Food on fire: The world’s best barbecues

(CNN)Americans are perhaps the standard bearers of the “barbecue.”

Come summer, US backyards and parks are full of people gathering around sauce-slathered chicken and other meats.
But famed as America’s grill skills may be, many would claim it can’t hold a glowing charcoal ember to the meat-charring culture of, say, Argentina or South Africa.
History isn’t clear on where the term “barbecue” comes from — one explanation is that it comes from “barbacoa,” a term used by Spanish explorers to describe the Caribbean’s indigenous Taino people’s cooking technique.
In any case, barbecue as we know it today covers multiple cooking methods: On grills, above fire pits, under the ground and in clay ovens.
There are regional variations and customs everywhere from South America to Africa to Asia.
Read on for further proof that the lip-smacking barbecue experience is a universal tradition, not just an American one.

Braai (South Africa)

The South African braai (“barbecue” in Afrikaans) is the nation’s top culinary custom.
Here, the frequent gathering of friends and family over grilled, juicy cuts of steak, sausage and chicken sosaties (skewers) cuts through all racial and socioeconomic lines.
And no place does “Sunday Funday” quite like the townships, where shisa nyama (“burn meat” in Zulu) venues elevate the braai experience with on-site butchers, cooks, drinks and party-starting DJs.
Chicago native and model Unique Love spent three years living in Cape Town and fondly recalls her first shisa nyama.
“Having a braai in Cape Town’s Mzoli’s Meat felt like home,” she says. “After eating, I never wanted to [leave] because the community’s ambience felt comforting.”

Asado (Argentina)



Though its place as the world’s top consumer of beef fluctuates each year, many would claim Argentina will forever be the grande dame of barbecued meats.
Like South Africa’s braai culture, Argentina’s affinity for the grill is more entrenched than in the States.
Attending a sociable, gut-busting asado (“barbecue”) on an almost weekly basis is the norm.
Though a variety of meats and cuts can be experienced at any gathering, Argentinian chef Guillermo Pernot insists: “For the absolute best asado, one should cook a sweet pork and beef sausage, sweetbreads, thigh intestines and blood sausages.”
Other asado tips from the two-time winner of the James Beard Award include using coarse salt to coat meats and to have the “indispensable” chimichurri — a sauce and marinade which usually consists of parsley, garlic, oregano, vinegar and chili flakes — at the ready.

Yakitori (Japan)

Yakitori, a Japanese favorite, consists of diced chicken assembled onto bamboo skewers and cooked over a smoldering layer of charcoal.
Yakitori variations are labeled by chicken parts (strips of chicken skin make up “towikawa” and “negima” consists of thigh meat with leeks).
Its definition has expanded to include any grilled, skewered food, including vegetables, seafood, pork and beef.
While there are several ways to enjoy authentic yakitori in Japan, travel blogger Tanya Spaulding shares her tips for maximum enjoyment.
“The best way to savor yakitori is either from a street vendor, or sitting on the floor in your yukata (a sort of summer kimono), cooking your skewers over the shichirin (a small charcoal grill) in the middle of your table,” she claims.

Churrasco (Brazil)



Barbecue enthusiasts with sizable appetites will love Brazil’s churrasco (Portuguese and Spanish for “barbecue”).
Most visitors to Brazil will get their barbecue fix at a churrascaria, where restaurant servers provide an endless supply of grilled meat cuts directly to patrons’ tables.
While Brazilian churrasco might be the most famous, it’s found in several other countries, including Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Portugal.
Dan Clarke, a tour specialist who frequents South America, believes Brazilian barbecues offer more options for vegetarians than neighboring, meat-loving Argentina.
“At an Argentinian asado, you’re really stuck with the salad and fries,” he says. “But it’s much better in Brazil because most churrascarias feature salad bars with dozens of kinds of fresh salads, pasta salads, pickles, breads, olives and all the other sides you could wish for.”

