Category Archives: Study Abroad

Meat, and just meat: Why Argentina is not for vegetarians


Saludos from Argentina!

Argentines are famed for their barbeque, or asado. People here eat lots of meat, lots of bread, and very little vegetables, which can be frustrating, especially for people on my program who are vegetarian and/or celiac. I am not a big meat-eater, and so I have really tried to avoid having asado, surviving instead on empanadas, any veggie places I can find, Mexican, and Chinese food. Buenos Aires, like any other large city, has a wide variety of restaurants, making the carnivorous food culture of this country easier to bear. But I realized that spending three months in Argentina without having an asado is like spending three months in Paris without eating a croissant. So last week I began my search for a good parrilla, a “grill,” or a restaurant that serves asado. The New York Times had recently come out with a “36 Hours in Buenos Aires,” and one of the restaurants recommended was “La Carnicería Parrilla y Ahumados,” located in the young and hip neighborhood of Palermo.

I haven’t really adapted to the Argentine custom of eating dinner very late, so when the restaurant opened its doors at 8 pm, I was their first customer, eagerly waiting on the sidewalk. Seated at the bar, I had an excellent view of the grill where huge chunks of meat were being cooked. I ordered a bife de chorizo, otherwise known as a sirloin steak, which came with a baked potato and squash puree, traditional trappings of an asado meal. A warning to all steak-loving Americans: Argentines generally have their steaks well done (I know, gross), so you better know how to order a less-cooked steak in Spanish. Jugoso, literally “juicy”, is the word for medium-rare, a punto is for medium, and bien cocido is for well done.

I waited some 30 minutes for my food, watching my large chunk of sirloin being cooked on the grill in front of me while I munched on some delicious bread. When I go out to eat by myself, I love sitting at the bar because I think that it is very entertaining. I watched the chef as he took out every piece of steak from under the counter, carefully seasoned it, and slapped it on the grill. When I got bored of watching the sizzling steaks, I would turn my attention to the bartender effortlessly mixing up delicious-looking tragos, or cocktails.


But then my food came, so I all of my attention was diverted to the food in front of me. The steak was humongous, and, as you can see in the picture, the salt crystals used to season the meat were still visible. I picked up my fork and asado knife, and began to devour the meat. Cooked just to medium, my sirloin was juicy and flavorful, and very well seasoned. I ate it with some hot sauce, some chimichurri sauce, or dipped it in some of the squash puree on the plate.













I definitely would not say that I am a meat-lover, but this meat was good, and I am very happy to say that I have been to Argentina and actually had an asado. Overall, it was an excellent experience: friendly staff, good food, and a very nice vibe (once I wasn’t the only person there). Kudos to the New York Times for coming to the rescue as I ventured into meat-eating territory!

Happy eating!


Hiker’s Grub: Comfort Food in the Argentine Andes

The north of Argentina boasts some of the most magnificent natural beauty of the country. One minute you are driving through lush green mountains, and then you find yourself surrounded by arid rock formations, salt flats, and gigantic mountain ranges. Hiking in this region is a must, but what is perhaps even more important than the hike, is the meal of champions you treat yourself to at the end of the hike. In the province of Jujuy, we stopped in a small town called Tilcara, right by the Hill of Seven Colors.

Making our way through the town, we heard the sound of live music and thought we should check the place out. Tierra de Colores was the name of the restaurant. We sat down at a beautifully set table. Immediately we were served with bread and pickled egg plant (one of my favorite snacks from the north of Argentina). In the corner a solitary guitar player/singer was playing folkloric “norteña” music from the region. Those songs have themes that range from love to, well, love. They all express a lover’s betrayal and the unbearable suffering that ensues. Albeit repetitive to a foreigner like me, looking around, I saw Argentinians singing along and responding with such expressive emotion to each note uttered by the singer. I couldn’t help clapping, swaying my head, and trying unsuccessfully to sing along.
By the time the waiter came over asking me to make up my mind on what I wanted to eat, I had already stuffed my face with half of the bread basket and two plates of eggplant. Embarrassed, I asked what the “mozo” recommended, and he instantly told me I should order the locro. So I ordered locro, the traditional stew of the north of the country, also found throughout the Andes region.
The stew was absolutely delicious, truly a meal for champions. It had a tangy tomato base, and was filled with sausages, beans and corn, always a delicious combination. It also had tripe in it, which I normally don’t like, but this was salty and perfectly chewy. I would have to reconsider my dislike for tripe. So the locro overall was salty, sweet, and tangy all in one. What it was missing was some spice, something that is severely lacking in Argentine cooking.
I left the Tierra de Colores restaurant feeling satisfied and still humming to the norteña music that accompanied my meal. I’ve already started looking for the best locro served in New York. I just feel like this is going to become part of my regular diet from now on.

