International Meals – Laos

Happy Canada Day, everyone! Let’s celebrate by turning to a country that’s adjacent to northern Thailand, Laos.

Laos has had a rough time of it in the 20th century.  Historically an important kingdom in its own right, it was occupied or dominated in turn by the France, Japan, France again, nobody (briefly), the Soviets, and then itself again.

As it turns out, this region is the source of a number of dishes we associate with Thai food in North America.  In particular, the meat salad known as “Larb” at most Thai places around here, but also transliterated as “Laap”, “Laab”, and any number of other variants, originates in this region.  It is also arguably one of the national dishes of Laos, so that’s what we’re doing today.

First up, a trip to the local southeast Asian grocery store.  Good news – this place is HUGE, so there are a wide range of fermented fish sauces available.  Bad news – there are a WIDE RANGE of fermented fish sauces available, but none of them is specifically Lao, so I got to spend an hour of decision paralysis trying to determine which of the dozen or so options is closest to padaek, an essential component of Lao cuisine.

I eventually went with a Vietnamese version that looked reasonably close to the illustrations I could find.  In addition, this meal will call for shrimp paste, crab paste, and fish sauce.  SO MUCH UMAMI.

Toasted rice powder, fish paste, crab paste, shrimp paste.

I also have to figure out what to do with the rest of the bottles of this stuff – we’re not back to this part of the world for a WHILE, and I don’t think Latvia is going to be using a lot of crab paste.

The version of the recipe we decided to go for is out of the cookbook “Hawker Fare”, by James Syhabout, so no recipe link this week. While you can make laap with any number of different meats, we decided to go with pork, as it is fairly traditional, and not as expensive as, say, duck.

First up, we minced up about half a pound of pork shoulder.  This was an extremely noisy process, and we apologize to any neighbors who may have been disturbed. This is then browned off in a saucepan.

Browning pork

Next you mix in the sauce, consisting of shallots, rice powder, chilis (ground and chopped), fish sauce, fish paste, and MSG.

Laap seasoning.
Have I mentioned that by itself, the fish paste is brown, chunky, and has an intensely fishy/cheesy aroma?  It is strong stuff.  But of course, you’re not eating it by itself, you’re mixing it with all the other ingredients and using it as flavoring.

And the salad is not JUST flavored meat – there’s also a big pile of herbs, including cilantro, culantro (yes, spell check, that IS a real word), mint, and scallions.

Chopped herbs

And… that’s it.  The TL;DR on the preparation here is – chop and brown meat, dump in a lot of flavorings and herbs, and stir.

The ubiquitous side dish would be Tum Som Mak Hoong, or “Green Papaya Salad.”  In theory, this could have required substantially more fussiness than the laap, in that you need to julienne a papaya.

Green Papaya

The traditional / cheffy way to do this would be to peel the fruit, make a large number of vertical cuts very tightly spaced around the outside, then shave layers off to get a pleasing variety of sizes of crunchy papaya strips.

OR, and hear me out, you could realize that you have a julienne peeler sitting unused in the back of your knife drawer.

Peeling a papaya

We’re not normally fans of single purpose kitchen gadgets (except the rice cooker, of course), but I was so happy to find this thing.  Papaya dispatched, it was time to make the dressing.  And THIS is where we really went full ham with the fermented seafood sauces, to badly mangle a metaphor.

Mortar with garlic and pastes

The dressing for this one included shrimp, crab, and fish pastes, as well as fish sauce, garlic, lime juice and sugar.  It was also supposed to include actual salted crabs, but darned if I could find those at Supermarket 88.  Frankly, there was probably enough going on already.  Sauce and cherry tomatoes in, and you have your salad.

Papaya Salad

The final, absolutely mandatory, accompaniment to any Lao meal is sticky rice.  There are a number of ways to prepare this stuff.  Traditional would be to presoak for a long time in cold water, then steam.  We opted to use the method given here by “Hot Thai Kitchen,” and use a shorter boiling water soak, followed by steaming in a metal sieve.  Unfortunately, our sieve was a little too small for the quantity of rice, so the inner rice didn’t get done at the same rate as the outer layers.  But after some mixing and patience, and we eventually got a tolerable product.

And with that, here’s our complete Lao meal:

Lao meal

This one was GREAT.  All the fermented sauces made for some punchy, intense flavors, but we LIKE those. There was a ton going on in each dish, and the sticky rice let us scoop it all up and enjoy it.

