Indian Chai

You need this kind of tea and brand!

During my trip to India last February, one could not help but notice the ubiquitousness of Chai, or tea, in daily life. It is served everywhere. Breakfast, lunch, tea-time (of course), guests, roadside pit stops. It was sweet, savory, rich and flavorful, all at the same time. It was basically India in a tiny 100 ml teacup. It was always served in tiny cups only somewhat bigger than a shotglass. And they had to, because that tea was rocket fuel! Three cups of tea a day was enough to make my hands tremble and contribute to a fitful night’s sleep.

When I got back to Germany, I set about re-creating the tea I had in India. I knew from the get-go that what qualifies as tea here would not fly when making chai. It just wasn’t strong enough, no matter how long I kept the teabag in. I tried using English tea, but it really was missing a particular je ne sais quoi that I couldn’t put my finger on. A dimension was missing. Only when I was able to acquire Indian teabags was I really in business. You could mix the Indian with the English or German teas, but the Indian teabags have to dominate, a 2:1 proportion.

Indian tea leaves in those bags are not the shaggy cut up flecks we know. They seem to resemble tiny black beads–the tea leaves are curled or rolled up into balls.

The next challenge was the fat content of the milk in the tea. All the recipes I found online mentioned the use of full-fat milk (in Germany it’s 3.5% fat), but that did not approach the fullness of flavor I experienced in India. I realized by looking at Indian powdered milk, of all things, that milk in India has a much, much higher fat content. At 30%, it’s basically cream!

Once I put these two elements together, I was able to put together a chai that would make any expat Indian homesick.


(Serving: 500 ml-750 ml. Duration: 30 minutes)


2-3 teabags or 2-3 Tbsp. Indian loose leaf tea in a tea filter, tied with a string to secure. Brand is irrelevant, but I use Brooke Bond.
1 cinnamon stick
5 medallions of fresh ginger (basically a finger cut up into 5 pieces, no need to peel if feeling lazy)
4 cardamom seeds, crushed
1-2 pieces whole cloves
4 pepper corns, preferably black
1-2 pieces star anise
2-3 dashes of nutmeg powder
2-3 dashes of cinnamon powder
3-5 Tbsp. white sugar
2-3 sprigs of basil leaves to garnish (optional)

250ml or 500 ml water, depending on how much tea you want. Less water=stronger tea
250 ml full fat milk
1 jigger (30-50 ml) of cream
2 Tbsp. sweetened condensed milk (optional)

Boil 250 ml to 500 ml water in a small pot with the teabags inside. When the tea comes to a rolling boil, turn off the heat and add the cinnamon stick, ginger medallions, crushed cardamom seeds, cloves, pepper, and star anise into the pot. Add the full fat milk, and re-boil. Be careful, as boiling milk increases volume and overflows! When the milk tea re-boils, turn the heat off again and stir the pot to remove the milk skin. Add the cream. If using sweetened condensed milk, add 3 Tbsp. of sugar. If not, stir in 5 Tbsp. of sugar. Add 2-3 dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg for a more intense flavor. Let cool for about 5 minutes and pour the tea into a thermos bottle using a sieve to catch the spices and broken-up milk skin. Add a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg before serving, and garnish with basil if desired.

Instagram Has Killed The Radio Blog?

No it really hasn’t! If anything, it’s my crazy schedule that’s been hindering me from updating my blog!

Instagram is a quick and dirty way to share my foodie adventures, so please add me up! I’ll try to upload more recipes as they come.

I just came back from the East Coast/USA and I finally understand why bagels are a BIG DEAL!

OMG it’s basically warm and chewy pizza crust, which is one of the best things on earth!. I love salmon. I love cream cheese. So dang if this didn’t hit the spot.

I also tried Famous Nathan’s hot dogs. They were…underwhelming? Maybe some Gray Papaya’s next time when I see them!

