(44) Iraq – Masgouf

Iraq’s capital Bagdad. Source Britannica .

Growing up in the United States, discussions of Iraq were often about war and conflict. Despite the media’s portrayal, we know this country is full of amazing, kind people and has a very rich history.

Credit- Wikipedia

Iraq has two major rivers – the Tigris and the Euphrates. Seated between these rivers is part of the region known as Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia is considered by many as the birthplace of modern civilization and is home to the world’s earliest known forms of writing, mathematics, and the wheel.

Masgouf is Iraq’s national dish. This dish typically involves a large carp fish covered in curry and a well-spiced tomato-based sauce which is traditionally cooked over an open fire. The recipe we used is here. In this recipe, she also recommends baking and finishing with the broil setting which is what I did.

Rub the fish with curry and salt and then begin to prepare the sauce.

Prepare your ingredients and begin by sautéing onion and garlic briefly first.

Add the chopped tomato, parsley, tomato paste, vinegar, lemon juice, water, salt, curry, and cayenne pepper mixing well. Occasionally stir the sauce while it simmers for 5 minutes. Since I didn’t prepare this over an open fire, I added some liquid smoke to bring some of that element into the dish.

Cover the fish with your sauce and top that with slices of tomato and onion. Bake this in the oven for about 30 minutes at 375-degrees. Turn the oven to broil for the last 3-5 minutes to add a char to the dish.

Finally, serve with your favorite rice! The sauce for this dish was delicious and the addition of liquid smoke helped give this dish the authentic flavor. We felt however the dish was missing something.. Final score: 7.5/10. This sauce would pair well with any meat!

(32) Vanuatu – Coconut Sweet Potato Soup with Spicy Shrimp

Port Vila, Vanuatu. Source: SPREP.org

Welcome back! Today we are in the tropical Vanuatu, a country made up of 83 islands in the South Pacific Ocean near Australia. Bungee jumping was first done here when brave boys and men would jump from 20-30m (60-90ft) with vines tied to their ankles off wooden towers as part of a ritual called Nanggol. I think I’ll pass on that one!

The Vanuatuan cuisine consists main ingredients such as mangos, bananas, taro, yam, coconut, and seafood. You can find chickens and pigs used as a meat source, however seafood is primarily used. With that being said today’s dish screams Vanuatu!

I ended up finding a wonderful recipe that consisted of seasoned shrimp on top of a shredded spinach which sits in a sweet potato and coconut soup, yum yum!

Their national dish lap lap did not seem possible for me to attempt which is the product of pounded taro root paste which is layered with cabbage and meat wrapped in a banana leaf.. something tells me this would only taste good if eating it local.

All in all we appreciated the sweetness from the coconut and sweet potato and slight kick of chili powder (did not have cayenne). The shrimp was seasoned perfectly and had a bit of a crunch to it. The additional of spinach brought a freshness to the dish. We ended up rating it 7.25/10!

(29) Tuvalu – Coconut Tuna

Tālofa (hello)! Today we land in a little known country that is the definition of a tropical paradise. This gem of an island sits in the South Pacific Ocean and is no bigger than the LA airport! It has a population of roughly 11,000 over three main islands and six coral atolls (island with lagoon in center). It’s unique shape can sometimes allows you to view both shore lines at the same time, one looking into the lagoon and the other along the Pacific Ocean.

Tuvalu. Source; AIFFP.gov.au

It looks so dreamy doesn’t it? Well, it’s actually the least visited country in the world! It is hard to believe with the beautiful beaches, tropical weather, and nonexistent crime. Life on the island is very much a communal style of living and often families will merge into one living in one large living space.

The meal I made for Tuvalu without a doubt screams island flavor. Most dishes here involve seafood and/or coconut due to the abundance. I thought it would be appropriate to make something that has both of these items along with a wonderful heat of ginger and curry powder. The recipe I used can be found here.

I am loving these simple meals! This is another great week night 30 minute meal that makes you feel like you are someplace in the Pacific Ocean (maybe Tuvalu?). If you do not like tuna I’m sure most fish would do well in the coconut curry sauce.

Our thoughts? Absolutely delicious! We loved the pairing of the coconut, curry, ginger, and garlic. The tuna went well with these flavors and I loved how easy it was to make. It was not a heavy meal which I appreciated and it was different from anything we have made to date on the blog.

We rated this dish 8/10. It ranks on our favorites list (which will be shared once we hit 50 countries!)

France Day 4 – Cognac Shrimp With Beurre Blanc Sauce

🧈🧈🧈WARNING, this recipe contains A LOT of butter!🧈🧈🧈

Recipe can be found here

Bonjour! We are ending the week with a lesser known dish that honors the mighty shrimp. This incredibly easy and flavorful dish can be whipped up in less than 45 minutes. All you need is shrimp, shallots, white wine, cognac (or similar brandy), lemon juice, heavy cream and LOTS of butter!

The beurre blanc sauce originates along the Loire Valley region of France. It’s comprised of a wonderful balance of acidic and rich flavors that transforms the simple shrimp to a creamy decadence.

As you probably guessed the cooking of shrimp in cognac brandy originated in Cognac, France. This added a nice sharpness to help contrast the sauce. I served this with toasted baguette and salad. Ian discovered leftover risotto paired well also.

We rated this final dish 7/10, although it left we feeling surprisingly full! We enjoyed the buttery sauce and found it was essential to dip the baguette in leftover sauce on the plate. This is a nice, straight forward meal that can be made during the week or a lazy weekend!

(23) Norway – Creamy Salmon Bake

Trollstigen Road Source: Photophique – Natalia Eriksson

Here we are back in Europe with a salmon dish. Similar to its neighbor, Norway traditionally has salmon dishes to represent their nation. Interestingly, Japan did not use salmon when making sushi until it was suggested in 1980s by Norwegian delegation- this not only created a popular sushi, but helped out the overwhelming amount of farmed salmon. Norway is a part of Scandinavia and has a dramatic landscape that I wish I could place myself in.

To represent Norway and its famous salmon aquaculture I made a creamy salmon bake. In Norway, salmon is a true staple in their diet which could be eaten for any meal of the day. For this dish salmon lies on top of potatoes, onions, dill and cream cheese and is bathed in eggs and milk. I was unable to use true Norwegian salmon, but made up for it with wild caught Maine salmon- the next best thing!

Once again salmon and dill make a wonderful pair. We liked the creamy texture the dish had and how well all the aspects of the dish played together. It did not blow either one of us away, however it was an easy meal to prepare during the week and was tasty! We rated it 6.5/10.

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 😊