(70) Laos – Khao Poon

Source: Grasshopper Adventures

Welcome back to Asia where we traveled to our 70th country Laos, the land of a million elephants (name translation). Laos is found in Southeast Asia cozied up next to Vietnam, Thailand, China, Burma, and Cambodia. Although this is a landlocked country you can explore the stunning Luang Prabang Mountain Range or the impressive Khon Phapheng Falls. Laos became independent from the French rule in 1953 so you can find its citizens speaking French of Lao. Laos is known for its Bhuddism, historic temples, and its spicy cuisine!

Laos cuisine often always includes sticky rice, their citizens being the largest consumers in the world averaging 345lbs consumed per person annually! Its cuisine is similar to Indian and Thai food in which their dishes are often full of spicy and rich flavors. The most popular and representative dish of Laos being larb; a salad like meal with ground meat herbs and veg sitting in a lime-fish sauce dressing. Today he make something a little different, but still very true to Laos- khao poon. This dish is a spicy soup with vermicelli, coconut milk, chicken, and several plant-based garnishes. Every khao poon is unique to its cook with several variations out there. You can find the recipe Ian used here.

Galangal is similar to ginger and turmeric and can be found in Southern Asia. I had to go online to find myself some but it was dried! This made for a tricky preparation..

Ian ended up modifying the spice because personally we don’t like our mouths to fry. He added a sweeter Asian sauce to the curry paste to make it spicy and sweet, more Messy Aprons friendly! We had fun plating this meal, the edible flowers bringing the dish to the next level!

Ian and I have been on a streak of above average dishes, this being one of them. We loved the heat and spice that was well balanced by the coconut milk. I appreciated the balance of vegetables to meat; when there is x2-3 more meat to veg most of the time I think it is too much (I know what an unpopular opinion). We rated this one 7.75/10.

(42) Saint Lucia – Curried Chicken and Coconut Pineapple Rice

We are back the Caribbean baby! St Lucia is an island situated in the Caribbean Sea south of Martinique and north of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Although a small country it is full of various unique landscapes such as rainforests, coral reefs, mountains, a dormant volcano, and sandy beaches. St Lucia has also been known as Iyonola and Hewanorra which were names given by natives meaning island of the iguanas, but was renamed in the 16th century by the European settlers.

The Pitons of St Lucia. Source: Planetware.com

So I already had a hunch I would like this dish since we had made a coconut curry tuna dish for Tuvalu not too long ago. Although this is not the national dish, it is still a good representation of the country with common ingredients. Their cuisine is influenced by British, East Indian, and French cooking styles and flavors which can be seen in this dish.

There is a large variety of spices St Lucians use such as allspice, cinnamon, curry, and cloves and an even large variety of fruits that are native to the island. This dish has the wonderful pineapple which can easily elevate any dish in my opinion, especially when grilled! I used this recipe when preparing dinner.

As expected the dish was a hit and easy to prepare! I had marinated the chicken overnight to get the best flavor possible. The pineapple coconut rice was amazing (honestly what doesn’t coconut milk and pineapple make better)? The chicken was very flavorful and well seasoned. I would have liked to try the marinade on bone-in chicken that I would cook up in the Air Fryer. We rated this dish 8/10.

(39) Northern Mariana Islands – Kelaguen Mannok

Welcome back to a warm place in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.. The Northern Mariana Islands. This archipelago has 15 volcanoes that are mostly dormant . The Northern 10 volcanic islands are uninhabited leaving 5- Rota, Guam, Aguijan, Tinian and Saipan. Guam is a US territory that is the southernmost island of the chain. The Mariana Trench (West of the Mariana Islands) is actually the lowest part of the Earth’s crust and it is so deep that Mount Everest would completely fit with room to spare between the peak and the surface of the water!

Source: Giftbasketsoverseas.com

These islands neighbor Japan and the Philippines and are traveled to for their beauty, coral reefs, and golf courses. Today I made a dish that is popular in Guam, however it will represent the chain of islands in their entirety. Kelaguen Mannok is a chicken salad which can be eaten as is or wrapped in a tortilla. This salad is made up of cooked chicken that traditionally is marinated in soy sauce and cane sugar. Other ingredients include items that might make you feel like you are some place tropical- unsweetened coconut, lemons, and hot peppers. I used this recipe to create this dish and took advantage of the tip to use a rotisserie chicken!

