Category Archives: Uncategorized

American

A couple weeks ago, my parents came up to State College for my birthday and we went to the Allen Street Grill.  Overall it was a nice restaurant and I got the staple of American food: the hamburger.  It was quite good but a little pricey for a college student for it is a sit down restaurant but I would recommend going if you’re willing to foot the bill.

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American cuisine is one that is often overlooked as ethnic food, since we live here, however it does have some defining characteristics.  There is a variety of influences on American cuisine from countries around the world leading to many different regional styles of food.  The Native Americans had a heavy influence on the development of the style of cooking and different foods eaten.  Fish was heavily used in Native American culture and became part of early colonial diets along with the style of cooking of grilling.

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The New England region is known for seafood and the Native American style of one pot cooking which is used in dishes such as succotash, chowder and baked beans.  Local produce and locally caught fish are typical of Hawaiian dishes.  Barbecue developed out of the midwest region and is still most popular there.  The South has one of the most distinct styles of food in the country.  With a wide variety of influences, the south focuses on fried food (especially chicken), vegetables, grits and is known for serving up a full breakfast opposed to Continental one.  The Northwest focuses on fish and the Southwest has a heavy  Mexican influence.

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Many of the dishes that are considered “typical American” food are taken from other countries.  For example, hamburgers and hotdogs are based off traditional German dishes but have been changed enough to be considered American worldwide.  Also, pizza (a staple of American food) originated in Italy but met much change in the United States.  Chicago deep-dish style and New York Style are two new varieties of pizza developed in the United States.

Fun Facts:

America eats 1.2 billion pounds of potato chips every single year

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that in 2011 the average American consumed nearly one ton of food. That’s 1,996 pounds of food a year.

The 2011 study also revealed some other interesting numbers. Americans ate: 632 lbs. of dairy products – 31.4 lbs. of that is cheese, 415.4 lbs. of vegetables. The most popular choices are corn and potatoes. 29 pounds of those veggies are french fries, 273 lbs. of fruit. Mostly apples and oranges, 183.6 lbs. of meat and poultry, 60.4 lbs. is chicken, 62.4 lbs. is beef. 16.1 lbs. is fish/shellfish, 141.6 lbs. of sweeteners, and 53 gallons of soda.

Mongolian

For this week, I decided to order food online.  After checking grubhub I decided to order Mongolian food from Chen’s.  The food was well priced and came rather quickly.  I ordered the Mongolian Lo Mein and it was rather good, I would definitely consider ordering from here again.

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Mongolian food is an interesting hybrid between Chinese and Russian food due to its location.  The location of Mongolia presents an interesting setting for the cuisine.  Primarily consisting of dairy products, meats, and animal fats the Mongolian diet is heavily reliant on cattle, horses, camel, yaks, sheep, goats and sometimes game.  The animal fat is necessary to keep warm in the extreme cold.  The cuisine lacks most vegetables and spices.

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Most Mongolians are self-supporting therefore there are places called gers located along the roadside that run similar to simple restaurants.  It is expected upon entering a ger that one will accept the food offered to them and it is rude to refuse to even try what is offered.

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One traditional Mongolian dish is cooked mutton, which is cooked sheep without any other ingredients.  Different types of dumplings are especially popular; they include types that are filled with meat, deep fried in mutton fat,  or boiled in steam.  Another popular dish is the combination of meat in noodles or soups.  There is a unique method of cooking that is used on special occasions which involves meat getting cooked on hot stones.

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Fun Facts:

Horse meat is popular in Mongolia and sold in grocery stores

Mongolian garbage trucks sound like ice-cream vans.

The Mongolian people like drinking sour milk, instead of drinking fresh milk.

Vodka is very popular due to the close proximity to Russia

 

Italian

Italian food.  This is one cuisine that I’ve always enjoyed.  For this week I ordered from Mama Mia’s (which conveniently delivers and very quickly too).  I ordered bruschetta and ravioli, which came with a salad and bread.  Overall it was your typical italian food, delicious.  And with all the food that I got, it was a great deal too!  All in all I’d recommend Mama Mia to anyone.

