World Cup Cook-off: Mexico & Japan!

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Nadia Baram and Pedro Meyer

This week The Global Table’s World Cup Cook-off takes us to Mexico, where photographer couple Pedro Meyer and Nadia Baram have made a famous dish – tortilla soup – from that country.

Pedro, who exhibits around the world and is renowned for having been one of the pioneers of digital photography, has a special connection to the Eastern Cape and South Africa. He spent several weeks here in 2002 to contribute to the iconic ‘A Day in the Life’ documentary series, which took leading photographers from around the world to every corner of Africa. Pedro’s time was spent in the Eastern Cape’s former homelands of Transkei and Ciskei, and Salvelio was lucky enough to accompany him and act as a guide of sorts on the trip.

Nadia, Pedro’s fiancé, is a talented photographer in her own right and works closely with Pedro on his now famous Zone Zero website.

“Pedro is an excellent cook – he makes the best boiled eggs I’ve ever tasted,” she quips before adding: “As a young Jewish grandmother in the making, I take great pride in my cooking.”

Tortilla soup is one of the dishes the couple enjoys preparing for an informal lunch with friends.

“It’s simple, easy, and yet out of the ordinary,” says Nadia. “We always end up having more than one bowl, and skipping the rest of lunch. Make sure you plan accordingly, and either serve it on its own, or else have something very light as a second dish.”

Nadia says the dried chili (called Chile Pasilla in Mexico) gives the soup a very strong and fragrant flavour.

When not concerned about gaining any weight, you can also add pork rinds for extra crunch.

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Nadia and Pedro's tortilla soup.

Tortilla Soup – The Recipe


1/2 cup vegetable oil; 1 white onion, chopped; 2 cloves of garlic; 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro (coriander leaves); 5 fresh tomatoes; 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin; 4 cups of chicken stock; salt & pepper; 4 corn tortillas (if not available, substitute with flour tortillas, or use corn taco shells); 1 dry red chili (you can also use chipotles chilies, for a smokier flavour); 1 avocado, diced; 1/4 cup of fresh white cheese, cut in small pieces; 2 teaspoons lime juice; a few dollops of sour cream.


In a frying pan, heat up 1 tablespoon of oil.  Add the onion, garlic and coriander. Sauté for 10 minutes until golden brown.

In a blender combine the sauteed mix plus the tomatoes, until they are soft.

In the same frying pan heat up another tablespoon of oil.  Add the tomato mix and the cumin.  Stir for 5 or 6 minutes until it becomes thick and darkens in colour.

Pour the mix into a large pot and add the chicken stock.  Put a lid on top, but don’t close it completely, and let it boil slowly for about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

While the soup is cooking, cut the tortillas into thin slices.  Fry them with a bit of vegetable oil until they are golden and crunchy.

In a small pan, toast the chili for about 7 minutes, allowing it to become fragrant. Stir often so the chili doesn’t burn.

To serve, pour the soup into warm bowls and decorate with the tortilla strips, bits of toasted chili, avocado squares, cheese and sour cream.

World Cup Cook-off: Japan

Picture: Salvelio Meyer

Amy Shelver and Caleb Eastwood. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

Our World Cup Cook-off contribution from Japan comes from Caleb Eastwood and Amy Shelver, two Port Elizabeth journalists who spent many months living and teaching in Japan, but have now returned to their home town of Port Elizabeth. During their time in that country the couple fully immersed themselves in Japanese language, culture and cuisine, and have kept up many of these traditions in their own home. Caleb says the Japanese noodle dish they have chosen to prepare for The Global Table is a casual, modern-style version of a classic soba noodle dish, which traditionally would be considered a country meal.

“Japanese cooking is changing; it has had to evolve like everything else,” says Caleb, who greatly favours the subtlety most classical Japanese dishes are known for. However, the couple recognises the need to adapt some of the dishes to unaccustomed palates when serving them here in South Africa – hence their decision not to serve their soba noodle dish below with a raw egg floating on top, as is customary back in Japan!

Picture: Salvelio Meyer

Japanese soba noodle dish. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

Tsukimi Soba – The Recipe

Serves 4

Tsukimi means ‘moon viewing’ in Japanese, and this dish has been so named because the egg in it resembles the full moon. These types of noodle dishes with their characteristic raw egg toppings are broadly called ‘tsukimi’, and Caleb and Amy say there are countless variations, not only in the toppings but also in the type of noodle used.  The basis of this dish are soba or buckwheat noodles, which are readily available in the Asian section at Woolworths nowadays, as well as a classic Japanese stock known as dashi, which is make from kelp and shaved bonito flakes. You should be able to get dashi granules, mirin or raw rice wine and the other Japanese ingredients needed for the dish at either The Vegetarian Centre or The Rice Bowl, both in Newton Park, Port Elizabeth.


3 servings of dried soba (buckwheat) noodles (this will be sufficient for four people); 6 cups prepared dashi stock (use about 1/2 a teaspoon of the dried stock granules for every cup of water); 1/3 cup of Japanese soya sauce (eg Kikkoman); 2 Tbsp mirin or raw rice wine; 1/2 tsp salt; 2 eggs, boiled and halved; 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, chopped; 1 Tbsp fresh garlic, chopped; 1/2 a punnet (125g) of fresh shiitake mushrooms; 3/4 cup of spring onions, chopped; bit of sunflower oil for frying.


First prepare your dashi stock liquid according to the instructions above. Heat it, along with the soy sauce, mirin and salt, in a large soup pot. Keep it very hot but not boiling, as it will later be poured over the cold noodles.

To prepare the noodles, bring some water to the boil in a separate pot. Add a little salt and add the dried noodles, cooking them according to the package instructions. Be very careful not to overcook them, as they are rather delicate – 3 minutes should be sufficient. You don’t want them to boil too briskly either – you can prevent that by adding a bit of cold water to the pot several times during the cooking time. Drain the noodles and chill them in cold water straight away, so they retain their delicate texture. Dish the noodles up into four bowls and set aside until the other parts of the dish are ready.

To make the topping, heat the oil in a large frying pan and flash fry the garlic, ginger and mushrooms. Just let their flavours soften ever so slightly, before adding the spring onions and sauteing for a further minute or two. You don’t want to overcook this mixture; the mushrooms must still have a bit of give and the onions must retain their vivid green colour. Set aside.

To assemble the dish, ladle some of the dashi mixture (which must be very hot but not boiling) over the noodles in each bowl; top each bowl with the mushroom and onion mixture, then position half a boiled egg in each dish. Serve straight away.

Next week on the World Cup Cook-off: Brazil!

Don’t miss The Global Table next Saturday when our World Cup Cook-off takes us into the home of Lucy Hudek, a Brazilian-born Bay resident who will be demonstrating how to make that country’s national drink – a caipirinha with kick!

We still need people with an association to the following Fifa World Cup participating countries to contact us with their favourite recipe ahead of the 2010 kick-off in South Africa in June!

So, if you have lived in or visited any of these countries, or are currently living there but originally come from the Eastern Cape or Garden Route, OR if you are originally from one of these countries but now living in our neck of the woods, then we want to hear from you! Simply send your details to! Our aim is to have two recipes per week, representing each of the 32 nations – including South Africa – that are participating in the World Cup!

Countries we still need a recipe for include the following: Serbia; Denmark; Cameroon; Paraguay; Slovakia; Ivory Coast; Korea DPR; Honduras; Chile; Switzerland; Algeria; Slovenia; Uruguay; Korea Republic; Nigeria.

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