Japan Day 4 – Gyudon

If your looking for a quick and easy meal that packs a tasty punch on a Friday night, Gyudon is a great option. In Japan this meal is consider a quick, comfort meal.

Although there are small variations in the recipes I found, there are consistent staple ingredients of thin slices of beef, thin slices of onion, egg, and a savory sauce that sits on top of rice. Although the ingredient list is short and simple this meal is flavorful.

Once considered lower-class budget meal, Gyudon has surged in popularity as a western influence on cuisine has increased in Japan. There was a time when consumption of beef was prohibited in Japan as it clashed with Buddhist philosophy. It has a reputation for filling your belly without breaking the bank and we found this to be true. The thinly sliced onions create bring sweetness to the dish. The simmered meat is tender and delicious.

The recipe I used can be found here. We thought this dish was worth 6-6.5/10 for a rating. It has a delicious fusion of flavor and a great week night meal. Tomorrow one more bonus dish will be made from Japan before heading to Africa.

Japan Day 3 – Onigiri and Miso Soup

Day 3 brings us onigiri (o-ni-ɡi-ri). I decided out of the many possible fillings I will fill mine with sha-ke and okaka (see below). Typically in Japan these snack sized treats can be found in convenience stores for an easy breakfast on the go or mid day snack. I will be pairing these rice triangles with miso soup to complete the meal.

The silver packets are miso soup cubes

Onigiri has a history that dates waaay back to around 800 A.D. when variations were made for travel and picnics. Wrapped in bamboo leaves they were food on the go for soldiers in the 16th century. Dried nori was then substituted in the 18th century which is still used today. Common fillings found tucked inside the rice include umeboshi (pickled plum), sha-ke (salted salmon), kombu (simmered seaweed), okaka (bonito flakes mixed with soy sauce), and tarako (salted cod roe) to name a few. When preparing this meal I referenced Kitchen Princess Bamboo (KPB) and Chopstick Chronicles. I made my own salted salmon like KPB does in her video.

The miso soup will be prepared from a packet mix to save time during the week. Miso soup is traditionally made with miso paste and dashi stock with various vegetables or tofu. I prepared my miso with spring onions and their greens.

We appreciated this lighter meal rating it mutually 6.5/10. This meal reminded us of sushi, but with more rice. I thought the okaka was especially flavorful. They were surprisingly filling and I was not able to eat all four of mine. I can see how this would be a good on the go snack and much healthier than the processed alternatives.

We will close out our week in Japan with Gyudon and a bonus recipe! Stay tuned 😊

Japan Day 2 – Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura

Welcome back to day 2 in Japan! I will be preparing tempura today which is a commonly found Japanese food outside of Japan. Despite the fact I had never had it before, my taste buds were ready!!

Tempura is traditionally various seafoods and vegetables deep fried and topped among a bed of short grain rice. The origins of deep frying food actually traces back to Portugal during the time of lent. The name tempura was mistakenly taken from the Latin words ad tempora cuaresme, which translates to in the time of lent. The Japanese had thought the original dish was named this and that is where the name tempura comes from.

Deep frying broccoli

Today’s recipe comes from the blog The Woks of Life. I was pretty excited (when am I not excited?) to try this dish. I am a huuuge fan of shrimp and will eat it every way it can be prepared. I wasn’t able to get fresh shrimp from the store that was wild caught, but frozen worked fine.

To be honest we thought it was too much of a good, greasy thing. We would have preferred the vegetables pan fried to add a contrast to the dish and make our tummies feel better. The shrimp was perfect and the sauce also paired well. Rice helped break up the grease, but overall there wasn’t too much seasoning that the recipe called for. I added salt and pepper after the fact, but I think mixing it into the batter would have been helpful. Although it looks super appealing, I would not recommend frying all the food. We rated the dish 5.5/10 for this reason. Next up is onigiri with miso soup, talk to you soon!

(11) Japan Day 1 – Tonkostu Ramen

Kon’nichiwa and welcome to Japan! This week we will be diving into Japanese cuisine making four traditional meals. Japan is an island country which is made up of over 6,800 islands- 430 of those being inhabited. Toyoko, the capital of this lovely country, is the most populated city in the world with a whopping 38 million citizens.

Source: Alfonso Calero

The first meal of the week will be authentic Tonkotsu Ramen executed in a modern way- time to break out the Instant Pot! Ramen is a popular noodle dish that is enjoyed around the world and prepared in various ways. The origins of ramen is debatable if you ask any food connoisseur, but it is actually thought to have come from China. Although the exact time frame is unknown, it is thought to have come to Japan when a man named Shu Shunsai escaped the Manchu rule of China with the recipe of ramen.

