(89) Soloman Islands – Papaya Chicken with Coconut Milk and Plantains

A coral reef sitting below Solomon Islands. Source: NZherald

Welcome back! Today we head even more west to the Solomon Islands! This sovereign country is made up of 900 smaller and 6 major islands east of Australia and close to Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. The islands were first inhabited 3,000 years ago by the Lapita people, a group of prehistoric Austronesian people. Due to its location in the Coral Triangle the country is known for incredible diving experiences. Between three of the countries larger islands lies the world’s largest salt water lagoon, Marovo Lagoon. Below the surface Vangunu Island has the most active submarine volcano. The economy here is mostly made up of agricultural, fishery, and forestry resources.

Cuisine of the island like many others is made up of native plants, fish, and game. Fish is the most abundant resource and is prepared in a variety of ways. Coconut, cassava, sweet potato, plantains, bananas, rice, and taro roots are also very commonly used. Influence is made up of Indian, Asian, and Spanish along with Polynesian. Today’s dish combines a lot of the ingredients mentioned above and is an example of what a meal may consist of if your were to visit the island. The recipe of this dish can be found here.

I don’t known about you, but I have never had papaya before and neither has Ian. I thought the flesh was very similar to cantaloupe however the seeds were very unique and unexpected. I almost had my stove top maxed out while preparing the dish but overall it wasn’t too challenging and used simple and known cooking methods.

This dish was another unique one. We had never had papaya before and thought it would have been sweeter. Overall it was kind of bland, but it was colorful and had a good variety of ingredients. I would recommend playing around with Asian or Indian spices to jazz it up. The dish was rated 6.5/10 between the two of us.

(86) Ghana – Red Red (Black-Eyed Peas Stew) with Fried Sweet Plantains

Source: Pinterest

Today we are in Ghana, a West African country that borders the Ivory Coast, Togo, Burkina Faso, and the Gulf of Guinea. In 1957 Ghana became the first African-American country of the sub-Sahara to become independent from colonial rule. It is the second most populated country in this region of Africa with a large variety of ethnic groups. Due to its proximity to the equator the climate is either hot and dry or tropical and wet. Ghana is known for its gold production which is the largest in Africa. Love butterflies? Consider visiting Kakum National Park which is home to over 600 species!

The cuisine of Ghana always includes a starch of some sort, it usually being rice, plantains, maize, or cassava. The starches are often paired with soups or stews that primarily have vegetable bases. Meats and spices are also important to their cuisine. The dish I decided to make for Ghana is called red-red, also known as black eyed peas stew. This stew gets some heat from freshly grated ginger and habanero pepper. You can find this meatless meal here (which can be made vegetarian/vegan if vegetable broth is substituted).

Cooking was simple and allowed for me to multitask as I typically do. We substituted the habanero with jalapeno because we are wimps (sorry not sorry). I was able to find ripe plantains at the store and definitely felt comfortable with their preparation.

This was another unique dish. The plantains with beans was an interesting combination, but we thought it worked. It was actually nice to have the sweetness of the plantains contrast with the other savory elements. I didn’t think the rice was necessary with the peas. Marinated chicken or red meat would have paired well. We rated it 7/10.

(80) Puerto Rico – Classic Fried Rice & Beans with Plantains

San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. Source: Booking.com

Hey guys we have made it to 80 COUNTRIES! Isn’t that wild?! For our 80th we are in the lovely Puerto Rico, a country my good friend is from! Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory situated next to the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea. It is one of the most densely populated islands with a whopping 3.5 million citizens. The name translates to “rich port” and was named Puerto Rico because of the gold that could be found in the fresh water sources on the island. It is considered one of the oldest colonies of the world because it was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus in 1493. Today you can explore their numerous beaches and caves along with immersing yourself in the Spanish-Caribbean culture.

Puerto Rico has African, European (mostly Spanish), and Taínos (natives) influence that makes up their wonderfully unique cuisine. The native Taínos influence brings yucca/cassava, avocado, coriander, annatto, pineapples, peanuts, and various hot peppers to the table. The European flare comes from wheat, cumin, onions, garlic, cilantro, dairy, and various meats such as chicken, beef, and lamb. You can find connection to Africa with the use of coconuts, yams, coffee, and various banana fruits such as the plantain! Today I will be making an original recipe of my friend Zory who is from Puerto Rico. Fried rice and beans is a classic Puerto Rican dish that combines several savory Spanish ingredients and is cooked twice in or to achieve the dry and “fried” consistency. She also educated me on plantains and how they pair well with this meal- she wasn’t kidding! They are now one of my favorite salty treats and taste better than fries (in my opinion). The recipe will be available at the bottom of the post.

This meal does take some time, however if you prep as you go it all works out. We decided to air fry some adobo wings which seemed like an appropriate pairing to us. If you have never fried green plantains before make sure to have plenty of veggie oil to fry them with and keep an eye on them so they don’t over cook. The perfect plantain is a nice golden brown. Be warned the rice/beans and plantain combo is VERY filling!

Obviously we adore this dish and think highly of it. I have made it several times and think of it as one of my favorites. The plantains had a nice crunch and reminded me of fried potato. The rice was well seasoned and tasted great with the addition of black beans. Together it is a killer duo. We love love LOVE this dish and rated it 10/10.

