Valentine's Day Around the World: 5 BBQ Traditions
When you think about Valentine’s Day, there are a few things that likely pop into your head: red roses, heart-shaped chocolates, teddy bears, and other similarly romantic gifts and treats.
However, ask someone else in the world to envision Valentine’s Day and you may get a much different response.
For instance, in Estonia, February 14th marks a day of friendship known as ‘Sobrapaev’—a festival which celebrates couples, singles, family members, and friends alike. In Japan, women give gifts to men on Valentine’s Day, and men return the favour on March 14th—aka ‘White Day’.
However, one thing that ties many of the global Valentine’s Day traditions together is food. After all, what is a celebration without good food and good people?
If you’re looking to get creative with your Valentine’s Day dinner this year, there are a variety of different traditional dishes you can try out. Given that travel is limited this Valentine’s Day, there has never been a better time to recreate global cuisine from the comforts of your own kitchen.
Read on to learn how Valentine’s Day is celebrated all over the world, and how you and your loved ones can replicate such traditions on the barbecue!
Great Britain’s Valentine’s Day Grilled Oysters
Photo and recipe courtesy of The Spruce Eats
On Valentine’s Day in Great Britain, couples celebrate their affection by indulging in delicious oysters. Now, these are not your regular oysters. Those in Great Britain prefer to dine on Pacific oysters on Valentine’s Day, which are produced on farms instead of the native species that is available year-round.
Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to get access to Pacific oysters, but that doesn’t mean you can’t partake in the tradition this Valentine’s Day. This decadent grilled oyster recipe will give you the same luxurious meal that those in Great Britain enjoy every February 14th.
Start by preheating your gas or charcoal grill, and set the fresh oysters on top of the cooking grate, cupped side down. Grill for about 5 minutes (add a couple minutes for medium to large oysters), or until the shells have opened and the oysters have become opaque. When the oysters have been properly cooked, use tongs or grilling mitts to remove them from the BBQ—be careful!
Remove the top shells from the oysters, and use a sharp knife to cut away the oyster from the inside of the shell. It will be a lot easier to eat—and share—that way.
For some extra flavour, you can top your oysters with a dollop of butter, some barbecue sauce, a pinch of your favourite seasoning, or, for a twist, a smattering of pesto. Regardless of the combination you choose, make sure to serve ‘em while they’re hot!
South Africa’s Sweet & Spicy BBQ Chicken Hearts for Your Valentine
Photo and recipe courtesy of Slap Yo Daddy BBQ
The heart is a common Valentine’s Day motif across the world, but it takes on particular significance in South Africa.
Like many countries, couples in South Africa celebrate Valentine’s Day with flowers, festivals and other customary elements that we are used to in Canada. However, the country also celebrates Valentine’s Day with an ancient Roman tradition known as ‘Lupercalia.’
In this tradition, women quite literally wear their hearts on their sleeves on Valentine’s Day: they pin the names of their lovers or love interests on their shirtsleeves. If you’re looking to grab the attention of someone special, this is definitely a direct way to do so!
To accompany the paper heart on your shirtsleeve, this unique heart-shaped chicken dish is the perfect pairing. Although making chicken into a heart shape may seem impossible, this recipe is a lot easier than it seems. All you need is three ingredients and a silicone heart-shaped mold.
Start by trimming skin-on chicken thighs of excess fat, and, if using bone-in thighs, debone the chicken. Then continue trimming so it starts to resemble a heart shape. For this, you may want to cut a v-notch in the top. Now, you don’t have to cut these chicken thighs into perfect hearts—they just have to be able to fit the heart-shaped mold properly.
Once you’ve fitted the chicken into your silicone pan, generously coat the thighs with your favourite rub. Grill over low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken has started to take the shape of a heart.
Remove the chicken from the grill, and carefully place each thigh into a foil pan. Cover with tin foil and cook for another 30 minutes.
When your chicken is perfectly cooked, slather it with some of your favourite barbecue sauce and set it back on the grill for 5 minutes to develop that perfectly sticky coating.
And voila! Your significant other is sure to know you made this dish with love.
Celebrate Argentina’s ‘Week of Sweetness’ with a Maple Cedar Plank Salmon
Photo and recipe courtesy of Vindulge
In Argentina, couples don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14th. Instead, they honour their love in the first week of July during ‘the week of sweetness.’ During this time, couples exchange kisses and sweet treats. Experts estimate that candy sales increase by 20% during the week of sweetness, and restaurants in Argentina book up quickly.
