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Intersection: Food & Politics With Hari Pulapaka

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Hari Pulapaka plates up a Somali beef stew. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Can hearts and minds be changed through the stomach? Chef Hari Pulapaka, who  owns Cress restaurant in DeLand, says after President Trump’s executive order on immigration he wanted to highlight the cuisine of the seven countries on the travel ban.

Next Sunday, Pulapaka will prepare recipes from the countries named in the executive order for 300 guests. They’ll sit down for a seven course meal at tables on the street outside Cress. 

90.7’s Matthew Peddie caught up to Pulapaka at his restaurant kitchen where he was working on a couple of dishes from Somalia and Iran.

Scroll down for recipes for the beef marak and polow.

Pulapaka says the idea is to “tell stories via the medium of food.”

He hopes the meal can be “a catalyst for further conversation and spreading the message of love through food, and not putting up walls, so to speak.”

Pulapaka says there’s been some backlash to his plan.

“We’ve gotten a good number of emails and phone calls from folks who’ve threatened to boycott our restaurant, and say they’ll never come back. Folks who tell me to go back home, go back with the immigrants. Don’t stay here, that sort of stuff,” says Pulapaka.

“But I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the amount of positive, encouraging feedback we’ve received dwarfs completely the negativity that’s come about,” he says.

Pulapaka rejects the notion that food and politics don’t mix.

“To say that it’s a mixing of two worlds that don’t necessarily belong together is not only a disservice, it’s actually harmful,” says Pulapaka.

“I think it promotes the idea that we in the food business are expected to just be servants. Just shut up and cook is often the message, you don’t have to talk about politics,” he says.

“That’s something I stand up against, the idea that we don’t have a voice because we’re workers.”

The whiteboard in Chef Hari's 'Global Kitchen'. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE
Maraq (Somali beef stew). Photo: Matthew Peddie / WMFE
Chef Hari at work. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE
Maraq & Polow plated up and ready to eat. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE
Hari Pulapaka. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Beef Maraq 

Cubed Beef Bottom Round (I used Ribeye)

Onions, diced

Assorted vegetables (I used potatoes, parsnips, radish)

okra (if available, I didn’t have it)

tomatoes chopped up

tomato paste

garlic, minced

cumin, ground

coriander, ground

sumac, ground (if available, I didn’t use this, but will)

cayenne, ground


water or beef stock

chopped cilantro

Click here for directions on how to prepare the beef maraq



Basmati Rice (washed, rinsed, soaked for 20 minutes), parcooked

onions, sliced (I used shallots)

garlic, minced

ginger, minced

bay leaves


whole cardamom

whole cloves

cinnamon stick

dried fruit (I used cranberries. Apricots and/or raisins are good)

walnuts (cashews are better)




Click here for directions on how to prepare the polow.

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About Matthew Peddie

Matt Peddie