Thoughts on International Parenting

Bi-national and expatriate families, by default, are always straddling three cultures—the parents’, the host country, and the children who live in both worlds—hence the term “third culture kid,” which is a reality for many people who live in this global world.
What I find curious is that I am a completely different parent to my child when in Manila and when I am in Germany. It is a given that a complete lifestyle change occurs when moving to a new country, that the rhymes and rituals that were well-established in the old are chucked for new ones. It mostly depends on the climate and the pace of life in the new place. The host culture also dictates a huge part of how a child is raised.
Germans, for the most (not all) part, have strict rules when it comes to children: Children are meant to be seen, not heard. Let’s take bedtime for example. Children watch Sandman at 6:30, have dinner, read a bedtime story, and are sent to their own bed promptly at 8 pm. I am not generalizing here, since rules differ from household to household, but in an idealized German household, children are to be held to a schedule. “Kinder brauchen Regeln,” and one would be hard-pressed to find children out and about during normal weekday evenings by nightfall.
In the Philippines, children are much, much more involved in family activities, especially during social events. I remember my last night in Manila: We went to a karaoke bar and sang our hearts out until 1 am. There were four children under the age of 5 in our group on a school night! While normal in the Philippines, this is completely taboo in Germany.
This has of course created a hybrid in how I raise my child. I am too strict by Filipino standards, while I am too lax for Germans. I find that in Manila, I expect my child to act more “Filipino,” in that I expect independence in the form of playing with his cousins. In Germany, I don’t have the heart to force my child to sleep in his own bed, because sleeping next to your children is normal in the Philippines.

In another vein, how I parent also changes where I am. I find myself to be a more “top-down” parent in Manila, while in Germany, I spend more time with my son. I guess this is because much of the grunt work is taken from me by the household help.

Has your parenting style changed after an international move? I would welcome answers!

The Mouth is Willing, But The Stomach Is Weak

Photo by TQE

A side trip to Berlin for TQE’s belated 30th birthday party was one of the more satisfying and jam-packed 24- hour whirlwind trips I have ever taken in my lifetime.

I decided to ignore my body and my subconscious’ signal to SLOW DOWN (if a dream about being almost sucked into a tornado is a sign for someone to slow down, I don’t know what is) just for this one weekend and headed over to Berlin, where Adam and I finally went satisfy my years-long Ethiopian food munchies at Betje Ethiopia, which a former colleague of his recommended.

First of all, I would like to praise TQE’s unbelievable Panasonic Lumix camera (I think it is a GF 6?), which took still life photos with amazing picture quality in low-light conditions. Really, if I have ever envied one of Adam’s toys, it was this one.

So we had this great lentil soup as a starter, which tasted like munggo guisado without rice. We ate it with injira, the traditional unleavened bread that Ethiopians eat with everything.  And we downed it with tej, traditional honey wine. I got pleasantly buzzed but not drunk, and I know now after reading Cooked that fermented sweet things with an over 2% alcohol content does not occur in nature. But I digress.

I came to regret even ordering appetizers. For 22 euros, we shared a huge platter about a foot and a half across that had this massive injira pancake on it, dotted with several vegetarian and non-vegetarian dips. We tore that injira bit by bit with our smelly, greasy Ethiopian-food stained hands hands until we said i no mas! with half a plate of dips still left over. Seriously though, I would have eaten the whole thing, especially since I especially didn’t eat lunch in anticipation. However, since we didn’t reserve a table, we had to leave by 7:30, and miss the traditional Ethiopian coffee roasting ceremony the restaurant has at 8. Seriously, guys, if you want to eat here, reserve a table, and come with an empty stomach.

After hitting the Berlinale Film Festival for a movie and coming home to a fitful night’s sleep at around 1:30 am, I woke up to be fashionably late at Adam’s brunch party, which was held at a restaurant called 12 Apostel. You take the S-bahn to Savigny Platz, take the exit to Bleibtreu Strasse, and you’re right there.

If there is any German city that takes brunch to another level, it is Berlin. 12 Apostel is a growing Italian chain restaurant in Berlin, and for 18 euros, you have the brunch experience, bar none. They have bread. They have scrambled eggs. They have fruit, deviled eggs, bacon, and did I mention the panna cotta? And the crepe station? And the juice and water station? They really had everything, and an amazing cheese selection to boot. A warm drink, a glass of Prosecco, and the juice and water bar is included with the meal. Really, I just wanted to have one little bit… more, but sorry, I was so full. I even took a walk in between courses just to pace myself.

pannaI swear by the panna cotta. How they are able to mass-produce such an awesome panna cotta is beyond me. TQE credits Snooker in Berlin for the amazing restaurant find.

