Gulai kepala ikanor, or fish head curry, is a popular dish in Malaysia, and it is widely served during family get togethers and occasions such as birthdays and during breaking of the fast. During Ramadan, the Muslim holy month currently being observed (June 5 – July 5), many Muslims fast from dawn until sunset and then enjoy a meal to break the fast. When we reached out to our hosts to collect recipes they use during the Ramadan holiday, we heard from host Halim in Kuala Lumpur, “[this is a] favorite family dish that is served during family get togethers such as birthdays and during breaking of the fast. It is one of my family favorites. I cook this when all my children gather at my house…I know a lot of Americans are not used to see a fish head being serving as a main dish, that is why I chose this dish for you to feature!” It’s true, while fish head is not a popular ingredient in many western dishes, the fish head is full of tender meat and flavor that creates incredible stews and curries. We love getting to feature some of the authentic favorite family dishes of our hosts around the world.
Read on to re-create this authentic fish head curry recipe yourself!
Malaysian Fish Head Curry(gulai kepala ikanor)
1 fish head (grouper or snapper), about 1 kg or 2.5 lb
1 tsp salt
8 tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp or 1 oz of fish curry, mixed in 3 tbsp of water to make a paste
1/4 cup of tamarind soaked in 1 cup of water
3 cups coconut milk
3 tomatoes, cut in half
5 fresh red chilies
5 fresh green chilies
1.5 tbsp sugar (or to taste)
Ingredients for spice paste
15 dried chilies, soaked in hot water (use more or less for desired spice preference)
4-5 bulbs of shallots
2 garlic cloves, smashed
3 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced
1 tbsp of galangal
2 tsp of shrimp paste
Clean the fish head. If you prefer cut them into smaller pieces. (The fish monger can do this for you). Mix in the salt. Set aside.
Blend the ingredients for the spice paste (you can use a large mortar and pestle or a Cuisinart). Set aside.
Heat oil in a wok or a pot over medium-high heat. Add the spice paste mixture and fry for about 3 minutes or until fragrant and the oil separates.
Then add in the tamarind water (removing the tamarind) and coconut milk. Bring it to boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add in the okra, then the tomatoes. Next add in the red and green chilies. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
Finally, add in the fish head. Increase heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked.
Pour into a large serving bowl and serve with white rice.
One of the most traditional sauces of Puebla cuisine is adobo, a rich, chili-based sauce that is different from its global adobo cousins in that it does not include any vinegar. In this recipe, our host Rocio in Puebla creates an authentic, homemade version of Mexican Chicken Adobo Poblano. Poblano cuisine is that which comes from the region of Puebla in central Mexico, and is characterized by meats often poached and braised in chili, nut and tomato-based sauces. This dish poaches chicken in aromatics and then simmers the succulent chicken in a rich sauce of chilis and tomatoes. Read on to re-create this authentic home cooked recipe yourself!
Authentic Mexican Adobo Poblano Recipe
Ingredients For the adobo sauce
3 dried guajillo chiles
3 dried puya chiles
6 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cinnamon stick (Mexican canela, if available)
1 tablespoon cumin
1 clove garlic
vegetable oil as necessary
salt to taste
For the chicken
4 pieces skinless, bone-in chicken (if using large pieces cut them in half or in quarters so they cook more quickly and are easier to serve. The amount of chicken can easily be adjusted since it is poached separately from the sauce)
1 tomato, cut in half
1 whole clove garlic
Few sprigs of cilantro, tied together in a bundle if desired
1 whole carrot
1 small stalk celery (optional)
Corn tortillas, to serve
To make the adobo sauce, first prepare the chiles: Heat a dry cast iron skillet or another heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat and carefully toast the chilies (if you have a comal from your travels to Mexico now is the time to use it!). Do not rinse the chiles prior to toasting them. As they toast, they will darken and may blister. Watch them carefully, turning often to ensure that they do not burn. Once they are toasted, cool the chiles so they can be handled and remove the seeds and stems. Quickly rinse the chiles (if necessary) to remove any dust and then soak them in a bowl of hot water until they have softened.
