Buenos dias. Peru is considered one of the world’s great centers of civilization. Long before Francisco Pizarro and his conquistadors invaded the country, there was life. In fact, Peru’s history spans over thousands of years and the multi-ethnic people of Peru today are the result of the native Andeans, Spaniards (many of whom were Sephardic and Muslim), Chinese, Japanese and West African slaves who were brought over by the Spaniards. Their cuisines melded with the tropical natural resources found in the region, from Pacific Coast fish to the vegetables grown in the temperate climate of The Andes…and fusion cooking was born.
It’s now been taken to the nth degree in the cities. According to a recent article in Bon Appétit magazine, Lima is “The Next Great Food City“. Personally, Peru is high on my wishlist of travel destinations. There’s the cultural mix that always fascinates, the lure of Machu Picchu, and now to know it’s considered “The Next Great Food City” just makes this food blogger’s heart race!
This is one of the tour meals that I’d been really looking forward to and I was fortunate to have one of my long-time foodie friends in town to share the experience. Back in the day, as they say, Norma and I catered a few parties together in NY and, besides remaining good friends, we’ve been each other’s culinary sounding board over 2 decades. Our conversations and e-mails are peppered (pun intended) with foodchat. Knowing that we were going to prepare a Peruvian dinner, Norma and her husband arrived from NY with 2 jars of Aji Amarillo (paste and whole) as well as 2 delicacies she picked up for me from the Greek markets in Astoria (slated for a different post.) These peppers are the main heat in Peruvian dishes and are the equivalent of jalapeno. Mucho caliente. I put a wee bit of the paste in the potato dish which we think helped add to the color.
We had a good ‘hang out’ time eating, drinking, playing canasta, and cooking our delicious Peruvian dinner.
Peruvian Ceviche is served with a round of corn and sweet potatoes which I chose to shred on top. As suggested, I used mahi-mahi but couldn’t help sneaking in a couple of shrimp. As I said to my friends, I don’t know why I don’t eat this every day. It’s so good.
Papas a la Huancaina is another typical dish from Peru. It has a deep history dating back to the Incas and the 12 or 13th century when crops were planted on steps that went down the Andes Mountains. This allowed rain to to be carried down steep mountains to every crop. Peru boasts over 200 varieties of potatoes today.
Since I had to buy corn for the ceviche, I decided to roast a few ears to serve as a side. In keeping with the flavors of the other dishes, these were drizzled with olive oil, lime juice and zest, S&P and roasted in a high heat oven.
And, ladies and gents, the star of the evening…Peruvian Chicken. If you are going to take one recipe to try from this tour, I encourage you to try this. I certainly will do it again…and again.
Note: Sadly, the majority of the population lives in extreme poverty. Health and education are sub-par and although Peru has been around for thousands of years, it is considered a ‘developing country’. Further information can be found at The World Food Programme, the organization through which BloggerAid chose to channel its efforts. Friends of the World Food Programme recently blogged about their time in Peru and reported on their initiative to help build a water lagoon reservoir on a work-for-food project with the people. Visit their blog for more information and beautiful photos.
Peru Round-Up: April 1.
We end this tour in the U.S.A. (the ‘you all‘ south part) on or about April 6.
Yes, all good things must come to an end. Coincidentally, as I post this, I’m leaving home for the Metropolitan Food & Entertaining Show being held in Palm Beach today. Paula Dean (while not my FoodTV favorite) is one of the featured presenters so I’m going to stop by and see if I can warm up to her style of cooking for my post next week. Y’all come back, you hear?
The Penultimate* Round-Up will be posted on April 8.
*I was taught never to say ‘ultimate’.
As we learned, The Philippines is one big cultural melting pot and lots of interesting dishes have been created from that pot. Here’s a few that my blogger friends contributed for our tour.
Ning of Heart and Hearth brings an authentic view of The Philippines and its people because she’s actually there! She also brought this very interesting Ginataang Manok at Mangga (Chicken and Mangoes in Coconut Cream).
