(103) Micronesia – Coconut Chicken Curry

Micronesia, officially known as the Federal States of Micronesia is a country that spans over 600 islands and even more atolls in the western Pacific Ocean. The name Micronesia comes from the Greek words “mikros” meaning small and “nesos” meaning island. The main country is made up of four island states: Chuuk, Pohnpei, Yap, and Kosrae. This Oceania country was once a territory of Spain, Germany, and Japan. During World War II Japan had a Navel Base at Truk Lagoon (also known as Chuuk Lagoon) which now is a hot spot for scuba diving to explore the several ship wrecks and other sunken army vehicles along with the reclaiming coral reefs. Another spot to visit in Micronesia is the ancient city that was built between 1200 and 1500 on a coral reef and is the only one of its kind.

Source: Planet of Hotels

As an island nation, Micronesia depends on natural resources for much of its cuisine. Taro, bread fruit, coconut, banana, and yams are the most common staples. Shellfish, pig, and chicken are the primary proteins on the islands. Many inhabitants grow raise their own livestock and harvest the above staples. There is a mix of eastern and western influences due to its prior inhabitants, every state also having its own distinct cuisine. Rice is an important element and can be found served with every meal. Micronesians also take care with their seasoning, a step that shouldn’t be skimped.

The meal I prepared for mighty Micronesia is a coconut chicken curry. I couldn’t find much on origins, I summed it up to a flavor fusion from its culinary influences. You can find the recipe here.

The cooking and preparation was easy and was done in half an hour. The steps were simple and easy to follow. I had no complaints! As a bonus I used coconut milk to make a fragrant coconut rice, (in Jonathan voice) yasss queen!

Micronesia served up a flavorful curry with beautiful colors from the array of veggies. The spices were comforting and not too strong. The variety of ingredients gave nice contrasting textures. We thought this dish deserved 7.75/10 as a rating.

(99) Guadeloupe – Chicken Colombo

Source: cntraveler.com

Welcome to Guadeloupe, an archipelago of 12 islands and is a French territory. It can be found in the Northeastern portion of the Caribbean by Monserrat and Dominica. This nation is home to one of the tallest peaks of the Caribbean which so happens to be an active volcano. At nearly 5,000 ft, La Soufrière is situated in Basse Terre, the capital of Guadeloupe, on the Western part of the region. The original indigenous name for Guadeloupe was Karukera which translates to “island of beautiful waters.”

Guadeloupian cuisine is similar to other surrounding Caribbean islands. Local produce, seafood, and creole seasonings can be found on the menu. Rum or as the locals call it “rhum” is the preferred alcoholic beverage and is made on the island. Colombo is the national dish of Guadeloupe and was what we decided to make today. Colombo’s origin stems from Indian laborers that worked in the sugar cane plantations of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the 19th-20th century. Colombo is a type of curry that includes the following ingredients: coriander, cumin, fennel, turmeric, allspice, fenugreek, pepper, and yellow mustard seeds. Make your own chicken colombo here!

Cooking and preparation was easy to follow. Luckily this recipe also had directions to make colombo seasoning- I will admit I did not have “fenugreek” so I omitted it. I let the chicken marinate prior for the recommended amount of time which is an important step. Too many times have I cut time short to marinate the meat and it shows! I will admit when I added the coconut milk my heart skipped a beat- one of my favorite ingredients!

It looked like it had potential but I thought it was water down in flavor. Definitely could omit some of the water to let the coconut milk flavor pull through more. I felt it should have been cooked less for a better texture, but it was well seasoned. Unfortunately we thought the dish fell flat and was rated 6/10.

(88) Taiwan – Niu Rou Mian Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Welcome back to The Messy Aprons, a place where you can travel by taste buds! Today we are heading to Taiwan to try a fiery dish.

