(13) Cuba -Ropa Vieja

Hello! Today we are in Cuba and will be taking a shot at another national dish. Cuba is home to passionate son music, cigars, and classic cars. These cars can be found all over the country, especially in Havana and are a popular tourist attraction. There are two reasons why classic cars dominate the country- one being the cars and parts ban from 1959-2016 from any foreign country or US; second being the cost of buying new cars is not affordable for most citizens. Since the ban Cubans had to become crafty with their car upkeep and often painted their cars bright colors to hide panel and body work.

Classic cars in Havana, Cuba. Source: Kim.kim.com

Ropa Vieja, the national dish of Cuba, is also popular throughout the Caribbean. This meal consists of slow cooked beef in a slightly spicy, tomato based sauce. This dish originated in the Canary Islands of Spain and with colonization brought Spanish influence to Cuba. Unfortunately with the beef restrictions in Cuba, it is not cooked as often as it once did.

The Roasted Root had a great recipe that allowed me to break out my Instant Pot again (slow cooker works as well). I love me some plantains and was happy to fry some up to accompany the beef. We loved the meal and thought it was very satisfying with all the different elements working well together. The cabbage especially brought a beautiful pop of color to the dish.

We rated this dish 7.25/10 between the two of us, the meat being the stand out aspect of the dish. Come back in a few days for a classic comfort food from Bangladesh.

(12) Uzbekistan – Plov

Urungach Lake. Source: People’s Daily

Welcome to our sixth week cooking every country! I start the week of in the beautiful Uzbekistan (roughly translating to Land of the Free from Turkish/Persian). It is a landlocked country meaning it does not border any oceans or seas. It was the center of the Silk Road which was what connected Europe, China and and the Middle East together. Additionally, Uzbekistan did not become an independent country from Russia until 1991.

The meal I will be recreating from this country is called Plov (or palov osh). It is very similar to rice pilaf and is the national dish of Uzbekistan. The dishes name actually is an acronym for it’s ingredients: P-piyoz (onion),  a – ayoz (carrot),  l – lakhm (meat),  о – olio (fat),  v – vet (salt),  о – ob (water),  sh – shali (rice).

There are various varieties (upwards of 60) which depends on which region of the country you are in. Common ingredients that make up the base of all plovs are rice, mutton/lamb, carrots, and spices. One other meat that can be found as a substitute is kazi or horse meat sausage.

It is so easy to make your own veggie broth!

Plov was first created back in the 10th and 11th centuries for weddings and other big events. At this time only the high class could afford to eat it, but in present day it is adored by all classes and tourists alike. It can be made for weddings, holidays, or on a daily basis which will predict how grand the dish will be.

I used this straight forward recipe for this meal. We loved the new blend of flavors (especially the currants/raisins)! We feel that there could have been more seasoning (I added more after the fact) to let the ingredients come to life. Also after cooking lamb a few times now we have discovered that we aren’t huge fans of the flavor.. in the future we will be substituting the beef equivalent (much cheaper too). We rated this dish 6-6.5/10, it would be higher with beef and more seasoning.

Tomorrow I break out the Instant Pot to make Ropa Vieja from Cuba!

Tamagoyaki (Japan)

Yes I have another bonus recipe for you! The ingredients are minimal, but it does take some finesse to cook.

Tamagoyaki is reminds me of a fruit roll up (00s legendary snack) but made of egg and veggies. It’s name literally translates to “egg cooked over dry heat.” You cook the mixture in steps keeping layers thin.

I used this recipe to help me recreate the dish. Something lovely about this dish is that it can be very classy, served in high-end restaurants to an easy breakfast in your kitchen.

I tried my best folks.. It didn’t stay together like I had hoped, however I did it get to roll up successfully. I think would would have made it better is a little cheese and bell peppers. I think it is a nice change from an omelet and can see myself trying it again in the future!

5 weeks down, infinite to go (literally booked into next year). Tomorrow I will make Plov hailing from Uzbekistan 🐑🧅🥕

Japan Day 4 – Gyudon

If your looking for a quick and easy meal that packs a tasty punch on a Friday night, Gyudon is a great option. In Japan this meal is consider a quick, comfort meal.

Although there are small variations in the recipes I found, there are consistent staple ingredients of thin slices of beef, thin slices of onion, egg, and a savory sauce that sits on top of rice. Although the ingredient list is short and simple this meal is flavorful.

