(15) (Democratic) Republic of the Congo – Poulet à la Moambé

Hello again! Welcome to the Democratic Republic of the Congo! We decided to make this meal together for Valentines day with some wine (obviously!) Let’s dive back into Africa, we will be here a lot this week!

Source: World Nomads

The second largest country in Africa is home to 250 different languages and 200 unique ethnic groups. DCR’s capital, Kinshasa makes up the second biggest French-speaking country in the world. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is actually named after the Congo river which flows throughout the country. The Congo river is the deepest river in the world reaching depths of 722ft.

The national dish of DCR we prepared is poulet à la moambé or “chicken in palm oil sauce” and it was what we made for a special at home date night for Valentine’s Day. This dish has French cooking influence, but it is dominated by African flavor. There are several variations on this dish, the one we decided on having peanut butter, ginger, tomatoes, and garlic to name a few ingredients. The remainder of the recipe can be found here. We decided to serve the dish with jasmine rice and fried plantains which is fairly common.

This meal was amazing! What a wonderful Valentine’s treat!! We enjoyed this candle lit dinner with traditional African music playing in the background. The ginger really pulled through and tied together the dish. The fried plantains were a great additional and gave a nice crunchy texture. We rated this dish 8/10.

Continuing on this African adventure we head to Mali for another hearty meal!

(14) Sudan – Maschi

The Sudd. Source: Amusing Planet

Sudan was formerly the largest country in Africa. But on July 9, 2011, following decades of civil war, the southern portion seceded and declared its independence. In the south, the Nile and its tributaries form a vast swamp known as the Sudd which is one of the largest wetland areas in the world. Extending up north lies portions of the vast savanna, a border along the Red sea, and blending with the Egyptian deserts.

The Meroe Pyramids Source: Northern Sudan Expedition

The Sudanese cuisine has influences from bordering countries as well as traditional roots stretching far back in the past. This recipe includes a staple ingredient for Sudanese cuisine- tomatoes!

The ingredients and spices used were true to this recipe. I decided to ditch the measurements of the spices and just go by taste. I ended up using quite a bit more of all the spices than what the recipe called for.

The tomatoes were cut and hollowed creating perfect vessels for the ingredients to be piled into. Due to the difficulty of trying to fry the stuffed tomatoes and cook all sides in a skillet, I opted to place them in a baking pan filled with the recipe’s sauce and briefly cook them at 500 degrees in the oven.

This dish was really good! The meat and rice remained tender because of the high moisture content of the tomato. Subtle hints of fresh dill were appreciated. Surprisingly the real highlight of this dish was the combination of cinnamon and tomato in the sauce which complimented each other very well. Final score 7/10.

Next week we will explore more of Africa starting with The Democratic Republic of the Congo.

(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 😊

(11) Japan Day 1 – Tonkostu Ramen

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.

Source: Alfonso Calero

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!

(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

(8) Niger – Djerma

Happy Tuesday! Today I have prepared the national dish of Niger. Niger is a Western African country that is named after the Niger River that flows through it. This country lies just south of the tropic of cancer making it one of the hottest countries in the world. May is their steamiest month with normal high temperatures ranging from 108-115 degrees!

The Niger River. Source: Niger Travel and Tours

The meal I will be trying today is called djerma, which is a peanut chicken stew served over rice. Peanuts are the biggest cash crop of Niger and can be found in a lot of their cuisine. You know how much I love peanuts and how they elevate dishes for me!

I found yet another recipe on Pinterest which can be found here (what would I do without Pinterest?) This was another meal where the smells rising from the boiling pot made us feel like we were some place warmer. In Niger meat is more scarce, however when meat is available chicken is typically used. Cooking this dish wasn’t too time consuming and was totally worth the multiple step process. The vibrant colors of orange and green lightened the primary mustard color of the dish.

This was another winner in our book- 8/10 ratings all around! The flavors once again were knock out and it had a comfort food vibe. The peanut butter did not come through as much as I thought, however it made the stew a little creamier. Next on the menu is meatballs from Denmark! Talk to you soon 😊