Friday, April 11, 2014

Ah, Mexican food...

When people ask me about life in Rwanda, I tell them that there are many great elements of life here.  
  • I usually get enough exercise  because I walk everywhere and the work days are short enough that I have time to go for a run or do a workout video.   
  • Except for bread, porridge, Quaker oats, pasta, and flour, nothing is processed.  Everything is fresh and made from scratch.  The bread is freshly baked.  I eat lettuce and spinach harvested from our garden and avocados pulled from the school's trees.  I drink herbal teas made from lemongrass and mint, which are also taken from the garden.  I definitely get my daily recommended serving of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • The landscape is beautiful.  Green rolling hills, oftentimes terraced with fields.  Blue sky with white, puffy clouds.  Rainstorms that roll in and fill buckets of water in less than 10 minutes.  Tropical flowers, like hibiscus, that grow year-round.  Lake Kivu surrounded by hills.  Wow!  The natural scenery of Rwanda is hard to beat.
  • I live 5 minutes from a church that has two Masses a day and there is a chapel just next door to my house.   
  • The neighborly, community spirit is alive and well.  People encourage me to stop by for a visit anytime and they really mean it.  When I see people I know at Mass, in the city center, or in the street, we pretty much always great each other.  I am sure to get at least a verbal greeting but, more likely, a handshake or two-handed embrace with a three-touch head bump.  That last one is difficult to describe, but imagine the French cheek-kissing and replace it with touching the brows of the forehead three times while grasping the person's upper arms.  Some expats think it's awkward, but I like knowing that physical contact is expected.  When I greet someone in the States, I never know if a wave and "hello" suffices or if I should extend my hand or offer a hug.  I don't mind physical touch; I just don't want it to be awkward when it happens.
One thing that is missing, though, is food diversity.  As a native Californian, I love ethnic (even if it's Americanized) food: Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Indian, etc.  I miss Mexican food the most, which is why I keep trying to prepare dishes that will get close to the Mexican food I miss.  After some trial and error, I finally made a Mexican meal yesterday that was delicious!  If you want to try your hand making Mexican soft-shell tacos from scratch with Rwandan-only ingredients, here you go:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. oil
  • 2 c. warm water
  • 4 c. flour
  • Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Make a well and add oil mixed with water.  Add flour.
  • Mix and knead, then let sit for 5 minutes.  Make small balls, then roll them out with a rolling pin.
  • Put it in a really hot skillet for a couple minutes on each side.

2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 1/2 cups uncooked white rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup chunky salsa = 1 cup tomato sauce, 2 diced tomatoes, 1 tsp chili powder
Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Mix rice into skillet, stirring often. When rice begins to brown, stir in chicken broth and salsa. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes, until liquid has been absorbed.


2 avocados
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ripe tomato, chopped
1 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
Peel and mash avocados in a medium serving bowl. Stir in onion, garlic, tomato, lime juice, salt and pepper. Season with remaining lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Since I finally have cilantro plants in the garden, I added a few chopped leaves to the guac yesterday.  Chill for half an hour to blend flavors. 
Grow black beans in your garden since they can't be purchased in Rwanda.  After soaking them overnight, cook them and sliced onions in water for ~ 1 1/2 hours.  Serve without the juice.

Put everything together in the tortillas, along with shredded cheese, and voila, tacos that remind me of home!
An earlier attempt using corn-crepe tortillas and no guacamole.

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