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A Texan in Kuwait…from one oil country to another! Thoughts about my life, my cooking, and travels.
This last week we were in Dubai for the Arab Health Exhibition. This tradeshow is fast becoming the worlds largest tradeshow and exhibition in the healthcare industry. Before Arab Health started, The Husband and I decided to do a side trip to Oman for 2 days the weekend before Arab Health started.
When we were living in Toronto, we loved to go for weekend getaways and going on road trips. This is one of the things we both missed after our move to Kuwait! For those of y’all who don’t know, Kuwait’s borders are Saudi, Iraq, and the Arabian Gulf! Going from one end of Kuwait to the other only takes about 2 hours so road tripping is not ideal.
When The Husband brought up this idea, I jumped on it! We decided not to fly into Muscat, but have an adventure and drive to Muscat from Dubai. Doing the drive from Dubai to Muscat was such a wonderful experience! We were able to enjoy seeing the beautiful sand, mountains, and greenery! I was amazed and couldn’t stop comparing it to Kuwait because we only have flat dry land all around us!
We picked up our car from the airport and started our journey around 9 AM and so we started driving, usually when we do these road trips, we stock up on snacks, water, and The Husband always has a big cup of coffee with him! We were not able to do this but an hour into our drive we found a gas station, but no coffee shops or fast food places that sell coffee! (We’ve gotten so spoiled by the service stations in Canada!) We stocked up at the gas station and started the journey! About halfway through our journey, these gigantic tall brown mountains that looked like dirt came up to our left and right and I could feel my ears popping as we rolled up the mountain and then came down!
Once we entered Oman, it was like we were in a different realm! There were flowers, trees, and grass everywhere! I saw farming and greenery all around me! I couldn’t help but think of how the Israelite’s felt when they were walking in the desert for many years and finally came across to the promised land. The natural beauty of the country astounded me!
We reached Muscat around 4 and we were dead tired! We hadn’t slept the previous night because our flight was at 3:45 AM from Kuwait to Dubai, so we took a 45 minute nap at our hotel before meeting our friends. Now starts our Muscat adventures!
Our friends took us to the Muscat Festival – this is a yearly celebration that happens with lots of traditional music, dancing, food, rides, games, and stalls that sold clothes, shoes, jewelry, knickknacks, etc. We drove in right when the fireworks were going on and I was so impressed! They did such an amazing job and I have to say it was one of my most favorite and best fireworks shows that I have seen! During the festival we came across a stand where a man was stirring a huge pot, we were told by our friends that he was making the traditional Omani Halwa. I never realized halwa was made outside India, and I’ve never eaten halwa right when it’s been made. This halwa was so soft that it just melted into my mouth. I couldn’t eat more than 2 small bites because the flavor was so rich and bold, but it was great to taste the “Pride of Oman” made by a local!
The next day, our friends took us on a boat ride around the beach and the water was so clear and beautiful! The water was a bit choppy so we were jumping at times and it was AMAZING! I loved feeling the wind blowing through my hair and feeling the splash of the water!
We were able to take a stroll around the old palace of the Sultan of Oman! It’s so colorful and majestic! It would have been even better if we could take a tour of the inside! I love seeing glimpses of the life of how people live, their surroundings, etc.
*Some of these pictures were taken by my friend on his super fabulous camera*
We were also able to visit oldest souk in Oman – Muttrah Souk, which was a narrow traditional souq with lots of little shops that sold perfumes, spices, coffee pots, abaya’s, and all sorts of things you could only imagine!! The Husband kept going into the shops to buy a Sword, but thankfully I was able to dissuade him!
Great Indian Chinese place and something we do not get in Kuwait! So this was such a great treat!
Lunch: Turkish House – Don’t think kebabs and shish kebabs, but think fresh seafood that is prepared to perfection!
Dinner: This was a struggle because it was late night and so many places close early, we finally went to an area and found a Crepe place that was open. This faces the sea and the view would have been amazing if it were light out..
We also went to Trader Vicks by the Intercontinental hotel to enjoy some music and dancing!
D’Arcy – great place to sit outside and enjoy the beautiful weather and have a delicious brunch! All that was missing were the Mimosa’s!
We only had 48 hours in Muscat, but the best part was just relaxing and being with our friends. They were such wonderful hosts and we had an amazing time because of them!
