Comfort Food

103. Japan: Hiroshima: Okonomiyaki (Savory Cabbage Pancakes)

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Hiroshima has been through a lot, recovering from the atomic bomb as I hope everyone knows, and if you don’t please read up on your history!!! But really that’s really not what I want to talk about!  Hiroshima is located on the island of Honshu. Nowadays Hiroshima is known as the street food paradise of Japan, especially the tiny island of Miyajima that is a 10-minute ferry trip from the city center. Miyajima is also known for the deer that just roam the village freely, not scared of humans. If you’re lucky you can even pet them!

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Things you didn’t know about Hiroshima:

  • Hiroshima has been farming oysters since the 1500s. Today it produces 25,000 to 30,000 tons of oysters a year, 60 to 70 per cent of Japan’s total production. Known locally as sea milk for their nutritional value, they are eaten boiled, fried, grilled, with rice, in stews, or raw.
  • After the war, Hiroshima needed to get its transport system up and running fast. Tram cars were donated from cities all over Japan and even abroad, earning them the nickname Mobile Museum. Today the tram fleet ranges from pre-war clunkers to the futuristic Green Mover Max. It’s the cheapest, easiest and most eco-friendly way to get around town.
  • Kumano, a village 20 kilometers east of Hiroshima, produces 15 million calligraphy, makeup and artist’s brushes a year. That’s 80 per cent of Japan’s production. Of the town’s 27,000 inhabitants, 1,500 are brush craftsmen, hand-making brushes the traditional way. Visit on September 23 when 10,000 brushes festoon the streets for Kumano’s spectacular Brush Festival.

Okonomiyaki is a very popular takeaway dish in Hiroshima, you can add any ingredients you want so great for using up veggie leftovers! It would also be the perfect drunk food!!!! However, let someone sober make it for you because the transferring from pan to pan will be pretty hard once you had a few drinks.

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102. Jamaica: Jerk Chicken

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For me when I think about Jamaica, Bob Marley is the first thing that comes to mind. And I’m gonna guess I’m not the only one. What you didn’t know is that Jamaica is a divided country and has been divided since the days of slavery, there is a small minority that controls almost everything, and then there is poor majority, less connected and left out. Jamaican cuisine is a reflection of the conflicted history. Bread fruit, salt fish this used to be slave food, cheap long lasting filling. Still all these years later the division between rich and poor is still very very clear.

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Things you didn’t know about Jamaica:

  • African slaves imported to Jamaica brought their own form of religion, Obeahism. Obeahism is a form of voodoo that is still practiced on the island. However, it is kept quiet, since the practice of Obeahism is punishable by death. People who practice this form of voodoo believe that the Obeah man can use evil spirits to bring good or bad luck to others.
  • British writer, Ian Fleming is famous for his 007 James Bond character. After designing his dream home, Ian Fleming chooses to have it built in Jamaica and name it Goldeneye. In Jamaica, he wrote ten of his world renowned James Bond spy thrillers.
  • In 1988, Jamaica became the first tropical country to enter a Winter Olympic event. It was the bobsled event. The movie, Cool Runnings, tells the story of the Jamaica’s first foray into the Winter Olympics. Only the United States has won more Olympic and World medals than Jamaica.
  • Jamaica is one of only two countries in the world that has no colors in common with the flag of the United States of America. The other country is Mauritania
  • The stunning Blue Mountains in Jamaica are named for the mist that covers them. From a distance, the mist appears blue. The second moon in a month is called a blue moon; however, there have been half a dozen sightings of sapphire colored moons in the past 40 years.(green and yellow). Libya used to have a solid green flag but has since changed it to include red and white. The Jamaican flag is green, yellow, and black.

I was so looking forward to finally trying out the real  Jamaican Jerk Chicken, and it was everything I dreamed it would be! Perfectly balanced spice and sweetness! And no this chicken is NOT BURNED, people!!! That is simply the spice rub that is caramelizing, and the most delicious part of the entire dish

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101. Italy Rome: Pasta Cacio e Peppe

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Boy oh boy do I have some story about Rome… Last year I went to Rome with my 2 sisters and my brother. Apart from Rome being an amazing city with epic food! To do as much sightseeing as we could we decided to rent 3 scooters, I was sitting in the back of brother’s scooter. In the beginning, everything went great, just the 4 of us cruising through the eternal city of Rome… but then after lunch, things started to go south… While eating our pizza we were discussing where to go next. My little sister was going to read the map, I don’t remember exactly where we were trying to go, but the point is we got lost and just a little lost, very very lost! My little sister managed to get accidentally get us on the highway during the freaking rush hour, with cars honking beside us!! We took the first exit we could find, to a parking. My brother was livid, my older sister panicking, I was calm as day (no idea why), but my little sister has this very annoying habit that when she gets nervous or stressed she starts laughing hysterically and can’t stop.
Which managed to piss off my brother, even more, this kick-started an enormous fight between them. We tried to find our way back to the hotel, getting lost over and over again, my brother getting angrier by the second! Eventually, my older sister stepped in, I got in a cab and asked the cab driver to drive me to the hotel while my brother and sisters followed. I have never been so happy to get back to a hotel!

