If you’re anything like me, you’ll agree that one of the most enjoyable aspects of life is eating immaculate food. Combine that with a relentless urge to experience new things, and traveling gains a whole new realm of excitement. I make my best effort to branch out beyond my typical favorite meals whenever possible because foreign cuisine never ceases to impress me, and I am constantly discovering new favorites.
Unfortunately, with the pandemic still bearing down on us, we are unable to travel internationally to experiment with exotic foods. One thing we can do with our excessive time spent at home is cooking like we aren’t restricted to staying in the country. So, while it was incredibly difficult to choose just one dish from each corner of the planet, I’m about to take you around the world in six dishes, each one from a different continent. It might not be nearly as good as tasting the “real deal” (environment included) but hey, this will have to do until it’s safe to travel again.
Africa: West African Peanut Lentil Stew from Ghana
As a staple in West Africa and, in particular, Ghana, Peanut Lentil Stew will quickly become a classic comfort food go-to after trying it. Similar to curry in looks and texture, Peanut Lentil Stew differs in its distinct spicy peanut butter tasteーsomewhat like pad thai peanut sauce. This stew is not overly complex, as it consists mainly of broth, lentils, sweet potatoes, crushed tomatoes, and natural peanut butterーand of course, many spices. The use of peanut butter may surprise you, but you must try it if you’re interested in experiencing African cuisine. Plus, it’s relatively simple to make as it does not require a lot of preparation, and once all the ingredients are together, you can let the pot and the burner do the rest of the work!
Here’s a great recipe: https://www.foodnetwork.ca/healthy-eating/blog/west-african-peanut-lentil-stew/
Asia: Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad) from Thailand
Another national favorite, Som Tam is a popular street market staple in Thailand. Don’t be deceived by the title of “salad,” as this is not your average salad. Typically served with a side of sticky rice, Som Tam consists of shredded green papaya, Thai chili, bean sprouts, cucumber, tomatoes, green onion, and polished off with a tangy lime dressing. Resembling noodles at first glance, Som Tam is extra palatable with its matchstick-style cut vegetables. If this refreshing mix of spicy, sweet, sour, and salty elements doesn’t sound like enough, tofu or shrimp can be added for some extra oomf.
Try it for yourself with this recipe: https://www.thespruceeats.com/green-papaya-salad-som-tam-recipe-3217693
Europe: Spaghetti Carbonara from Italy
Recommended by our very own staff member, Rachel Betters, this list would not be complete without an iconic pasta dish from Italy. A traditional Roman dish dating back to ancient times, there are many legends that depict how Spaghetti Carbonara was popularized. Some credit it to coal miners as “alla carbonara” means “coal worker’s style”, due to either their frequent indulgence in this decadent dish, or in reference to the abundance of ground black pepper that resembles coal flakes. Others attribute its widespread popularity to the trying times of World War II where civilians had to ration scarce food. Whichever story you choose to believe, this easy-to-make recipe is sure to satisfy your desire for the taste of Italy. From start to finish, Spaghetti Carbonara can be whipped up in 25 minutes and only requires five basic ingredients: eggs, bacon, spaghetti noodles, parmesan cheese and garlic.
Feel free to do the iconic chef’s kiss as much as you want after cheffing it up with this one: https://damndelicious.net/2014/03/29/spaghetti-carbonara/
North America: Tourtiére (French-Canadian Meat Pie) from Canada
Bringing our cuisine tour a little closer to home, another one of our staff members, Sophia Madore recommends a Canadian favorite: Tourtiére, better known as French-Canadian Meat Pie. While perhaps inspired by the French, the Canadians claim this dish as uniquely their own. Dating back to the 1600s, settlers in Quebec celebrated after Christmas Mass by feasting and partaking in festivities late into the night. Of course, Tourtiére was always in attendance. Meat pie is exactly as you would envision it: a buttery pastry shell stuffed with meats, vegetables, and donned with many spices. Typically considered a winter dish, it is simple enough to qualify it as a year-round dinner classic!
Whether this requires a baker’s apron or a chef’s hat, don’t hold back from trying this unique dish: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/favorite-french-canadian-meat-pie/
South America: Bananos Calados (Fried/Caramelized Bananas) from Colombia
If that not-so-dessert-like meat pie made you crave something sweet, you’re not alone and you’re in luck. Bananos Calados originates from the western region of Colombia by the Andes mountains where the land is extremely fertile and bears many fruits, vegetables and coffee beans. It’s not surprising that one of the country’s favorite desserts stars a local resident, the banana. Caramelized using butter, brown sugar, orange juice and cinnamon, this banana concoction is best served warm. Extremely simple and quick to make, Bananos Calados is commonly served with ice cream and will not fail to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Go bananas with it: https://www.mycolombianrecipes.com/fried-bananas-bananos-calados/
While there is great dispute over the original inventor of this light and fluffy cake-like dessert, Pavlova is a proud favorite of both Australia and New Zealand. Fittingly named after Anna Pavlova, a Russian ballerina who was popular in the 1920s, the dessert is just as graceful. Nowadays, Australians and New Zealanders alike serve this impressively elegant dessert to please any crowd at any occasion. Forming a crunchy and chewy outer shell with baked meringue (sugar and egg whites whipped together), Pavlova is filled with a marshmallowy cream center and topped with whipped cream, fruits and even chocolate if you’re feeling extra decadent. If that doesn’t make your mouth water, I don’t know what will.
Whip it up with this recipe: https://www.wandercooks.com/easy-australian-pavlova-recipe/
Even though it counts as a continent, because of Antarctica’s lack of a significant population and local food sources, I’m gonna have to skip this one. Perhaps you could make a snow cone?
Editor: Lili Sarajian