Vietnam Day 4 – Caramel Shaking Beef and Asian Cucumber Salad

Hey guys welcome to our final Vietnamese entrée. Today I made shaking beef with an Asian cucumber salad. Shaking beef is a traditional meal that also has French influence. It can be mixed with various vegetables or without like this rendition. I followed Jet Tila’s cookbook 101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die to make this super simple yet incredibly delicious dish. Another great thing about both the salad and beef is that there were minimal ingredients required and it was done in less than 30 minutes! That is my kind of meal!

You can find the recipe for the cucumber salad here.

It is key to cut the beef thin and not to skimp on the garlic (but that goes without saying). Once your wok/fry pan is hot you “shake” the pan to constantly mix and cook the meat. Jet suggested serving the meat with a slice of baguette or French bread to absorb the juices of the meat.. we listed and boy was he on the money there!

This was the tastiest and ironically the simplest out of the bunch we made for Vietnam. The meat was very savory and tender. The cucumber salad was very refreshing and actually paired well with the meat. The bread soaked up of the liquid goodness on the plate and left us craving more. This meal proves that you don’t need all the fancy gadgets or ingredients to make an amazing meal.

Next week we travel to the tropical Grenada to serve up a highly rated meal.

(41) Zambia – N’shima, Fried Rape, and Roasted Beef

We are now over 40 countries, that is crazy! I have a little surprise for you once we hit 50 😉. Today we explore Zambia, a South African country famous for its safaris and the beautiful Victoria falls. It is considered one of the safer countries of Africa and has tons of opportunities for tourists to really explore the country and the protected wildlife by car, boat, foot, or jump.. Yes you can bungee jump off of the Victoria Falls Bridge which is 420 ft high! The wildlife is so crazy here that you can find termite mounds the size of small houses!

Victoria Falls. Source: Telegraph.co.uk Credit- AP/FOTOLIA

The meal I made today is a combination of “grilled” goat (I used beef), fried rape (I used red swiss chard), and n’shima (similar to grits or polenta). N’shima is considered to be the national food of Zambia due to the abundance of maize in the country. You can find n’shima served up with most meals accompanied with a relish, stew, or vegetables.

Rape leaves are a green also found in Zambia and are relatable to swiss chard. I used the suggested substitutions from this recipe. This dish was only seasoned with salt, however I decided to add a little chilli powder and mustard to give it more flavor.

The meat was similar with seasoning, once again only requiring salt. From learning from past dishes that this may not be enough to really allow the dish to shine I added a little cumin, coriander, and pepper after researching common spices in Zambian cooking. The recipe I referenced can be found here.

We thought overall it was a tasty meal thanks to the addition of spices. All of the components tasted good together and there was a mild heat from the chili powder and peppers. It is definitely a healthier dish than some of our other meals we have tried. We rated this dish 6.5/10 averaged between the two of us.

Next up we head to the Caribbean for a curry, pineapple, and coconut fusion😋

(36) Uganda – Sweet Chili Mbuzi Choma Rolex

Mutunda Lake with Virunga volcanoes in the distance. Source: Yellow Zebra Safaris

Hey guys we are back in Africa this week visiting Uganda! Uganda is an Eastern African country that is made up of tall mountains and volcanos, unique wildlife and vast lakes including Lake Victoria at the southern border. This country is one of few that the equator passes through and can be “found” in Kayabwe, Uganda. If your feeling daring you can try fried grasshoppers as they are a delicacy here and are a sign of endearment.

The meal I chose represents multiple countries of Africa, but today it will shine for Uganda. A rolex is not only a watch, but a very tasty chapati wrap that is filled with marinated, grilled meat, omelet, and veggies. Chapati is a type a flatbread similar to a roti that is used is several different countries to hold or mixed in with savory dishes. The name rolex comes from the method the meal is made, rolled up egg “roll-eggs” . It was first created for college students as an affordable and portable meal, but soon became popular to everyone throughout Uganda.

I used a recipe that included a wonderful marinated meat, mbuzi choma, that had the whole apartment smelling amazing! You can find the meat recipe here. I did substitute the goat for pork since that was what I had on hand along with tortillas instead of chapati (sorry guys). I had fun making this dish and liked the minimal prep time needed. This could easily be eaten for any meal of the day or for a snack if desired.

This meal was damn good. It was not complicated by a long list of ingredients and fun to prepare (I have finally mastered making an omelet)! I think any marinated meat (or no meat) would work great here and there is a lot of room for creativity with what vegetables are mixed in. Bell peppers would be a great addition. The spice mixes are important to the dish and what make it Ugandan. Cilantro also shines in this dish giving the wrap a nice freshness.