In a blender or food processor, combine the soaked chiles, tomatoes, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, garlic and salt to taste. Blend until it liquifies to make a smooth paste.
In a medium pan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the sauce and cook for about 5 minutes until the sauce darkens in color and the tomatoes lose their raw taste. The sauce might thicken, in which case you can thin it to the desired consistency with chicken stock or water.
Meanwhile, prepare the chicken. Put a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the chicken, carrot, onion, cilantro, garlic, celery, and salt. Cover with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Poach the chicken until it is just cooked through.
Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the poaching liquid and add it to the adobo sauce. Cook together for a few minutes to combine the flavors. Once the chicken has absorbed some of the flavor it is ready to eat.
Serve the chicken with some of the sauce and eat with warmed corn tortillas.
View our host Rocio and book a meal with her to experience authentic home cooked Mexican cuisine on your next travels!
Traveling Spoon host Sonthaya loves meeting people from all over the world and sharing his deep knowledge of Thai food and cooking. As a professionally trained chef, he expertly prepares classical Thai dishes but also loves to experiment and often takes inspiration from his southern Thai roots. Southern Thai food is some of the spiciest in Thailand, rich with coconut milk and cream, and features the area’s fresh and plentiful seafood.
Sonthaya shares his Panang curry story: “I am from Phang-Nga Province, next to Krabi, and Panang curry is a traditional dish for us. It is served for special occasions because it is too rich to eat daily, and the preparation is a little time-consuming. I learned the basics of cooking this dish from my mother and aunts, and then learned variations in various restaurants I worked in. The recipe I am sharing is simple and the best tasting without adding any fusion elements as they don’t work well in this dish. The final result is worth the effort and the plated dish is colorful and appetizing. “
Panang curry is a type of Thai curry that is generally milder than other curries, which makes it a popular curry choice, as it is full of flavor without the hotness of the chili-based curry pastes. It contains a rich mix of traditional ingredients like lemongrass, galangal, coconut cream and has a red curry base.
Panang Moo – Pork Curry Authentic Thai Recipe
Yield: 1-2 Servings
for Panang Curry Paste
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon coriander seeds
⅛ teaspoon cumin seeds
3 dried roasted red finger chili (soaked in water for 2 minutes and finely chopped)
¼ teaspoon wild lime zest (minced)
¾ teaspoon galangal (minced)
1 tablespoon lemongrass (minced)
1½ roots (2 teaspoons) coriander root (or stalk base)
1 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons garlic (minced)
1 tablespoon shallot (minced)
½ teaspoon shrimp paste
for the Curry Dish
100 g (3.5 oz) pork loin (sliced)
¾ cup coconut cream
½ cup coconut milk
2 leaves of wild (kaffir) lime leaf (1 leaf whole, 1 leaf chopped)
1 red finger chili (half sliced diagonally, half julienned)
for Seasoning Sauce Base Amount
1 tablespoon palm sugar
1-2 tablespoon fish sauce
for Panang Curry Paste
Using a mortar/pestle, pound salt, black pepper, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and dried chili until very fine. A blender will not do if you want the authentic texture of the paste.
Add wild lime zest, galangal, lemongrass, coriander root and pound until fine. Add garlic and shallot and pound until fine. Check all ingredients are finely blended.
Add shrimp paste, and mix in, pounding until completely blended.
for Curry Dish
Mix seasoning sauce base ingredients in small bowl and set aside.
Pour half of the coconut cream (½ cup) into cold pot. Heat for 2-3 minutes until it boils.
Add panang curry paste and stir until fragrant. Slowly add remaining coconut cream—continue stirring until oil separates and liquid turns red.
Add sliced pork and stir continually until cooked. Add sauce (seasoning sauce set aside)—stir until all ingredients are combined and uniformly red.
Stir in coconut milk and wait until liquid boils (2-3 minutes).
Add wild lime leaf, and finger chili. Bring back to boil. Turn off heat. Taste and adjust.
Pour curry into serving bowl and garnish with remaining chili and wild lime (julienned).
Beef, chicken, and shrimp may be substituted.
