(91) Argentina – Matambre

Hey guys, here’s a little Christmas present to close out the year! I’m sorry I’ve been absent the past few months life has been busy!

Patagonia, Argentina. Source: lonelyplanet.com – Jkboy Jatenipat

Argentina was our next travel destination- home of marveling landscapes, mouth-watering meats, and tantalizing tangos! The name of this large South American country translates from the Latin word argentum to silver due to the land’s plentiful minerals. Pictured above is the well-known Patagonia, a true adventurers dream which is a region found at the southern most tip of South America (also part of Chile). The Andes divides the two countries and makes the landscape more extreme. Found in rural areas you can find traditional gauchos. Gauchos are Argentinian cowboys that like American cowboys have distinctive dress which includes wool ponchos and sombrero or bolero hats. These cowboys are known for their bravery and skill with livestock. Speaking of livestock.. lets talk about the traditional Argentinian fare!

Argentinian cuisine has heavy European influence (Spain, Italy, and other Mediterranean countries) and consists of meats (mostly beef), grains, fruits, and vegetables. With agriculture being a substantial part of the country’s culture beef and other livestock products are found in much of their cuisine. On the 29th of every month you can find many Argentinians eating gnocchi with money under their plate. This easy to make meal is thought to bring good luck and fortune in the following month.

The meal I decided to prepare is called matambre or stuffed flank steak which literally translates to “hunger killer” so I think this will leave you satisfied. Traditionally to make this dish you will use flank steak or a butterflied thicker steak which you cover in a chimichurri sauce which contains cilantro, parsley, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Other versions of this dish can include carrots instead of peppers, its up to you! Next, place then add a layer of bell peppers and hard boiled egg before rolling and securing the meat with twine or unflavored floss. The preferred method of completing the dish involves grilling the meat until it reaches the desired doneness of your liking. This recipe for matambre can be found here.

Due to the time of year and our grill being finicky I cooked it in the oven at 400 degrees. This recipe was pretty easy to follow and used common ingredients. I typically have twine on hand which works well to contain the meat and maintain a somewhat uniformed meat roll. Make sure to not be stingy with the chimichurri sauce as this pairs well with the meat.

This dish made me obsessed with chimichurri sauce- I didn’t even know I was missing out! If you wanted to be “extra” you could totally do this as a breakfast meal, but the steak sits a little to heavy for me. Unfortunately, the meat cut I had used was a bit tough in areas and due to its thickness took longer than anticipated to cook. All the elements rolled up well together and brought a solid dinner to the table. We rated Argentina’s dish 7.25/10.

(87) Chile – Pastel de Choclo

Atacama Desert, Chile. Source: Wanderlust Chloe

Time to get back to blogging- today we traveled to Chile for our 87th country. Chile can be found on the Western border South America and is the closest country to Antarctica. It has an impressive coastline along the Pacific Ocean (4,000 miles) and neighbors Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina. Chile is home to unique landscapes besides its extensive shoreline-the Atacama Desert nestles between the Andes Mountains and ocean and is the driest place on Earth. There are parts of the desert that have never experienced rain! Off the coast of Chile (about 2,100 miles away) is Easter Island, once a sheep farm is now a tourist destination with incredible caves and lava tunnels. Have you packed your bags yet? When you visit maybe you’ll pick up the native dance “cueca” which mimics the courting ritual of a hen and rooster -that’s no chicken dance!

Chilean cuisine clearly has a lot of Spanish influence, but it also has other European influences like German, Italian, French, and English. Like Europe, Chile is a large producer of wine making it in the top ten. Common ingredients used in Chilean cooking include maize, onions, cumin, beef, beans, poultry, coriander, wheat, and potatoes.

Pastel de Choclo is a layered dish of ground meat and onion, hard boiled eggs, chicken, and corn. It is traditionally cooked in a clay dish inside a wood-burning oven, but of course no access to that here so an mini electric oven will have to do.. The recipe can be found here.

So I underestimated how long it would take to cut the corn off the cob. Props to cooks that do this on a regular basis, it is not fun! I of course appreciate the fresher taste but man there was corn everywhere when I was finished!

A tip for anyone wanting to try this recipe is use your food processor (blender works too) to get a thicker consistency of corn. Mine was not as crusty as I would have liked and I think this would have helped.

Oh Chile I tried.. The flavors were all there but I didn’t achieve that crispy corn crust on top. It was a super meaty dish which was really nice with the cooked corn. Despite the mishap it was very yummy. It had some shepherds pie vibes (of course without the potato). The basil was seasoning I would never think to pair with corn but it works! We rated it 7.5/10.

