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 114: Mozambique

Wherever the Portuguese colonized, the exchange of ingredients and dishes was intense. Mozambique’s spicy grilled chicken spread throughout the empire, becoming beloved from Lisbon to Goa, while bread is still baked everywhere throughout the Southern African country. I was also struck by how, even though the country is halfway around the world, this was one of the easiest meals to shop for, as every ingredient is available at a standard American supermarket. This was our second Nosh at Laura’s parents’ place on Anderson Island […]

Meal 111: Micronesia

At 1 million square miles with only 100,000-ish people, the Federated States of Micronesia is both huge and tiny. (Obviously, almost all of that square mileage is ocean.) As with much of the rest of the Pacific islands, the traditional bland starches and simply cooked fish aren’t the most stimulating cuisine. Micronesians have swung the pendulum far to the other side, with some really intense and novel uses of imported flavors. (Read below for what they do with ramen and Kool-Aid.) There’s […]

Meal 110: Mexico

Just like other great cuisines like Chinese and French, there’s plenty of regional variety in Mexico’s food. And just like rice with Chinese and bread with French food, there’s a ubiquitous starch tying it all together, in this case tortillas. This meal’s menu is an attempt at a sample of regional foods, all while trying to get good variety at the table. From the oven-baked, olivey-sauced huachinango a la veracruzana representing the Caribbean coast’s fish and heavy colonial influence, to the annatto-coated […]

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 107: Marshall Islands

For centuries, the fate of this Micronesian island group has been entirely subject to the machinations of much greater powers. Its very name, after an English explorer, was consecrated in maps by French and Russian explorers. It’s been a territory of Spain, Germany, Japan, and the US. It saw major battle and deprivation in World War II, and was the site of enormous nuclear tests with all the destruction and long-term consequences you’d expect, and many displaced Marshallese who haven’t moved to […]

Meal 104: Maldives

If you go to the Maldives, off the southwest coast of India, for a tropical beach vacation, you’re more likely to find steaks and French cheese than any of the local cuisine. I’m not entirely surprised, because the intense flavor of sun-dried and smoked tuna runs that through nearly every meal is probably a bit too intense for the holiday-package crowd. This is only the second meal for which I’ve ordered an ingredient online, but there’s simply no way to cook […]

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 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 […]