Lechon (Philippines)

Lechon (Spanish for “suckling pig”) features a whole, impaled pig spit-roasted over a charcoal bed or in an oven.
Many Filipinos declare the tasty, porky treat to be their national dish although the same claim is made by Puerto Ricans.
The lechon cooked in the Filipino island of Cebu is often considered the best in the country, if not the world.
Fun fact: Every June 24 in Balayan, Philippines, the locals pay a special, religious-themed homage to roasted pig at the Parada ng Lechon (Parade of Spit-Roast Pig).
It involves lechons getting blessed at a church mass followed by a lively parade of floats, music, water guns (for the baptism) and lechons “dressed” in outlandish garments and accessories.

Tandoor (India)

It’s true: that iconic Indian tandoori chicken you’ve known (and perhaps loved) for ages is considered a barbecue dish.
Tandoori food derives its name from the tandoor, the cauldron-like clay oven in which dishes such as naan bread, chicken, seafood and other meats are cooked under high-heat charcoal.
“The art of the tandoor originated centuries ago as a nomadic style of cooking in Central Asia [where] food was cooked on charcoal pits and meat was spit-roasted,” says Manjit Gill, an Indian celebrity chef behind several acclaimed restaurants including Bukhara in New Delhi.
“The Tandoori cuisine as we know it today was introduced in the late 1940s in post-partition India, when people discovered that it was a better medium to cook meat in a tandoor rather than on the spit.”

Mongolian BBQ (Taiwan)



“Surprisingly, despite the name, Taiwan is the origin of Mongolian barbecue,” reveals travel enthusiast and native Taiwanese Erin Yang, “[and] consists of the combination of sliced meat, noodles and vegetables quickly cooked over a flat circular metal surface.”
Mongolian barbecue is a relatively new food trend, emerging in Taiwan in the 1950s and influenced by Japanese teppanyaki and Chinese stir-fry.
It’s also popular in certain regions of China.
Beijing-based food and travel blogger Monica Weintraub says beef and lamb feature heavily in the north of the country.
“Whether you’re sharing a leg of lamb between four or five friends or ordering single lamb skewers (yang rou chuan), be expected to intake meat heavily doused in chili powder, cumin seeds and salt,” she says.

Lovo (Fiji)

Fiji’s barbecue tradition has more of an underground approach compared to other nations.
Erin Yang explains: “Unlike many other barbecue styles, Fijian barbecue is cooked in a ‘lovo,’ an earth oven.”
Lovo involves piping-hot stones placed into a large opening in the ground to allow slowly smoked cooking.
“Ingredients such as pork, chicken, vegetables, taro root and seafood are wrapped in taro or banana leaves and placed onto the stones,” Yang says. “After 2-3 hours, the savory lovo will be ready to serve.”
Unearthing the pit-smoked food is met with jubilation from feasters, perhaps due to the hours-long wait for the cooking to be completed.

Umu (Samoa)



Umu, Samoa’s version of the barbecue, is similar to the underground cooking customs of Fijian lovo.
Avichai Ben Tzur, a travel writer/entrepreneur who’s spent significant time in the South Pacific, describes barbecue prep work as a family task.
“Young men of the extended Samoan family gather together to prepare the ‘umu,’ hours before the traditional Sunday feast commences… catching fresh fish or slaughtering a pig, collecting taro leaves and breadfruit from the family’s agricultural plot and cracking open coconuts for the palusami.”
The palusami, a Samoan staple made of coconut cream (often seasoned with onions, lemon juice and simple spices) wrapped in taro leaves, is “a delicious calorie bomb that cannot be resisted by Samoans,” says Tzur.

