It might require some legwork, but our contributor found that tracking down vigorón on the streets of Granada was well worth the scavenger hunt.
Photos by Chelsey Perron
It was a sunny day, and the breeze off Lake Nicaragua floated past Granada’s colorful colonial houses. We were on the hunt for a specific dish, one whose name we’d heard murmured by Nicas everywhere: vigorón, Nicaragua’s favorite street food, which is said to have been invented here in Granada, the oldest colonial city in Central America. Where better to try a dish that pays homage to the country’s rural roots than in the shadow of centuries-old Spanish cathedrals? The more we asked, though, the more fingers...
It doesn’t get much more tipico than this deceptively basic rice-and-beans breakfast, reports contributor (and Costa Rica resident) Chelsey Perron. Meet gallo pinto, Costa Rica's ultimate local dish.
A typical breakfast plate with gallo pinto, from a roadside soda. Photo: Chelsey Perron
Costa Ricans—Ticos, as they’re called here—wake up to a different kind of rooster than most. Gallo pinto, or “spotted rooster,” is so commonly consumed most mornings in local households, it could easily be renamed “breakfast” for many families in this Central American country. The recipe is deceivingly simple: rice, beans, and olores, typically a scant mixture of red sweet peppers (optional),...Read More
In Madagascar, ravitoto is a dish the Malagasy “came home to, a dish mothers and wives lovingly prepared, and a dish that, despite regional and tribal differences, the entire nation could agree on loving.” Here's where to find it, and how the author came to understand it.
We never said ravitoto was pretty (credit).
Though relatively unknown in the West, cassava, also called manioc or yucca, has long been an important staple food throughout much of Africa (and elsewhere), including Madagascar and the rest of the sub-Saharan region, showing up in restaurants and markets, and on family’s tables, nearly as often as french fries in the U.S. (see also: cassava leaf stew in Sierra...Read More
I’m a sucker for wintery drinks. Not just of the hot chocolate variety—that’s a given—but also thick, filling, savory drinks, like eggnog, Mexican atole, and this stuff, boza, in Turkey. A traditional fermented drink made from wheat, millet, or bulgur—and onetime favorite beverage of Ottoman sultans—boza is kind of an odd duck: It’s served chilled, it’s thick as pudding, and it’s at turns sour and sweet. It’s typically served topped with cinnamon and crunchy roasted chickpeas, which only makes me love it more.
In Istanbul, we wandered the streets a while before we found Vefa Bozacici, an old-school boza dispenser in the otherwise modernized district of Vefa. There was just one...Read More
Homemade placintas from the south of Moldova, in Comrat. Photo by Leah Kieff
Placinta. The first time I tasted this traditional fried bread, still warm from the pan, I knew I would love living in Moldova. My first bite was of a Romanian-style placinta—homemade, deep-fried, filled with brinza (homemade cheese, like a drier, saltier feta) and dill—hinting at the dish’s origins in Romania, back when that country was part of the Roman Empire. Nowadays it’s everywhere in neighboring Moldova as well, in just about every alimentara (corner market/convenience store) around the country, the equivalent of a cheap, convenience-store hot dog—though when homemade, it’s also a staple at large...Read More
Contributor Jessie Beck hunts down Ethiopia’s favorite raw-beef dish.
Photo by Jessie Beck.
Before I landed in Ethiopia, my knowledge of Ethiopian food went no further than a few dinners on 14th Street in Washington D.C., where a large diaspora of Ethiopians and Eritreans have set up shop and, accordingly, some great Ethiopian restaurants. I only vaguely knew the ingredients of what I was eating. I became familiar with injera, the spongy fermented bread used to soak up and grasp other foods, but what were those little piles sharing the platter with it? Lentils? Beans? Cabbage? Even in my ignorance, I still loved trekking out to those places to get my hands messy dipping injera...Read More
For this dish spotlight, we turn to Moravia and its uber-seasonal burčák wine, which contributor Christopher Burdick recently had the pleasure of tracking down for us.
photo by Mararie
“It tastes like delicious, carbonated, innocent grape juice. But it’s far from innocent. Start drinking early and the next thing you know it’s 1am, you’ve had two liters, and suddenly it’s not so easy to stand up.”
I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for booze that’s specific to a region. If someone tells me I can’t get it anywhere else, it’s down my throat faster than they can say “Prost!” Usually this sort of thing involves shots of strong liquor, like Serbian rakija or the infamous “green fairy”...
What is it about this soft, chewy candy that’s so transporting? Maybe it’s the packaging: bright, happy colors; wax paper wrappers; pastel boxes depicting beach panoramas. Maybe it’s the sweet creamy taste, or the sticky texture that makes you feel like a kid again. But likely it’s the fact that it’s so steeped in Jersey Shore history to be entwined with the area forever. As the legend goes, an Atlantic City boardwalk peddler’s candy store was flooded by ocean water one day in the late 1880s, and when a child came in asking for taffy, the peddler joked that what he had was “saltwater taffy.”
Like taffy to teeth, the name stuck.
Saltwater taffy, so ubiquitous at the Shore as to...Read More
Mantı. We tried the beloved Turkish ravioli, filled with ground lamb or beef, three different ways in our travels around the country. In Kayseri, in Central Anatolia, whose version of the dish is most famous, the boiled dumplings are tiny and set afloat in a soupy tomato sauce, dolloped with garlicky yogurt and finished with a sprinkle of oregano, pul biber (red pepper), and chili oil.