All in all, I really hope to visit Oman again and see more sites or even to just go and relax! I loved the energy and feel of the people and life in Oman! The scenery is breathtaking, with the mountains following you wherever you go. One interesting fact I found out was the ruler of Oman doesn’t like tall buildings so nothing is more than 9 floors. There is modernization, but with old world charm all mixed in! If we had more time, I would have liked to go on a hike or off-roading.
Dr. Martin Luther King’s 87th Birthday was last Friday, and yesterday was the official holiday in the US celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King.
I was reading his “I Have a Dream” speech and couldn’t help but dwell on the portion “I have a dream
that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of
their skin but by the content of their character.” Has Dr. King’s dream been fulfilled? Would he be happy with what’s happening in America now?
After reading his speech, many questions and thoughts started orbiting in my head. I couldn’t help but wonder, has Dr. King’s dream been fulfilled? Would he be happy with how America is today? America has changed dramatically from what life was like in 1963. I think the most obvious is that America’s first African American president was elected and almost finishing up his second term. I might not agree with President Obama’s politics, but he is an example to everyone of how working hard and setting goals will get you to where you want. Another item of change would be that there is diversity all around. Major cities have become melting pots of different cultures and religion. There are different races in all different professions, but sadly I think it ends there. The tolerance for the different colors, cultures, and religion is missing.
For a man whose life work was dedicated to civil rights and used “non-violent resistance” tactic, it
would be painful to read about all what’s happening these days. The cases of Trayvon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Tamir Rice in Cleveland; and Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Sandra Bland in Texas, the Indian grandfather who was paralyzed in Alabama, the girl being pulled and dragged out of her desk in South Carolina. I am sure there is many more, but their names weren’t in the news so we have no idea. Racial profiling and abuse by the police has become a national topic of talk. I know there is a gray area in all this, but I just can’t understand how all this is happening. Has this always been happening and not publicized because of social media?
As a person of color (yes brown girl writing to you), it sickens me that in 2016, blacks and whites are
treated differently. It’s wrong that depending on your skin color you will be judged. It makes me sad
that the dream of Dr. King, to be judged by your character and not by color has not been fulfilled 63
years after his speech.
I would like to wish everyone a wonderful and blessed New Year!
If you haven’t realized by now, I’m an Indian. I grew up in Texas, but my heritage is
Asian Indian. I am from a place called Kerala, which is located in the southernmost
tip of India. Kerala is known as “God’s own country”. Kerala is a tropical coastal
region and all around you’ll see lush foliage, rivers, and lagoons. Usually people will go to North India to visit the Taj Mahal, Golden Temple, the different palaces in Rajastan, etc. Kerala used to be a hidden gem, but has become a popular touristic destination. One popular attraction is riding a houseboat through the backwaters of Kerala. These boats look old school from the outside, but inside it is fully modern and equipped with AC. They come with a chef who will make you authentic Kerala meals. They boat staff will catch fish and shrimp from the water and cook it right in front of you! I haven’t had the chance to go on a houseboat, but it’s on my bucket-list and I am looking forward to doing this on my next India visit! Kerala is rich in culture and full of traditions, which I don’t really know much about. Here’s some pictures of my last India trip form 2010, this trip was long over due because I went to India 16 years before.
(Just click on the picture and you can see bigger images)
I don’t really relate much to Kerala, but my association with the Kerala culture comes with food. I love Kerala food. Kerala food is nothing like the Indian food you get at North Indian restaurants. It’s not the typical Butter Chicken or Tandoori Chicken – Kerala cuisine is more intense than the westernized Indian food that pops into our head when we hear Indian food. Kerala food is so wonderfully complex that in every bite, you have an intense flavor that is revealed layer by layer. The food is full of spices and bold flavors that makes each morsel you ingest to be tasty and delicious.
Since we’ve have come to Kuwait, we don’t get many home cooked Kerala meals like
before. When we were in Toronto, every Sunday we would go over to my in-laws and mom
would have a huge spread for lunch each Sunday. After Kuwait, both The
Husband and I have come to miss this! This year I thought I’d try and get over my fear
of Kerala cooking and try at least once a month to make a dish. I’ve never ventured into
Kerala cooking because it’s always intimidated me…
The title of this post says “Chakka.. Maanga..Thenga… Kerala Masala” The first three words mean Jackfruit, Mango, Coconut. These are three important and delicious delicacies of Kerala! Every corner you go to there’s a Coconut tree, Mango tree, or Jackfruit tree! These three are also an important factor in Kerala cooking. Coconut can be used in gravies, thoran’s (vegetable dish), desserts, etc. It is a versatile fruit!
