Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 20 - Bhutan! Pork Fing & Cucumber Salad - Up Next, Bolivia

 Walden Street, Cambridge, MA
(L-R) My brother Clay, Me and my sister Anna
a.k.a. The Mod Squad 

It's 1970 and I'm in my hometown 5th grade classroom at the Peabody School in Cambridge, MA.  Today is Friday, Geography quiz day and my sweltering classroom smells faintly of paste, sour milk cartons and 10 year old bodies, almost, but not quite ready for deodorant.

A large, stern man with a booming voice, pale blue eyes and perpetual 5 o'clock shadow, my teacher, Mr. Coleary, delights as he summons each student up to the front of the room to recite America's 52 states aloud  from memory. When he finally calls my name I'm dizzy with fear. I make my way up through the long rows of tan metal desks and snickering kids and I know I'm in big, big trouble, because try as I might, my brain does not memorize well. I take my place in front of the class, my sweaty hands are jammed deep into the pockets of my orange and blue plaid jumper. My heart is pounding so loudly it drowns out every sound around me.  With sadistic power and a wink,  he cues me to begin, but I'm rendered completely unable to rotely spit back even a third of the states I've studied. I fail miserably and continue to do so with impressive consistency all year long. I don't learn a thing in Mr. Coleary's 5th grade class except fear...and maybe a little toughness, which it turns out, serves me well later on.

Fast forward 4 decades to 2010. I'm in my happy kitchen. What's Cooking in your World  is my shot at a Geography and History do-over. An extraordinary opportunity to fearlessly and passionately learn and re-learn about our small/big world in a meaningful, contextual way and to share this rich experience with my kids. That's what I'm talkin' about.

Bhutan is roughly the size of Switzerland 

Bhutan (Thimphu)(AS): Traditionally called "Druk Yul,"  Bhutan is a land-locked country with no access to the sea. Located in the eastern Himalayas, it's bordered by India in the south, east and west, and by the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China in the north.
The origin of Bhutan and its earlier history is  unknown. Guru Padma Sambhava, an Indian saint made his legendary trip from Tibet to Bhutan at the end of eighth century. Many say Bhutan's history and cultural is mystical.

Chilies of many varieties are the primary spice used in Bhutanese cooking 

The Bhutanese are passionate about chili. The species of chili used here is Capsicum onum, a fluffy red variety. Chillies are spread all over – on the roadsides, on rooftops and on the courtyards. Huge baskets of chilies at the market put to shame the bursting pumpkins, white radish, potato, cabbage, cauliflower and beans.

Though they appreciate the pleasure of meat, being a Buddhist country, slaughter of animals is restricted. In Bumthang, a district in eastern Bhutan, slaughter of animals is not allowed at all. But you can eat the meat if the same animal fell off a cliff. These days, some of the traditional ways of preparing food haveb een replaced by more convenient Western foods, however for special occasions and celebrations, traditional meals continue to be enjoyed. Regardless, Bhutanese food is HOT.

The Menu
Cellophane noodles, Thai green chilies, seedless cucumbers and pork

Cook on low heat until meat is tender 
Soak cellophane noodles in boiled (not boiling) water for 20 minutes

 Pulse cucumbers, red onions and chilies in food processor or chop by hand
Top with Farmer's cheese which tempers the heat of the Pork Fing dish nicely
Oh wait - the Jello is for my boys who pierced their tongues this week and can't eat this delicious meal
*Note I used ice for the "quick set" method  - Jello for dummies for real

Plated, delicious and plenty, plenty HOT
Final Assessment: We loved this dish. The chilies were very, very hot - even though I used less than the recipe called for, knowing that I'm a chili pepper nube and couldn't handle that much fire without building up to it first. The salad was beautiful and cool and had just the right amount zing from the red onions-topped with the Farmer's cheese, it was perfect.
Music Sweet Music


jd decker said...

yer so good!

TheGraphicist said...


I love your blog! I also have a question on a humorous note.

So lemme get this straight: Your goal is to make a single meal representative of each country, you took a country religiously devoted to vegetarianism (Bhutan), and you made a meat dish?

(It looks delicious -- I just thought I'd ask. :-)

Keep on trekkin'!


sadie said...

You know, I went back and forth with the meat thing, because not all of Bhutan eschews meat for religious reasons. In fact, many DO eat meat, but it has to be "found" dead...others buy it and do eat it as western ways have crept into ancient cultures. I guess my meatatarian propensity swayed me toward the meat dish....on another note, though, thanks for reading the blog carefully enough to catch the contradiction! I'd better stay on my toes!

TheGraphicist said...


Thanks for the thoughtful response Sarah (Sadie?)

I love the term "meatatarian." Would you say that's more like a "carnophile" or an "herbaphobe" for you?

sadie said...

Sadie is my family, nick name, given to me by my bother back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I happily swing both ways in the meat/vegetarian dept., the men in my house are certified herbaphobes!!