August 30, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Our United Nations-Inspired Meal

New York City is home to the United Nations - and to so many people from around the world. After finding kangaroo meat at a local butcher shop, we wondered how many other interesting ingredients we could find to make an United Nations-inspired International Dinner for our adventurous and non-adventurous family members.

And so, thanks to FoodBuzz and VISA Signature, we were able to explore New York City, find and cook some very interesting ingredients from different countries, and get our family's reaction

We started out in Chinatown and came across lots of exotic fruits sold by vendors on Canal Street. We bought dragon fruit, rambutan (red fruit with soft spikes), custard apples (looks like bruised artichokes), and starfruit. Then we headed to Hong Kong Supermarket for snacks like dry seaweed and shrimp chips. Finally, in another market, we found our next interesting ingredient to cook for our dinner - jellyfish!

We quickly went around the world - First heading up to SOHO to Spanish store Despana (to get KAS soda), then we went out to the LES to Australian outpost Tuck Shop (the only place in NYC to get Tim Tams, fantastic cookies), Dual Specialty Store (a great Indian store with tons of lentils, spices, and interesting vegetables like karela or Indian bitter melon), and finally to a small Polish deli named Polish GI Delicatessen and bought some Polish cookies.
Lastly, we headed to Sunrise Mart in the East Village. This is the best Japanese market in NYC! Here we grabbed a cold Kona coffee beverage, Korean green peppers, and a bag of nuts with dried anchovies. We ended our grocery run with Trader Joe's (where we happily grabbed some dried Mangosteen - we heard the fresh version of these fruit were the tastiest fruit in the world, and some dried Turkish figs). Now we were ready to cook our meal!

We bought salted jellyfish that came in packaged bags, to ensure we wouldn't poison our guests! We read that the salt and preservatives used to store the jellyfish neutralizes any venom. It also requires a lot of water to make it crunchy. We decided to prepare the jellyfish, traditionally used in Asian cultures, in two different ways - Jellyfish Salad (adapted from a Mario Batali recipe) and Fried Jellyfish with Korean Green Pepper Marinara Sauce (our take on Fried Calamari)
To prep the jellyfish, we took it out of the package and sliced it into thin strips. Then we placed it in a colander for 30 mins under cold water. While the jellyfish was rinsing, we boiled water.
We split the jellyfish into 2 batches:

Fried Jellyfish: This batch was placed in a bowl of hot water for 15 mins. Afterwards, we drained the bowl and poured cold water over the jellyfish. We then squeezed the water out and patted the jellyfish dry with paper towels.

Salad Jellyfish: This batch was left in the colander and then we poured hot water over it. We rinsed them again in cold water for about 15 mins and then poured more hot water poured over it. Lastly, we cooled the jellyfish again with cold water, squeezed the water out, and patted it dry with paper towels.

Finally, the jellyfish were ready for cooking! (Please see the end of the post for recipe details).

What's great about jellyfish is that it has no flavor - so we only taste any seasonings we put on it. Making this Jellyfish Salad was very easy - and we thought it tasted light and fresh. We paired it with a South African Chenin Blanc.

But what did our diners think about our Jellyfish Salad?

"Jellyfish was great and fun! It was not fishy nor chewy."
"Beautiful presentation. Nice and light. The jellyfish was a nice surprise - unexpected but not overpowering."
"Very unique texture - slippery and tender. Flavor of the dressing could be tasted in the jellyfish. Arugula gave it a nice pepperiness to the salad."

We used Panko (Japanese bread crumbs) to coat the jellyfish and made a nice, spicy marinara sauce to go with it. Though it took a few tries to sufficiently coat the jellyfish, we were able to make a nice batch of lightly breaded jellyfish.

What did our diners think about our Fried Jellyfish?

"Nice texture - crisp yet chewy. Also liked the garlic in the sauce - very flavorful!"
"Loved the mixture of jellyfish and bread crumbs. The sauce's spiciness was great and a good combo with the jellyfish."
"The texture was close to big algae - very good, but the sauce made all the difference."
We found the karela or Indian bitter melon in Dual Specialty Store. We were attracted to its unique shape - it looked like a lizard with bumpy scales! To prep it, we had to scrape off the bumps and harder skin, rolled it in salt, and then sliced it up for the curry. We decided to use the Japanese curry (milder and sweeter than Indian curry) to see how the two flavors would taste together. We didn't know that half of our guests never had any type of curry before in their lives!

What did our diners think about our Karela Japanese Curry?