Gogigui (Korea)

Gogigui (Korean for “meat roast”) is a favorite of both Koreans and international eaters.
Dining at a Korean BBQ usually consists of sliced beef, pork and chicken with an assortment of banchan (side dishes) and rice cooked in the center of a table, which is either cooked by the chefs or the diners themselves.
Should you choose to cook your own gogigui, “Masterchef Korea” finalist Diane Sooyeon Kang shares some tips.
“For thin slices of meat like chadolbaegi (thinly sliced beef brisket), you should lie it flat and cook it quickly for a few seconds on each side,” she says.
“For meats like yangnyeom galbi (marinated short ribs), high heat and fire will be best as it will caramelize the outside while keeping the meat juicy inside.”
Jessica Mehta, who’s lived in Korea for a year, suggests: “You’re not really having Korean BBQ if you don’t pair it with soju, a clear liquor somewhat similar to sake.”

Pachamanca (Peru)

Though Peruvian cuisine is known the world over for ceviche and Pisco sour cocktails, one of Peru’s most traditional Incan cooking customs, pachamanca, is still under the radar to many.
Pachamanca (meaning “earth pot” in the Quechua language) involves digging to create a ground oven and lining the cavity with fire-heated stones to cook the food.
A variety of potatoes, corn, legumes and marinated meats are enclosed in banana leaves and placed into the earth oven for hours.
Authentic pachamanca are served sitting on the ground, and mostly take place on special occasions (especially religious ceremonies) and during harvest time every February and March.

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Traditional Lasagna Is Good, But These Handheld Poppers Are Arguably Better

I would eat pasta for every meal if I could also maintain a normal weight. Alas, this is just a pipe dream.

One of my favorite Italian dishes is definitely lasagna. And while I’ve never been adventurous enough to make it in my own kitchen, I may actually give it a whirl in this reincarnation of the complex meal.


Not only do these lasagna poppers look absolutely delicious, they seem so much easier to make than a full pan of the savory dish. If you’re looking for a new snack to try for your next party, these should be on your list:

Here’s how to make these at home:


  • Canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup of minced onion
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 1/2 cups of marinara sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces of mozzarella
  • 4 sheets of ravioli
  • 1 cup of flour
  • Egg wash
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs


  1. In a pan heat some canola oil, the garlic, onions, and ground beef. Brown the meat and drain the excess liquid.
  2. Return the pan to heat and add marinara sauce and salt and pepper to taste. After thoroughly mixed, remove from heat and add the mozzarella.
  3. In a pasta pot, add some salt and the ravioli sheets. Cook 8-10 minutes.
  4. On a plate, cut the sheets lengthwise so you have two strips.
  5. Spoon some of the meat onto one end and roll the strip.
  6. Freeze the rolls for 10 minutes.
  7. Dip each roll in a bowl of flour, egg wash, and then bread crumbs. Repeat the egg and bread crumbs once.
  8. Freeze them again for 12-15 minutes.
  9. Cook in frying oil for four to five minutes, let cool, and serve with marinara sauce!

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How to cook the perfect kleftiko

This classic Greek dish needs some serious time and TLC. But the results are more than worth it

One of the undisputed classics of Greek cuisine, kleftiko is a special-occasion dish which showcases Hellenic cooking at its simple best. It demands no fancy ingredients or tricky techniques, just good raw materials and a good deal of patience. Said to be named after sheep-rustling bandits known as the klephts, who would cook their ill-gotten gains in underground pits to avoid detection, the success of the dish depends on long, slow roasting until the meat fairly falls off the bone. Thats handy, no doubt, when your knives were all engaged in more nefarious activity.

Though its no doubt at its best at a whitewashed island taverna, its also perfect for feeding a crowd when the circus of fire and knives that is our traditional Sunday roast feels like too much effort. Like many of the best summer dishes, kleftiko is happy to do its own thing while you get on with more important stuff such as sunbathing and drinking ouzo.

Rick Steins kleftico. Photograph: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

The cut of lamb

Most recipes I try call for leg. Rick Stein uses a whole one, while Sebastians Taverna in Corfu and Eli K Giannopoulos of the website My Greek Dish plump for pieces. The testing panel, however, is largely with Georgina Hayden, author of Stirring Slowly, who describes kleftiko as her achilles heel but calls for shoulder, as does Tonia Buxtons recipe.

