Category Archives: World Eats

What is Cheese Rolling?

united_kingdomOne of the more bizarre food-related competitions we have heard about in the recent past is the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-rolling competition in Gloucester, UK. The event, which was supposed to be held on May 25, 2020, was unfortunately cancelled because of Covid-19. So what exactly is going on? A 7-9 lb. round of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled down the hill (in 2013 only a stunt cheese was used) and many, many people go rolling along after it! The first person to the bottom of the hill wins the wheel of cheese. The Double Gloucester cheese used for rolling has been produced in Gloucestershire for centuries and is worth seeking out in its own right. The true origins of this competition are shrouded in mystery, and range from celebrating pagan roots to obtaining grazing rights. In any case, the competition has been held in some form since at least 1826 (when the first written record emerged)! Hopefully this video of the event in action will bring you a few laughs today. If you want to partake at home we suggest buying some Double Gloucester from your favorite cheesemonger, and it is commonly available at most grocery stores. You can even buy a 5-lb wheel for $97 online!

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Trying Australian Damper and Vegemite in the Outback

AustraliaWhen we were in Australia last summer, we spent 4 days camping with a group tour in the Australian Outback en route to Uluru, eating well on a menu of camping cuisine. It was on this trip that we were introduced to the iconic Australian Damper. Damper is a type of soda bread, that is typically baked in a camping stove in the coals of a campfire (as below), and has long been associated with outback lore and camping cuisine in Australia. Now that we are in quarantine times, some people are turning to bread-baking as an activity – evidenced by the fact that flour and yeast are nowhere to be found – and this bread couldn’t be any simpler.

Damper just out of the fire by Matthew Klein

The Hook and the Cook has a nice video (below) on how to make damper in a camp oven over coals, which is how we experienced it. Adventure Dining Guide has a hack on how to cook damper in coals in aluminum foil if you don’t have a cast iron pot. You don’t even have to cook the damper over coals, an oven will do, as in this recipe from Taste, though of course it won’t have the same outdoorsy charm.  You can add anything into damper as a filling or flavoring, as in the Blueberry Damper from Dirty Drifters.

While we were on our Outback adventure, we also had our first taste of Vegemite, slathered on our damper bread. Vegemite is a salty, savory spread made from brewer’s yeast that is iconic, but quite divisive, even among Australians. Our Australian guides instructed us on the proper way to consume Vegemite, in a very thin layer, mixed with a healthy dose of butter. Tom Hanks recently drew some playful criticism for layering his on too thick. So what did we think? The Eaters were split down the middle, one for an one against. To me (pro Vegemite), the Vegemite had a very strong umami flavor, and kind of smelled like anchovies!

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New Orleans’ Secret Noodle Dish: Yaka Mein

The New Orleans Jazz Festival, one of the biggest music events of the year, which was supposed to be happening right now, was cancelled this year due to Coronavirus. The cancellation of JazzFest really drives home how out-of-the-ordinary everything is…. Along with the amazing music, you could get some of the best New Orleans cooking at JazzFest every year, ranging from Creole to Cajun to Vietnamese and back again. You could also get Yaka Mein soup, a hybrid dish that originated in New Orleans. Yaka Mein (also known as Ya-Ka-Mein or simply “Yock”) is a simple dish of beef, noodles, green onions, hard boiled eggs and soy sauce (plus some secret seasonings). Its actual origins are shrouded in mystery, though a likely theory points to roots in New Orleans’ old Chinatown, and similar dishes under the name yat/yet gaw mein are sold in Chinese-American restaurants in New Orleans and throughout the US.