Taipei, once home the tallest building in the world. Source: Architect Newspaper (Francisco Diez/Flickr)

Taiwan is situated in the East China Sea south of Japan and South Korea, East of China. It is slightly larger than Maryland/ half the size of Scotland. Only 3% of the population is native to the region, the vast majority being Chinese. Because of this a lot of their culture is influenced by the Chinese. Taiwan sits in the “ring of fire” which makes it very prone to earthquakes. There is controversy over the current status of Taiwan and depending on who you ask the answer could differ. As far as I know some see Taiwan is independent from China, others say they are a providence of China and also referred to as The Republic of China. Nonetheless Taiwan is a beautiful place with unique buildings, wildlife, and noteworthy cuisine.

Taiwanese cuisine as some may have guessed has heavy Chinese and Japanese influence filled with the savory flavors of soy sauce, sesame oil, cilantro, and chili peppers (to name a few). As most countries do they take advantage of local resources such as seafood which is the primary protein of their diet. Rice often is at the root of the meal. Today I made a spicy noodle soup known as niu rou mian.

The dish has roots in China, however it was brought from China to Taiwan by refugees that fled China after the Chinese Civil War. Prior to this beef was not eaten on the island due to lack of resources and it was once illegal to kill cattle in China. Taiwan even has a saying that roughly translates to “don’t eat beef and dog and prosperity follows; eat beef and dog and hell is inevitable.” 

So back to this dish.. this hearty yet spicy soup has a bone broth base (which was not included in this recipe- this cuts down the cook time) that gets its spice from several ingredients besides the chili bean sauce. Over time ingredients are added to form a savory soup that warms you inside and out. The recipe can be found here.

I did not have the rock sugar (substituted brown sugar) and I couldn’t snag chili bean paste in any of the local stores so I used leftover Thai chili sauce instead. This fast paced recipe over all had no mishaps, prepping ahead of time is always a way to prevent skipping steps as you go. Ian’s mouth was watering the whole time, he is a sucker for ramen-esque foods!

This was spicy enough to be noticeable, however the broth was insanely savory. The beef was nice and tender, but the bok choy should have chopped up finer. Like ramen eating this dish was a little tricky (we are not chop stick savvy) but found a big spoon helped us slurp it all down. We thought the dish was worthy of 8/10 average.

(74) Bhutan -Ema Datshi

The Tigers Nest. Source: The Global Grasshopper

Welcome to elevated Bhutan, a peaceful Buddhist-loving country that is high in the clouds. The country borders China and India and nestles in Himalayan Mountains. The name Bhutan actually translates to “land of the thunder dragon” because of the intense thunder storms in the mountainous country. One gorgeous hot spot in the country is The Tiger’s Nest which is a monetary situated on the side of a mountain over 900m up. It is the only country that bans the sale of tobacco products and until 11 years ago banned TV and internet! The world’s the tallest unclimbed mountain can also be found here, Gangkhar Puensum which is a staggering 24,840 feet tall.

Cuisine here is a bit unique compared to its surrounding countries due to its harsh climate and high elevation. Rice is a typical base of most meals which could contain meat, root vegetables, chilis, onions, and beans. The national dish of Bhutan is ema datshi which is the mixture of chilis and a Bhutanese cheese called datshi (which can be substituted with yak cheese). There are different varieties that include meat or other vegetables, however the base is the same. You can find this dish accompanying many meals due to its popularity. You can find the recipe here.

Going into this I knew it might be a little too simple so we decided to add some ground meat to it as well for more sustenance. I used a combination of feta and cheddar to fill in for the traditional cheese- I did search for yak cheese. The great thing about this meal is that it was quick and easy, definitely something you could whip up during the work week!

So we tried this dish with and without the beef to experience it as close to the original as possible.. without the beef we found the dairy elements kept the dish from being too spicy. With the meat we thought it helped complete the meal and overall the cheese mixed well with all the elements. It was simple but good, although I don’t know if I see myself making this again. Ian liked it a little more than me so we give it an averaged rating of 7.5/10.

With the meat..

