Highlights of things to do and see in Bruges!

A lot of things are said about Bruges, Belgium. I think Bruges is a city that will win your heart. It lies in western Flanders in Belgium and only 20 minutes or so from the coast. Some say it’s like a ‘Fairytale’ and ‘charming’ and even heard you really feel like you are in a dollhouse. It has a reputation as one of the prettiest cities in Europe. Except there was one person who couldn’t find beauty in the city – it was Colin Farrell in the 2008 film In Bruges in his role as an Irish hitman who really couldn’t seem to find any beauty in Bruges. 🙂

The historic center of Bruges (known as Brugge in Dutch) is one of the biggest appeals for visitors. Because it’s quite small (barely 4 kilometers)l, you can see all the main Bruges attractions in a day or two. Of course, you can always stay longer and go inside all the attractions, but we didn’t.

We went the day before New Year’ Eve, so we were lucky enough to see Winter Glow. And lucky us, it was unseasonably warm at 12 degrees!

Bruges Glow, is essentially it’s a light show which extended across the whole city and includes an artificial ice staking rink at one end. Visitors just walk a route and enjoy the light trail passing 10 different locations. You can download the APP and some things were interactive using your smartphone.

Start off at the Rozenhoedkaai

Start your day at the Rozenhoedkaai – just around the corner from Tanner Square – Huidenvettersplein. This little corner, with its brick medieval houses and the Belfort in the background, is probably one the most photographed parts of Bruges. If you arrive early in the morning, you get the chance to get the perfect city ‘postcard’ photo before everyone else gets there! In the afternoon – this place is packed!!

Visit the Grote Markt – Home of the Belfort!

Before it becomes too busy, head over to the famous and beutiful square which has been at the center of this city’s life for over 1,000 years. There you’ll see many picturesque medieval buildings like the Cloth Hall, the Cranenburg House, and the Historium, all which are located right next to each other.  I think the most poular thing to do, visit the Belfort – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – a bell tower built in the fifteenth century. 83-metre bell tower and climb the 366 steps for panoramic views of the city. We didn’t go in but learned about the many fires, etc during our free walking tour.

Every Wednesday since the year 968, the square becomes home to traditional market with fruit, veg, flowers – etc. I’m sure it would be amazing to see especially with the cute buildings in the background.

Here is also home to many cafes where you can people watch if that is your thing. Over the past years, I have come to see that it is not uncommon to see dogs in little strollers – which are not really baby carriages but look similiar. But it’s not often you see a couple with a dog in a baby carrier. Yes, see for yourself! Maybe I’m wrong, but I cannot Imagine that is comfortable for the dog!

Historium

This palace-like building, Historium, is a great attraction to visit if you want to know more about what life was like in Bruges during the medieval period. Inside you have a special 8-minute virtual reality experience that will take you back in time to medieval Bruges. This experience is filled with dramatic music and special effects all of which are inspired by the iconic Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele painting.

The Burgh

Behind the Markt you will find another of Bruges’ charming squares, the Burg. Around it, you can see the splendid City Hall (Stadhuis) and the white and gold Brujse Vrije, where the city archives are stored.

The Burg is also home to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Inside the church, you’ll find a small cylindrical glass bottle made of rock crystal filled with blood that was brought to the city by Thierry of Alsace after the 12th century Second Crusade. This phial is believed to contain the blood of Jesus Christ and it’s brought out to be worshipped by believers every day. There was a mass going on and very busy when we went in, so I went quickly out.

Boat Tour of Bruges’ Canals

Bruges is a city of canals and it is one of many European cities to have been dubbed ‘The Venice of the North’. With so many waterways throughout this cute city, it is easy to see why a boat tour is one of the most popular things to do in Bruges. This will give you a unique perspective on the city and for sure some nice picture opporunities. Boat trips last around half an hour and cost €10. per person. Note: even in high covid they PACK THEM IN, so we skipped this altogether. I did take some photos so you can see what I mean about how many people were on the boat. Oh and note: unlike in Amsterdam, here they are all owned by the same family so you don’t get a discount on various boats.

See Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child statue. 

Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) is a 14th-century church. Its tower is the second-highest brick tower in the world (122.3 metres high).  Inside are the decorative tombs of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold, but the most famous treasure of the church is the artwork Madonna and Child by Michelangelo. It was the artist’s only sculpture that left Italy before Michelangelo’s death. The entrance is free, but you have to pay to see the Madonna and Child.

Visit Sint-Janshospitaal

Sint-Janshospitaal, also known as St. John’s Hospital, is one of the oldest hospitals in Europe. It functioned as a hospital from the 12th-19th centuries. A medieval hospital in Bruges, many nuns and monks worked here to help the sick with various medical instruments and modern techniques of the time.

The Groeningen Museum

The Groeningen Museum is a popular one with art lovers as it houses an impressive collection of Flemish and Belgian paintings by many great masters including Jan van Eyck and Hugo van der Goes.. The museum is located in the Groeninge district on the former site of the Eekhout Abbey.

Torture Musuem

Set in one of the oldest prisons in Europe, the Torture Museum is a collection of instruments of torture from centuries gone by. The museum explores the origins and significance of torture in society, with a series of pain-causing implements in chronological order. We did not visit this place!

Visit the Begijnhof

Just south of the Church of Our Lady, you will find the Begijnhof. This peaceful area is home to small and whitewashed one-story buildings and it is where beguines used to live. These were groups of women, usually widows, who lived together and devoted their lives to helping the sick and the poor. Even now only women can live here. You can only enter during the day, quietly, and at a certain time (I think 7 pm) the gates lock for the public.

Extra touristy things to do – Frietmuseum & Choco-Story Bruges

The Frietmuseum is a museum dedicated to the history of the potato and the production of Belgian Fries. There has long been a friendly debate as to whether it was the French or the Belgians who invented the French fry, and around these parts, the Belgians claim ownership and forbid you to say French Fries 🙂  It’s the first and the only one of its kind. The Choco-Story Bruges is what you expect – a chocolate museum located in the De Croone building, a former wine tavern.

The Minnewater

As you exit the Begijnhof you get to the Minnewater. Its translation literally means ‘Love Lake’ aka Swan Lake. When you see the romantic bridges and the swans swimming in the water you will understand why! Unfortunately with the bird flu all swans were removed and brought to a farm. I thought I took a photo here, but I cannot seem to find it. Well without the swans, it’s just a small bit of water.

Beer, of course!

If you like beer, when in Bruges you have to visit The Half Moon Brewery is an old and established name in Bruges, and it’s a place beer lovers won’t want to miss. Tours are organized daily between 11 am and 4 pm, and they last 45 minutes. The tour also includes a tasting of a Brugse Zot Blond. I had one at dinner – was a bit like Stella Artois.

In 2016, the brewery installed a 3.2-kilometer pipeline that leads to a bottling plant in the suburbs. Most of us have heard of oil pipelines, but whoever would have thought there would be a beer pipeline? This pipe was installed to fix a logistical problem that the business had run into. In recent years, De Halve Maan Brewery has become quite popular, which meant sending trucks of beer out through these cobblestone streets on a daily basis. To cut back on those costs, the pipeline was installed. Now all of their beer can be bottled in another location 3.2 kilometers away, allowing them to avoid all the traffic and tourism which comes into the downtown area. The current brewery at this location has been in operation since 1856, and it has been in the same family for five generations.

While we on the topic of beer there are TONS of beer shops scattered throughout the city for you to take home some bottles.

You can also visit, the Brugge Beer Experience which is more than just a beer museum – it is a combination of interactivity, innovative technologies, and the stimulation of all senses! Like a lot of things – it closes at 6 pm. So we didn’t visit this either. In addition, you can visit another Brewery, Bourgogne des Flandres, which returned to Bruges after being away for 60 years.

Belgian Waffles

While we didn’t have any, another popular thing for tourists to eat are Belgian waffles. I think I saw over 10 places just serving these treats with long lines! They are larger and fluffier than the waffles you’d find in US. And instead of syrup, you can add a number of toppings including Nutella, cream, icing sugar, strawberries, and more. And of course, there are Waffle making workshops too!