Once considered lower-class budget meal, Gyudon has surged in popularity as a western influence on cuisine has increased in Japan. There was a time when consumption of beef was prohibited in Japan as it clashed with Buddhist philosophy. It has a reputation for filling your belly without breaking the bank and we found this to be true. The thinly sliced onions create bring sweetness to the dish. The simmered meat is tender and delicious.

The recipe I used can be found here. We thought this dish was worth 6-6.5/10 for a rating. It has a delicious fusion of flavor and a great week night meal. Tomorrow one more bonus dish will be made from Japan before heading to Africa.

Japan Day 3 – Onigiri and Miso Soup

Day 3 brings us onigiri (o-ni-ɡi-ri). I decided out of the many possible fillings I will fill mine with sha-ke and okaka (see below). Typically in Japan these snack sized treats can be found in convenience stores for an easy breakfast on the go or mid day snack. I will be pairing these rice triangles with miso soup to complete the meal.

The silver packets are miso soup cubes

Onigiri has a history that dates waaay back to around 800 A.D. when variations were made for travel and picnics. Wrapped in bamboo leaves they were food on the go for soldiers in the 16th century. Dried nori was then substituted in the 18th century which is still used today. Common fillings found tucked inside the rice include umeboshi (pickled plum), sha-ke (salted salmon), kombu (simmered seaweed), okaka (bonito flakes mixed with soy sauce), and tarako (salted cod roe) to name a few. When preparing this meal I referenced Kitchen Princess Bamboo (KPB) and Chopstick Chronicles. I made my own salted salmon like KPB does in her video.

The miso soup will be prepared from a packet mix to save time during the week. Miso soup is traditionally made with miso paste and dashi stock with various vegetables or tofu. I prepared my miso with spring onions and their greens.

We appreciated this lighter meal rating it mutually 6.5/10. This meal reminded us of sushi, but with more rice. I thought the okaka was especially flavorful. They were surprisingly filling and I was not able to eat all four of mine. I can see how this would be a good on the go snack and much healthier than the processed alternatives.

We will close out our week in Japan with Gyudon and a bonus recipe! Stay tuned 😊

(10) The Republic of Côte d’Ivoire/ Ivory Coast- Velouté d’Ignames

Welcome back! The last dish of this week will be reining from another African country- The Ivory Coast. As some of you might have noticed the Ivory Coast also has a French name Côte d’Ivoire (coast of ivory) which is the official name of the country. This country was named by the French due to its’ significant history of ivory trade. It is home to 9 national parks, the largest being Assagny. Unfortunately due to this countries history the once booming population of elephants is now at its all time low. The country is trying to actively protect its’ elephants and hopefully will be successful..

Elephants roaming Assagny National Park. Source: Worldtravelcafe.com

So you are probably wondering by now what I am making for this week.. Velouté d’Ignames or cream of yam soup, is commonly made in this country due to the abundance of yams. Yams are adored here so much that there is an annual festival celebrating that years harvest. This soup showcases the excellence of the native tuber, but once again I could not get my hands on yams. I was able to substitute them with russet potatoes since they are the most similar. Yams are thought to be closely related to the sweet potato since their names get interchanged often, but the African yam is more comparable to the russet since they are dry and starchy.

Source: Cookery Nation

The is very simple, like most African cuisine, but it has an admirable flavor. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy simple recipes since the majority of the time I prepare these recipes during the week when I have less motivation and energy! The recipe I used to recreate this dish can be found here.

The soup had wonderful flavor and it made me think of what might be used as a base for a seafood chowder (I did save leftover soup for this purpose). It was another simple, but delicious recipe. I would have liked a little more ingredients to enhance its’ flavor. We rated it 6/10.

That concludes our first month of cooking around the globe, I hope you are enjoying it as much as we have! We start off February in Japan for one week trying traditional dishes such as ramen to onigiri! Talk to you soon! 😸

We have some abstract garnish for this dish

(9) Denmark – Frikadeller

Nyhvan, Copenhagen Denmark. Source: Moustashie

Denmark is a southern Scandinavian country composed of the Jutland Peninsula and other various islands. Because this region sits in the temperate zone, the area experiences varying weather and well-defined seasons.

Source: Why Did The Viking Age Start? – Life in Norway

Most notoriously known for it’s history of fierce, bearded, axe-wielding Vikings, Denmark is also home to some delicious food! We chose to take a crack at their traditional meatballs known as Frikadellar.