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Italian cuisine has great influence all over the world.  An italian meal is like no other.  The meal focuses greatly on time spent with the people you are dining with, thus daily meals take longer than the average meal here, and feasts on holidays can take hours.  The average meal would start with an entree, followed by a first course, a secondo or main course accompanied by a side dish and bread, a desert or a fresh fruit and an espresso or coffee.

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There is great diversity among the different regions of Italy in terms of their cuisine.  The Northern region is known for their stuffed pastas and the use of fish.  In Central Italy the food usually consists of various types of meats and fish, tomatoes and pecorino cheese.   Tomatoes,  peppers, olives and olive oil, garlic, artichokes, oranges, ricotta cheese, eggplants, zucchini, certain types of fish (anchovies, sardines and tuna), and capers are all popular in southern Italy.  The overall characteristics of italian cuisine are its wide use of pasta, sauces, fruits and vegetables and meats.  Wine is also important in italian cuisine.

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Classic dishes include: Bruschetta, various pizza recipes, gnocchi, various spaghetti dishes, risotto, tortellini, steak alla florenti, veal marsala,

Fun Facts:

The average person in Italy eats more than 51 pounds of pasta every year. The average person in North America eats about 15-1/2 pounds per year

There are more than 600 pasta shapes produced worldwide.

February 13th is National “Eat Italian Food” Day

It was not until the 1700’s until tomato sauce was included with spaghetti in Italian kitchens.

Mediterranean

For this week, I ate at Pita Cabana Grill which features Mediterranean food.  The pink ribbon club was hosting a fundraiser there, so I decided to try it out.  I got a Chicken Shistawook and it was set up in “chipotle” style where the server asks what you want on your sandwich.  Overall I was surprised how much I enjoyed it, but there was too much sauce on it for my liking.  But it was definitely something interesting worth trying.

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Mediterranean food is the food that comes from the area adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea, incorporating many different countries but focusing on a single style of cuisine.  It is a very plant-based cuisine.  The diet of Mediterranean food is heavy in fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, beans, and olive oil.  Meat is used but less frequently than in western cooking and is usually used in small amounts in sauces, and beans and pasta dishes.  The largest source of protein comes fish (seeing as it comes from the Mediterranean Sea region)    They hardly ever use refined sugar, flour, butter and fats making it quite healthy.  Much of the strong flavor comes from the herbs and spices.

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Red meat is hardly ever eaten in this region along with dairy products.  When milk is used in preparation they only use low fat or non fat, for it is nutritional value.

There comes a social aspect in Mediterranean food, for it is about people eating healthfully together.  This is taken part in cooking, eating and cleaning up.

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Fun Facts:

The diet is extremely high in antioxidants and fiber, two elements that have been proven to help prevent heart disease and various forms of cancer

The dietary practices of the Mediterranean region trace their origins back to the days of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, beginning in about the Fourth Century BC.

The Mediterranean diet became of more international interest in modern times as early as 1945. A medical doctor named Ancel Keys was responsible for encouraging his own patients in the United States to turn to the Mediterranean diet scheme. His advocacy increased the awareness of the Mediterranean diet in other countries around the world as well.

Indian

For this week, I went to try Indian food at Kaarma.  I asked the server what their most popular dish was and she told me Butter Chicken.  It came in mild sauce with rice on the side.  Overall it was better than I expected it would be, and the flavors were very surprising.  I would be open to trying it again.

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One of the highest characteristics of Indian food is their rich spices and aromas that comes with the food.  Due to the enormous population of India, there is a widespread variety of food between the differing regions.  Cooking in India is considered to be an art, where most mothers teach their daughters at a young age.

Religion has also played a very prominent role on Indian cuisine.  The Hindu religion bans the slaughter of cows, thus Hindus do not eat beef.  This has influenced people other than Hindus, for many states have banned the slaughter of cows.  Therefore beef is hardly ever used in Indian food.  Another religious influence is from Islam.  Pork is banned for consumption by Muslims.  Those who follow Vaishnavism do not eat garlic or onions.  And Jains follow an even more strict version of vegetarianism  by not eating potatos or any other root vegetables.  They believe by pulling up the root, organisms that live around the root also die.