Brazil Day 4 – Churrasco with Pão de Queijo (Beef Kabobs and Cheese Bread)

For our final meal in Brazil we decided to do two classics- cheese bread and beef kabobs. This delectable and versatile cheese bread (or pão de queijo in Portuguese) has its roots set back to been the Portuguese colonized Brazil. It originated when the African slaves of these landowners used cassava to make tapioca flour by grating the flesh of the root, allowing it to soak in water, and straining the mixture so it could dry. The first bread was made solely of this starch and did not contain the dairy products until later on. The bread is now very popular throughout Brazil. If you are interested in making this cheesy goodness click here.

The history of churrasco however is a bit different. It started when cowboys in the Southern Brazilian wilderness cooked local game over an open fire in a deeply dug pit. Before the meat was cooked they allowed the flames to die down until embers remained, the meat was skewered and salted thoroughly. Now a days you can see these kabobs with various vegetables and fruits accompanying the tender and flavorful meat. Today’s recipe includes pineapple, peppers and onions that were simply seasoned with salt/pepper. I did not bother to prepare the pineapple as the recipe directed because grilled pineapple is already incredible.

While I prepared the bread and the meat marinated Ian heated up the grill. It did not take long to cook the meal, most of the time was spent skewering the meat and produce (it took a surprisingly long time). We decided to make up a fresh salad using greens from our garden to lighten things up.

HOLY GUACAMOLE! This cheese bread is everything you are looking for- soft, doughy, and cheesy. It is just so easy to make and 100% gluten free! I can see myself making this bread as a side, as an appetizer paired with tomato sauce, or a delightful snack. The kabobs of course were delicious and I do love so grilled pineapple. I feel like it is the superior way to prepare it and honestly I didn’t season it at all (even though the recipe called for butter among other things). This meal was crazy good, the bread really outshining the kabobs and truly blowing our minds. We rated this dish 9.5/10!

Brazil Day 3 – Moqueca

For day 3 we made moqueca, a seafood stew that is traditionally cooked in a terracotta casserole dish. With its Brazilian origin you understandably find lime, garlic, and cilantro to season the dish up. You serve this stew with a side of white rice and garish with a lime wedge and fresh herbs. Typically a fish component accompanies the shrimp, but the fish I bought went bad (although the date was good).. not cool Hannaford! If moqueca entices you, you can find the recipe here.

It was important to allow the shrimp to sit in the lime/ginger marinade for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking. This was another great weeknight meal that took little time and mostly was a “sit and wait” method. I was able to utilize the shrimp shells to make fish stock while they were marinating.. I highly recommend this to save money. Just throw it in the freezer and you’re good for another seafood chowder or stew!

Oh man this was great. This super creamy and warming broth paired well with the shrimp and veggies. Also a new enjoyable combination of basil and cilantro was discovered. There was nothing bland about this stew (which seems to be an issue 50% of the time) and we felt it was a new refreshing way to enjoy shrimp (no fish was needed). We thought it was deserving of a 9/10.

Brazil Day 2 – Feijoada

Welcome back! Day two in Brazil consists of a garlicy mixture of pork, short ribs, bacon, and beans… we are making feijoada! Feijoada (fay-jwa-da) is a traditional black bean stew that originated when slaves would combine the plantation owners leftovers with black beans to make a stew. This dish is a symbol to Brazil’s past and is enjoyed by citizens of all social classes.

The recipe I used was a slow cooker approach after all the meat was browned. Over time each element was added to the crock pot to slowly cook down to a savory party in your mouth! Yes it smelled like heaven in the kitchen and I did not feel guilty with all of the fatty meat slow cooking to perfection. I opted to use canned black beans for time and simplicity sake. The recipe can be found here.

Another hit here in Brazil! This garlicy, meaty meal was bursting with flavor. The addition of the orange slices gave the dish a bit of sweetness and acidity which we appreciated. We both drizzled the top with orange juice and decided to get a bite of the orange with the rest of the savory dish. We already knew beans and bacon were a powerful duo, but garlic amps it up! We thought this meal was worth an 8/10.

Next we tackle another stew with a fishy twist!

(71) Brazil Day 1 – Empadão de Frango

You know I love waterfall photos! For this next next adventure we are spending a week in Brazil, get ready for some seriously savory meals!