London Fare: Globetrotting Edition

For all you London lovers out there, I apologize. This week I’m going to write about some country hopping I’ve been doing and all the cuisine I’ve gotten to try. Never fear, there’s plenty to eat and write about in London for the rest of the semester.

A little background on the schedule here. I had only ten weeks of classes, which ended at the end of March. Then I have finals in May. So basically what is known as Easter break here consists of the entire month of April, or if you’re like me and your finals aren’t until the end of May, your break is pretty much two months long. Talk about a foreign concept.

So this extremely long break has given me the opportunity to do some traveling. I visited Marrakech, Berlin, Vienna, Athens, and Santorini over the span of 18 days. In a comic twist, almost every place had unseasonably cold weather for the days I was there. There were hailstorms in Berlin, snow in Vienna, and wind strong enough to knock you over in Santorini. Even with the unfortunate weather I had the time of my life. The history, architecture, and of course food in each city was unique and unbelievably amazing to immerse myself in.

I definitely enjoyed the food in Greece the most. I ate fish the most fresh and local fish of my life on a pier in the town of Oia, had a traditional lamb dinner at a restaurant on Santorini’s highest point, and gobbled down what my waiter referred to as “the best of the best” lemon soaked potatoes. The salads were light and refreshing, the cheese plentiful, and the baklava soaked in the most fragrant and delicious honey. It also helped that most meals were paired with a breathtaking view of the ocean, a nearby volcano, and more islands in the distance. My only complaint was the coffee. For some reason the Greeks seem to be very partial to NesCafe instant coffee and watery filter coffee. Not really my thing.


This little guy was swimming that morning!
This little guy was swimming that morning!
Traditional Greek dessert made from a boiled apple soaked in syrup
Traditional Greek dessert made from a boiled apple soaked in syrup
See what I mean about those views?
See what I mean about those views?

The rest of the trip featured much heavier fair. The food in Marrakech was a bit too much for me. I am a sugar fiend and would eat dessert with every meal if I could but even this cuisine had me dreading sweetness. Most dishes featured lamb, couscous, and maybe some vegetables, usually smothered in caramelized onions, raisins, and dates. Fabulous the first time but enough to give you indigestion the next. The famous mint tea might have been syrup and a lot of the traditional Moroccan salads even had candied vegetables on them. Way too much sugar if you ask me.

A selection of traditional Morroccan salads
A selection of traditional Morroccan salads
Lamb couscous
Lamb couscous

Vienna was stocked full of homey and heavy food. Bratwurst, bread dumplings, and schnitzel were just a few. The portions were big, the meat sliced thick, and the vegetables less than plentiful. Given the cold outside though, often meals like this were warranted. I had some absolutely delicious sauerkraut served piping hot in a big bowl and some perfectly salted beef dumpling soup. Boiled beef was very popular there, which admittedly is not my favorite way to cook beef because I think it strips it of its flavor, but sometimes it was served alongside the broth it was cooked in, which was positively packed with meaty flavor.

Traditional Viennese breakfast
Traditional Viennese breakfast
Roasted pork, bread dumpling, and sauerkraut
Roasted pork, bread dumpling, and sauerkraut

Berlin was the curveball of the trip. I had gone expecting the traditional German food I found in Vienna. Instead I got French, barbeque, Vietnamese, and Italian. I found Berlin to be a city brimming with growing and youthful culture. It was by far the trendiest and most cosmopolitan city on the trip. The Jewish quarter brimmed with art galleries and museums, Mitte was Williamsburg’s twin, even the oldest section of the city was covered in adorable little cafes set along the bank of the river.

