Bridget Miles – Chief Executive Mama of www.mamamilesfiles.com
Hi, I’m Bridget, and I’m a Foodieholic. I have a severe see-food disorder: I see food, and I eat it. I’m non-judgemental and I don’t discriminate; any cuisine will suit my tastebuds (except for cilantro, which I’ve heard is linked to a genetic trait that causes you to either love it or hate it).
Before we go any further, there’s a few additional things you should know about me: I’m a married mom of two (well… sort of. We have a very hyper Beagle/Aussie mix and a baby). And if you think your budget is tight before you have a baby, just you wait until it arrives. It’s not necessarily that the baby is expensive, but that you have this maternal urge to buy them EVERYTHING in sight. But I digress… back to food.
I love food and I love traveling, but since we’re on a budget that makes me wonder if I’m going to bring trading wampum back into style; traveling and trying new foods tend to seem impossible. But nothing is impossible!
So I’m issuing myself (and you) a challenge: let’s visit 80 different countries together via local plates of food that are all less than $5 each! I admit, it’s a bit of a “don’t pee on my leg and say it’s raining” move, but at least it’s fun, frugal and freaking tasty.
I’m not saying this will be easy because if it were, it wouldn’t be a challenge (duh). So what do you say? If you’re still here, I’m gonna take that as a yes! Hooray!
Since I live in New York City, I thought our first trip should be somewhere exotic, so why not try some quintessential NYC street meat from a popular Middle Eastern Halal Cart?
According to trusty old Google, “Halal foods are foods that Muslims are allowed to eat or drink under Islamic Shariʻah. The criteria specify both what foods are allowed, and how the food must be prepared. The foods addressed are mostly types of meat and animal tissue.” Yum… animal tissue…
Halal dishes you can find in NYC usually consist of meat (chicken, beef or lamb) in addition to rice and greens with a red and white sauce on top. The red sauce is a super-spicy harissa-style sauce, and the white sauce is an Egyptian spin on tzatziki (sub mint for cucumber in this instance). In addition to meat platters, you can purchase an array of other tantalizing dishes including gyros (also incredibly delicious). Word on the street is that Halal carts first started popping up around NYC in the 1980s and have grown to include more than 600 vendors across all boroughs!
So my little nugget and I braved the cold, traveling far and wide in search of the best deal we could find in our ‘hood. We stumbled upon a cart in Tribeca that offers a $5 chicken, rice and salad platter that comes with a free drink. BINGO!
Here’s what it looks like:
The chicken is a mix of tender, flavorful curry-spiced white and dark meat.l. The bed of rice underneath is yellow, fluffy and may have been cooked in chicken stock because it actually has some flavor! The salad is fresh (despite the whole dish costing $5) and the juicy tomatoes lend well to counteracting the spicy red sauce, which could grow hair on your chest. Seriously, this stuff is no joke and I love spicy food. And they top it off with the white sauce to cut the spice a bit more. It’s a beautifully balanced dish, and it’s HUGE. I actually had to make this baby into two meals (very atypical of me) because I was going to explode.
I give this first foodie vacation an “A” for flavor, efficiency and portion size. I’m taking off points for plating because they used Styrofoam which isn’t too reliable. But seriously, who can be picky about the look when it tastes so delicious?
If you’re interested in trying your hand at making your own harissa sauce at home, below is a fantastic recipe from “Half Baked Harvest” with LOTS OF PICTURES (I’m a sucker for food blogs with lots of food porn).
yields: 1 1/2 CUPS HARISSA SAUCE
- 2 whole roasted red peppers, seeds removed*
- 2 dried ancho chilies*
- 1 dried chile de arbol*
- 2 chipotle chiles in adobo*
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 garlic clove, peeled + smashed
- Juice of half a lemon
- Salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Place the dried chiles in a heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over top the chiles. Let sit for 20 to 30 minutes until the chiles are softened. Reserve chile water.
Once chiles are softened, cut top off the chiles and remove the seeds from inside. Add to the bowl of a food processor or blender, along with the chipotle chiles in adobo, garlic and lemon juice.
Purée, slowly pouring in the olive oil to thicken the sauce. If desired add 1-2 tablespoons of the reserved chile water to thin the sauce a bit (I did not do this). Season to taste with salt and extra lemon juice.
The Harissa will keep refrigerated for a few weeks.
Stay tuned for the next tastebud Tour Del Mundo! Who knows where we’ll end up? But wherever it is, and whatever we eat, it’s bound to be delicious!