Yakamein

Ms. Linda’s Ya-Ka-Mein in San Francisco by Gary Stevens

This hearty and filling dish has become associated with second line parades, and Jazzfest in particular, due to the presence of “Ya-ka-mein Lady” Ms. Linda Green. When Anthony Bourdain visited New Orleans he paid a visit to Ms. Green, and you can check out another interview with her by Zagat below. But even if you are not going to these events, you can get yakamein soup all over New Orleans from convenience stores to high-end restaurants to bars where it is touted as a great hangover cure (it is sometimes called “old sober”).  If you are not lucky enough to sample Ms. Linda’s creations while in New Orleans, you can make Yaka Mein from just a handful of ingredients, using recipes from Just a Pinch, Epicurious and Deep South Dish.

 

 

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Chebakia: Moroccan Sesame Cookies for Ramadan

Flag_of_MoroccoYesterday at sunset marked the start of 2020’s Ramadan, which will be quite a different celebration given that large gathering are not allowed in many countries. One of the most important parts of Ramadan is usually communal, the nightly breaking of the fast with a special meal known as Iftar. Even though we are not able to gather together, we can still make some pretty tasty treats for fast-breaking celebrations. One cookie reserved for special occasions like Ramadan is the flower-shaped Moroccan chebakia (also spelled shebakia or known alternatively as mkharka) that is deep fried, and glazed with honey and sesame seeds. The preparations for chebakia start in the weeks before Ramadan because it is so labor-intensive, and large quantities are required for Iftar celebrations. In French, the name for these cookies is la rose des sable, which translates to “rose made out of cookie.” The shape of the cookie is pretty intricate, so we found it helpful to watch Cooking with Alia’s video demo. You can find recipes for Chebakia from Spruce Eats, Cooking with Alia and My Moroccan Food. Maroc Mama even has a gluten-free recipe. At Iftar, chebakia is traditionally served with harira, a tomato soup, giving a really interesting sweet/savory twist.

Chebakia

Chebakia piled high in Rabat, Morocco by Gerald Stolk

 

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Madagascar’s Street Candy: Koba

640px-Flag_of_Madagascar.svgThis marks our first post on Malagasy food! When we were watching a video about street food in Madagascar, from The Best Ever Food Review Show, we were struck by the mysterious, ubiquitous food wrapped in banana leaves. Other street food dishes of rice, noodles and sausage were easier to identify, but this banana leaf-shrouded mystery was something completely different. Of course, we had to wait to the end of the video to find out that this was Koba, an emblematic Malagasy sweet made primarily of glutinous rice flour and peanuts steamed in banana leaves. This simpler version of Koba is known as Koba Ravina (or kobindravina), and is often the one sold by street vendors in giant portions. There is also a version called Koba Akondro, with other mix-ins like banana and honey. After steaming the banana leaves, the sliceable cake has a chewy, mochi-like texture with a molasses-colored center. Though on the streets of Antananarivo, koba is sold in giant banana-leaf-wrapped logs, you can make a smaller portion for yourself at home, provided you have banana leaves. Mada Magazine has a recipe on how to make koba akondro at home, as does Afro Tourism.

Koba

Koba Ravina sold in Antananarivo, Madagascar

 

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How to Make Your Own Taiyaki

JapanInadvertently, this is an appropriate post for Poisson D’Avril / April Fool’s Day, but the recipe is no joke! Cartoon-fish-shaped Taiyaki may be the cutest dessert there is. Originating in Japan, Taiyaki has a waffle-like base, and is traditionally filled with red bean paste. The hand-held snack has a centuries-long history and the fish shape, tai, symbolically conveys wealth. We first experienced Taiyaki at Japanese restaurants in the US, and in frozen packets at the Mitsuwa grocery store.  Fortunately, in the past few years more restaurants in the US are taking cues from the Taiyaki’s homeland of Japan, and are making these fish waffles fresh to order (we have had them recently at Taiyaki NYC and Mini Mott). However, my sister gave us a Taiyaki iron for Christmas, so we have been able to recreate Taiyaki at home for the first time. Though the fish shape is intricate, Taiyaki are really no harder to make than waffles (albeit with a hand-held iron instead of an automatic one).Taiyaki3b

There are many Taiyaki recipes out there, and we started with one from Just One Cookbook. This recipe called for cake flour, which was easier to come by pre-pandemic. If you don’t have it, here is way to substitute All-Purpose Flour + Corn Starch. You may be able to find canned or jarred red bean / azuki paste in a local Asian supermarket. If not, you make your own red bean paste with some of your pantry reserves. Or for even more variety, you can fill these with custard or even Nutella! The only tricky part is the timing of cooking the Taiyaki, we have a gas oven, and it took us a while to find the right cook time, which may also vary for your oven. If you make extra Taiyaki, you can freeze them and then reheat in a 350 oven for a few minutes. Enjoy!

