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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108: Kiribati: Crab and Tuna Curry

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I’ll be honest… I had never heard of Kiribati! Kiribati is an island nation and consists of 3 island groups: The Gilbert Islands, The Phoenix Islands, The Line Islands. Unfortunately, due to climate change, two small uninhabited islands disappeared underwater in 1999, because of the rising sea levels. I always try to be positive about countries… but this has got to stop people! The sea level will have risen 50 cm by 2100 and then it won’t be just the uninhabited islands that will disappear in the ocean, most of Kiribati will be largely be submerged! So we really really have to change our lifestyle…Or this vacation paradise won’t be there for long.

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Things you didn’t know about Kiribati:

  • Kiribati is the only country in the world to straddle all four hemispheres. The islands spread across both the equator and the International Date Line. In 1995, Kiribati changed the date for the easternmost islands, effectively creating an indentation in the dateline. This was done so that it would be the same date and day of the week across the whole country.
  • Dancing in Kiribati is more than a form of entertainment. It is used to tell stories and as a demonstration of endurance and skill. Therefore, smiling while dancing is considered vulgar.
  • Kiribati is known for a number of traditional martial arts, which were kept a secret within families for many generations. All of them are believed to have been given to humanity by an ancestral spirit. For example, Nabakai was given to a warrior of that name by three female spirits who would manifest in the form of a crab. Another is Tabiang, named after the village in which it originated. It uses speed and accuracy and its principle is “you give me one punch I give you four punches”. The spirit who taught it was called “Teraka”, and legend has it that this spirit also traveled to Asia and taught it to the people there, who gave it a variant of the name – “karate”

This recipe I honestly really went with my gut and sort of made up by myself, I read a lot online about the eating habits in Kiribati and read they use a lot of soy sauce, curry powder, coconut, fish and crabs, and lobsters but really no specific dish. So I heated up my pan and the dish came together, and let me tell you this is one of the best curries I ever made! Since crab is quite expensive (at least where I live) this is more of a weekend thing but it definitely qualifies as comfort food to me! I don’t know what it is about curries but they always have a tendency to make me instantly happy

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107. Kenya: Lentil Curry with Peanut butter

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Kenya, the vibrant beating heart of East Africa! The original ‘sun, sand and safari’ destination.  Kenya was always the go to destination if you were going to Africa, until December 2007. In December 2007 there was an election the top candidates were the current president Kibaki and his ex-secretary Odinga. Kibaki won the election but Odinga accused Kibaki of election fraud. A thorough investigation proved Odinga was right, which of course led to rebellions. These rebellions had massive consequences, for instance, travel agencies stopped sending their clients to Kenya, and canceled the trips that were already booked… Since a lot of Kenyans work in the tourism sector was this a devasting result, which led to even more poverty… Eventually, Odinga and Kibaki made a compromise to let Kibaki stay on as president and Odinga serve as prime minister.

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Things you didn’t know about Kenya:

  • Scientists have estimated that the Great Rift Valley found in Kenya was formed over 20 million years ago when the Earth’s crust began to split.
  • Dowries are still traditional in Kenya. The groom’s parents must pay a dowry to the bride’s family otherwise their son will not be able to wed his bride. Dowries start at 10 cows.
  • Coffee is a huge export in Kenya, but it is not consumed in the country. Kenyans believe that all of the coffee they produce should be sold outside of their country, so they drink tea or beer.
  • Scientists believe that Kenya may have been the birthplace of human beings. Bones of early ancestors were found in the Turkana Basin.
  • It is free for children to attend school in Kenya, but many children do not go, they are too busy helping their families work the land, fetch water and other necessary tasks.

The yogurt gives acidity in this curry which it really needs because of a number of spices, so the freshness of yogurt is a good move! In the original recipe they use okra, but I couldn’t find any at the supermarket, so I just left it out.

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106. Kazakhstan: Manti Dumplings

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Kazakhstan, I never realized how big Kazakhstan was. Kazakhstan is sooo big that the distance from one end of the country to the other end is the same as the distance from Londen to Istanbul! That is about 3 to 4 hours by plane I reckon! Compared to the rest of Kazakhstan the capital looks futuristic, the reason for that is that it’s a completely new city, it’s only been the capital of Kazakhstan since 1997, so about 20 years! In the summer the temperatures a fine but in winter it gets bizarrely cold with temperatures as low as -48 C (-53F) and on top of that really windy!! This makes Astana the second coldest capital in the world!

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Things you didn’t know about Kazakhstan:

  • Kazakhs believe that whistling a song inside a building will make you poor for the rest of your life.
  • Stan is an ancient Persian word meaning “land” or “nation,” and Kazakh means “wanderer,” “adventurer,” or “outlaw.” Therefore, the name Kazakhstan translates as “Land of the Wanderers.
  • When a Kazakh shooter won the gold medal at a 2012 international sporting competition, the organizers mistakenly played the theme music for the film Borat instead of the Kazakh national anthem. In the film, British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen plays fictional Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev.
  • Horseriding is a large part of Kazakh culture, including the traditional sport kyz kuu, literally translated as “girl chasing”. It is essentially a race between a man and woman, both on horseback, that either ends up with the man kissing the woman (a victory for the man) or the woman beating the man with a whip (a victory for the woman). Indeed, some say Kazakhs were the first ever to domesticate and ride horses. Incidentally, horse meat is a big part of their cuisine.
  • The traditional nomad home of the Kazakhs is known as a yurta. It is comprised of a collapsible tent, with a wooden frame, covered in felt. Its name comes from the Kazakh word meaning “community,” “people,” or “family.”
  • Kazakhstan’s traditional drink kumis has also been referred to as “milk champagne.” It is made from fermented mare’s milk and is believed to be a cure-all for everything from the common cold to tuberculosis. The Kazakhs living on the steppes also drink shubat, or fermented camel’s milk, which is supposed to have virucidal properties
  • Kazakhstan has an unofficial taxi system. People wave on the street, cars stop, destination and price are discussed, and they go.