French food in Germany!
French food in Germany!

For the architecture lovers I recommend Vienna, the World War II buffs Berlin, the outdoorsy Greece, and the adventurous Marrakech. For the foodie, all of them and more.

London Fare: Bread Ahead

If there’s one thing London does well, it’s baked goods. From the cookies to the cakes to the plain old bread, there is always something around to shatter your gluten-filled expectations. So when the opportunity arose to take a baking class entitled “Quintessentially English” at the famous Bread Ahead baking site at Borough Market, I just knew I had to do it.

Fun doesn’t even begin to cover the time I had. Sim Cass, one of the founders of Balthazar, taught the class. We made three different things: cathedral bread, sweet rolls, and lardy cake. Cathedral cake is so named because of the cross incisions made in the dough before baking. It takes two days to make and the kneading process made my arms feel like they were going to fall off but the final product was so unbelievably worth it. The crust was dark, thick, and crunchy and the inside was a delightfully doughy, very butter-able white.


The sweet rolls and the lardy cake were made from the same dough. The dough was simply put into the oven as is to make the rolls. The lardy cake was much more complicated. Lardy cake is a very British dessert that you might expect from somebody’s grandmother. Each region of the country has a different take on it. Unfortunately it can’t be found a lot anymore, according to Cass because those grandmothers I was just talking about never wrote down the recipes. We made a London version with raisins and lemon zest. It is a layered pastry, similar to a croissant, but with a different fold. Within all those layers is a mixture of lard, sugar, raisins, and lemon zest that melted into the dough in the oven. The word “lard” may sound pretty gross, but let me tell you, it tastes pretty good.


I’m really not much of a baker but I did learn some useful tips. For example, depending on the type of dough you are making, you should knead it on a floured surface and steam helps create a nice crust on breads, which can be achieved at home by the use of a spray bottle.



I left with a supply of bread that froze easily and lasted me for delicious upon delicious weeks.

London Fare: NOPI

After a full day of classes, a pharmacy without Band-Aids, and an alarming run-in with the London premiere of 50 Shades of Grey, it was with great relief that I stepped onto a quiet side street just north of Piccadilly Circus. At the end of the street, past a small French bookstore and several stationary shops, was my destination, NOPI. NOPI, which stands for “north of Piccadilly”, is one of four London restaurants owned by Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi, author of Jerusalem, Plenty, and Plenty More.

Upon arrival, the hostess escorted me to the bar area to wait for my friend. She handed me a plate of marinated olives and spiced nuts and informed me that there was a photographer present to take photos for Ottolenghi’s newest cookbook. Casual.

Marinated olives and Ottolenghi roasted spiced nuts
Marinated olives and Ottolenghi roasted spiced nuts

After my friend arrived a couple minutes later (most of the olives were gone by that point) the hostess led us down a flight of stairs. The downstairs seating stood in stark contrast to the traditional upstairs set-up; there were two large communal tables fitted into a small, darker room lined with jars of olive oil, bread, and preserved lemons. We could see into the open kitchen, where, sure enough, a man with a huge camera snapped actions shots of the cooking staff.

Sweet potato, burnt aubergine yoghurt, pomegranate seeds
Sweet potato, burnt aubergine yoghurt, pomegranate seeds
Golden and candy beetroot, labneh, pistachio
Golden and candy beetroot, labneh, pistachio

My father grew up in Israel and when my grandparents were alive I spent a lot of time there so suffice it to say I’m quite picky about my hummus. What the menu offered was not traditional Israeli per se, but rather an eclectic and modern take on Mediterranean cuisine. In an effort to try as many things as possible we opted to order several small plates as opposed to one entrée-sized dish apiece. Each plate was a seamless combination of flavors and textures, each ingredient melting into the rest in a way both surprising and satisfying. The flavors of pistachios, labneh, and tahini were all still there, but amplified in new and exciting ways. Needless to say, the food exceeded my palate’s very demanding expectations and Yotam Ottolenghi instantly became my hero.