The general consensus is that Frikadellar originated from northern Germany. I found recipes throughout Germany and Scandinavia with small variations of a rather simple combination of veil, pork or beef, onions, eggs, milk, oatmeal, flour, and salt and pepper. Simply combine all the ingredients into a bowl and mix. Allow the mixture to consolidate in the fridge for anywhere from 30 minutes to a day. Once settled you can then form your meatballs and cook them on the stove top in butter or margarine. When sifting through recipes one may notice that these meatballs often appear more like meat patties. It’s said that the today’s hamburgers actually evolved from the frikadellar recipes of Hamburg Germany. So thank your favorite German with a “Danke”, the next time your appreciating a fine burger.

In addition to the meatballs, I made a basic gravy and mashed potatoes for a side, as well as another Danish specialty known as Rødkål- which is a red cabbage concoction that balanced this savory “meat and potatoes” kind of dish with notes of sweet and sour.

Our score for the Danish Meatballs: 7/10.

Canada Day 2 – Soupe aux Pois Cassés

Soupe aux pois cassés or split pea soup is popular throughout Canada partially due to its ease to make and low cost. The origins of this soup are thought to have traveled overseas on Samuel de Champlain’s ship from France. Also aboard his ship was an ancestor of mine- Louis de Plourde de Plourdegais who was his surgeon-general. He accompanied Champlain as he established Saint Croix, Port Royal, and Québec before returning back to Nantes, France. (I am fortunate to have learned this from my Dad’s uncle who actually traveled to France to gather information on our ancestry!) Some of the ingredients for the soup were easily kept aboard the ship for long journeys.

As the first settlers were growing vegetables and raising pigs they discovered the beautiful pair of ham hock and peas. This hearty soup helped the settlers through freezing winters and was very nutritious. Over time this dish was especially loved by farmers as peas kept well and the other ingredients were very inexpensive.

The smell of cooking ham and vegetables filled the apartment as we sunk into the couch after a long day of work. Once the peas reached the desired texture, we dished it up with slices of baguette to dip into the nourishing concoction. Although it did not stand out like some of the other dishes, we still appreciated its’ taste and uncomplicated recipe (found here). If I was to make it again I would puree the soup. We rated this dish 5.5/10. Later on this week I will be serving up the third Canadian dish- Fèves au Lard (any guesses on what that might be?)

(5) Guinea – Kansiyé

Another day, another African country! For the fifth country we arrive in the Republic of Guinea (not where guinea pigs originate as some may believe). Guinea is full of lush landscapes filled with 800 ft waterfalls, vast mountain ranges, and delicious food. This country is located along the western coast of Africa and is home to several natural resources such as gold, diamonds, and iron.

Mount Nimba, Guinea – flickr image

The center of Guinean cooking is the rice, however depending on where you are in the country the sauce can differ. Along with the rice and sauce sometimes the dishes will contain various meats such as lamb, beef or fish. Kansiyé is a flavorful stew served over rice. The version I am making today will have lamb, but there are vegetarian varieties which substitute lentils instead. I’m not going to lie- I’m loving these recipes with peanut butter in them!

The recipe I used today can be found here. To thicken the stew I used cornstarch, but otherwise followed the recipe to a T. I was curious how the tomato and peanut butter flavors were going to taste together, but we were pleasantly surprised! The meal reminded me of something you would eat in colder seasons or as a comfort food. It was creamy and lighter than I thought it would be. We felt it could have used more seasoning and due to that we rated it 6/10.

And that concludes week two! The next country on our list is Canada which we will spend a week exploring. I can’t wait to make some traditional meals that my family has made for generations!

(3) Lesotho – Lekhotloane and Morongo Potatoes

Maletsunyana Falls – U.S Department of State

Lesotho, a small but mighty country is surrounded by South Africa and is full of ancient ruins. You can find many mountains here, the highest being 3,482 meters or 11,424 feet above sea level! It is also known as the highest country in the world. Located in the Qacha’s Nek District, nestled in the Maloti Mountains, you can find the gorgeous Sehlabathebe National Park. Are you getting that urge to travel yet? Me too..

The traditional dish I made to represent this country consists of bashed beef, also known as lekhotloane, and morongo which refers to locally grown spinach of Southern Africa. The morongo is added to potatoes and boiled along with a few other ingredients -yum! Beef is more expensive in this region of Africa and not eaten on a regular basis.. When a prize cow is slaughtered this dish is often made.

The potatoes were pretty straight forward to make, the beef on the other hand just took FOREVER to cook. I feel it was because I strayed from the recipe using a different kind of roast meat, oh well. The recipe I used can be found here. All in all it was a delicious, simple meal which was quite a 180 from yesterdays more seasoned meal. We rate this dish 7/10 (I ended up rating it higher than Ian because peanut butter makes just about everything taste good in my opinion). Next up is Kuwait!