I joked earlier that I have to figure out what to do with all these pastes now, but I think the answer is likely to be just: “Make it all again.”  Nothing says we have to go to the effort of chopping our own ground pork of a random weeknight – we try to make the full effort for the blog, but this could EASILY be a quick dinner on a Tuesday if you just use pre-ground pork.  Green papaya is a bit more of a specialty ingredient, but still readily available in Vancouver.

If you like Thai food, you’ll probably like Lao food, since there’s a LOT of overlap.

Next up, our first trip to Europe since Italy – Latvia!

No recipe link, but here’s the cookbook we used:
Hawker Fare

International Meals – Kyrgyzstan

As we come to the end of the “K”s, we reach the country which is the unofficial mascot of the quiz website “Sporcle,” probably by virtue of it being SERIOUSLY challenging to spell correctly: Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan is a central Asian country and former Soviet Republic sandwiched between China and Kazakhstan. The name comes from a Turkic word meaning “We are forty,” referring to forty historical clans in the region.  In reference to this, the flag has a forty-pointed star on it.

Flag of Kyrgyzstan

If you search for the national dish of Kyrgyzstan, you get beshbarmak. Now, where have we heard of that before?  Oh right, it’s the national dish of Kazakhstan, and we’ve already made it.  OK, Kyrgyzstan – what else you got?

Turns out we have oromo, a type of rolled dumpling.  Sounds great, lets do it!

Now, oromo is a general style of food, but the fillings can be a wide range of things.  The most authentic looking recipe that we found had a filling made of egg and Chinese chives.  But I don’t particularly LIKE scrambled eggs, and every source said that lamb was a pretty typical filling.  So we used the authentic recipe, but we replaced the eggs with lamb.

OK, how do you make these things?

First you make a basic egg dough.

Egg dough

And here is where I went wrong right off the bat. When the provided proportions of flour and water didn’t come together, I opted to add just enough water, and then knead the dough for quite a bit.  Although you can get a MILLION contradictory opinions on this when you search online, I suspect I overdeveloped the gluten, because I had a HELL of a time getting it to roll out as thinly as I wanted.

Rolled dough

I managed to get it thinner than the WAY too thick dough we made for our Kazakh meal, but it still wasn’t great. It may be time to buy a pasta roller.

What about the filling?  Well, first you chop some onions, because of COURSE you chop some onions.

Onions and chives

Also shown is a big batch of Chinese chives. Together with the onions, those get sautéed for a bit to soften and/or wilt.  Since the recipe for the lamb version of the filling said to put it in raw, that’s what we did.  We also generously seasoned the mixture with salt and pepper.

Oromo filling

Finally, the filling gets spread onto the dough and rolled up.

Oromo being rolled up

Once it’s fully rolled up, you coil it into a circle and somehow fasten the two ends together. I was not good at this part. But here they are, ready for steaming.

Oromo ready for steaming

And that’s it – you steam them for 15 minutes, and then bring them to the table.  Here’s one of the finished products, along with a cross section of a slice.

Cooked oromo

Oromo slice

Nothing fancy here – dough, lamb, salt, pepper, onions.  But you know what?  It was super tasty.  Clotted cream would have been authentic here, but we topped it with yogurt, and the mix of tangy, salty, meaty, and… onion-y? was delicious.  Would absolutely eat again.

This was not our most elaborate meal, but it was definitely delicious, and the leftovers did not linger in the fridge.

Next up, we move on to the “L”s!

Oromo – the authentic seeming one
Oromo – the one with the lamb

International Meals – Kuwait

We return to somewhat less shaky alphabetical ground with Kuwait.  Best known in the US as the country whose invasion by Iraq in 1990 precipitated the first Gulf War, Kuwait has a long and complicated history as a part of a number of empires, including the Greeks, the Persians, the Ottomans, and the British.  It gained independence in the 1960s, and for a time was the biggest oil exporter in the region, despite its small size.

The national dish of Kuwait is machboos, a dish consisting of spiced chicken or lamb, rice cooked in the meat stock, and a middle layer consisting of split peas, raisins, and onions.  We’re going to use the recipe published on “United Noshes” from someone named “Al.”  That’s capital A lowercase “ell”.  The recipe was NOT produced by AI, as far as we know.

To start, I had to do something EXTREMELY unusual, that has not come up a single time on this blog so far.

No, just kidding – I had to chop up an onion.


The other major bit of prep work before we could attack the chicken was to make a spice blend called bezar.  This involved toasting a number of different spices one at a time, since they all have different cooking times, then blending them in a grinder.

