All posts filed under: Food Culture by Country

Zimbabwe Sunset. Photo by Steve Evans.

About the food of Zimbabwe

Yesterday, I mentioned my fear of crossing “the chasm”, towards the final post of this Adventure. And yet, here we are. Time stalls for none. This is the first step over Victoria Falls from Zambia to Zimbabwe. There are a few restaurants near the falls, like the Rainforest Cafe, where you can get a Crocodile Tail Wrap with wasabi. Talk about fusion! As one travels further into the heart of this southern African country, more traditional foods appear, like pumpkin greens (bowara) cooked with peanut butter, peanut butter stews, and even pumpkin and peanut butter. (Here are three recipes for pumpkin and squash enjoyed in Zimbabwe) Not enough peanut butter for you? Next time you boil up rice (white or brown), stir in a few spoonfuls of peanut butter – just enough so that you can shape the rice into balls.  This is called Mupunga une dovi. Serve your meal with anything from the tradtional sadza (a maize-based, stiff porridge), to the cities’ sweet buns made with yeast and sugar. Many foods you might recognize from …

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South Luangwa National Park, Zambia by Joachim Huber

About the food of Zambia

While you’ll find caterpillars and grasshoppers on the menu on the tropical plateaus of Zambia, maize (a.k.a. sweet corn) is far more common. This southern African nation will enjoy maize as a stiff porridge called nshima, in a beer called chibuku, and in sweet loafs (similar to our cornbread, but made with fresh corn [Recipe]). Like many African countries, the groundnut (a.k.a. peanut) is beloved, especially when stirred into stewed greens. Peanut oil is also preferred by many Zambian families, as for when they fry up a batch of sliced plantains. There’s also the peanut sausage. According to the World Cookbook for Students: A vegetarian “sausage” named after the wild orchid tubers called chinaka or chikanda (depending on the ethic group) used to gel them. Amazing. Fishing has a big influence on the diet of Zambians who live near the many lakes, and it is often salted and dried for preservation or travel over long distances. The salted fish is later used in stews and soups, perhaps with a few onions and tomatoes [Recipe]. Much of the population …

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Footbridge in Shaharah, Yemen. Photo by Bernard Gagnon.

About the food of Yemen

“Work like an ant and you’ll eat sugar.” Yemeni Proverb I can’t decide if the country of Yemen looks like a check mark or a bow tie.  It depends on the map.  Still, every time I thought about how to begin this post, I kept coming back to that check mark – the kind you get when you do a good job on your homework. Probably because Yemen is the third to last country on our list of countries. Check, check, check. I can’t. believe. it! But there is, indeed, more to Yemen than her shape. This mountainous country is situated on the Persian Gulf,  across  from Africa.  The Yemeni people enjoy ful medames, the breakfast bean dip we sampled for Egypt [recipe], kebab, lentil soups, and lahooh, the leavened “pancake” like bread we enjoyed for Djibouti [recipe]. Shakshouka  [Recipe] is another beloved breakfast item in Yemen, which is popular throughout the gulf and north Africa. I noticed a lot of yogurt when researching recipes, too, which can be used in drinks or dips. One interesting recipe …

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Khu cầu Đá Bạc Thủy Nguyên. Photo by Hoàng Việt.

About the food of Vietnam

The first time I had Vietnamese food I was fourteen, living in Paris. Turns out, great Vietnamese restaurants can be found all over the city. I remember one thing only about those early forays into Vietnamese culture: crispy, deep-fried rolls and a platter of mint and lettuce. You wrap the rolls in a handful of mint and lettuce, then dip it into nuoc mam (a sweet and spicy fish sauce mixture). I still dream about that flavor. Fresh, fried, crunchy, and sour. Unfortunately, everywhere I look for this dish, people shrug.  Vietnamese restaurants shake their heads “sorry, we don’t do that. people don’t want that here.” But, I do! If I could figure out what this roll preparation is called, I would find a recipe and make it every time I get the hankering for it. But, alas, I have no idea; my time in Paris was nearly twenty years ago. This mystery reveals something I’d later learn is typical of all Vietnamese food: the prevalence of fresh herbs. Take pho, for example, a breakfast …

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La Gran Sabana (Venezuela). Photo by Inti.

