Doesn’t Buddas of Bamiyan look like something out of Star Wars? Welcome to Afghanistan, a landlocked country situated between Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. It holds the title for the most flag changes out of any other country- a total of 26! This country is known for its extreme weather due to its large range of elevation of 23,734ft between its highest and lowest points and contrasting arid and mountainous terrains. The world’s oldest oil paintings have been found in Afghanistan and date back to 650 BC. Lastly did you know Afghans have been asking for their national game buzkashi or goat grabbing to become an Olympic sport? Wouldn’t that be interesting..
The cuisine of Afghanistan has influence from India, Persia, and Central Asia. Rice using usually found at the base of every meal accompanied by meat (lamb and chicken mostly), nuts, fruit, and vegetables. Tea like in many countries is a sign of hospitality and often shared between family and friends. The recipe I decided to make is called Kabuli Palau, also known as Qabili Palau which is Afghanistan’s national dish! This decadent dish was first made by the upper class Afghans, but over time as society became wealthier the dish was made all over the country despite status. The name then changed from Kabuli Palau to Qabili Palau. Its said that the ability of a Afghan woman to make this dish will effect her marriage prospects (dramatic eye roll).. If this dish entices you click here.
To help myself out I decided to cook the carrot, raisin, and almonds the night before so that I wasn’t so crunched on time during the week. The recipe was easy to follow and used basic cooking techniques. The chicken smelled so lovely while it cooked!
What a beautiful dish! I knew from the get go it was going to be delicious. The warmth from the seasoning for the rice and meat is well balanced with the caramelized carrots, almonds, and raisins. Overall it left me feeling completely satisfied! We have already made this meal again since it was originally made, it is now part of my repertoire. We rated it 8.75/10.
Doesn’t that look nice? I would love to be sticking my toes in that warm, white sand.. but instead of sand I’m stuck with white snow. Anyways.. welcome to Seychelles! You can find this African country in the Indian Ocean north of Madagascar. Seychelles is an archipelago made up of 115 islands with 8 being having the majority of inhabitants. Interestingly there were no inhabitants until the late 1700s when the French discovered the islands. These are the only islands in the world that are formed from granite versus typical volcanic or coral elements. The worlds largest seed, Coco de Mer, can weigh up to 40lbs and can be found on two of the 115 islands making it heavily (pun intended) protected due to its variety.
The cuisine of the island is like many other neighboring islands. Local produce and seafood dominate the main course which includes shark chutneys and fish curries. You can eat the cherished Coco de Mer seeds however due to their size and harvesting rules many do not. Breadfruit is very popular here and according to legend if you eat breadfruit here you will return some day. I used this recipe which was actually created by Chef Daniel Louis on the island of Mahe, Seychelles. The recipe is for traditional shrimp creole curry. Creole cuisine ) is a mix of African, French, Spanish, and Caribbean influences that involve a lot of spice and heat using simple cooking methods.
Cooking and preparation was simple using basic cooking techniques. I liked that this recipe used a whole cinnamon stick to give a deeper flavor. Good thing I still have 50+ from a previous order..🙃
As you know we love shrimp dishes and this one didn’t disappoint! We enjoyed the warmth from the ginger and curry, however it did remind us of some dishes we have made before. The shrimp pairs well with these flavors and the coconut rice is just a given at this point (it is the only way to eat rice with curry flavors). We though it was deserving of a 7.25/10. Side not still not a huge fan of eggplant- think I will pass in the future🍆
I had to try tamales, it would be pretty bad if I didn’t right? If you haven’t heard of tamales they are essentially a ground corn batter and filled with meats, herbs, and vegetables wrapped traditionally in corn husks. The word tamale comes from the Náhuatl word tamilli meaning wrapped. This meal is another dish with ancient roots that was believed first be made by the Aztecs. Originally they were cooked over the hot coals, but when the Spanish conquistadors came to Mexico they brought pots and other cook wear which lead to steaming the tamales. Tamales were sometimes prepared for religious ceremonies and offered to the gods. To recreate this iconic dish I used a modern approach- the crock pot (found here).
If you have come this far and are interested in making these just be warned it takes FOREVER. Even with a slow cooker recipe there is a lot of prep work that was spread out over two days. I started with the corn husks then while those were boiling I started on the filling. I chose the ground beef, carrots, and potato filling. For anyone who has made these before you can see the struggle can’t you?
