Continuing our series on foods from the around the world, in this installment we’re going to focus on the next segment of some of the most classic and inspiring dishes from a number of countries around the world.
If you haven’t already read the first chapter in this series, click here.
Italy – Pasta
Of course, the three foods we considered first and foremost were pizza, pasta, and gelato. In the end, we opted for pasta since pizza varies around the world, was first invented by the Chinese and is favored in many different ways: thin crust from New York to deep dish in Chicago – the pizza you find in the heart of Italy is far different than you’ll find in other parts of the world. The second one we discounted was gelato since it’s technically a dessert. Of course, the only other option was pasta, but which one do you choose? Do we pick a meaty bolognese, a filled pasta, an alfredo sauce, a marinara… There were too many options. Then, we needed to decide on a type of pasta: do we choose spaghetti, fettuccine, cannelloni, lasagna, vermicelli, ravioli… the choices seemed endless.
Finally, it clicked. Let’s just showcase a recipe to make the pasta. How you cut it is up to you and what sauce you serve it in is your decision.
Here is an authentic recipe for homemade pasta that I hope you’ll enjoy.
Pasta is incredibly easy to make at home, although it does help to have a pasta making machine. They’re fairly inexpensive so click here to buy one if you don’t already own one.
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling the pasta
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 large eggs
Large mixing bowl
Fork or dough whisk
In the mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt, mixing them together with a fork or dough whisk. Using your hands, create a deep well in the middle of the bowl and crack your eggs into the well. Using the fork, whisk the eggs until they’re well mixed. After the eggs are scrambled, start pulling the flour in from the bottom and sides of the well. This needs to be done fairly slowly but after a short while it will begin to form a dough. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t need all the flour.
On a clean counter space, turn the dough and begin folding it and kneading it into itself. At first it will be very soft but as you continue kneading it, the dough will start to develop a firmness. If the dough sticks to your hands or the counter, add some flour to it. Once you think it’s been kneaded long enough, take a sharp knife and slice into it. If it still has lots of air bubbles keep kneading it. Otherwise, it should be a smooth elastic ball of dough with very few air bubbles in it.
Leave the dough for a moment and clean your mixing bowl. After washing it, make sure it’s well dried and place the ball of dough back inside it. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter for about half an hour. Once it’s sat for 30 minutes take the dough and refrigerate it for 24 hours. Remove the dough from the fridge and let it come back to room temperature.
Once it’s back at room temperature, sprinkle a baking sheet with four and remove the dough from the bowl, placing it on the sheet. Note: it will be sticky, and you may need to scrape it from the bowl.
Divide the dough into four equal portions, dusting each portion with flour so it doesn’t stick to itself or the roller. Cover it with the clean dishtowel.
Using your pasta machine, set it to the thickest setting that in most, but not all, cases is marked “1”. Flatten one of the portions of dough into a thick disc with your hands and feed it into the roller. Continue to roll it twice before folding it into thirds, the way you would a piece of paper, and press it again using your hands. With the machine still on the “1” setting, feed it crosswise between the rollers another two or three times until the dough is smooth. It’s this process that strengthens the gluten in the dough that results in a nice chewy pasta.
As you continue to feed the pasta, change the setting on the roller continuing to roll it thinner and thinner. Take your time here and don’t rush it or skip settings. Roll it at least two or three times on each setting. Rushing it will cause the pasta to snag in the machine. If the pasta gets too long to manage, just cut it in half using a sharp knife. The pasta should be as thick as the typical store bought pasta of your choice is.
Once it’s thin enough, take the long stretched dough and cut it into the length of noodles you desire – roughly a foot long. If you’re making a filled pasta shell or lasagna, this is the time to shape it. If you’re cutting the pasta, switch from the roller to the cutter on your pasta machine and run the pasta through the desired cutter setting. Toss the pasta in some flour to keep them from sticking and loosely place them in a bowl or basket. Cover the bowl with a towel while you finish rolling and cutting the rest of the dough.
Pasta is best when it’s fresher, but that doesn’t mean you can’t freeze or dry it for later. If you are going to use it immediately, bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil and cook it for about 4 minutes until it’s al dente. If you plan to dry it, drape the pasta over a rack and let it sit until it’s completely hard. You can store the pasta for a few weeks in an airtight container. If you plan to freeze it, lay it flat on a baking sheet until it’s completely frozen and transfer it into an airtight container where it can remain frozen for a couple of months. Keep in mind that frozen pasta takes a few minutes longer to cook.
Japan – Sushi
Japanese cuisine is some of my favorite, especially well prepared, fresh sushi. While I enjoy fish of all kinds, my favorite fish is when it’s served raw. Japan offers many delectable dishes as part of their eclectic cuisine, but none seems to be as globally popular as sushi. Here’s an authentic recipe for maki (inside out) sushi.
