Fried pigs ears

Fried pigs ears

These aren’t fried pigs ears. Or at least I don’t think they are.

The picture was taken in the Mercado de San Miguel food hall in Madrid. I was hurrying along to catch up with The Lovely J, and took a quick snap of these snacks. I meant to ask what they were, but forgot. I think they look like baby or midget pig ears deep fried in batter, and that’s how they’ll remain etched in my memory unless someone tells me otherwise.

~ Spotted Cow

Madrid. Stinkingly hot


It was stinkingly hot when The Lovely J and I were in Madrid in early June. When you live in England, 33°C or 90°F at 10 o’clock in the morning classifies as stinkingly hot, although of course, we embraced the heat under the cover of umbrellas, hats and sunscreen.

Anyway, the point is that other than the 3 hours in the dance studio, most of the rest of the time was spent eating, drinking and gossiping in the bars. It pays to be sociable with the bartenders. You get to have interesting conversations and they may bring you specials or drinks or off-menu tapas.

One of the tapas places we liked was sitting at the bar at El Bocaito. They do wonderful padron peppers. The bartender persuaded us to try the Luisito tapa, which he described as a bit of prawn and squid with their house mayo and chilli paste, served on a bit of toast. “It’s a bit spicy”, he said as he sliced the portion. The Spaniards aren’t known for spicy food. As it turned out, the chilli paste was intense. It caught us by surprise, and it was hot enough to bring me to the verge of tears. Every time I took another bite, the heat accumulated in my mouth, building up an unholy fire. Meanwhile, the bartender thought our reactions quite hilarious, and eventually brought us some tortilla to mitigate the heat. I did like the lovely tingly feeling around my mouth. But it was stinkingly hot !

Bocaito, Calle de la Libertad, 6, 28004 Madrid

~ Spotted Cow

padron peppers

pimientos del padron

El Bocaito

Spam Musubi

Yes, spam. The Hawaiians are crazy about spam. Did you know that Hawaiians eat more spam per capita than any other state in the US?  Nevertheless, it took some persuading from my college friend, Ms Southern Gal, that I ought to try a spam musubi. She is married to a Hawaiian Japanese, which lends her some credibility in these matters.

“It’s a really tasty snack. I bought some for breakfast tomorrow,” she said to my dubious look.

Next time I had the opportunity, I bought a spam musubi from the local 7-11.  It looks like an un-cut sushi roll. In the middle is a slice of cooked spam tongue marinated in furikake, a Japanese seasoning with seaweed, sesame seeds, fish flakes and other un-name-ables. It was surprisingly flavourful and quite filling.  I think the taste is enhanced by the seasoning, which melded the spam with the rice. Otherwise it might’ve been quite flat, just dry layers of spam, rice and nori. I liked it, and had another one the day after. Hmm, I wonder if it would get a following here in London?

~ Spotted Cow

spam musubi

Chinese New Year food

I was invited round to Chinese New Year Eve dinner at the house of Very Stylish Neighbour.  She is from Singapore and when it comes to food, she does it well and with bucket-loads of enthusiasm. We were going to have a typical Singaporean Chinese New Year meal. I wore my red dress for good luck and I had the requisite oranges to bequeath fortune and wealth to my hostess for the coming year.

We started off with yee sang, which is a new year salad. The salad ingredients have to be placed in a particular order, accompanied by a wish – sashimi, lime, pepper, oil, carrots, green radish, white radish, condiments, peanut crumbs, flour crisps.  The wish is specific to each ingredient and is broadly to do with abundance, health and good fortune. For instance, while pouring the oil, we chanted “Make 10,000 times of profit with your capital.”

We tossed the salad collectively with our chopsticks, high as we could, the better to assure our good fortunes. I felt like I should’ve been clad in swashbuckling silks – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style – armed with a sword to deftly mix the veg in four swift strokes.  We shouted out our wishes so that the gods could hear. “Pay rise! New house in Hampstead! Good Health! Win the lottery!” You get the picture.

Salad done, we got to work on the main meal, which was a hotpot. In the centre of the table was a boiling pot of water surrounded by a hot grill plate. There were dishes of cut vegetables, sliced meats, and seafood, and we dipped our chosen morsels into the pot or onto the hot plate. Everything cooked quickly.  We ate ravenously. As each bit of food was dunked, the boiling water transformed progressively into a rich soup stock.

We ate until we were beached whales. When we could no longer fit another sliver into our bellies, we dropped in the noodles (long life) and broke two eggs (double happiness) and drank up the soup’s goodness. Ahhh …

What a heartwarming communal ritual.

We finished off with a rice dumpling called tang yuan and read our horoscopes for the coming Year of the Horse. Mine said I would meet my soulmate in the second half of the year (fab!), although it warned that I should not drink too much alcohol in case of stomach diseases (huh?).

Gong Xi Fa Cai. Kong Hee Fatt Choy.

~ Spotted Cow

yee sang


tang yuan

Vienna. Eating to stay warm.

Let’s go back to somewhere seasonally cold.  Vienna in December is -1°C to 3°C.  It didn’t take away from the atmosphere of the Christmas markets, but honestly, it felt colder than that. Brrr. Regular pitstops at the hot chocolate and mulled wine stalls were essential. We’d linger for warmth at the stalls cooking large pans of potatoes. I could barely get my fingers out of my gloves to take photographs.

It brings to the fore, food as fuel. We dropped into the Esterhazykeller for lunch. It’s a traditional Viennese wine tavern that’s been around since 1683.  It’s subterranean – well, it’s a cellar –  and you sit in cosy wooden booths among the caverns of vaults. We ate roast pork with dumplings and cabbage, as suggested by the guidebook, and we drank beer.  It was probably delicious and nourishing, but I don’t remember. All I could think was that I needed to get in some food to pad the sides for another foray into the cold.

~ Spotted Cow

Esterhazykeller sign Esterhazykeller insideVienna Christmas market Vienna lebkuchen stall

Danish hot dog

The best hot dog in Copenhagen is from the mobile stall at the bottom of the Round Tower.  What’s more, it’s organic.  Yup, you heard me right.  A healthy hot dog.

The menu gives you 4 choices of getting your dog.  Who knew? You also pick the type of sausage – classic, beef, pork, goat, vegan – and the type of dressing. I opted for the classic hot dog in a bun and it came topped with deep fried onions (maybe not so healthy after all!), diced raw onions and many slim slices of pickle.  I added mustard. It was delicious and filling. Importantly, the sausage didn’t taste like plastic. It was juicy and succulent. Doesn’t that make you want to try one?

You can’t miss the stand if you go to the Round Tower. But if you want to ask for it, it’s called Den Økologiske Pølsemand – The Organic Sausage Man.

~ Spotted Cow

Danish hot dog hot dog menu

Milking Sheep at the Grandvewe Cheesery

After a long, winding, and very confusing road, we finally arrived at the farm on the Grandvewe Cheesery in Middleton, Tasmania. The family went in to the restaurant to sample the sheep cheese.  After that we had a yummy dessert of sheep ice-cream – it was EWEnique!  And the adults slurped up some cheesy alcoholic beverages.

After filling our stomachs, we went outside to the shed and to empty the sheep’s udders of milk.  We used giant milking machines that stuck to their udders and had a milking competition to see who could get the most milk – Chocolate Milk Cow won (his sheep had the biggest udder with almost a litre of milk!)

~ Moo Cow