Cuisine

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These are written from the perspective of Thomas Cook, and are excerpts from the fictional "Travel Guide Book of Riiga".

It is written from the point of view of visitors from Earth, and as such, its contents and accuracy may not be entirely representative of actual Riigan cuisine.

Benevis

The people of Benevis Kingdoms are excellent brewers of alcoholic beverages. With the region situated in the perfect place to grow grapes and grains, it is not a surprise that Baracsa is the home of wonderful wine, great beer, good grapes, and half-decent raisins.

What is surprising however is that the list of edible food in the entire region ends there. Compared to their amazing skills and techniques in wine-making, cooking in the Benevis Kingdoms is the definition of bland. There are only two types of cooking method: baking and boiling. It might not sound too bad at first, but after our research team spent three days in the kingdoms, they decided in the remaining week that they should stick to rations from home instead.

Sure, the people of Benevis can bake bread with soft textures and beautiful shapes, and they can make boiled meat and vegetables look appetising, but what makes them utterly inedible is the terrible taste of mixed spices and salt which gave one of our researchers PTSD. Overuse of herbs and seasoning is a common theme in these lands. The price of spices and salt doesn’t help either. This results in dishes being disastrous with different kinds of spices mixed together into one complete mess of flavours, oftentimes ruining the food. It does not matter if it is a fish, vegetable, or a meat dish, everything tasted the same under the assault of heavy seasoning. The horrors of Benevis cooking has the ability to make deceased cooks in our world rise from their graves in rage and force Gordon Ramsey to start mass production of idiot sandwiches.

We advise travelers to The Benevis Kingdom to treat local dishes as visual artworks, maybe viewing them while drinking wine. Please, of your own sake, refrain from eating any of them.


Seleru

The area of Seleru is dry. Desert winds made growing crops hard, even if there are rivers present. As a result, seafood from the Sea of Lyte dominates the dining table of the commoners and the elites of Seleru’s society.

Cites in this region all sit near the coast so that they can get the most out of the sea. Fishing vessels, from small reed boats to large wooden ships, sail across the clear waters to bring back anything that they can earn otras with. These range from the usual fish, to shellfish such as mussel, scallops, shrimps, crabs and sometimes even lobsters. Fresh food from the sea is affordable for the common people. Seaweed is also farmed as a substitute to vegetables, showing just how dependent the people in this area are on the Sea of Lyte. This dependence on the sea also drives the price of animal meat high since they are rare and have to be imported from the south.

Roasting over a fire is the most common way of cooking in these parts. Other cooking methods is present, but are just not as common. For tourist who like seafood roasted with garlic, the coastal cities in Seleru are perfect for you. Spices are often applied in powder form instead of a sauce in Seleru cuisine. The most common types include dried thyme, fennel, cumin, and garlic. Eating utensils are crude in Seleru as compare to the Benevis kingdoms: Where Benevans have spoons, forks, and knifes for eating, there is often just a wooden stick or none at all in Seleru. Dishes are also presented the way they are prepared, void of any decoration. That being said, most food that our research team sampled aren’t bad. Some even taste good.

Desert dwellers in southern Seleru often live a nomadic lifestyle. Dried meat, preserved fish either in salt or smoked, and other dried sea foods, are the daily diet of the nomadic tribes here. Cactus is on the menu too if one can find any. All in all our researchers find the food in Seleru to be acceptable. The food is not bad; however, variety is lacking.


Yvatshun

Forest dominates Yvatshun. From building materials to religion all the way to food and drinks, forests and trees define who the Yvabirans are. Vast areas in the region are covered by dense forest making it one of the greenest places in Riiga.

While farming is present in Yvatshun provides basic crops such as wheat and barley, much of the food seen on the dinner tables in the common household of the region comes from the forest. Meat is often sold by hunters, while berries, nuts, and mushrooms can be easily seen in every market in the region. Towns and cities near rivers also get access to fish and other freshwater shellfish. After some simple cooking, these would already be considered food in other major cultures in Riiga but not for the Yvabirans. In fact, presenting a meat stew or a roasted fish is the worst insult to any Yvabiran. They view the food stuffs above to be mere ingredients. Real food, in the eyes of the people in Yvatshun, should be carefully prepared, cooked to perfection, and presented as well as they can. They should be in the form of pastry.

Pies dominate the dinner table in Yvatshun. The first page of the menu of every tavern in this land will be about the signature pies they offer, be they sweet like an apple pie or salty like a meat pie. Those places without such a menu will be labeled as subpar. These pie comes in different shapes and sizes, and depending on the chef’s skills, they can also be aesthetically pleasing. Due to the lack of spices in the region, these pies often only use salt as seasoning with others using sauce created by meticulously mixing berries and herbs together. Our researchers tried to find out how the people prepare the sauce for pies, but they all ended up with a pie in the face and were told to leave by locals.