Important Note: Any fish you intend to serve raw MUST be sushi grade, fresh and properly prepared. To learn more about preparing sashimi grade fish, including the farming process, types of fish, and food safety handling practices; click here to read our Fish and Seafood Guide.
High quality fish or shellfish
2 2/3 cups sushi rice
2 1/2 cups water
3 tbs. rice vinegar
2 tbs. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Unsalted dried seaweed sheets
Vegetables such as cucumber and carrots
Salmon roe (or osetra caviar for a more refined taste)
Bamboo sushi mat
To make the rice, you need very specific sushi quality rice that can be found in any Asian supermarket or the appropriate section at your local grocery store. The actual rice is called Japanese white hulled rice and it’s a high quality short grain that is sticky and sweet. However, most packages today are also labeled “sushi rice”. I really recommend going to a store that specializes in Japanese cuisine. The reason for this is that you’ll find the highest grain rice at these stores which are typically what the best sushi restaurants are using. The quality of the rice in sushi can make or break the roll. If you can’t find sushi rice or live in a small town without a large grocery store, your next best option is Dongbei rice from China.
Many people opt to cook rice the old school way using a pot on the stove, but when it comes to sushi you really need to be careful to cook it properly. This is why I always use an actual rice cooker. If you don’t own a rice cooker, you can buy the same one I use at home by clicking here.
Before you actually place the rice into the cooker or pot, you want to soak it in a large amount of cold water to agitate the rice and remove any of the particles such as dirt and starch that cause the water to become a cloudy gray. It doesn’t take long to do this. Once the rice is cleaned, strain it and place it in the rice cooker. Add the water to the rice and turn on the cooker, leaving it covered and undisturbed until it’s finished cooking.
At this point you might want to consider prepping your vegetables and fish. After washing the vegetables, cut them into long thin strips about the length of the seaweed sheets. Do the same with your shellfish or fish. I particularly recommend using fresh shellfish such as crab as opposed to canned lump meat. You can really taste the difference.
Some of the fish and seafood I enjoy using the most includes crab, eel, salmon, tuna and octopus. I find that these are commonly found in various sushi rolls and are easy to manage but taste great. I especially like using eel. For more information on how to prepare eel, I suggest watching this video:
Once your rice is fully cooked, take two clean towels that have been dampened with cold water but are no longer wet. Lay one flat on your prep area and spread the hot rice over it in a layer. Don’t include any rice you need to scrape, as we don’t want anything that’s been burned or even browned. Once the rice is evenly layered on the cold towel, take another cold towel and place it over top. This will help cool the rice down without it drying out. It shouldn’t take more then an hour.
Once it’s cooled, take the vinegar, salt and sugar and combine it in a pot. Heat the mixture, constantly stirring it until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Adjust it based on taste if needed and allow it cool. If you don’t a traditional hangiri pan, use a baking sheet instead. Using a gentle chopping and flipping action, mix the vinegar mixture with the rice on the baking sheet. Don’t pour all the vinegar on at once, but add a small amount as you go until it tastes right and has the correct texture. Sushi tastes best when it’s made fresh, so it’s important not to refrigerate the rice, but to use it immediately.
Place the bamboo mat flat on your counter and place a seaweed sheet on top. Spread an even, thin layer of rice on top of the sheet of seaweed. Place the thin strips of vegetables and fish or seafood on the rice. Wet the end of the sheet with some cold water using your finger tips. This prevents it from sticking as you roll. Once you’ve placed all the ingredients you want in the sushi, using the bamboo mat, slowly and carefully roll the sushi until it’s shaped like a long tube. Remove the sushi from the mat and cut it in half. Then, continue by cutting each half in half again until you have perfectly shaped sushi rolls. Plate as desired and add a small amount of roe or caviar to the top. Of course, if you’re feeling creative, you can use a variety of other asian style sauces, fish or garnishes on top of the roll. I especially like to use oyster sauce and hoisin. Sushi is all about creativity so there are no limits on what you put inside or outside the roll. Serve with a soy sauce, picked ginger (you can buy it in a jar) and wasabi on the side.
Sushi Etiquette 101: It’s considered impolite to take bites of a sushi roll. Instead, using chop sticks, put the entire roll in your mouth. If you’re using disposable wooden chopsticks, don’t rub or scrape them together, but instead just use them as you’ve found them. It is an insult to the chef to assume that he wouldn’t provide you with quality chopsticks. Of course, if there are splinters of wood, you can request another pair or discreetly remove the splinters.
Mexico – Tacos
Mexican food is quite possibly one of my favorite cuisines. There are few world flavors as dominating and eclectic as the ones from Mexico and considering my love for spice and flavor, the home cooked, from the heart, foods of Mexico are something I could eat on a daily basis.
