When traveling, experiencing a destination comes in many shapes and forms. But one of the most important ways of experiencing a culture is through the food. Since we’re self-isolating right now, the options of entertainment are very limited when you’re confined to the walls of your home. And since traveling is not an option, the world is finding alternatives, so we’ll settle for the second-best option -- you gotta work with whatever you’ve got; whether it’s exploring the world through books, virtual tours, shows and documentaries, or movies. But one thing we can all agree on for this quarantine boredom, stress eating is real and it’s one enjoyable way to escape reality and save our sanity -- so consider another trip to the kitchen. According to UNESCO, food is a form of intangible culture to be respected and preserved as to represent the cultural framework.
So technically, you can travel the world without leaving your kitchen with some international recipes, from Spain to Morocco, Philippines, India, and everywhere in between -- these are some of the international dishes around the world that have become woven into the cultures. So let’s get to cooking in quarantine for some entertainment and a sense of lacking adventure.
SEAFOOD PAELLA, SPAINvia iTravelling
The Spanish paella: one mouthful and it’s like you’re on a beach in Spain, that’s the power of this seafood extravaganza. This dish is said to have started when Moorish kings’ servants mixed leftovers from royal banquets in large pots to take home. Its name, Paella, is said to have originated from the Arabic word “baqiyah” meaning leftovers, but the term actually refers to the pan that it is cooked in. It would seem like a natural dish to develop, since rice is grown in Spain and seafood in some regions are plentiful. Although it’s said to have originally developed in Valencia, depending on the region in Spain, the meat and vegetables added to the Paella vary. Paella can have several or no meats in it. These are a few of the traditional ones: rabbit, chicken, snails, or Spanish smoked sausage like Chorizo. But it’s mostly the seafood that the dish has become known for. It’s everything seafood combined with white rice, herbs, oil, and salt -- a Valencian dish that sends you immediately into holiday mode with the sea lapping by your feet. But you can also make it with chicken or whatever you could get your hands on. Here's a Paella recipe if you're looking to make this Spanish dish at home.
OMA’S APFELKUCHEN, GERMANYvia Plated Cravings
Germans are renowned for their love of beer, sausages, and potato salad. But they also love Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake), a national afternoon ritual that can be traced back to the 17th Century. Nowadays, this tradition is mostly reserved for weekends, like on a Sunday afternoon when all shops are closed except the bakeries and cafes. It still remains a key part of Germany’s identity although it’s no longer practiced as much. It stands to this day as an opportunity to catch up with friends over an indulgent in-between-meals treat. Kuchen classics include Apfelkuchen, a classic German sunken apple cake. This quintessentially German recipe consists of a single layer of buttery cake topped with neat and orderly rows of sliced baking apples. Oma, meaning grandmother, came from the fact that these cakes are known to best come from old recipes, based on the grandmothers’ own recipes. Many of them handed down from the handwritten, sometimes tattered, recipe books of their own mothers or grandmothers. Here's one Grandma's recipe to follow.
FISH ‘N’ CHIPS, UKvia CNN
The staple of the Victorian British working class that’s been around since the 1860s. A crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside dish of simple fundamentals but it’s the fusion that matters -- sometimes even mixed with mushy peas! As the national dish, food stalls selling fish ‘n’ chips are literally everywhere in the UK. It started out as small family businesses often run from the ‘front room’ of houses in the 19th century. This trade started expanding to satisfy the needs of the growing industrial population of Great Britain as it became so essential to the diet of the ordinary man and woman -- there’s even a shop in Bradford that had to employ a doorman to control the busy queues during 1931. The British do not joke around with their Fish and Chips. There are now around 8,500 fish and chip shops across the UK – that’s eight for every one McDonald’s outlet, making British Fish and Chips the nation’s favorite take-away.
It’s all about the freshly cooked ingredients, hot fish and chips, smothered in salt and vinegar, wrapped up in newspaper and eaten outdoors on a cold wintry day -- it doesn’t get more British than this. The good news is, it’s a very easy dish that you could recreate at home. For the full effect, maybe eat it on your balcony while staying at home. Here's one way to make this British iconic meal at home.
PASTEL DE NATA, PORTUGALvia Expatica
Portugal has a clear sweet tooth, which is visible while walking along most city streets. Bakeries and pastry shops are abundant in all the cities with every window piled with cakes, bread, custards, and other delights. But in Lisbon, there’s one particular dessert that is a favorite to locals and tourists alike: the pastel de nata -- a must-try, preferably in Lisbon, or at least at home for now. The recipe for this country-favorite dates back to over three centuries ago when they were created by monks in the Jerónimos Monastery -- a major tourist attraction today and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Back then, the nuns and monks would use egg whites to starch their clothes and used the leftover egg yolks as the main ingredient for their desserts, including these delicious custard tarts -- making for the world’s tastiest laundry by-product!
It’s a rich flaky pastry with a soft custard, a mishmash of a custard tart and a cake. The outside is crispy and flaky while the inside is creamy and sweet. Each region of Portugal and each baker has their own ways of tweaking the original recipe, but the egg filling and flaky crust is the common desired outcome of all. Here's a tutorial on how to make pastel de nata at home if you're willing to try it out.