Chocolate – Eat it or take some home as a gift!

Chocolate lovers will be in heaven here in Bruges! Everyone knows the Belgians have a long history of chocolate-making and in Bruges, you’ll find an abundance of chocolate shops showcasing the tastiest of treats. I stayed clear of them – well took a few photos from the window, but I would be in trouble if I went inside. If you want to learn how Belgian chocolate is made, you can join a workshop.

Horse & Carriage Ride

Another way to see the city of Bruges is to take a horse-drawn carriage tour through cobblestones streets. Warning, horses have the RIGHT OF WAY! So if you hear clomping coming down the cobblestone streets, GET OUT OF THE WAY! They will not stop!! The price set by the city of Bruges is €55 for a half-hour ride.

Book a FREE historical walking tour!

While it’s technically FREE, you have the option to buying a ticket for €3 per person. This guarantees a spot on the 2.5 hour tour and only covers the cost of the booking. If you didn’t have time to book your tour online, you could take a chance and ask the guide with the red umbrella before the start of the tour if you can tag along if there is space. Unike all tours I’ve taken before, they use earphones and an electric device around your neck, you really hear first-hand what he says while keeping distance. Of course, the tour is FREE, but be sure to give a tip! That is how the guide makes their money! Our guy Jonathan, who is a local, did the tour in English. You can also do the tour in Dutch, French & Spanish with other guides – though Jonathan speaks those too! If you don’t want to join a group, you can follow this self-guided walking tour online.

Best time to visit Bruges

Because it’s so cute, there will be touristy all year round. In fact, each year over 3 million people visit the city. And after spending a night there, I can say there is a good reason. I would say the summer months are the most popular and you’ll find long lines at some Bruges attractions – especially the boat tours. No matter what season you go, start your sightseeing early in the morning, right after breakfast, which will help you dodge most of the tourists and allow you to get some great pictures. Unfotunately some delivery trucks will be out and about and can obstruct some pics.

Planning a trip to Bruges soon, then I suggest you visit the offical tourist offfice online for a more in-depth look at the City of Bruges and all it offers.

Have you been to this cute city? I am sure I’m missing some must-see attractions. I purposely left out where to stay and where to eat as that is so personal depending on budget and wants/needs. But I do recommend, especially in COVID times to make a reservation for any restaurant LUNCH or DINNER!! Oh and I left off the Fish Market, as it was winter when we visited, so you only saw an artist selling goods there.

Of course, if you know anything that is a must-see or hidden treasure do share as we’ll certainly be back in the warmer months.

Gourmetten: A stress-free & gezellig, popular, Dutch dining tradition!

THINK INDOOR ELECTRIC BBQ ONE WHICH EVERYONE COOKS FOR THEMSELVES!

For the first time ever, we’re had Gourmetten at our house for Christmas Eve dinner. Millions of Dutch families do this tradition during the holidays. What makes “gourmetting” so much fun and so easy, is that the wide variety of options means everyone’s dietary preferences can be taken into account, and if you do it for a large group, everyone can bring small portions of their own favorite food.  Everyone is responsible for cooking their own food. [Including the kids, if possible!]

While there is no real translation of gourmetten in English, but it is sort of like an indoor electric barbecue – you can say a Korean BBQ, Swiss raclette, or a stone grill are the closest things. The essential item is the pan used for cooking: In Dutch: Gourmetstel or the tafel bakplaat. Either a special two-tier one with little trays or one-tier baking plates both of which you place in the middle of the table. On them, you grill anything you want (meat, fish, vegan meat alternatives, peppers, sliced oven potatoes, onions, mushrooms, asparagus wrapped with bacon, even pineapple. With the two-tier version, the meat goes on the top of the ribbed and/or stone part(s) and there are 4 to 8 slots (this depends on how large of the unit you are using). Underneath are ‘little pans’ where you put the more fragile stuff like veggies and mushrooms, eggs, or even pancake batter to make pancakes. In addition to the grilled items, you can have some salads, sliced baguette bread with butter, and tons of sauces. Don’t expect a quick meal – it takes a lot of time and can get a bit messy. Either from the fat splattering a bit or someone knocking over a glass reaching over for the items. Thankfully this time – neither happened!

