Vietnam Day 2 – Bún Bò Xả Ớt

On our second day in Vietnam we made another traditional dish known as bún bò xả ot. This dish translates to beef with lemongrass and chili and is refreshing to eat in the heat of the summer. I opted to try some pork I had bought since I would be using beef another time this week. The recipe Ian followed can be found here.

Ian thought the dish was straightforward and an easy one to make during the week. He substituted crushed red pepper flakes instead of the chilis since we could not buy fresh ones at the store. He felt the amount of salt that was asked for made the cucumbers a little too salty.

We thought this dish was delicious! There was a strong presence of ginger and lemongrass with every bite which was well-balanced by the cucumber. The light fish broth was very good and helped keep the dish from being too spicy. It was a hair too salty for us (which is saying something coming from Ian!) but overall had good flavor and was a unique dish.

We rated it 7.5/10, it might have been higher with beef but I doubt it. Next we will attempt to make the Vietnamese crepe banh xeo.. to find out if we were successful or not stay tuned!

(57) Togo – Grilled Ginger and Garlic Chicken with Tomato Cornmeal Cakes

The fortress like huts of the Tamberma people in northern Togo. Source: iStock.com

Bringing us to up to 57 countries is a lesser known African country, Togo. Togo is a West African country bordered by Benin, Ghana, and Burkina Faso along the Gulf of Guinea. This country has a long growing season which fuels their agriculture dominant economy. Cocoa, coffee, and peanuts are some of the important crops grown here. Togo is famous for its white sandy beaches and national parks.

Chicken marinade

Staple foods found in Togolese cuisine include beans, yams, plantains, millet, rice, and maize. The country has a history of rule from Germany and France which does influence their cuisine. Due to this influence it is not uncommon to see Togolese people enjoying German beer and French baguettes. Today’s dish was made up of two components- grilled chicken and tomato corn meal cakes. Cornmeal as you probably know by now is a popular African staple that can be transformed into several sides to accompany the main meal. Chicken is more excessable in Togo and is commonly cooked over a fire similar to grilling.

I chose to marinate chicken drumsticks for 24 hours prior to grilling to get as much flavor as possible (recipe here). Ian being the grill master that he is I had him take charge with the cooking. As for the cornmeal cakes the directions were similar and easy to follow (recipe here). The tomato sauce was a great way to bring the cornmeal to the next level.

The chicken obviously tasted great from being grilled, but I was sad I couldn’t taste the ginger. Like I stated above the cornmeal with the tomato sauce definitely made it tastier than the past cornmeal dishes I have made. Still we were not wowed by the meal and I honestly don’t see myself making the cornmeal sides again (sorry..). We rated it 6.25/10. If the chicken had more ginger flavor it could have been rated higher.

Next we head to Nepal for a vegan dish that packs a little heat🔥

(52) American Samoa – Sapa Sui

Hey guys welcome to the American Samoa, the southern-most territory of the United States. It can be found hallway between New Zealand and Hawaii and is made up of 5 inhabited, volcanic islands and 2 coral atolls. One of the coral atolls, Rose Atoll, has sunk back into the ocean from the weight of coral and old lava, but was believed to have been covered in rainforests like the other surrounding islands. This country produces the most American football players than anywhere else in the world and makes the tuna canneries employ 80% of the islands natives. It also is home to one of the most remote national parks of the US and is spread over 3 of its islands- Tutuila, Ofu, and Ta‘ū. Pictured above is one of these islands beaches.

Ofu Beach. Source: Beachesworld.com


American Samoa cuisine is mostly filled with easily excessable foods found on or surrounding the islands. Such foods include coconut, fruit, seafood, rice, various livestock, and canned corn beef. A staple dish found here known as sapa sui or Samoan chop suey is unlike its American cousin with Asian influence. With that said it did not originate here and brought over from Chinese settlers in the 1840s. At the time there were laws prohibiting interaction with the Chinese settlers, but as time pasted many married native Samoans ultimately bringing us intertwined culture and cuisine.