Skordalia, chilli, garlic confit
Skordalia, chilli, garlic confit

I’m looking forward to trying out all the other Ottolenghi locations around town. My next stop on the quest for the culinary Holy Grail will be for brunch at the Islington location. I hear they do a killer take on French toast. My taste buds are already dancing in joy.

Twice-cooked baby chicken, lemon myrtle salt, chilli sauce
Twice-cooked baby chicken, lemon myrtle salt, chilli sauce
Pork belly, apple pureé, pickled cedro lemon
Pork belly, apple pureé, pickled cedro lemon

London Fare: Claridge’s

I finally got my classic British high tea. When you picture Claridge’s, a famous and old London hotel, think quintessential English. The tea room might have come right out of a Downton Abbey episode, and the rest of the hotel, in all of its splendid glory, could pass as the inside of a palace with its sweeping spiral staircase and intricate marble finish. Add three hours, a red-haired waiter, finger sandwiches, and a photograph of the queen and you can pretty much imagine my level of euphoria.



It is not easy to get a reservation at Claridge’s. We had to settle for a Wednesday afternoon, which as it turns out, is just as buzzy as it would be on the weekend. The tearoom is split into two sections, a large and airy, high-ceilinged room with a view of the lobby and a cozier backroom complete with sofas and mood lighting. We were seated in the back, at a small round table near a pillar, adorned with a lamp emitting a soft, buttery glow.



Claridge’s is expensive, but as I found out, completely worth it. I would recommend it for a special occasion. It’s a place to get dressed up for and to take your time enjoying. It was all about the atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, the food was absolutely stellar, but it wouldn’t have tasted so good if I hadn’t been eating under a black-and-white photograph of Audrey Hepburn cutting a cake in what undeniably was the very room I sat in. There was something about it that transported me back in time, gave me a respect and awe for this historic institution that made its way from the 1800s to today at the height of fashion and respectability. The grandeur of it was enough to make me dizzy.



The highlights of the meal were definitely the seasonal finger sandwich, which consisted of a mouth watering combination of a cheesy scone, the lightest whipped cream cheese I’ve ever had, and tart, braised apples, and the rightfully famous jam, a “Marco Polo gelée infused with Calabrian bergamot and Madagascan vanilla pods.” Trust me, you’ve never had anything quite like it.

I left the hotel full to the brim with all the delicious and well-varied sandwiches, scones, and pastries, feeling very British and intoxicatingly happy.


London Fare: Borough Market

It was miserably cold and wet, thick droplets of persistent rain soaking into my jeans. The harsh wind twisted the umbrella in my hand and a man had to quickly step out of my way so that it wouldn’t hit the small girl riding on his shoulders. I could barely feel my feet anymore. But I was happy as could be, and judging by the looks on their faces, the hundreds of other people wandering the twisting labyrinth of food stalls were too. On one shoulder I carried a bag full to the brim with fresh, inexpensive vegetables, and in my umbrella-free hand I held a venison sausage in a sesame bun topped with caramelized onions, greens, and spicy tomato sauce. Life was good, horrifying weather and all.




Borough Market is a foodie’s paradise. Not only is it a very sizable market selling anything you could think of, but the streets surrounding it are lined with hip cafés, bakeries, steakhouses, noodle shops, and more. The market itself is a haphazard mix of specialized stalls, some as specific as artisan honey sellers, others as general as produce. There’s a juice bar, wine shops, gluten free bakeries, organic meat shops, a stand selling coffee with a smell so intoxicating I got a caffeine rush from passing by. I was very tempted by the specialty olive oils, pates, and granolas. And don’t even get me started on the stalls upon stalls of sweets. I could go every weekend for the time I’m here and not hit them all.