Toasted spicesGround Spices
We don’t mind making our own spice blends, because toasting spices always makes the kitchen smell AMAZING.

One of the things that makes this dish complicated is that the chicken is cooked four different ways – it is poached, then seared, then braised, then baked.  To start with, the chicken is poached from the King’s forest in boiling water for ten minutes to start the cooking process, but also to flavor the cooking water into a stock.

Poached chicken

Next up, we fry the aforementioned onions with some garlic.  Once they’ve softened a bit, the chicken goes in to get a bit of color on it.

Chicken frying

This picture was taken BEFORE said color had started to appear. Once the chicken has a sear on it, you go in with the spices, water, and some tomato paste and let it braise.  And here we confront the fact that this is a “someone’s dad named Al” recipe, because we have directions like “cook until the chicken is soft and the sauce tastes amazing.”  Thanks, Al.

Chicken braising
The rear pot is the dried yellow split peas getting underway in some boiling water. Once they’re tender, you cook some more onions, then mix them with the peas and the raisins and simmer some more.

But wait, we also need rice.  As per usual on this blog, we refuse to cook rice using any method OTHER than a rice cooker unless it’s absolutely necessary.  And it wasn’t in this case – the recipe explicitly contemplated using one.  The only distinctive feature here is that the rice is cooked in the chicken stock we made while we were poaching the chicken.

Finally, the braised chicken gets sprinkled with cinnamon and put in a pan to roast “until the smell is unbearable.”

Chicken ready to bake.
This is the part where I suspect Al’s recollections leave something to be desired – we’re putting chicken in a hot oven with no liquid and no covering. Won’t this dry things out?

Well, as it turns out, yes, it does a bit.  In hindsight, I should have listened to my suspicion and looked at a few more recipes, which would have indicated to COVER the chicken, and possibly pour some oil over the chicken to keep it moist.

The recipe didn’t SAY to reduce the tomato sauce after braising the chicken, but it was a bit thin, so we left it on the heat while we took care of everything else. Here’s the whole pile, ready for assembly.

Machboos components

And here it is assembled.

That looks pretty doesn’t it?  Despite being a little dry, the flavor was excellent – we served the rest of the tomato sauce on the side, and it was absolutely delicious over the chicken, rice, and peas.  The only change I’d make, were I to make this again, besides covering the chicken in the oven, would be to add more raisins.  Their sweetness was an excellent contrast to everything else, but there weren’t ENOUGH.

Now, Kuwait is a strictly Islamic country – you can’t get so much as a beer at the airport. But I was able to locate one of the MOST popular drinks in the country.  I found it at a store called (checks notes) “Celtic Treasure Chest.”  Wait, what?

Apparently the frequent drink of choice in this middle eastern country is a blackcurrant  soda from Manchester.  I blame colonialism.  It’s usually safe to blame colonialism.

To finish the meal, we made a ring cake called Gers Ogili, Gers apparently just means “circle,” so this is the circle of Ogili.  It’s a fairly dense cake that uses rather a LOT of saffron, giving it an intense yellow color.

You whip eggs and sugar together in one bowl, put your dry ingredients in a second, and your wet ingredients in a third. In addition to the aforementioned saffron, the cake also contains rosewater and cardamom.

Cake ingredients

The batter was baked in our (newly acquired for this purpose) bundt pan, and produced a dense, delicious cake with a really striking appearance.

Gers ogali cake

And that’s Kuwait!  Only one more “K” country to go, and it’s probably one of the hardest countries to spell in the entire world.  Stay tuned!

Gers Ogali

International Meals – South Korea

If North Korea had a paucity of choices, South Korea is the opposite – there’s so much good stuff that it was hard to narrow it down.  Korean Fried Chicken is definitely having a moment, at least in Vancouver – you can’t throw a stick without hitting a new place.  (Although they have politely requested that people stop throwing sticks at their restaurants.)

However, deep frying at home sucks, so we decided to do something else.

First up, however, is the absolutely mandatory Korean side dish / condiment / national dish – kimchi!  And the reason it’s first up is that it takes a bit of time to ferment properly.  So with our meal scheduled for Saturday evening, we took Tuesday night to get the cabbage going.

I made another trip out for supplies, and discovered that the Korean supermarket not only sells WHOLE Napa cabbages, but you can also buy half and quarter portions, too.  Which is a good thing, because half a Napa cabbage still represents about six pounds of cabbage! To start, you salt all the leaves and then leave it to soak for a few hours.