It was very difficult to pick just one recipe from Mexico but I decided to go with the globally popular carne asada tacos.
Here’s an authentic taco recipe you’re sure to enjoy. Just keep in mind it won’t taste a thing like Taco Bell or Chipotle.
A real and authentic Mexican street taco is made from scratch with a focus on the meat and about 80% of the “Americanized” garnishments not included in the tortilla.
3 lbs of butcher quality skirt steak
4 cups fresh squeezed orange juice with no pulp
One large white onion, peeled and diced
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp ground cumin seeds
1 tbsp fresh, minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 3/4 cups masa harina flour
1 1/8 cups hot water
Take the orange juice, lime juice, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper and combine in a small mixing bowl. Place the steak in a shallow plastic sealable container and pour the marinade over the steak making sure to cover the meat completely. Place in it the refrigerator and allow it to marinate for 2 days.
Take the masa marina and mix it with the water in a mixing bowl until it’s thoroughly combined. Using a clean counter space, turn the dough onto the counter and knead it until it’s pliable and smooth. If it’s too sticky, add more masa harina. If it’s too dry, add a touch more hot water. Place the dough back in the mixing bowl and cover it with a clean towel for 30 minutes.
At this time I recommend preheating your outdoor grill for the meat. Remove the steak from the fridge and allow it come to room temperature.
At the 20 minute mark of allowing the dough to sit, cook the steak to medium rare or your liking on the grill. Since strip steak is thin, it doesn’t take long to cook. Once it’s finished, remove it from the grill allow it to rest for a few minutes.
Quickly divide the dough into equal small balls. I highly recommend using a tortilla press as rolling them by hand is time consuming and tricky. Click here to buy a tortilla press.
Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the tortilla press, the ball of dough on top and another sheet of plastic wrap on top and press the tortilla.
Once you’ve pressed all your tortillas, preheat a large non-stick griddle or cast iron pan. Cook the tortilla for about thirty seconds on each side and remove to a clean plate for serving.
Take the steak and chop it into small pieces about the size of a finger print. If the meat has cooled down, quickly reheat it, making sure you don’t over cook it.
Place the meat in the middle of a warm tortilla and sprinkle a small handful of onion and cilantro on top.
If you’ve been to Mexico you know this all that it takes to make an authentic Mexican taco. Forget the rice, the guacamole, the salsa, the sour cream, the lettuce, the beans and the cheese. Just enjoy it for the meat. If you are set on using any other ingredients, add just a sprinkle of grated cotija cheese to the top.
England – Fish and Chips
Nothing says England quite like fish and chips. There are many wonderful dishes such as spotted dick, bangers and mash, Sunday roast and various meat pies. However, none have translated as staples around the world quite like fish and chips. Enjoy!
4 thick fresh cod fillets, cut from the head end
8 to 9 cups canola oil
2 lbs maris piper or russet potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick sticks
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups ice-cold water
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large lemon, cut into wedges
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp thinly sliced fresh chives
2 tsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tsp Coleman’s English mustard
1 tsp minced green olives
1 tsp minced gherkins
1 tsp minced capers
Freshly ground white pepper
Malt vinegar for serving
The first step is to make your tartar sauce since that can sit in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the meal. In a small mixing bowl combine the mayonnaise, chives, parsley, mustard, green olives, gherkins, capers and white pepper and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate.
Next fill a large heavy pot with oil about 1/3 full. That or another option is to use a deep fryer. You can buy one by clicking here.
Regardless of whether you use a pot or a deep fryer, I recommend using canola oil for frying fish and chips.
Heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 260°F. Add half of the potatoes and fry them until they’re tender but not colored, usually about 5 minutes if you’re using a pot on the stove. Transfer the chips with a slotted spoon or skimmer to a baking lined with paper towel and spread them out in a single layer. By frying the potatoes twice, we can cook them the first time and then make them crunchy and golden brown on the second round of frying. Trust me when I say that they’ll be far more delicious than relying on a single fry. Let the oil return to 260°F and fry the second half of the chips, or as we call them in North America – French fries.
Preheat your oven to 250°F and place a rimmed baking or cookie sheet in the center of the oven.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, 1tsp of salt and the water. Mix it well until it has the consistency of pancake batter. Place the batter in the fridge and allow it to cool for about 15 minutes. By chilling the batter, it will make the batter thicker, resulting in a crispy coating. Just be sure not to let it sit for any longer than 20 minutes or the batter will be ruined.
