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!

(48) Abkhazia – Venison (pork) Loin, Blackberry Sauce and Abista

Today we travel to the little known country of Abkhazia. Abkhazia (ab·kei·zhee·uh) is a partially recognized state, most countries recognizing them as part of Georgia. Although most countries don’t see the mountainous Abkhazia as an independent country there is quite a bit to appreciate here.. one of the deepest caves in the world Krubera can be found at the border of Russia and Abkhazia at 7,208ft depth.

New Athos Monastery. Source: Residentpublications.com

The cuisine here as you may have guessed is very similar to the surrounding countries- Georiga and Russia, however many citizens here are cattle and crop farmers their dishes often involve beef, dairy, and grains. Abista or cheese polenta is a staple here and will be one of the elements of this dish.

This recipe included a dark and rich berry sauce to top the pork loin. Spicy berry sauces like this one are classically found in Abkhazian cuisine. The spice for this sauce was a cinnamon stick which gave off a wonderful aroma while it simmered. I did not have venison available (although I have had venison loins in the past -YUM) I substituted a pork loin. I thought of the lovely Julia Child as I patted dry my sectioned loin and fried them to golden brown perfection on each side.

While the loin and sauce was brewing I cracked down on the polenta which I have gotten more of a hang of with recent practice. I did not have the sulguni (Georgian mozzarella) in my local grocery store so I opted for the classic mozzarella instead. Once everything was finished I attempted to plate it together, but soon realized that berry goodness wanted to mingle with everything on the plate.. oops!

We thought the sauce was lovely and felt to really appreciate it we needed to let each piece of loin bathe in it as if it was a dipping sauce before indulging. The polenta was good and paired well with the mild cheese. I decided to jar up the remaining sauce and use it as a marinade in future cooking endeavors. We thought it was a nice meal to shake up the more recent dishes we have tried and rated it 7/10.

(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.

(34) Czech Republic – Vepřo Knedlo Zelo

Konopiste Castle. Source: RoadAffair.com/Martin Mecnarowski / shutterstock.com

To start off this week we will be cooking a dish from The Czech Republic, a country where beer is cheaper than water! Yes you heard that right, beer is a biiiig deal here. It is consumed more by the Czech people than any other place in the world. Czechia is located in Central Europe bordered by Austria, Poland, Germany, and Slovakia. Its capital, Prague is well known for its history and medieval beauty complete with cobblestone streets and gothic churches. It is home to the most castles in Europe topping 2,000!

To honor this historic country I made their national dish- Vepro Knedlo Zelo. This literally translates to its ingredients- roasted pork, bread dumplings and sauerkraut. In the Czech culture meals are often served in several courses. First you start with a soup, then you get your main course, and afterwards either more commentary sides or a dessert. The recipe I followed had a stewed sauerkraut which made it sweeter and less potent smelling (thank goodness).

It took me several hours to complete this dish, however most of the work was done by my stove and the heat of my apartment. It can be done in a way that allows for you to go from one thing to the next seamlessly, that means something coming from me! The pork was able to roast while the sauerkraut and onions cooked and the dumpling dough was rising. It was an apartment full of wonderful smells!

I used this recipe to make the bread dumplings and ended up buying gluten flour for the first time ever.. my stomach has been getting more tolerant to my gluten-eating ways. Back to the dumplings- the proving is an important part of this process and gave me enough to make three large dumplings (they almost double in size when in the boiling water). I decided to freeze one for later since European dishes can often have these accompany the entrée to soak up all of the wonderful sauce!

I will admit the sauerkraut tasted much better after the cooking process, better than I had expected. I was also pleasantly surprised by the dumplings and how large they had become by the end of all the proving and cooking. The meat was slightly dry, but that was probably due to an error on my part.

The flavors worked well together, and we quickly discovered stacking each element on top of each other was an effective way to eat the dish. I still think cabbage is not my thing, sorry fellow Czechs! We rated this dish 6.25/10.