TIPS

  • Put the gourmet equipment in the middle of the table so everyone has access. Consider putting it on a wooden cutting board, to prevent the heat of it to damage the table.
  • Put out the sauces, vegetables, etc, in small dishes and put them in multiple places on the table, so everyone can easily get to them.
  • Consider when putting fish & meats on the table. You could serve them on plates from the freezer, to help keep cold. It is recommended NOT to put out more meat than can be consumed in 30 minutes or so.
  • To avoid cross-contamination, have dedicated serving utensils to handle each type of food when putting it on the grill. Mini silicon tongs are very handy.

MEAT & FISH

Unlike in the 30+ years ago, when it first started, you’d go to the butcher, now all of the grocery stores sell pre-packaged meats called gourmetschotel – some pre-marinated some plain, and often on bonus buy 2, get one free! This sounds nice and handy but…. for me, I like to make things complicated when cooking 🙂 Something in my brain says – “Why would I want to buy only those pre-made platters and simply be done with it? Why do I want to spend 30 minutes cutting up various meats and making my own marinades?” Well, I don’t know, I just do 🙂 I think possibly the value for money is not there. I can make it more economical if I buy a chicken breast, a salmon steak, a nice piece of beef. Spend time peeling and deveining shrimp – I try to pass this job off to others, sometimes successfully other times not so 🙂 Okay – so confession, we bought some and made some.

THE STORY OF WHY IT BECAME SO POPULAR BY THE MEAT INDUSTRY

The cooking style is most likely an adaption of cooking styles brought over from parts of Asia by people wo move from the Dutch colonial areas to Europe. But this Dutch Christmas tradition was designed to boost the meat industry. Beginning in the late 70s, a duo Huub Oudshoorn and Ton Boer toured around the Netherlands for over 20 years to convert or attempt to convert Dutch housewives and local schools about this fast and easy cooking method. The force behind the tour was that they had been hired as representatives of a butcher’s interest group and were also commissioned by the Dutch meat industry who saw an increase in the popularity of cheese fondue. So they approached Oudshoorn and Boer to see if they could find a way to make people consume more meat and learn them how to do it. At that time, you went to the butcher for meat and the supermarket was more for groceries. At that point in time, eating meat was not a daily activity, but meant for Sunday suppers. It was something special to eat meat. So again, while these guys didn’t invent gourmetten, they sure do take credit for why it became so popular and as you can imagine, Boer and Oudshoorn were considered celebrities at that time.

WHERE TO BUY THE ESSENTIAL GRILL PAN?

For this evening, we originally borrowed a 4 person grill but a week before the night, I found it was too small and not exactly what I wanted. So knowing I wanted one of my own, we did some searching. It’s like buying a car – it can become so complex if you let it. (sarcasm) My main question, was how will I use it? Are the little raclette pans below so important? If not, I thought should we just go with a “bakplaat” – which is a simple long frying surface and is also called tepanyaki, Bakplaten, or tafelgrillen here in the Netherlands. Sligro had a really long one sale for €29.99 down from €59.99. We were in Sligro to buy some stuff and it was then that we decided to buy two, smaller ones vs one really long one at the same price. My rationale was easier to take on holiday, or when we wanted to make Korean BBQ at home only one was required, etc. Or I could buy a larger two-tier combination – one thing is for sure – I wanted to have enough cooking surface for 6-8 people!!

As I own so many kitchen appliances, I’m sort of bummed I didn’t get one the Royal van Kempen last year at AH when they were doing the stickers for discounts on various items. The first place I think of is Blokker or MediaMarkt. Makro or Sligro [if you have a membership card] or even online shops like Bol.com or Amazon.nl. Of course, discount grocery stores like Aldi and Lidl also have them from time to time. But if you are very frugal, you can opt for a second-hand one from Marketplaats, Facebook Marketplace, or Kringloopwinkels have them from time to time.