Though leg looks impressive, and one tester prefers its relative leanness, everyone else feels like its a cut better suited to cooking fast and serving pink; the tougher, fattier shoulder, meanwhile, really benefits from slow cooking, becoming wonderfully juicy and rich. Its also cheaper, which is always a pleasing bonus.

Those short of time might prefer to use Buxtons leg pieces on the bone, which only need cooking for a couple of hours, though Im slightly of the opinion that this is a dish that deserves a bit of love, and youre probably better off making something else.

Georgina Hayden. Photograph: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

The cooking

While were on the subject of time, Giannopoulos marinates his leg steaks for 24 hours before cooking, which gives them a wonderfully deep flavour. If you dont have that luxury, however, rest assured that it will still be delicious.

Sebastians Taverna is the only recipe to braise the kleftiko on the hob, rather than baking it in the oven. Theres no doubt that this keeps the meat beautifully juicy, but it doesnt have the same intensity of flavour as the others, especially since the pieces are submerged in water. Adding less liquid, as Stein and Hayden recommend, gently steams the meat, so its moist, but still retains its distinctive flavour rely on its own juices, as Buxton does, and you get a great-tasting kleftiko thats just a touch dry.

Stein and Giannopoulos both bake their dishes at a high heat: 190C and 180C respectively, but for shoulder, I think Buxton and Haydens gentler 160C gives better, more tender results. Equally importantly, make sure its in a tightly sealed package, either in a heavy casserole dish, sealed with foil, as Stein recommends, or in a completely closed parcel of greaseproof paper sprinkled with water as in Haydens recipe, so no moisture can escape.

Though I suspect this is unorthodox, Giannopouloss final blast of heat, with the meat uncovered, does help boost the flavour, just as a melt-in-the-mouth sous-vide steak is made infinitely tastier by a brief dance on a hot grill.

Eli K Giannopoulos. Photograph: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian


The simplest recipe, from Sebastians Taverna, calls for nothing more than onions and garlic, and Hayden, though she uses more spice, sticks with garlic alone. But, as youve got the oven on anyway, it makes sense to cook a few vegetables at the same time. Stein, Buxton and Giannopoulos bulk the dish out with potatoes, which are gorgeously rich and soft after a few hours with a joint of lamb (and even better crisped up while the meat is resting as Giannopoulos suggests) make sure you get the waxy kind, or youll be left with mush. Everyone peels them, but I think theyre even more delicious left whole, whatever Greek grannies might think.

Stein and Giannopoulos both also add peppers, and, like Buxton chuck a few tomatoes in there for good measure, which not only look colourful, but, as with anything given such a treatment, taste great too. Theyre not absolutely necessary, but they do help make this dish into a one-pot treasure trove.

Garlic, however, is very much necessary and the sharp flavour of the crushed kind is so different from the mellow sweetness of the roasted variety that Im going to use it as both seasoning and vegetable. The sugary heat of Giannopouloss red onion works similarly brilliantly with the savoury lamb.

Stein adds crumbled feta to his kleftiko, inspired by the one served at a restaurant in Symi, and Giannopoulos goes for kefalotyri, a very versatile hard yellow cheese that, to my surprise, I find in the supermarket, though Ive never noticed it before. Both have a tendency, however, to dissolve into the vegetables, prompting one tester to discreetly remove several blobs of what she believed to be lamb fat before I set her right. Cheese and lamb are not, to my mind, a marriage made in heaven, but if you fancy adding some, do so right before serving.

Haydens recipe has a non-traditional twist right at the end its finished with a scattering of pomegranate seeds and mint tossed in a little red vine vinegar, which is a very pretty idea if you decide not to add any extra vegetables, and serve this with salads instead.

Sebastians Taverna. Photograph: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian


Oregano is an absolute must I find the dried kind stands up better to long cooking than the fresh leaves and a couple of bay leaves, as used by Buxton and Hayden, dont go amiss either. A little acidity in the form of lemon juice, rather than Giannopoulos white wine, helps to cut through the richness of the meat and potatoes, so you can keep going back for more. Best followed by a glass of raki and a nap in the shade of a gnarly fig tree.