Whether you and your loved one want to recreate this tradition, or you both simply have a sweet tooth, this maple salmon recipe is basically like candy for dinner! The heat of your grill will caramelize the maple syrup glaze so it not only has the flavour of candy—as well as the texture of it.
To start creating this deliciously sweet dish, soak a cedar plank in water for 30 minutes. Pat the board dry after the time elapses. Then, prepare your BBQ for indirect grilling.
Now we’re going to move onto the rub. Combine brown sugar, chili powder, chipotle powder, cumin, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Coat the salmon generously with olive oil, and sprinkle some of the rub on top. (Don’t worry if there are leftovers).
Set the seasoned salmon on your pre-soaked cedar plank, and put it on your BBQ over direct heat for 15 minutes, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 120 degrees. Meanwhile, place a sliced lemon over direct heat and cook until char marks appear (about 4-5 minutes). Remove lemons from the grill.
After around 15 minutes, move the cedar plank salmon to the indirect side of the grill. Glaze with maple syrup and keep on grillin’ until the salmon reaches 130 degrees.
After you remove the salmon from the grill, it will continue cooking, so after 5 minutes of resting it will reach 135 degrees.
Splash some grilled lemon on top and enjoy!
Enjoy Smoked Chocolate Pot de Crème on Ghana’s National Chocolate Day
Photo and recipe courtesy of Vindulge
Although Canadians know of February 14th as ‘Valentine’s Day,’ those in Ghana commemorate this day as ‘National Chocolate Day.’
The celebration was actually created by the Ghanaian government in 2007 to increase tourism. As one of the largest cocoa-producing countries in the world, Ghana’s coveted cocoa beans are a delicious selling point for locals and tourists alike.
On February 14th in Ghana, couples and singles can attend performances and festivals, as well as dine at restaurants that have prepared chocolate-themed menus for the occasion.
If you want to celebrate National Chocolate Day this year, this recipe for mini smoked chocolate pots de crème is sure to win over the heart (and stomach) of your valentine.
First, preheat your smoker to 180 degrees. Then, move back to the kitchen to start preparing the dessert. Pour milk and heavy cream into a large, grill-safe bowl and set it on the smoker for around 45-60 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the cream starts to develop a smoky smell. Remove from the smoker.
Return to the kitchen and heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the milk mixture along with egg yolks, sugar, and salt. Whisk constantly until the mixture starts to thicken, about five minutes. Make sure the mixture doesn’t boil!
Next, place some chocolate pieces in a blender, along with the milk mixture. Blend until smooth.
To prepare your chocolate pots, get 8 ramekins (or small bowls) and divide the chocolate mixture between them. Chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours, or until set. Serve with chocolate shavings, a dollop of whipped cream, and any other toppings that you—or your significant other—enjoy.
At the end of the day, Valentine’s Day is all about finding ways to show your loved ones that you care for them, whether that be through cards, gifts, words, or in this case, food!
Show Your Canadian Sweetheart You Care with a 5-Star Steak
Photo and recipe courtesy of The Food Network
Here in Canada, Valentine’s Day is commonly celebrated over a fancy steak dinner, a tradition is especially popular in ‘cattle country’—aka Alberta. If you’re looking to stick to what you know this Valentine’s Day, you can never go wrong with a perfectly grilled steak. And with this recipe, you’ll be able to emulate a 5-star restaurant from the comfort of your home!
Cooking the perfect steak isn’t complicated, but there are a few important things every grillmaster must keep in mind. First, 20 minutes before cooking, set out your steaks in a covered container at room temperature.
Next, heat your BBQ to high heat. After 20 minutes have elapsed, brush the steaks with oil, and season with salt and pepper—don’t forget to do this on both sides! Set your seasoned steaks on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown and slightly charred.
Flip the steaks, and continue to grill based on how you want your steaks done. If you want medium-rare, cook for 3-5 minutes or until the steak has reached 135 degrees. For medium, grill for 5-7 minutes or until the internal temperature is 140 degrees. Finally, for a medium-well steak, cook for 8-10 minutes or until it reaches 150 degrees.
When you’ve grilled your steak to perfection, transfer them to a cutting board and place a piece of foil loosely on top. Let the steak rest for five minutes before slicing and serving.
- Taylor Mitchell