Generally, gourmetten is very popular at Easter, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve here in the Netherlands. It’s great for large family gatherings but some people do it for birthdays too. I think we found our new tradition for every Christmas Eve!

PROS & CONS

First, the pro about Gourmetten is an intimate long, slow dinner process with lots of chatting and it’s as the Dutch say gezellig! The kids won’t get bored and you do not have to slave all day in the kitchen to prepare, nor is there the pressure to finish eating something before the next course comes around, as everyone can decide their own pace!

And the only negative drawback which I can think about – apart from cleaning up, is the unmistakable smell of grease lingering around the house till the New Year and beyond if you burn some stuff or don’t open a few windows. This is where M & my sense issues come in handy!

We loved it and had a lot of leftovers meat which we bagged up and put into the freezer! Guess what we had again on New Year’s Eve! :).

What do you think of this Dutch culinary classic?

Spotify Wrapped 2021: A deep dive into your most memorable listening moments of the year!

It’s that time of year where all of us Spotify listeners get a deep dive into their most memorable listening moments of the year. I know some people don’t care about other people’s Spotify Wrapped, but I love seeing stats from the people I follow. And here I’m subjecting you guys to mine! 🙂

Time listening & Genres

First, let’s talk about the amount of time I’ve spent listening to music. The fact I’ve spent 96,620 minutes (which can be translated into 67 days) isn’t super surprising to me since I listen to music ALL the time in my house – when I shower, clean the house, walk the lake, etc. What does surprise me is that I listen more than 98% of other listeners here in the Netherlands! 🙂

As for genres, the top two are not a surprise. But what the heck is with #3 – SLAPHOUSE? What even is that? Had to spend some time googling that. Now I see it’s future house music = Afrojack and Dynoro – so that explains it. I am sure I got some of their songs on my playlists.

Top Artists & Top Songs

Meghan Trainor coming in first is a bit shocking to me, but because a few of her songs are on my most-listened-to playlist, I guess it would make sense she is in the rotation a lot. Tom Grennan and Guus Meeuwis would have been my suspected most played artists so that is cool. I think Justin Bieber should be here somewhere! He has really improved over the years!!

As for the top songs, well no clue! I have a REALLY large 2021 playlist which I listen to often which has a lot of duplication from other playlists so guess if those are on there and played often they come up. I don’t recall ever listening to one of these 5 songs any more than other songs which come on very often.

Podcast

While I have listened to a fair share of podcasts over the past couple of years, I do prefer music in the background. I tend to have phases of listening to podcasts that don’t last long. That being said, I did listen to more this year than last and I’ve written about my favorite ones My Top 11 Podcasts, so can check that out to learn more. But I swear, this snapshot is a bit cheeky – OC Swingers and Sex Stories – yes, while I did listen, those two are NOT the ones I most listened too. I mean I listened to over 36 episodes of Ear Hustle surely that should be present on this list, no?!

Fun Extras!

As for the fun extras that wrapped gave us this year, here are mine! My audio aura moods are is confident and nostalgic, 135 genres and 2,384 different artists other than MEGHAN TRAINOR – that’s cool! Whale sounds, interesting!

Wrap up the Wrapped!

So, this is what my music tastes have been like for the last year – still shaking my head Meghan Trainor #1 out of 2,384 other artists!! I am going to really make an effort to clean up my playlists and not just listen to 2021 which has the most songs, but categorize them more in the hopes that some newcomers find their way as well. Well, I say I’ll do this now, not sure I’ll ever make time to do it. Then again, now we’re back in Covid Lockdown 3.0 for the next week weeks, maybe I will.

Can’t wait to see what 2022 will be like.

While there’s no way to find the actual Wrapped feature from previous years with all the specific stats, Spotify users can still go back and find their Top 100 Songs playlists from the past few years. (If they’re not still saved in your playlist library, that is.). All you have to do to go back in time and see what songs you made it to on your Most Played lists is click on one of these links below.

Each link will open Spotify in your web browser and show you a playlist full of all the top songs you listened to in that year.