Iguazu Falls along the borders of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. Source: Discover-Your-South-America Gabriel Rocha, “Cataratas” (CC BY 2.0)

Brazil is the largest South and Latin American country and essentially borders all other South American countries. It is the world’s fifth largest country as well and shockingly bigger than Australia (how did I not know this?). The name Brazil comes from the brazilwood tree which can be found throughout the country and is understandably the national tree. 60% of the worlds rainforests can be found in Brazil including the Amazon Rainforest. Brazil is known for its skilled soccer players, festive carnivals, and the Christ the Redeemer Statue. It is also known for its incredible food.. lets dig in!😉

Brazilian cuisine varies depending on where you are, but the general rule applies for fresh meat, seafood, and produce – it is imperative! Some of the local produce you can find throughout Brazilian cooking includes mangos, cassava, yams, pineapple, and papaya to name a few.

Homemade chicken/veg stock- use up those chicken bones and skin for a flavorful broth!

Today’s meal is empadão de frango or chicken pot pie! Although I have found it difficult to locate a back story, these pot pies are adored by locals and can be filled with traditional chicken, beef, or even shrimp! It is important that there be a top and bottom crust to these pies and they are often served with white rice. From our lessons about the Australian Meat Pie we have learned pies hand come hand held to family size. I promise you this might become the new way you make your chicken pot pies.. recipe can be found here (I cut the recipe in 1/2).

It didn’t take too much effort to make this masterpiece (I didn’t make homemade crust once again.. sorry not sorry!) and I thought it was very straight forward. I thought it was smart to make a roux while combining the pie filling instead of adding separate gravy.

This has everything a chicken pot pie has and more! We loved the thick gravy that melded all of the veggies and chicken together. It was very well seasoned (I am getting better at this per Ian) and very creamy. Although the concept of the dish wasn’t new we totally had seconds. This one earned a 8/10 rating.

(49) Ecuador – Fritada de Gallina and Bolon de Verde

Coming in one shy of 50 countries we return to South America to see what Ecuador is all about. Home to the famous Galapagos Islands (a province of Ecuador) and Amazon rainforest you could say this is the place for wildlife lovers. Ecuador as you probably already guessed is named after the equator which runs through the northern part of the country. It borders the Pacific Ocean along with Colombia and Peru. This spicy little country also is known for Cotopaxi, a stratovolcano apart of the Andes Mountains that measures at over a staggering 19,000ft. This baby is considered active and last erupted in 1907.

Cotopaxi (stratovolcano of Ecuador) and a majestic llama. Source: The Telegraph -Getty Images

From previous research we have a good idea what the cuisine might be like here and known plantains will probably serve as a winning side dish. Potatoes, various fish, chicken, yucca, beef, pork and beans are also very commonly used. Today I did two dishes (because we can’t leave out plantains when we have the opportunity!) fritada de gallina and bolon de verde.

Fritada de gallina is chicken that is marinated in chicha (fermented corn drink) and orange juice along with cinnamon, clove, and garlic. The substitute for this particular drink was a cup of white wine which I always have on hand. 😉 It is then cooked for over a couple hours until the liquid is gone and chicken browned. You are left with a flavorful mix of sweet and spice. For best results I recommend letting it marinate for 24 hours.

As for the bolon de verde it is pretty simple- peel, cut and boil 4-5 plantains until fork tender, mash and mix in queso fresco cheese until well combined. Your option here is to either pan fry them to golden crispy perfection or use another favorite kitchen gadget of mine- the air fryer! It took me 10-12 minutes to achieve desired doneness.

And there you have it a plate representing Ecuador. I decided to use homemade salsa as a garnish for the plate, but it also worked well as a sauce since the plantain balls were a little on the dry side. We additionally thought they were slightly on the bland side and would have benefited from salt along with other traditional seasoning. The chicken was delicious and tender, the cinnamon and clove were nice touches to bring a mild warmth. We rated it 6.5/10- a higher rating if the plantain balls were seasoned more and not as dry. Let us know what you think!

Side note guys these chips from Ecuador are AMAZING! I highly recommend. I have only found them at TJ Maxx.

(47) Panama – Sancocho

Hello from the isthmus that connects South and Central America- Panama! This country gives you the unique opportunity to watch the sunrise over the Pacific and sunset over the Atlantic. Panama City the capital of Panama (pictured below) is the only city in the world that has a rain forest within city limits. The famous Panama canal generates one third of the countries economy and roughly 14,000 ships travel through each year. The toll each ship pays is dependent on their size, the larger ships paying almost half a million dollars- ouch!

Panama City Beach. Source: Fishingbooker.com

Typical cuisine in Panama is comprised of African, Native American, and Spanish methods. Due to the location of Panama it has access to several varieties of produce, yucca (cassava root) and plantains being the most commonly used.