"First experience with curry - It was a nice mix of flavors."
"The curry was flavorful and aromatic. The karela was ok - maybe it would be better in smaller pieces. After adding a bit more salt, the dish was excellent."
"Never had curry before, and didn't really like it. The potatoes were good though."

Kangaroo meat is a very lean meat - we only seared it on both sides for 3-4 minutes and then let it rest. We made a Collard Green side (based on an Ethiopian recipe) with Korean green peppers.

What did our diners think about the Kangaroo steak with Ethiopian Collard Greens?

"The meat was tender and the collard greens were surprisingly spicy due to the peppers. Excellent flavor."
"Wow! The meat was cooked to perfection. It looked like sirloin, but it tasted gamier. The greens reminded me of escarole and the peppers added a nice kick.
"The meat was good and not too gamy. It went well with the sharp taste of the collard greens. The greens had a great taste and the bitterness was counteracted by the spice. Excellent."

For dessert, we decided to make frozen yogurt with the Dragon Fruit. Dragon Fruit, or Pitaya, is commonly found in Southeast Asia . The fruit itself (including edible seeds) is very mild and so we sweetened it with Agave syrup from Mexico. Also, we love vanilla, so we used vanilla yogurt and soy milk, but these can easily be substituted.

What did our diners think about our Dragon Fruit Frozen Yogurt?

"Love yogurt, so I loved this frozen yogurt."
"Not too sweet - which is excellent in my book. Great presentation which makes it taste even better."
"Nice consistency. Really good." (He went for seconds.)

By now we were getting pretty full - but we all tried a little bit of the fruit we had bought. Everyone was intrigued by the different fruit - Dragon Fruit tasted like kiwi to one, Custard Apple tasted like pear to another, and the Rambutan reminded most people of lychees and longans. After we gave some Rambutans out for our family to take home, they were eager to show them off to friends and co-workers.
Of course, we were able to please our critics with this cocktail! Thanks to our brave family for trying everything and for their candid reactions. Cheers to Foodbuzz for allowing us to take up this International challenge and open all of our eyes to new foods from around the world!

Here's our list of NYC International Grocery Stores:
Hong Kong Supermarket - 68 Elizabeth St.
Po Wing Hong Food Market, Inc - 49-51 Elizabeth St.
Despana - 408 Broome St.
Tuck Shop - 68 E 1st St.
Dual Specialty Store - 91 First Ave.
Polish GI Delicatessen - 109 First Ave.
Sunrise Mart - 4 Stuyvesant St.

Our Recipes (recipe card template adapted from MessyVegetaraianCook)


  1. I LOVE your United Nations inspired meal!!! And BRAVO for preparing this meal in such a tiny kitchen!

    But the Aussie in me kinda got stuck on the TIM TAMS!!! (btw, they're biscuits, sorry - I just can't bring myself to call them cookies even after nearly 14 years away from home!).

    Check out all the new flavours here:

  2. The food was good but the company makes the meal!

  3. Awesome job! That dragon fruit dessert is making me drool! congratulations on your foodbuzz 24,24,24!

  4. Thanks so much everyone for the kind comments! We had a great time making the meal and sharing it with our family and fellow food bloggers!

  5. what a great meal, New York is such a great place to find ethnic ingredients and foods. I never even new you could eat kangaroo.

  6. Thanks Angie! It was our first time eating and cooking the 'roo. It's a pretty lean meat.

  7. Wow, this is a great post. Lots of great exotic food info. I love the custard apples especially when you chilled them first. But have to be careful not to swallow their pits. I miss New York and all the different neighborhoods. My favorite would be chinatown:)

  8. Thanks CheapAppetite! Having these exotic fruits makes me want to travel to Thailand to be able to have them fresher and cheaper!

  9. How fun! I love trying out new vegetables, meats, and fruits. Sounds like you had a great time.

  10. Thanks Tasty Eats at Home! We had a great time and learned a lot while researching about the ingredients!

  11. This looks wonderful! And also a blast. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Thanks Karen! It was a lot of fun - and we learned a lot!

  13. Wow, I love all the unique foods - just gets me excited to know there are so many more things out there to try!

  14. Wow, fried jellyfish! That's really different. Great 24 post.

  15. Thanks so much Simply Life and The Duo Dishes! We enjoyed the planning and researching for this meal - it helped us discover other places in the world we'd like to visit just to try their food!

  16. wonderful 24 post! I'm stroke by the idea of having a united nations inspired meal, all of those dishes look really tantalizing

  17. Thanks so much Jessie! Please let me know if you end up creating your own UN-inspired meal - I'd love to hear all about it!


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