(84) South Korea – Beef Bulgogi

Seoul, South Korea. Source: Cushmanwakefield.com

Welcome to South Korea, our 84th country! You can of course find South Korea on the border of North Korea, The Yellow Sea, and The Sea of Japan. The city of Seoul is the largest of South Korea and the world’s third largest city with a population of 25 million people! Outside of the bustling city you can admire the traditional Hanok architecture in Hanok Village which is situated between two of the large palaces from the Joseon Dynasty. Interestingly, in South Korea you don’t turn a year older until New Year’s Day, and from birth you are a year old. From yummy food to popular music South Korea has left its mark on the United States.

There are a few foods that come to mind when you think of South Korea- kimchi (fermented cabbage and vegetables), bibibaps, and soondae (blood sausage) to name a few. Their cuisine has evolved greatly over time due to political and social events. Rice, vegetables, seafood, and meats make up most meals while sesame oil, gochujang (fermented chili paste), doenjang (fermented bean paste), and soy sauce are common ingredients. Koreans are very into fermented foods which add a unique flavor to any dish. Our dish we are making today, beef bulgogi, will have a side of kimchi.

Beef bulgogi is a marinated, thinly sliced (oops) beef that is often grilled or sautéed served over rice or wrapped up in lettuce. The origins of the meal date back to Goguryeo era, which was 37 B.C. to 668 A.D. It started out as skewered meat known as maekjeok and over time evolved to neobiani which was marinated beef that was grilled and often eaten by the upper class and royalty. By the early 20th century beef was more available in Korea and ultimately became the bulgogi we know today. There is a slightly different interpretation of the dish which is more a beef broth meal. So I actually did neither preparation and sautéed the meat in its marinade- yum! Can you smell that garlic? Recipe can be found here.

After my meat marinated for 24 hours I cooked it as directed via skillet. I decided to let it cook with most of the marinade to make sure it would stay tender. Luckily this meal as another easy one to do during the work week. To achieve the cucumber ribbons I used a veggie peeler.

What a pretty plate! We loved this colorful meal and how each element brought something special to the dish. The meat was very tender and well seasoned. The ginger as always pulls through with a garlic punch. We always find the addition of cucumber refreshing and helps cut the spiciness. This dish was deserving of a solid 8/10.

(69) The Gambia – West African Peanut Butter Stew

The Gambia River. Source: World Nomads- © Getty Images/Bart Brouwer / EyeEm

Hey fellow foodies, today we are in The Gambia. You can find this country tucked inside Senegal and has a unique shape that surrounds the Gambia River. It is the smallest non-island country and measures 30 miles across at its widest! Although the country is small it has over 500 species of birds and a beautiful 50 miles of coastline. The majority of the country’s income is dependent on its agriculture which consists of sorghum, peanuts, millet, and rice.

The Gambia is apart of West Africa which shares a cuisine consisting of grains, peanuts, local vegetables, and seafood (if bordering the coast). As we know from our previous taste bud travels peanut butter is used often in African cuisine to thicken stews or even potatoes- you can see that dish here. The dish I made tonight is a Western African dish consisting of some of my favorite things. You can find that recipe here.

We’ve got another week night meal folks! It was a breeze to cook and I didn’t have to make any modifications. This dish smelled incredible while it was cooking and I was super excited for the end result (mostly because of the peanut butter).

I LOVED THIS DISH! Peanut butter hell yes! I get so pumped about dishes with that good ole PB and this one did not disappoint! Although I was much more excited than Ian he thought it was another delectable dish that was creamy and savory comfort dish. The ginger and pepper brought a nice mild warmth that just tied it all together. On top of that it was a vegan dish! How incredible. I rated the meal higher than Ian, but it still got the high marks of 9.25/10.

Vietnam Day 4 – Caramel Shaking Beef and Asian Cucumber Salad

Hey guys welcome to our final Vietnamese entrée. Today I made shaking beef with an Asian cucumber salad. Shaking beef is a traditional meal that also has French influence. It can be mixed with various vegetables or without like this rendition. I followed Jet Tila’s cookbook 101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die to make this super simple yet incredibly delicious dish. Another great thing about both the salad and beef is that there were minimal ingredients required and it was done in less than 30 minutes! That is my kind of meal!

You can find the recipe for the cucumber salad here.

It is key to cut the beef thin and not to skimp on the garlic (but that goes without saying). Once your wok/fry pan is hot you “shake” the pan to constantly mix and cook the meat. Jet suggested serving the meat with a slice of baguette or French bread to absorb the juices of the meat.. we listed and boy was he on the money there!

This was the tastiest and ironically the simplest out of the bunch we made for Vietnam. The meat was very savory and tender. The cucumber salad was very refreshing and actually paired well with the meat. The bread soaked up of the liquid goodness on the plate and left us craving more. This meal proves that you don’t need all the fancy gadgets or ingredients to make an amazing meal. We thought it was worthy of a 9/10!

Next week we travel to the tropical Grenada to serve up a highly rated meal.

Vietnam Day 2 – Bún Bò Xả Ớt

On our second day in Vietnam we made another traditional dish known as bún bò xả ot. This dish translates to beef with lemongrass and chili and is refreshing to eat in the heat of the summer. I opted to try some pork I had bought since I would be using beef another time this week. The recipe Ian followed can be found here.

Ian thought the dish was straightforward and an easy one to make during the week. He substituted crushed red pepper flakes instead of the chilis since we could not buy fresh ones at the store. He felt the amount of salt that was asked for made the cucumbers a little too salty.

We thought this dish was delicious! There was a strong presence of ginger and lemongrass with every bite which was well-balanced by the cucumber. The light fish broth was very good and helped keep the dish from being too spicy. It was a hair too salty for us (which is saying something coming from Ian!) but overall had good flavor and was a unique dish.

