Sunday, September 16, 2012

Nicaragua: Gallo Pinto and Ensalada de Repollo

Welcome back! It's been a while since our previous meal (check August in the blog post organizer to the left), mostly because of school and such. But now we're back!

For our second meal we visited the wonderful land of Nicaragua for some gallo pinto y ensalada de repollo, which were delicious.

Gallo pinto means "painted (or spotted) rooster" in Spanish, and is actually rice and beans. It is aesthetically pleasing (to me at least, a troglodyte), and has the color palette of a rooster. 

Gallo pinto up-close and personal

Ensalada de repollo means "salad of cabbage" (though it actually means "cabbage salad").

Too close to my cabbage salad

I thought it was delicious. My skeptical brother - who claims I'm trying to poison him when I cook tofu - went back for seconds. The gallo pinto was a big hit: it was delicious, healthy, hearty, easy to make, inexpensive to procure, and made leftovers (see below). The ensalada de repollo was incredibly limey, though it gave a "light" taste to the meal.

Gallo pinto is actually the national dish of Nicaragua, and is oftentimes a breakfast food.

As for the recipes, we used this gallo pinto recipe and this ensalada de repollo recipe.

With some important distinctions:
  • We ended up doubling the gallo pinto, which has resulted in plentiful leftovers
  • Also for this dish, it says to have cilantro on it in the notes; follow their instructions, it turns out to be good
  • We halved the ensalada de repollo vegetables - i.e., the cabbage, tomatoes, etc. - but left the dressing proportion as-is
 The salad was fairly easy: just chop many vegetables and put them in a bowl. Then mix together some lime, olive oil, salt, and pepper together, and drizzle that over the salad. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes. It may have ended up too limey because we used reconstituted lime juice, which is stronger than lime juice straight from a lime. Or it turned out just right, who knows? In any event, it ended up looking like this in our bowl, with a spoon for size comparison:

So sour!

It was good.

The rice and beans were more fun to make because we misread the recipe. It called for three cups of hot cooked rice. cooking three cups of uncooked rice ends up making, well, this much rice:

My bad

Which was a lot. We estimated it to be about 6 cups of rice, and just doubled the recipe. Luckily, we had all the ingredients to double it.

You start off chopping some peppers, onions, and garlic, and frying them in some oil - after cooking the correct amount of rice, hopefully.

Onions then peppers then garlic

Then, you drain the beans - keeping their liquid - then put the beans and a little of their liquid in the pan and cookin' them up.

That's four cans of beans

After that's done, just put all of it in the huge rice pot and cook for a little longer. I recommend adding most, if not all, of the bean liquid into the rice to loosen it up. It also tastes pretty good.

So much food...

That just results in a huge pot of deliciousness. And about 3 meals for 3 people. It was hearty and filling.

As for Nicaragua itself (officially the Republic of Nicaragua), it is located in Central America, spanning the entire isthmus from the Pacific to the Caribbean at one point.

It's in red, as far as we know

And this is its flag:

Complete with triangle

Nicaragua has, unfortunately, been beset by poverty following a brutal civil war between the Sandanistas and the Contras (short for contrarevolucionarios, or counterrevolutionaries). It is on the rebound though, with huge agricultural export and tourism industries.

As for why Nicaraguan food is Nicaraguan, most of Central American food is similar to other Central American foods. Most of Central America shares a common pre-Columbian history and much of Spanish colonization has furthered cultural - including culinary - integration.

Foods also make sense for the region, which can be seen in the use of cabbage rather than lettuce. Cabbage stays good for much longer than lettuce without refrigeration, and also has more nutrients.

And that concludes our culinary visit to Nicaragua. Please post a comment of use the "Contact Us" page, hope you've enjoyed it.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Hello, everybody! I, the author, am going to go on vacation - it's in a cabin in the woods: hiatus? - for the next week or so, so this blog will be quasi-dormant.

Everybody can still post comments, read the blog, and even send emails, but I can't get back to you for some time.

When I'm back, we're going to do another meal, though!

As a side note, each meal amounts to about 0.5% of the total meals we'll be doing. After our next meal we'll be 1% done.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ethiopia: Vegetable Alecha, Injera, and Iab

Welcome to our first meal!

The structure of our blog is as such: a description of the meal itself; recipes, and cultural information regarding the country in question. Scroll down if you're only seeking one of the latter two items.