I decided to make the common red rice pairing as well. The rice gets its color from annatto powder (I had to make my own blend using tumeric, paprika, and nutmeg). Annatto powder is more commonly used in cooking solely for the color it gives food vs flavor. It comes from the seeds of spiny fruit of an achiote tree, the fruit remind me of burdock that are found stuck to your clothes when coming out to hike in Maine!

I will admit I wish I had done more research prior to making this dish to know to marinate the chicken. Instead I just drizzled some soy sauce on the salad and mixed it well prior to wrapping it up. The rice had nice flavor from my spice blend, however no matter how much I tried it did not look nearly as colorful as the real deal.

We thought this was a pretty yummy dish and the addition of a tortilla obviously was a superior way to eat it! It was surprising that the chicken with the combination of flavors and the fact that it was cold tricked my mind several times to think it was fish! The citrus and mild heat components was a nice contrast that paired well with the sweetness of the coconut. We rated this dish an average of 7/10.

(32) Vanuatu – Coconut Sweet Potato Soup with Spicy Shrimp

Port Vila, Vanuatu. Source: SPREP.org

Welcome back! Today we are in the tropical Vanuatu, a country made up of 83 islands in the South Pacific Ocean near Australia. Bungee jumping was first done here when brave boys and men would jump from 20-30m (60-90ft) with vines tied to their ankles off wooden towers as part of a ritual called Nanggol. I think I’ll pass on that one!

The Vanuatuan cuisine consists main ingredients such as mangos, bananas, taro, yam, coconut, and seafood. You can find chickens and pigs used as a meat source, however seafood is primarily used. With that being said today’s dish screams Vanuatu!

I ended up finding a wonderful recipe that consisted of seasoned shrimp on top of a shredded spinach which sits in a sweet potato and coconut soup, yum yum!

Their national dish lap lap did not seem possible for me to attempt which is the product of pounded taro root paste which is layered with cabbage and meat wrapped in a banana leaf.. something tells me this would only taste good if eating it local.

All in all we appreciated the sweetness from the coconut and sweet potato and slight kick of chili powder (did not have cayenne). The shrimp was seasoned perfectly and had a bit of a crunch to it. The additional of spinach brought a freshness to the dish. We ended up rating it 7.25/10!

(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!

(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!)

(25) Sri Lanka – Shrimp Kottu Roti/Kothu Roti

Sri Lanka is known by two alternative names “The pearl of he Indian Ocean” and the “tear drop of India”. The first name comes from the beautiful tropical landscape, high levels of biodiversity and the fine gemstones found there. It’s second name can be easily be understood when looking at a map, as the tear drop shaped country appears to be falling from the southern point of India.

Wikipedia

Despite being such a small country, Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest exporters of cinnamon and tea. Cinnamon is actually native to Sri Lanka. The spice is processed by peeling the inner bark of the native cinnamon trees.

Sri Lankan Tea Country https://travelbible.co/sri-lanka

Tonight’s meal is Kottu Roti which is a famous street food from Sri Lanka. It’s said when walking the streets you can hear the rhythmic scraping and chopping as chefs prepare this meal with their steel hand spatulas. Here and here are the two recipes I referenced.

Lonleyplanet.com

Coconut Roti is a Sri Lankan flatbread that is both spicy and sweet. Below is the Dry ingredients, and the final dough ball once water is mixed and folded in.

The ball is then split into several smaller pieces that are rolled flat and then placed onto the frying pan.

The Final product is a sweet, spicy, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside flat bread!

Separately the shrimp and vegetables are heavily spiced and cooked.

The roti is then chopped and everything is mixed together for the final plating.

This dish is spiced well and is packed full of flavor with multiple layers of mild heat. The shrimp and roti provide a crisp texture, and the coconut infuses the dish with mild sweetness. We loved how the simple ingredients packed such bold flavor.

Final rating 7/10.