How to make your own Taiyaki (recipe adapted from Just One Cookbook).

Ingredients
Makes 5 Taiyaki
  • 1¼ cup cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 5 Tbsp red bean paste (about 1 Tbsp per Taiyaki, or substitute with Nutella, Cream, etc.)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable / canola oil

Taiyaki

Instructions
1. Sift the cake flour, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl.
2. Whisk in sugar.
3. In a second bowl, whisk the egg, add the milk and whisk together.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk well. Let batter rest in refrigerator for one hour (there should be roughly 1.25 cups of batter).
5. When your batter is done resting, preheat your Taiyaki pan over a low heat (taking care to keep the plastic handle away from heat source).
6. When you are ready to make the Taiyaki, brush vegetable oil into the Taiyaki depressions
7. Raise heat to medium and fill the Taiyaki depression just over halfway with batter.
8. Spoon in one tablespoon of Azuki paste
9. Pour batter over the top to cover the paste, but do not overfill.
10. Close the two halves of the pan and turn to flip.
11. Cook each side 2-3 minutes, depending on the heat of your stove-top, until the Taiyaki is golden brown on each side.
12. Cool on a baking rack and serve warm!
Taiyaki2

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What are Carinderias?

philippinesWe have been focusing a bit on the Philippines this week during our online food explorations, and have become enthralled by its diverse food culture. We are already itching to visit in person some day and try all the street food! One of the major restaurant types in the Philippines is the Carinderia, which is a combination of a street food stall and a buffet restaurant. The origin of the name is tied to the word kari, which means spice/curry. At a Carinderia, which is often open air and found street-side or in a market, you can select from maybe a dozen or more rotating local Filipino home-style dishes. Options vary by restaurant and region, and may include chicken adobo, lechon (roast pork), sisig (chopped pork and onions), Tinolang manok (chicken soup), pancit (fried noodles) and more. You can find Carinderia restaurants throughout the Filipino diaspora, from the US, to Australia to Bahrain. Mark Weins has a blog post and video a Carinderia he visited in Manila, giving insight into the various dishes. We also love the Carinderia crawl videos from the Filipino channel Coconuts.tv. Each video follows a different person visiting their favorite Carinderia and it is awesome to see the variety in both setup and food!

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Enjoying Agege Bread in Nigeria

nigeriaOur ETW Armchair Travel destination today is: Nigeria! We have eaten our share of Nigerian food in the states, but we have never tasted one of the iconic foods of Lagos, Nigeria: Agege Bread! Brought to Nigeria by a Jamaican immigrant, and named after the Lagos suburb of Agege, Agege bread is now a completely ingrained and revered part of Nigerian food culture. This slightly-stretchy and chewy bread is made with few ingredients, and baked into a perfectly rectangular shape in special pans, and then fired in a clay oven. We really enjoyed this short documentary on the history of Agege bread, directed and produced by filmmaker Chika Okoli and featuring culinary historian and researcher Ozoz Sokoh aka Kitchen Butterfly [Instagram]. Ozoz does a great job describing Nigerian Food culture and the winding history of Agege bread. Making your own Agege bread seems to be somewhat difficult, but there are recipes out there, check out these options from K’s Cuisine, My Active Kitchen, and Africaparent. In the US, you can even get Agege bread baked fresh in Brooklyn.

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ETW is back with Armchair Travel!

