Mexico Day 3 – Pozole Rojo

Disclaimer- I actually did not make traditional pozole rojo stew- could not find all the ingredients and modified it to a taco format. The meat was still cooked in the same way.

Today I bring you another dish that was first made by the native indigenous people, pozole rojo. This slow cooked stew was created by the Aztecs which is made up of hominy, pork, spices, and tomato. Hominy is dry corn kernels that are soaked in an alkali solution and are used in Mexican cuisine. This dish was traditionally made for special occasions and still is today. It can be prepared in several ways, but often is made with a red salsa. In Mexico it isn’t uncommon for pigs head to be used! The recipe I used today can be found here.

So here’s the dilemma.. I looked up what hominy since I had never heard of it. I saw that it was available at my local grocery store so I planned to buy it there however when I got there it was no place to be found. Tried a pick up order, but it wasn’t in stock! So I looked up a substitute which Google said was white beans. I got the beans, but reading up on the recipe (yes I know that’s a bit late Paige..) and did not feel it would work out. So I decided to make a pulled pork like taco with the same accoutrements.

So once the meat was complete I shredded it up, prepared the toppings and assembled this beauty. The radish definitely gave the dish a zing, but the avocado helped balance that. I used the beans as a side as well which was meh in my opinion. The meat was very tender and well seasoned. At the end of the day I was disappointed but at least it didn’t completely fail? 😅 We rated it 7.5/10

(93) Mexico Day 1 – Carnitas

Happy New Year! May this year bring you tasty food and flavorful experiences!

Mexico City, Mexico. Source: Worldstrides.com

Our 93rd country brings us to MEXICO!! Ian is super excited because Mexican food is his favorite cuisine and he is hoping I can dish up something new and amazing (no pressure..)

Mexico is part of North America making up the southern portion and land bridge to Central America. It borders three bodies of water; The Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea. Mexico is home to 68 indigenous languages apart from Spanish. This country is also home to several volcanos making up 75% of the world’s and is located along the Ring of Fire. Another unique natural feature of Mexico is its vast underwater cave system which is the largest in the world! Mayan tradition says that these underwater pathways serve as the entrance to the underworld. Dead of the Dead or Día de los Muertos is a holiday that originated back in Aztec times where they used actual skulls to honor their past loved ones.

Mexican cuisine is well loved around the world (and in this household) and was named by UNESCO part of the Immaterial World Cultural Heritage. Spanish and indigenous influence blend together in today’s Mexican cuisine. The dish I started our Mexican journey on is carnitas! Carnitas translates to “little meats” and is a simmered/braised pork in fat (traditionally lard) that is then shredded once cooked fully. Carnitas is thought to have originated in Michoacán, Mexico however the topic is still disputed today. The flavors and other elements of true Mexican carnitas differs on where you go. Authentic Michoacán carnitas use bay leaves, thyme, and marjoram to flavor the meat. The cut of meat typically used is pork butt or shoulder. I used this recipe which uses different flavor ingredients.

Man oh man was I excited to get going on this one, but once I got the meat out of the package I quickly noticed the nightmare I was going to face. The pork shoulder (with bone) took a good 45 minutes to remove all of the meat. This hefty cut of meat was awkward to maneuver and required a lot of elbow grease to cut through. Maybe I did something very wrong here, but I will definitely not underestimate a big cut of meat again.

The rest of the cooking and prepping was simple, just time consuming with a healthy amount of cursing. Poor Ian didn’t know what to do. 😅 It didn’t help that we were serving this to guests as well so you know extra stress.. I used butter instead of lard to cook the pork (partially because I didn’t know where to get lard).

Luckily all the hard work paid off and everyone enjoyed the meal. The pork was juicy and sweet from the butter with cinnamon and orange notes. The saltiness of the cotija cheese balanced the sweetness well. I made sure to have a good line up of toppings which all worked out well together. I had extra homemade salsa on hand which is important for any Mexican meal. Fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice is a must! We rated the dish 7.75/10.

(83) Antigua + Barbuda – Pork Chops with Bacon-Wrapped Bananas

Source: Big Seven Travel

We are back in the Caribbean visiting a tropical country with two names and three islands. The official language is English due to past British rule, although you can find people speaking Spanish as well in certain regions. The island has no lakes, rivers, forests, or mountains, but they have plenty of beaches! A & B is even nicknamed “the land of 365 beaches.” Even though it looks like there is a small mountain range on the Antigua it is actually remnants of a volcanic crater (the islands are partially volcanic but there is no active volcanos). This Caribbean nation is popular for vacations due to all the beautiful beaches and top-notch bird watching.

The cuisine of A & B is like many other Caribbean dishes, but they have some unique national dishes. One is called “fish water” which is a stewed or boiled fish, another is “fungee” which is similar to polenta. Food here often involves fresh seafood and produce. Today we do something different- pork chops with bacon-wrapped bananas. This seemingly random pairing of food had me intrigued. Banana is one of the most abundant crops of the island and locals find this dish a wonderful pairing of salty and sweet. Unfortunately, I could not find a back story of how this dish came to be. Most times it is grilled when being prepared, however our grill stopped working so I was very thankful to have my air fryer! The grill version of this dish is found here.

It was tricky to get the bacon to stay on the bananas but luckily most of them stayed put. If you are wanting to fire up that air fryer or are grill-less place the wrapped bananas in for 8-12 minutes depending on the thickness of the bacon at 380 F. You will want to make sure the bacon is crispy and the bananas are slightly browned.