We rated it 7.5/10, it might have been higher with beef but I doubt it. Next we will attempt to make the Vietnamese crepe banh xeo.. to find out if we were successful or not stay tuned!

(57) Togo – Grilled Ginger and Garlic Chicken with Tomato Cornmeal Cakes

The fortress like huts of the Tamberma people in northern Togo. Source: iStock.com

Bringing us to up to 57 countries is a lesser known African country, Togo. Togo is a West African country bordered by Benin, Ghana, and Burkina Faso along the Gulf of Guinea. This country has a long growing season which fuels their agriculture dominant economy. Cocoa, coffee, and peanuts are some of the important crops grown here. Togo is famous for its white sandy beaches and national parks.

Chicken marinade

Staple foods found in Togolese cuisine include beans, yams, plantains, millet, rice, and maize. The country has a history of rule from Germany and France which does influence their cuisine. Due to this influence it is not uncommon to see Togolese people enjoying German beer and French baguettes. Today’s dish was made up of two components- grilled chicken and tomato corn meal cakes. Cornmeal as you probably know by now is a popular African staple that can be transformed into several sides to accompany the main meal. Chicken is more excessable in Togo and is commonly cooked over a fire similar to grilling.

I chose to marinate chicken drumsticks for 24 hours prior to grilling to get as much flavor as possible (recipe here). Ian being the grill master that he is I had him take charge with the cooking. As for the cornmeal cakes the directions were similar and easy to follow (recipe here). The tomato sauce was a great way to bring the cornmeal to the next level.

The chicken obviously tasted great from being grilled, but I was sad I couldn’t taste the ginger. Like I stated above the cornmeal with the tomato sauce definitely made it tastier than the past cornmeal dishes I have made. Still we were not wowed by the meal and I honestly don’t see myself making the cornmeal sides again (sorry..). We rated it 6.25/10. If the chicken had more ginger flavor it could have been rated higher.

Next we head to Nepal for a vegan dish that packs a little heat🔥

(46) Morocco – Lamb Tagine with Apricots

Tamnougalt, Morocco. Source: blogs.sas.com

Welcome to another day at The Messy Aprons, we are quickly approaching 50 countries! Today we are in Morocco, a Northern African country that is a blend of Arabic, European, and Berber culture which heavily influences the cuisine. Berbers are an ethnic group of Northern Africa that are often farmers in rural areas, but historically were nomadic merchants that brought caravans across the deserts. Fridays are known as “couscous day” which is the holy day of the week in Morocco.

I made a lovely, flavorful dish to represent the beauty of Morocco – Lamb Tagine with Apricots. Tagine is a traditional Berber, slow-cooked stew that is named after the special clay pot that it’s prepared in. These stews are full of several of delicious ingredients including chickpeas, diced tomatoes, and garlic. This dish is also full of spice that makes the dish so warm and comforting. Luckily I found a recipe that I could follow without the special cookware, time to fire up the Instant Pot!

Again, I substituted stewing beef for the lamb but let me know if you decide to make it traditionally! The recipe was straight forward, but it definitely took me longer to make than the 10 minutes of prep time. This aromatic dish had my kitchen full of Arabic smells and left my stomach growling! I decided to add extra ginger, garlic, and dry spices because why not? It did not leave us disappointed!

We LOVED this dish. I loved all of the elements and it left us craving more. I could see myself eating this on the regular. It had that winning combo of tomato and cinnamon that we had discovered in paste dishes. The topping of cilantro brightened the hearty stew. Top marks Morocco- we rate you 10/10.

(34) Czech Republic – Vepřo Knedlo Zelo

Konopiste Castle. Source: RoadAffair.com/Martin Mecnarowski / shutterstock.com

To start off this week we will be cooking a dish from The Czech Republic, a country where beer is cheaper than water! Yes you heard that right, beer is a biiiig deal here. It is consumed more by the Czech people than any other place in the world. Czechia is located in Central Europe bordered by Austria, Poland, Germany, and Slovakia. Its capital, Prague is well known for its history and medieval beauty complete with cobblestone streets and gothic churches. It is home to the most castles in Europe topping 2,000!

To honor this historic country I made their national dish- Vepro Knedlo Zelo. This literally translates to its ingredients- roasted pork, bread dumplings and sauerkraut. In the Czech culture meals are often served in several courses. First you start with a soup, then you get your main course, and afterwards either more commentary sides or a dessert. The recipe I followed had a stewed sauerkraut which made it sweeter and less potent smelling (thank goodness).

It took me several hours to complete this dish, however most of the work was done by my stove and the heat of my apartment. It can be done in a way that allows for you to go from one thing to the next seamlessly, that means something coming from me! The pork was able to roast while the sauerkraut and onions cooked and the dumpling dough was rising. It was an apartment full of wonderful smells!

I used this recipe to make the bread dumplings and ended up buying gluten flour for the first time ever.. my stomach has been getting more tolerant to my gluten-eating ways. Back to the dumplings- the proving is an important part of this process and gave me enough to make three large dumplings (they almost double in size when in the boiling water). I decided to freeze one for later since European dishes can often have these accompany the entrée to soak up all of the wonderful sauce!

I will admit the sauerkraut tasted much better after the cooking process, better than I had expected. I was also pleasantly surprised by the dumplings and how large they had become by the end of all the proving and cooking. The meat was slightly dry, but that was probably due to an error on my part.

The flavors worked well together, and we quickly discovered stacking each element on top of each other was an effective way to eat the dish. I still think cabbage is not my thing, sorry fellow Czechs! We rated this dish 6.25/10.