Meal 116: Morocco

I love spices. I love meats cooked with sweet flavors. I love Moroccan food. This was one of our very most anticipated meals, and I went pretty overboard with all the dishes and condiments. But with all the meats and flavors, how could I have cut back? The house smelled fantastic, we all got super full, and there was so much food going on that I even left one whole dish uncooked to be enjoyed later. Thank goodness for mint […]

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 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 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. From what I can tell most of the cuisine is based on the locally available foods — which, unlike most of the rest of Africa but similarly to its immediate neighbors, is based on rice as a staple — but there are hints of the American […]

Meal 69: Guinea-Bissau

If you know anything about Guinea-Bissau, chances are it’s the dubious media-granted title of “the world’s first narco-state” and the ensuing coup. Conveniently located just a few days’ boating from South America, the small former Portuguese colony has become a waystation for drugs en route to Europe. The army not only consents but participates, increasingly so since last year’s coup. Not surprisingly, the money hasn’t reached the people; Guinea-Bissau is among the least-developed countries in the world. While the country is […]

Meal 42: Croatia

Thanks to its unique location, Croatia straddles several opposing forces of history and geography, and of course this is reflected in the food. It features a unique shape, a comically long and thin Mediterranean coastline with a big bulb at the north stretching inland toward the heart of the Balkans. Parts or all of it have been subject in turn to Venetian, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, which have lent such influences as pasta, lamb, and strudel. And of course it’s […]

Meal 38: Comoros

As a small cluster of islands between Madagascar and Mozambique, Comoros offers a cuisine that’s about as exotic as you’d imagine. It’s situated off of Africa, but heavily influenced by the Arab, Indian, and more recently French culinary histories. This means seafood, stews, coconuts, and lots of spices in combinations that are totally trippy to Western tastebuds! Huge thanks to Evin, Zoe, and Kayla for hosting us at their beautiful home (and well equipped kitchen!) in Oakland, CA. We had […]

Meal 36: China

When asked over the past year which upcoming meal intimidated me the most, I’d answer “China.” The most populated country in the world covers a huge variety of cuisines, virtually uncountable ingredients and cooking techniques, and tremendous extremes: it has 9,100 miles of coastline and also the point on Earth farthest from any ocean. China is a telling example of the imperfection of using the United Nations member list as a proxy for the world’s cuisines. But here we are. […]

Meal 29: Cambodia

Having grown up in the Bay Area, I had more than my fair share of many southeast Asian cuisines, including Thai, Vietnamese, even Burmese. But I’d never really encountered Cambodian until this meal. The core ingredients are pretty similar to those of its neighbors, especially the triptych of galangal, kaffir lime leaf and lemongrass. Yet as the Wikipedia page observes, the country is full of wetlands and floodplains, a geography which is reflected in a culinary style where solid and […]