Earlier this month, my husband and I were fortunate enough to travel back to Seattle to see friends and family… and eat some of our favorite foods that we’ve been longing for in Sweden! Some Seattle classics are a MUST on our list when we visit… we had a wonderful lunch with Chris’s grandparents at Varlamos Pizza (remember back when I posted about missing American-style pizza?) … I got my Asian food fix with Than Brothers Pho and Dim Sum at Din Tai Fung (Stockholm doesn’t even come close to comparing to the authentic Asian cuisine in Seattle)… and of course, we had to meet friends at the famous Dick’s Drive-in for classic cheeseburgers and fries…
But my husband’s absolute favorite place to eat in Seattle is Ezell’s Chicken. It could have something to do with the fact that he went to high school just across the street from their original location… but also because they really do have the best fried chicken. And he is not the only one who loves Ezell’s…. it’s also Oprah’s favorite fried chicken, which she would often have flown in when craving one of their delicious meals.
Chris would DEFINITELY do this if he could.
Which is why I decided to make our own fried chicken… it is not to Ezell’s level, but it will just have to do whenever we get a fried chicken craving here in Sweden. (Sorry, Chris, we don’t have Oprah’s funds or fame to get Ezell’s flown to us!).
Although we love Seattle’s food and we miss our friends/family, Chris and I both realized that this latest visit was the first time Seattle didn’t really feel like “home” anymore. Sure, we talk about visiting “home” to Seattle (and returning “home” to Stockholm… it definitely gets a bit confusing!)… but the feeling of “home” wasn’t really there this time around. Before the trip we were both worried that two weeks in Seattle would feel too short… but surprisingly, we were both really ready to go home at the end of two weeks… home to Stockholm, that is.
While walking in our neighborhood the other day, Chris and I were talking about this exact topic… reflecting on how our feelings in and about Stockholm have changed over the last year… and how our feelings about Seattle have changed as well. We thought back to when we first moved to Stockholm, when we spent so much time wandering around the city and felt so excited to try new restaurants and experiences… then the frustration when we couldn’t figure out where to buy certain items, like mosquito netting, and wishing we could just hop in a car and drive to the Home Depot by our old place in the States… and later Chris learning Swedish phrases and cultural meanings at work, and me baking fika treats for his office… to now… going to Seattle and feeling like a visitor.
But we are not alone in going through this process or these feelings! There are actually four different phases that all expats go through after moving abroad, and I think we have finally found ourselves through them all. Granted, these phases are not set in stone and you can often fluctuate between them (you don’t go to sleep one night thinking, “I miss home,” and then wake up the next morning saying, “Now I feel comfortable here!”)… but I definitely feel like we have at least entered the fourth and final phase.
But let’s start at the beginning…
Stage 1: Honeymoon Stage
Just like in relationships, moving to a new city brings along a Honeymoon Phase… this is the phase where everything feels exciting and new. It almost feels like being on an extended vacation! I remember being in this phase when we first moved over, especially because it was August and the weather happened to be beautiful. Chris wasn’t working yet, so we got to spend our days together, exploring the city and discovering where we lived. I think maybe once or twice a week we’d go do some tourist activity, whether a museum or going to a park… and we ate out A LOT. I remember having so much fun wandering around the area we lived in, discovering new places at every turn, imagining what life would be like for us in Sweden. It was lovely!
Cheesy food analogy: in this phase you’re discovering all the different flavors and ingredients that make your new home unique… like the breading for this chicken, with its 13 different ingredients, it can feel so exciting to add each newly discovered spice to your life.
Stage 2: Frustration Stage
This is the stage where you really start to feel like an outsider. Since I’ve been coming to Sweden for most of my life, there were some things that were not a surprise to me… I knew about fika… I knew you absolutely have to stand on the right side of the escalator (otherwise you risk getting yelled at)… and I knew that before standing in line anywhere you have to make sure you aren’t supposed to take a number (Swedes love being organized with their lines). But some things were still a surprise for me… like I had no idea how the health care system worked here, or how to even find a doctor… or how horrible and frustrating customer service is… or simple things like where to buy mosquito netting for our windows (which is when we discovered our new favorite store, Clas Ohlson!). Although I did not have it as hard as Chris in getting used to Swedish life, I think I felt more frustrated when I didn’t know something that I felt like I was supposed to know. When people expected me to know something, as a Swedish citizen or because I have a Swedish name, I felt extra embarrassed when I didn’t. This was a hard phase for both Chris and I, especially because we didn’t experience it in the same way and had a hard time understanding how the other one felt.
Cheesy food analogy: You feel like you’re being dipped between two places, neither one where you really belong… like this chicken being dipped between the breading mixture, the egg mixture, and back to the breading mixture.
Stage 3: Understanding Phase
Thank goodness this phase comes around eventually… if you’ve recently moved abroad and are stuck in phase 2, just remember IT GETS BETTER! This phase really started when Chris started working here… by this point we had figured out most small details (like where to buy mosquito nets) and had a pretty good grasp on cultural expectations… but once Chris started working, we finally got a taste of how daily life and work environment looked like in Sweden. We were forced to understand how insurance and the unions work in Sweden, things you would only interact with if you have a job. Chris was exposed to Swedish cultural jokes through his coworkers, and would often come home with little tidbits about Swedish life or common phrases that I sometimes didn’t even know. Even today we sometimes encounter situations we don’t quite understand yet (for example, I just got a call the other day for the TV tax… might need to talk to someone about how this works!), but overall we feel pretty comfortable in our life here.
