Over the course of 2022 (and maybe 2023 as well - we'll see how it goes), I've set myself the challenge of attempting to cook the national dish, or a very typical dish, of every country* around the world. I've chosen to do this in the pursuit of widening my understanding of flavours, and different ingredient combinations that I wouldn't have considered before. I'll attempt to cook 5 or so dishes a week, but I'll see what life throws at me. I'm quite delayed in starting the blog, so have a good amount (27 I think?) of dishes to get me started. I have, where possible, attempted to use recipes written by locals of the countries, so I can make them as authentic as possible. Some creative liberties have been taken, though, and for a few dishes I have needed to substitute ingredients that I'm able to source in a fairly small town in the UK.
*The countries I'm looking at are the 195 countries recognised by the UN on 11th April 2022.
Morocco - Tagine
Starting off with a dish that is probably quite familiar to a lot of us, I began my travels with Morocco, a country without an official national dish. After some research, it seems that most people deem the national dish to be couscous or tagine, and as couscous is also considered a national dish in Algeria and Tunisia, I decided to focus on the tagine, with couscous as its base. This recipe is for lamb tagine with prunes.
Tagine refers to the clay or ceramic pot that is traditionally used to c00k in, as well as the dish itself. Tagine is typically meat or fish that is slow cooked along with fruit, regularly dried, or vegetables until tender, and spiced with various spices from around the region. This recipe made quite a sweet tagine, spiced with turmeric, ginger and saffron, and the lamb was accompanied by dried prunes, caramelised with honey and cinnamon. I garnished with coriander and toasted flaked almonds.
Eritrea - Zigni
Recipe from https://foreignfork.com/zigni/
Zigni, also known as Wat in Ethiopia, is the national dish of Eritrea. Traditionally served with injera, which I chose not to serve here as I gave the batter longer to ferment for Ethiopia's dish, it is a beef stew with tomatoes, red onions and spiced with berbere. Berbere is a seasoning containing a blend of coriander, cumin, fenugreek, chillies, paprika, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, peppercorns, cloves and cardamom.
The recipe I used slow cooked the beef, for approximately 2 hours, leading to a very tender finished dish. The dish contains a lot of oil, more than I am used to, but I do think that this really added to the flavour.
Lithuania - Cepelinai
Lithuania has no official national dish, but cepelinai are widely considered such, along with Šaltibarščiai, a borscht-like soup. Named after their zeppelin-like shape, cepelinai are potato-based dumplings, filled with meat, and often served with bacon and sour cream.
For my cepelinai, I used a pork and dill filling, and topped with bacon, onions, sour cream and dill. The dumplings themselves are quite chewy - the recipe calls for you to reserve potato starch to bind it together. This is the one recipe so far (27 recipes in) that I have had to make multiple times for it to work properly, as the first time I made them the dumplings fell apart in the pan. This was due to me not grating the potatoes fine enough, but the second batch worked very well.
Thailand - Pad Thai
Thailand's national dish, Pad (fried) Thai, is well known to many Brits and is fairly commonplace in kitchens across the UK. It's also the first dish that I've been lucky enough to try in its country of origin. Found on most roadsides, its combination of flavours of tamarind, palm sugar and fish sauce stays common, despite changes in protein. Whilst it can be cooked with a variety of meats, I went for a traditional recipe of shrimp and tofu.
The mix contains noodles (though a bit thicker than I would have liked them), shallot, garlic, daikon, bean sprouts and peanuts, along with the typical sauce and egg. I garnished with spring onions and coriander.
Kuwait - Mutabbaq Samak
Kuwait's national dish of Muttabaq Samak was a tricky one to find an authentic recipe for, but I found this very bare-bones translation from the arabic. If anyone reading this has any tips, they'd be very much appreciated!
The recipe calls for a whole fish (I used seabass), which I gutted, cleaned and descaled. It is then filled with parsley, currants, onions, dried lime andf fried, then served on a bed of turmeric boiled rice. It was a new experience for me, having the fruity sweetness of the currants with fish, but one I'm keen to try again.