At a roadside cafe in Istanbul we tasted a more standardized mantı, all yogurt, chili oil, and biber, the dumplings folded much larger.
Mantı in Istanbul
And in Sinop, along Turkey’s Black Sea coast, the ravioli are likewise bigger, with soft, delicate skins, and they’re...Read More
On the Caribbean island of Antigua, you hear the word “water” used to describe many a local dish—conch water, cockle (clam) water, goat water. But fear not: Watery broths these are not. Preparations vary, but chances are you’ll receive a very flavorful soup or even stew highlighting the featured ingredient. Goat water, a rich, hearty stew with notes of clove and cinnamon, was one of our favorites, especially this one, found in an unexpected place: a beach bar crawling with souvenir hawkers and day-tripping cruise shippers up from St. John’s, the Antiguan capital.
It was the type of place we might usually shun, but instead we went there twice—first at the behest of the Jamaican...Read More
The typical spread, at City Market in Luling, Texas.
A meat-eater does not visit Central Texas—eclectic state capital Austin included—without making BBQ a priority. But what is BBQ, that most regional and fiercely beloved of American dishes, here? It’s a holy trinity of smoked brisket, pork ribs, and sausage, slow-cooked over big oak-fed pits in the manner introduced to the area—primarily to the towns of Lockhart, Luling, and Taylor, each within about an hour’s drive from Austin—in the mid-19th century by German and Czech settlers, who’d often smoke leftover cuts of meat from their butcher shops. The Texans loved it, took to calling it BBQ, and adopted the style as their...Read More
Five of our favorite spots for poke on Hawaii and Oahu.
Ahi limu poke from Tamashiro Market, Honolulu.
Its time zone might be a few hours behind, but Hawaii is way ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to raw fish. While it took most of America well into the 1990s to be swept into the sushi craze, Hawaii has long loved the simple seafood salad called poke. It’s a fixture of every Hawaiian restaurant menu, takeout deli, and grocery store; even the local Costco keeps a well-stocked high-quality selection.
The word itself means “to cut,” and cut it has been: In all the multitude of poke variations, the components are chopped into bite-size pieces. Freshly caught local...Read More
Egg creams are perhaps my favorite thing to insist that visitors to New York try, because no one ever knows what the hell they are—in fact, I know far too many residents here who aren’t familiar with them! The first point to clarify is that there are no eggs in an egg cream, nor is there cream. That’s an important distinction, as many people are immediately turned off by the drink’s name. (Which doesn’t make sense in a country that loves Cadbury creme eggs, but I suppose it is a fear of consuming raw eggs.)
It’s not clear why they are called egg creams or who exactly invented them, though it was most likely a Jew, probably in Brooklyn. A few years ago, The New York Times outlined...Read More
I have a weak spot for hot chocolate in the winter—and now that my selection of quaffable vices is limited by pregnancy, man, do I have a weak spot for hot chocolate. Many afternoons I’ll go out hunting for one around 3pm, or I’ll make some at home. If I’m feeling naughty, I’ll accept a dollop of whipped cream or throw some marshmallows into my steaming, milky cup.
But how could I have forgotten about churros?
In the Spanish world, churros—those thin, fluted, deep-fried pastries—and hot chocolate go together like milk and cookies in the United States. Opinion is divided over who, exactly, invented churros (Spanish shepherds? Portuguese sailors via the Chinese?), but it’s safe to...Read More
Every so often, a dish or drink is so beloved, so synonymous with a place that we just have to pay it a little extra mind.
Poutine. The mere thought of it gives you a guilty thrill, doesn’t it? The idea of going to a city where it’s perfectly acceptable—indeed, expected—to plop yourself down at 2am and brazenly order a giant plate of French fries smothered in cheese curds and brown gravy speaks loudly to our inner gluttons. It says, Go to Montreal. Now.
In New Jersey, where I grew up, it’s also a common thing to go to a late-night diner and gorge on such alcohol-soaker foods. Greasy eggs were always a favorite order, as were “disco fries,” or cheese fries with gravy. What I...Read More
Thin-sliced beef. Tomato sauce. Melted butter. Such is the holy trinity of the Iskender kebab, a.k.a. the döner kebab on crack—and one of the best things we’ve eaten thus far in Istanbul.
Of course I’m exaggerating (not about the crack part, because this is an easily addictive dish). There are two other key components to this kebab: Under the meat is a bed of cut-up flatbread, ensuring none of the sauce goes unsoaked, and off to the side is a pile of thick yogurt, imparting the perfect creamy, cooling balance to every bite. A few tomatoes and blackened green peppers add color to the plate, as well as winking vegetal presence. It’s not all meat and fat!
This kebab has its origins...Read More
While we cannot say we’ve never had a bad slice, pizza is one of the world’s great satisfactions. It’s that very rare dish for which this can be said: Even when mediocre, it’s still kinda good. It still manages to placate, still comforts that part of your soul that will always long for hot melty cheese and tomato sauce intermingled on oven-baked bread.
We each grew up in New Jersey, where good thin-crust pizza abounds. The mom-and-pop pizzerias our respective families frequented were reliably delicious, and greasy $2 boardwalk slices never failed to hit the spot, even when it wasn’t 2 a.m. Now we’re spoiled in New York City, where even the closest neighborhood joint will turn out...Read More