If using shrimp, it should be added at the end and cooked only until it turns pink/white. Normally, Thai seafood is slightly undercooked to keep it sweet and tender.
If you want to double the yield for 2-4 people, you need to reduce the base ingredients of fish sauce and palm sugar by 10-15%. It is important to taste and adjust as you go.
Sonthaya is always excited to share his story behind every dish, so book an experience to learn more about authentic south Thai food and how it is prepared.
Nutritionist Upasana is and her husband Sumit run a catering business together that provides homemade, healthy tiffins (Indian snacks) to hungry Mumbai residents. Originally from Lucknow in north India, Upasana lived in Gujarat for seven years before moving to Mumbai and marrying into a Marwari family from Rajasthan. She can dish out delectable plates from all three parts of India, be it Lucknow, Gujarat, or Rajasthan.
She is excited to share her Dal Dhokli, or “Indian pasta” recipe, which is a dish made by boiling thick wheat flour noodles in a hearty pea stew. For the Maheshwari family, dal dhokli is a lazy Sunday brunch, one-pot meal that is best served with a tall glass of chaas (yogurt drink).
Dal-Dhokli is a dish that is common to Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan. Only the tempering of the dish changes from region to region. In Uttar Pradesh this dish is called “Farre” and in Rajasthan and Gujarat it is called Dal Dhokli.
North Indian Dal Dhokli or Farre is slightly bland, but the dough can be filled with different fillings and then cooked to lend more flavor. In Rajasthan, the food tends to be extremely spicy and rich, which makes it Upasana’s husband’s favorite.
Upasana’s personal favorite out of the three regional varieties would be the Gujarati Dal Dhokli, because of its delicate combination of spicy, sweet and tangy. She learned to make this dish at a very early age, when she lived in Ahmedabad.
Dal-Dhokli Recipe – Gujarati style
For The Dhoklis
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tbsp besan (bengal gram flour)
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp ajwain (carom seeds)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp ghee
For The Dal
1 cup toovar dal (pigeon pea)
5 kokum (garcinia indica) soaked for 15 minutes and drained
3 tbsp chopped jaggery or as per taste
1 tsp ginger chilli paste
4 garlic cloves
5-6 curry leaves
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp ghee
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida (hing)
2 round chilies
1 stick cinnamon
4 cloves laung
1 bay leaf
2-3 green elaichi
1/2 tsp saunf (fennel seeds)
Finely chopped coriander for garnish
To make the Dhoklis
Combine all the dhokli ingredients in a deep bowl and knead into a semi-stiff dough using water, and let rest for 15 minutes. Then roll it out with a roti roller (with the help of a little dry flour) into a flat rectangle shape, then cut the dhoklis in any shape that you desire. It can be square, round, rectangle or diamond shape.
To make the daal
Cook the daal in a pressure cooker with 3 cups of water salt and turmeric powder. Let the pressure in the cooker subside and then blend the dal using a hand blender. Add 2 cups of hot water to it and mix well. The daal should be well blended and slightly on the watery side.
To make the finished dish
In a pot, add 2 tablespoons ghee. When it is slightly heated add ginger, chili, and garlic which are crushed well. Add the cumin seeds, hing (asafoetida) saunf, dalchini, bayleaf, elaichi, laung and the dried chilies. Let all the spices crackle. Add the daal along with kokum and the jaggery.
Let it boil for 5 minutes. Add the dhoklis to this dal. Let it cook for the next 15-20 minutes. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Heat ghee, add little cumin, hing, curry leaves and red chili powder. Add it on top before serving. Squeeze half a lemon on top and enjoy it piping hot.
This is a traditional dish made in all Gujarati households, apart from being easy to prepare, it is healthy and stomach filling. It is a complete meal in itself and does not require any accompaniment. Next time you visit your Gujarati friends home do not forget to taste the delicious and flavorful Dal Dhokli or just book an experience with Upanasa in Mumbai!
A staple of breakfast, lunch, and dinner alike, kimchi is at the forefront of Korean cuisine and culture. With hundreds of varieties and unmatched popularity, we set out to discover the ins and outs of kimchi – how it’s made, the stages its eaten in, and the most popular types of this delicious, fermented vegetable dish.