I used this recipe which at first glance said to use mung beans and of course in western Maine I couldn’t find that so I looked the substitute which is green pigeon peas. I later read that glass noodles could be used and sadly did not have enough on hand for the desired amount. When it comes to mid week cooking I don’t always read my recipes over enough prior to execution day and I later find out things like this.. oh well. It was fairly simple to make and definitely did not need to be seasoned with salt (the amount of soy sauce used was salty enough in my opinion)

It was a nice mix up and was clearly reminiscent of its ancestry with the dominating soy sauce flavor. The fresh ginger also brought a mild warmth to the dish, but it did not wow us like others have. We rated it 6/10 and with more noodles and chicken vs ground meat probably could have scored a higher rating.

Next we head back to Europe and substitute beef for yet another lamb recipe (sorry not sorry)! Let us know if you tried this dish and had a different experience than we did!

(46) Morocco – Lamb Tagine with Apricots

Tamnougalt, Morocco. Source: blogs.sas.com

Welcome to another day at The Messy Aprons, we are quickly approaching 50 countries! Today we are in Morocco, a Northern African country that is a blend of Arabic, European, and Berber culture which heavily influences the cuisine. Berbers are an ethnic group of Northern Africa that are often farmers in rural areas, but historically were nomadic merchants that brought caravans across the deserts. Fridays are known as “couscous day” which is the holy day of the week in Morocco.

I made a lovely, flavorful dish to represent the beauty of Morocco – Lamb Tagine with Apricots. Tagine is a traditional Berber, slow-cooked stew that is named after the special clay pot that it’s prepared in. These stews are full of several of delicious ingredients including chickpeas, diced tomatoes, and garlic. This dish is also full of spice that makes the dish so warm and comforting. Luckily I found a recipe that I could follow without the special cookware, time to fire up the Instant Pot!

Again, I substituted stewing beef for the lamb but let me know if you decide to make it traditionally! The recipe was straight forward, but it definitely took me longer to make than the 10 minutes of prep time. This aromatic dish had my kitchen full of Arabic smells and left my stomach growling! I decided to add extra ginger, garlic, and dry spices because why not? It did not leave us disappointed!

We LOVED this dish. I loved all of the elements and it left us craving more. I could see myself eating this on the regular. It had that winning combo of tomato and cinnamon that we had discovered in paste dishes. The topping of cilantro brightened the hearty stew. Top marks Morocco- we rate you 10/10.

(29) Tuvalu – Coconut Tuna

Tālofa (hello)! Today we land in a little known country that is the definition of a tropical paradise. This gem of an island sits in the South Pacific Ocean and is no bigger than the LA airport! It has a population of roughly 11,000 over three main islands and six coral atolls (island with lagoon in center). It’s unique shape can sometimes allows you to view both shore lines at the same time, one looking into the lagoon and the other along the Pacific Ocean.

Tuvalu. Source; AIFFP.gov.au

It looks so dreamy doesn’t it? Well, it’s actually the least visited country in the world! It is hard to believe with the beautiful beaches, tropical weather, and nonexistent crime. Life on the island is very much a communal style of living and often families will merge into one living in one large living space.

The meal I made for Tuvalu without a doubt screams island flavor. Most dishes here involve seafood and/or coconut due to the abundance. I thought it would be appropriate to make something that has both of these items along with a wonderful heat of ginger and curry powder. The recipe I used can be found here.

I am loving these simple meals! This is another great week night 30 minute meal that makes you feel like you are someplace in the Pacific Ocean (maybe Tuvalu?). If you do not like tuna I’m sure most fish would do well in the coconut curry sauce.

Our thoughts? Absolutely delicious! We loved the pairing of the coconut, curry, ginger, and garlic. The tuna went well with these flavors and I loved how easy it was to make. It was not a heavy meal which I appreciated and it was different from anything we have made to date on the blog.

We rated this dish 8/10. It ranks on our favorites list (which will be shared once we hit 50 countries!)