I’ve always been lucky with planning other people’s birthdays. Making a party happen isn’t magic, it’s just logistics. Friends are in town, a mid-week Happy Hour is approved, there’s transportation, live music, good food and great beer. A few of those components may present a small challenge every once in a while but, it’s never impossible. Until this year.
So, to mitigate my inability to make crazy ridiculous endless party plans for Chris’ birthday this year, I instead asked him for a challenge. A trip around the world, seven stops, one dish for every country over the course of a week. You ready for this? Here’s our itinerary: Brazil, Mali, Morocco, France, Germany, Turkey, and the Philippines. Chris initially threw in Sweden and Vietnam, but I guess German Schnitzels and Chicken Adobo beats Swedish meatballs and pho.
For our first stop, I defaulted to a dish I first had at Esperanto Cafe on Avenue C in Manhattan called Moqueca de Peixe. It was my last meal in NYC before I moved to Sydney for work and it obviously made an impression. I’ve only had it once again at a small Brazilian restaurant in Buenos Aires and, while that preparation was dramatically different from Esperanto, it left me in an equally great mood. It’s pretty mind blowing if you’ve never had it before (assuming, of course, that you like seafood). The coconut milk sits well with the lime juice and cilantro and, adding a spicy kick to it is always a good call.
I think I cross-referenced four different recipes, because it seemed too simple to be true. I even made a sad attempt at trying to translate a portuguese recipe, because I figured… it had to be authentic. Sort of.
In the end, my ingredients came down to green peppers, red peppers, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, ginger, thai chile peppers (for the heat), clam broth, stock, coconut milk, lime juice, sea salt, crushed black peppercorns, mahi mahi, and shrimp.
Prepping the seafood required half an hour of sitting in lime juice, crushed garlic, salt, and pepper. Everything else started reducing in a pot (it’s a time like this I wish I had a dutch oven).
Then you put all of the half cooked vegetables into a blender (which sounds a little bit like sacrilege to me) before putting everything back into the pot and adding the coconut milk and cooking the seafood. Look how tasty!
Brazil: check. Next stop: Mali.