Friday, September 17, 2010

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is located in the Caribbean, on the same island as Haiti. Culinary influences include the Spanish (it used to be a Spanish colony), indigenous Taino, and African (Africans were brought by the Spanish to be slaves), and is most similar to Cuba and Puerto Rico. Common dishes include rice and beans, pork, other stewed meat, and seafood (for coastal residents). Dominican food tends to be less spicy than most other Caribbean food, and dominant seasonings are garlic, onion, cilantro, and oregano. I've also heard that chicken bouillon cubes contribute to a uniquely Dominican flavor.

I came across the recipe for the chicken nuggets online and decided that anything marinated in rum was all right with me. Usually chicharrones are made with pork rind, but chicken is apparently the Dominican way. I used chicken thighs and marinated them overnight in a ziplock bag. The frying process was surprisingly painless and the nuggets were flavorful but not actually spicy. My friend Ben said that he'd only had them with pork before, but that these tasted just about right. My only regrets were that I could have fried a few of them longer and that I didn't have any lime wedges!

My friend Ashley spent some time in the Dominican Republic and told me that I couldn't skip rice and red beans. She was kind enough to pass along her recipe and some tips, and it was delicious! I used basmati rice, since it was what I had around. Next time I might chop the onion a bit smaller (the recipe calls for quarters), but it was surprisingly tasty and sweet. I'll definitely make this again! Maybe I'll even have it for breakfast topped with a fried egg.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Burma (or Myanmar) is located in southern Asia between China, India, Laos, and Thailand. The country's current military government has promoted the name Myanmar since 1989, but the US government still uses the name Burma. Burmese cuisine is heavily influenced by China, India, and Thailand - not surprising, given its location. This means that fish sauce, clear noodle soups, and curries are all common elements. However, curries do not use curry powder, relying instead on turmeric and chili powder for flavor, as well as onions, garlic, and ginger.

I made the curry and the cucumbers while I was making the Bissau-Guinean stew, since both needed to simmer for hours and my schedule's a little hectic this week. The cucumbers were meant to be served cold, and I couldn't imagine that curry wouldn't reheat well. I thought the coolest part of the recipe was processing the onions, garlic, and ginger into a paste to get the flavor without the chunks. Of course, the friend hanging out with me pointed out that onions are *really* strong when they're processed into a paste; his eyes were watering from across the room! I made the coconut rice when I was actually ready to eat the meal (accidentally burned it, so I had to scrape off the unburned parts and just eat them - oops), and all in all, I was impressed. The rice was very mild, but the flavor went well with the curry. The meat was relatively tender and the curry was delicious; flavorful without being spicy. The cucumbers were...a little weird. But generally enjoyable.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Guinea-Bissau is a small country located on the west coast of Africa, between Senegal and Guinea. Bissau-Guinean cuisine is based on rice and millet (a grain), typically paired with vegetables and zesty sauces. Coastal people may eat fish regularly, but due to the poverty of the country, meat is typically only consumed on special occasions, when livestock is slaughtered.

I wanted to cover Guinea-Bissau early on because it’s the last book I worked on for my contract, and my team just finished on Friday. I had a hard time finding recipes - there were links to a few, but the recipes themselves could generally not be found, except for the one I made. The original called for mutton, but after trying Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, Super Giant, and the butcher in Del Ray, I came to the conclusion that mutton is unavailable near Old Town, so I substituted lamb neckbones. When I was ready to serve the stew, I fished out as many of the bones as I could. A lot of the meat had already fallen off, and I used forks to get the rest off, then put it back in the pot. Generally, I liked it. I was way too shy with the salt, and I might flavor it more strongly next time (although I’m not sure with what). But it’s very hearty, and I’m enjoying the leftovers as I write this.