Do you use Spotify? Did you check out your Spotify Wrapped? Did anything surprise you?

First day of school photos!

Monday M began her last year of primary school – Groep 8 which is essential grade 6 in the US. And Tuesday, S started what they call Middelbare school which is grade 7 in the US. But here it’s one school for the next 6 years. Technically he is supposed to be in grade 8, but we kept him back a year when we first came from Ireland to The Netherlands. This was to give him more time to learn the Dutch language as the level of middelbare school you attend is largely based on school exams and the fact the groep at the primary school was full – and this combination worked out perfectly! Thinking about it, he was kept back two times. When we left the UK, he had to repeat first class in Ireland, as they start earlier in the UK so his British peers are two years ahead of him in school already.

Anyway, this is a big year for both of them. They’ll both grow tremendously this year intellectually, independently and physically. My seatbelt is buckled as the “pre & puberty years” have arrived :). This post won’t be super long but will add a few things to always remember as you both enter these important and confusing years.

It is OKAY to be Different!

You don’t have to be the same as everyone else in order to be important.  It’s okay to be different. In fact, it is good to be different.  Stand up for what you believe, even if at times you have to stand alone.  Don’t give into the pressure to do things that you are not okay with. So if M wants to have some purple in her hair – go for it. If S wants to wear his DRI t-shirt some days, that is fine. But the grandpa sneakers, I still need to think about 🙂

Friends Come & Go – That is Normal!

First off read this article – “FRIENDSHIP LESSONS FROM A FISHBOWL. It has SO MANY IMPORTANT TAKEAWAYS FOR BOTH KIDS AND ADULTS! I LOVED IT SO MUCH I SHARED ON MY FACEBOOK WALL TOO!

People change.  I promise you will find lasting friendships in the most unexpected ways and with the most unexpected people. Your best friends from primary school may be there in your life forever or they may not. You will find your crew. Be yourself! Your true friends will like YOU for who YOU are. You will be more confident when you are living an authentic life rather than if you are trying to change to impress people who will not matter in the long run.

Good Grades are Important but Not Everything

Never base your worth on your grades.  Good grades don’t make someone a better person, bad grades don’t make them a bad person.  But you must ALWAYS try your best and work hard! Never quit!

Always Feel Free To Talk to Us

Me and Papa might be the last people you want to talk to when you are going through difficult things at school, but we are ALWAYS here for you. And if you don’t want to talk to us, please talk to a family member that you trust.  We will always have your back. And yes, this includes talking to us about girls or sex or random things.  I know you might not want to but you are both entering some of the most confusing years of your life. Even though it’s hard to believe, we have been there before.

Seems like it was only yesterday, back in 2012, when S was starting his first day of Reception in the UK complete with his tiny flat book bag, school uniform and cool sunglasses.

And a year later Maebh started Nursery School – which she LOVED!

Seeing Abraham or Sarah! A fun Dutch Tradition When You Turn 50!

In the Netherlands turning 50 is considered an extremely special occasion and one that’s typically marked with the installation of a large life-size doll (of an elderly man or woman) in your front garden for the day (or a few hours), often with a corresponding sign that reads “Abraham 50 jaar” (Abraham 50 years old) or “Sarah 50 jaar” (Sarah 50 years old). It is a tradition that honours a person gaining wisdom through experience.

How timely this post is – our Queen, “Koningin Máxima” turns 50 tomorrow! 🙂

Of course with COVID, parties are not able to happen but doesn’t stop this fantastic tradition. Your house, office or even both will be decorated by your friends and family with posters, banners, balloons and, mannequins and as mentioned above, a life-sized doll of YOU. I absolutely love it and while I’m not looking forward to becoming 50 (a few short years) my kids are both well-aware that I EXPECT a Sarah outside 🙂

Depending on what the person looks like or interests are, there are various companies here which you can hire the inflatables.

Here is photo of my neighbour’s Sarah. As she has red hair, it’s very appropriate.

And on Friday, this was put up for my other neighbour – he’s bald so also fitting!