What I’ve learned after cooking all the different dishes- In most all dishes you need a base of chopped or sliced onions, minced garlic and ginger, green chilies and curry leaves…. and sometimes tomatoes. The spice combination to make meat dishes are: Coriander, Garam Masala, Chilly powder, Turmeric, and Smoked Paprika.
When making Chicken/Beef/Mutton Curry- I first sauteed sliced onions, added the minced garlic, ginger, green chilly combo and let it brown without getting burned. Once this is nicely browned I would add the spices and let it all toast for about a minute then add the tomatoes to make a nice paste. Once this is done I would add the meat and water and let it cook on slow heat. Pretty simple!
When making a thoran ,chopped steamed vegetables with a little bit of coconut, you basically cut up whatever veggies and keep aside. Add some oil to a pot, add mustard seeds, then add onions and green chilly let it saute up a bit and then add the veggies with some chilly powder and turmeric and steam it. Also pretty easy to do! These are the basics of Kerala cuisine.
Below are the dishes I’ve tried to make.. They all turned out well, but I need more practice for making the meat dishes. Hope you enjoy browsing through my pictures.
(Just click on the picture and you can see bigger images)
I know I keep saying how excited I was to go back home during this trip. It came at the right time for me – but also the weather in Texas was amazing! It wasn’t too hot or too cold and I was able to just wear whatever I felt like and enjoy!
A majority of our trip back home is about shopping because I rarely shop while in Kuwait. The only type of shopping I do is groceries… I just find clothes shopping overpriced and irritating in Kuwait, I only do it if I have no other option. My thinking is – Why would I want to spend $100 on something when I can get the same thing for almost half the price back home? I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting on in the years or what, but I LOVE going to Costco, Target, and WalMart! I can spend HOURS there and not get tired. I think my obsession for these stores have increased after living in Kuwait.
Besides shopping we were able to do an early celebration of my dad’s 60th birthday and had a mini family reunion. This was really nice because I was able to see some family members that I hadn’t seen
in years. A few of my cousins even have kids that are a 4 and 5 years old that I haven’t ever seen. I grew up being around my family so going from that to nothing has been eye opening. It really has made me appreciate them in a whole different level. I was able to be there for my aunt and mom’s birthday. These two women have been such a big influence in my life and it was such a joy to be there for both their birthday’s this year!
We were also able to go to the State Fair of Texas. I haven’t been to the fair in years and I was so excited that we would be in town while the fair was going on. For those of y’all who find it weird that I am was so excited for something like a fair, it’s the biggest fair in the country. You buy your tickets and walk through a fountain area that’s beautiful and then after a little walk you hear Big Tex greeting you and nothing prepares you for this gigantic man wearing a gallon hat with Dickies button down shirt and Dickies jeans with cowboy boots. I think it was about two years ago Big Tex burned down and it was a sad sad day for all Texans. Anyhow they rebuilt Big Tex and I was excited to see the “Newer Larger Big Tex”. The State Fair of Texas is known for all the crazy fried food.. I’ve never been a fan of this because I get crazy heartburn if I eat too much fried stuff – But there a couple things that I just couldn’t stop myself from having: A Corny Dog and a Funnel Cake. The Fletcher’s Corny Dog stand has been part of The State Fair and is a legend. There is no way you can go to the fair and not have one of these things. You might be
wondering what is a corny dog, basically it’s a wiener on a stick that’s dipped in a cornmeal batter and fried to perfection! Yes it’s sinful even thinking about it, but it is delicious. Smear some Ketchup and Mustard and you’re good to go! Besides the food there’s the rides, games, and the amazing concerts
through the day and the big main even at night. The Husband has never been to the Fair so it was such an amazing experience to share it with him. We decided to do a family event and took my youngest brothers and cousins. It was alot of fun just spending time with them and relaxing all day!
I think I can go on and on about my trip, but here’s some pictures for you to go through.
As I said in my previous post, we were able to visit our family and friends in Canada and Texas!The weather was fabulous and I was able to even enjoy some great thunderstorms! The funny thing is, since coming back to Kuwait we have been having rain off and on and at times it’s even turned into to flooding! Rain in Kuwait is never a good thing, but that’s a post for another day!