This colorful stew, called Beef Kaldereta, comes from the sister-team from [Eating Club]Vancouver. They’ve been on a Filipino food kick and you’ll find links to lots of other recipes on their blog.
Ivy of Kopiaste in Athens, Greece is one of the tireless Administrators of BloggerAid. She made turons - a sweet banana spring roll sold on many street corners in The Philippines.
This Sweet Rice Fried Pancake comes from Cindystar in Lake Garda, Italy. Her recipe has an interesting list of ingredients including rice and coconut flour which sort of guarantees a tasty bite.
La Cocina de Nathan in California joins us for the first time with Filipino Picadillo. Nathan is an enthusiastic blogger who provides the history of every dish he blogs about along with personal annecdotes and step-by-step photos.
Holly of El Hajii in Honolulu made lumpia, pictured here with chicken, fish, and shrimp and also with banana (pictured on her website). She also gives a firsthand narrative of the people, many of whom have settled in Hawaii.
Magandáng umaga ho (good morning)…and welcome to The Republic of the Philippines, consisting of more 7,000 islands located in SE Asia. This country is a true melting pot of cultures…descending originally from Asians (a group called Malayo Polynesian) who throughout history have intermarried with Spaniards, Chinese, American, British, Japanese, Indian, Korean, Arab, Indonesian, and other Europeans to the point that direct blood lines is an unknown statistic. It is said there are 120 different ethnic groups and while Filipino and English are the offical languages, approximately 180 other languages and dialects can be heard throughout the Islands.
Food and Cultural Facts
• Philippine culture is a mixture of East and West with Spanish being most evident in literature, folk music & dance, art and religion.
• The cuisine has strong European (predominantly Spanish) and Chinese influence married with products native to the Philippines.
• Only about 10% of the population retains traditional culture; the remainder have melded with other influences or into the cultures of the countries where they migrated.
• They practice the Spanish custom of merienda (a late afternoon break – with food!). It is not considered a meal because it does not include rice, a tradition which is derived from their Asian heritage which believes that only when rice is present is a meal considered ‘a proper meal’.
• The Philippines takes its lead in social freedoms, slang and fast food from America.
And how many of us are like the Filipino rooster who is full but will still peck if grain is given? My hand is raised.
Adobo, be it chicken, pork or any meat, is considered the national dish of The Philippines though it is more a technique than a proper recipe since it varies from people to people. Adobo translates to ‘marinade’ and the most typical ingredients include soy sauce, vinegar, crushed garlic, black peppercorns and bay leaf. After that, some people add coconut milk; others looking for more Asian flavors, add star anise and black beans; those looking for a Spanish or Mexican twist, add annatto. For an American take, try it with corn and potatoes.
Critique: I wasn’t thrilled. Going with the Spanish twist, I started with annatto oil. There were lots of other good flavors in the sauce, like the vinegar and soy sauce, but I’m not a fan of thickening agents (like the corn starch recommended here) and, in the end, I believe that is what displeased me. So, bottom line, I would probably do this again but would let the sauce thicken on its own without help from corn starch. My preference.
Sobering Parting Fact. The Philippines is a nation where many of its children are vulnerable to everyday dangers that put their development at risk. Infant and maternal mortality rates as well as childhood malnutrition need to be addressed in many areas. Healthcare, education, child labor and the sexual exploitation of children is a concern of high incidence.
Round-Up: March 25.
Next Stop: Peru on or about March 30.
Last Stop: USA (the South) on or about April 6.
So, what happened? Was it too cold a climate? Too difficult a cuisine? Or maybe you just couldn’t lay your hands on marmot or gazelle to create a typical dish?
Perhaps some of you are suffering from jet lag? We’ve been traveling pretty fast. At the rate these countries are coming and going, it sometimes feels like the 1969 move, If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium.
To host an event like this is much like a real trip around the world. It takes research, coordination and time! It also takes a lot of discipline, and a bit of bravado. But, we’re in the home stretch now. Only 3 destinations left and we can put down our virtual forks and unpack our bags.