These dumplings are greasy but really good! The yoghurt seems like a weird condiment but actually goes perfectly well with the dish!

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of flour
  • Salt

Filling

  • 200 gr lamb mince
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Cumin

Sauce

  • Butter
  • Paprika
  • Caraway seeds
  • Chiliflakes
  • Greek yoghurt

the bowl of a large food processor or a large bowl, combine flour and salt. In a small bowl, beat together eggs and water.

Process or mix into the flour mixture until dough comes together. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until smooth and elastic.

Lightly grease a medium bowl with oil. Add the dough, turning to coat, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. In a large bowl, combine lamb, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Quarter the rested dough. Place one quarter on work surface and cover the remaining with a damp dish towel. On a floured surface or using a pasta machine, roll the dough into a paper thin rectangle.

Cut the dough into 1 1/2-2 inch squares. Place about 1/2 teaspoon of the lamb mixture into the center of each square. Fold all the edges over the filling and pinch to keep them together. Pinch to seal the seams over the filling.

Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet or counter in a single layer. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Fill a large pot with salted water and place over high heat. Once boiling, add the dumplings in batches, being careful not to overcrowd. Cook until they float and the meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, draining well, and transfer to serving bowls.

Repeat with remaining dumplings. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium high heat. Once it is melted and starting to sizzle, add paprika, mint, and chili flakes. Cook until fragrant and the butter begins to foam, about 30 seconds.

Remove from heat. Top the Manti with Greek yogurt and pour the butter. Serve immediately.

105. Jordan: Kofta with Tahini Sauce

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Jordan, a little bit of slice of peaceful heaven in the middle of the conflict area of the Middle East. Jordan isn’t involved in any of it! They do however harbor a lot of refugees from the surrounding countries. Jordan has a tradition of welcoming visitors: camel caravans walked the legendary King’s Highway transporting frankincense in exchange for spices and Nabataean tradesmen, Roman legionnaires, Muslim armies, and Crusaders all passed through the land, leaving behind these impressive monuments. Schermafbeelding 2017-07-01 om 13.26.32Things you didn’t know about Jordan:

  • Aqaba is the Red Sea destination you probably haven’t considered. But as question marks continue to hang over Egypt’s coastal resorts – Sharm El Sheikh in particular – this little urban nugget at Jordan’s southern tip is a plausible alternative. It has a pleasant ambiance in its bars and cafes, hits the temperature sweet-spot of the upper Twenties Celsius during October
  • It may be one of the oldest cities on the planet, in fact. Archaeological evidence suggests that what is now Amman witnessed human settlement as early as the 13th century BC. It was also established on the surface of our world so long ago that it features in the Bible (as Rabath Ammon).
  • It is arguably the most memorable scene in the Indiana Jones movies – the moment at the climax of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade when the Indy lays eyes on Al-Khazneh, the rock-carved Treasury building in the “lost” Nabatean city of Petra (which is masquerading on screen as the resting place of the Holy Grail).
  • Sitting 1,200 meters above sea level, Ajloun Forest Reserve in northwest Jordan is five square miles of hills and valleys where you can camp among wildflowers or stay overnight in one of the log cabins, leaving the days wide open for wandering among oak, strawberry, carob, and wild pistachio forests.

The tahini sauce however simple it goes perfectly with the kofta!! I served it with couscous but a nice salad will do very well of course! I used fresh mint in the kofta because I have lot’s of it on my plant on the roof terrace, but you can just as well use dried mint.

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104. Japan: Tokyo: Tsukemen

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Tokyo, to me Tokyo represents the town where anything can happen, from the strangest food combinations like sushi kebab to the extremely traditional rules of some sushi chefs who elevate making sushi to a form of art! And not just food-wise also the fact that there is an entire neighborhood to dedicated to manga art! (it’s called Akihabara). Temples that several centuries old are next door to high tech robot restaurants. Geisha and Sumo wrestlers!!! There so many sides to Tokyo that it’s impossible to see all of them in one trip!

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Things you didn’t know about Tokyo:

  • Founded as Edo once upon a time (in the 12th century), Tokyo’s literal translation means “East(ern) capital.
  • As the annual Cherry Blossom Festival nears, television and radio reports include information on the “cherry blossom front” (sakura zensen), or the advance of the cherry blossoms across the different regions of Japan.
  • Capsule hotels (hotels that contain rooms roughly the size of a large refrigerator) can be found around Tokyo. Most rooms include televisions, wifi, and an electronic console.
  • Despite its popularity as a worldwide landmark and part of Tokyo’s backdrop, Mount Fuji is actually visible fewer than 180 days per year due to clouds and Tokyo’s air dust concentration.
  • Tokyo contains over 100 universities and colleges, giving it the world’s highest concentration of higher learning institutions. One-third of Japan’s university students attend school in Tokyo.

Tsukemen or dipping noodles as they are also called, are soo good and the perfect dish for a light hot summer meal! You can keep it simple or use as many condiments as you want. But it’s a lovely meal to share with friends or family passing around the little bowls. The sauce is what it’s all about, the best word to describe it is umami, it is sweet and spicy at the same time and just utterly delicious! I served it with leftover jerk chicken from the Jamaica recipe but you can use any left over meat you have, or roasted pork belly would be ideal!

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