So this trip was an interesting trip because I had to take my Canadian citizenship oath! I’m still not sure how I feel about this..I think I’m still in denial about getting married to a Canadian….and to think the farthest from Dallas I thought I’d be was Toronto – how did I end up in Kuwait? Alrighty, back to the
citizenship story – The Husband is happy so that’s all that matters! I think his happiness come from having not to spend time renewing my PR card and having to deal with all the paperwork and hassle. Anyhow, there’s a lot more other details in this, but I don’t want to bore you with all the crazy nonsense that I had to go through for all this. All that matters is we are done with Canadian and now onto American! <— Wishful thinking on my part
This was one of my most favorite trips back because we were able to see so many people and also have an almost relaxing and enjoyable time. Trips back home are usually not relaxing because we are on the go from morning till night, but on this trip we were able to spend time with our family and see some of our friends.
While we were in Toronto, we were able to do a 3 day getaway to Montreal and it was such a great trip! Montreal is on my list of Top 5 favorite cities to spend time in. I had a lot going on before leaving on our trip and Montreal was the perfect trip for us to just decompress and just have some fun. We mostly spent time just walking around the different neighborhoods and going to the different cafe’s and restaurants.
I can go on and on about our trip so instead of that, I’ll share the pictures so you can see our experience.
Hi Everyone, I’m sure y’all have all given up on me but I have just been so busy with life and also finding motivation to post. Summer was busy for me because my family came to visit us.
We did our annual US/Canada trip early and went in September. This trip was one of my favorite trips back home because we were able to enjoy amazing weather in both the places! Usually Toronto is
freezing cold in December and I walk around looking like an Eskimo and get made fun of, but this year it was fabulous. I’ll write and share pictures about my trip.
I have been cooking a lot and taking pictures, but no time to update the blog. I have been talking about Slow Cookers since I came to Kuwait and have been searching but haven’t been able to find it anywhere. Recently a friend of mine found one and gave it to me as a gift and I am just so ecstatic! I really missed having a slow cooker because I used it a lot while in Toronto. I’m really excited to use this especially during the summers and since “winter” is coming up I’ll be making lots of different stews and soups in it!
We had a rainy weekend so here’s a recipe I found while perusing some website and blogs. I found this recipe through the Skinnytaste.com website. It’s called Carne Guisada Latin Beef Stew. I didn’t follow the directions exactly because I think I’m incapable of doing this – but it turned out well.
I’m always wary about making beef recipes because it’s so easy to mess up beef. If it’s not tender enough it will be chewy and in steaks I hate when they are overcooked and dry!
1 cup Green Onions – Chopped
3 cloves Garlic – Minced (I used 5)
2 small tomatoes – Chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro – Minced (I had at least 4 or 5)
1 1/2 lb stewing beef
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/3 cup light beer (1 cup beef broth because I cannot get beer in Kuwait)
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 tsp dry adobo seasoning (did not use this)
1/2 tsp ground achiote (just used paprika)
1 dried bay leaf (used 2)
salt to taste
10 oz baby red potatoes halved or quartered (I used regular potatoes because I couldn’t find red)
Pico De Gallo
1 Onion – Chopped
1 Jalapeno – Chopped (2 Jalapeno if you want more spicy)
1 Tomato – Chopped
Salt to taste
Heat up a heavy frying pan and add a little bit of oil. When the oil heats up add the chopped garlic and let it cook for 2 minutes but keep watch so that it doesn’t burn. Then add the green onions and let it cook for about 3 minutes.
Add in the tomatoes and cilantro next and mix it all together. Cook for another 3 minutes until the tomatoes become soft. Add a little bit of salt. Once you are done, place into the slow cooker.
Add a little bit of oil back into the same pan and let the oil heat up, add in the beef a little bit at a time so you can brown the meat and get a nice crust. I think i did maybe 4 minutes per batch. I wiped the pan and added a little bit of oil before adding the beef each time. After I did the last set, I placed all the beef back into the pan and added the 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour and just mixed until it coated all the beef. Once the beef is fully coated, add the beef into the slow cooker
Next add in all the rest of the ingredients and mix it well. I added some extra water so it would come a little above the meat. I also added some black pepper, oregano, and chilly flakes. Since I added the beef stock, I didn’t add any more salt, but you should take later on to see if it is to your salt preference level. Let it cook on low for about 6 – 8 hours or until the beef is tender and soft.
