(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.

(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!

(23) Norway – Creamy Salmon Bake

Trollstigen Road Source: Photophique – Natalia Eriksson

Here we are back in Europe with a salmon dish. Similar to its neighbor, Norway traditionally has salmon dishes to represent their nation. Interestingly, Japan did not use salmon when making sushi until it was suggested in 1980s by Norwegian delegation- this not only created a popular sushi, but helped out the overwhelming amount of farmed salmon. Norway is a part of Scandinavia and has a dramatic landscape that I wish I could place myself in.

To represent Norway and its famous salmon aquaculture I made a creamy salmon bake. In Norway, salmon is a true staple in their diet which could be eaten for any meal of the day. For this dish salmon lies on top of potatoes, onions, dill and cream cheese and is bathed in eggs and milk. I was unable to use true Norwegian salmon, but made up for it with wild caught Maine salmon- the next best thing!

Once again salmon and dill make a wonderful pair. We liked the creamy texture the dish had and how well all the aspects of the dish played together. It did not blow either one of us away, however it was an easy meal to prepare during the week and was tasty! We rated it 6.5/10.

(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!

(21) Costa Rica – Carne en Salsa with Gallo Pinto

To close out the week we are in Costa Rica! I decided to make two dishes that are very popular in the Costa Rican diet. Costa Rica is found in Central America and is known as the hummingbird capital with over 50 species native to the region. It is full of spectacular nature, an overwhelming amount of insects, and active volcanos. This country has it all- amazing views and food!

Nauyaca Waterfalls of Costa Rica. Source: Pinterest

The first portion of this meal is carne en salsa – a shredded beef dish that soaks up a flavorful red sauce. The finely shredded beef is very versatile and could be used for tacos, tamales, sandwiches or even nachos! I was able to find the highly recommended Salsa Lizano on Etsy which helped give the meat and rice a wonderfully sweet and smoky flavor. This sauce has been a Costa Rican staple for over 100 years!

The recipe I used for the lovely carne en salsa can be found here. This blog also has a separate link for the preparation prior to the shredding. If you don’t have an Instant Pot I would recommend slow cooking the beef for 6-8 hours or until it easily shreds.

For the second part of this dish I decided to make the national dish of Costa Rica- Gallo Pinto. Gallo pinto translates to spotted rooster and was likely given this name due to its contrasting appearance. Nicaragua also claims this dish as its own, however it is controversial.

I used this recipe which was very easy to follow. It required 1/2 of cup of the locally made sauce, but have no fear Worchester sauce is a good substitute. This paired well with the beef and once again seemed like a dish that could be used for many different meals. In Costa Rica it’s commonly served up with eggs for breakfast.

Additionally I fried up some plantains which brought a wonderful crunch to the dish. This meal was well balanced and honestly one of my favorites! It was pretty straight forward to prepare and not too time consuming. Another bonus is how each element could be used in various dishes or stand out alone.

We could not recommend this meal more and gave it an 8.5/10 rating (definitely suggest frying some green plantains as well). Next on the menu is Guyana 😊

(20) Finland – Lohikeitto

Finland is a northern European country and it’s known for more than just polar plunges and saunas. Recently Finland has been repeatedly rated as the happiest country in the world. We think it may have something to do with this soup!

Helsinki Finland Tech
Finland’s capital Helsinki. Credit www.pymnts.com

Lohikeitto is a traditional Finnish salmon soup that is packed full of flavor. This soup reminded me a lot of the Greek Avgolemono soup. It was creamy and hearty, but not too heavy. Enough rambling, here is how simple this recipe is.

Start by sautéing the sliced leek in butter.

Add fish stock or water to the leeks once they become translucent. Bring this to a boil and add potatoes and carrots. Once the potatoes are almost fully cooked add your salmon and heavy cream.

Finally, the addition of fresh dill transforms the dish into something more bright and refreshing. You can find the recipe here.

In nontraditional fashion I chose to add a splash of lemon juice, because I love how it compliments fish.

There is no doubt we will be making this soup again. Simple and delicious!

Score 8/10

(18) Romania – Sarmale

Welcome to our final week of February which is our 8th week traveling by taste bud! I started out this week in Romania dreaming of roaming the Carpathian Mountains and exploring several medieval castles. Scărișoara Glacier hides underground inside a 105m (344ft) cave and Berca Mud Volcanoes spew out occasionally colorful bubbles of the earth- it feels like we are in a fantasy land!

The Carpathian Mountains. Source: Lonely Planet- Image by Michal Sleczek / Getty Images

I chose to prepare the beloved sarmale which is very representative of this country. It is believed to by Turkish in origin, however Romania has definitely put it’s mark on the dish. It consists of sauerkraut or boiled cabbage which is filled with ground pork, rice, onions, and spices. The rolls are then layered or placed side by side in boiling water along with bacon and occasionally spare ribs to cook for several hours. Tomatoes are used in various stages of this process depending on what recipe you use. The very lengthy recipe I used can be found here if you have 6+ hours to spare. There are other variations that are a little less time consuming, but it is for sure a labor of love.