During the trip, I crossed a blogging milestone…my 100th post. I thought I’d write something special about my experience blogging but when I reached that milestone, I was too busy. I’ve decided to save my comments for my first blogiversary in July.
Anyway, back to Mongolia and the 4 brave bloggers who chose to meet me.
Giz from Equal Opportunity Kitchen in Toronto, Canada prepared Budaatai Hkuurga…a stew with rice and vegetables. This dish is generally made with mutton but beef or other meat work equally well.
Crispy Cook, Rachel, from Schuylerville, NY is not one to shirk a challenge. She has to cook meat-free, gluten-free for her husband which is no easy task in a meat-based culture like Mongolia. She conjured up a spicy and satisfying Mongolian Hot Pot.
Cinzia of Cindystar in Lake Garda, Italy found a recipe for stuffed fried ravioli (lucky her!). It’s called Huushuur. With the same preparation you can make Buuz which is a steamed ravioli. And, as we’ve come to expect, she likes to make tea. This time it’s Suutei Chai, a salted Mongolian tea.
Brii went snow-shoeing on Lake Garda, Italy and when she came back indoors, she made a nice cup of hot Mongolian Tea. Check her blog for a fun photo on the lake.
See you in The Philippines or or about March 23. Round-up March 25.
Kudos to Mongolia’s Betsy Ross. Isn’t this an attractive looking flag? Wikipedia notes the current flag dates back to only 1992 when they removed the socialist star. The right-side red band with yellow figures is ‘soyombo“, the national emblem, which depicts fire, sun, moon, earth, water and Tajitu or the Yin-Yang symbol. Interestingly, for a country that not too many people know anything about, Mongolia is the world’s largest landlocked nation and the 18th largest country. In 2006 the population count was 2.8 million and more than 50% were under age 30. They have a literacy rate of 98%.
Food and Culture Facts
• Mongolian people are big meat eaters…beef, lamb, mutton, marmot, boodog and, yes, gazelles.
• The marmot is cooked whole but from the inside out because they stuff the animal (whatever a marmot may be) with hot rocks.
• Historically nomadic herders, Mongolians have relied on a meat diet as fuel to stave off their cold climate.
• They also have a diet heavy in dairy and use the milk of all domestic animals: sheep, camels, goats, cattle and horses.
• Dairy is the base for Mongolia’s 2 alcoholic drinks: Nermalike, a vodka-like drink made from yogurt, and Airag made from fermented horse’s milk.
• For the tea-toters among you, try Suutei Tsai, said to be a salty tea made from water and mare or yak’s milk, butter, rice, salt and tea.
• And, while I could not find the Mongolian equivalent of “cheers”, I did find this proverb which kind of says it all (in any culture). “He who drinks, dies; he who does not drink, dies as well.”
Research into traditional Mongolian recipes rendered instructions like “quarter the goat“ or an ingredient list that included “1-half medium sheep“. I think not. Anyway, I wanted to do Mongolian Beef and found this PF Chang* recipe (not a cop out, well, maybe a little) but it is purported to be as good as the original.
While the Himalayas are a bit south of Mongolia, they are close enough to imagine some mixed marriages. And as with every mixed marriage, a little of the culture from both sides goes into the melting pot.
So maybe a male descendant of Chinggis Kahn met a sweet young gal from the Himalayas…and their ‘offspring’ was Mongolian Beef & Himalayan Red Rice.
The Himalayan Red Rice comes from Marx Foods, a fine online purveyor of interesting and exotic foods and spices. I chose to try it as an accompaniment to the Mongolian Beef. It was a perfect blending of counterpoints…the nuttiness of the rice balanced the sweet layer in the beef sauce.
Mongolian Beef: For my palate, I would have preferred some ‘heat’ to balance the ‘sweet’ in this sauce. The recipe did not call for salt and I thought perhaps the soy sauce would give it what it needed. It didn’t and I had to add salt at the table.
Red Rice: Very nutty, great texture and bite, and pretty on the plate. I did, however, find that it needed a little more than the recommended 35 minutes cooking time.