Pico De Gallo:
To make the Pico De Gallo, I just chopped up some onions, tomatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro and added some lemon juice and salt to taste. Place in fridge to let the flavors mingle together and take out when ready to serve the Carne Guisada.
This takes a bit of prep work, but you can do it the night before and start it in the morning before going to work and come home from a chilly day to a nice warm stew. The fresh bold taste of the Pico to the warm comforting feeling of the stew will take you to Latin America. I can imagine years ago, an old lady cooking on an open fire with a heavy cauldron stirring away trying to get this dish ready for her family in the evening. Adding the Pico brought the Carne Guisada up a level. You can serve it on rice or eat it by itself. The husband actually ate it with Pita bread and I just had it as a stew.
I wasn’t able to find the Adobo or Achiote and beer is illegal in Kuwait so I just added some beef broth. I might add some more vegetables next time I make this. If you want it spicy, maybe try marinating the beef early on with some spices (Cumin, chilly powder, oregano, garlic etc).
I know this is about 4 months late, but I guess the phrase better late than never works best here. I have been wanting to share about my Turkey Trip since January, but I just wasn’t able to properly write a post. I have been working on this post for about 2 weeks off and on and there was just so much about Turkey I think I am going to divide it into parts. So here’s my Turkey Part 1.
Merhaba! This is “Hello” in Turkish…
On the way back from our Canada/US visit, we were able to spend a few days in Istanbul. We were able to do this because we flew Turkish Airlines and so it was an easy stopover on the way back. Even though it was really cold and wet during our visit, it was really worth the trip! What a beautiful city Istanbul is!
We were able to do all the touristic things and also just walk through different streets. I think I really enjoyed this trip because it was right after our Canada/US pilgrimage and we were able to decompress! Even though visiting home was our vacation, it really was a stressful trip because we had so many people to see and things to do all jam packed in 20 days and splitting the time between families and all.
While in Istanbul,we stayed in the historical Sultanahmet area. We were able to pick a hotel using our AirMiles so didn’t have to pay for a hotel which is always one of the most expensive parts of going on a trip. I was really happy with the area we picked because it was really quiet and also it faced the sea. Since we were traveling from Canada and back to Kuwait, our jetlag would hit around 9 PM and then we would wake up around 12 AM go back to sleep and by 4:30 AM we were up! So every morning we would be ready and out the door by 7 to have our breakfast and then go out and explore by 8. This was great because we didn’t waste any time sleeping in (like our normal vacations) and was able to take in all the sites.
By the time we arrived to our hotel it was already around 4 PM. We put our suitcases in our room, and quickly put our coats on to explore around our hotel. We didn’t want to restin our rooms since we just did a 14 hour flight direct from Toronto so we knew we’d just pass out and waste an evening. The evening was cold and as it grew dark the puddles were turning into ice. Also, . I was really scared of falling because I’m such a clutz! Thankfully my boots had a good grip. I loved walking around the streets of Sultanahmet area, seeing all the houses and streets was just beautiful. I took a few pictures of the streets which I’ll share.
We were starving and just kept walking trying to find the perfect place for dinner. We passed by many big places that had men standing outside trying to intice you into eating, but felt they were more like tourist traps. We kept walkig and stumbled upon a small place called Ziya Baba. Usually when we go on a trip we research the area and best places to eat and all, but since we were busy with our Canada/US visit, we were not able to do that. Thankfully we came across this amazing family run establishment that served AMAZING food. The food was amazing and the prices were even better! I really enjoyed eating here and also just the ambiance in general. The mom was behind the stove and the father and son would do the waitstaff job. The best part was it was warm inside so we were able to just relax and enjoy our first night in Turkey! I was so happy to have found this place on our first night.
If you haven’t realized by now, The Husband and I are complete foodies. So going to any place having great food is just as important as seeing the sites!
One thing I noticed about the area we stayed were the amount of stray dogs and cats. Stray dogs always scare me and I try to avoid them. Thankfully these dogs left us alone. The cats were the fattest stray cats that I have ever seen!
We we had a pretty laid back evening, but here’s a couple of pictures from our first day of Turkey.