Napa cabbage soaking

Ideally, you leave it to soak in a basin larger than the cabbage itself, but we don’t HAVE a basin larger than even HALF of one of these beasts.

Once it’s ready, you cook some glutinous rice flour and sugar in water to make a sticky base for the sauce, the rest of which consists of garlic, ginger, onion, fish sauce, fermented shrimp, and a LOT of gochugaru. (Korean red pepper flakes.)  Like, a LOT a lot.

Kimchi ingredients
Or, at least, you’re SUPPOSED to put in the fermented shrimp, and not just buy them and then leave them in the freezer like an idiot.  Sigh. (We added a little bit to the Kimchi right before serving, at the suggestion of our guest.)

Once the sauce is mixed, you also add in some thinly sliced carrot, green onion, and daikon radish.  Also something called “water dropwort,” but in this case the store didn’t have it. And then you get messy!

Applying kimchi sauce to cabbage
To do this right, you have to get in there and smear sauce on each and every cabbage leaf.  It takes a while.  But once you’re done, that’s it!  Kimchi goes into containers on the counter to ferment for a day or two, and then into the fridge.

Kimchi in tupperware
For our main dish, we’re making bulgogi. Turns out this literally means “fire meat.” Can’t argue with that.  But also can’t actually use fire, since we’re on the fourth floor now.  But that’s a problem for Saturday us.  First, FRIDAY us has to make up a tasty marinade.
Bulgogi marinade
Obviously, there’s many different recipes.  The one we went with included Korean pear, onion, garlic, ginger, green onion, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, black pepper, and carrot.  As it turns out, pureed pear looks EXACTLY like pureed onion, but you don’t want to get those two confused!

We mixed that up, smeared it over some nice thinly sliced top sirloin, and that went into the fridge as well.

Saturday, it was time to put everything together, as well as make our side dishes.  And for extra special nervous making, we had invited an actual Korean person over to share the meal! For those keeping score at home, this is the third time we have done this – the first two were Brazil and Italy.

As mentioned last week, Korean meals typically have a range of side dishes, or banchan.  If you count rice (you probably shouldn’t) we’d be having three.  The only interesting thing to say about the rice is that short-grain sushi rice, like we used last week, appears to be the standard tabletop rice in Korea.

Next up, a nice simple dish with bean sprouts.  A quick blanch in boiling water, then mix together with garlic, fish sauce, and sesame oil.  Done.

Bean sprout side dish

Our final banchan involves potatoes.  While potatoes are originally native to the Americas, they are at this point a staple just about everywhere, and that definitely includes Korea.  This is another simple one – fry potatoes and onions in oil, and then glaze with soy sauce, garlic, and sugar. (The picture was taken in the “pre-glazing” portion of the program.)

Potatoes cooking.

For the very final step, the bulgogi came out of the fridge, and was slapped onto a hot cast iron grill to quickly cook.  So quick, that I didn’t even remember to snap a picture.

Given that, let’s skip to the final spread!

Korean Meal
Clockwise from upper left, we have lettuce for wrapping, kimchi, soy sauce potatoes, chewy sweet rice flour desserts that our guest brought, seasoned bean sprouts, bulgogi, and rice.  Looks pretty tempting, doesn’t it?  Here’s a pile of everything on a plate:

Korean plate o'food
Om nom nom.  This was SO good.  My only complaint would be that I didn’t cook the potatoes long enough, so they were a bit too crunchy.  But the flavor of everything was great, and in particular, we nailed the kimchi.  Our guest (who we COMPLETLY FORGOT to take a picture with, as usual) said that she couldn’t believe we had done it ourselves from scratch, and that it was an excellent job.

Normally, I’d be concerned that she was just being polite, but not this time.  We did an excellent job.

You may be wondering about the liquid in the glass.  We had not one but TWO Korean beverages available for the meal.

Cinnamon drink and Makegoli
The one on the left was brought by our guest, and is called Sujeonggwa, or cinnamon punch.  It’s quite sweet, but it tastes of cinnamon and dried persimmon.  In other words, it’s fall in a glass.

The one on the right is Makegolli, which is a fermented sparkling rice wine.  Our guest was quite surprised that we had a bottle on hand, but it turns out there’s a local store quite close to us that specializes in making the stuff.