It was the perfect party. Great company, good food, what more can you ask for? Thank you Adam, for hosting such a great weekend!


Betje Ethiopia

Zietenstraße 8, 10783 Berlin

S-bahn and U-bahn Nollendorf Platz

030 2625933


12 Apostel

Bleibtreustraße 49
10623 Berlin Charlottenburg

Brunch only Sundays from 10 am-3 pm, 18 €

Zum Alten Schwan–Erfurt

Salmon with leeks, juniper foam, on a bed of sauteed winter vegetables and parsley mashed potatoes.

In the whole rush of Christmas activities, I have been quite remiss with my blogging activities. One of the parties that I attended took place in the Restaurant “Zum Alten Schwan,” which belongs to a hotel in Erfurt. The building itself is quite old, as it was built in the 13th century, but the restaurant is relatively new. It is also located right in the city center, just behind the historic Krämerbrücke, which is an added plus.

It sells itself as a fine dining establishment, but I would rather classify it as somewhere in between. The food is delicious, the restaurant serves traditional German food with a twist, and a three course meal set us back at least 30 euros per person. So value for money-wise, it is a good deal. They deal with the comfortable and familiar, so don’t expect cutting-edge cooking here.

It was a very satisfying dining experience. The only thing that bothered me are the restrooms. They were so antiseptic-looking that I thought I was in a hospital, not at a hotel. Definitely time for a renovation!

zum Alten Schwan

Gotthardt Str. 27

99084 Erfurt

Welcome to Tonndorf Castle

One of the many alternative living communities in the area is the artist’s community in Tonndorf, based in a castle located between Erfurt and Weimar. Built in the 12th century and fell into disrepair through the centuries, a group of artists and artisans moved in and are in the process of restoring the castle.

Around 60 people, kids included, live in the castle. The younger kids go to the Waldkindergarten in the castle, while the older kids are bused to the alternative school in Erfurt. There are very definite rules into moving in and out of the castle community, and avoid drama with rules and a 10 thousand euro deposit and a probationary period to see whether the living arrangement will work out.


Spinning wool thread. I thought they existed only in fairy tales

Two weekends ago was the yearly artist’s and artisanal Christmas market at the castle. Products and creations from the castle’s artists, craftsmen and beekeepers were on display. It’s the perfect place to buy a Christmas present for somebody who has everything.

I really like the fact that it was a very interactive market, that you could directly talk to the people who made your product. The fact that they are locally produced is also a very big plus in helping support these artists and craftsmen.

After a cold day shopping, it was really nice to sit in their warm Cafe and sip a hot chocolate. I would definitely like to go back and enroll in their tree-pruning lessons in the summer.

Silay’s Iron Dinosaurs

Having a son addicted to motor vehicles and steam engines, I will go to the ends of the earth to make sure he will get his wish.

I wanted to visit Silay, Negros Occidental for many reasons. One of them was to visit heritage houses, mostly from the American colonial era, and the steam engines. Germany has many well-preserved steam engines, but they are all colored black. I would of course not pass up the chance for my son to see Thomas the Locomotive in the flesh.

That meant my son and I camped out in Silay for a week and made kulit (Tagalog for being a pushy pain in the neck) the marketing person of the sugar plantation of the Hawaii-Philippine Co. These wonderful narrow-gauge (I think they were judging by the tracks) steam locomotives are two of the last remaining steam engines used to transport sugarcane to the refinery at the compound where the offices are located. The lady said that they are rented out for 15 thousand pesos a day to tourists. Otherwise they languish in that compund. Such a shame!

I suggested to her that the company could hold special tours, gussy up that engine, acquire or renovate a few train cars, and hold events like the Nikolaus Express like in Europe and the US. I hope that there is someone out there reading this who has the power to move thesse kinds of things and add another tourist attraction to Silay, which is really a lovely place to visit with delicious food to boot!