Just a few highlights. There’s a bakery called “Bread Ahead” on one of the streets surrounding the market. They also have a stand in the market, which sells, among other things, cream-filled doughnuts. They come in many flavors, including caramel, hazelnut, and praline. For me, the cream to dough ratio was a little high, but the flavor was still excellent and the size quite satisfying. The actual store was pretty small, but when I walked past I noticed that the bakers were leading a cooking class. I wouldn’t mind learning how to make a cream-filled doughnut.


And then there was the pain aux raisin I got from one of the many bakery stands. Most of them sold this delightful treat, but the stand I went to served it with a crumble sprinkled on top. I got it to go and grudgingly forced myself not to eat it on the bus ride home. My self control was all used up by the time I got back to my room and it was with a great effort that I waited another minute to eat it so that I could warm it in the microwave. The buttery bread wound around layers of perfectly proportioned cinnamon and raisins. Each bite was the perfect combination of texture, sweetness, and saltiness. I can honestly say it was the best rainy day pastry I’ve ever had.




It’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll be back at Borough Market this weekend and many more to come. I just need to try that wonderfully aromatic coffee, one of the quintessentially British meat pies, and maybe a scotch egg or two. I look forward to warmer days, when I won’t have to wear multiple pairs of wool socks to stay warm, but still, rain or shine, you’ll know where to find me on a Saturday morning.

London Fare: Teanamu Chaya Teahouse

If there’s one thing I was determined to do in London this semester it was to have high tea. What’s not to love? Small sandwiches, scones, sweets—this is the stuff of dreams. I imagined my first high tea would be at the Ritz or some other venerable institution with frilly white tablecloths, three-tiered trays, and waiters in suits. As it turns out, that’s also how everyone else imagines their tea experience, so I wasn’t able to get a spot at Claridge’s, a London institution, until mid-February. After searching through many Buzzfeed posts and “Top 10” articles in local papers, I found an intriguing spot that could seat me and a friend within a few days. Enter Teanamu.


Located in a residential area of Notting Hill, Teanamu is easily missed among its neighboring houses. This restaurant offers a Chinese twist on the classic British experience. You still get your tea, sandwiches, scone, and dessert, but with variations representative of a traditional Chinese tea ceremony.


I decided on a jasmine tea, which the tea master approved of. Apparently jasmine tea, which is actually a white and not green tea, is perfect for a relaxing afternoon get-together. Green tea, he advised, is far too “frisky” for such an occasion. Unusually, the more times you steep jasmine tea, the stronger the tea becomes. It’s meant to be drunk lukewarm, not hot. The actual process of steeping the tea was a bit complicated. Boiling water from a kettle had to be mixed with cold water from a pot, at which point it was then poured into another pot to steep, poured back into the first container, and then each mouthful of tea poured individually into the smallest china cup I have ever seen. I’ll admit, I’m not the best at pouring and transferring hot liquid from one pot to another, but luckily there was a sort of basin at the center of the table with a grated top. As long as you poured over that, it didn’t matter how messy you were about it.


But onto the food! The first two “courses” were dim sum. The first was a lo mai fan lotus leaf rice parcel. It was my favorite dish of the meal. Sticky rice filled with a red bean curd and braised mushrooms, it oozed a sweet fragrance. I had a bit of difficulty eating it with chopsticks, but that has more to do with my chopstick handling abilities than with the food itself. The second dim sum plate were vegetarian dumplings with sze chuan chili oil. The dumplings were filled with a mushroom mixture, so even though they were vegetarian they still seemed nice and meaty. The tangy sauce contrasted beautifully with the umami flavor.





The next course was a take on the finger sandwich. Instead of a traditional egg salad there was an egg mayonnaise sandwich covered in chili-soaked bamboo shoots. Cucumber and cream cheese was replaced with a more flavorful garlic miso-pickled cream cheese (tangy and a little spicy) with thinly shaved cucumbers and schichimi pepper. The “cheese sandwich” was an extremely bold clash of a sweet and spicy ginger and plum preserve with a creamy and salty mature white cheddar. All of the sandwiches were served open-faced on thick slices of wakame seaweed brown bread.