And I LOVED, LOVED what I did with the Leftovers!
Himalayan Red Rice with Black Beans and Pumpkin Puree
Pumpkin Puree: Sauteed a garlic clove in some olive oil, added a little bacon bits, a can of pure pumpkin, some chipolte powder, smoked paprika and drizzle of cream.
Rice & Beans: Mixed leftover rice with black beans, minced garlic, cumin, chili powder and sauteed. Once again, I was very pleased with the rice which held up well to a second cooking.
This meal was delicious! If Mongolian Beef and Himalayan Red Rice was a good pairing, this was a marriage made in Heaven!
Mongolian Steak Salad
Just what I needed! Some ‘heat’ and fresh greens to counteract the ‘sweet’. I topped my current favorite greens – curly endive – with quickly pan-heated leftover steak, a drizzle of Hot Pepper Sesame Oil and Red Pepper Seasoned Rice Vinegar and a sprinkle of toasted almonds.
*For international readers, PF Chang is an upscale Asian bistro popular in some areas of the U.S.A.
Round-Up: March 18.
Next Stop: The Philippines on or about March 23.
It’s hard to believe we’re in the home stretch. Only 4 destinations remain. I hope this event has entertained and educated you on some level. More importantly, I hope it has given you a thirst to know and embrace other cultures and to do your part, whatever that may be, to help erase world hunger.
For food bloggers one way to do your part is to donate an unpublished recipe to BloggerAid by the end of March. Recipes will be published in a cookbook and all sale proceeds will go directly to School Meals, an effort which targets children’s well-being and education through the World Food Programme.
India was a wonderful example of embracing a different culture. There is much to learn about the history, culture and cuisine.
Rachel, The Crispy Cook, in Schuylerville, NY made palek paneer. Like many of us it’s her favorite order when visiting an Indian restaurant. Her at-home version included curry leaves and tofu.
City Girl Lifestyle from Washington, D.C. joins us for the first time. She made a red lentil and cabbage dish from a 1983 edition of Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking.
This colorful Paneer Tikka comes from Val of More than Burned Toast in Vancouver. Once again, our arm chair travelers will enjoy Val’s narrative which provides a real insight into the country and culture.
Ivy of Kopiaste in Athens, GR made a chicken curry which she served with basmati rice — and her usual dose of social awareness causes. She is such a kind person.
Holly of El Hajji in Honolulu took inspiration from the cuisine of India but conjured up her own dish which she called Tandori flap steak with cranberry rice and curried peas.
Natalia from gatti fili e farina joins us for the first time. She blogs from Rome, IT. She made a tasty looking side dish of cauliflower, scallions and black mustard seeds.
Cindystar, who has been following and participating from her home in Lake Garda, IT, chose to make Royal Bengal Tiger Tea (with cognac), Nimki (a savory cracker) and Kela ka Rayta (a yogurt drink which, to me, if you added rum would be a Pina Colada). She also wrote an interesting post about the origins of the Indian kitchen.
Next Stop: Mongolia on or before March 16. Round-up March 18.
India to me has always been a land of mystery and contradiction. It is inviting and at once terrifying by the share dint of its population. It is beautiful (the taj mahal) and ugly (Slumdog). It is somber. It is fun (Bollywood). Its people are beautifully-garbed, mild-natured and speak English with a lovely accent…but they have funny names. It is steeped in tradition, caste systems and a culture so foreign to the U.S.; yet modernized and educated enough for U.S. companies to outsource jobs there. And, according to Wikipedia, while it is the 12th largest economy and the 4th largest in purchasing power, it still suffers from extremely high levels of poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition. Yes, it really is a land of contradictions and I chose (respectfully) to concentrate on the fun side of India.
Getting Ready for the Dinner
First stop was the India Bazaar in West Palm Beach where Katie, my friend visiting from NY and my appointed sous chef for the dinner, and I went to shop for ingredients and to ogle products.
Strange looking produce flanks Thumbelina-sized eggplants.
“Thums Up” coca-cola and a copper water pot.