Do yourself a favor and make yourself a rolex for breakfast, lunch, 3 am… there isn’t a bad time! We will definitely make this again and rated it 8.5/10.

(33) Kyrgyzstan – Beshbarmak

For our next country we visited Kyrgyzstan which is situated in Central Asia. Kyrgyz is thought to be derived from the Turkic word “forty” because of the forty clans of Manas. These forty clans can be found represented as the rays of sun on their flag. -stan translates from Pakistani to “country” or “place of.” 80% of the landscape is made up of the Tian Shan mountain region, the highest point of elevation being over 24,000ft. It is also known to have some of the world’s largest walnut forests.

Mountainous landscape of Kyrgyzstan. Source: Iceland Photo Tours

I made a traditional dish of the Central Asian and nomadic Turkic people, beshbarmak. This dish is also the national dish of Kyrgyzstan. Beshbarmak translates to “five fingers” because it was eaten without utensils originally by the nomadic people. The authentic version if made with lamb, however I have opted to use beef once again as a substitute. The recipe I used today can be found here.

This is another quick and simple meal which would work well on week nights. It consists of boiled meat, noodles, onion, broth, and sprigs of dill for garnish. Although it seems pretty basic I had read high marks on this recipe and that the flavor of lamb was able to stand out in the simplicity.

We really wanted to like this dish, but unfortunately it fell short and did not wow our taste buds. Reading up on the nomadic history and how they had to rely on their animals and resources for their meals it made sense why there was only a handful of ingredients. Maybe there could have been something we could have changed to bring out more of the beefy flavor or maybe lamb is the only way to go.

On a positive note we did enjoy the freshness and pop of flavor dill brought to the dish, but it still rated on the lower end of our reviews at 5/10. Once we come full circle with our culinary endeavors we will come back to Kyrgyzstan and create another traditional dish to better understand and appreciate the country.

(28) Bulgaria – Kebapcheta and Shopska Salata

Bolata beach along the Black Sea. Source: Eff it I’m on Holiday

Onto our 28th country- Bulgaria! This Balkan country is known for having the second richest natural mineral springs, producing 85% of the world’s rose oil, and bordering the Black Sea. Bulgaria is also one of the oldest European countries estimated to by established in 681 A.D. This country has Greek, Ottoman, Persian, and Slavic influence that definitely impacts their cooking style and flavors.

For Bulgaria I made two smaller dishes that worked well together and are very traditional to the country. The first part of this meal is kebapcheta a minced beef sausage that is well seasoned with paprika, cumin, and a little bit of clove. The name kebapcheta is derived from the word kebab, -che meaning small aka small kebab! Typically they are served as three with a side of chips (fries).

The traditional way to cook these little guys in on a grill, but I decided to put my new air fryer to use! 8 minutes later and some flipping mid way they were done!

The second part of the meal was shopska salata, an easy to assemble salad that is made up of the three colors of the Bulgarian flag (I accidently grabbed an orange pepper, silly me) – red, green, and white! Chopped cucumber, tomatoes, pepper, and onion are the base of the meal. Parsley and a good amount of feta is mixed throughout. Vinaigrettes are great to use as a dressing, but any light dressing will work!

Together it makes a beautiful spread! We thought the meat was well seasoned, the salad was refreshing and crisp, and the fries obviously did not take away from the meal. It was quick and simple so this is another great option for week night cooking. We rated it 7/10.

(26) France Day 1 – Boeuf Bourguignon (Julia Child Recipe)

It is an exciting week here at The Messy Aprons- we have arrived in France! I absolutely love French food (and wine) and can not wait to try cooking some classic French dishes. Before I dive into today’s meal I want to talk about a little more about France.

Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne- Nantes, France. Source: Trip.com

France is part of Western Europe and actually is the largest European country. It also is the most popular place to travel in the world, Paris being a top destination. France is well known for its top notch wine and cuisine along with incredible historic museums and culture. There are several French inventions that we use on a daily basis such as the stethoscope, braille, pasteurization, food preservation/tin cans, and sewing machines to name a few. Above is a picture of a medieval castle complete with water mote in Nantes, France. Nantes is were my ancestors originate from and I have a special dish dedicated to that region to finish our week!

Calling Julie and Julia fans- I channeled my inner Julia Child today when making her adored Beef Bourguignon! I definitely watched the movie the night prior to get me in the right spirit! This hearty beef stew originates in the province of Bourgogne, France where wine and beef are high quality. This dish dates back to medieval times as a common peasant food. They would combine tougher pieces of beef with vegetables cooking for long periods of time in order to save meat that may had gone to waste. Fast forward to the 1960s when Julia Child put her own spin on the dish. This recipe can be found here and to watch Julia make it herself you can find the video here. Since I don’t own a Dutch oven I opted to slow cook mine on high (this is around 300 degrees depending on your model/make) for the same amount of time.

