Japanese colonization of Taiwan (from 1895 to 1945) left a lasting impression on Taiwanese culture. Loan words from Japanese pepper the Taiwanese dialect, and like Japan, Taiwan has had a more Western-friendly attitude than some of its neighbors. Food traditions, of course, were also left behind by the Japanese, and today a hungry visitor to Taiwan is about as likely to find sushi or ramen noodles as he or she is more traditional Taiwanese fare.
It’s time to decide on another African nation for one of the final thirty-two places in The World Cup of Food. This week, our match pits the cuisines of Egypt and Ethiopia against each other. Which do we think is better?
Wat (or alternately, wot) is an Ethiopian stew spiced with the ridiculously hot spice mixture berbere (recipe follows that of doro wat) and cooked in a copious amount of niter kibbeh, Ethiopian clarified butter. The chicken version, doro wat (recipe follows) is probably the most popular, though lamb, beef, or even vegetarian versions are common.
Niter kibbeh (recipe follows) is a staple of the Ethiopian kitchen. Clarified butter slowly simmered with fenugreek, cardamom, or nigella seeds forms the base for nearly all Ethiopian stews.
Ethiopian cuisine has a very different feel than those of other parts of Africa. Ethiopia is one of the few areas of Africa never to have been colonized by any European power, and while European influences exist within its borders, Ethiopian cuisine has held on to its own native traditions very strongly.
Ful medames (sometimes transliterated as fool mudammas, recipe follows) is a staple dish of mashed fava beans seasoned with cumin, lemon juice, and olive oil and served with a variety of garnishes, and is enjoyed throughout the Middle East and northeast Africa with origins in either Egypt or Sudan. Evidence of the dish’s history can be found dating as far back as Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt, when pharaohs were buried in their tombs with a supply of the beans to provide fuel for the afterlife.
It is time, loyal readers, to once again present our decision, advancing one cuisine and eliminating another. This week the case is the United States against Chile — one cuisine, being our own, is very familiar, while the other was hardly a blip in our culinary radar before it was featured.
One of the great comfort foods of Chile, and one that is considered a national dish, is the meat and corn pie pastel de choclo (recipe follows). Pastel means “cake” in Spanish, but has taken on widely divergent forms in the various areas of Spanish influence around the world. Choclo comes from the Quechua language group and refers to the sweet corn used to make the pie’s topping.
Chilean food traditions have developed from a combination of locally available food sources and the native cultures’ use of them, as well as Spanish influence dating from the time of the conquistadors in the sixteenth century. So far, that makes Chilean food origins sound pretty much like the rest of the Americas south of Texas; Chile’s unique geography and relationship with the sea set it apart however.