Our next adventure awaits in Italy where we will spend one week trying traditional foods simple and complicated. See you next time!

(75) Dominican Republic – Mangú Con Los Tres Golpes

The Barahona Coast. Source: Propertiesincasa.com

Welcome to the beautiful Dominican, a place you think of when people say they are going on a cruise or tropical vacation. It sits East of Haiti and is surrounded by other Caribbean Islands. The Dominican Republic has reserved a quarter of their land to national parks, sanctuaries, and other protected lands which includes rainforests. Want to see whales up close? January through March you can find humpback whales in Samaná Bay Sanctuary. The climate here is sometimes referred to as “the endless summer” due to its sunny and warm year-round conditions. The country is known for it coffee, national league baseball players, and white sandy beaches.

The cuisine of the Dominican Republic is very much like its neighboring islands and bordering country. It is a very sustainable country producing several different foods that are found in many of their traditional meals. Its dishes show influence from Africa, The Middle East, Spanish, and indigenous Taino. I decided for tonight’s dinner I would actually make a traditional breakfast. Mangú Con Los Tres Golpes is a well-known classic of the Dominican that contains mashed green plantains, pickled red onions, fried cheese, egg, and salami. African influence shines through this dish with the mashed plantains or mangu that originates in West Africa. If breakfast for dinner excited you click here.

Cooking was simple and while one thing cooked you could prep the other. It is important the onions have time to pickle in order to get the best flavor. I used my air fryer to start the cheese, but due to its runny nature and thin layer of flour it wanted to seep in-between the grates and needed to be finished in the skillet.

We loved this unique and colorful dish! It was a first to experience mash plantains and pickled onions together, the pair worked well. The plantains had a very mild taste, that was well complimented by the salty salami and cheese. This is traditionally a breakfast and I could definitely see myself eating this in the morning. We thought the plantains are a great potato substitute and are underrated in the kitchen (I haven’t said this enough). We thought it deserved higher marks at 8.75/10.

(47) Panama – Sancocho

Hello from the isthmus that connects South and Central America- Panama! This country gives you the unique opportunity to watch the sunrise over the Pacific and sunset over the Atlantic. Panama City the capital of Panama (pictured below) is the only city in the world that has a rain forest within city limits. The famous Panama canal generates one third of the countries economy and roughly 14,000 ships travel through each year. The toll each ship pays is dependent on their size, the larger ships paying almost half a million dollars- ouch!

Panama City Beach. Source: Fishingbooker.com

Typical cuisine in Panama is comprised of African, Native American, and Spanish methods. Due to the location of Panama it has access to several varieties of produce, yucca (cassava root) and plantains being the most commonly used.

Today we made a traditional soup filled with various veggies and chicken. Sancocho is a common Latin soup that is full of native flavors and was fairly easy to make. It contained yucca which was a new food for us to try. Yucca is very starchy and has a thick skin that is best peeled off similar to if you were preparing a plantain. Depending on where you are this recipe could vary. It is also said this soup can cure hangovers.. we have not tested this theory, but maybe you could let us know if it is true? 😉

Like most soups once you had the ingredients prepped it just needed time to cook and allow for the flavors to merge together. We loved the use of cilantro in the soup and like many other meals felt it brightened it up. The yucca and plantain were alike in flavor, closely resembling russet potatoes, however yucca had a slight squash-like similarity while the plantain had a mild sweetness. We thought there wasn’t enough balance between the starchy foods and other ingredients and decided to rate it 6.5/10.

Next, we visit a country I have never heard of before over and recently gained its independence in 1999. Tune in tomorrow to find out how it went!

(40) Venezuela – Pabellón Criollo

Hey guys- today we are in VENEZUELA! You already know it’s going to be good. Venezuela is situated on the Northern coast of South America neighboring Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Colombia. It is considered to be a megadiverse country with several species calling Venezuela their one and only home. Also found here is the world’s largest waterfall, Angel Falls which measures at a staggering 3,212ft total height!

Angel Falls. Source: Australian Geographic Luis Carillo/wikimedia.org

Venezuelan cuisine is influenced by West Africa, Europe, and Native Americans. Their dishes can often contain yams, plantains, corn, beans, and of course meat! The dish I made for Venezuela is called Pabellón Criollo. It consists of four separate dishes: shredded beef, garlic rice, plantains, and the most amazing black beans you’ve ever had. If you don’t know by now I have quite the plantain obsession and I hope you will grow to have one too!!

The history of this country’s national dish is not set in stone, however it is thought to represent the ethnic groups that populated Venezuela in the colonial area- shredded beef and plantains represent the indigenous people, white rice represents the European (Spanish) settlers, and black beans the Africans that were brought over with the Spanish. Another interpretation is that the colors represent the country’s flag.

I used this recipe which was easy to follow even with several elements cooking at the same time. I had prepped veggies while the meat was cooking which saved time later on. The rice I saved for later so it wouldn’t get cold. Plantains are always since they are a fried food and would not taste as good reheated.

We loved this dish! It was very savory, the beans especially standing out with rich flavor. I think I would have liked the shredded beef cooking in a sauce versus beef juices, however it was still very good. All the flavors went well together and the plantains brought a nice crunchy texture to the dish.

We rated the dish 7.5/10. Let us know what you think and drop a comment below!

(21) Costa Rica – Carne en Salsa with Gallo Pinto

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 😊

(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.