Working with kids from all over Africa means I get to hear many stories, be introduced to new ways of living, and aside from many other things that those from Africa have to teach and offer us, the different styles of food enjoyed in Africa are certainly a major treat.
Now living within the North American culture, I find it very hard to answer the question, “what is Canadian food?” – Hamburgers, Poutine, Potato Chips? It seems very boring, but being in North America means we are able to adapt the styles of food from all over the world in our every day cooking. It’s an awesome thing to be able to be living in North America, and while being in Vancouver and being able to enjoy foods from Asian to Ethiopian to Nepalese and even local cultures means we are exposed to so many different styles of food from all across the planet.
This past week, one of the boys I work with at Camp, who has recently moved here from Sierra Leone invited myself and Sarah, the other intern I work at Camp with, over for dinner. I have in the past been over to some of the kids houses for dinner, so I was excited for this opportunity.
It was a great evening. I cooked some food that I will sometimes make at home, and his mother cooked some authentic African food for us and it was great to be able to eat in community together. We went to his house right after Camp, and his best friend joined us. ( a kid who also comes to Camp) With the two boys, and his mother, we ate together, two totally different styles of food, we ate, laughed and talked.
I made a fusion of Japanese and American style lettuce wraps. I’ve always tried to name this dish, mainly because it is sort of made up, and it changes every time I make it. If it were literal however, it would be a beef mixture atop coconut rice and butter lettuce wraps. When you think of North American food, ground beef is something I typically think of, and it’s got that texture and taste to it that makes it sort of unappealing. However, when mixed with the right spices, and flavors of foods, I think it’s pretty delicious, as did the boys. At a later part in this post, I will post a full detailed recipe on how to make this meal!
boys eating the beef and coconut rice – the lettuce was left out in this shot
What were we treated to? African Soup with chicken, peppers, rice, and various spices. It was one of the spiciest meals I’ve ever eaten, and I love spicy foods. One of the best parts about eating this meal, was how as I was sitting next to the boy I had been eating with, and he was wolfing down his food as if it weren’t spicy at all, meanwhile on the other hand I was struggling to get through each bite. It was incredibly delicious, and I am blessed to have been able to have been part of the evening with the family. They were very appreciative of the work we do with Urban Promise and Camp Hope, and were very persistent at trying to organize another meal later with more of the families who live in the area.
african soup on rice
Later as we were wrapping things up that evening, the boy’s mother had spent the day baking a delicious sweet African Bread, and insisted it was a gift to take home to share with others. It was so delicious, I can’t even explain. It was gone before I could snap a picture, but it tasted like a very sweet corn bread. It was a fantastic evening, and something I will hope that continues to happen in the future. To be able to share a meal, talk with a family, and get to know the kids better is what being an intern with Urban Promise is all about. Getting to know the kids and have them in my life is amazing, and as I teach them the Word of God, and spend my year, or longer with them, I know these things are pleasing to Jesus. I only wish I could enjoy this meal with every family, but this was special, and I am very grateful for such a pleasant evening.
Now as I mentioned earlier, here is the recipe to the meal that I made for the family this past week. I have put together the recipe, but before I get started, I need to throw a major shoutout to Joel Krahn, my housemate for over a year and a half now. He is currently in Photography School at VanArts, and is far and away the best photographer I personally know. He took all of the pictures for this recipe, so give credit where credit is due. I will leave you with a link to his website below!
The recipe and pictures are from a different cooking session of this meal, this isn’t from when I put it together for the family. I am simply just leaving this recipe for those who would ever like to make it for themselves. Eating in community is such a cool thing, and I think this quick easy meal is perfect for that.
Asian Fusion Beef & Coconut Rice Lettuce Wraps Recipe
Prep Time : 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
. 1.5 lbs of extra lean ground beef.
. 1 cooking onion
. 3 cloves of garlic
. 1 yellow bell pepper
. 1 orange bell pepper
. 1 stalk of green onions
. 1-2 thai chili peppers (optional)
. 1/2 tbs olive oil
. 1 tbs sesame oil
. 1 tbs soy sauce
. 3/4 cup hoisin sauce
. 2 tsp sriracha hot sauce. (optional)
. 1/2 tsp of fresh grated ginger (optional)
. 1 can of coconut milk
. 2.5 cups of jasmine rice
. fresh head of butter lettuce
. chili pepper flakes (optional)
What to Do with w/ What you Have -
Wash the rice first and foremost. If using a rice cooker, this would be a good time to put your rice on. In the cooker, add about 1 cup of water, and 1 can of coconut milk, and then mix it before cooking it. Leave it on, and it will be ready for when your meal is finished.
Mince the garlic cloves, and set aside. Dice the onion into a very fine size, and then set aside with the garlic. Also, dice the bell peppers, and de-seed the hot peppers then dice as well. Set all the peppers aside together, and the onions and garlic together.
If you want, you can also grate some ginger, half a teaspoon will suffice.
Throw your olive oil into a non stick frying skillet, turn it onto medium heat. Add the set aside garlic and onions, then turn to medium high heat.
When the onions start to caramelize, break apart the ground beef, and cook until brown. When the beef is completely cooked, put the mixture into a sift so you don’t loose any bits of beef or garlic and onion. Drain out all of the oil. Either wash the skillet, or use a new one, and return the mixture to medium high heat on the stove top.
Add the diced bell peppers, green onions and chili peppers now and cook for about 2 -3 minutes, then add the sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger (if using) and hoisin sauce.
For this particular dish, I used home grown green onions. Did you know if you take the roots (bottoms) of the green onions after cutting off the edible part of the stalk, and leave them in a cup of water on your window sill they will grow back to full length? Crazy. They were so delicious in this meal! I find this picture hilarious, but I thought I would show how well they grew out! This only took a week!
Once all of these ingredients have been added, cook all of this for about another 8-10 minutes, until the peppers are soft and caramelized. This will give the mixture so much more flavor and it will be very soft, yet thick. Adjust the heat accordingly making sure there is no burning. Meanwhile, wash and cut the lettuce so that it will be able to hold the rice and the meat filling. I used living lettuce, so first I cut the roots, wash it, and then tear it and the roots to form little circular wraps for the meal. You can use any other lettuce. I prefer butter lettuce because it’s soft, has great taste and compliments the meal so well.
Once the lettuce wraps have been washed, pat them dry with a cloth, tea towel, or whatever you prefer, and then take the rice out of the cooker, and set the table and enjoy the meal. To eat it properly, take a wrap, put some rice on it, put some beef filling, then for optional spice lovers, add some Sriracha sauce or extra chili pepper flakes!
And, finally, enjoy.
Check out Joel Krahn’s website here! http://joelkrahn.com/home.html