You may have noticed that I have been back to posting on ETW more frequently recently. I will admit that things had been busy in the past 6 months with a cross-country move, purchasing a house and starting a new job, and ETW has fallen by the wayside. Just as things were starting to settle down, Coronavirus hit the US, and now it looks like all of our traveling will be curtailed for the foreseeable future. As you may have guessed from this blog, some of our favorite things are traveling, dining out at restaurants, and planning future trips, none which are possible or safe in this current environment. Thank goodness for the internet, where there is a wealth of information, videos, etc., which allow you travel virtually (and at a safe social distance!). So, at least a few times a week I will be highlighting some of my favorite videos, recipes, and other resources in a new series, “ETW Armchair Travel” so we can all be armchair travelers for a while.

Our first ETW Armchair Travel link comes directly from my sister, and is a mesmerizing video of Portuguese Custard Tarts – Pasteis de Nata – being prepared at Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon, Portugal, which we visited several times when we lived in Lisbon. We must admit that Belém does not have our favorite pastel de nata, but you can’t argue with their scope of production or longevity! Hope you enjoy the video, and stay safe inside!

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Soan Papdi for Diwali

India FlagHappy Diwali! Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, started yesterday, October 27, 2019, but it is not too late to get in on some delicious treats to celebrate this holiday. Today, for Diwali, we will be making Soan Papdi (aka patisa, son papri, sohan papdi or shonpapdi), a North Indian confection with an amazing melt-in-the-mouth texture. Really, it is unlike anything I have had before, somewhat like cotton candy, but with flaky layers, often formed into cubes. You definitely have to experience it for yourself! This treat was first introduced to me by my friend from Delhi, who brought the treat back directly from a favorite sweet shop. Soan Papdi is popular throughout India, especially during festivals. With a base of ghee (clarified butter), gram flour and sugar, soan papdi is often flavored with cardamom, but you can now find it flavored any number of ways, including mango, pistachio or chocolate. Check out Steemit, The Times of India and Awesome Cuisine for Soan Papdi recipes.

Soan Papdi in Delhi by Georgia Popplewell

 

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Treats from Okinawa

Our friend Jose from NYC has a second home in Okinawa, where his wife’s family is from, and the last time we saw him he was generous enough to shower us with Okinawan treats! We have long been fascinated by the unique culture of Okinawa, the largest of a chain of islands located south of the rest of Japan. Due to its relatively remote location Okinawan culture is completely different than in a place like Tokyo, which means Okinawa has its own unique, amazing food.

Local brown sugar, kokutu, is a prized commodity in Okinawa, made by slowly cooking down sugarcane juice (instead of adding molasses back in), imparting it with a unique flavor. Jose brought us two kinds of brittle made with Okinawa brown sugar: Black sesame & crushed peanut and coconut chunk. Plus we got Japan-exclusive Kit-Kats – almond and cranberry and dark chocolate.

There were also beautifully wrapped little cakes, which turned out to be – Sata Andagi – Okinawan fried doughnuts. Our variety had peanuts, white sesame and orange peel, though they can come in a variety of flavors, including the emblematic Okinawan sweet potato (also very popular in Hawaii). Thank you Jose for bringing us these wonderful Okinawan treats that we could have never gotten anywhere else!

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Edible Bird’s Nest Drink…At Costco

Recently, at Costco, we ran across a case of an unusual-sounding drink: Golden Nest brand “Swallows Nest Beverage,” nestled right next to the Frappuccinos for the price of 8 bottles for $20. We thought the “nest” part was perhaps just a brand name or a metaphor, but it turns out that this drink is actually made from an edible bird’s nest, a prized culinary ingrediant in China. This ingrediant is more commonly known as Edible bird’s nests,” and are actual bird nests created by varieties of swiftlet birds out of hardened saliva. Yep, you read that right. The nests are prized for their purported health benefits and contain a large amount of amino acids. Birds nests can go for hundreds or thousands of dollars per kilo, so a price of less than $3 per bottle seems quite reasonable!

