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5 International Cuisines

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New Year is always a good time to start new things and the beginning of a brand new calendar year satisfies that urge to start things just the right way . So safely assuming we are all foodies here, how about making a resolution to try out various cuisines of the world this year? Now while one is mentally running a checklist of all the different cuisines one has tried and tested, let me clarify that the aforementioned trying out has to be carried out in one’s own kitchen.

Committing to a foreign cuisine has to be scary, when one considers the various aspects such as availability of the ingredients, budget, recipes and new/ unfamiliar techniques.  Whereas Market globalization, Internet and Information Age has taken care of the most problematic aspects, the only hurdle to  overcome has to be the budget. Well, cooking in my own kitchen has to be definitely more wallet-friendly than eating out, from my own experience. So, if you are sold on making this resolution your own, lets venture out and get acquainted with a few cuisines.

1. Chinese: While what we get in the streets and fast food joints might be favored more than the authentic fare, it is no secret that Chinese cuisine features a harmonious, refreshing and very balanced cuisine, in its flavours and textures. Also, Chinese cooking is very similar in ingredients and cooking styles closer to home, in their variety of regional fare and their grand family dinners. If contrasting textures, minimal cooking and freshest ingredients is what makes one happy about their meals, then Chinese cuisine is a must-try. Buddhist monks who were forbidden to eat meat, developed a huge variety of dishes using vegan ingredients like bean curd and wheat gluten to create variety in their meals. So, that means no excuses if you are a vegetarian. Authentic Chinese meals caters to all.
Best Cookbooks to get started:

  1. Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo
  2. The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen by Grace Young
  3. Wei-Chuan series of books on Chinese Cookery.

2. Italian: While the total number of Italian dishes we know can be counted on the fingers of our hand, underrated and insanely delicious items like Pasticcio, Osso Bucco and Fish Soup are lost under demands for Pizza and Pasta. Italian diets are rich in proteins, carbs and vegetables and oodles of heart healthy fats. Also, veggies made Italian style are a great way to refresh your meals and a delicious way to step out of your routine way to cook vegetables.
Best Cookbooks to get started:

  1. Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
  2. Simple Italian Food by Mario Batali
  3. Cooking with Italian Grandmothers by Jessica Theroux and Alice Waters.

3. Middle Eastern: The Mediterranean Diet has been approved by foodies, doctors and the diet-conscious alike  as one of the tastiest ways to eat healthy. Though the cuisine feels incomplete without a course of meats, the vegetarian fare offered are too good to pass up. (Think hummus, falafels and pita!) The meals are rich with nuts, beans and whole grains that fills one up and good for health too. Lebanese, Israeli, Iraqi…the list is long and every exotic pick is an equally great start.
Best Cookbooks to get started:

  1. Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook
  2. Classic Lebanese Cuisine by Chef Kamal Al-Faqih
  3. Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

4. Thai: Imagine taking a walk in a tropical garden. You inhale the warm breeze and pleasntly discover notes of lemongrass, basil, ginger and maybe a hint of coconut milk. That is exactly what Thai cuisine is like! fresh herbs, aromatic spices and rich flavours together gives one the least culture shock when trying on new cuisines. Fresh vegetables, seafood and meat are used in this cuisine. If the beautiful appearances of a well-made Thai meal doesn’t seduce you, the harmonious flavours will!
Best Cookbooks to get started:

  1. Thai Food by David Thompson
  2. Thailand: The Beautiful Cookbook by Panurat Poladitmontr
  3. Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand by Andy Ricker and JJ Goode

5. French: Last, but definitely not the least is French Cuisine. Friendships have been broken, families split and spouses in cold war- all over the argument whether French Cuisine reigns the others or not. We might never know, but we can surely try to figure out what the hoopla is all about. Delicate flavours, masterful techniques and distinctive ingredients together make French Cuisine a must in every foodie’s bucket list and a challenge one could proudly take up. Once this challenge is taken up, it is amazing to see how much you learn about cooking with a whole new set of eyes, ears and perception. It won’t be easy for the home chef but it is always reassuring to know that a lot have embarked on this path and have left plenty of notes to the ones following their footsteps.
Best Cookbooks to get started:

  1. Mastering the Art of French Cooking 1 & 2 (click here for Vol II) by Julia Child.
  2. The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller and Deborah Jones
  3. My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories by David Lebovitz.

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