Category Archives: Travel by Taste

Holiday Recipes from the Middle East: Cucumber Salad & Galayat Bandura

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Happy Holidays from Caravan-Serai Tours and Willamette Intl Travel!

Each holiday season our friends over at Caravan-Serai offer an assortment of our favorite recipes from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucasus. Be sure to subscribe to our blog for updates!

Cucumber & Yogurt Salad ~ Salat Khyar

  • 1lb cucumber
  • 2lb yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh mint

Peel and dice the cucumbers, crush garlic with salt and mint and stir into yogurt. Add the cucumbers and mix. Serve with mint garnish.

Galayat Bandura

This dish is a popular dish which can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, as hot mezza or main course. You can add scrambled eggs, tuna, or chicken – whatever you like! “Gulayat” is the Arabic word for skillet, so the name literally translated means skillet of tomatoes.

  • 1lb tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 green chili peppers
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Saute the pine nuts in oil until light brown, remove from oil and save as the garnish (save the oil in the skillet).
  2. Finely chop tomatoes and chilies
  3. Slice garlic and saute in the same oil until light brown, then add the tomatoes, chilies (I recommend starting with half the amount of chilies and taste the mixture after a few minutes to see if you want to add more), and salt
  4. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes
  5. Pour into shallow serving dish and garnish with pine nuts

Call Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 to discuss options for travel in and around the Middle East.

To read what a Sample Tour through Morcco & Tunisia would look like, click here.

Caravan Serai is a Seattle-based company that specializes in small-group escorted tours to destinations in the Middle East and North Africa such as Jordan, Turkey and Morocco. Expert guides escort guests through fun-filled and tasty itineraries, valuing comfort and safety all the while trekking across ancient paths and historical ruins.

To read more about Caravan-Serai, click here.

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Filed under Caravan Serai, Middle East, Travel by Taste, Vendors

Holiday Recipes from the Middle East: Tahina Salad

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Happy Holidays from Caravan-Serai Tours and Willamette Intl Travel!

Each holiday season our friends over at Caravan-Serai offer an assortment of our favorite recipes from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucasus. Be sure to subscribe to our blog for updates!

Today’s recipe is another quick and easy salad from the Petra Kitchen:

Tahina Salad ~ Salat Khodra bil Tahina

3 large tomatoes
3 medium cucumbers
1 hot green pepper
1 small onion
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup tahina
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup vinegar
2 garlic cloves

  • Peel and dice the cucumbers and onions
  • Chop tomatoes very finely
  • Mince hot pepper and add to vegetables
  • Crush garlic with salt, stir into dressing of tahina, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt
  • Dressing mixture should be the consistency of cream, if too thick add a little water to thin
  • Pour tahina mixture over vegetables and stir well. Serve with a garnish of parsley sprig

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Filed under Africa, Middle East, Morocco, Travel by Taste

Holiday Recipes from the Middle East: Baba Ganuj

Happy Holidays from Caravan-Serai Tours and Willamette Intl Travel!

Each holiday season our friends over at Caravan-Serai offer an assortment of our favorite recipes from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucasus. Be sure to subscribe to our blog for updates!

Today’s recipe: Baba Ganuj or Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ganuj

 

2lbs (1kg) eggplants

1 large tomato

1 green pepper

1 medium onion

2 garlic cloves

1 Tbs salt

1 Tbs mint

2 Tbs olive oil

2 Tbs lemon juice

2 Tbs pomegranate molasses

 

  • Roast the eggplant s on a baking dish in medium oven approximately one hour, or until the skin darkens and begins to split, remove from oven to cool
  • When eggplants are cool enough handle, break open and scoop out the insides
  • Mash the pulp with a fork until a smooth puree
  • Add olive oil and lemon juice and set aside
  • Finely chop tomato, pepper and onion, add them to eggplant puree and stir
  • Crush garlic in a pestle with salt and stir into juice and olive oil
  • Add liquid to vegetable mixture and mix well
  • Stir in the mint
  • Serve in a shallow bowl with garnish of tomatoes or parsley sprigs and pita bread

A variation on this recipe is to cook the eggplant on a BBQ, it will enhance the smokey flavor! Enjoy!

Call Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 to discuss options for travel in and around the Middle East.

To read what a Sample 5 Day Emirates Desert Adventure with Caravan-Serai would look like, click here.

Caravan Serai is a Seattle-based company that specializes in small-group escorted tours to destinations in the Middle East and North Africa such as Jordan, Turkey and Morocco. Expert guides escort guests through fun-filled and tasty itineraries, valuing comfort and safety all the while trekking across ancient paths and historical ruins.

To read more about Caravan-Serai, click here.

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Filed under Africa, Egypt, Middle East, Morocco, Travel by Taste, Turkey, UAE, VOTM

12 Days of Holiday Cooking

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Welcome to the 2014 12 Days of Holiday Cooking from Caravan-Serai Tours!