Historically made only with cabbage and beef stock, jars of kimchi were once buried underground to ferment for months. Then, during the Japanese invasions in the late 1500’s red chili peppers were brought to Korea, giving kimchi its famous spicy kick. Today, there are many styles and flavors of kimchi, but it remains through time the country’s national dish.
Types of Kimchi: Kimchi can be categorized by region of origin, stock vegetable, or seasonings. The most common kinds of kimchi are baechu kimchi (napa cabbage), bossam kimchi (pork belly), baek kimchi (white), dongchimi (water-based), chonggak kimchi (young radish), kkakdugi (daikon), oisobagi (cucumber), and pa kimchi (green onion). In addition, each region has its own specificities and flavor. In Hamgyeong-do, the Northeast, for example, fresh fish and oysters are often used in kimchi because of the area’s proximity to the ocean. In Hwanghae-do, the Midwest, kimchi is called bundi or pumpkin because of its lack of spice and color without the use of chili flakes, and in Gyeongsang-do, the Southeast, it’s made saltier and spicier than anywhere else.
Stages and Seasons: Seasonal kimchi variations began for practical reasons like seasonal vegetable availability and lack of refrigeration, but have grown into cultural traditions. Kimchi preparation often begins during the spring, when fresh vegetables are used to make geotjeoli kimchi, which has not yet fermented and is instead consumed fresh. Geotjeolikimchi has a light, tangy flavor, almost like a salad. Summertime yields different kinds of vegetables to be used as bases, like radishes and cucumbers. Summer yeolmu kimchi often includes brined fish or shellfish and ground chili peppers. Come fall, women traditionally gathered to prepare jars and jars of kimchi to be stored and fermented during the winter months. The fall variety is called baechu kimchi and is made with sok (blended stuffing)-filled napa cabbage. Traditionally buried underground in large clay pots for the winter, kimjangkimchi comes out very fermented with a salty, briny flavor. Kimjang kimchi is often Koreans’ favorite variety, and is enjoyed year-round after a few months of fermentation. Today, there are even popular kimchi refrigerators, designed specially to keep kimchi at optimal temperatures for a number of stages of fermentation.
What have we learned from all of this painstakingly delicious kimchi research? The bottom line is this: kimchi is dear to so many Koreans’ hearts because it is so closely tied to Korean history, culture, and notions of family. So, the next time you are blessed with a serving of this tasty treat, take a moment to feel wrapped up in the love and tradition that make this food so special.
You’ve probably heard of Punjabi Indian cuisine – creamy curries, tikka masala, and naan? Ah yes, this is the kind of Indian food we know and love in America. But did you know that each region of India has its own distinct flavor? From Rajasthani cuisine in the North to Tamilian food in the South, there are plenty of other uniquely delectable types of Indian food to try. Let your taste buds fly with us on a trip around India with the help of our hosts in each region!
Rajasthan is known as the Land of the Warriors for its history of war, so hearty food fit for a food-loving warrior like you is what you’ll find here. Rajasthani cuisine is creamy, chefs using milk rather than water because of the historical lack of water in its desert environment, and split between fare for vegetarians and meat enthusiasts alike. Look for favorites such as laal maas, a famous red mutton curry with red chillies that make it as hot as it looks, and aamras ki kadhi, a mango puree with buttermilk, boondi, crunchy toppings, and aromatic spices. As for our favorite aspect of Rajasthani meals? Dessert, like ghewar, a simple disc-shaped treat made of flour, milk, and syrup, is served right in the middle of the meal, and there’s lots of it to enjoy.
We can always turn to our hosts Durga and Usha for a memorable Rajasthani meal. To begin, their ancestral family home is nothing short of enchanting, with surrounding gardens seemingly filled with gleeful songbirds. Before entering this sanctuary, though, you must take on the chaotic spice bazaar to pick out flavors for the meal. Upon your return, you’ll be greeted with a drink in the courtyard and an outdoor cooking lesson. Fare includes succulent soolas, charcoal grilled mutton that is a battlefield specialty, sukha aloo, dry spiced potatoes, bajra ki roti, unleavened millet bread with homemade butter, ker sangri, beans cooked in yoghurt, followed by slow-cooked rabdi, a sweetened milk cream.