Boeuf Bourguignon is a timely process that consists of slow cooking dried beef (key step!) that has been browned in butter then bathed in a red wine sauce.

Shallots and mushrooms are prepared separately and added into the dish once the slow cooking is complete. The red wine is an important element which brings a rich flavor to the meal. You better believe your kitchen is going to smell like a slice of French heaven by the time you’re done!

I referenced Julia’s video and recipe to get a better understanding of how to process each aspect of the meal. Julia suggests slitting the bottom of each shallot of making a small “x” prior to cooking them so they will stay whole. I simmered mine in beef stock as the recipe suggested.

Watching Julia Child for reference

As for the mushrooms I followed Julia’s video once again, taking care to wash and dry the mushrooms as she does. I will admit I am not a mushroom fan, but I was hopeful that the lovely wine sauce would help distract me from the texture.

I served my stew with a French baguette, side salad, and a glass of that red wine (obviously!). It was so savory and delicious, each part of the stew melting in our mouths!

The red wine brought a unique yet very appreciated flavor and it was well seasoned. I have to admit I did not like mushrooms, but after having this meal my mind has been changed. I mean how could something taste bad after being sautéed in butter?

We rated this dish 8.25/10 and I would definitely make it again! Next we will try another peasant dish.. the well known ratatouille!

(24) Libya – Mahshee/Mahshi

Welcome back! Today we are in Libya, a North African country known for its desert terrain and oil production. Due to most of the country being made up of this barren landscape they must import the majority of their food. Part of the Sahara desert can be found in this country, the Libyan portion is known for being the harshest and driest; so dry that decades could pass without rain.

Rock arch of Tadrart Acacus. Source: Morad Momo on Pinterest

That description of Libya might have you wondering “what good can come from such a place?” Well let me introduce you to their take on the stuffed bell pepper (mahshee)! I love that this recipe comes from someone who grew up eating this passed down in their family. Although stuffed peppers are not truly unique to this country, the flavors that are packed inside are very traditional.

Mahshee or mahshi are stuffed peppers or squash that originates back in the Ottoman empire. It is popular in the Middle East and each representation maybe very unique to the region it has been made in. That is true for Libya as well, you will find in this recipe several spices and herbs to bring a fresh new perspective on the stuffed pepper.

We absolutely loved this dish! Super easy to make (a little time consuming) and full of flavor! We loved the mild heat of the dish along with flavor that packed a punch! If you are looking to spice up your stuffed pepper this is the meal for you. I was able to share this meal among friends and they all agreed it was a keeper! We rated this dish 8/10 and it creeps up into our list favorites.

To end our week we will land in Sri Lanka to try another authentic dish. We hope you are enjoying our taste bud travels.. until next time!

(22) Guyana – Pepperpot

Kaieteur Falls. Source: Rove.me – Winston Tinubu

We are traveling a lot this week my fellow foodies! We start this week off in South America trying the very traditional pepperpot of Guyana. Guyana is nestled between Suriname, Venezuela, and Brazil; also bordering the Atlantic ocean to the north. The country is influenced by its past English colonization along with the Caribbean. It’s the only English-speaking country of South America and it’s name means “land of many waters.” The name is fitting since it’s home to the world’s largest single drop waterfall, Kaieteur Falls (pictured above) which plummets 822ft and is 328ft wide!

Guyanese food is a wonderful blend of several cultures including African, European, and Chinese to name a few! Pepperpot is a spicy dish full of strong flavors like cinnamon, garlic, and ginger. The exact origin of this dish is not clear, however it is thought to have been created by the Indigenous people of this land. They were also the first to discover how to extract liquid from the toxic cassava root for safe consumption.

This liquid is known today as cassareep. Cassareep reminded me of a molasses and paired well with the other competitive flavors. I was able to get my hands on some from ordering once again on Etsy.

The recipe I used for this fiery meal can be found here. It was easy to follow and I could prep the next elements of the dish while others were cooking. Once the meat was stewing with the spices it filled the apartment with the most wonderful aroma. We could only hope it would taste just as good!

Pepperpot did not disappoint. It had a wonderful heat without being too spicy (I used jalapenos because I can’t stand any hotter). The meat was very tender and each bite had hints of cinnamon, cassareep, and orange. We loved how unique this dish was and rated it 7/10.

Next we head back to Europe for a little more Salmon!