They’re also not technically allowed to sell alcohol for takeaway unless you buy food, because they are not a liquor store.  So I bought a scone.  They also have a basket of $1 Rice Krispie treats by the door, if you REALLY don’t want to shell out too much extra.

That aside, Makegolli is ALSO delicious.  There’s a little chart on the bottle to show how the levels of “sour”, “sparkly” and “sweet” change over time.  This was a quite young bottle, so “sweet” was the dominant of the three.

And finally, dessert!  These tasty little packages, called gyeongdan, are just rice flour with a little sugar syrup inside, but they were a great conclusion to a hearty meal.

Korean rice cake dessert

And that’s it for South Korea!  We had a wonderful time with our guest, and will be eating leftover kimchi for WEEKS.  Next up, we have to decide if we’re doing Kosovo – they’re recognized by more countries than not, but they aren’t on the UN list.

Soy sauce potatoes
Seasoned mung beans

International Meals – North Korea

Let’s get something out of the way right up front – alphabetical order is a social construct.  Sure, we could put North Korea under “N”.  That would make more sense, probably.  Or we could put it under “D” for DPRK, which is what the United Nations does.  After all, we put the “Democratic Republic of the Congo” there.

But we didn’t.  We’re putting it here. Moving on.

North Korea is one of the most secretive states on the planet.  Not for nothing is it called “The Hermit Kingdom.”  And while there is a long traditional food culture in that part of the Korean peninsula, our understanding is that your average North Korean is more likely to be hungry than they are to be feasting on traditional delicacies.

So we’re going to split the difference here – we’re going to attempt to make one relatively modern North Korean dish, which was born out of the need to make something from very little.  And to balance it, we’re also going to make a more traditional dish from the North.

All of this also has our usual caveats applied – we don’t know what we’re doing, we’re not very good at research, and a number of approximations, both intentional and un- have inevitably crept in.

The good news is that there are a number of excellent Korean supermarkets in Vancouver, so ingredient hunting was pretty straightforward.

Korean ingredients
Look at all this neat stuff!  You can tell it’s Korean by the Chinese characters on the bean curd sheets, and the Japanese ones on the mustard paste. The buckwheat noodles are at least DEFINITELY Korean, although on closer inspection they turned out to be sweet potato, and not buckwheat. Look, we’re trying, OK?

For our “modern make the best of it” dish, we’re making Injo Gogi Bop.  This literally means “artificial meat rice.”  This sounds worse than it is – the dish is actually just sushi rice inside a bean curd wrapper, with a flavorful sauce. Done right, the texture is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike meat.

Lots of sources talk about this dish, (here’s the Wikipedia article) but very few provide an actual recipe.  We consulted our friend Ji Hyun for advice and she came through with a recipe.  Thanks Ji Hyun!  Weirdly, the only recipe on the English language internet that she found for us was from… a German meal kit site.  She also found a video of some nice German people attempting to make it.

OK, so how do you do this?  Rather than making bean curd wrappers from scratch, which is part of the origin of this dish, we opted to follow the meal kit route by buying ours premade and soaking them.

Bean curd sheets soaking

And this is the first place we went wrong – the meal kit site doesn’t say how LONG you need to soak these for.  Opinions vary on the internet, but several hours is the low end, and we hadn’t allowed that.  So they never really unfurled the way they were supposed to.

Next up, you make sushi rice.  Rice cooker. Bam.

Finally, you make a sauce by frying some onions, green onion, and garlic together, then mixing that with soy sauce and Korean chili flakes.

Injo gogi bap sauce
This is actually where 95% of the flavor in this dish comes from, and it wasn’t half bad at all.

The final assembly, in theory, consists of rolling out the beautifully flat soybean sheets, putting a dollop of sushi rice in each one, and then rolling them up to make a nice “meaty” little package.

In practice, our sheets never really unrolled, so we ended up having to make bean curd – rice – bean curd sandwiches instead.

Bean curd and rice assembly

For our second, more old-school dish, we decided to make a cold buckwheat noodle recipe called Mul Naengmyeon. I mentioned that the noodles we purchased did not seem to contain much buckwheat, but it turns out that’s not disqualifying – there’s a whole family of noodles that works for this dish, and the ones we bought seem to fall comfortably within it.

Being a cold dish, there wasn’t a LOT of complex prep here.  Cook noodles in boiling water, shock in ice bath. They had a fascinating translucent color.

Naengmyeon noodles
Top with broth (yes, out of a bag – we went lazy), slices of cucumber and Korean pear, and serve with mustard paste and vinegar on the side.