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The different regions of India have their own distinct style of cuisine.  The northern region is characterized by their moderately spicy and creamy gravies.  There is a lot of  fresh fruits and vegetables in this region, making vegetarian dishes the most popular.  Southern India has the spiciest food with rice being a staple in most dishes.  In the East, simplicity is the biggest characteristic and usually includes some form of rice.  The Western Part of India  has the most diversity; it includes a wide variety of both classic vegetarian dishes and meat entrees.

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Fun Facts:

Indians eat with their hands (considered to be more ritualistic and makes the food taste better)

All Indian cooking is carried out in a variety of vegetable oils like sunflower oil, mustard oil, groundnut oil and coconut oil. Animal fat is never used in cooking.

India is the world’s largest producer of bananas, producing nearly 22 million tons in 2007

Japanese Food

For this week, I returned to Asian cuisine.  There was some similarities I found between the Japanese style cuisine, flavors and even menu items that I found at the Vietnamese place.  I ate at Okinawa II and got three different types of sushi.  I had never had sushi before (I know kind of weird, but then again I never really ate anything), and was thoroughly surprised while eating it.  Overall I enjoyed it, my only stipulation was that it was a little large and was difficult to eat in one bite.

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Overall  sushi is the main staple of Japanese cuisine.  Since Japan is surrounded by water, there is an abundance of fish thus allowing sushi to be a desirable dish.  It is surrounded by rice and then contains usually raw fish and a variety of other ingredients.

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Rice is another staple of Japanese cuisine.  It is not uncommon for the Japanese to eat rice in every meal.  Dinner is the largest meal of the day in Japan, similar to here.  The japanese consume a wide variety of food wa-shoku is what traditional Japanese food is referred as while yo-shoku is what western foods are called Chinese food is called chuuka.

There are two main regions of Japanese cuisine: Kanto and Kansai region.  The Kanto region usually serves food with strong flavors whereas the Kansai region is characterized by its lightly seasoned food.  Chopsticks are commonly used for means of eating food.

Fun Facts:

Raw horse meat is a popular food in Japan

Noodles, especially soba (buckwheat), are slurped somewhat loudly when eaten. It has been said slurping indicates the food is delicious.  The slurping also serves to cool down the hot noodles for eating

Contrary to popular belief, whale meat is not a delicacy in Japan. Many Japanese dislike the taste and older Japanese may be reminded of the post-World War II period when whale meat was one of the few economical sources of protein

French

This week was sort of a struggle to actually eat the food.  I went Monday night to go to Penn Kebab and get the Turkish food only to get there and find out they don’t accept lion cash and I had no cash on me.  Thus I was forced to return another day and wanted to go to Joie de Crepe.  This was the one place I was actually really excited about eating about because no matter how picky I may be, I cannot turn down chocolate.

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But I was actually quite disappointed.  The place served a wide variety of food from Mediterranean, to Southern American, to the French crepes.  So as you can imagine I was already a little skeptical.  I got my crepe with strawberries, chocolate and bananas.  As I was walking back the chocolate started to leak out and then when I actually ate it all I could taste was bananas.  I literally would not have known there was strawberries in it if I hadn’t ordered it myself.  It was just overall difficult to eat, and I have had authentic crepes before in Paris, so I know how it was supposed to taste.

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French cuisine is characterized by a variety of regional dishes.  Fresh food from the region including fresh apples, berries, haricot verts, leeks, mushrooms, and various squash and stone fruits are especially popular.  Bread, such as baguettes are especially popular.  Entrees that are popular are Foie gras, Quiche, and Escargot,  However, the main staples of french food has to be wine and artisan cheese.  In France lunch is usually a 2 hour meal where at schools a full meal is provided, and at white-collar jobs most employees are given food vouchers as part of their employment.  Dinner includes three course hor d’oeuvre, main entree and the dessert.