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Things you didn’t know about Rome:

  • Tradition has it that throwing a coin over your left shoulder into Trevi Fountain will ensure a trip back to the Eternal City, but it also helps feed the needy. The Catholic charity Caritas collects the coins and uses the proceeds on a supermarket program that provides rechargeable grocery cards to Rome’s low-income citizens. Over a million dollars worth of coins is tossed into the fountain each year, or over $3,000 a day.
  • In September 1870, Rome found itself under siege by the Italian army and was formally annexed by the Kingdom of Italy on October 2nd that year. The wars leading to the unification of Italy had already been going on for decades, and essentially ended when Rome was captured and made capital in 1871.
  • Almost everyone has heard the saying that “all roads lead to Rome.” In fact, Romans would have flipped that saying on its head. In their view, all roads led from the Milliarium Aureum, or Golden Milestone, erected by Augustus in the Roman Forum. The Romans had an impressive network of highways and roads, necessary not just for trade but for military transport. Many still exist, including a section of the Appian Way.

This pasta really is as simple as it gets! But it’s hella good!!!! Cheese, black pepper and butter three of the best ingredients in the world in my opinion! Pasta Cacio e Peppe is basically the elevated version of the pasta with cheese you craved as a kid. And a great option when your broke 😛

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100. Italy: Sicily: Egg Plant, Pine nut & Raisin Fusilli

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Every time I hear Sicily The Godfather theme song starts playing in my head! Sorry for the stereotyping… but after the research I did I am apparently not that far off. Sicily is still largely ruled by the Mafia, and I don’t think it’s as romantic and exciting as it sounds… It just means lots and lots of corruption. The Mafia is an everyday part of life in Sicily, I mean over 80% of businesses in Palermo pay pizzo (protection money). The strangest thing is the government only recently (1992) started fighting back against the mafia, before that no one really cared… Imagine having your country been taken over by organized crime and no one actually giving a damn about it. Nonetheless, the island of Sicily is supposed to be extraordinary, and I really really really wanna go there especially since Palermo the capital has been awarded the title of best street food capital of the world!!!

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Things you didn’t know about Sicily:

  • According to Greek mythology, ships that pass to the Messina strait between Sicily and Calabria are in danger of being attacked by Scylla and Charibdys, the monsters that guard either side of the narrow passage. This myth gave rise to the expression “between Scylla and Charybdis,” a local equivalent to “between a rock and a hard place.”
  • The Sonnet! The most famous of all traditional poetic forms, consisting of fourteen lines written in iambic pentameter with an elaborate rhyme pattern, was originally invented by a poet from the Sicilian school, Giacomo da Lentini. From Italy, the sonnet was taken to France and England, where writers such as William Shakespeare made extensive use of the form.
  • The hilltop town of Corleone has become synonymous with the Mafia: the place where bosses Salvatore Riina and Bernardo Provenzano were raised was also chosen by Mario Puzo as the home town of his characters in The Godfather.
  • While the Invasion of Normandy, or D-Day, is celebrated as the great turning point of World War II, it is also true that the invasion of Sicily by the Allies in 1943 was an earlier victory that began turning the tables on the Axis powers. Codenamed Operation Husky, the battle lasted for 38 days and culminated with a decisive victory for the invading Allied forces.
  • Sicily is rich in ancient Greek ruins, and many say that they surpass in beauty those found in modern-day Greece. For a long time, the ancient Greeks controlled a large part of the island, mostly in the eastern region around Syracuse, where the famous mathematician Archimedes was born. Well-preserved Greek ruins still remain in Syracuse, Taormina, and near Agrigento. The latter is the location of the famous “Valley of the temples,” a collection of seven different temples dedicated to different Greek deities.

This is basically my twist on Pasta a la Norma/caponata, Sicilians love eggplants any way they can get them so almost every Sicilian dish contains them. No problem for me since I really like eggplants. This is pasta I have been making for years, one of the first recipes I came up with myself, by simply being broke and working with what I had laying around… Back then I used canned roasted eggplant and canned tomatoes and all the spices were dried and that works fine as well but fresh veggies are just so much better believe me. And on the plus side, it is really quick and easy.

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98. North Italy: Osso Bucco a la Milanese with Pesto

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The North of Italy is completely different from what most people would expect when they hear Italy. I have been there twice, once on a skiing trip when I was 17 to Selva val Gardena which is in the Trentino South Tyrol region. And the second time was last summer on a surprise city trip to Milano with my best friend. Food wise the dishes are heavier then in the rest of the country and have more of German/Swiss/Austrian influence, which is not that strange since the Northern part of Italy shares a border with Switzerland and Austria.