As interesting as this dish was it wasn’t too bad. The pork chops were very well seasoned, we thought the lemon and cumin was a great combination. The bananas and bacon were a nice balance of sweet and savory, however the texture of the bananas wasn’t what we had hoped. They were very mushy while the bacon was crispy, too much contrast for me. Overall the meal was well seasoned and pleasant. We rated it 7.25/10.

Brazil Day 2 – Feijoada

Welcome back! Day two in Brazil consists of a garlicy mixture of pork, short ribs, bacon, and beans… we are making feijoada! Feijoada (fay-jwa-da) is a traditional black bean stew that originated when slaves would combine the plantation owners leftovers with black beans to make a stew. This dish is a symbol to Brazil’s past and is enjoyed by citizens of all social classes.

The recipe I used was a slow cooker approach after all the meat was browned. Over time each element was added to the crock pot to slowly cook down to a savory party in your mouth! Yes it smelled like heaven in the kitchen and I did not feel guilty with all of the fatty meat slow cooking to perfection. I opted to use canned black beans for time and simplicity sake. The recipe can be found here.

Another hit here in Brazil! This garlicy, meaty meal was bursting with flavor. The addition of the orange slices gave the dish a bit of sweetness and acidity which we appreciated. We both drizzled the top with orange juice and decided to get a bite of the orange with the rest of the savory dish. We already knew beans and bacon were a powerful duo, but garlic amps it up! We thought this meal was worth an 8/10.

Next we tackle another stew with a fishy twist!

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!

(48) Abkhazia – Venison (pork) Loin, Blackberry Sauce and Abista

Today we travel to the little known country of Abkhazia. Abkhazia (ab·kei·zhee·uh) is a partially recognized state, most countries recognizing them as part of Georgia. Although most countries don’t see the mountainous Abkhazia as an independent country there is quite a bit to appreciate here.. one of the deepest caves in the world Krubera can be found at the border of Russia and Abkhazia at 7,208ft depth.

New Athos Monastery. Source: Residentpublications.com

The cuisine here as you may have guessed is very similar to the surrounding countries- Georiga and Russia, however many citizens here are cattle and crop farmers their dishes often involve beef, dairy, and grains. Abista or cheese polenta is a staple here and will be one of the elements of this dish.

This recipe included a dark and rich berry sauce to top the pork loin. Spicy berry sauces like this one are classically found in Abkhazian cuisine. The spice for this sauce was a cinnamon stick which gave off a wonderful aroma while it simmered. I did not have venison available (although I have had venison loins in the past -YUM) I substituted a pork loin. I thought of the lovely Julia Child as I patted dry my sectioned loin and fried them to golden brown perfection on each side.

While the loin and sauce was brewing I cracked down on the polenta which I have gotten more of a hang of with recent practice. I did not have the sulguni (Georgian mozzarella) in my local grocery store so I opted for the classic mozzarella instead. Once everything was finished I attempted to plate it together, but soon realized that berry goodness wanted to mingle with everything on the plate.. oops!

We thought the sauce was lovely and felt to really appreciate it we needed to let each piece of loin bathe in it as if it was a dipping sauce before indulging. The polenta was good and paired well with the mild cheese. I decided to jar up the remaining sauce and use it as a marinade in future cooking endeavors. We thought it was a nice meal to shake up the more recent dishes we have tried and rated it 7/10.

(36) Uganda – Sweet Chili Mbuzi Choma Rolex

Mutunda Lake with Virunga volcanoes in the distance. Source: Yellow Zebra Safaris

Hey guys we are back in Africa this week visiting Uganda! Uganda is an Eastern African country that is made up of tall mountains and volcanos, unique wildlife and vast lakes including Lake Victoria at the southern border. This country is one of few that the equator passes through and can be “found” in Kayabwe, Uganda. If your feeling daring you can try fried grasshoppers as they are a delicacy here and are a sign of endearment.

The meal I chose represents multiple countries of Africa, but today it will shine for Uganda. A rolex is not only a watch, but a very tasty chapati wrap that is filled with marinated, grilled meat, omelet, and veggies. Chapati is a type a flatbread similar to a roti that is used is several different countries to hold or mixed in with savory dishes. The name rolex comes from the method the meal is made, rolled up egg “roll-eggs” . It was first created for college students as an affordable and portable meal, but soon became popular to everyone throughout Uganda.

I used a recipe that included a wonderful marinated meat, mbuzi choma, that had the whole apartment smelling amazing! You can find the meat recipe here. I did substitute the goat for pork since that was what I had on hand along with tortillas instead of chapati (sorry guys). I had fun making this dish and liked the minimal prep time needed. This could easily be eaten for any meal of the day or for a snack if desired.

This meal was damn good. It was not complicated by a long list of ingredients and fun to prepare (I have finally mastered making an omelet)! I think any marinated meat (or no meat) would work great here and there is a lot of room for creativity with what vegetables are mixed in. Bell peppers would be a great addition. The spice mixes are important to the dish and what make it Ugandan. Cilantro also shines in this dish giving the wrap a nice freshness.

Do yourself a favor and make yourself a rolex for breakfast, lunch, 3 am… there isn’t a bad time! We will definitely make this again and rated it 8.5/10.

(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.