(37) San Marino – Nidi di Rondine “Swallows Nests”

Welcome to the beautiful San Marino, another country I had no idea existed! This beautiful slice of heaven sits in northern-central Italy and has been a microstate since 301 A.D (self proclaimed oldest republic of the world). The main attraction of the country is the three peaks of Mount Titano. On each peak there is a tower: Guaita, Cesta, and Montale. The public is able to visit Guaita and Cesta by climbing the cobblestone steps overlooking the scenic countryside. That being said how come we don’t hear more about this country with it being one of the oldest countries of Europe?

Source: Getbuybus.com

When researching, it was clear I would enjoy the cuisine.. it sits inside the country where my favorite food originates! The dish I chose to represent San Marino is known as swallows nests or nidi di rondine in Italian. It got its name from the presentation of the food which closely resembles bird nests- lasagna noodles filled with cheese, prosciutto, bechamel sauce and basil leaves are rolled up and placed on top of marinara sauce.. is your mouth watering yet?

Oops, too much nutmeg!

Just when I thought it couldn’t get better I discovered fontina cheese was part of the filling (my favorite cheese) and I decided to replace prosciutto with speck -can I get a hell yeah?! Alright I need to chill I’m making myself hungry! The recipe I used can be found here.

It was a pretty easy recipe just time consuming to cook the lasagna noodles. We thought a little more marinara sauce wouldn’t have hurt, but that is our only critique. It was a beautiful combination or melting cheese, warm sauces, and meat. They were surprisingly filling, but they did not last long in our fridge! If you’re looking for a way to elevate a pasta dish or just need something delicious to get you out of a boring dinner rut this is the recipe for you!

We rated this dish 9/10- higher with more sauce. Next we travel to Moldova to sip on some savory soup😎

(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.