115. Latvia: Potato Pancakes with kotletes (meatballs)

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When I think of Latvia I think cold and woods full of pine trees. Which is not wrong, but not the only things identifying Latvia. First of all it one of the least densely populated countries in the European Union with only 2 million inhabitants. (compared to where I live in the Netherlands, 18 million people!!!) Nearly half of the entire population lives in the capital Riga. The capital is an interesting mixture of somber Sojvet and ancient medieval buildings. Apart from the large forests, there are also beautiful beaches,  During Soviet times they were zoned off as a high-security military base, strictly out of bounds to civilians. The region’s development was stunted and today the desolate coastal villages feel as though they’ve been locked away in a time capsule.

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Things you didn’t know about Latvia:

  1. Over 50% of Latvia is covered by forest, and it’s one of the most environmentally friendly countries on the planet.
  2. Latvia has the highest rate of fashion models per capita in the world.
  3. A Latvian-Jewish tailor invented jeans (Levi Strauss backed him financially)
  4. The Latvian culture still retains many Baltic pagan traditions, such as the celebration of the summer solstice (sees picture above), when Latvians go to the countryside to get drunk, to dance, light huge bonfires and do something called seeking the fern flower (having sex in the forest)
  5. When Swedish Vikings were at the height of their power around 1187, ancient Latvian chiefdoms not only stopped them from conquering their country but sent a fleet of ships to the then Swedish capital Sigtuna and burned it to the ground.

This recipe was kind of a bummer to be really honest, i didn’t really like the potato pancakes, they were a bit boring for my taste. The kotletes on the other hand were perfect quick easy meal!

Latvia
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114. Laos: Khao Soi (Yellow Curry Noodle Soup)

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Laos a country very very high on my list to go to! A sleepy mountainous country of barely over 2 million people, mostly rice farmers. To my surprise, Laos hasn’t always been so peaceful. Though never truly at war with Laos, the Americans were at war with Vietnam, and they flew more than half a million missions over this tiny country. Dropping more bombs here than on Germany and Japan in all of World War II combined. This is a conflict known nowadays as The Secret War. I don’t want to get into it too much because that is not what this blog is about, but what happened was horrific. Nowadays Laos is a very popular destination for backpackers because it’s cheap and the crime rate is very low.

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Things you didn’t know about Laos:

  • Laos may be landlocked – or ‘landlinked’ if you prefer – but that doesn’t mean a beach holiday is completely off the cards. If you head to Si Phan Don (literally “4,000 islands”) in Southern Laos, you’ll find serene sandy shores – and adventure – aplenty.
  • Nong Fa Lake – a crater lake high in the mountains of southeastern Laos – is feared and respected by locals, who refuse to swim in it. Legend has it, a man-eating monster lives at the bottom. Nong Fa (which translates to ‘blue lake’ or ‘sky lake’) is quite remote and can be reached by only the most intrepid explorers.
  • Lao silk stands apart from that of neighboring countries in that is it 100% hand woven. The exact weaving process differs from family to family as do the patterns, making them truly unique. The average rate of production is around a meter a day – or a few centimeters for an elaborate weave. Handwoven silk has a more ‘natural’, unrefined texture than silk produced on an industrial loom.
  • While Laos is more than 50% populated by ethnic Lao (Lao Lum), there are more than 60 – some say more than 100 – different ethnic groups living within its borders. Lao’s people are categorized by altitude: 50 percent are lowland peoples, living around the Mekong; 20 percent live in the Midlands and highlands, and 15 percent live above 1,000 meters. The remaining 15 percent are Thai.
  • Laos has the unenviable status of being the most bombed nation in the world. There are estimated to be 270 million unexploded bombs in the country.

This noodle soup has a lot of ingredients but it’s totally worth taking the time to make your own curry paste! It takes a little time but it makes they dish infinitely better! And most of the ingredients I had in my freezer; lemongrass, ginger, and galanga (Thai ginger) I always make sure I have in stock. I make a lot of curries and they keep forever in the freezer!

laos

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113. Kyrgyzstan: Lagman

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Kyrgyzstan is an old country it’s recorded history spans over 2,000 years, they have seen a lot of cultures and empires come and go. Although geographically isolated by its high mountains, which has helped protect its ancient culture, Kyrgyzstan has been at the crossroads of several great civilizations as part of the Silk Road and other commercial and cultural routes. Though long inhabited by a succession of independent tribes and clans, Kyrgyzstan has periodically fallen under foreign domination and attained independence as a nation-state only after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. But they have been around longer.