(70) Laos – Khao Poon

Source: Grasshopper Adventures

Welcome back to Asia where we traveled to our 70th country Laos, the land of a million elephants (name translation). Laos is found in Southeast Asia cozied up next to Vietnam, Thailand, China, Burma, and Cambodia. Although this is a landlocked country you can explore the stunning Luang Prabang Mountain Range or the impressive Khon Phapheng Falls. Laos became independent from the French rule in 1953 so you can find its citizens speaking French of Lao. Laos is known for its Bhuddism, historic temples, and its spicy cuisine!

Laos cuisine often always includes sticky rice, their citizens being the largest consumers in the world averaging 345lbs consumed per person annually! Its cuisine is similar to Indian and Thai food in which their dishes are often full of spicy and rich flavors. The most popular and representative dish of Laos being larb; a salad like meal with ground meat herbs and veg sitting in a lime-fish sauce dressing. Today he make something a little different, but still very true to Laos- khao poon. This dish is a spicy soup with vermicelli, coconut milk, chicken, and several plant-based garnishes. Every khao poon is unique to its cook with several variations out there. You can find the recipe Ian used here.

Galangal is similar to ginger and turmeric and can be found in Southern Asia. I had to go online to find myself some but it was dried! This made for a tricky preparation..

Ian ended up modifying the spice because personally we don’t like our mouths to fry. He added a sweeter Asian sauce to the curry paste to make it spicy and sweet, more Messy Aprons friendly! We had fun plating this meal, the edible flowers bringing the dish to the next level!

Ian and I have been on a streak of above average dishes, this being one of them. We loved the heat and spice that was well balanced by the coconut milk. I appreciated the balance of vegetables to meat; when there is x2-3 more meat to veg most of the time I think it is too much (I know what an unpopular opinion). We rated this one 7.75/10.

(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.

(54) Malaysia – Nasi Lemak

Sorry for my little hiatus we were off camping! With the warmer weather we have also decided to go down to 3 countries a week so we can enjoy the outdoors and get more active! Alright now on to the Malaysia!

Walking the canopy walk in Gunung Mulu National Park. Source: Maps of the World

Malaysia is a southeastern Asian country situated by Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, and Thailand. It is made up of two regions, West Malaysia (or Peninsular Malaysia) and East Malaysia (or Malaysia Timur). Western Malaysia makes up 40% of the total country and is known for its rainforests, mountains, and sandy beaches along with some of the tallest skyscrapers of the world. Eastern Malaysia is home to many nature reserves, National parks, and rural landscapes. One of these National Parks, Gunung Mulu National Park (pictured above) has incredible bridges you can walk in the canopies of the rainforest, the largest cave chamber in the world, and the pinnacles which are jagged limestone peaks that are as high as 50 meters (164ft).

All special ingredients and foods we haven’t tried before!

Malaysian cuisine consists of many things I have not tried (and will be trying today). It is made up of three ethnic groups: Malays, Chinese, and Indian. The common ingredients you can find throughout Malaysian dishes are chili peppers, Belacan (shrimp paste), coconut, lemongrass, tofu, seafood, soy sauce, tamarind, rice and noodles. The unofficial national dish of Malaysia is called Nasi Lemak and consists of many of the ingredients listed above along with two I did not see myself trying.. dried anchovies and sardines.

Nasi Lemak is made up mostly of a coconut rice that is cooked with pandan leaves, tamarind juice, and sambal ikan bilis (achovy paste made of chilis garlic, shallots, belacan, and small dried anchovies). It has other ingredients that are garnished around the main dish which allows you to get a different experience with every bite. Due to the array textures and flavors it is adored not only in Malaysia, but also neighboring countries and islands.

Although feeling a little uneasy I decided to tackle this new meal with an open mind. I did have to purchase several ingredients through Amazon since I was unable to find them in my local stores. Although it looked daunting, it was not too challenging to make. I still have not found a way to avoid burning the bottom of my coconut rice, but it was still successful. The recipe I used had several elements that together made up the dish (this being the traditional way) and looked quite nice once I plated it up.