Berries also serves as another ingredient of a dish which is famous around and beyond Yvatshun. Cakes are a must-have in any Yvabiran festival, just like how there must be beer at a party. Condensed fruit juice replaces the rare sugar, and are mixed with egg, milk, and butter in order to create the sweet pastry. Yvabiran cakes are often decorated with different kinds of fruit and nuts along with jams and cream to add colour. Since cocoa needs to be imported from far away, chocolate cakes are reserved for nobles and royalties.

The people of Yvatshun export jams of berries and fruits in sealed glass jars, mostly to their western neighbors. The concept of cake also spread to the Benevis Kingdoms. While Benevan cakes' beauty and elegance surpassed their Yvabiran counterparts, they are also responsible for the term ‘Benevan cakes’ which means that something is not what it seems to be from the outside ... with negative connotation.


Qarbak

As the place where east meets west in this continent, the towns and cities of Qarbak are the perfect stopping place for merchants and traders to unwind before continuing their journey on The Archroad.

Goods and cargo come and go in these parts, with trains and ships lining up to get a spot in stations and harbours. The customs officers often treat all goods as equal, no matter if it is gold, wood, textiles, or weapons. There are always exception to the rule, though. If a merchant presents a coin of green stained glass at any port/station official, their docking request will be granted immediately and their trains/ships will be escorted with guards that are armed to the teeth. The merchant with green glass coins are the lifeline for the towns and cities in this place, and the cargo they move are the most precious items in these lands -- food.

Qarbak have little lands suitable for farming basic crops. Back in ancient times when this region is sparsely populated, this was not a big issue; however, with the emergence of The Archroad, the population grew. Although seafood like fish, octopus ,and crabs can be sourced from the Sea of Lions -- plus spices are common around the coast -- these alone could not support the rising population. In order to feed their population the people of Qarbak came up with clever ways to increase their food supply. Seafood farming was pioneered here and experiments with greenhouses have yielded some results. Despite this, food still needs to be imported to meet the demand. Merchants of The Archroad supply Qarbak with food from both ends of the line, keeping the trade hub alive.

The most important rule of cooking in Qarbak is that nothing goes to waste. The people of the region -- from common housewives to established chefs -- will not waste any edible part of an ingredient. Efficiency means that every cooking method is explored in order to bring out the most out of the ingredients. As an example, the research team had three dishes on their first day here, those three dishes are deep fried fish bones, roasted fish fillet and fish soup made from fish innards. These three dishes all came from the same fish which is the size of a normal salmon, and it managed to feed ten people nicely. Spices are used to add flavor and mask the fishy scent, making the dishes more appetising and colourful. Vegetables include seaweeds and cactus, and almost all carbohydrates such as rice and noodles are imported.

Due to the unique location, cultural exchange between the east and west often happens in Qarbak. Cooking styles and cuisine are also mixed together. Taverns of different cuisines from different cultures can be found here as well as local ones, which seems to be a mash up of different cooking styles and methods.

(This is a public message from the Oolu Empire: wasting food is an uncivilized behavior and a punishable offense. Finish what you have started!)


Teman

Apart from wars and plagues, food has never been a major concern for anyone living in Teman. The entire area has plenty of arable land and easy access to the sea, make this place the envy of the Temanea's western neighbors.

With the abundance of food and cooking ingredients, food is more than basic survival in Teman. To a Temanean, a meal is something to long forward to. Eating is not just about filling one’s stomach; it is also about enjoying the experience. Traditional Teman cuisine reflects this notion. Cooking is geared towards taste and aesthetics. One such example is the knife-work of Temanean chefs in traditional restaurants. Years of training enables them to craft bunnies from carrots and flowers from cucumber. This attention to details comes does come with its trade-off: the meals take many hours to prepare. If you want to dine in such restaurant but don’t want to wait three hours doing so like the research team did, it is best to reserve a seat beforehand. Reservation can be made by letter or in person.

Homemade meals and food offered by taverns and inns are much simpler than traditional Teman dish in terms of preparation, and while they are at a lower quality compare to the higher end establishments, they are still appetising. Vegetables and meat are common on the plates of average Temaneans with the meat mostly coming from pigs and poultry. For areas near the ocean, fish and shellfish are also on the menu. Cooking methods are mainly steaming and stir fries, although due to thanks to the Archroad and the culture exchange it brings, other types of cooking method are also observed. Regardless of origin, these dishes are often sided with rice, the main basic crop of the region. They are served with in a plate and eaten with spoon and fork, Temaneans prefer have their own plate.

Temanean snacks deserve special mention: Commonly made from rice, these deep fried treats come in different shape, sizes, and flavours depending on the dynasty. For example, Ho Da’s salty rice biscuit is in the shape of an anchor, commemorating Admiral Huy Jun who founded the kingdom. Ruipin’s sweet rice cracker is shaped like a tiny brick wall which serves as a representation of the Ladarean Wall nearby. These snacks go great with wine. Too bad there isn’t any good wine around to go with them.

P.S One small note for travelers that want to visit Teman: Do not finish your food; always leave some on the plate. A clean plate is an insult to the host’s hospitality since finishing everything on the dish means that the host did not prepare enough for the guest.


