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.
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.
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.
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.
Welcome back! Today we are in Libya, a North African country known for its desert terrain and oil production. Due to most of the country being made up of this barren landscape they must import the majority of their food. Part of the Sahara desert can be found in this country, the Libyan portion is known for being the harshest and driest; so dry that decades could pass without rain.
That description of Libya might have you wondering “what good can come from such a place?” Well let me introduce you to their take on the stuffed bell pepper (mahshee)! I love that this recipe comes from someone who grew up eating this passed down in their family. Although stuffed peppers are not truly unique to this country, the flavors that are packed inside are very traditional.
Mahshee or mahshi are stuffed peppers or squash that originates back in the Ottoman empire. It is popular in the Middle East and each representation maybe very unique to the region it has been made in. That is true for Libya as well, you will find in this recipe several spices and herbs to bring a fresh new perspective on the stuffed pepper.
We absolutely loved this dish! Super easy to make (a little time consuming) and full of flavor! We loved the mild heat of the dish along with flavor that packed a punch! If you are looking to spice up your stuffed pepper this is the meal for you. I was able to share this meal among friends and they all agreed it was a keeper! We rated this dish 8/10 and it creeps up into our list favorites.
To end our week we will land in Sri Lanka to try another authentic dish. We hope you are enjoying our taste bud travels.. until next time!
To close out the week we are in Costa Rica! I decided to make two dishes that are very popular in the Costa Rican diet. Costa Rica is found in Central America and is known as the hummingbird capital with over 50 species native to the region. It is full of spectacular nature, an overwhelming amount of insects, and active volcanos. This country has it all- amazing views and food!
Nauyaca Waterfalls of Costa Rica. Source: Pinterest
The first portion of this meal is carne en salsa – a shredded beef dish that soaks up a flavorful red sauce. The finely shredded beef is very versatile and could be used for tacos, tamales, sandwiches or even nachos! I was able to find the highly recommended Salsa Lizano on Etsy which helped give the meat and rice a wonderfully sweet and smoky flavor. This sauce has been a Costa Rican staple for over 100 years!
The recipe I used for the lovely carne en salsa can be found here. This blog also has a separate link for the preparation prior to the shredding. If you don’t have an Instant Pot I would recommend slow cooking the beef for 6-8 hours or until it easily shreds.
For the second part of this dish I decided to make the national dish of Costa Rica- Gallo Pinto. Gallo pinto translates to spotted rooster and was likely given this name due to its contrasting appearance. Nicaragua also claims this dish as its own, however it is controversial.
I used this recipe which was very easy to follow. It required 1/2 of cup of the locally made sauce, but have no fear Worchester sauce is a good substitute. This paired well with the beef and once again seemed like a dish that could be used for many different meals. In Costa Rica it’s commonly served up with eggs for breakfast.
Additionally I fried up some plantains which brought a wonderful crunch to the dish. This meal was well balanced and honestly one of my favorites! It was pretty straight forward to prepare and not too time consuming. Another bonus is how each element could be used in various dishes or stand out alone.
We could not recommend this meal more and gave it an 8.5/10 rating (definitely suggest frying some green plantains as well). Next on the menu is Guyana 😊
Welcome to another day in Europe! Today we are in Kosovo, the second youngest country in the world. It gained independence from Serbia in 2008 (although not all countries view it this way). This little Balkan country is roughly the size of Delaware. The name Kosovo is derived from Serbia meaning “field of black birds.” Below is a picture of the stone bridge of Prizren which sits in the center of this very historical city.
To honor this little known country I will be making tavë kosi. This dish is a national dish of Albania technically, but due to recent independence it was hard to find a truly authentic Kosovan dish. The dish is thought to have been created back in the 14th century when lamb was being marinated in yogurt in preparation to feed the sultan. Leftover grilled lamb was then baked with yogurt and voila the dish was born!
I used this recipe from a fellow international food blogger and it was very easy to follow! I personally added extra oregano and nutmeg because I enjoy those flavors. The four cups of yogurt equaled an entire large container for this recipe. I also substituted stewing beef for lamb which I thought worked well.
Layer oneLayer twoDone!
We were surprised with how good this dish tasted! It was well seasoned, rich and creamy with slight sourness on top and the beef was tender and had a wonderful flavor from the garlic and butter. I did not prepare this meal with any side dishes, but I would recommend a side dish of salad or cooked vegetables to balance it out. We rated the dish 7.5/10 👍👍
Welcome to our final week of February which is our 8th week traveling by taste bud! I started out this week in Romania dreaming of roaming the Carpathian Mountains and exploring several medieval castles. Scărișoara Glacier hides underground inside a 105m (344ft) cave and Berca Mud Volcanoes spew out occasionally colorful bubbles of the earth- it feels like we are in a fantasy land!
I chose to prepare the beloved sarmale which is very representative of this country. It is believed to by Turkish in origin, however Romania has definitely put it’s mark on the dish. It consists of sauerkraut or boiled cabbage which is filled with ground pork, rice, onions, and spices. The rolls are then layered or placed side by side in boiling water along with bacon and occasionally spare ribs to cook for several hours. Tomatoes are used in various stages of this process depending on what recipe you use. The very lengthy recipe I used can be found here if you have 6+ hours to spare. There are other variations that are a little less time consuming, but it is for sure a labor of love.
I found it challenging to roll the pork mixture in the cabbage, but I was able to get two full layers as the recipe called for. I would recommend prepping as much as you can before hand so the cooking and assembly takes less time. I felt like a chicken without her head trying to juggle cooking bacon and spare ribs while prepping the cabbage and onion! Also it was very difficult to assemble the boiled cabbage leaves without the filling oozing out.. I tried to make Romania proud 😅
This dish was well seasoned combining savory and pickling flavors together. I was glad I had triumphed with this very long process, it was very satisfying to watch it come together along with the sides of polenta and topping of homemade pickled hot peppers. I will say though it came down to texture for me due to the I rated this dish lower than Ian bringing our average to 6/10. Don’t let my review scare you away, if you are motivated for a 15+ step process this might be your recipe! Up next Finland!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 😊
Kon’nichiwa and welcome to Japan! This week we will be diving into Japanese cuisine making four traditional meals. Japan is an island country which is made up of over 6,800 islands- 430 of those being inhabited. Toyoko, the capital of this lovely country, is the most populated city in the world with a whopping 38 million citizens.
The first meal of the week will be authentic Tonkotsu Ramen executed in a modern way- time to break out the Instant Pot! Ramen is a popular noodle dish that is enjoyed around the world and prepared in various ways. The origins of ramen is debatable if you ask any food connoisseur, but it is actually thought to have come from China. Although the exact time frame is unknown, it is thought to have come to Japan when a man named Shu Shunsai escaped the Manchu rule of China with the recipe of ramen.
Another theory that has gone around is that a noodle shop of Toyoko called Rai-Rai Ken had Chinese cooks that popularized “shina soba.” Shina is a Japanese term for China, and soma was an already established dish of Japan. Ramen was referred to as shina soba until the 1950s.
If you admire ramen like us, you should check out the history of ramen at First We Feast.
So back to this recipe I tried- the use of my Instant Pot made it a breeze to prepare this meal. Traditionally it takes several hours to prepare the broth alone. The recipe I used can be found here. I was able to duplicate the recipe for the most part, but I could not get pork belly so I used pork chops.
This was another new experience for me. The broth was very rich and the pork was very well seasoned. I had never made a hard or soft boiled egg or cooked mushrooms before so again more new cooking experiences for me to store in my tool box! We thought the flavors fused together well giving it an average rating of 7/10. Next up, shrimp and veggie tempura!