When the first turban squash makes its appearance in supermarkets, for me it is clearly autumn. This tough-shelled squash with its unusual, comical shape and often rough patches never fails to cheer me. Called Bischopsmütze (Bishop’s mitre), it belongs with pumpkins to the large group of “winter” squashes. So called because they store well and keep over the winter, unlike the soft-skinned summer squashes such as zucchini. In addition to making me smile whenever I see them, they make me think of making soup: thick, substantial, warming soups. And squash soup makes me think of my Japanese ‘mother’, Hiroko, who made it with milk and nutmeg, and my daughter, who adores it, especially when made with caramelised onions and tomatoes, perked up with the heat of a red chilli, the way M makes it.
For me, there is no better complement to squash than prawns or shrimps. Yesterday being Monday, the fishmongers were closed, and I thought of trying to find dried shrimps or powdered shrimps in the Asian food shop in Old Town Bonn (Altstadt).
This part of Bonn has become truly multicultural. Just behind the new City Hall is a Moroccan food shop where I get harissa. Next door to it is a proper fishmonger where I buy wonderful whole squid intact with tentacles and ink sacs as well as gilt-head bream. I have never been a fan of hot peppery food or sauces, but I have become fond of this particular type of harissa: it is not too hot and it has a clean, clear flavour of red chillies, lemon juice, salt, and oil. Nothing else. There is also an African food shop that carries dried fish, plantains, and yams, next door to a zumba and capoeira studio. Just around the corner has to be one of the best artisanal ice cream makers in Bonn — Eislabor (‘Ice Cream Laboratory’). They make a small range of ice creams and sorbets, with no additions, just natural ingredients, sugar, and cream or water. No nuts or any other additions to mask the silky smoothness of their iced wares. The flavour of their fruit ice creams is pure delightful fruit! And their chocolate sorbet is so intense and creamy, it is hard to believe it is not made with cream. It is vastly superior to their chocolate ice cream.
At the other end of Altstadt, near Rosental, are a Turkish food shop and an Asian food shop. Over the six years I have lived in Bonn, I had only shopped at Jin Long near the entrance to the City Hall at Budapesterstrasse. I am thankful, really thankful to have found this other one as they have a more diverse selection. Yesterday as I said I was looking for dried shrimps. I didn’t find those or perhaps I wasn’t looking in the right place, but I found frozen, delicate-looking, white prawns instead. I find gigantic prawns tough and prefer the medium-sized ones. I also discovered frozen jackfruit! And of all things – champuy! The hard, sour, salty ones. I haven’t had those in ages! I also found blachan or trasi, fermented fish paste in block form, which I then used to flavour the squash soup. Its aroma in the soup reminded me of the fermented anchovy sauce (bugguong in Ilocano, bagoong in Tagalog) that is de rigueur in Ilocano dishes and I was reminded of my mother’s pinakbet, a slowly braised Ilocano dish of aubergines, bitter melon, and other vegetables in anchovy sauce, ginger, and tomatoes, which is akin in consistency to Mallorcan tumbet or the homely French dish, ratatouille.
I am truly grateful to have found what I was in search of and to discover new food ingredients as well. The squash soup, graced with fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) found at the Turkish shop, made a lovely supper. I think I overdid it slightly with the prawns which I cooked a la plancha. I adore seafood and although I can eat a lot of it, last night’s pile of prawns was a tad piggish. 🙂 I am more than thankful that the squash soup did turn out well and went very well with prawns, as I had imagined. One other thing I am grateful for: I understood 100% what was being announced as a schedule change at the tram stop. That has never happened before.