Nikolaus Express

My boy is a boy. I tried to encourage a gender-neutral upbringing, but no dice. The boy loves his toy cars and trains. Friday morning was extra special. He got up early, and excitedly played with his Thomas and Friends locomotives.

Every year, the Deutsche Bahn with a group dedicated to train preservation organizes about four events a year with a DRB Steam Engine–the train drivers even wear engineer’s caps for authenticity. The events are mostly geared towards children, like the Nikolaus Express. Nikolaus is the original Santa Claus, who comes to Germany and gives candy to children on December 6. So of course I try to book tickets for us every year.

This year’s trip was once again filled with small freebies. This year we got a pocket storybook, a keychain, a re-usable bag, book markers, and of course, chocolate and candy. Aside from the sights of the countryside, it is quite interesting to see Dampflok afficionados throughout the route following and photographing the train as if it were a model.  It is very much worth the ticket price of 15 euros!

Tickets can be bought over this website. It is important to get the tickets at least two months in advance, since they sell out quite quickly!

Aside from the

Romancing the Onion

Seems nasty, but tastes good.

October is a pretty big deal around these parts. Not just because of Oktoberfest (which actually begins at the end of September), but because Weimar is invaded by thousands of people for the Zwiebelfest, or the onion festival. Yes, when it comes to celebrating food, Germans pick the strangest ones to celebrate.

Since Weimar is close to a village that has the onion as its traditional produce, it is clear why this became the focus of the local harvest festival.

garlandSo they have onion cake, onion home decor, crafts made of onions, onion garlands, onion decorated sunglasses, earrings, head bands…you name it. Strangely, onion rings haven’t caught on yet. Thankfully, the cold weather means that most of us have the sniffles, and the cold, damp air blots out the resulting human stink.

Assorted kitsch completely unrelated to onions are also sold. This year I got myself a bundle of oats to stick over my door (reminiscent of a Filipino tradition to sticking a bundle of rice stalks over the door to ensure prosperity), an onion garland to rid myself of vampires, and a rice paddle decorated with onions and dried flowers, because it looked pretty. And a bird house made by a juvenile delinquent as part of her arts and crafts program in her detention facility. Just like with their choice of foodstuffs to celebrate, the Germans really show a knack for (not really) naming products. “Knast Made!” (Prison Made!) seems to be in really poor taste.

Anyhoo, as with most small town festivals, the best thing to do is not to take everything seriously and have fun! And drink copious amounts of alcohol while at it.

Manila Chinatown Walks

I just love Chinatowns. I love the crowd, the vibe, and especially the food. Manila Chinatown is a part of my childhood, as my grandparents regularly took me here as a child. My gradfather lived in the area until his 20s, and knew the backalleys of Chinatown very well.

mandyIvan Man Dy’s Old Manila Walks, especially his Chinese New Year tours, are something I would definitely recommend to Filipinos and people who want to learn more about Filipinos. And eating really great food along the way. And burning it all of while walking in the humid Manila air. I for one am glad that Chinese New Year is now more widely celebrated in the Phlippines outside of the Philippine-Chinese community.

I’ve spoken abot the New Po Heng Lumpia House in an old entry, but we visited a lot of more established restaurants and hole-in-the-walls than I indicated. I learned a lot about Chinese New Year’s traditions, ate really good bola-bola soup at the Cafe Mezzanine, which sponsors the district’s firefighting brigade. Then off to another hole-in-the-wall to eat spring dimsum. Then a variation of dough fried in oil, which he is holding up for everyone to see, and a little stop at a lumpia house.

While eating my bola-bola soup, I got into conversation with a British expat couple who had been living in Manila for the past three years. With them was the husband’s wheelchair-dependent mother. When I asked how were they able to keep her mobile, they beamed about the helpfulness of Filipinos, who always parted like the red sea in Chinatown’s busy streets to make way for her, even carrying her up and down flights of stairs if need be. In fact it’s her second tour. Way to go Pinoy hospitality!

I’m not sure if all of his tours are like this, but at the end of his New Year tour he had a lot of giveaways, and reminded me of an Oprah’s Wildest Dreams episode. With or without the gifts, the tour was a lot of fun and yummy to boot!