Once I got them wrapped and felt satisfied with my work I broke out the tin foil and made a “rack” for my tamales to sit on.
I stood the tamales upright with another layer of foil beneath to protect them from getting wet. The kinda look legit right? 🙃
So there is a reason why I didn’t have pictures of the tamales in their final form unwrapped and exposed- they were pretty ugly. Ian decided to jazz it up the plate with lime wedges and a dish of salsa. Unfortunately these finishing touches did not save the tamales.
Cooper who stayed with us for the weekend didn’t even think they were appetizing.. I don’t know where I went wrong but the texture was rubbery, the flavor was mild, and it did not stay together in one piece. I have never had a true tamale before so I was not sure to what to compare it to, but my fiancé has had the real deal on the border of Mexico and this was NOT it. We rated it 5/10 😔
At least you can enjoy a picture of Cooper being a good boy.
Disclaimer- I actually did not make traditional pozole rojo stew- could not find all the ingredients and modified it to a taco format. The meat was still cooked in the same way.
Today I bring you another dish that was first made by the native indigenous people, pozole rojo. This slow cooked stew was created by the Aztecs which is made up of hominy, pork, spices, and tomato. Hominy is dry corn kernels that are soaked in an alkali solution and are used in Mexican cuisine. This dish was traditionally made for special occasions and still is today. It can be prepared in several ways, but often is made with a red salsa. In Mexico it isn’t uncommon for pigs head to be used! The recipe I used today can be found here.
So here’s the dilemma.. I looked up what hominy since I had never heard of it. I saw that it was available at my local grocery store so I planned to buy it there however when I got there it was no place to be found. Tried a pick up order, but it wasn’t in stock! So I looked up a substitute which Google said was white beans. I got the beans, but reading up on the recipe (yes I know that’s a bit late Paige..) and did not feel it would work out. So I decided to make a pulled pork like taco with the same accoutrements.
So once the meat was complete I shredded it up, prepared the toppings and assembled this beauty. The radish definitely gave the dish a zing, but the avocado helped balance that. I used the beans as a side as well which was meh in my opinion. The meat was very tender and well seasoned. At the end of the day I was disappointed but at least it didn’t completely fail? 😅 We rated it 7.5/10
Mexico is home to the most diverse corn in the world with a total of 64 varieties found throughout the country. This crop was first domesticated in Honduras (6600 BCE – 3500 BCE) and eventually made its way up to Mexico where it was used greatly by the indigenous people. Today we will be honoring that staple by making elotes or as most know it Mexican street corn! Elote was born in Mexico City and quickly spread throughout the Americas. It became popular because it was portable and tasty! Restaurants sometimes will serve this up as a side dish, but tonight it is the dish! Recipes can vary and include an array of toppings but I decided to go the classic route.
First you start by cooking the corn. Traditionally you would grill them, but I chose to boil them. While the corn is preparing combine the remaining ingredients to make your sauce. If you are unfamiliar with cotija cheese it reminds me of feta with a similar texture.
Once your corn is cooked just slather the sauce on evenly and garnish with cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. Be warned a little sauce goes a long ways! If you want a kick you can add a little chili powder (not pictured).
Ian was a bit overwhelmed by the sauce and found it tasty but very heavy, I on the other hand thought it was heavenly. I think if you are able to grill the corn it would have elevated the dish. We made up some chicken to go with the meal but it honestly is so filling it could have been eaten alone. We rated it 7/10!
Happy New Year! May this year bring you tasty food and flavorful experiences!
Our 93rd country brings us to MEXICO!! Ian is super excited because Mexican food is his favorite cuisine and he is hoping I can dish up something new and amazing (no pressure..)
Mexico is part of North America making up the southern portion and land bridge to Central America. It borders three bodies of water; The Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea. Mexico is home to 68 indigenous languages apart from Spanish. This country is also home to several volcanos making up 75% of the world’s and is located along the Ring of Fire. Another unique natural feature of Mexico is its vast underwater cave system which is the largest in the world! Mayan tradition says that these underwater pathways serve as the entrance to the underworld. Dead of the Dead or Día de los Muertos is a holiday that originated back in Aztec times where they used actual skulls to honor their past loved ones.