THE ORIGIN

The phrase “Abraham gezien hebben” is actually rather appropriate, as it’s based on a passage in the Bible, John 8: 56-58. In this particular passage, Jesus is engaged in discussion with the Jews, who ask him: “You are not yet fifty but you have seen Abraham?” Jesus replies “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am”. The Jews are clearly surprised at this answer, because Abraham had in fact died before Jesus was born. Back in those days, it was very rare for people to turn 50, therefore, it was a very special occasion! People would look up to you and you would be seen as wise. As Sarah was Abraham’s wife, hence that is used for females turning 50. It is also common to bake a cake, bread or cookies in the shape of a male or female figure.

BEYOND 50?

You can also carry on the tradition for each decade of a person’s life after 50, although these are not as nearly as popular is Abraham and Sarah. Also sometimes when couples are married for 50 years, they also get a big overly decorated house too!

  • 60th Birthday – “Isaac” or “Elisabeth” birthday
  • 70th Birthday – “Jacob” or “Anna or Lea” birthday
  • 80th Birthday – “Joseph” or “Deborah” birthday
  • 90th Birthday – “Anthony” or “Ruth” birthday
  • 100th Birthday – “Methuselah” or “Judith” birthday

What do you think of this tradition? Would you love it or hate it if you had a big doll outside your home? I know some cultures wouldn’t like this but I LOVE it. I often stop and take a photo of the houses I see decorated. The one above is around the corner from my house – so brilliant stopped my bike just to take the photo and congratulate the person decorating outside. You must always congratulate! 🙂

Seasoning A New Wok Pan

As one of my Mother’s Day presents this year, I was given a wok! I LOVE IT! In fact, I had been looking at buying a wok for a while now as I cook so many Asian dishes. Actually, I receive an electric wok as wedding present 19 years ago, but sold it when we moved abroad. I have a tiny one from Ikea, but nothing quite like an authentic one over a gas stove!

Here is a photo my 11 year old took of me comparing two different ones at Amazing Oriental my favorite shop here in the Netherlands.

If you know anything about woks or even perhaps nothing – before you use it, you have to first season it! This way the food does’t stick to it and cleans away the chemicals on it. The wok came with instructions in Dutch of how to season it, but I of course, I wanted to watch actual videos too so I knew I was doing it correctly. The directions from the paper are not the same at all as the directions I found on the web. There are different ways of doing it.

Here are the directions from the paper: (translated)
Iron wok instructions. Before using a new wok, you must burn off the protective layer of the wok.  Put the wok on a low heat and let the wok burn black for about 15 minutes.  (Or on high heat in about 5 minutes).  Then you should wash the wok.  Return the wok to the heat to dry.  After drying, lubricate the inside completely with oil.  Before stir-frying, heat the wok before adding the oil.  The wok should be hotter than the oil so that the food doesn’t stick.  Avoid using detergent for cleaning.  Clean the wok with hot water and a washing-up brush.  Stuck food residues soak off first.  After cleaning, put the wok away dry (place it on the fire for a while) and if necessary rub with a little oil on a dry wok.  After a few months of use, the wok will become dirty from soot deposits.  You can remove the soot deposits by heating the wok around the edges and sprinkling some salt on the inside.  Scrub clean, rinse, dry on fire and grease with oil.

Here is the video which I thought was the best and with over 1 million views – so others did too! As mentioned above, there are other methods like using salt, putting into the oven and even using food – but those were not the methods I chose to try.

WHY SEASON A WOK?

Many cooks prefer using carbon steel because of its nonstick surface. However, it is important to note that carbon steel woks are NOT naturally non-stick. You need to season the wok first. Every time you use your wok, the patina will become more developed so the pan’s performance will improve. The non-stick properties will increase and food will release quicker and easier from the pan. Cleaning will become easier too, as food particles are less likely to stick. With the proper care, your wok will last you for many years to come.

What You’ll Need for Seasoning a Wok

  • hot water
  • dish soap
  • metal scrubber or scouring pad
  • paper towels
  • peanut oil or any other high-heat oil – I used grape seed oil. Avoid unrefined oils with low smoking points like olive oil & sesame oil.