Each holiday season our friends over at Caravan-Serai offer an assortment of our favorite recipes from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucasus. Be sure to subscribe to our blog for updates!

 

Lentil Soup ~ Shourbat Abas

1 Cup brown lentils
6 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 onion, finely chopped
1/4 up olive oil or ghee
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
a dash of pepper
croutons for garnish

  • Rinse lentils and drain
  • Place in a saucepan with the water over medium heat and bring to a boil
  • Reduce heat and simmer for half an hour
  • Remove from heat; strain/mash lentil and water mixture through a vegetable strainer
  • Return pureed lentil mixture to pot and cook over medium heat and stir in cumin, salt, and pepper
  • Brown the chopped onion in oil or ghee, then add to the lentil mixture
  • Cook the lentils and onion over medium heat for 5 minutes
  • Sprinkle the soup with chopped parsley and croutons

This makes a great first course, is easy, and requires very few ingredients! It’s also great on a cold winter day. Enjoy!

Call Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 to discuss options for travel in and around the Middle East.

To read what a Sample 9-Day Tour of Jordan with Caravan-Serai would look like, click here.

Caravan Serai is a Seattle-based company that specializes in small-group escorted tours to destinations in the Middle East and North Africa such as Jordan, Turkey and Morocco. Expert guides escort guests through fun-filled and tasty itineraries, valuing comfort and safety all the while trekking across ancient paths and historical ruins.

To read more about Caravan-Serai, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caravan Serai, Middle East, North America, Travel by Taste, Vendors, VOTM

Agent Trip to Laos: Part Three — Luang Prabang

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Tree on Phou-Si Hill

This past September, WIT Agent Wailana traveled with our preferred vendor Vexplore Tours through Thailand and Laos. Read on for her report on Luang Prabang, the artistic center of Laos!

In case you missed Part Two on Ayutthaya, click here to read it.

I flew from Bangkok to Luang Prabang on Thai Airways, a petite but quite comfortable hopper with perhaps 40-50 seats. Please do remember that Laos requires a full page in your passport for the visa, plus USD $37 visa fee (at time of writing), so bring cash. The airport is about 30 minutes’ drive from Luang Prabang.

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Street in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is the artistic and cultural capital of Laos. At first sight I fell deeply in love with this small, nostalgic city, with its intimate cafes, French architecture and boutique antique shops. Travelers should situate themselves near the Mekong river, within walking distance to the best restaurants and the night market.

Our first stop was the Japanese-owned Sonphao Restaurant, where we partook on a refreshing set menu of Lao fare. The food is typically light and revitalizing, with flavors of sweet lemongrass, tender pork and chicken, flavorful mushrooms and delicate fish sauces. One of the most tasty discoveries for me was kaipen-khay, or river weed. This is an algae that grows on underwater rocks in the Mekong river, eaten in dry sheets similar to Japanese nori. A local speciality of Luang Prabang is dry khai with sesame, eaten in strips as a side dish. I ordered a Beer Lao, which was a light, decent lager that came with its own story. A few decades ago, Lao students were sent on exchanges to universities in the Soviet Union and East Germany, and one came back with a recipe for beer!

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Lunch at Sonphao, one of the best meals of the writer’s life

One of the major highlights of the city is Phou-Si Hill. A large Buddhist complex is spread all over the hillside in a gigantic and gorgeous maze of curving stairs, eye-popping flora, small spirit houses, Buddha footprints and statues of each Buddha. The view from the top of the valley and river is absolutely stunning. One warning—there are a lot of steps! At the very top, vendors sell frogs and birds in little cages, meant for you to release for good luck—however it’s not recommend to buy these as many frogs and birds die during capture.

At the food of Phou-Si Hill is an amazing Hmong night market, a mile-long string of colorful tents where vendors sell handicrafts, silks and handmade paper gifts. Haggling is a major part of the Laotian culture—but bring your Lao Kip, because only a few vendors take Thai Baht and almost none USD or euros.

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View from Phou-Si Hill

Next to the market is the Royal Palace, home to the monarchy until 1975, when the royal family was banished out of the country by the communist party. You can wander from room to room, no photography and no shoes allowed (but there are lockers to put your stuff in). Old furniture, paintings, art, ceramics, gifts, musicians, even a chariot and a collection of cars and dragonboats are on display. Most impressive was the gift room, a series of glass chests that displayed various gifts given from presidents, kings, etc. all over the world to the Lao royal family. There is even a piece of the moon from the USA!

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Night Market

Next Up: Mekong Cruise!

For more photos from Wailana’s trip to Laos, check out the gallery: https://wittravel.wordpress.com/gallery/laos/

WIT Agents have all traveled extensively throughout SE Asia and we continue booking clients regularly around the region, to top destinations and off-the-beaten-path alike. Whether you’re traveling on your honeymoon or with a larger family, Thailand is a great choice for first-time and experienced travelers alike. Call 503-224-0180 to speak with one of our agents about a trip that’s right for you.

