For the first time in the qualifying stages of The World Cup of Food, there is a clear (at least in our minds) winner between Switzerland and Russia.
Russia is the largest country in the world by land area, and as you might expect there is a large variety in available ingredients and how they are used. Classic Central European influences, like roasted meats, rich sauces, and potato dishes exist alongside aspects of Central Asian cuisine like grilled, skewered meats and rice pilafs. Russian, and later Soviet, imperialism led to not only greater lands and resources for Russia, but the import of new food preparations from the conquered territories, especially those of Ukraine, Armenia, and Uzbekistan.
Kartoffel rösti (recipe follows), a Swiss fried potato cake that is a cross between hash browns and potatoes Anna, is so popular in the German-speaking areas of Switzerland that it is often seen as an identifying symbol of Germanic Switzerland, sort of like how grits are used to symbolize the southern United States. Rösti can be jazzed up with bacon, onions, cheese, apples, or herbs, but the basic version is just potatoes, fat, salt, and pepper.
Switzerland has four official languages — French, German, Italian, and Romansh — and countless other languages that are spoken within its borders. It is no surprise then that, despite the country’s small size and population, a staggering variety of food can be found as well. Fondue, a bubbly mix of cheese and wine of Swiss origin, is popular worldwide (thanks in no small part to Big Fondue’s push to promote fondue pots as wedding gifts in the 1970s), as is the original Swiss cheese, Emmentaler. Switzerland is also the place of origin of meringue, absinthe, and Ovaltine, so the Swiss have made a sizable imprint on the world’s dessert, drink, and instant breakfast landscapes as well.
After trying our hand at the foods of Taiwan and Cambodia to gain a better understanding of the cuisines, we have reached a decision in their first qualifying round matchup for The World Cup of Food.
With all our leftover bok choy from our Taiwanese stir-fry, we thought we’d try to scour the internet for a Cambodian take on the vegetable. The fantastic Youtube channel Mom’s Recipes, which features detailed videos with instructions on how to prepare a number of Cambodian dishes, came through for us with their Cambodian bok choy video:
Cambodia is one of the Southeast Asian nations that, along with Laos and Burma, gets overshadowed in world culinary consciousness by its more well-known neighbors Thailand and Vietnam. One of the most rewarding consequences of producing The World Cup of Food has been the opportunity to explore the cuisines of these overlooked areas more closely, and we eagerly anticipated the chance to dive into Cambodian cuisine.
As a special bonus feature, we’d like to share a Taiwanese beverage we found to go with the rest of our Taiwanese meal:
Lu rou fan (recipe follows) is a popular pork dish in Taiwan, both at home and served from the stalls of the night markets. It’s briny, rich savoriness comes from dried shrimp and mushrooms and from a healthy dollop of Japanese miso, a lingering influence from the Japanese Empire’s rule over the island.
Taiwan, like many other nations in the Pacific, has been under the rule of several different flags over the course of its history. The aboriginal Taiwanese people, related most closely to the aboriginal groups of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Polynesia, are thought to have first arrived on the island around eight thousand years ago. Dutch colonization in the seventeenth century opened up the transportation routes for Han Chinese (from whom the majority of modern-day Taiwanese are descended) to emigrate to the island. Japanese conquest in the late nineteenth century, which lasted until the conclusion of World War 2, created another wave of influence. Today’s Taiwanese government is the direct continuation of the pre-Communist Republic of China (a name still in use by the Taiwanese government), which fled to the island after the Chinese Civil War of 1949. Most recently, immigrants from Southeast Asia have made their mark on Taiwanese culture.
Continue reading Taiwanese Cuisine — Bok Choy and Shiitake Mushrooms