For our first meal, we ate a semi-traditional Ethiopian dish, which featured alecha, injera, and iab. Alecha is a vegetable dish which is similar to a stew. Injera is a spongy flatbread, typically made from tef flour, which was unavailable. Finally, we had iab (or something that approximated it) which is a cheese similar to feta. It is spiced and acidic.

The meal on our big tray
The meal itself was pretty tasty. I was surprised by the variety of flavors. While I was not blown away, I thought that it was a delicious and hearty meal. "I'm tasting not just spiciness, but a sweetness to it. It's really delicious," said my mother upon eating the alecha. "The lemon and parsley of the - what is it? - the iab gives it a refreshing, palette-cleansing [taste]," she added.

Injera, arguably the center of the meal, is a spongy yeast-leavened flatbread. It is actually similar to pancakes in their preparation and texture.

The first finished injera
Injera had a yeasty flavor, tasting almost sour. It's thicker than crêpes, which surprised my mother. I was mostly surprised by their stickiness.

The vegetable alecha, on the other hand, was stew-like.
So flavorful-looking, eh?

It had spices, yet was more flavorful than spicy. There were large chunks of potatoes, which we probably should have chopped smaller. Moreover, we under-cooked it. (My guess is that, because we used a wok, it needed more time than originally prescribed.)

Finally, the iab - or in this case, an approximation thereof - is a cheese-like dish that had lemon and parsley in it.


It was the sweetest dish, and was almost dessert-like. It was also my favorite on the injera.

To eat Ethiopian food, you're supposed to take many injera, lay them on a tray, and plop wat (meat stew of some sort), alecha, and/or iab in front of every person. Then, you rip some injera off with your hands, roll the food like this..

...or this...

...and attempt to eat it. Evidently, it is difficult. That second one barely made it to my mouth intact. In addition, a goorsha may be done, which is when you give your food-thing to a friend. A goorsha is an act of friendship.

We used this injera recipe, this vegetable alecha recipe, and, finally, this iab recipe.

We did make a few changes, however:
  • We doubled all of the spices in the alecha recipe. This was a good choice.
  • We didn't have any fenugreek seeds for the alecha, but we read that you can substitute mustard for them (like the condiment), so we did.
Other than that we basically followed the recipes.

Here are the stages of creating injera:
The batter, before fermentation

It's fermenting!

Cooking it like pancakes (without flipping)

The finished product

And here's us cooking the alecha:
Chopped veggies
Chopping the potato

I was the one that peeled that onion...

Spice mixture

Sautéed onions in the spices

Too much food, too little wok

We have only the end picture for the iab, which we've already shown you.

Overall, our first dish was a success.

If you want some brief cultural information regarding Ethiopia, you're free to read on. If else, leave a comment, spread the word, and try out the food!

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country in North-Eastern Africa, close to the Middle East.
From TUBS on the Wikimedia Commons
Its most well-known leader, Haile Selassie I, fought Fascist Italy's imperialistic aims in Ethiopia unsuccessfully. After World War II, he returned to Ethiopia. Interestingly, he is regarded as the return of the messiah by Rastafarians, some of whom don't believe that he died.

Halie Selassie I was deposed in a Soviet-backed coup, and after the USSR collapsed Ethiopia had its first multiparty elections.

Ethiopia's national language is Amharic, a Semitic language (i.e., related to Hebrew and Arabic), written in the Ethiopic or Ge'ez script. That said, languages are recognized regionally among different ethnic identities.

Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic state, with over 80 ethnic identities. Furthermore, Ethiopia has multiple religions, primarily the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, with large Muslim minorities.

Well, I hope you've liked our  first post. If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to post a comment or send an email. Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Note about the Advertisements

As you can see, I've added ads for this blog. I'm going to refrain from talking about them too much, lest I accidentally break a rule regarding their usage.

Basically, the ads are here to help support the site; yet I also want them to be relatively unobstrusive.

As such, if there are any ads that seriously offend you, please leave a comment or email me (check "Contact Us"). I've already blocked some ad content types which I feel violate the spirit of this blog (e.g., are politically-driven), but I'm sure there are other ads that detract from this experience.

That said, I also hope the ads can be tailored to your needs and actually be useful to you. I saw one for a vegetarian cookbook earlier.

More importantly and on-message, we've started to collect ingredients for our next meal. I shan't say its source, though I will say that it is particularly delicious. Also, from my research, it appears to be fairly traditional in its style. We'll have pictures.

