The Borojó Fruit (Ecuador)

market borojo fruit
Borojo (Borojó) Fruit, Mercado Santa Clara, Quito, Ecuador

I have good food memories of the Mercado Santa Clara (Santa Clara Market) in Quito, Ecuador.  Not only did I try a delicious ceviche with fresh squeezed lime, I added a new food to my glossary, the borojó.

The borojó is native to rainforests in Ecuador and Colombia in South America, and has also been found growing in Panama.  The etymology of the word comes from the Emberá (aka Chocó) language, in which boro means “head,” and {ne-}jo is “fruit.” Borojó requires constant high humidity, plenty of rain, and warm temperatures, hence being relatively limited to the tropical climate zones of northwestern South America. Its trees can reach heights of up to ~16 feet, and last for roughly 4 years (via Candelaestereo).

Among its culinary uses, the fruit is generally mixed with milk and sugar to produce marmalades and preserves, and makes for a good batido (shake) if you you blend it up with coconut milk.  For more moribund purposes, it is used to embalm corpses in Atrato and San Juan, Colombia, and for budding casanovas, it has mythical aphrodisiacal properties.

In terms of health benefits, borojó contains a good deal of phosphorous – useful for your teeth, bones and much, much more – amino acids, protein, and vitamins C & B.

Want to try it?  It’s a cumbersome fruit, so I recommend you either visit South America, or try a bottle of this.


Have you heard of the borojó?

Oaxaca’s Crunchy Tlayuda (Mexico)

After meeting some affable Mexican folks in my travels – including through becoming an impromptu translator in China – I started traveling more throughout their country, increasing my awareness of regional Mexican cuisines. I will cover more of these food discoveries stories in later posts, but for now, we’re going to take a look at the tlayuda, the Oaxacan specialty affectionately known as the “Mexican pizza.”  Hmm.

In Oaxaca, the word tlayuda generally refers to a fried or toasted giant corn tortilla.   They were first consumed in pre-Hispanic times — that is, before Hernán Cortés started marauding civilizations in the 1500s; in the native Nahuatl language, tlayuda is derived from tlao-li, or husked corn, and uda, or abundance.

Tlayuda are eaten either with granulated sugar, or with any number of savory ingredients…

Time for the good stuff! 

Savory tlayuda are first, smothered in a mix of refried beans and pork lard, the latter called asiento.  Then…whatever!  For the one above, I ordered it with ground chorizo, squash blossoms, quesillo (Oaxaca cheese; roughly similar to mozzarella), radishes, avocados, tomatoes, and a couple of flora unique to the region.

On the left, the green pod is called guaje.  Although the pod is inedible, the seeds have an eclectic flavor profile, something of a grassy pumpkin seed.  More importantly, the guaje, being plentiful in the region during the time of Cortés, lent present-day Oaxaca its name.  Since the Spanish couldn’t pronounce Huāxyacac, the Nahuatl word for the plant, they abridged it to become Oaxaca.  So much easierright???

And on the right, pipicha, or chepiche.  Does it bear a striking resemblance to tarragon?  Yes…but the flavor is more like a citrus cilantro, with a hint of minty licorice.  Used by Aztecs and other ancient tribes to treat the liver, pipicha also are high in antioxidants, and can be used to cleanse the palate after a meal.  I felt that the flavor was quite strong, so I would recommend using it sparingly.


What would you put on your ideal tlayuda?

Japanese Oumi Beef (近江牛): Kobe Beef’s Ancestor

You may be familiar with Japan’s legendary Kobe beef.  The lofty bovine must be of the Tajima breed, have spent its entire life in Hyogo prefecture, and be treated to massages and a round of Sapporo beers to increase its appetite.  That last part may only be a half-truth, but if you’re into eating meat… I might recommend Sendai beef instead.  Slightly less marbling, but it still leaves you with a melt-in-your-mouth 食感 (shokkan), or mouth feel.

Sendai & Kobe Beef, New York Grill, Park Hyatt Tokyo, Japan

But if you want to dig deeper into the history of prized wagyu (和牛), or Japanese beef, you may want to start with Omi (Oumi/近江) beef.  Omi is the historical name for present-day Shiga prefecture, which also hosted the Japanese capital, in the city of Otsu, for five years.

For centuries, the consumption of meat in Japan had been taboo (especially after Buddhism had spread there in the 6th century), or consumed only by aristocrats and imperial leaders.  Moreover, given that much of Japan is mountainous and/or characterized by long winters, and that seafood was much more readily available (and took up no land, to boot), meat-eating wasn’t a particularly common sight.

To return to the topic, it is said that at the end of the Warring States period (~1467-1590), Takayama Ukon, an ally of Japan’s first unifier Toyotomi Hideyoshi, presented his victorious war chiefs in Hikone city, Omi province with cattle, thus originating the term Omi beef.

Omi Beef Set Meal, Hikone, Shiga, Japan (近江牛定食、彦根、滋賀県,日本)

Since Japan was effectively shut off to most of the world between 1603 and the 1850s, It would be almost 300 years until meat consumption flourished.  Once the Meiji period began in 1868, as Western countries started cultural exchanges with Japan, so, too were the Japanese introduced to Western clothing, scientific advancements, and food.