I filled a tea bag with the pandan leaves for easy removal

We were pleasantly surprised by the dish, however the spice had us chugging water and milk. The anchovies and sardines were gave a salty flavor to the dish (make sure not to over season with salt). The egg, rice, and cucumber helped soothe my burning tongue after taking a bite of the very spicy sambal ikan bilis. If it wasn’t as spicy it would have taken a higher rating, but due to feeling like my mouth, face, and esophagus was up in flames we rated it 6.5/10.

Let us know what you think of this unique dish and if you handled the heat better 😅

(25) Sri Lanka – Shrimp Kottu Roti/Kothu Roti

Sri Lanka is known by two alternative names “The pearl of he Indian Ocean” and the “tear drop of India”. The first name comes from the beautiful tropical landscape, high levels of biodiversity and the fine gemstones found there. It’s second name can be easily be understood when looking at a map, as the tear drop shaped country appears to be falling from the southern point of India.

Wikipedia

Despite being such a small country, Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest exporters of cinnamon and tea. Cinnamon is actually native to Sri Lanka. The spice is processed by peeling the inner bark of the native cinnamon trees.

Sri Lankan Tea Country https://travelbible.co/sri-lanka

Tonight’s meal is Kottu Roti which is a famous street food from Sri Lanka. It’s said when walking the streets you can hear the rhythmic scraping and chopping as chefs prepare this meal with their steel hand spatulas. Here and here are the two recipes I referenced.

Lonleyplanet.com

Coconut Roti is a Sri Lankan flatbread that is both spicy and sweet. Below is the Dry ingredients, and the final dough ball once water is mixed and folded in.

The ball is then split into several smaller pieces that are rolled flat and then placed onto the frying pan.

The Final product is a sweet, spicy, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside flat bread!

Separately the shrimp and vegetables are heavily spiced and cooked.

The roti is then chopped and everything is mixed together for the final plating.

This dish is spiced well and is packed full of flavor with multiple layers of mild heat. The shrimp and roti provide a crisp texture, and the coconut infuses the dish with mild sweetness. We loved how the simple ingredients packed such bold flavor.

Final rating 7/10.

(22) Guyana – Pepperpot

Kaieteur Falls. Source: Rove.me – Winston Tinubu

We are traveling a lot this week my fellow foodies! We start this week off in South America trying the very traditional pepperpot of Guyana. Guyana is nestled between Suriname, Venezuela, and Brazil; also bordering the Atlantic ocean to the north. The country is influenced by its past English colonization along with the Caribbean. It’s the only English-speaking country of South America and it’s name means “land of many waters.” The name is fitting since it’s home to the world’s largest single drop waterfall, Kaieteur Falls (pictured above) which plummets 822ft and is 328ft wide!

Guyanese food is a wonderful blend of several cultures including African, European, and Chinese to name a few! Pepperpot is a spicy dish full of strong flavors like cinnamon, garlic, and ginger. The exact origin of this dish is not clear, however it is thought to have been created by the Indigenous people of this land. They were also the first to discover how to extract liquid from the toxic cassava root for safe consumption.

This liquid is known today as cassareep. Cassareep reminded me of a molasses and paired well with the other competitive flavors. I was able to get my hands on some from ordering once again on Etsy.

The recipe I used for this fiery meal can be found here. It was easy to follow and I could prep the next elements of the dish while others were cooking. Once the meat was stewing with the spices it filled the apartment with the most wonderful aroma. We could only hope it would taste just as good!

Pepperpot did not disappoint. It had a wonderful heat without being too spicy (I used jalapenos because I can’t stand any hotter). The meat was very tender and each bite had hints of cinnamon, cassareep, and orange. We loved how unique this dish was and rated it 7/10.

Next we head back to Europe for a little more Salmon!