Today we made a traditional soup filled with various veggies and chicken. Sancocho is a common Latin soup that is full of native flavors and was fairly easy to make. It contained yucca which was a new food for us to try. Yucca is very starchy and has a thick skin that is best peeled off similar to if you were preparing a plantain. Depending on where you are this recipe could vary. It is also said this soup can cure hangovers.. we have not tested this theory, but maybe you could let us know if it is true? 😉

Like most soups once you had the ingredients prepped it just needed time to cook and allow for the flavors to merge together. We loved the use of cilantro in the soup and like many other meals felt it brightened it up. The yucca and plantain were alike in flavor, closely resembling russet potatoes, however yucca had a slight squash-like similarity while the plantain had a mild sweetness. We thought there wasn’t enough balance between the starchy foods and other ingredients and decided to rate it 6.5/10.

Next, we visit a country I have never heard of before over and recently gained its independence in 1999. Tune in tomorrow to find out how it went!

(40) Venezuela – Pabellón Criollo

Hey guys- today we are in VENEZUELA! You already know it’s going to be good. Venezuela is situated on the Northern coast of South America neighboring Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Colombia. It is considered to be a megadiverse country with several species calling Venezuela their one and only home. Also found here is the world’s largest waterfall, Angel Falls which measures at a staggering 3,212ft total height!

Angel Falls. Source: Australian Geographic Luis Carillo/wikimedia.org

Venezuelan cuisine is influenced by West Africa, Europe, and Native Americans. Their dishes can often contain yams, plantains, corn, beans, and of course meat! The dish I made for Venezuela is called Pabellón Criollo. It consists of four separate dishes: shredded beef, garlic rice, plantains, and the most amazing black beans you’ve ever had. If you don’t know by now I have quite the plantain obsession and I hope you will grow to have one too!!

The history of this country’s national dish is not set in stone, however it is thought to represent the ethnic groups that populated Venezuela in the colonial area- shredded beef and plantains represent the indigenous people, white rice represents the European (Spanish) settlers, and black beans the Africans that were brought over with the Spanish. Another interpretation is that the colors represent the country’s flag.

I used this recipe which was easy to follow even with several elements cooking at the same time. I had prepped veggies while the meat was cooking which saved time later on. The rice I saved for later so it wouldn’t get cold. Plantains are always since they are a fried food and would not taste as good reheated.

We loved this dish! It was very savory, the beans especially standing out with rich flavor. I think I would have liked the shredded beef cooking in a sauce versus beef juices, however it was still very good. All the flavors went well together and the plantains brought a nice crunchy texture to the dish.

We rated the dish 7.5/10. Let us know what you think and drop a comment below!

(31) Suriname – Pom

Kasikasima Mountain, Suriname. Source: Wallpapercave.com

We are finally circling back to South America to Suriname. Suriname is found in the Northern part of the country bordered by Guyana, French Guinea, and Brazil. 80% of the country is made up of rainforests and is home to 467 species. One of these being the world’s deadliest poison dart frog which can only be found in these forests. Suriname is a large exporter of gold making up 67% of South America total exports.

The Blue Poison Dart frog (only found in Suriname). Source: ZME Science – (Dendrobates Azureus)

Today I made a dish known as Pom which is a very well known dish in Suriname. It has Jewish and Creole origins and was introduced by the Jewish-Portuguese plantain owners in the 17th century as a potato oven dish. The dish was adapted to the Surinamese culture by substituting potatoes that were difficult to grow in this region with the root of pomtajer which is a native root vegetable.

Pom is made up of three main ingredients: citrus juices (commonly orange with lemon or lime), chicken, and pomtajer (or potato). The use of citrus juice when cooking chicken is how Jewish cooks “cleansed chicken of their smell.”

I had also read with my research on this dish that how a woman prepares this dish for the first time is a rite of passage into the Surinamese culture and a wife’s success can be measured on how well she can make pom. No pressure.. 😅

Ready for the to bake!

I found the recipe relatively straight forward, but was glad I made it on my day off as it was a time consuming process. I did use a combination of chicken breast and chicken apple sausage (Creole version).

We thought the orange juice was the stand out of this dish and definitely dominated our palettes. I would taste some of the other flavors like the sweetness of the chicken sausage or mild spice of the relish, but orange was the one that dominated the others. I feel like after my research that I should have had a thicker potato crust and slightly less juice so I could have experienced a nice crisp top layer.

We ended up rating the dish 6.75/10, Ian rating it higher than myself for above reasons. Let us know what you think if you try to recreate the Suriname sensation!