Another theory that has gone around is that a noodle shop of Toyoko called Rai-Rai Ken had Chinese cooks that popularized “shina soba.” Shina is a Japanese term for China, and soma was an already established dish of Japan. Ramen was referred to as shina soba until the 1950s.

If you admire ramen like us, you should check out the history of ramen at First We Feast.

So back to this recipe I tried- the use of my Instant Pot made it a breeze to prepare this meal. Traditionally it takes several hours to prepare the broth alone. The recipe I used can be found here. I was able to duplicate the recipe for the most part, but I could not get pork belly so I used pork chops.

This was another new experience for me. The broth was very rich and the pork was very well seasoned. I had never made a hard or soft boiled egg or cooked mushrooms before so again more new cooking experiences for me to store in my tool box! We thought the flavors fused together well giving it an average rating of 7/10. Next up, shrimp and veggie tempura!

(10) The Republic of Côte d’Ivoire/ Ivory Coast- Velouté d’Ignames

Welcome back! The last dish of this week will be reining from another African country- The Ivory Coast. As some of you might have noticed the Ivory Coast also has a French name Côte d’Ivoire (coast of ivory) which is the official name of the country. This country was named by the French due to its’ significant history of ivory trade. It is home to 9 national parks, the largest being Assagny. Unfortunately due to this countries history the once booming population of elephants is now at its all time low. The country is trying to actively protect its’ elephants and hopefully will be successful..

Elephants roaming Assagny National Park. Source: Worldtravelcafe.com

So you are probably wondering by now what I am making for this week.. Velouté d’Ignames or cream of yam soup, is commonly made in this country due to the abundance of yams. Yams are adored here so much that there is an annual festival celebrating that years harvest. This soup showcases the excellence of the native tuber, but once again I could not get my hands on yams. I was able to substitute them with russet potatoes since they are the most similar. Yams are thought to be closely related to the sweet potato since their names get interchanged often, but the African yam is more comparable to the russet since they are dry and starchy.

Source: Cookery Nation

The is very simple, like most African cuisine, but it has an admirable flavor. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy simple recipes since the majority of the time I prepare these recipes during the week when I have less motivation and energy! The recipe I used to recreate this dish can be found here.

The soup had wonderful flavor and it made me think of what might be used as a base for a seafood chowder (I did save leftover soup for this purpose). It was another simple, but delicious recipe. I would have liked a little more ingredients to enhance its’ flavor. We rated it 6/10.

That concludes our first month of cooking around the globe, I hope you are enjoying it as much as we have! We start off February in Japan for one week trying traditional dishes such as ramen to onigiri! Talk to you soon! 😸

We have some abstract garnish for this dish

(9) Denmark – Frikadeller

Nyhvan, Copenhagen Denmark. Source: Moustashie

Denmark is a southern Scandinavian country composed of the Jutland Peninsula and other various islands. Because this region sits in the temperate zone, the area experiences varying weather and well-defined seasons.

Source: Why Did The Viking Age Start? – Life in Norway

Most notoriously known for it’s history of fierce, bearded, axe-wielding Vikings, Denmark is also home to some delicious food! We chose to take a crack at their traditional meatballs known as Frikadellar.

The general consensus is that Frikadellar originated from northern Germany. I found recipes throughout Germany and Scandinavia with small variations of a rather simple combination of veil, pork or beef, onions, eggs, milk, oatmeal, flour, and salt and pepper. Simply combine all the ingredients into a bowl and mix. Allow the mixture to consolidate in the fridge for anywhere from 30 minutes to a day. Once settled you can then form your meatballs and cook them on the stove top in butter or margarine. When sifting through recipes one may notice that these meatballs often appear more like meat patties. It’s said that the today’s hamburgers actually evolved from the frikadellar recipes of Hamburg Germany. So thank your favorite German with a “Danke”, the next time your appreciating a fine burger.

In addition to the meatballs, I made a basic gravy and mashed potatoes for a side, as well as another Danish specialty known as Rødkål- which is a red cabbage concoction that balanced this savory “meat and potatoes” kind of dish with notes of sweet and sour.

Our score for the Danish Meatballs: 7/10.