Vaman

The research team have concluded, during their stay in Vaman, that Vamans love beans. It seems that beans made it onto everyone’s plate in the region, albeit taking different forms to do so in the process.

Soy beans are the most common kind of beans found growing in Vamans’ farmlands. Vaman soy beans can be harvested multiple times in a year, which means they tend to have much more beans than they need to feed everyone. With abundance comes low prices. This means that guilds specialising in food production need to come up with something innovative to sell the soy beans, and normal people can easily acquire it to make new flavors with it. As such, tofu, soy milk and noodles made out of soy beans appeared over time.

Tofu in Vaman comes mainly in two different types: soft and hard, with different seasonings to make it sweet or salty. Soft tofu are mainly steamed or made in to soup while hard tofu is used in fried or stir-fried dishes, which are often served with soy sauce. Soy milk is commonly provided in taverns and restaurants. Noodles made from soybeans often served with bean paste soup. After making everything they can with soybeans, Vamans often have leftovers after making the foodstuffs above. As such, keeping livestock is common in Vaman farms. That means meat is available to the public. Normal household meals of the region mainly consist of bean-based products and meat from poultry or pigs. Beef is affordable only to the wealthy.

Although other cultures have ice houses of their own, Vaman ice houses are the most efficient of them all since they are able to keep ice throughout the hottest summer days. The makes Vamans the first to commercialise the use of ice houses. Only elites or renowned businesses have access to these engineering marvels. Established restaurants in Vaman can be identified by an ice house within their establishment. These ice houses are often painted white in colour to reflect sunlight, keeping the inside cool. These structures commonly feature a heat-exchange mechanism in the form of running water inside the outer walls in the summer to transfer heat away from the structure. This makes serving cold drinks and dishes possible in these refined dining places. Alongside cold drinks, puddings made with green and red beans are also on the menu, with icecream being the most expensive item of them all.

Chopsticks are commonly used to eat in Vaman -- especially in traditional Vaman banquets -- although spoons and forks are common as well due to increasing trade with Temanea and Benevis. In wealthier households, glass cups are used to serve drinks. These cups are often decorated with carvings or adorned with colours. The intricacy of these glass wares are often seen as a symbol of power and wealth of the owner.


Remdor

Under the influence of no less than three major cultures in all of Riiga, Remdor’s food culture is the most diverse one to be found. In fact, since the food culture of Remdor is heavily influenced by Seleru and Into, and more recently by Benevis and Vaman, it is very difficult to pinpoint what exactly is the genuine Remdor cuisine.

Remdor cuisine can be split in to three major groups: North, Central and South. North Remdor cuisine is influenced by Seleru. Apart from seafood, vegetables and meat are also in the diet of the northern part of the region. Cooking methods of North Remdor cuisine involves mainly grilling and baking influence by Seleru and Benevis, with smoking as a means of preserving food during winter. Cheese is one of the products that comes from this area. High quality cheese has high demand in both Vaman and Benevis.

In Central Remdor, under the influence of Benevis, aesthetics is emphasised to the point where the placement of decoration is seen as an art to master by Central Remdorian chefs. Central Remdorian cuisine has access to a wide range of ingredients due to the geological position and trade, with beans, wheat, and even rice available to them, alongside fish, greens, and meat. Noodles are the main forms of dish in this area, ranging from soup noodles to stir fried ones. Instead of bread, rice is baked with a wide variety of toppings, including vegetables, seafood, and poultry with sauce-like bean paste from Vaman, and cheese from the north. The use of spices is common, although the amount used is less than what is commonly applied in Benevan foods. The locals also brew alcohol; however, since access to grapes is limited and they are of lower quality, Remdorian wine is considered subpar when compared to their foreign counterparts.

South Remdorian dishes are spicy. Since it is close to Into, spices from further south, such as different kinds of peppers, are available through trade. The region’s favorite seasoning is the domestic red pepper. Dishes in South Remdor also always features sauce. These sauces are always spicy, made with red pepper and vegetable juice such as tomatoes, and sometimes lime will be added of extra flavor. Cooking mainly involves steaming and simmering. These dishes are often served with bread made from bean flour.

As trade and cultural exchange becomes more and more frequent across the north and south of Remdor, the border between these three cuisine groups are becoming increasingly blurred. Fusion dishes of the North, Central and South cuisines are common. For example, baked rice with red pepper sauce is common in the southern areas of Remdor while in the north, spicy mixed vegetables are replaced with mixed greens in cheese sauce. As different ingredients and cooking method are circulated throughout the region, Remdorian chefs are often regarded as the most experienced cooks in the new world. The exploration of new ingredients and ways to cook them is partly due to the people of Remdor enjoys good food, and partly due to the support from the Sect since it is believe sharing knowledge in cooking is a sacrifice which will result in blessing. It is no surprise then that the food tastes good in Remdor, and that most of the books originating from Remdor are cookbooks.


By Dennis