About the Food of Venezuela

Venezuela is the last of our South American countries, and, thanks to this T-shaped country, we’re saying goodbye to the continent in style. Let’s toast the 1,700 miles of coastline with a tizana [Recipe], a fruit punch made with tons of cut up fruit. Let’s cheer for the southeastern highlands with a sip of chicha, fermented corn drink. Let’s dance along her northern mountains with a splash of rum. And let’s slip along the northwestern lowlands with a thick and creamy glass of cocada (a.k.a. coconut milkshake). After we’ve drunk our fill, we can gobble up a a few arepas, topped with avocado chicken salad. These are the quintessential snacks of Venezuela, and can be filled with a million other things, too. If you want something more substantial, let’s pull up to a plate of Pabellón Criollo, a platter of black beans, slow cooked beef, rice, and plantains. This is the national dish of Venezuela, a favorite in all regions of the country. Of course, I like the idea of keeping things simple, too. Perhaps …

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About the food of Vatican City

The Vatican City is 0.17 square miles of gilded glory tucked inside Rome, Italy. It’s 0.53 miles by 0.65 miles. How small is that, you ask?  Let’s put this in perspective. To walk across the country is like taking two laps around a standard jogging track.  Which is why there’s no country smaller. And yet, Elizabeth Gilbert said that, if a country could be summed up in one word, the Vatican’s word would be power. So who exactly is a citizen of Vatican City? Almost all of Vatican City’s 839 (2013 est.) citizens either live inside the Vatican’s walls or serve in the Holy See’s diplomatic service in embassies (called “nunciatures”; a papal ambassador is a “nuncio”) around the world. The Vatican citizenry consists almost entirely of two groups: clergy, most of whom work in the service of the Holy See, and a very few as officials of the state; and the Swiss Guard. (Wikipedia) Peek over her walls, all you’ll find only one restaurant in the Vatican City. I have to admit I love Andrew Zimmern’s bold idea to triple this …

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Port Vila treescape, Vanuatu. Photo by Phillip Capper.

About the Food of Vanuatu

Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. But what about those who live in wood, bamboo, and palm leaf houses?  In the 80 islands that make up Vanuatu, the hot, humid weather makes for an entirely different living experience, one where – traditionally speaking – thatched roofs keep out the rain instead of tile. While stones aren’t exactly thrown, in Vanuatu they are heated and piled on top of food. This traditional method is typical of Oceania. Lap lap the most notable of dishes, made with either yam, cassava, plantain, or sweet potato that has been grated, wrapped in banana leaves (with coconut milk), then roasted under hot stones. Reader, Benjamin, who spent some time in Vanuatu, told me more about the dish, how they add chicken on top of the grated starch: …they take a couple of the hot rocks, each about the size of a baseball, rinse them of ashes and then place them in the center of the Laplap. During cooking this creates a well like crater in the center. They …

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Newlyweds in Uzbekistan. Photo by Dalbera.

About the Food of Uzbekistan

Upon our friends,  Our strength depends. Uzbek Proverb Before this adventure, it often took a personal connection to help me tune into another part of the world, and such was the case with Uzbekistan.  I never gave much thought to the long central Asian country, until college, when I became friends with a girl named Marina. She moved to the states from Uzbekistan when she was a girl. We jogged together, 3 miles a day, 6 days a week. We never ran so hard that we couldn’t talk. And boy did we ever talk. She stood with me at my wedding in 2008, along with my sister and my friend Becky. Speaking of weddings, here’s a photo of an Uzbek bride I found… look at her dress! Amazing. (As are the other women’s dresses!) Marina tells me Plov is the most traditional Uzbek food – the giant, communal pot of rice cooked with lamb and a few vegetables, rather like the Plov Recipe we tried for Turkmenistan. Unlike the plov we made for Tajikistan, however, Uzbek …