Remember, I've said that the meal will be from an African country ending in "a." If you can guess it (in the comments), you're pretty awesome.

Finally, there's a search box now, right below the translator. Pretty good if you're looking for a particular country/region/meal, especially when this thing grows.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Website Launch

Well, hello, all newcomers (because at this point, you're all newcomers). This is the official launch of Around the World in 194 Meals! Isn't it exciting?

The website is basically finalized, so I'd like to introduce you, dear reader, to the format thereof.

Up at the top, you'll see pages, starting with "Home" and ending with "Contact Us." These pages are largely static; I won't/can't post posts on them. They contain some basic geopolitical, geographical, and historical information about each continent/region. More importantly, they contain the Sacred Texts ListsTMNot really which contain every nation-state with which we are concerned. When we eat a meal from a particular country, we will put that meal with that country on that list. If I'm feeling fancy I may even hyperlink it to the post in question.

Other pages include the one with (auto)biographies - guess which! I'll put information there regarding myself and my fellow travelers.

Of note, there's a translator at the side. It's pretty spiffy. Given my limited knowledge of Spanish, it appears to work fine (for Spanish, at any rate).

For those of you wondering why I alternate between the first person singular and the first person plural pronouns (i.e. - "I" v. "we"), it's because this blog is a joint effort. When I say "I," I likely mean only myself, Josh. (It's 'cause I author/curate this blog exclusively so far.) When I say "we," I likely mean all of us, or a combination thereof.

Or, and this is the most likely, it's a typographical error. At least it's likely inconsequential.

Regardless, we (and I do mean "we") do our first meal sometime this weekend. Or Monday. Which means before Wednesday you'll likely get an update with some food in it. Catchphrase!

Website Update

For those of you wondering what's going on with the website construction, I've been updating the pages on the different continents/regions.

These pages will simply be static reference material for some basic geographical and historical lessons regarding these regions. Details will be provided in each country's post, which will be posted on this main page when we get there.

Once these reference material pages are finished, I may add a "Contact Us" page or maybe a(n) (auto)biographical page for the chefs. There may even be pictures.

As for the post style of each country, I will also be including the history thereof, with some random facts of interest.

In order to help sustain the blog, I will be adding advertising once I've finished the skeleton of the blog, so to speak. They will be helping to fund our culinary adventures, and we thank them in advance for it.

Finally, a teaser for our first official meal: it's from Africa - as the poll suggested; one vote can make a difference! - and it ends in an "a." I'm excited for it.

P.S. - While I am not on Facebook, most of you are. Feel free to tweet or Facebook away about this blog! Apparently "Facebook" is a verb.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Welcome to my blog, Around the World in 194 Meals!

Use the tabs at the top of the page to navigate the regions.

This idea came to me after eating some homemade tofu pad Thai: what if I could cook, then eat, a meal from every country in the world?

Then my girlfriend, over a different meal of homemade Thai food, had an amazing idea: why not write a blog about the aforementioned culinary journey?

And so, we've created a blog to post about our different meals and experiences in the kitchen.

The goal is to have a meal at least every other week. Hopefully we can do more, yet life does exist outside of the kitchen, and it is telling us we need more funding.

The meal will be cooked in-house, by myself and maybe a combination of my mother, brother, and/or girlfriend, all of whom are great at cooking. (Or better than I am, anyway.)

There are a few restrictions, however:

  1. Budgets: Some ingredients (looking at you, rice noodles) are more expensive than wheat-gluten noodles, for example. We may not be able to be as "authentic" as we would like - or cook as often - as a result of this. Though we will try to cook with healthy, fresh ingredients from local sources when possible.
  2. Diet: I am a pescatarian, which is basically vegetarian plus fish. I won't eat beef, pork, chicken, or any animal flesh that didn't swim. I do, however, eat animal products, e.g., milk and eggs. I can elucidate on this later. The other participants on the journey are fairly omnivorous.
  3. Taste: While this journey is, to an extent, about trying new things, certain things won't be attempted. For example, we won't fry insects, which is done in North-Eastern Thailand. Instead, we'd try a different Thai dish. (Not that we would fry insects regardless, as they are animals, and I wouldn't eat them. Maybe as a side dish for the others though.)
After cooking the meal, we'll tell about the experience. Furthermore, we'll give information about the culture, nation, region, etc., of the country in question.

I encourage anyone with suggestions to post comments on the website sharing any experiences, recipes, or  their heritage. Also, the poll at the side has options for all the regions we will use.