Next, we look to the South for bright, fresh Tamilian vegetarian food. Tamilian food is flavorful and satisfying, often spiced with mustard, black pepper, and cardamom, and light with less use of dairy than typically in Indian food. Tamilian meals are often a mix of curries and crispy snacks, always served with rice, and often served on a bright green banana leaf, as at Durga’s house in Chennai!
It is only fitting that our favorite Tamilian host, Durga, is a Brahmin, as health and balance are at the forefront of her priorities in her cooking and her life in general. Durga cooks her grandmother’s authentic South Indian vegetarian recipes using vegetables from her own organic garden, including special poriyals (tempered, sautéed fresh-picked veggies) and kootu (vegetables with lentils and coconut). Grate fresh coconut with Durga and enjoy a meal on banana leaves with her husband and her adorable sons, Maanas and Nandan.
Bengali food is owned by flakey, fresh fish, which is near to its people’s sea-filled hearts. Balancing sweet and spicy flavors, mustard is used often in the form of pastes and oils and adds a burst of color to nearly every dish. Warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg are also used generously. Luchi, a deep-fried bread made using multiple types of flour and mishti doi, a rich sweetened yogurt with spices, are two of the side dishes that often complement the many kinds of fish dishes that make up a Bengali meal.
Join Iti at her modern apartment in Calcutta for a traditional Bengali tasting menu that will make you fall in love with the cuisine. Previously on an Indian cooking show series, Iti now showcases her Bengali recipes to Traveling Spoon visitors. The evening begins with a market tour in Calcutta to buy the freshest fish to make bhetki paturi (fish coated with a mustard paste and steamed in banana leaves), the center of the meal. Then, watch as Iti cooks delectables like pulao (fragrant saffron-flavored rice), dal (yellow mung lentils spiked with mango-flavored ginger and cumin), beguni (crispy eggplant fritters), and chingri malai curry (aromatic coconut cream prawns).
Maharashtrian food is crave-worthy and full of variety. Partial to snackers, flavorful meat, veggie and lentil dishes come bite sized, and often fried. Hop to the streets to discover all that Maharashtrian cuisine has to offer, as many dishes are best tasted from vendors that line the bustling roadways.
On the other hand, Rekha‘s home in Mumbai may be the best place to start your Maharashtrian food adventure. Rekha and her daughters take your lead on the direction of the meal, beginning with a cooking lesson of kande pohe (beaten rice flakes tossed with masalas) or vangyachi bhaji (a Maharashtrian vegetable made with eggplants, spices and ground peanuts), along with a South Indian dish inspired by her husband’s hometown of Kerala. Then fill up on Indian masalas, fried papad, and saboodana kheer (tapioca pudding) to top it all off.
We hope by now we’ve inspired you to drop that Indian takeout box, put down your naan, and arrange a trip through all of India’s regions to taste each cuisine in its birthplace…or at least to try one new Indian dish! We can’t get enough of the bold flavors of all kinds of Indian food, and the best part is that you don’t have to choose a favorite. Experience them all! We’ve only scratched the surface with four regional cuisines that we know and love. There are so many more to explore.
Eating local has been in the U.S.’s spotlight in recent years, but some of our Traveling Spoon hosts have always been growing ingredients right in their own gardens and farms. From farm-grown cauliflower and green tomatoes in India to foraged wild mountain greens in Japan, everyone does local a little differently. We love the passion our hosts have for introducing travelers to fresh, authentic ingredients, so we wanted to highlight a few of our favorites.
Durga (Chennai, India)
Durga is a young Tamilian woman who cooks her grandmother’s traditional recipes in her home in Chennai, growing the vegetables, spices, and coconuts she needs for cooking. “I love organic gardening and growing my own fruits and vegetables,” Durga tells us. One of the locally-sourced dishes we love from Durga is her beans poriyal, fresh green beans cooked with garden-fresh curry leaves and coconuts. For all of her dishes, Durga uses traditional earthen pots made by a South-Indian village potter, serving guests a vegetarian meal that they get to eat with their hands off of a fresh banana leaf!
