The Mohinga Quiz

This morning, my son asked me an interesting question.  “When you think of Vietnamese food, what do you think of?”  We both like Vietnamese food, so it seemed like it would be easy to reel off a list.



“Spring roll.”

“Banh mi.”

A long pause followed.  It seemed we were not as ethnically food-savvy as we thought.  With a bit of thought, we might have been able to come up with summer rolls, a clay pot dish, lemongrass pork/shrimp/chicken – or  Vietnamese iced coffee –  but the fact is, it was a slim haul any way you look at it for two people who profess to love Vietnamese cooking.

We all have cuisines we know very well and less well.  It’ll probably come as no surprise that I can give you 10 indisputably Chinese dishes without even thinking about it: wonton soup, pork dumplings, ma po tofu, dry-fried string beans, lion’s head, “ants on a tree”, kung pao ji (Kungpao chicken), chow fun, red-braised pork belly, xiao long bao, zha jiang mian; I could go on, and they’re all dishes I’ve made as well as eaten.

On the other end of the spectrum are cuisines where I only really knew one dish, like Brazil and feijoada, or two, like Belgium’s carbonnade flamande and…er…French fries.  And though I remembered there was a national dish of Burma/Myanmar I once recipe-tested, and that it had chickpea flour in it, I couldn’t for the life of me come up with the name.  Isn’t it odd to imagine, in this day and age, that there are countries whose foodways are so unfamiliar to us that we can’t even name their most famous dish?  But, anyway, it only took seconds to find out (thanks, 21st century!)

Mohinga – that’s what we’ll call it.  The Mohinga Quiz”.   

You can take the Mohinga Quiz by trying to name the national dish of as many countries as you can.  Or you can take the Mohinga Quiz by naming as many dishes as you can from one cuisine you think you know well.  Let’s call 5 a good score and 10 an excellent one.

Does it matter how many you can come up with on the spot, in a world where the answers are just a couple clicks away?  Does it matter that you won’t get a little badge or title to share on Facebook (“You’re a Global Nomad!” “You’re a Cosmopolitan Gourmand!“), like you would in a Buzzfeed quiz?  ‘Course not – not really.

But you might come out of it with a new bucket list of delicacies to try – and an incentive to pick something other than the excellent tikka masala at your local Indian joint.  Go ahead – what’s to lose?!

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  • darcie_b  on  June 17, 2014

    I think it's like a foreign language – different levels of fluency. I'm pretty fluent in Italian, German, and French cuisines, but I'm haltingly bad at most others. I do buy cookbooks that go beyond my normal range, but I always seem to return to the familiar, often because of time constraints. Maybe I need to crack open a few of those books again…

  • Rinshin  on  June 18, 2014

    I often tell my husban which country I'm concentrating for dinner instead of what I'm making. I get bored eating same type of cuisines.

  • lsgourmet  on  June 18, 2014

    I tend to immerse myself in a cuisine for a while, several months for some, and then move on to the next country. I was very heavy into Indian food for almost a year, the cuisine is so varied I didn't have a chance to get bored with it. But, this year I've moved to Korean. I drive my husband crazy because I'm always looking for the next dish and he always wants to go back and do certain ones over and over again. I love the quiz idea, I did well, now I'm going to test the SO.

  • lesorelle  on  June 21, 2014

    Love the issues this post raises… and who knew Burma had chickpea flour?

  • ellabee  on  June 21, 2014

    Indexing cookbooks for EYB has made it much easier to bring to mind ten Thai, Italian, Middle Eastern, and German dishes than I'd have found it a few years ago. From just cooking, I've acquired that 'fluency' for Mexican recipes.

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