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Things you didn’t know about Kyrgyzstan:

  • Manas, a warrior who united Kyrgyzstan, is undoubtedly the most popular folk hero in the country. You see this name everywhere. There are streets, statues, universities, radio stations, national parks, and many other things that are named after him. Even Kyrgyzstan’s main airport is Manas International Airport.
  • The vast majority of people in Kyrgyzstan are Sunni Muslims. However, you don’t see obvious signs of Islam while walking down the streets of Bishkek, partly due to its Soviet history. After the collapse of communism, the influence of Islam has slowly been coming back into Kyrgyz society. A lot of my Kyrgyz friends don’t drink alcohol or eat pork, and some even skip lunch on Friday to attend prayers in the mosque.
  • The city of Osh was an important commercial center in the 10th century as part of the Silk Road, the trade route between China and Europe.
  • The name Kyrgyz is derived from the Kyrgyz word for “forty.” It is a possibility that the people of Kyrgyzstan came from forty families or clans.
  • Tourists can negotiate with any car on the road; they’re all potential taxis – if the price is right.
  • The Kyrgyz were one of the groups who raided the borders of China and created the need for the construction of the Great Wall.

Truth be told normally they make their own noodles, but since my kitchen is really really tiny and I don’t have nearly enough space to make noodles and the noodles are soooo similar to tagliatelle I just bought tagliatelle

Lagman
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112. Kuwait: Ranginak (Date and Walnut Dessert)

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Kuwait is quite different from the other countries in the Gulf region. It is just as oil-rich as the other Arab countries but they choose not to express their wealth in the same way. Where the others are all about glitter and glamour, in Kuwait they made conscious decision not to sell its soul to the gods of commercialism. And Kuwait lies just far enough away from those Gulf mass tourism places to the south to mean that tourists and expats are fewer here. So it feels more authentic and less fake. That doesn’t mean that Kuwait is boring because it is most definitely not! Kuwait remains an oasis in a land of desert plains and has excellent museums, a fine souq,  beaches and lively restaurants.

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Things you didn’t know about Kuwait:

  • Kuwait is the only country in the Gulf to have an elected parliament and a constitution.
  • Kuwait National Day was celebrated on June 19th until 1962. In 1963, it was changed to February 25th in order to avoid the hot summer weather.
  • Gas is cheaper than water. Petroleum and petroleum products make up nearly 85% of export revenues.
  • The flag of Kuwait contains four colors: green, white, red, and black. They symbolize “our lands”, “our deeds”, “our swords”, and “our battles” respectively.
  • Wives do not take on their husband’s name upon marriage. The name you are born with is your name from birth until death.
  • They only make up a third of the population, a minority within their own country. The other 2/3 are composed of expats from all around the world. Kuwait has an interesting societal structure and the international community.

The ingredients sound a bit bland for someone who hasn’t tried the dish. But the overly sweet flavor of the fresh dates paired with the nutty earthy flavor of the flour mixture topped with cinnamon and walnuts is divine.

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111. Kosovo: Stuffed Peppers

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Kosovo, Europe’s newest country, in the heart of the Balkans. After years and years of war, it is finally perfectly safe to travel to this stunning underrated destination! With its charming mountain villages and 13th-century monasteries. While a lot of countries recognize Kosovo there are still some that don’t. The country has been the recipient of massive aid from the international community, particularly the EU and NATO, which effectively keeps the peace between the ethnic Albanian majority and the minority Serbs. Barbs of its past are impossible to miss, however: roads are dotted with memorials to those killed in 1999, while NATO forces stillguard Serbian monasteries.

Schermafbeelding 2017-09-05 om 13.29.56Things you didn’t know about Kosovo:

  • Tony Blair and Bill Clinton are local heroes. There are streets and children named after them, not to mention a Clinton statue. So if you’re looking for a different view on the world, Kosovo will spin new perspectives. The NATO support in the liberation of the Albanian population from the oppressive regime of Slobodan Milošević was regarded as the most successful example of western intervention in recent history. This means Brits, Americans and others are welcomed with open armed gratitude. Be prepared; it’s highly likely you’ll be thanked personally.
  • Because tourism in Kosovo is only just beginning, that means prices are seriously undervalued. Accommodations in Kosovo offer great value. You can stay in a massive suite at the nicest hotel in the entire country for less than the price of an average hotel in an American city. A cup of coffee costs between fifty cents to one euro depending on the café. A traditional meal can be had for as little as €1.50, while a bottle of beer is around €1.
  • The majority of the population of Kosova is under the age of 30.