Mexican cuisine is well loved around the world (and in this household) and was named by UNESCO part of the Immaterial World Cultural Heritage. Spanish and indigenous influence blend together in today’s Mexican cuisine. The dish I started our Mexican journey on is carnitas! Carnitas translates to “little meats” and is a simmered/braised pork in fat (traditionally lard) that is then shredded once cooked fully. Carnitas is thought to have originated in Michoacán, Mexico however the topic is still disputed today. The flavors and other elements of true Mexican carnitas differs on where you go. Authentic Michoacán carnitas use bay leaves, thyme, and marjoram to flavor the meat. The cut of meat typically used is pork butt or shoulder. I used this recipe which uses different flavor ingredients.
Man oh man was I excited to get going on this one, but once I got the meat out of the package I quickly noticed the nightmare I was going to face. The pork shoulder (with bone) took a good 45 minutes to remove all of the meat. This hefty cut of meat was awkward to maneuver and required a lot of elbow grease to cut through. Maybe I did something very wrong here, but I will definitely not underestimate a big cut of meat again.
The rest of the cooking and prepping was simple, just time consuming with a healthy amount of cursing. Poor Ian didn’t know what to do. 😅 It didn’t help that we were serving this to guests as well so you know extra stress.. I used butter instead of lard to cook the pork (partially because I didn’t know where to get lard).
Luckily all the hard work paid off and everyone enjoyed the meal. The pork was juicy and sweet from the butter with cinnamon and orange notes. The saltiness of the cotija cheese balanced the sweetness well. I made sure to have a good line up of toppings which all worked out well together. I had extra homemade salsa on hand which is important for any Mexican meal. Fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice is a must! We rated the dish 7.75/10.
Oh do I wish I was someplace warm right now! I feel Maine’s winter has been pretty mild so far but that tropical climate seems to be calling my name. Today we explore Fiji, a country of the South Pacific Ocean composed of more than 300 islands (110 of which are inhabited). This archipelago nation became independent from Great Britain in October of 1970 and is well known in the tourist industry. Walking across a hot bed of stones originated in Fiji around 500 years ago by the Sawau tribe. Fiji is also the “soft coral” capital of the world and has over 4,000 square miles across its nation with several popular places to snorkel. Additionally “Fiji Water” is one of the main exports of the country and is drank world wide.
The cuisine of Fiji is made up mostly of local ingredients whether if be foraged, hunted, farmed, or caught. With colonization teas, rice, grains, and flour are other staples in their diet. Seasonal produce is usually highlighted in their cooking. Coconut, taro, cassava, and bele (native vegetable) are especially popular here. The meal I made today tries to embody the nation using (or substituting) local ingredients. This chili coconut prawn (shrimp) recipe can be found here.
The execution was easy and used known ingredients. I added some peppers to give the dish more color and substance. I opted to make coconut rice to really bring out those sweet flavors (and because I’m obsessed).
Another awesome shrimp dish! The shrimp was super savory and paired well with the coconut rice (winning rice flavor in my opinion). The spice was enjoyable and complimented the dish. This one was worthy of 8/10.
Hey guys, here’s a little Christmas present to close out the year! I’m sorry I’ve been absent the past few months life has been busy!
Argentina was our next travel destination- home of marveling landscapes, mouth-watering meats, and tantalizing tangos! The name of this large South American country translates from the Latin word argentum to silver due to the land’s plentiful minerals. Pictured above is the well-known Patagonia, a true adventurers dream which is a region found at the southern most tip of South America (also part of Chile). The Andes divides the two countries and makes the landscape more extreme. Found in rural areas you can find traditional gauchos. Gauchos are Argentinian cowboys that like American cowboys have distinctive dress which includes wool ponchos and sombrero or bolero hats. These cowboys are known for their bravery and skill with livestock. Speaking of livestock.. lets talk about the traditional Argentinian fare!
Argentinian cuisine has heavy European influence (Spain, Italy, and other Mediterranean countries) and consists of meats (mostly beef), grains, fruits, and vegetables. With agriculture being a substantial part of the country’s culture beef and other livestock products are found in much of their cuisine. On the 29th of every month you can find many Argentinians eating gnocchi with money under their plate. This easy to make meal is thought to bring good luck and fortune in the following month.
The meal I decided to prepare is called matambre or stuffed flank steak which literally translates to “hunger killer” so I think this will leave you satisfied. Traditionally to make this dish you will use flank steak or a butterflied thicker steak which you cover in a chimichurri sauce which contains cilantro, parsley, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Other versions of this dish can include carrots instead of peppers, its up to you! Next, place then add a layer of bell peppers and hard boiled egg before rolling and securing the meat with twine or unflavored floss. The preferred method of completing the dish involves grilling the meat until it reaches the desired doneness of your liking. This recipe for matambre can be found here.
