For the last 21 years – yes, 21 years, you read that right – I’ve been on-and-off trying to cook international food alphabetically. I started with Afghanistan long ago, and I’ve now just finished cuisines that start with the letter “J”.
At first, my list of cuisines only included major national cuisines – but as I gathered more regional cuisine cookbooks, I added those too. With time, they’ve multiplied to the point that national cuisines are now the exception. In all, in these 21 years, I’ve visited 215 different cuisines and cooked 690 different dishes for this project.
When I first started, I’d do a menu for a cuisine, including an appetizer, a main and dessert, and invite friends over. Later, when I had kids, I could not manage dinner parties except in the most special occasions, so I started exploring these cuisines as every night dinners. Accommodating my children’s changing tastes and diet preferences wasn’t always easy, but we managed. Still, it’s been a very slow process. If I want to finish it – something I never thought possible -, I’m going to have to speed things up.
So as I start 2022 and tackle “K” cuisines, with just one child at home (but still a picky eater), I’m going to try something different. Whenever possible, I’m going explore national cuisines for Sunday dinners, doing full menus. Not every cuisine lends itself to an appetizer-entree-dessert format – indeed, my first K cuisine, Kenya, does not – so in those cases, I’ll just explore different dishes on different nights. Otherwise, I will leave regional and ethnic cuisines for weekday nights but limit my exploration of them to just one or two dishes. We’ll see how that works.
Meanwhile, here are the J cuisines I explored, as well as the A-I cuisines I discovered and explored (usually for just one dish) in the last year:
Jakartan: Indonesian food rocks so I was happy to explore the food of the capital. The dishes I made included chicken sate, a beef & noodle soup and a great cake for dessert
Jamaican: there were so many good choices for this island cuisine, and I finally figured out how to make a good jerk pork.
Japanese: I didn’t try my hand at sushi, but learned I couldn’t make a vegetarian miso soup anyone liked. Other dishes, however, were great.
Javanese: coconut beef, coconut chicken and coconut balls. If you like coconut, Javanese cuisine has lots to offer.
Jerezana: this Spanish city offered tasty dish after tasty dish, from braised oxtails to their own version of chicken cordon bleu
Jewish American: a roasted chicken was a failure, but their cheese blintzes and apple cake rocked
Jiangsu: I only made one dish, ribs, but we enjoyed it a lot.
Jiangxi: we enjoyed the fish and chicken from this Chinese regional cuisine, but the steamed pork with rice powder was a disappointment.
Jordanian: This was the only “J” cuisine from a country I had visited. I think my dishes were better than anything I ate there.
And these are the regional and ethnic cuisines I briefly explored, mostly for just one dish:
A’chik Mande / Garo: I enjoyed cooking an unusual dish of chicken with papayas from a tribal group in the Indian highlands.
Acholi: While I only made one dish, peanut & banana pancakes, it was great to learn about these Luo people from northern Uganda.
Adjarian: bread with cheese and an egg, hard to believe it but it works!
Ambonese: unfortunately, the one dish I cooked from the Indonesian spice islands, was a failure
Balochi: I made the most famous grilled chicken dish from these southern Pakistani cuisine
Bukharian Jewish: The single dish I made from these people from Uzbekistan was a complete mess, but it was fun to try a new cooking technique.
Cornish: I tried my hand at traditional cornish pasties and failed terribly. No wonder they’ve improved on the recipe in the last century or two!
Gagauz: the culinary traditions of this Muslim people from Moldova may not be particularly exotic, but I did enjoy their chicken with a paprika gravy.