Scrub Off the Factory Oil

Carbon steel woks are coated with a layer of factory oil to keep them from rusting before they are sold / used. It is crucial that you scrub off this layer of factory oil (front BOTH sides) before you use the wok for cooking. You don’t want the factory oil in your food!

For the initial scrubbing, you’ll need dish soap and a metal scrubber or scouring pad. You only use soap and abrasive scrubbers when you are prepping the wok for seasoning. Once it is done, you DO NOT use them for regular cleaning and maintenance. Otherwise, you will scrub off the patina and ruin the non-stick surface of the wok!

Spend a good 10-15 minutes on the scrubbing. Add some dish soap to your wok and use a scrubber to scrub the inside and outside of the wok thoroughly. Rinse the wok with water. Add dish soap to the wok again and repeat the scrubbing and rinsing two more times. As you rinse the wok, if you notice that your fingers are picking up black stains from touching the wok, it means you haven’t quite gotten rid of the factory oil yet.

After several rounds of scrubbing and rinsing, rub the inside and outside of the wok with paper towels. The paper towels are very good at picking up any leftover factory oil residue from the wok. If the paper towel looks black after rubbing the wok, scrub the wok with soap, rinse, and wipe with paper towels again. Eventually, you’ll get a clean wipe with the paper towel, and that’s when you know you’ve scrubbed off the factory oil sufficiently.

DRY THE WOK

Now it’s time to dry the wok. You don’t have to waste paper towels – as the water will evaporate quickly when you set the wok onto the heat. You’ll notice it starts to darken a bit. You don’t have to do this for too long only to dry it. Then let it cool a bit before you start to add the oil.

SEASON THE WOK

In this step, the goal is to use heat to open up the pores of the wok so that they can absorb oil to prevent rusting and start developing a nonstick surface. You will be heating oil for quite some time, so turn on your exhaust fan to the highest setting. Open your windows if your kitchen needs more ventilation.

Using a paper towel rub the oil evenly on the inside and outside of the pan. Put the pan on medium heat. You’ll see it start to change color rather quickly. Depending on the type of wok you have , it may even turn blue. You’ll have to turn it a bit to ensure that the sides change too. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat. Let the wok cool for a few minutes. When a bit cooler it is time to wash again.. but remember NO SOAP!

CLEAN THE WOK – A SECOND TIME

After the wok is cooled, wash again in hot water. Return to heat again for a few minutes and your wok is ready to use. There will be grease and a dark layer of patina. Use a bristled brush or soft sponge to gently clean the wok. Do not use dish soap here. Rinse the wok and place it on the stove to dry. This is when I used it for our dinner but if you don’t want to use it now, proceed to the final step before putting it away.

Dry Wok and Seal with Layer of Oil

Heat the wok over high heat again. Once all the water evaporates, turn off the heat. Carefully rub a thin layer of oil onto the wok. Pour about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil into the wok and rub the oil throughout the wok with several layers of paper towels. Be careful because the wok is still very hot at this point. You can use a spatula to help move the paper towel around too.

You don’t want to reintroduce moisture back into the wok. Otherwise, the wok can rust while it’s stored.

GENERAL CARE FOR YOUR WOK

After each time you use the wok, gently clean it with a brush or soft sponge.

If there are stubborn bits of food stuck to the bottom of your wok, fill your wok with about 4 to 5 cups of water. Bring the water to boil and then drain it. The hot water should help loosen the food and will be much easier to release with a brush or sponge. After you clean the wok, dry it over high heat and rub a bit of oil on the inside.

If your wok ever rusts, scrub the rust off with a scouring pad. Rinse and re-season the wok as if it were brand new.

Truthfully, I know it doesn’t look correct but it is… again, over time a layer of patina will build up and will be more nonstick. Will update this blog post after some months to show the wok…

So I’m super psyched to have a wok now and even made two recipes tonight. I’ll be on the hunt for more great recipes! Just need to get some wok tools like a long spatula and I’m sorted!

Do you have a wok? Did you season it this way or a different way all together?