Due to the time of year and our grill being finicky I cooked it in the oven at 400 degrees. This recipe was pretty easy to follow and used common ingredients. I typically have twine on hand which works well to contain the meat and maintain a somewhat uniformed meat roll. Make sure to not be stingy with the chimichurri sauce as this pairs well with the meat.
This dish made me obsessed with chimichurri sauce- I didn’t even know I was missing out! If you wanted to be “extra” you could totally do this as a breakfast meal, but the steak sits a little to heavy for me. Unfortunately, the meat cut I had used was a bit tough in areas and due to its thickness took longer than anticipated to cook. All the elements rolled up well together and brought a solid dinner to the table. We rated Argentina’s dish 7.25/10.
After our journey west we are going northeast to Mongolia. This eastern Asian country is bordered by China and Russia and is one of the largest landlocked country in the world. It is also the least populated country with over 25% of its inhabitants living the nomadic lifestyle. Mongolia is sometimes referred to as “the land of blue skies” because of how often the skies are clear. The Gobi desert makes up the southern border of the country and has an impressive dinosaur fossil reserve. Wild horses run abundant here with a ratio of 13: 1 to humans. Endangered snow leopards and two hump Bactrian camels are also native here.
In Mongolia there are some truly unique traditions around their food. “Airbag” or fermented horse milk is one of the most popular drinks with spiritual importance. Another popular food despite below freezing temperatures is ice cream! It is believed to be first created in Mongolia but it wasn’t the sweet treat we love today but rather meats stored in intestines and the jolting from riding on a horse made an ice cream like substance.. I’ll pass!
Mongolian cuisine primarily consists of meats, fats, and dairy products due to the climate and resources of the country. Due to its location China and Russia have influenced their cuisine. Today I make a better known dish- Mongolian chicken! This simple but incredibly savory meal can be found in Chinese and Asian fast-food restaurants and was actually invented in Taiwan. I did not realize the lack of Mongolian authenticity until after the fact so there will be a Mongolia round two..🙃 Does that mean I need to round up some intestines and a wild horse? Nonetheless lets continue, here is the recipe.
Well at least it was easy to prepare and took few ingredients. I decided to add some golden zucchini (glorified zucchini) to the dish to add color and balance. The cornstarch was definitely a game changer and allowed the sauce to coat evenly.
This was a meal we needed! Simple, quick, and delicious- check, check and check! The chicken was insanely delicious, the sauce was very similar to teriyaki, and this could have earned the perfect 10 if it had more elements to the dish. I can see myself making this in the future using this recipe as the base to a bad ass stir fry! 9.5/10, so close darling! We will have Mongolia take two in the future to find the real deal.
Welcome back! Today we head even more west to the Solomon Islands! This sovereign country is made up of 900 smaller and 6 major islands east of Australia and close to Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. The islands were first inhabited 3,000 years ago by the Lapita people, a group of prehistoric Austronesian people. Due to its location in the Coral Triangle the country is known for incredible diving experiences. Between three of the countries larger islands lies the world’s largest salt water lagoon, Marovo Lagoon. Below the surface Vangunu Island has the most active submarine volcano. The economy here is mostly made up of agricultural, fishery, and forestry resources.
Cuisine of the island like many others is made up of native plants, fish, and game. Fish is the most abundant resource and is prepared in a variety of ways. Coconut, cassava, sweet potato, plantains, bananas, rice, and taro roots are also very commonly used. Influence is made up of Indian, Asian, and Spanish along with Polynesian. Today’s dish combines a lot of the ingredients mentioned above and is an example of what a meal may consist of if your were to visit the island. The recipe of this dish can be found here.
I don’t known about you, but I have never had papaya before and neither has Ian. I thought the flesh was very similar to cantaloupe however the seeds were very unique and unexpected. I almost had my stove top maxed out while preparing the dish but overall it wasn’t too challenging and used simple and known cooking methods.
This dish was another unique one. We had never had papaya before and thought it would have been sweeter. Overall it was kind of bland, but it was colorful and had a good variety of ingredients. I would recommend playing around with Asian or Indian spices to jazz it up. The dish was rated 6.5/10 between the two of us.