Thursday, June 25, 2009


Austria is amazing. I want to retire there. I’m pretty sure I’ve had the best time of my life in that week after school. The scenery was gorgeous, the company wonderful, and the food was totally out of this world. Who know that eating nothing but meat and potatoes and cakes for a whole week could make this “crunchy” blogger so happy?

I guess I could start with all the meat that I ate, or the delicious cakes vying for attention behind every single konditorei (pastry shop) counter, or the kraut that they serve in buckets at markets. But nope, I’m going to write about balls of boiled white dough. I’m pretty sure this dish is going to be a staple of my diet as soon as I figure out how to make it. I swore that I’ll serve it every week in my future home and if my future kids don’t like it I will actually consider disowning them.

Seriously, knodels are amazing. They are just boiled dumplings (the Western kind) made of wheat flour or potato. My first real encounter with them was in the middle of my trip, when Chris and I spent the day walking through Tiergarten. By the time we reached the top of the mountain we were both starving. Conveniently, there was a restaurant right by serving traditional Austrian fare of slaps of meat with the usual sides. After sharing a bowl of barlasche (some kind of mustard green) soup, we both got our respective slabs of meat with sides. I got a plate of ham, kraut, and of course, the lovely knodel. Maybe it was just because I was hungry and could have eaten anything, but I think that was one of the best meals I had in Austria. It was simple but absolutely delicious. The ham was cooked perfectly and not dry or salty at all, the kraut was crunchy and flavorful, and the knodel was filling and tasty.

From Austria

From Austria

It must be something about mountains, because the second time I had knodel was also on a mountain, this time in the Alps. Chris and I had just escaped a potentially disastrous thunderstorm on the Alps by running into Thaur Alm, one of the cabins set up along the trails for the exact purpose of providing shelter against the unpredictable mountain weather. The fact that they served delicious knodel was a definite bonus. This time, both Chris and I got knodelsuppe, essentially knodel in a clear broth. I got the kaseknodel, which is a knodel filled with cheese, and it was delicious. Exactly what you need after racing through the mountains with a thunderstorm at your back.

From Austria

And it turns out that knodeln aren’t hard to make at all. All you have to do is to sauté some onions, mix in some breadcrumbs and milk and whatever else you want, shape them into balls and boil them. Perfect.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Chicken of the Woods

I keep meaning to write about my week in Austria, but I just keep forgetting with the crazy hours that I work in this lab. But meanwhile, I've been introduced to something else really cool.

The food at Mountain Lake Biological Station is comparable with Sharples, except with less variety. Today, after eating two stuffed pasta shells and the same spinach salad I've been eating since forever, I was looking for something else. And this was when two girls from the station brought in woks of these orange slices that looked like chicken stir-fry from far away. It turns out that they found a huge shelf fungus in the woods called chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus).

From Edacious Eatings

The fungus has the same texture as very lean chicken but is like most mushroom in that it tastes like whatever it's cooked in, which in this case, is salt, butter, and a little bit of garlic. It was super filling and super delicious. Look out for it in the woods!