COUSCOUS, MOROCCOvia Yummly
Couscous is an iconic meal in northern Africa and especially Morocco. It’s featured as an everyday meal or a luxury feast, a main course or a dessert. It’s most commonly eaten in Morocco as a Friday feast in every home, mixed with vegetables, legumes, and meat. It’s the one common thing uniting a low-key budget experience with a grand tour package in the Kingdom -- some restaurants just serve couscous only on Fridays. Traditionally couscous is steamed for hours in a special pot, called a Couscoussier. A rich broth of seasonal vegetables and meat is then prepared simultaneously. The best thing about this dish is that it is made accessible to everybody. It has simplistic ingredients like carrots, tomatoes, onions, beans, chicken, or beef depending on what’s available.
Couscous became a staple in the culture since it was frequently consumed by the Berber tribe in Morocco due to its simplicity and affordability. Today, it stands as a tradition for the entire family to gather around the feast on the Friday of every week, or a symbol of generosity when shared with friends and neighbors. Here's a recipe you can follow to recreate this iconic dish.
BELGIAN WAFFLES, BELGIUMvia Taste
The evolution of Belgian waffles is as fascinating as its remarkable taste. There have been so many improvisations till it has reached the way it’s prepared and eaten today. They were first made in the Middle Ages and sold as a rich street-side snack by vendors outside churches. In fact, King Charles IX of France said that the vending stalls had to be kept at a safe distance from one another, because the eating of waffles had become such a popular phenomenon. There are two types of waffles that originated in Belgium: the Brussels waffles and Liege waffles. The Brussels waffle is what is most known worldwide, while the Liege waffle is what’s most known inside Belgium with the rich taste and texture and more of a rebellious shape. Made with brioche dough and with caramelized sugar chunks inside, resulting in its gooey richness and the title of what’s widely recognized as the best waffle in the world. Here's how to make Belgian Waffles at home.
CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA, INDIAvia Sun
Spicy, colorful, comforting, and regal, this is India represented in a dish. Word’s still out whether this dish is actually Indian or British. It is commonly believed that the Chicken Tikka Masala originated in an Indian restaurant run by Bangladeshi chefs. According to folklore, it’s said that a British gentleman sometime in the 1960s, decided his Chicken Tikka was too dry and demanded a better dish. The chef, either out of wild inspiration or final desperation tossed in a can of tomato soup, sprinkled some spices, and added yogurt to the dish. 450 years later, this hybrid dish came into being in Glasgow and was christened Chicken Tikka Masala. But like many other great things, the answer may never reveal itself on the origin of this legendary meal.
Regardless of its mysterious origins, Chicken Tikka Masala enjoys its special place in the food kingdom. Today, there are more than 50 versions of this dish and the only common ingredient is, of course, chicken. While you try to make this legendary dish, take some time to truly taste it as you indulge in it. Here’s an easy recipe for you to try.
DAL BHAT, NEPALvia The Longest Way Home
This is the national dish of Nepal, and it’s made of just lentils and rice. A comforting combination of flavors that’s perfect for a cold day giving off power and heat -- with these Nepalis running up and down mountains in sandals, they sure do need power! As a typical Nepalese favorite, this dish is available all around the country, a staple that people eat at least once a day. Dal Bhat is traditionally served with a curried seasonal vegetable (Tarkariin Nepali- DalBhat Tarkari), sauteed spinach (Saag), and if you choose curried meat. It’s easy to make and the dal has all the flavors of Nepalese cuisine. Some of the flavors are garlic, onion, ginger, coriander, turmeric, and some heat from the red chili pepper. For a country with the highest mountain on Earth, Nepali Dal Bhat is exactly what the body needs for energy while trekking -- the reason why it’s often called “Dal Bhat Power 24 Hours”. If you want to cook a traditional Dal Bhat of Nepal, you don’t have to try it exactly how it is done. You can always play with flavors and invent something new. Here’s one way you can try to cook this staple dish of Nepal, for some Everest Base Camp at home.
CHICKEN ADOBO, PHILIPPINESvia Tasting Table
The Filipino Adobo is a method of marinating and stewing for meat. A mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, and spices with a mixed heritage like most of the Filipino culture. Although chicken adobo is the most well known, it can be made with pork, beef, fish, or other types of meat. Many consider this dish to be the national dish of the Philippines, and it’s got many regional varieties. The dish started when the Filipino natives were developing various methods for preserving food since they’re based in warm climates. Adobo utilizes the acid in the vinegar and the high salt content of soy sauce to produce an undesirable environment for bacteria, but its delicious flavor and preserving qualities served to increase adobo's popularity. The adobo was traditionally cooked in clay pots but today, it’s made in more common metal pots or woks. When the Spanish invaded and settled in the Philippines during the 16th century, they witnessed this traditional Filipino cooking method and called it adobo, which is the Spanish word for marinade. Here's one way to make Filipino Adobo at home.
DONER KEBAB, TURKEYvia Culture Trip
Döner Kebab, or in short Döner, is known almost all around the world. Sure, ingredients and sauces vary, and often it even comes under a different name. Shawarma, gyros, tacos al pastor, sufllaqe or kabab Torki are some of the derivations of it. But the Döner basics remain the same, an innovation in the history of Turkish cuisine. Kebabs come from an earlier time when Nomadic tribesmen grilled meat on their swords. In his 18th-century travel books, Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi mentions kebab as a horizontal stack of meat. The Döner Kebab, which simply means rotating kebab, is sold around every corner in Istanbul with so many different variations -- it’s the one common dish between a street vendor and five-star Turkish restaurant. They are also highly popular as a late-night snack or quick meal on the go throughout much of Europe, especially Germany. It’s a bit tricky to recreate at home, but we’ve surely got the time to try. Here’s a recipe for Döner Kebab and a bit of a cuisine challenge.