Monday, March 12, 2012

Adventures of Cooking in a Hostel - Part 2

Finally, A Full Meal!

At the end of Part 1, I was en route to Queenstown.  Unfortunately, I didn't take many pictures of the food I had during my 2 night stay there.  I stayed at a hostel that boasted a free dinner every night.  Yay!  However, as expected, the free food was well...not that good.  It was sufficient to keep me alive and stave off hunger.  It mostly just looked like slop and well, it actually tasted better than it looked.  However, nothing worthy of a blog post, that's for sure.  I think you would all just feel sorry for me, which you really shouldn't.  Aside from the free dinners, I mostly ate the rest of the breakfast bars I had and I bought a sandwich at a convenience store one day.  That proved to be a terrible idea.  I was going canyoning in the afternoon and I ate my sandwich about an hour before I left for my canyoning adventure.  

When you're doing stuff like this, it's not a good idea to have food in your stomach.  Well, let's just say that the river got a taste of my lunch as well.  The only noteworthy food I had in Queenstown was a Ferg burger.  There's a place called Ferg Burger in Queenstown that's famous for excellent New Zealand beef burgers.  I had some, but eh...maybe because I'm from the land of burgers, I wasn't impressed.  It was good, especially considering what I've been eating, but I prefer the good gourmet burgers back home in the US.  People were telling me how massive this burger is and how delicious it is.  Well...again, maybe I'm from the land of buffets and cardiac disease, but it wasn't THAT big.  It's about a 6" diameter burger.  That's just not that big for US standards.

The cooking begins again in my next stop, Te Anau.  So at this point, it's been 4 days of eating what I can get my hands on for as cheap as I can get it for, except for my Ferg Burger excursion.  That's a lot for me!  I've also been really active going from place to place and doing active, outdoorsy things.  I think my body cried out for a full meal.  Well, there's not a lot to do in Te Anau at night.  As I found out later during my trip, there's really not much to do at night in most New Zealand towns.  This gives me plenty of time to invest in cooking a good meal for myself.  I made a trip to the grocery store and came up with this for $25 NZD (~$20 USD):

I wanted a full meal, so I got some soup, lamb sausages and some veggies.  I figured the "risotto" last time was soupy, so I should just buy soup so it comes out the way I expect it to.  Again, I found pretty good quality ingredients.  The soup was the same organic variety I got last time, the sausages were on sale, and frozen veggies are actually quite nutritious.  Frozen vegetables are flash frozen from vegetables that were harvested at their freshest, so they're actually quite good for you.  Just make sure they are whole veggies, meaning they look like what they are and are minimally processed.  There's yogurt and oranges for the next day.  For some reason, I found myself eating lots of yogurt in New Zealand.  The yogurt just tastes better there!  Maybe it's because I found it very difficult to find non-fat varieties, so I ended up with full-fat yogurt.  That might be why...hmm...

An interesting challenge I discovered is that most hostel kitchens have stovetops, ovens, refrigerators, pots, pans, cutlery and utensils, but NO pantry whatsoever!  I mean not even salt, pepper and oil.  So I guess my challenge was to buy just enough items to make an interesting, deliciously flavored meal without a pantry...oooh, so difficult!  At home, I have a huge, stocked pantry for whatever I want to make.  I remember wanting to make some Indian food one day, even though I've never made Indian food.  I looked up recipes online and discovered that I already had every spice I needed.  This was an interesting challenge for someone like me.  I did have the luxury of having a car for half my New Zealand trip, so I was able to bring my food with me from place to place, but that doesn't mean I want to buy a whole lot of stuff just to use a teaspoon here and a pinch there.  A lot of backpackers carried their food with them from city to city - with or without a car.

This meal is easy to make, nutritious and definitely hit the spot.  I warmed up the soup in a pot, fried up the sausages in a pan and sauteed the veggies.  When cooking raw sausages, a big problem is getting it cooked all the way through.  I usually heat the pan up to medium-high, then put the sausages on one side, then reduce the heat down to medium-low.  I keep it at that temperature for about 4 minutes or so, then flip it over and cook it for another 5 minutes.  It was cooked through at that point.  You could check it by cutting your sausage in the middle and peeking for uncooked meat.  Cooking time varies by the meat and how thick your sausage is.  At this point, I didn't realize that there was no pantry and not even oil, so I didn't buy any pan lubrication.  Luckily, a nice lady let me have some butter from the huge tub she bought.  I used a tablespoon of that to saute my veggies.  Don't defrost your veggies.  Just add them frozen to the pan at medium-high heat.  They'll defrost in the pan.  If you defrost them first, you'll be left with a soggy mess and vitamins seeping out of your veggies and into the watery mess beneath them.  My dinner was done in 20 minutes.  It could have been 15 if it wasn't for the fact that I had to wait for the big pan for my veggies.

Ahhh!!!  Finally!!!  A whole meal!!  You have no idea how happy I was to have this.  It was delightful!  There were picnic benches in the back yard of the hostel.  At 8:30 pm, the sun was still shining, so I enjoyed my dinner al fresco.  However, I didn't realize how much my stomach had shrunken from my paltry meals from the past few days.  I couldn't quite finish my meal.  I also got bored of eating the sausages after the second one.  So I just modified it mid-meal and turned it into this:

It's not a big change, but somehow it was enough to keep my meal interesting.  I did end up finishing it all though.  I was at an OMGSOFULL state!

I also realized that sausages in Australia and New Zealand are made with really finely minced meat.  I don't like it.  It makes the sausage really dense and not very interesting texturally.  I prefer coarse sausage.  I find it maintains its juiciness after cooking and has a wonderful texture that wouldn't bore my palate after eating two.

I cooked up the exact same thing the next morning.  I didn't want to carry around food that needs to be refrigerated/frozen from city to city.  It would go bad or defrost by the time I arrived at my next destination.  I only bought enough refrigerated/frozen foods for the amount of time I would be staying in that city.  I only stayed in Te Anau for one night, before heading off the next morning to Milford Sound, then back to Queenstown in the same day.  I ate the soup with some veggies thrown in for breakfast and had some yogurt.  The veggies and sausage were packed up into plastic bags for my lunch and snack.  It was really interesting eating a sausage out of a plastic bag like a banana during my cruise around Milford Sound.  The food I bought lasted me 2 days.  Really, the pricey items are fruits in New Zealand.  It was relatively expensive, but I felt I needed some fruit in my diet.  The fruit lasted about 3 days...


  1. I thought the furgberger was really good! Or maybe because I was either drunk or starving when I had it. Now, I'm gonna get off my lazy butt and make myself a nice meal because of your post.

  2. That's so hilarious! Please send me pictures! Cook a full meal!!

  3. Hey! This is not related to this post but just wanted to say your live octopus video in YouTube was hilarious ;).Btw Are you living in Los Angeles! Your post says you were in Sydney?

    Keep up the posts!:)

    1. I mean the Tim tam slam post!

    2. Thanks! I did the Tim Tam Slam video in Sydney, but I'm based out of LA.