Perfect kleftiko

(serves 6)
1 lamb shoulder, about 2kg
Olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 heads of garlic
2 lemons
1 kg waxy potatoes
1 large red onion
1 red pepper
1 bay leaf
12 cherry tomatoes

Rub the meat with oil. Sprinkle over the cinnamon, oregano and salt, and peel and roughly crush half a head of garlic. Rub all this into the meat with your hands along with the juice of one lemon. Cover and leave for 12 hours.

Heat the oven to 160C. Cut the potatoes into wedges and use them to line the base of a large lidded casserole dish (or use a roasting tin lined with enough parchment paper to fold over the top of the joint on both sides youll probably need two pieces at right angles). Cut the onion into wedges and the pepper into chunky strips, removing the seeds, then add the cherry tomatoes. Place the lamb on top. Cut the remaining garlic and lemon in half laterally, squeeze the lemon briefly over the potatoes, and tuck the shells and the garlic in around the joint along with the bay leaf. Pour 200ml water into the dish. If using a casserole dish, tuck a damp piece of greaseproof on top and cover, if using a roasting dish, sprinkle the overhanging paper with water and fold over and tuck in to form a sealed package. Bake for 4-5 hours until very tender.

Turn the oven up to 220C and roast, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes at this higher temperature, then lift the joint out and set aside. Put the vegetables back in for 15 minutes until starting to brown, then serve with the meat.

Kleftiko: Greek cooking at its best? Do you like to keep yours simple, or make it a meal in itself like this one? And what do you serve with it?

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App Lets You Buy Leftover Food From Restaurants And It’s Really Cheap

Here’s a situation where takeout is more cost efficient than cooking at home. 

Too Good To Go, an app operating in the UK, allows users to order leftover food at a discount from restaurants, according to the website. The goal is to help curb waste from establishments that typically toss out perfectly edible food at the end of the day.  

Users simply log in, pick a restaurant, and pay through the app.

Then they pick up their food at designated times usually around closing or after peak meal times, according to the Telegraph.

“Food waste just seems like one of the dumbest problems we have in this world,” co-founder James Crummie told Business Green. “The restaurant industry is wasting about 600,000 tonnes of food each year, and in the UK alone there are one million people on emergency food parcels from food banks. Why do we have these two massive social issues that are completely connected, yet there is not much going on to address them?”

Users also have the option to give meals to people in need by donating 1 British pound or more through the app, according to the website. More than 1,100 meals have been donated so far.


Founded in Denmark last year, Too Good To Go was launched this year in the UK and is expanding to other countries. The app is available in Brighton, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, and will be in London later this month. 

Food waste is a major problem worldwide. In the U.S. alone, up to 40 percent of food goes uneaten meanwhile one in six households didn’t have enough money for food last year.

Too Good To Go has already helped cut a significant amount of waste. So far, the app has saved 600 meals from landfills in the UK, reports Business Green.

Orders through the app cost between 2 British pounds ($2.60) to 3.80 British pounds (about $5), according to the website. 

Users aren’t able to the pick the food items, but they get an idea of the type of food that will be available, according to Business Green. 

To ensure the entire experience is super eco-friendly, Too Good To Go provides recyclable takeout packaging to participating restaurants, Grub Street reported. 


Restaurants using the app make extra revenue by selling food that would otherwise have been tossed, according to the Telegraph. And Too Good To Go itself makes money by taking a fee from participating restaurants on each sale.

Too Good To Go isn’t the first app to try to tackle food waste. In Spain, the Yo No Desperdicio app allows people to coordinate and exchange surplus food items with each other. In the U.S., the Food Cowboy app allows food distributors to redistribute “ugly vegetables” or produce rejected by groceries for purely cosmetic reasons to charities and food banks who need them.

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