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Italian Jewish Food for Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah! Every year for Hanukkah we try to highlight some lesser known (at least in the US) foods of Jewish communities. One country with a rich tradition of Jewish foods that you may not think of immediately is Italy. There has been a Jewish community in Italy since at least 150 BC, and it has continued through to the present day. In Rome, the Jewish population was forced to live in a designated ghetto from 1555 to 1870, and in this period a distinctive Roman Jewish cuisine emerged.

One of the most famous Rome Jewish-Italian foods, that has been adopted by Romans of all religions as a signature dish is fried artichoke. Its Italian name – carciofi alla giudia – actually translates to Jewish-style artichokes. This simple and delicious dish is perfect for Hanukkah, where fried food symbolizes the oil in the lamp that burned for 8 days instead of just one. Other Italian Jewish dishes include pinaci con Pinoli e Passerine (spinach with pine nuts and raisins), Baccalà all’ebraica (fried codfish), and concia (fried zucchini). If you are hungry for more recipes check out the cookbooks Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen and Classic Italian Jewish Cooking.

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Osmanthus for the Mid-Autumn Festival

chinaIn 2018, the Mid-Autumn festival in China falls from September 24-26. One of the most traditional treats for Mid-Autumn festival is the mooncake, made of a glutinous rice flour skin filled with lotus paste and sometimes an egg yolk (to represent the moon). Though mooncakes may be the best-known Mid-Autumn festival food, we were looking for something a little different. That’s where Osmanthus comes in – a flowering blossom that is in season at this time of year. According to mythology, the Osmanthus tree grew on the moon. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, Osmanthus can be found in everything from Osmanthus tea (steeped with black or green tea leaves), to Osmanthus jelly, to Osmanthus Wine. Osmanthus has a unique flavor, and though it is related to the cinnamon tree, it also has fruity apricot notes. For a double whammy, you can even make Osmanthus-flavored mooncakes!

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The Cremolada: A Peruvian Frozen Treat for Summer

We are entering the dog days of summer, and it has been HOT in Chicago. Naturally, that means we have been filling up on a lot of Italian ice, ice cream and paletas. However, if we were in Peru, we would be enjoying cremoladas! Cremoladas are a Peruvian iced dessert that falls, texture-wise, somewhere between shaved ice and sorbet. When we were in Lima we visited the original Curich Cremoladas (Calle Bolognesi 759, Miraflores 15074, Peru), credited with inventing the treat when the Curich family from Croatia opened their shop in Lima in 1942. There are dozens of flavors available, though we are partial to lucuma and passionfruit. It is fun to sample some of the unique fruit flavors at Curich like naranjilla (known as lulo in Colombia), arazá, and cocona. Curich’s creation caught on, and, now, you will find cremoladas all over Lima. Check out a video of cremoladas in production from El Comercio. Turns out, despite the name, there is no cream at all! Lima Easy has a simple recipe to make your own cremolada.Curich.jpg

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The National Dish of Nigeria: Jollof Rice (or is it Egusi Soup?)

Nigeria is competing for the first time this year in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, with a bobsled team composed of Nigerian-Americans. Though bobsledding may not get a lot of press in Nigeria, we wanted to highlight this country and its food. So what is the most representative Nigerian national dish? A poll conducted this year by Pulse Magazine had readers selecting Jollof rice, whereas a poll done previously by CNN had them selecting Egusi soup. Well, we are definitely not informed enough to weigh in, so we figured we’d highlight each of these national dish rivals.

Jollof Rice by Joan Nova

Jollof rice is a rice-based dish made with tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, hot peppers and spices, usually served with some kind of protein. Popular throughout West Africa, the recipe for Jollof Rice varies wildly depending on where you are. And of course, each country thinks that they have the best Jollof rice, and it has inspired years of heated debate (and even a rap song).  In Nigeria, the dish is also typically accompanies by fried plantains and moin moin, a spicy side made from black eyed peas. You can find recipes for Jollof rice from All Nigerian Recipes, Sisi Jemimah and Ev’s Eats.

