In a previous post, Enjoy The World At Your Dinner Table, I explained my family’s love for international cuisine combined with our desire to open our home in hospitality. I’d love to take this post to share with you some of my favorite recipes from around the world. My husband, children and I have adventurous palettes, so some of these recipes may be off the deep end for the traditional American table, but I hope that I can encourage you to reconsider what ‘normal’ is. Even if we never make the same recipe again (because nobody liked it), we are sharing in an experience that brings our family closer together and allows us the freedom to verbalize what our true likes and dislikes really are. We can’t say that we don’t like Cuban food or Ethiopian food or Iraqi food if we have never tried it, now can we?
This first recipe, Sarmale, was recommended to me by a Facebook friend from Romania. It is sour cabbage leaves (which can be found at any European or International foods store- they are in a glass jar) stuffed with sauteed onions, rice, ground pork or chicken and parsley. Place the rolls of stuffed cabbage in a large casserole, cover with tomato juice and bake for 1.5 hours. You can also add diced bacon to the layers of stuffed cabbage leaves to give the flavor an even greater depth. The stuffed sour cabbage is delicious paired with mamaliga, a Romanian polenta. I used parmesan cheese instead of cheddar cheese.
Two years ago, Tiffany, my eldest daughter, went on a 2-week trip to Haiti to visit orphanages and local schools. She told us about a common food in Haiti, Pastelon de Harina de Maiz, a type of cornmeal and ground beef casserole. Americans are familiar with Shepherd’s Pie (ground beef and vegetables topped with mashed potatoes); well, this one is the Caribbean’s version of that, you could say. This tastes really good with a simple green salad.
When you want to cook on a budget and don’t want to skimp on flavor, I recommend trying Egyptian Koshari. There is no meat in this dish, so it’s vegetarian-friendly. The main ingredients are lentils, macaroni, rice, onions and tomatoes. A Facebook friend from Egypt and fellow homeschool mother told me about Koshari and I’m glad that we tried it.
A little more time-consuming (if you want to prepare everything from scratch), Banh Mi is mouth-watering perfection! My husband watched a food show about Anthony Bourdain’s travels to Vietnam. According to Chow.com, “of all the dishes to result from the French influence on the Vietnamese culture, the banh mi sandwich is one of the tastiest. The baguette, mayo, and pork may be borrowed from French cuisine, but the addition of jalapeños and cilantro makes this decidedly Vietnamese fare.” You don’t have to bake French baguettes from scratch like my husband did though–and that will save you hours of work!
Pancit! I can’t recommend international cuisine without recommending pancit. This Filippino dish is made with rice noodles, meat (you can choose chicken, pork, shrimp, beef, or a combination), and various veggies. My husband learned to make this when he was in the Navy back in the mid-90’s and now that I have a Filippino daughter-in-law, we eat pancit almost on a monthly basis.
A Turkish friend recommended that I try Karniyarik, an eggplant dish that is stuffed with ground lamb or beef. This is also more time-consuming, so much so that when I went to the local Turkish market for ingredients, when I told the owner which dish I was preparing, she said, “Oh no…why did you choose this one to begin with?” I laughed and silently thought, “Why did my friend recommend this?!” But I did it, granted I took a few short cuts…The Turkish owner showed me a can of fried eggplant, so I was able to bypass the steps of peeling and frying all of the eggplant. It still tasted delicious. And if you live in the Knoxville area, I highly recommend bringing your business to Quality Turkish Market where they have also opened up a cafe in addition to their small store.
We love Middle Eastern food, especially when it is shared with friends in our home or theirs. One of the first times we had an Iraqi family over to our home for dinner, we prepared something that is similar to Chicken Biryani: Chicken With Caramelized Onion and Cardamom Rice. This dish has many variations throughout Middle Eastern countries. This particular recipe is from the Jerusalem: A Cookbook which I highly recommend. We served it with flatbread and tabbouleh.
One last favorite that is simple, flavorful and easy on the budget is a recipe from Bangladesh, Chotpoti. Don’t be scared off by the ingredients. Corn chips, garbanzo beans or split peas, hard boiled eggs, tamarind paste, ginger, cilantro, sugar, diced boiled potatoes, red onions, diced cucumber, diced tomato, chopped green chilies. You mix all of it together and the flavors are unbelievable.
I’m always looking for recommendations of new foods to try, so if you have anything you’d like to share with me, please do so! If it’s something easy, I’ll be sure to make it. If it’s something difficult, I’ll pass it on to my husband (cuz I can do that and he likes a good challenge). Bon Appetit!