I found it challenging to roll the pork mixture in the cabbage, but I was able to get two full layers as the recipe called for. I would recommend prepping as much as you can before hand so the cooking and assembly takes less time. I felt like a chicken without her head trying to juggle cooking bacon and spare ribs while prepping the cabbage and onion! Also it was very difficult to assemble the boiled cabbage leaves without the filling oozing out.. I tried to make Romania proud 😅

This dish was well seasoned combining savory and pickling flavors together. I was glad I had triumphed with this very long process, it was very satisfying to watch it come together along with the sides of polenta and topping of homemade pickled hot peppers. I will say though it came down to texture for me due to the I rated this dish lower than Ian bringing our average to 6/10. Don’t let my review scare you away, if you are motivated for a 15+ step process this might be your recipe! Up next Finland!

(17) Oman – Omani Shuwa

Greetings from Oman! This old country (one of the oldest inhabited countries in the world dating back over 106,000 years) is home to some of the best ship builders of the world. Oman is also known as one of the more elite Arabian horse breeders. Port Sultan Qaboos (pictured above) is the largest port of Muscat and is the main connection between India and the Far East to Oman.

Port Sultan Qaboos in Muscat. Source: Getty Images The National News

To celebrate one of Oman’s delicacies I made omani shuwa which is a slow cooked lamb dish. As stated in a previous post we are not huge lamb eaters, but I was able to substitute short ribs for lamb shanks. Traditionally, this special occasion meal takes days to prepare. The first day it marinates in Omani spices, then it is wrapped in palm or banana leaves and is places in a sand oven underground slowly cooking for 1-2 days! I was able to follow this recipe for a modified version.

I ended up letting the meat marinade two days and cut slashes in the meat as recommended to allow the flavor to absorb into the meat. Then I slow cooked the ribs in my crockpot for 3ish hours with 1 cup of water and a little extra lime juice. Above is the end result served aside a bed of spinach, turnip fries with middle eastern inspired seasoning, and red peppers for garnish. The meat was so delicious and we loved the punchiness of the lime with the dynamic garlic and ginger duo. Personally we felt the meat choice was a little too fatty, but we would definitely use this marinade and slow cooking method for other cuts of beef or even chicken. We rated this dish 7/10!

Next week we will arrive in Romania for a totally new dish unlike anything I’ve ever had before! Talk to you soon!

(16) Mali – Tigua Degué aka Mafé

Welcome back to another day traveling around the globe by your taste buds! I have to admit we had another dish failure this week when trying to recreate Lithuania’s cepelinai. 3 hours and 8lbs of potatoes the recipe we used just did not work. We will return to this country in the future to redeem ourselves!

The Grand Mosquée of Djenne, Source: Wanderlust

Mali is the biggest West African country and is home to the Grand Mosquée which can be found pictured above. This building is made from sun-baked earth bricks, clay, earth based mortar, and plaster to coat the outside and is the largest of it’s kind. It sits on top of a 246ft x 246ft platform and is 52 ft in height.

The meal I made today is called Tigua Degué aka Mafé which is yet another chicken in peanut sauce dish. This one differs from the rest by having several more vegetables involved and has more of a soup like flavor (in my opinion). This is the national dish of Mali and is also prepared similarly in Senegal (referred to as Mafé). I could not find out much information on the dish, but it definitely reminds me of other African dishes we have tried.

I followed this recipe, but unfortunately my sauce split and it was definitely more soup-like. That mishap aside it was successful. It was a good hearty meal filled with several vegetables. I served the chicken/vegetable concoction with white rice as recommended which seems to be the norm in African cuisine. The meal didn’t compare to the previous African dish from DRC, but was still enjoyed by both of us. We rated this meal 6/10.

Lastly we travel to Oman to try something quite a bit different than the previous two dishes. Stay tuned 🥩

(14) Sudan – Maschi

The Sudd. Source: Amusing Planet

Sudan was formerly the largest country in Africa. But on July 9, 2011, following decades of civil war, the southern portion seceded and declared its independence. In the south, the Nile and its tributaries form a vast swamp known as the Sudd which is one of the largest wetland areas in the world. Extending up north lies portions of the vast savanna, a border along the Red sea, and blending with the Egyptian deserts.

The Meroe Pyramids Source: Northern Sudan Expedition

The Sudanese cuisine has influences from bordering countries as well as traditional roots stretching far back in the past. This recipe includes a staple ingredient for Sudanese cuisine- tomatoes!

The ingredients and spices used were true to this recipe. I decided to ditch the measurements of the spices and just go by taste. I ended up using quite a bit more of all the spices than what the recipe called for.

The tomatoes were cut and hollowed creating perfect vessels for the ingredients to be piled into. Due to the difficulty of trying to fry the stuffed tomatoes and cook all sides in a skillet, I opted to place them in a baking pan filled with the recipe’s sauce and briefly cook them at 500 degrees in the oven.

This dish was really good! The meat and rice remained tender because of the high moisture content of the tomato. Subtle hints of fresh dill were appreciated. Surprisingly the real highlight of this dish was the combination of cinnamon and tomato in the sauce which complimented each other very well. Final score 7/10.

Next week we will explore more of Africa starting with The Democratic Republic of the Congo.