(8) Niger – Djerma

Happy Tuesday! Today I have prepared the national dish of Niger. Niger is a Western African country that is named after the Niger River that flows through it. This country lies just south of the tropic of cancer making it one of the hottest countries in the world. May is their steamiest month with normal high temperatures ranging from 108-115 degrees!

The Niger River. Source: Niger Travel and Tours

The meal I will be trying today is called djerma, which is a peanut chicken stew served over rice. Peanuts are the biggest cash crop of Niger and can be found in a lot of their cuisine. You know how much I love peanuts and how they elevate dishes for me!

I found yet another recipe on Pinterest which can be found here (what would I do without Pinterest?) This was another meal where the smells rising from the boiling pot made us feel like we were some place warmer. In Niger meat is more scarce, however when meat is available chicken is typically used. Cooking this dish wasn’t too time consuming and was totally worth the multiple step process. The vibrant colors of orange and green lightened the primary mustard color of the dish.

This was another winner in our book- 8/10 ratings all around! The flavors once again were knock out and it had a comfort food vibe. The peanut butter did not come through as much as I thought, however it made the stew a little creamier. Next on the menu is meatballs from Denmark! Talk to you soon 😊

(7) Albania – Byrek

Town in the Albanian Alps. Source: Invest in Albania

Welcome to our 4th week discovering dishes from all around the world! The first meal of this week will be coming from the beautiful country of Albania. Albania is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland and is mostly made up of hills and mountain sides which cities and towns are often built upon. Something I found interesting about Albania was that shaking your head means yes, and nodding you head means no.. confusing!

The wonderful meal I will be making tonight will be the traditional Bryek (pronounced “boo-rek”)- is a puff pastry filled with various fillings such as ricotta, spinach, tomatoes, and minced meat. These baked goods can have various spellings, but the ‘y’ is used in the Albanian spelling. They are thought to be influenced by the Ottoman empire and have origins in Turkish cuisine. Byreks are often enjoyed as an easy and inexpensive breakfast, but can be enjoyed any time of the day. They are almost always triangular in shape and easy to transport making them the perfect on-the-go snack!

I decided to combine a few of the above ingredients and make a vegetarian byrek filled with tomatoes, ricotta, and spinach. When researching these delights I came across this article which I used as reference. I once again did not make my own dough.. trying to save on time. 😅

We collectively rated this heavenly dish 8/10! I would love to play with the variable filling options in the future. Following Albania will be Niger..🥜

Pouding Chômeur à L’érable (Canada)

Here’s my second bonus recipe! I decide to make pouding chômeur à l’érable or poor man’s pudding. It was incredibly simple to make and used few ingredients. It is referred to as poor man’s pudding because most people had the ingredients on hand and they were common staple items. History has it that Canadian women during the great depression came up with this dessert along with sugar cream pie because it’s low expense to make. Originally stale bread was used and placed on top of the hot brown sugar mixture. Over time it began being made with a basic batter and instead of brown sugar a combination of heavy cream and maple syrup was used.

I went by this recipe and made the classic brown sugar syrup. I appreciated the simplicity of the dessert and decided to top it with sliced up strawberries, yum! It reminded us of a strawberry shortcake. I highly recommend the dessert and can see myself making it in the future!

Next week we are traveling through Europe and Africa sampling soups, meat balls, and pastries to complete our first month! I hope you are enjoying this as much as we are 😄

Canada Day 4 – Poutine

Shockingly I have never had poutine before, but I sure am ready! Poutine is slang in Québec for mess. It dates back to the 1950s when it was first served in rural locations as a snack. Cheese curds were widely available due to the number of fromageries (cheese shop aka heaven) in there area. The creation was first thought to be made in Warwick from one customer’s request. At the time the request was thought to be odd and make for a messy snack, but it soon became popular. Gravy was not introduced until customers complained the cheesy/fry mix got cold too quickly. Hot gravy served as a way to prolong the warmth of the dish. Over time this savory dish has become a Québécois staple and can be found in fine dining to McDonald’s.

Unfortunately I could not get my hands on cheese curds which broke my heart as I can put down half a package in one sitting- no judgement. I read that mozzarella broken into chunks can be used as a substitution so that’s what I did. I went be this recipe except I used package gravy, oh well. I can certainly say now I will definitely have poutine again, but with crispier fries and actual cheese curds. The gravy naturally pairs well with the fries since mashed potatoes and gravy are a match in the US! We rated the dish an average of 6/10. I would rate it higher with the above changes.

Next up is a little bonus recipe.. stay tuned 🍰