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The most common dessert in France is the crepe.  They can be served as either a dessert, which is most commonly known here, or as an entree, in which it will contain more substantial food.  They are sold at stands called creparies.

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Fun Fact about french food: The French eat more cheese – an average of 45 pounds per person – than any other country in the world.

There’s a restaurant within the Eiffel Tower (I ate there!)

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Vietnamese

In deciding where to go this week to get food, I compiled a list of various ethnic places in town.  And when I couldn’t decide where to go to eat, I decided to just start at the bottom of the list: Vietnamese.

Vietnamese food is characterized by one main ingredient: rice.  Rice is even worshipped in Vietnam and is in most major food dishes (including Pho which I had).  Rice is the center of all Vietnamese food.  Another staple of Vietnamese food is fish sauce.  Interestingly enough the fish sauce bowl is shared by all members of the family, thus showing the Vietnamese solidarity (others consider it to lead to embezzlement and jealousy).  However, this way of sharing food can also bring people together.

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One thing I found interesting when looking up Vietnamese food culture was the idea that they had gendered food.  There are certain foods that are seen are more acceptable for men to eat such as dog or snake.  Here in America I don’t think either gender would really be interested in eating either foods.  There are also foods that are deemed sacred to certain minority groups.

So for my personal venture into Vietnamese food I went to Lemongrass (fun fact lemongrass may be supplying some food to Findlay Commons next semester).  When I got there I asked the guy working there what the most popular dish was, and he said Pho.  Having no idea what that was, but deciding I should actually try new things I agreed to get that.

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Pho is a noodle soup, containing Vietnamese staple rice, with beef broth, scallions, bean sprouts, lime wedge, thin basil and onions.  I was a little scared to try it since I don’t even usually eat soup but I ordered it anyway (with much pressure from my friend).

The Pho came in a VERY large bowl, and after eating it it looked like I had not in fact eaten anything.  I liked it surprisingly, the broth wasn’t that strong and the noodles added a nice texture to it.  I strayed away from the brisket in it but really enjoyed the vegetables.  Overall I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to try something new.  But if I do back I definitely plan on getting tofu instead of the brisket.

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Week 1- Intro

In deciding what I should do for this blog, I wanted to do something that could improve myself overall.  So how does that tie in to my idea to try ethnic foods in state college?  I should start off by saying I am an extremely picky eater.  My diet consists mainly of peanut butter sandwich’s and I tend to shy away from anything with a lot of flavor.

So this is where I decide to challenge myself.  College is a time to develop one’s self in all different ways, thus I am forcing myself to branch out into the food world.  So each week I will visit a different ethnic food and report back on my experience.

To begin this challenge, I began at the place that actually inspired this.  Over the summer I was in Princeton New Jersey with my friend for dinner and we walked around for an hour because I did not like any of the many restaurants that  Princeton has.  Thus my friend began to make fun of me for not eating anything (rightfully so) so I took this challenge and had my first burrito.

Thus that is where I began this journey, at Chipotle the same place that inspired my change of heart towards food.  I ventured into it knowing that Chipotle isn’t as authentic Mexican food as possible but for me, it was a good place to start.

I walked up to the counter and ordered my veggie burrito (I always go veggie when in doubt) and randomly choose the options the guy working there gave me because I had no idea what I wanted.  After sitting down I dug in.  Surprisingly enough I actually enjoyed it.  It wasn’t spicy as I had thought it may be or having any weird flavors but rather the rice and beans combo was quite delicious.  The only actual problem I had with it was the difficulty I had eating it since I tore part of my tortilla by accident.

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(my friend went to interrupt my picture hence the blur in the corner)

Though Chipotle is commercial Mexican food(at least it’s not Taco Bell) elements of Mexican food shouldstill be looked at.  Mexicans have a quite distinct type of cuisine.  Chile, Salsa and Tortillas are characteristics of Mexican food, which I did eat.  Next week I look to try something more of a stretch for me and expand my “foodie” horizons, if anyone has any suggestions just let me know!