traditional dish or the dish that you already know? You already have tried or have tasted.
I like to try, I like to experiment. There are certain things that I wouldn’t try. For example, deep fried tarantula which I saw in Cambodia.
No, I’m not eating insects. Or grasshoppers.
Chinese people like eating things like…
Insects, or worms, or something like that. But I think frog was the limit.
Once, yes. And I ate the snail once, I didn’t really like that either.
But I do like to try what’s on offer, whatever traditional dishes are available – I will try them within reason.
Of course. To know some new information. I have tried this one, I like it or no, it’s not my cup of tea.
I’m afraid of trying new things, you know. I don’t know. Because I don’t eat frogs, I don’t eat insects, I don’t eat strange things that are not Armenian, that are unusual for me. And so that’s why I try to avoid such dishes and try to choose something simple, things and ingredients that I already know. And I think it’s quite normal.
So, apart from Armenian cuisine, if you had to choose a national cuisine which you’d like to really explore, you’d eat a lot of, which would it be? Any particular country?
It’s just it must be, it’s dolma.
No no no, a national cuisine from a different country, other than Armenia, so it can’t be anything Armenian, which one would you…
Yeah. It can’t be Armenian.
I guess Russian is very close to Armenian, so that’s why it’s so close to my heart as well. Maybe Russian one, maybe Russian, right.
I can live in Italy, I can live in Italy easily.
We also cook pasta and pizza, by the way, our lamajo is quite the same thing as pizza. Pizza has quite a lot of ingredients, but lamajo is kind of a thin minced meat, no tomatoes, no other ingredients on it, so very different, a kind of the same taste, kind of the same one. Okay, John, so it was very interesting to know interesting facts about different cuisines.
We’re both very hungry now, aren’t we. Fortunately, it’s the time.
After this tasty conversation we’re already hungry, But we have to wind up. So I hope to see you next time. So join us please later, to listen to our next podcast, bye bye!