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About the Food of Uruguay

[Recipe] I’ve been saying “Uruguay” wrong my entire life. Apparently, it’s “oooo-rah-gway,” as in, “oooo” that food looks good. Located in South America, Uruguay is made of gentle hills and a glistening coastline. As with much of South America, this is a meat-lover’s paradise. Beef is the specialty of choice, though blood sausages and other offal are included as well. In this, it reminds me of Argentina (which we cooked three and a half years ago!). More mainstream choices include BBQ, like carne asada… though, even a good hot dog (called pancho)[Recipe], is worthy of the hungriest stovetop travelers. The cattle are raised in the heart of the country, while produce like corn and tomatoes grow on the coastal plains. For dessert, there’s no stopping their love of flan, alfajores, and a layered cheese and fruit paste treat, called Martin Fierro [Recipe]. Wash it all down with a strong cup of yerbe mate tea or clericó, which is like a white sangria, made with fruit juice and wine. Then, when all is said and done, perhaps …

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New York City at night. Photo by Paulo Barcellos Jr.

About the food of the United States of America

Ah, the United States of America. After three and a half years of cooking the world, we finally reach my homeland. Our country is known as the land of opportunity, a melting pot, and a dream that stretches “from sea to shining sea.” Whether or not you agree with these sentiments, one thing is for certain: it’s easy to eat in the USA. There’s food on virtually every corner. Ever since the first Thanksgiving, when native Americans shared their bounty, our people have celebrated abundance. Thus, when talking about American food, Thanksgiving is a fair place to start: that one holiday which is quintessentially American and that celebrates all the goodness we have and are grateful for. A traditional spread offers a giant roasted turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green beans, mashed potatoes, and other autumnal fare. A crimson scoop of cranberry sauce [recipe] is served on the side. Soft dinner rolls round out the meal. Once everyone is as full as can be, dessert is pulled out: usually a pumpkin or pecan pie, though the most …

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Leadenhall Market In London. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

About the food of the United Kingdom

I’m not sure why people groan when I ask them what they think about the food in the United Kingdom. If I beg them to explain themselves, they mutter something about tripe, kidneys, haggis, mushy peas and lamb roasts. But, truly, what is more sublime than a bright green pea plucked from the  garden just moments before eating it? Or farm-fresh meats, from down the street? This is what I love about cooking in the United Kingdom. There’s a taste of the farm everywhere. In her tea sandwiches, there’s cucumber, or perhaps a spicy bit of watercress. In her tea, there’s hot milk, as fresh as can be. And, in the desserts, there’s all manner of berries, juicy, ripe, and sweet. If the food doesn’t come from the farm, it may come from the ocean, as Fish and Chips prove. When I was in London, I made sure to get a batch, smokin’ hot from the deep fryer. The fish is  moist, the batter crispy, and the chips, as thick and delicious as any other French fry. Beyond the …

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A view of Buhairah Corniche from a residential tower in Sharjah, UAE-by Basil D Soufi

About the food of the United Arab Emirates

I have a buddy, Brad, who traveled to the United Arab Emirates a few years ago. TheFederation is made up of seven states on the Persian Gulf, including Dubai (where he went). Brad told me about the overwhelming heat, the desert, the glittering skyscrapers, but what really stood out were the UAE islands. They actually built islands that look like enormous palm trees. So, if you bought a house on the island, your street might be on the trunk, or one of the leaves. They even built the world as an island, but as far as I know it’s not populated yet. Oh, the irony. The food of the UAE is, in many ways, typical of the Persian Gulf. There’s camel meat, stuffed grape leaves (just like the beauties we made for Qatar), plenty of kebab, hummus, and tabbouleh. There’s also a sizable amount of Indian food in the UAE, because there are many workers from India in the federation. Just about all the food is imported, since not much can grow in the UAE. In …

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