Meal 113: Mongolia

To get one thing out of the way: Mongolian barbecue isn’t Mongolian. It was invented in Taiwan. So we didn’t make that. Mongolia isn’t a good place for growing produce, so the cuisine barely has fruits or vegetables. For a bit of perspective, Mongolians following a traditional diet get their Vitamin C from organ meat, and at least one guidebook recommends that vegetarians bring whatever food they may need into the country. Instead, animals, especially sheep but also camels, yaks, […]

Meal 112: Monaco

Another beachside birthday party, another meal from a tiny, rich European country! The principality of Monaco is a Central Park–sized nugget on the French Riviera, whose Italian-sounding name is a giveaway of a linguistic, cultural, and culinary heritage that’s more closely connected to northern Italy than southern France. For such a small place, there’s a surprisingly thorough culinary heritage, which is far better documented online than those of countries several orders of magnitude larger. Of course, it’s squarely within the […]

Meal 108: Mauritius

What happens when an uninhabited tropical island in the Indian Ocean suddenly gets people of various backgrounds showing up? Well, aside from other things including the extinction of the dodo, a complex and delicious cuisine emerged in Mauritius. French, Indian, and Chinese cuisines, plus rich soils, waters, and a longstanding sugarcane industry, make for an abundant cuisine whose variety far outpaces the island’s modest population. Mauritians are also enthusiastic about their cuisine to the extent that there are a lot […]

Meal 103: Malaysia

It turns out there’s a subtle but important distinction between “Malaysian” and “Malay.” The latter refers to an ethnic group and their language; the former is the name of a country composed of many ethnicities of whom the Malay are but the largest. There are large populations of both Chinese and South Asian origin, as well as indigenous groups. And naturally, all of them, plus the English and Dutch colonizers, have sprinkled their spices and poured their sauces into an […]

Meal 102: Malawi

Malawi’s a landlocked country in southern Africa, hugging the lake with which it shares a name. And Laura’s sister’s husband just so happened to do Peace Corps there, so Scott provided some enthusiastic and thorough advice on what to cook. Joining us for the meal were Brett, Kaely, Lisa, Audrey, Elizabeth, Amy, and Jérémy and his French companions. Nali sauce Probably the single food item that other Africans will recognize from Malawi is this notoriously spicy chili sauce. While there’s a site in […]

Meal 92: Laos

If a lot of this food looks like what you’ve eaten at a Thai restaurant, it’s no mistake. Much of the population of northern Thailand is ethnically Lao, and many “Thai” restaurants in the US are actually run by Lao families, or Isan, which is a term for people in northern Thailand whose language and culture have Lao roots. In fact, the Center for Lao Studies is encouraging “Lao people laying claim to the food that is rightfully theirs.” So if you […]

Meal 89: Kiribati

Move over, Equatorial Guinea: Kiribati, a constellation of a few dozen atolls in the heart of the Pacific, now holds the title of Country the Least People Have Heard Of, judging from an unofficial tabulation of “huh?”s and “where’s that?”s as we told friends and family of this meal. Even if you’ve heard of it, you geography nerd you, you’re probably pronouncing it wrong. Say it “KEE-ree-boss,” because it’s really a Polynsianism for Gilberts, the British colonial term for the territory they arbitrarily […]

Meal 87: Kazakhstan

Between the Jordan and Kazakhstan meals, we moved across the country, to Portland, Oregon. We took a three month break while settling in to our new city and a new house, and I took advantage of the time to learn about a country I knew next to nothing about. Powell’s Books had exactly one book on the country, a travelogue entitled Apples Are From Kazakhstan. Thanks to the title, you’ve already learned one true fact about the country. In reading […]

Meal 82: Iraq

Look beyond the horrible news coming out of the country these days, or the past few decades — way, way beyond, because agriculture and civilization in the lands that now comprise Iraq goes back at least ten thousand years. The soils along the Tigris and Euphrates river are fertile and relatively moist, and the surrounding lands held forth wild grasses that became such staple grains as wheat and barley, and soon after domesticated animals, and writing, and even beer. The cuisine of Iraq has […]

Meal 77: India

It’s absurd to squeeze a survey of Indian cuisine into one meal. From Kashmir to Kerala to Kolkata, there’s just a bewildering diversity of flavors, ingredients, and techniques that very well merit a 35-meal tour of all the states and territories. (Ooh, wow, that does sound fun.) I did my best to incorporate as much regional diversity as possible into a single meal, while also creating a cohesive whole that collectively surveys a representative expanse of what’s to be found […]