Goat Egusi with fufu by HC

Egusi soup doesn’t have as wide of a range in Africa, and is made from the ground seeds of Egusi melon, palm oil, dried fish, and leafy greens (in many cases bitterleaf). Unlike Jollof rice, Egusi may be a little harder to find, unless you live by a Nigerian market, but thank goodness for the internet. Egusi soup is usually served with fufu (boiled and pounded cassava) that helps sop up the soup. You can find recipes for Egusi soup at Demand Africa, All Nigerian Recipes, and All Nigerian Foods. Though we have tried both of these dishes, our hearts are with Jollof rice, one of our favorite West African dishes, yum! Of course, Nigerian cuisine is is full of delicious dishes, so don’t stop with just these two.

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How to Make Ghanaian Shito Pepper Sauce

In any Ghanaian kitchen or restaurant there will be Shito  – a super-spicy black pepper sauce that is virtually essential to any sort of Ghanaian cooking. “Shito” is the word for pepper in the Ga language but has come to refer also to the black pepper sauce itself. Along with peppers, the sauce contain tomatoes, onions, garlic and fish or shrimp paste to give a bit of essential umami. I have seen recipes calling for 30 habanero peppers – so this sauce is definitely not for the faint of heart. Here are a few recipes: from Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen (see below), Homemade by TZ, The African Gourmet, and Nigerian Lazy Chef. You can also buy shito in pre-made form at many African grocers or online.

Photo: Nassima Rothacker

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Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad!

Flag of Puerto Rico

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas! Having a roast pig for Christmas Eve/Christmas – lechón –  is a major tradition in Puerto Rico and Cuba, and it is one of our favorites. Consequently there are many songs that extoll the virtues of the humble pig. In honor of the lechón-filled holiday, here’s one of our favorite Christmas lechón songs: “La Fiesta de Pilito” by Puerto Rico’s stalwart musical group. El Gran Combo.

Here are the most important lyrics:

A comer pasteles y a comer lechón
Arroz con guandules y a beber ron
Que venga morcilla, venga de todo

To eat tamales and eat roast pork
Rice with pigeon peas and drink rum
Let blood sausage arrive, let everything arrive

We hope you are having a delicious holiday – maybe with some lechón!

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The hidden history of Hong Kong Borscht

One of the most interesting articles we have read recently was about the prevalence of Russian Borscht in Hong Kong [via Metafilter]. The presence of a Russian soup in China (though it is made without beets there) starts to make a bit of sense when you think about the actually proximity of the two countries, but even more sense when you learn of all of the post-revolution White Russian émigrés who found their way to China and Hong Kong. These immigrants then started restaurants, and many of the Hong Kong’s top restaurants were owned by Russians by Mid-Century. Even though this wave of Russian immigration has ended, you can still find Borscht (called “loh sung tong” / “lor sung tong”) in Hong Kong. Cooking with Alison and Mrs. P’s Kitchen (seen below) have two classic Hong Kong Borscht recipes.

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A World of Buñuelos for Hanukkah and Christmas

Happy first day of Hanukkah – now it’s time for the treats! We wrote a little bit about the classic Sephardic Jewish dessert fritters, Buñuelos, in the past. However, we underestimated just how popular these little fried dough treats from Spain were. Though they are symbolic Hanukkah dish, and the frying of the dough represents the oil that burned for 8 nights, Buñuelos are also enjoyed as a Christmas treat. Buñuelos, (aka Bimuelos, Burmuelos, among other names) were initially created by Spanish moriscos centuries ago, but have since spread in popularity across Latin America.

Bunuelos

Bunuelos / Bimuelos by Joe Goldberg

Just how many Buñuelos varieties are there out there? It’s hard to say, but here we have tried to compile just a few variations on the humble Buñuelo:

BunueloMexico

Buñuelos in Mexico City by bionicgrrrl

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