Cheesy food analogy: In this phase you are in the process of changing, though you haven’t quite gone through it yet… like this chicken in the process of crisping up in the hot oil.
Stage 4: Acclimation
Which brings us to the last phase, and the one we have currently entered. This is the phase where you start to feel you actually fit in and belong. We no longer feel guilty about not tipping (or tipping very little) and actually it was the reverse this time around… I felt really strange tipping when we went out to eat in Seattle. We’ve been to the doctor and know how the health care system works… we’ve figured out how to order things online (although we still really wish we had Amazon!)… and most importantly, we’ve made good friends who make us feel at home in this city. Almost every weekend is full with fun activities and obligations… the signs of typical daily life anywhere in the world.
Cheesy food analogy: You have completed the process and you are a new and improved YOU… just like this chicken became its delicious crunchy, flavor-filled self :).
But just because we feel at home in Stockholm, doesn’t mean there aren’t still things we miss about Seattle. We miss our friends, but feel pretty lucky to live in a world with FaceTime and Facebook. We sometimes miss having a car (mostly when we go to IKEA), although we really missed the Swedish subway system when we were visiting Seattle. And, as mentioned earlier, we definitely miss the food.
Luckily, this fried chicken turned out to be a pretty good temporary replacement… just until we can eat Ezell’s again :). Full disclosure, this is not entirely my own recipe… it is based off of this one, which I discovered a few months ago while looking for an Ezell’s copycat recipe, and it has quickly become a favorite in our house (with a few minor changes). First of all, the crust is super crunchy and flavorful with 13 ingredients in the breading alone! The crunch comes from the mixture of cornmeal, flour, panko breadcrumbs, and the surprise ingredient… crushed potato chips (or we’ve also tried it with corn flakes instead)! We also love how moist the chicken becomes, even after frying, due to soaking it in a milk and yogurt mixture (the original recipe calls for buttermilk, which we just can’t seem to find here).
Oh and I can’t forget the dipping sauces! We bought some spicy BBQ sauce (even though Chris makes his own which is even better… recipe might have to show up on the blog this summer!), made a quick buffalo sauce with Tabasco plus clarified butter, and finally a honey-mustard sauce with equal parts honey and mustard (pretty self explanatory). All three sauces were perfect with the fried chicken…
Both Chris and I appreciate a good coleslaw, so it seemed like a natural addition to this meal. Since the chicken needs to marinate overnight, we decided to also let the coleslaw sit overnight, to make sure all the flavors and juices really got into the cabbage and carrots. It was a good decision….
And when I say “we” I should really be saying “Chris”…. he was almost a bigger part of this than me! He came up with the coleslaw recipe… and dealt with frying the chicken… and of course, volunteered to be a “taste tester” as always :). Three things I really love about Chris: (1) he is a great cook, (2) he is true to himself and finds ridiculous shirts, like the cabbage shirt shown above, and (3) he doesn’t make fun of me (too much) when I do crazy things to get good picture for the food blog, like using his shirt a as a background.
It was a beautiful day in Stockholm on the day we made this chicken, so we got to open up all the windows and take pictures in the sun…. with the weather getting warmer and the sun shining longer, it was a perfect way to remember how much we love our life here in Stockholm, while eating food that reminded us of how much we love our old home in Seattle as well. Both places have a special spot in our hearts and I am thankful to have two places to call “home” :).
American Fried Chicken
- 2 pounds boneless chicken / 1 kg benfria kyckling
- 1 cup Greek yogurt / 2.3 dl grekiska yoghurt
- 1 cup milk / 2.3 dl mjölk
- 3 eggs / ägg
- ⅓ cup water / .8 dl vatten
- 1 cup flour / 2.3 dl mjöl
- 1 tsp. baking powder / bakpulver
- ½ cup cornmeal / 1.1 dl majsmjöl
- ½ cup panko / 1.1 dl panko
- ½ cup crushed potato chips / 1.1 dl chips
- 2 tablespoons paprika / paprika
- 1 tablespoon onion powder / lökpulver
- 1 teaspoon sage / salvia
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder / vitlökpulver
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons black pepper / svartpeppar
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- Cut the chicken breasts into thirds, making long strips.
- Mix the milk and yogurt in a bowl, then add chicken and cover to soak in the fridge over night.
- When ready to fry, start by heating the oil in a large pot slowly until it reaches about 360°F / 180° C.
- Mix the egg and water together in a bowl.
- Mix the rest of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
- Dip one piece of chicken in the breading mixture, then into the egg mixture, then back into the breading mixture before placing in the heated oil.
- Fry each chicken piece for about 7-10 minutes, flipping occasionally (white meat will take less time than dark meat).
- Repeat with remaining chicken, frying 2-3 pieces at a time.
- Let finished chicken pieces rest on a paper towel to soak up any excess oil.
- ½ cabbage / kål
- 1 carrot / morot
- ¼ cup mayonnaise / .5 dl majonnäs
- ¼ cup greek yogurt / .5 dl grekiska yoghurt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper / svartpeppar
- 1 teaspoon onion powder / lökpulver
- 3 tablespoons sugar / socker
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar / 1.1 dl äpplecider vinäger
- Slice the cabbage into thin, small pieces.
- Shave the carrot into thin strips and place together with cabbage in a big bowl.
- Mix the other ingredients together in a separate bowl.
- Pour the liquid mixture over the cabbage and carrots, then cover and let sit for at least one hour or up to one day in the fridge.