This dish might not specifically be from Kosovo but rather from the region. But it’s got all the right flavors and spices that they use. For me ticks all the boxes of comfort food! I was a little worried about the rice not cooking inside the bell peppers, but it worked like a charm,the rice got perfectly cooked and the spice of the harissapaste gave it a lovely kick!!!

paprika kosovo

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110. South Korea: Korean Fried Chicken

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South Korea is a land of extremes! In some parts extremely traditional in others extremely outgoing and modern, but without a doubt in any case extremely beautiful! South Korea is also called the land of the Morning Calm, but the capital of Seoul tells a completely different story. Seoul is a city that never sleeps, nowhere else in the world does the phrase ‘work hard, play hard’ apply more than in Seoul. You can hardly turn a corner without stumbling across a tourist information booth, a subway station or a taxi in this metropolis where beautiful reconstructed palaces rub shoulders with teeming night markets and the latest technology.

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Things you didn’t know about South Korea:

  • South Koreans are obsessed with feces, and everything from turd-shaped cookies, phone charms, and an entire museum devoted to poop can be found in the country. Toilets across the country also feature pleasant flushing sounds, background music, and colored water.
  • South Korean men love makeup, spending close to US$900 million a year, or a quarter of the world’s men’s cosmetics. Up to 20% of the male Korean population is reported to use makeup regularly.
  • When a Korean’s name is written in red ink, this indicates that that person is about to die or is already dead.
  • South Korea is famous for its practice of “crime re-creation.” Citizens suspected of crimes such as rape or murder are led by the police in handcuffs to the scene of the crime and ordered to publically reenact the crime. To make the reenactment even more humiliating, the media is also invited to take pictures and publish details about the crime.
  • The microchips for Apple’s iPhones are made by the South Korean company Samsung,
  • South Koreans are automatically classified at birth according to their blood type, which is a custom that originated in Japan but has become very important in South Korean culture and may even determine who gets to marry whom.
  • On the South Korean island of Jeju, women traditionally go out to work while their husbands stay home. These women are called haenyeo (“sea women”), and they dive for sea urchins, abalone, and octopus, continuing a tradition that goes back 1,500 years and is passed down from mother to daughter.

I have been looking forward to this one! I know this is not a very traditional dish, but it is really really popular in South Korea! I heard so much about Korean fried chicken! The only Fried Chicken we have here in the Netherlands is KFC, and to be really honest I am not really a fan, little bland for my taste. But this fried chicken blew my mind!!!! Crunchy, spicy and sweet all at once!!!

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109: North Korea: Naengmyeon (Cold Soba Noodles in Cold Beef Stock)

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North Korea, by far the most isolated country on earth! North Korea has been the subject of speculation for years. And I really don’t want to get into it too deeply since we all know the North Korean regime is horrifyingly cruel. A leader starving his own population to prove a point is among the evilest things someone can do in my opinion. Over the past few weeks, they have been in the news negatively for trying to poke the bear (The US and Europe)… with several threats of nuclear war. Let’s all pray it doesn’t come to that! But how did North Korea become like this? And why is it that South Korea is far more prosperous? How did the rest of the world let it get this far? Should we intervene or should we call their bluff? These are all questions that keep a lot of people up at night…

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Things you didn’t know about North Korea:

  • Taedonggang is now the most well-known beer in North Korea, named after a river that runs through Pyongyang. There’s a beer ration—men get vouchers every month. This is not necessarily a nationwide policy but is the case in Pyongyang. But you can buy more; the ‘ration’ just means you get given vouchers, rather than your consumption is limited. The Taedonggang beers have numbers for names: One is made of barley, water, and hops, and tastes good. Two is the most common, with barley, water, hops, and a bit of rice. There is a 50-50 barley-rice mix. Four is more rice, and Five is rice beer. Five is repulsive.
  • Marijuana in North Korea is not illegal and can be bought at markets.
  • During the 1990s, all teachers were required to learn the accordion.
  • North Korea bases its calendar on Kim Il Sung’s date of birth: 15 April 1912. The year is 105, not 2017.
  • Blue Denim Jeans are illegal in North Korea as denim represents capitalist America.
  • According to his official biography, Kim Jong Il allegedly learned to walk aged 3 weeks.

That’s the classic North Korean dish, called naengmyeon in Korean. So classic there’s a song about it: “Naengmyeon, naengmyeon, Pyongyang naengmyeon!” Music is a form of propaganda, so to mention food gives people a sense of national pride and also shows security in food. “Long noodles refer to long life, or a long time being married. Everyone at a wedding gets served cold noodles, and the idea that you would say, ‘No noodles, thanks’ would be exceedingly rude.” However, I have to say it was not my favorite dish.

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