Posts Tagged ‘food’

A Taste of Morocco: Recipe from CultureGrams

One of the best (and definitely the most delicious) ways to experience a new culture is by sampling the local cuisine! On a recent trip to Morocco, I seized every opportunity I had during my short stay to experience the many sights, smells, and flavors of Fez. My first stop was at a little restaurant where I was served a little bowl of spiced heaven, called harira. Many people have heard of Morocco’s famous chicken tagine and couscous but harira, a traditional Moroccan soup made from lamb, lentils, and chickpeas, is equally authentic and delectable.

With over 1,000 recipes from around the world, CultureGrams makes it possible for users to experience a new culture in their very own kitchens. Feeling adventurous as well as hungry? Try out this authentic Moroccan Harira recipe from CultureGrams and bon appétit! Or as they say in Morocco, Sahten! (صحتين), which literally means “two healths.”

Harira is the traditional meal eaten to break the fast during Ramadan; it usually is served with dates, figs, and special sweets called chabakiya. Photo by Jenni Boyle



1 pound lamb, cut in small pieces
1 small onion, minced
1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight (or from a can)
2 pounds canned crushed tomatoes
2 quarts water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
6 to 7 strands saffron (soaked in a few tablespoons of hot water)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper
2/3 teaspoon ginger
1 cube bouillon (optional)

Other ingredients:
1/3 cup lentils
1/2 lemon
1/4 cup rice
1/4 cup broken up angel hair pasta
1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons flour
1 egg

1. Cook the lentils in salted water. When done, drain them and squeeze the lemon over them. Set aside.
2. Cook all of the broth ingredients in a soup pot over low heat for 50 to 60 minutes, or enough time to cook the meat and the chickpeas.
3. Add the rice, pasta, cilantro, and salt. Allow to simmer another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Mix the flour with a little water to form a paste and then add this to the soup a little bit at a time; stir constantly to avoid lumps.
5. Add the lentils and let cook for another 5 minutes. Harira should be creamy but not thick. If it is thick, add water and cook for a few more minutes; if it is too thin, thicken with more flour-and-water paste.
6. Some break an egg into the soup during the last 5 minutes of cooking and mix it well to keep it liquid.
7. Serve in bowls with lemon wedges on the side for those who want to add it to their soup.

Have you ever tried making a recipe from CultureGrams? Tweet us @CultureGrams and lets us know how it turned out.

Asian Inspiration!

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The populations and cultures of this diverse ethnic group have enriched the national landscape and inspired popular culture in so many ways. Let’s take a look at some.


Many Americans enjoy Asian cuisine. Chinese dumplings, Chinese fried rice, Thai pad thai, Thai curry dishes, Japanese sushi, Japanese tempura, Korean kimchi, Indonesian satay, Vietnamese pho, Filipino adobo…the list could go on and on. The depth and vastness of Asian cuisine certainly can’t be covered in a blog post!

Japanese Sushi Bento Box

Japanese Sushi Bento Box (Public Domain) [by Binh Giang, via Wikimedia Commons] via Wikimedia Commons

Suffice to say that the (somewhat Americanized) Asian cuisines we know today crossed the ocean with the first immigrants to the United States. The dishes we enjoy today in America were likely inspired by immigrants who maintained their eating traditions and shared them with Americans who were intrigued by these new and exciting foods. Chinese food started to become popular in the 1920s—the first Asian cuisine to make its mark in the United States. Many American Chinese dishes can trace their origins to immigrants from the rural region of Toishan, near the city of Canton, during the late 19th century.

Art and Entertainment

Japanese art and culture have been inspiring Western imagery for more than a century. Japonism, first coined in 1872, refers to the impact of Japanese aesthetics on Western culture, particularly Europe. Impressionism, for example, was greatly influenced by Japanese art. The Japonism movement made its way overseas to the United States and is celebrated in museums around the country.

Nowadays, take a peek in any toy store or watch any animated children’s program and you will see the influence of Japanese art on American youngsters’ popular culture. Many stuffed animals, dolls, figurines, and action figures embody the artistic sensibilities of Japanese anime (Japanese animation) and manga (Japanese comics). Clean lines, exaggerated features, and emotions, and very stylized backdrops and characters are a few of the many anime and manga features that inspire American popular culture.

Japanese masks

Japanese Masks (Public Domain) [via Wikimedia Commons] via Wikimedia Commons

Adults seem to love anime and manga, too! These art forms—and the toys, art, tv, film, and culture that they inspire—are not only for kids but for adults, too! Some Hollywood films are derived from Japanese manga or anime stories or imagery, such as The Matrix and Avatar. And the Japanese trend of Cosplay—dressing up and acting like characters from graphic novels, video games, films, or television shows—has become very popular among some adults in the U.S.


American alternative medicine and healthcare practices have embraced Asian wellness modalities, such as yoga, herbal medicine, acupuncture, and feng shui. These and other practices have changed the way many Americans view health and wellness. The concepts of qi (energy) and yin/yang (opposing forces, such as dark/light or feminine/masculine, create balance) has powerfully shifted approaches to medical treatment and theories of healing.

These are simply a peek into the massive influence that Asian cultures and traditions have had on American culture. Curious about more? Be sure to check out this month’s SKS Spotlight of the Month on Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.