Just stir in the oats

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The best thing about travelling, in my opinion, is the culinary inspiration that can spring forth anytime during a trip. I got the idea of whipping up my own yoghurt with muesli after indulging in German-style breakfasts at Berlin cafes, so I lugged a one-kilogram muesli pack over thousands of miles back to Bangkok. Now I love to enjoy this hearty combination as a mid-morning snack, which acts as a tummy filler when I need to meet deadlines.

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Have food will travel

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A recent work trip brought me to Berlin, where I stayed on for another four days to recharge my batteries after work had concluded. It was a refreshing change from Asia, the German orderliness a sharp contrast with frenetic Bangkok, and also presented a good opportunity for me to sample German food at its source.

Since I didn’t have much time to do research for my Berlin trip, I decided I’d just enjoy the spontaneity. Besides obligatory trips to icons like Brandenburg Gate, Berliner Dom and Checkpoint Charlie, a lot of my leisure time there was spent cupping a warm brew or slicing wurst. It was partly the weather’s fault. With temperatures hovering around zero, the cold got to me after every hour of walking. My companions, first my colleague and then my good friend who’s studying there, were more than agreeable to the jaunts in cafes too.

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Cafes and restaurants in Berlin were surprisingly affordable, perhaps still a significant level above Bangkok’s prices but certainly equal or even less than Singapore’s. I was delighted to find that a cup of coffee was often priced at 2-3 euros (80-120 baht), similar to what higher-end cafes in Bangkok are asking for too, but of a much better quality. Furthermore, a lot of these cafes were individually owned, where the proprietor could often be seen bustling in the background and each place’s quirky character really shone through.

And I love popping into the supermarkets in Berlin to marvel at the dazzling array of cheese, sausages and alcohol on offer. Beer and wine are almost too cheap to be true—I even snapped a photo of a 35-cent beer to prove to Mr. P that I wasn’t lying when I said that alcohol was cheap. If we live in Germany, I thought, we will surely become alcoholics. Guess we Asian folks are missing out on the finer pleasures of drinking!

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On my last day, I went on a grocery shopping rampage in Potsdam (where my friend was staying), popping into bakery to bag freshly baked bread, hopping into a boutique to browse locally produced cheese and wrapping it up at the supermarket to pick up as many sausages, goat’s cheese, olive, chocolates and tea bags that could fit into my luggage.

I think travelling is to make one more aware of other cultures and ways of life, and for me the culinary aspects of a place often speak the loudest. The numerous cafe trips in Berlin have given me inspiration to recreate some dishes and drinks on my own back in the sultry Bangkok and certainly left me hungering for more food experiences overseas. Till the next trip then!

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Parma ham, salami and mozarella cheese pizza

“I want to make pizza this weekend,” Mr. P declared out of the blue one day.
“With what?” I asked.
“With the Cockroach!”

Our dear friend, ZL, had given us a convection oven two years ago, which we nicknamed “Cockroach” because the red lid looks like a smiling cockroach with its arching handle and two big knobs. We never really thought of using it to cook pizza until Mr. P was struck by this latest bout of culinary inspiration.

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French beans salad with tomatoes and corn

Two months after getting an iPad, I finally bought a one-year digital subscription to Martha Steward’s Everyday Food. I like this magazine because it’s very reasonably priced (US$12 for 10 digital issues—way cheaper than getting a hard copy from the local newsstand), the recipes are simple and the food styling is great. This shall add to my list of food inspiration sources.

While flipping through the August issue, one dish particularly stands out: green beans* salad with tomatoes, olives and eggs. With vivid greens, yellows, purples and reds randomly mixed in a bowl, the entire dish looks soooo appetising. Plus these American recipes often use ingredients that are either rather expensive or hard to find here, so I was thrilled to see this dish as French bean is easily found in this part of the world.

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