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Things you didn’t know about the North of Italy:

  • There is no legal drinking age in Italy, in the sense that a young person of any age can legally consume alcohol, but a person must be 16 years old in order to be served alcohol in a restaurant or a bar.
  • The world record truffle weighing 3.3 pounds was discovered in Tuscany by a dog named Rocco and it was sold at an auction to Macau casino mogul and billionaire Stanley Ho for $330,000.
  • The United States banned Prosciutto from being imported until 1989, and Mortadella and Speck until 2000. Other meats like Cotechino and Zampone are still banned at present. Some say it is to protect the American livestock from disease but most speculate that it is to protect US meat producers from competition.
  • The Italian Wedding Soup or Minestra Maritata is not traditionally served at Italian weddings. “Maritata” means “married” but in the context of the dish, it pertains to the soup’s ingredients — meats and green vegetables — going well together, therefore “married” in a sense
  • The origins of Italian surnames are either patronymic, occupational, descriptive or geographical. Surnames ending in “o” usually come from Southern Italy, while surnames ending with “i” are often from Northern Italy.

The pesto on top of this dish really really brings it to another level! I have had osso bucco many times! but this one is really really traditional and my favorite version. I ate the whole lot with pasta. But you can make

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96. Ireland: Beef Stew

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The amazing country of Ireland, I love Ireland went to Dublin with a couple of friends last year! A country with such a turbulent history, meanwhile the people are among the jolliest I have ever met! Always in for a beer or a great party! Yes these people know how to live and laugh! Apart from that the Irish have had sort of a rough history.  The potato famine, their struggle for independence from The United Kingdom wasn’t very smoothly either. Ireland is also famous for it’s many legends and myths. Ireland’s long history is riddled with ancient mythology and folklore. Ireland’s ancient societies, the Druids and the Celtics, believed in the power of magic and many of these beliefs spread to modern day legends told again and again across the country. Stories of warriors with all the knowledge of the world, fairies playing pranks on farm owners and leprechauns hiding their gold at the end of a rainbow add to the mysterious appeal of Ireland.

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Things you probably didn’t know about Ireland

  • The Irish report the lowest annual number of UFO sightings in Europe.
  • 70% of married Irish women would consider having an affair while on a foreign holiday without their spouse or children. 90% of all Irish men would do the same…
  • Irish marriages last an average of 13 years, although the majority do not end in divorce. Irish couples prefer to separate and live in sin with their new partners rather than go through costly legal process.
  • Dublin boasts one pub for every 100 head of population. (as I said they know how to party!!)
  • A song only needs to sell 5,000 copies to top the Irish music charts.  A book only needs to sell 3,000 copies to top the Irish bestseller list.

I think Irish food is largely underrated! Yes it might not be 5 star cuisine but comfort food! And I love comfort food, the kind of food you have after coming home from hockey practice after you faced a rain storm, and you’re completely soaked. You take a nice hot shower and then your mom puts a steaming plate a stew in front of you with a side of mashed potatoes. To that is the perfect way to describe Irish food!!!

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94. Iran: Jeweled Rice

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Iran has been negatively in the news, which is so sad especially because the country is sooo beautiful, and the people are incredibly generous and friendly. And if you think Iran is a country made up entirely of dry desert plains, think again. Not only does it have plenty of mountains (and half a dozen volcanoes), head for the peaks of the Alborz Mountains – only a few hours from Tehran – and you’ll discover several ski resorts! Dizin is the largest and, at 8,700 ft, it’s higher than Europe’s highest resort. I would have never associated Iran with skiing! But apparently anything is possible

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Things you didn’t know about Iran:

  • If you get in a cab anywhere in Iran, chances are when you try to pay, your driver will refuse to take your money. Walk into a shop to buy something, the same happens. Baffled? The cultural practice of Taarof is Iran’s own personal brand of etiquette. You’re not really being given a freebie, it’s a form of civility and all you have to do is play along. It’s all about denying your will to please the other person – and it extends to pretty much every social situation.
  • You should accept all offers of food and drink (but be sure to decline once or twice first!) and it is polite to try a bit of everything that is served.
  • Believe it or not, Iran has the highest rate of nose surgery in the world per capita. The pursuit of the perfect nose certainly has a lot to do with the restrictions of the hijab dress code leading to a larger focus on the face but it’s about more than physical beauty.  For Persian women (and some men), it’s also an indicator of wealth and social status.
  • Iran is the largest exporter of the most expensive caviar in the world
  • According to an old Persian proverb, “A Persian rug is perfectly imperfect, and precisely imprecise”. Why? It’s simple, really. A fine Persian rug will almost always include intentional imperfections to symbolize how only God can create perfection.

Jeweled Rice is mostly served at weddings and other joyful occasions. The fruitiness of the cranberries and raisins makes it special! A yummy side dish!

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