Aldina (Goa, India)
Above, Aldina is standing amongst the vegetables that make her meals delectable. Our favorite? Amaranthus leaves, sautéed to perfection. She and her husband Victor have an organic farm where they grow regional vegetables like the amaranthus (red leafy greens), tirky mirky (runner beans), and Goan brown rice. Aldina cooks authentic Goan Catholic cuisine with Portugese and Indian influences, accented by vinegar made from toddy, the sap drained from coconut flowers. She tells us, “We want to give travelers the opportunity to enjoy local and authentic Goan food at our home which includes farm grown regional vegetables you don’t typically find at restaurants.”
Mohan (Samode, India)
Mohan is a farmer living in the rural village of Samode, 90-minutes outside the capital of India’s northwestern Rajasthan state, with his wife, children and extended family. He is excited to share his rural culture and tradition with travelers. His farmland and fields in the village cover forty acres with cows, goats, and luscious plots of local green vegetables. “I love nature and feel like I have everything I could want in the world,” he says, “my beautiful family, farmland, and the freshest vegetables.”
Walk with Mohan among homegrown cauliflower, radish, carrots, and aloe vera plants to pick ingredients for your dinner. Farm fresh dishes are abundant at Mohan’s house, including gobi hare tamatar ki sabzi (garden-grown cauliflower cooked with farm fresh green tomatoes and cumin), lason dhaniya ki chutney (fresh ground garlic and cilantro chutney made with buttermilk churned from cows from the farm), and homemade chai made with fresh cow milk to top it all off. All the food is vegetarian, cooked in homegrown spices on a wood fire, and eaten at the farm table.
Dewa & Jero (Bali, Indonesia)
Even traveling to Dewa and Jero‘s house in Keliki, an artist village nestled in terraced foothills, will feel like a retreat into nature. They live in an open, traditional Balinese walled compound with their children and extended family, foraging spices for meals inside the walls. Dewa works as a gardener at a local resort and grows fruits, vegetables, and herbs, a few of which he takes home to cook. Eating wholesomely is not just part of the job, though. Dewa and Jero like to share their Balinese lifestyle of balance of body and spirit by using ingredients like turmeric and galangal root that serve medicinal purposes.
They cook Balinese dishes using local ingredients, including vegetables from the hotel garden and spices from their own garden, over a wood fired oven. Their pepes ikan dish, especially, bursts with fresh, local flavor – tuna grilled in freshly picked banana leaves with a marinade made from ginger, turmeric, and galangal from the garden.
Kei & Midori (Keihoku, Japan)
Ever foraged for food in the wild a few hours before your meal? Kei and Midori offer a truly unique culinary experience, and there’s a reason why. Kei and Midori live in a rural area of Japan outside of Kyoto, where they moved from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo to get back to their roots and inspire others to visit and learn about the beautiful history of Japan’s rural regions. Midori loves to forage wild vegetables and learn how to incorporate them into her cooking, and if you visit them during season you get to forage with them for sansai, wild mountain greens, that you can prepare together for your meal.
Nazlina & Eric (Balik Pulau, Malaysia)
Nazlina and Eric live in a quaint village an hour outside of Penang in Malaysia. They are friends who host at Green Acres, a sustainable living farm started by Eric and his wife so that their son could grown up foraging, fishing, and swimming, as Eric had as a child. Picture a tropical farm, bursting with mangosteen, passion fruit, and over 32 varieties of durian, in addition to rare heirloom clove and nutmeg trees. Visitors get to take a tour of these orchards and try Kim’s fresh nutmeg syrup and jam, which sold out at the Slow Food Festival in Italy. Nazlina and Eric will teach you to cook Malay cuisine using fresh ingredients, including Nazlina’s signature kerabu kacang botol dish, made with four-angle beans picked from vines on the farm.
There is nothing quite like home-grown dishes. They are fresh, bright, and reminiscent of the taste of home, no matter how far we are from it. Sharing food from the land is an age-old tradition that connects us to people around the world and right at home.