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Filed under Asia, Laos, Thailand, Top Experiences In..., Travel by Taste, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

Airplane Snacks!

Let’s face it—flying on airplanes is no picnic. You’re cramped up in what is basically a large cubicle, the A/C drying out your skin and your feet are swelling! The last thing you want to do is crack open some less-than-amazing airplane food of questionable origin. Here are some of our suggestions for plane snacks, easy to prepare and easy to take with you:

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Cranberry Flaxseed Bran Muffin. Avoid the worst of jet lag with a boost of vitamin C, magnesium and fiber! Plus these muffins are delicious and guilt-free since they are low in sugar and fat.

Bento Box. Get a small plastic tin and fill it up with your favorite cheeses, crackers, nuts—maybe toss in a few sesame sticks and pretzels too! Low mess, quick bites, and voila!

Fruit Leather. Pack on that vitamin C with some fruit leather, which you can buy at most stores (look in the organic section), or have some fun and make it at home! Try this recipe here.

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Apple or Kale Chips. Continue the homemade tradition with apple or kale chips made right in your home! Just bake them in your oven (a few hours for the apples, a few minutes for the kale) the day before, and dash with some spices (cinnamon for the apples, salt for the kale) for a lightweight and delicious snack.

Sandwich. Snacks just not doing it for you and need something a bit more filling? Or are you forced to endure one of those classic 5 hour flights with no free food? Prepare a quick sandwich beforehand. The key is to get something that is easy to clean up and doesn’t have a strong smell (imagine being the one stuck with Onion Breath all flight 🙂 ). Try a hummus on pita, or a chickpea salad on whole wheat. You be brave and try an apple and brie sandwich—use multigrain bread for that extra bit of nutrition!

Have a great idea for an airplane snack? Leave it in the comments!

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Spring in the Czech Republic

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After a whirlwind of blizzards and cold fronts, it’s safe to say that Spring is finally here. (At least in the Northwest for now!) Are you so fortunate as to be heading to the Czech Republic this spring? Don’t miss the traditional celebrations of Easter in Prague and in the Czech countryside!

PRAGUE EASTER MARKETS

April 5th-27th, 2014: Come spend Easter in Prague! The Prague Easter Markets run daily from April 5th-27th, 2014 at the Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, namesti Republiky and namesti Miru.

Visit over 100 stalls with a variety of handcrafted products, wooden toys, Czech crystal, embroidered cloth and beautifully dressed puppets. You will get a chance to buy hand-painted eggs, wooden toys, and Easter switches. Visitors can watch artisans at work and enjoy the festivities. You’ll be able to listen to live performances from singers and musicians, sample a variety of Czech seasonal Easter treats and watch dancers in traditional Czech folk costumes.
https://www.czechtourism.com/e/easter-prague/

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CZECH EASTER IN CASTLES, CHATEAUX AND OPEN-AIR MUSEUMS

April 19th-21st, 2014: Looking for a fairy-tale like Easter experience?

We invite you to visit Czech castles and chateaux, such as the Silesian Ostrava Chateau in Ostrava or Krivoklat Castle, which you can get to from Prague by a steam locomotive! You will have a chance to witness the Easter welcoming of spring at Berchtold Chateau or the Easter Fair at Dacice Chateau. Throughout the Czech region you will find Easter markets and craft fairs and people dressed in traditional Czech costumes. Indoor and open-air museums will introduce you to the folk traditions associated with Easter.

CZECH EASTERN TRADITIONS

In villages throughout the Czech Republic, visitors can experience traditional Czech Easter customs and festivities.

The unique symbols of Czech Easter are Kraslice–the hand-painted and decorated egg–and Pomlazka, which is a braided whip made from pussy willow twigs. To this day, boys walk from house to house visiting girls with their pomlazka decorated with vibrantly colored ribbons. As a Czech tradition, men playfully “spank” women on this holiday, an act that supposedly ensures fertility. Visitors young and old receive decorated kraslice eggs, small sweets or Easter gingerbread from the girls and tie a ribbon around the whips. As if the whipping is not enough, a popular custom is to throw girls in a bath of cold water, known as an “Easter dousing”. The whipping and dousing is performed to chase away bad spirits and illness.

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TRADITIONAL CZECH EASTER CUISINE

Food connoisseurs will enjoy the traditional Czech Easter fare as the religious holiday is also a celebration of Czech cuisine.

Most Czech people bake cakes in the shape of a lamb as a symbol of renewed life and the victory of life over death. It also symbolises Christ. Among the Czech traditional Easter fare also belongs special Easter stuffing, hot cross buns, Mazanec – Easter sweet bread and beautifully decorated Easter ginger bread.

(photos provided by and content adapted from the official website for Czech Tourism)

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