It’s that time again on The World Cup of Food when we have to select one country’s cuisine to advance in our competition and another to be left behind. This week, the decision is between Denmark and Ireland, the winner earning a place in the round of thirty-two against India.
Many Americans, when asked for a single example of an Irish dish, would name corned beef (recipe follows) in some form. Here in the United States corned beef and cabbage is associated indelibly with St. Patrick’s Day; Irish immigrants allegedly adopted corned beef as a replacement for their Irish bacon that was suddenly a lot harder to find and corned beef and cabbage became a St. Patrick’s day dinner menu fixture.
In Denmark, the open-faced sandwiches known collectively as smørrebrød (serving suggestions follow) are a national source of pride and identity. The Danish rye bread rugbrød is buttered liberally, then the rest is limited only by the imagination of the cook.
The Danish Christmas luncheon is a treasured tradition in Denmark. Families and friends come together for a midday gathering full of food and, perhaps most importantly, lots of beer and schnapps. The Danish open-faced sandwiches smørrebrød dominate the table, where diners top their slices of Danish rye with whatever meats, fish, vegetables, or cheeses strike their fancy. There are a handful of toppings that are simply expected to be served (like pumpkin pie would be at an American Thanksgiving celebration). Karrysalat (recipe follows) is one of those, considered “a ‘must’ at any self-respecting Danish Christmas luncheon table” according to Danish food blogger Gitte of My Danish Kitchen.
It is time again to decide between two cuisines on The World Cup of Food, this time Jamaica and El Salvador. The food of the two nations is very different from one another’s and again the decision has been hotly contested.
The national dish of El Salvador is undoubtedly the pupusa (recipe follows). Corn dough in layers a bit thicker than Mexican tortillas is filled with stuffing ingredients and sealed around the edge to form disc-shaped packages. The stuffing could be anything, but commonly includes cheese, shredded pork, beans, squash, or even plantains. The stuffed pupusas are cooked on a hot, flat griddle or skillet until brown and the dough is cooked through.
In El Salvador, the culture (and by extension the food) is heavily influenced by the indigenous Pipil people and by the Spanish, who wandered south from Mexico (or as they liked to call it, New Spain) in the early sixteenth century. Corn comes from Central America originally, and Salvadoran cooks use corn extensively and in a variety of ways. Seafood, and especially shellfish, preparations are popular, taken from El Salvador’s bountiful coastal areas. The Olympia, Washington area in which we reside, small as it is (the 179th largest metropolitan area in the United States!) has at least two excellent, completely independent from each other Salvadoran restaurants to its credit, so we knew we should probably explore Salvadoran food on The World Cup of Food.
Jamaicans from all walks of life enjoy the humble rice and peas, sometimes as a meal of its own but mostly as a side dish. What a Jamaican calls “peas” we call “kidney beans,” and the dish has a lot in common with southern American red beans and rice. Key Jamaican twists on the dish include cooking the beans in coconut milk (which yields a creamy, slightly sweet flavor) and including a Scotch bonnet pepper in the cooking liquid for a little spice.
Jamaican food over the years has been shaped by the Spanish, British, African, Indian, and Chinese people who have inhabited the island over the last several centuries. Though Rastafarians are less than one percent of the population, they have added their contributions to the cuisine also, with numerous dishes built around their religious beliefs barring consumption of pork (and for the most devout, meat of any kind).
In our Asian/Oceanian second qualifying round match between Guam and Singapore we tried our hands at some tasty dishes. In what is proving to be in the minority of our World Cup of Food matches, this time we have a decisive winner.