The final course was a dessert tray featuring snow skin marzipan with guava, sze chuan peppercorn and peanut honeycomb (a new addition to the menu), chocolate hazelnut truffles covered in coconut shavings, mango seed cake, and what our waiter somewhat ruefully referred to as “the obligatory scone,” which came with clotted cream and rose petal jam. I don’t much like coconut shavings but everything else was very good. Each item had a unique and interesting flavor profile with subtle hints of Chinese flavors. The marzipan had a texture similar to mochi and the honeycomb smelled of spices when you brought it close to your mouth. By the end of the meal I understood why the scone was only there out of obligation; it was the most boring part of the entire experience, although still a melt-in-your-mouth, biscuit-like beauty.




I left feeling incredibly satiated. Everything about the experience, from the small wooden tables to the wafts of incense and tea had taken a quintessential British experience and turned it into a more lazy afternoon full of chatting, laughing, and of course, good food.



Coach House
14a St Lukes Road
(Lancaster Road)
Notting Hill
London W11 1DP


Taste of Mendoza: Sipping on Friendship

Today is officially my last day in Argentina. I’ve said almost all of my good-byes. My bags are packed (somehow I got everything to fit into the exact same bags that I came with; I have no idea how that’s possible, but I’m not going to question it for fear of them bursting right open). My flight leaves in just a few hours, and then tomorrow, after God-knows how many hours of travelling, I’ll land in California, get picked up at the airport by my parents, and start this American life once again. Hello family, old friends, Mexican food, sushi, and English spoken everywhere.

There are a lot of things from home that I’ve missed while abroad, but there’s also so much that I’m sad to leave here. Argentina may be full of economic problems, political corruption, and a frustratingly unreliable bus system (never again will I complain about having to wait eight minutes for the 1 train to arrive at the platform), but it’s also here that I’ve met the nicest, most generous, warm people. I already miss the friends I’ve made here, and I don’t even want to think about how the improvements I’ve made in Spanish are going to plummet into the abyss of invisibility when I stop speaking and hearing the language during most of the day, or how I have no idea when I’ll be having another one of those amazingly flavorful asados. Oh Argentina, what will I do without you?

Manón Cookies

There are a few things (i.e. food) that I will be able to take along with me. One of my carry-ons, for example, is filled with the different types of cookies that my host mom would serve me for breakfast (no fruit of yogurt here in the morning as you will be called a monkey if you’re caught eating a banana for breakfast). Among those many cookie boxes are six of the Manón brand; they carry my name, so I was basically obligated to take a few with me, right? I’ve also got copies of several of my host mom’s recipes and the address of an Argentine grocery store in NYC. So aside from those asados, I’m basically set.

There are also a few of us in the program who might have decided to be one of those pretentious study abroad return-students who show in the most obvious way possible that they’ve lived outside the country. So if you ever see a few people drinking mate on Low Steps, it might be us.

Preparing Mate in the Park

Mate is one of the greatest Argentine customs, and travelling to Argentina without tasting this famous infusion is like going to Italy without eating pizza or to France without enjoying a croissant. Mate is to Argentina as the hamburgers are to the US, and aside from the horrendous Fernet con Coca (which apparently is an acquired taste, but to me just tastes like something you’d take for a bad cough) it’s basically the national drink and its people’s pride and joy. While many Argentines drink it in the morning as Americans would coffee (mateina has a similar energizing effect as caffeine), mate is generally enjoyed in social settings. The tea is passed around to all participants and everyone sips from the same bombilla (metal straw), all the while respecting the protocol that surrounds this friendship ritual. There are a lot of different claims to the correct way to cure the mate cup, how to prepare the tea, which brand of yerba to use, and more, so five months in Argentina and many mates later, I still feel as though I’ve only acquired a very basic understanding of the complex ritual that surrounds this tea. Evidently, it’s much more than just a simple plant infusion.

The first time that a friend and I were offered to share mate with an Argentine that we’d just met, we were sitting in film class listening to the professor’s lecture and were thus unable to communicate our excitement to each other about having just been initiated into the most Argentine tradition that there could be. We passed notes to each other that read, “make an Argentine friend…CHECK!” and “drink mate in class…CHECK!” and did our best to control our exhilaration. I later found out that by taking just a few sips without finishing the whole cup I had totally butchered the protocol, but oh well… A couple weeks later, a few of us from the program went to the park to drink mate, and if only we hadn’t been taking a ton of pictures of ourselves we would have looked totally local. Good thing we’ve gone back since, complete with snacks and a guitar (and without the camera).

