Swedish Cuisine — Köttbullar, Swedish Meatballs

Sweden’s cuisine, due to its long, cold winters and long coastline, is comprised of relatively few ingredients.  Most of the national table can be represented by the use of game meats, beef, dairy products, seafood, berries, potatoes, root vegetables that thrive in cold weather like turnips and rutabagas, bread, and butter.  A lack of native ingredients does not limit the Swedish cook’s imagination, however, and this diversity and imagination is celebrated in perhaps the most famous of Swedish culinary traditions, the smorgasbord.

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Final: Afghanistan vs. Burma

Burma is a fascinating land, isolated for political reasons from the rest of the world for decades and having developed many unique culinary traditions found nowhere else on Earth.  Their national dish, mohinga, somehow manages to create something rich and delicious out of catfish and shrimp paste and gave us valuable insight into the cuisine of the country.

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Burmese Cuisine — Mohinga, Rice Noodles in Fish Soup

Burma (the modern nation of Myanmar) is a southeast Asian nation with a unique culinary heritage.  Influences from neighboring India, Thailand, and China are apparent, as well as local traditions like laphet, pickled, fermented tea leaves considered to be among the finer points of a Burmese meal.  Food is not prepared with precise recipes, but timing and execution are critical to a dish’s success.

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Afghan Cuisine — Qabali Palau, Kabul-Style Pilaf with Chicken

When we first had the idea for The World Cup of Food, we quickly decided that Afghan cuisine was one that neither of us has had any experience at all with yet we knew we needed to try it.  Perhaps it is the mysterious allure of a region that has had so much turmoil for so many decades.  Perhaps it is the mysterious allure of Kabul Afghan Cuisine in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, a highly regarded and longstanding establishment with the famous National Geographic “Afghan Girl” photograph painted as a mural on one of its exterior walls that has long captivated our imaginations.  Whatever it was, we are finally ready to dive in to Afghan food.

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Cape Verdean Cuisine — Jagacida, Bean and Sausage Stew

Cape Verde is a remote island chain due west of the West African nation of Senegal in the North Atlantic. The volcanic islands were uninhabited until the Portuguese arrived in the fifteenth century and used the archipelago as a stopover point in the New World slave trade. It wasn’t long before the Cape Verdean Islands became an easy target of pirates, the famed English privateer Sir Francis Drake having ransacked the then-capital city of Ribeira Grande twice in the 1580s.
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Tunisian Cuisine — Falfal bil-Labid, Cucumber and Pepper Relish with Couscous

If there is a national dish of Tunisia, it is couscous, tiny pearls of dough steamed until just tender.  It is served with most meals and at all gatherings of any size.  A special cooking vessel called a kiska:s in Arabic or couscoussière in French (the two national languages), a kind of double boiler with separated segments for meats or vegetables and for couscous stacked on top of each other, is probably what sets Tunisian couscous apart from its North African neighbors and makes it the envy of the region.  The lower pot is for meats, vegetables, and spices, and the aromatic and flavorful steam they create is directed into the couscous pot above.

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Tunisian Cuisine — Harissa (or Hressa), Tunisian Red Pepper Condiment

Tunisian food has a lot in common with its North African neighbors.  Meat is eaten with much less frequency than in Western nations, and due to the predominance of kosher Muslims in the culture, pork is rarely served (and is in fact illegal in Tunisia).  Beans, especially chickpeas and favas, are used to fill the protein void, and coastal areas use, as you might expect, a lot of seafood in the local diet.  Whereas the rest of North Africa enjoys a very mild cuisine, Tunisian cookery uses very spicy chili peppers in just about everything.  The origin of Tunisian spicy cooking is unclear, but our guess is that it stems from trade links with Italy, which is Tunisia’s closest European neighbor and also a heat-loving culinary culture.  Spicy food is a way of life in Tunisia, so much so that a common Tunisian proverb states that a man can judge his wife’s affection by the amount of chilies in her cooking.  If the food becomes mild, the husband is prone to the belief that his wife no longer loves him.  Lucky for us, Angie consistently makes spicy food in our home.

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