Oh, what the hell? Let’s Have Fun and “Dress Up”
I remembered our first stop in Norway when Crispy Cook showed up wearing a viking hat and I got such a kick out of it. So, momentarily infatuated by the beautiful fabrics, jewels and make-up of the Indian women, I said..(see above). I couldn’t help but to go deeper into the culture and ‘dress up’ for dinner. I also went deep into my scarf and jewelry drawers and found the perfect accessories for my dinner guests. [Along with Katie, I'd invited my sister, Mary, and her husband, Nick.]
Now, Nick is a man’s man who sat with a scotch and watched. So, no dress-up, no photo… but I imagine, he could have looked like this. (hee-hee)
Apki Lambi Umar Ke Liye (‘cheers’ in Hindi)
The dinner bell has rung and we’re ready to serve a mainly vegetarian and fragrantly-spiced dinner.
Puffed & Stuffed Parathas (onion, cauliflower, lentil) with dal makhani (a lentil chili dip), tamarind chutney, and baked shrimps.
We ended dinner with a traditional dessert (or so we were told when we bought it in the Indian bazaar) of Desi Rasmalai – sweet dumplings with pistachios in rose water.
To say I had fun in India is an under-statement. My kitchen is a bouquet of fragrant spices, we had a great meal and a few laughs. I salute the country of India for inspiring such a good time. I can’t wait to see what my travelmates do.
Round-Up: March 11.
Next Stop: Mongolia on or before March 16. Round-up March 18.
Another stellar turn-out! Da! I’m so in awe of the food-blogging community. Thanks to all participants for sharing their family stories and opening their hearts and kitchens to our readers. This has been such an enlightening experience!
Natasha of 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventures in Fairfax, VA celebrated Maslenitsa, a/k/a Butter or Pancake Week, an ancient custom that celebrates the advent of Spring. She used her family’s authentic recipe to make blini and 3 special toppings. And, tells us they drank vodka with honey and pepper to wash it down!
Lori of Taste with the Eyes from San Pedro, California, made borscht like Nana’s and dished up some memories of her Russian grandmother to go with it. As usual, Lori sets a beautiful table.
Ivy of Kopiaste in Athens, GR made Beef Stroganoff. She published step-by-step photos of the recipe as she adapted it — adding herbs, olive oil, yogurt and red wine which are more accessible to her in Greece. This is a tough dish to photograph because of the colors. But it tastes good. I know. It’s the same one I did.
Janne of The Bitesize in Brussels is new to our tour, but we’re glad she joined us. Born and raised in Norway, Janne brings an interesting insight into the origins of this delicious-looking salmon, chopped eggs, rice puff pastry roll called Kulebyaka. She says, “it doesn’t leave you feeling overly full…thirsty…or hungry.” “It makes you feel content.”
La Cucina di Cristina in Italy made this interesting “dressed herring” called Selyodka pod Shouboy which includes layers of boiled vegetables and herring. She also made borscht — and, as usual, provides the recipes in English, Italian and Romanian.
Holly Hadsell, our caterer to celebrities (she caters for the “Lost” set in Honolulu), sent us a Russian-inspired French dish called Coulibiac. The Russians eat this at Christmas time.
Those of you who have been following the trip have gotten to know and enjoy the posts from Brii in Lake Garda, Italy, as I have. She has been so enthusiastic and. this time, she not only shared her collection of Russian teapots but also made blynim, kasha od grechka and filé novgorod. She also gives advice on how to recognize a good vodka vs. bad vodka. You must visit her blog to see all her recipes.
And Cindy of Cindystar, also Lake Garda, Italy, never disappoints. This time we have Russian dolls, a music video of The Beatles “Back in the USSR” and a beautiful tea party with Prjaniki, an iced and spiced confection dating back to 1685.
Cake of Laws of the Kitchen in Australia was kind enough to make these Russian Tea Cookies which…not surprisingly…contain vodka. Now don’t they sound even more delicious than they look?
Next Stop: Get your saris out! It’s India on or about March 9. Round-up to be published March 11.