Coincidentally, when Omi beef was first exported, it shipped under the name “Kobe beef,” due to Kobe being the closest port at the time.  Only when Shiga’s Omi Hachiman train station opened in 1890 did exports that now shipped through Tokyo adopt the name “Omi beef.”

On May 11th, 2007, Omi beef was officially recognized with a seal of “Japan Geographical Indication.” by the Japan Patent Office.  Consequently, something can only be called Omi beef if it is raised in Shiga prefecture, by the shores of Lake Biwa.

The Slinger (St. Louis, Missouri, USA)

Though I have only visited St. Louis a few times, I reckon it’s one of the underrated food destinations in the United States.  They’ve got delicious barbecue – and barbecue sauce, pork steaks (aka blade cuts), Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, gooey butter cake, toasted ravioli, and owing to the largest Bosnian population outside of that country, ćevapi (che-vapi, lamb sausage).

But there’s one local STL meal I only learned about this past weekend, the slinger.

The St. Louis Slinger, a Local Diner Specialty (taken at Courtesy Diner)

The slinger, likely created in a St. Louis diner in the 1970s, is a mountain of a meal.  A slinger – possibly named for a chef hastily “slinging” ingredients on the grill – normally has eggs any style, hash browns, chili, sausage or a hamburger, and raw onions.  With evolving taste buds, they now might include jalapenos (as mine did), cheese, a Mexican tamale, bacon, ham, and mustard, among other extras.

I tried a slinger at the Courtesy Diner, a small St. Louis-area chain, and felt that each aspect of the local dish balanced out every other.  After ordering one, I was remiss that I didn’t ask for cheese, but it turns out that cheese would have been that much more excessive.

YouTube: The Slinger.

Lablabi: Tunisian Chickpea Stew (لبلابي)

Monastir, Tunisia - Lablabli 1I was inadvertently introduced to lablabi (لبلابي) while walking around Monastir, Tunisia.  Some local market workers were taking their lunch break to crowd a small kiosk in the middle of a pedestrian block.  Nearly twenty more people got in their orders before I was noticed, even though I was perched in front of the chefs all along.  Now that I know the name of the snack, I greatly look forward to wildly mispronouncing lablabi.

Monastir, Tunisia - Lablabli 2Counting chickpeas as the base ingredient, garlic, cumin, and olive oil make up the rest of the vegetarian dish.  Piquant harissa – a North African hot sauce made with regional Baklouti peppers is often added on top, and stale bread is used to sop it all up.  Olives and pickles are staple accompaniments of this Maghrebi country.

Chiayi’s Turkey Rice (Taiwan)

When I crave turkey, not many countries come to mind.  For sure, the US does, for its Thanksgiving meal.  Also, the Yucatán in Mexico, where it’s quite common to find guajolote (“turkey” in Mexican Spanish) on a menu. But, how about Taiwan?

Chiayi (Jiayi-嘉義) - Train Station A few years ago, while on my way to a friend’s wedding, I was visiting Chiayi, a small Taiwanese city sandwiched between Taichung and Tainan, in the central western part of Taiwan.  As far as Taiwanese cities go, it’s quite typical – you’ve got your mopeds and scooters, giant signs, and bustling food markets – but there is one particular food that stands out. Turkey rice, or 火雞飯 (火鸡饭).  Amusingly, turkey in Chinese translates as “fire chicken.”

Chiayi (Jiayi-嘉義) - Turkey Rice (鶏肉飯)

Although turkeys were introduced to present-day Taiwan by Dutch colonists in the 1600s, it was only in the 1950s that they really took off on Chiayi menus.  Apparently, some liaisons with the former Chiayi US air force base were longing for a taste of home, a longing which inspired local chefs to add it to bowls of rice. In Taiwan, I would generally make a beeline for oyster pancakes and pineapple cakes, but the turkey rice proved to be an amusing if unexpected find in the crowded field of Taiwanese specialties.

Menorca, Spain Is A 2022 European Region for Gastronomy

Along with Trondheim-Trøndelag, Norway, Menorca earned the recognition of European Region of Gastronomy for 2022, as voted by the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts, and Tourism (IGCAT). IGCAT is a non-profit organization formed in 2012 with four primary goals:
  • Empower People and Engage Citizens
  • Instill Local Pride
  • Support Local Communities
  • Create Ambassadors and Inspire Young Generations
Although it had been chosen at an event in Brussels in 2019, since the tourism outlook for Spain is improving with regards to COVID-19 – and, they are planning to open to fully vaccinated tourists on June 7th – I decided that this would be a good first post for FindingFoodFluency. In spite of its small size – Menorca being 43 times smaller than Belgium – this Balearic island in the Mediterranean is home to more than 300 food producers, and more than 1800 businesses in the food industry, including hotels, restaurants, bars, and distributors. You may also be interested to know that its capital, Mahon, lent its name to one of the world’s most popular condiments, mayonnaise.
h/t to https://www.hosteltur.com/133501_menorca-ya-es-la-region-europea-de-la-gastronomia-2022.html
%d bloggers like this: