Meal 125: Niger

Niger is Nigeria’s much lesser known northern neighbor. To reduce the inevitable confusion, its English pronunciation imitates the French: nee-ZHEHR, and the demonym is Nigerien, with only that second E providing the needed distinction. It’s a Sahel nation, meaning it’s in the transition zone between the Sahara and the tropical West African coast. Mercy Corps, our fundraising beneficiary, does a lot of work in Niger, including both emergency food relief and helping farmers improve their long-term resilience. Joining us for […]

Meal 119: Nepal

The core of Nepalese food can be summed up in one very simply named dish: daal bhat, meaning “legumes [and] rice.” Along with tarkari — a spiced dish we’d probably call a curry — and achar (pickles), this is the dish that many people in Nepal eat pretty much every single day. Fortunately, there’s variety to be found in the type and preparation of the dal and the tarkari, and a wide variety of achars can bring all sorts of flavors. Characteristically, I tried to […]

Meal 117: Myanmar

Burmese food is intense. Funky, fiery, crunchy, soupy, tangy, herby…a full meal is a real workout for your palate. It bears some resemblance to Thai food, but with more crispy bits, more turmeric, and a lot more fermentation. It’s also a good amount of work to prepare! A birthday gift of an outdoor street-vendor-style wok was extremely well timed, as there were several smelly, splattery things to be fried up. I’m never going to claim my cooking is authentic, but […]

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 109: Mauritania

Writ large, Mauritania is where two larger regions converge in the far west of the African continent. The north is the southwesternmost portion of the Maghreb, bordering Algeria and the disputed Western Sahara which is occupied by Morocco. The south is where the Sahel, the semi-arid strip south of the Sahara but north of the rainforests of West Africa, meets the sea; it borders Mali and Senegal. The population, and thus the food, reflects this division. To generalize over the complexities, it’s people […]

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 101: Madagascar

The same geographic isolation that’s led to the lemurs and other unique fauna and flora for which most of us know this island, also meant that even though it’s not far on an absolute basis from where humankind emerged in East Africa, it wasn’t settled until around 2,000 years ago. And, improbably, those settlers were Austronesian, probably from Borneo, having crossed the Indian Ocean westward in canoes — in other words, from the same ethnic core as Hawaiians and even […]

Meal 96: Liberia

This little slice of West Africa, internationally infamous for its brutal civil war and more recent Ebola crisis, has an unique origin story: it was founded by freed slaves who returned from the US.  (Note: A Liberian comments that this is the wrong way to portray it. To clarify I should say that the nation in its current political form was founded by those free slaves; indeed there were many people living there prior.) From what I can tell most of […]

Meal 93: Lebanon

As I caught myself grumbling about having to clean my two food processors and the mixer with a meat-grinder attachment, I realized how it’s unlikely I’d take on this project without the aid of electric appliances. I shudder to think of how long it would have taken to mash the hummus, emulsify the garlic sauce, and grind or chop the meat with only the power of my arms. I wouldn’t have cooked nearly as many dishes if I’d had to do […]

Meal 88: Kenya

We’ve already enjoyed three meals from the Horn of Africa, but it’s taken us until the K’s to start into East Africa proper. It looks a whole lot more like Central African, though I’m happy and relieved to report that we found it quite a bit tastier. As with so many former colonial countries, the borders of Kenya arbitrarily threw a bunch of tribes together. Accordingly, there’s not exactly a national cuisine as such, but there are a few dishes that […]