My Mendocinian Family (with my host mom in the middle of the first row)

Most of all, I’m going to miss the daily mate and charla (chatting) that I’d enjoy with my host mom after waking up from the siesta. She’d set up a beautiful table of toast, homemade jams, cookies, and cake, and then we’d sit down and talk about whatever was on our minds at that moment: class, politics, friends, the repairs that needed to be made in the apartment upstairs, food, the neighbors, family, or life. Over these past five months in Argentina, I’ve gotten to be pretty close to my host mom—she’s made me feel at home in a foreign country, she’s taken me into her family even though we’d never known each other before my arrival, and she’s taught me so many valuable lessons, whether about the Spanish language, cooking, or life. My host mom is one of the most generous and genuinely good people that I’ve ever met in my life, and she will be the hardest person to say good-bye to when I leave. I’m really going to miss her, as well as our daily mate and charla, when I’m gone.

Mate is something very special, and it is a custom that I will dearly miss when I go back home. More than just a tea, it’s about friendship and the people it’s shared with. While my time in Argentina is now coming to a close, the national traditions I’ve learned about, the people I’ve met, and the people who have taken me into the their hearts will stay with me forever. There are many reasons to come back, so I hope it won’t be too long before the next time I set foot in this country once again. Un beso grande, Argentina.

Moroccan Tea


Sweet and minty, a glass of Moroccan tea hits just the right spot after a long morning of labor and construction under the scorching sun. Often served with biscuits and nuts at the end of lunch, it was something I look forward to every day that not only satisfies my sweet tooth but also reenergizes me for the afternoon work. 

A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to work on an Engineers Without Borders project—building a bridge in a rural village in Morocco. I can’t help but smile every time I say I’m building a bridge, but I’ll be honest here, it’s no big stone bridge like the Golden Gate in San Francisco or the George Washington in New York. In fact, it is a polymer rope suspension pedestrian bridge that is designed for the villagers of Ait Bayoud in an effort to bridge two villages and offer easy access to the market, schools, and the hospital.

But enough about the project, I’m here to share my Moroccan tea experience. 

Local Moroccans may live a simple life, but they do take pride in their tea—the quality, preparation, and custom. It’s almost like a show they put on. In comes the platter with a silver kettle surrounded by many colorfully patterned glasses. Then enters the mint, blocks of sugar cubes, and tea leaves. The kettle with water and tea leaves is placed on top of the buta-gas tank and allowed to boil to let out the natural fragrance; perhaps it’s their opening line to let the audience know that the show is about to begin. At this point, the eldest and most respected member of the family (the grandfather) would perform his duty; he pours the tea out a few feet from the rim of the glass and creates a lot of bubbles in the tea. But he only pours out two glasses… hmm, are we suppose to share these among a group of ten? Be patient, the show has barely started. Next, he pours the tea from the glass back into the kettle and adds in the fresh mint leaves and generously drops six to seven large sugar cubes. Our eyes open and our jaws drop; is that going to be too sweet? My answer is: no. At this point, he returns the kettle back on the gas tank and waits. He sits there with a smile on his face as if he thinks we can’t handle the sweetness or that he’s satisfied with the tea he’s about to serve. He takes the kettle off the heat and distributes the tea among all the glasses, effortlessly creating a waterfall from the mouth of the kettle to the bottom of the glass. Tea is served; the show is over.

The show may be over, but the tasting is yet to begin. A good quality tea is one that is well aerated and is layered with bubbles on the top. It is strong yet sweet with a touch of minty aftertaste. With its unique recipe, every household claims to make the best tea—whether it be stronger or sweeter or less mint flavored. I try to judge and make a preference, but at the end of the day, I know I just want to have a glass of the Moroccan tea and chew on a biscuit before heading back to work.