The biggest culinary and food growth in Oslo over the years has to be in and around Grünerløkka.
The array of foods, ingredients that stretch beyond the Nordic zone and quality of products has definitely influenced the menus of cafes and eating places. This also has given life to a variety of cuisines, making the area an exciting place to explore on days when you feel curious and want to get out and about.
Fortunately, there are other neighbourhoods that can also boast similar progress, but on a much smaller scale. You can’t help but notice green grocers popping-up in streets away from the Grünerløkka area offering fresh foods and stocking products from places in the Middle East, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
The array of products is only limited by the shop space available, but the quality of foods and summer freshness is delivered. My go-to grocer where I buy big pots of herbs and everything that should be fresh is fresh, is the Kolonial on Niels Juels Gate 33 run by Ali. Ali’s priority is to provide customers and local restaurants with the highest quality products and, especially in the summer, to get as much produce as he can from local farms.
The wholesomeness of shopping at the little corner grocer is a treat in many ways and I also hear that paper bags are soon to be introduced at Kolonial 33! I shop practically every day so that I can get the best and fresh and there’s always a buzz in the shop. People chatting about products and how to use particular ingredients.
Apart from enhancing flavours, the medicinal value of fresh turmeric, for instance, can be captured in smoothies, steeped into a cup of tea or a refreshing summer drink garnished with lemon. Good to know next time you see the strange finger shaped orange coloured root and wonder what it is.
It is simple
Shopping every day in Oslo for fresh foods becomes less of a chore and not so frustrating when you have choices and to be able to decide for yourself what you need instead of being dictated to by the limited offerings of most supermarkets!
I’m not a fancy cook, but I’m keen to learn and that means exploring. I want to be drawn into being curious and know that I can ask questions about this or that product to someone who knows or will find out. But to be able to do this, the strange ingredients have to be available in the first place so that I can get curious.
Seeing and smelling new and interesting foods pushes me to improve my cooking and expand our family’s eating experiences. It is trial and error, of course, but we have to try new things to see what we’re missing out on. We need more green grocers like Kolonial 33 in the streets of Oslo and as Ali jokes, some kebab shops would be good too!
Promised chilli jam
As it happens Kolonial 33 actually stocks chilli jam in a jar! But nothing beats homemade. Remember to adjust the taste and find the balance. Apart from the Sticky Chilli Chicken, it can also become a great dipping sauce with freshly cut vegetables, or used in another favourite dish, Thai Chicken Salad, that follows (recipe adapted from Donna Hay).
What you need:
- 4-6 Garlic Cloves peeled
- 4 or 5 long red chillies (adapt to taste buds)
- 150g fresh ginger peeled and chopped
- 625g caster sugar
- Zest and juice of 2 or 3 limes (depending on the size)
- 125ml liquid – adjusted with water and the lime juice
- 125ml rice vinegar
- 3 tbsp fish sauce (adjust to taste)
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
What you do:
Puree garlic, chillies, ginger to a coarse paste. Put in a saucepan with sugar, water, juice, lime zest, rice vinegar, fish and soy sauces. STIR, TASTE and ADJUST ingredients for balance. Stir over medium heat until the sugar boils then boil quickly for about 10minutes. The mixture should reduce by a third and resemble jam. Be careful the mixture may burn if heat is too high. Spoon into a jar and keep in the fridge all summer long!
Chicken salad with chilli jam
What you need:
- 100g rice vermicelli noodles
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons chilli jam
- 500g chicken mince
- 1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
- ¼ cup (60ml) oyster sauce
Quick pickled cucumber:
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
- 1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup
- 2 cucumbers (or one long one), thinly sliced
- 1 long red chilli, thinly sliced
- 2 iceberg lettuce leaves
- Thai basil leaves (Asian supermarket on Brugata) or use normal pot basil
- Unsalted peanuts, chopped
What you do:
- Make the pickled cucumber: place the vinegar, garlic and honey in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the cucumber and chilli and toss to coat. Set aside.
- Boil water and add the noodles. Take off the heat and rest for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Place the garlic, ginger, chilli jam and chicken in a bowl and stir to combine.
- Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over high heat, add the chicken mixture and cook, stirring, for 5–6 minutes.
- Add the oyster sauce and cook for a further 2–3 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Divide the noodles between lettuce leaves and top with the chicken and pickled cucumber.
- Top with basil, coriander and peanuts.
Light and delicious
This meal is deliciously paired with a mellow white wine, perhaps a Riesling or Pinot Gris. After all, it is the season to enjoy light and delicious meals.
Next time I’ll share a Quinoa & Avocado Summer Salad and my trusty Lemon Coconut Pie with the freshest of eggs Ali gets from a family farm in Trøgstad.