Finally, we made a banchan.  If you’ve eaten in a Korean restaurant, you know that meals tend to be served with a bunch of tasty little side dishes called banchan.  We were already making two mains, so we went with just one side, a cucumber and sesame salad.

And here’s the final spread, with the sauce on the Injo Gogi Bap.

North Korean meal

Sure looks a mess, doesn’t it? Still, the important thing is taste, right?  And this poverty food, born out of necessity and desperation was… actually pretty tasty!  It’s hard to go wrong with garlic, soy, and chili as a seasoning mix.  The noodles had a fun chewy texture, although I would say they definitely needed the mustard and vinegar to perk them up a bit.  And our banchan, while basic, was also quite good.

And that was Korea, North!  Next up, we’re staying in the “Ks” with, surprise, surprise, Korea, South.

Injo Gogi Bap
Mul Naengmyeon

International Meals – Kiribati

One of the struggles of this project is to not simply cut and paste our recipes from other bloggers who have taken on this task.  Especially since they’re mostly doing a better job.

In particular, United Noshes is doing a really exceptional job.  They have dinner parties.  They donate to charity.  They’ve been on NPR.  Have WE been on NPR?  No we have not.  Are we doing nearly a careful or accurate enough job to WARRANT being on NPR?  Also no.

But when United Noshes says they are unable to identify much, if any, of a distinct food culture for a country, we know we’re not going to do any better.  In order to avoid just copying them, I will generally do quite a bit of Googling, as well as checking actual cookbooks.  But in this case?

Nope – we’re just copying them.

To get a few things out of the way:

Kiribati is an island nation in the middle of the Pacific ocean. It is the 172nd largest country in the world by surface area, putting it between Sao Tome and Principe, and Bahrain.  By population, it is 178th. On the other hand, they have bent time and space to their will.

By which I mean there’s a big diversion in the international date line which Kiribati unilaterally declared in order to have the entire country be on the same day of the week as their major trading partner, Australia.

International Date Line
Can you guess where Kiribati is in this picture?

Two more facts before we get onto the food.  1) The name of this country is pronounced “Kiribass”. 2) Kiribati is very likely to be the first country we lose entirely to climate change.

OK, so before that happens, what are we making?  Two dishes – fried parrotfish, and pumpkin simmered in coconut milk.

Both are VERY simple, as befits a country with very little land area for cultivation of herbs and spices.  Let’s start with the fish.  Parrotfish are actually found all over the world, but since they are also found in the freezer at my local Supermarket 88, we decided to ape United Noshes and go with that.  After all, we can’t argue with this irrefutable evidence:

Kiribati stamp with parrotfish.

That’s more or less exactly what the frozen one looked like.

Uncanny, isn’t it?  I am NOT good at gutting, scaling, or filleting fish, as has already been established in this project, but fortunately, parrotfish have BIG scales, so it’s easy to tell when you’ve gotten them all.  A great deal of utterly terrible knife work later, and we had this.
Parrotfish filets

And a quick fry in oil later, we had this.
Fried parrotfish
That would appear to be fried fish, all right. To be clear, I used absolutely no seasoning or breading of any kind.  Just patted them dry with paper towels and hurled them into the oil.

For our other dish, we made Te bwaukin, or pumpkin simmered in coconut milk with pandan leaf.  And there’s really not much more to it than that.  There’s literally only one ingredient (sugar) that isn’t listed in the title of the recipe.

Chop up pumpkin. (shown here mid chop)

Put in a pot with coconut milk, sugar, and some pandan leaves.

Simmering pumpkin

The pandan leaves are interesting.  They have a really lovely, sweet fragrance, and are used for seasoning desserts all over Oceana and southeast Asia.  Our entire fridge now smells like pandan, and I am not complaining.

And with that, we’re done.  Here’s dinner:

Kiribati meal

Simple, isn’t it?  The nice thing about saltwater fish is that they taste just fine when you cook them without any seasoning.  It was a nice crunchy piece of flaky fish.  And the pumpkin was so sweet (if a bit mushy) that it was basically a dessert.  Nothing fancy here, but as authentic as we were likely to get, and nothing we wouldn’t eat again.

Thanks Kiribati!  We hope everyone gets out safely.

Next up, due to our refusal to file it under “N” or “D”, we have Korea, North.

Fried Parrotfish: Seriously, just toss it in hot oil for 12 minutes or so.
Pumpkin Simmered in Coconut Milk