At this point, increase the temperature of your oil to 325°F. Take the fresh cod and pat the fillets dry with paper towel. Lightly season each fillet on both sides with salt and black pepper, then, one at a time, dip the fillets into the batter and coat them well. Slowly remove the fish from the batter and allow any excess batter to drip off naturally. Then, place the fish into the hot oil and fry them, flipping once. Fry them for 7 to 8 minutes and transfer the cooked fillet to a plate that’s lined with paper towel to catch the excess grease. Once the fish is drained, transfer each piece to the baking sheet in the oven to keep them warm. Make sure that before you add more fish to the oil, that the oil has the chance to return to 325°F. Repeat the process until all the fish has been perfectly fried.
Once the fish is finished cooking, bring the temperature of the oil up to 375°F. In small batches, add the chips and cook them for about 2 minutes until they’re crispy and golden brown. As you finish the chips, transfer them to a plate lined with paper towel to soak up any excess oil and season with salt. Once the chips are finished, remove the fish from the oven and serve them in a wicker basket lined with newspaper. Accompany them with a small dip bowl of tartar sauce, a lemon wedge and malt vinegar.
Korea – Haejangguk
Korean food is something that should be idolized. It’s remarkably delicious and full of flavor. There are many foods that are considered staples in Korean cuisine, but for this article, I opted to include a dish that’s very popular across much of Asia but hardly known in the rest of the world. It’s called Haejangguk and its nickname is “hangover soup”.
Literally considered a cure for hangovers, businessmen consume the soup for breakfast when they’ve had too much to drink the night before and a big meeting that day. There are various styles and ingredients used but here’s one recipe that’s a consistent hit. Keep in mind it can be very spicy.
4 lbs Pork Spine or neck bones with meat
8 cups water
1 cup doenjang (Korean Miso paste)
1 white onion
16 cloves of fresh garlic
8 cups of unsalted beef broth
1 large green onion, white and green parts
1 oz fresh ginger, peeled
10 whole black pepper seeds
1 lbs Daikon radish
8 outer leaves of napa cabbage
4 oz dried gosari sprouts
2 mild chile peppers
2 hot peppers (ghost peppers are best)
2 tbsp gochujang (red pepper paste)
2 oz oyster mushrooms
3 or 4 shitake mushrooms
2 oz enoki mushrooms
4 tbsp fine ground cayenne pepper
1/2 lbs soy bean sprouts
1/2 cup clotted ox blood
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 cup water
Place the spine bones inside a large stock pot, covering them with cold water. Allow them soak in the water for about two or three hours, then rinse and drain the water.
Cover the bones again with cold water, but this time turn the stove on and bring the water to a rapid boil for five minutes over high heat. Remove the pot from the heat and strain. Rinse the bones in cold water and drain. Once the bones are drained, take the doenjang paste and rub the bones with the paste until they’re fully coated. Let them sit for about 10 or 15 minutes. While the bones are resting, cut the onions in quarters and peel and slice the ginger into three equal portions. Cut each garlic clove in half lengthwise. Take the green onion and separate the white section from the green slicing and then slice each part lengthwise in half.
After the vegetables are prepped, place the spine bones back in the pot and cover them with beef broth. Bring it to a slow boil over medium heat and then reduce the heat, allowing them to simmer. Add the white onion, 2/3 of the garlic, the white part of the green onion, the ginger and the 10 whole black pepper seeds. Simmer for three hours, adding water if needed to maintain at least 3/4 of the original volume of liquid. After the three hours, remove the bones from the broth carefully and strain the broth into a second stock pot. At this point you can discard all of the vegetable solids in the pot.
Take the gosari and soak it for half an hour in cold water. Rinse it and drain it. Slice the radish in 1/2 inch thick pieces. At this time, take the cabbage and rinse it under cold running water. Cut the leaves into 3/4 inch strips, each of which should be about 2 inches long. Take all the hot and mild peppers and slice them lengthwise diagonally. At this point take the mushrooms and chop them. I suggest only using fresh mushrooms and not dried or canned. Rinse the bean sprouts in cold water.
At this point you need to prepare the ox blood. Take the clotted blood and place it in a mixing bowl with the water and salt mixing it well.
Now, take the spine bones and put them back into the stock pot. Add the strained broth, the blood and bring it to a boil. Add the sliced radish, the gosari and cook it in the pot for about five minutes. Add everything but the enoki mushrooms and green onion and cook for an additional five minutes. Reduce to a simmer.
Separate the enoki mushrooms into small bunches, alloting one bunch for each bowl of soup. Carefully place equal portions of the spine bones in each serving bowl. Using a slotted spoon, plate the cooked vegetables over the bones. Finally, add the enoki mushrooms and green onion on top of the veggies. Using a large ladle, pour the broth over the contents in each serving bowl and serve with white rice on the side.
We hope you’ve enjoyed the second installment in our thirty foods from around the world series. Stay tuned for the next issue where we’ll cover other cuisines from our vast planet. What are your favorite dishes from the countries listed in this article? Any tips or tricks?