International Ingredients: A Guide to the Best Exotic Flavors for Your Kitchen.
International ingredients can add a whole new dimension of flavor to your cooking, but with so many options available, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. This guide will highlight some of the best exotic flavors from around the world, and give you tips on how to use them in your kitchen.
Spices from India
Indian cuisine is known for its bold and complex flavors, and the secret to these flavors is in the blend of spices used. Some of the most commonly used Indian spices include:
Cumin – This earthy spice is used in both whole seed and powder form, and is a staple in many Indian dishes, including chutneys, curries, and lentil dishes.
Coriander – This herb is used in both the leaves and the seeds, and adds a refreshing citrusy flavor to dishes. It is often used in spice blends like garam masala and in many chutneys.
Turmeric – This spice gives a warm, earthy flavor and a yellow color to dishes. It is often used in curries and lentil dishes, and is known for its health benefits as well.
Mustard Seeds – These tiny seeds pack a lot of flavor, with a nutty, earthy taste. They are often used in Indian pickles, curries and tempering for dals.
Chilies from Mexico
Mexican cuisine is famous for its bold and spicy flavors, and chilies are a big part of that. Some of the most commonly used chilies in Mexican cooking include:
Chipotle – These are smoked, dried jalapenos that have a deep, smoky flavor. They are often used in salsas, marinades, and sauces.
Ancho – These are dried poblano chilies that have a sweet, fruity flavor with a hint of spice. They are often used in mole sauces, chili, and stews.
Pasilla – These are dried chilaca chilies that have a rich, complex flavor with notes of chocolate and coffee. They are often used in mole sauces, chili, and stews.
Sichuan Peppercorn from China
Sichuan cuisine is known for its bold and spicy flavors, and the Sichuan peppercorn is a key ingredient in many dishes. The Sichuan peppercorn has a unique numbing quality and a citrusy, lemony flavor. It is often used in stir-fries, hot pot dishes, and marinades.
Herbs from the Mediterranean
The Mediterranean region is home to many flavorful herbs that are used in a variety of dishes. Some of the most commonly used herbs in Mediterranean cuisine include:
Rosemary – This herb has a strong, pungent flavor and is often used in grilled meats, stews, and soups.
Thyme – This herb has a subtle, earthy flavor and is often used in marinades, herb blends, and to flavor grilled meats.
Oregano – This herb has a strong, pungent flavor and is often used in tomato-based dishes, pizzas and Italian dishes.
Saffron from Iran
Saffron is a spice derived from the stigmas of the saffron crocus and is one of the most expensive and sought-after spices in the world. The unique flavor and aroma of saffron come from its chemical compounds safranal and picrocrocin. Its common use in many dishes is for its vibrant yellow-orange color, that gives a unique warmness. Saffron is commonly used in Iranian dishes, Mediterranean dishes, and also in sweets such as baking. A little goes a long way with saffron, so it’s important to use it sparingly. A few strands of saffron are often enough to flavor a dish for 4-6 people.
Coconut Milk from Southeast Asia
Coconut milk is a staple ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine, particularly Thai and Indian dishes. It adds a rich, creamy texture and a subtle coconut flavor to curries, soups, and stews. Coconut milk is made by blending shredded coconut meat with water and straining it to create a thick liquid. Light coconut milk has a thinner consistency and is lower in fat, while full-fat coconut milk is thicker and creamier. Coconut milk can also be used in desserts and drinks to add a rich, tropical flavor.
Miso from Japan
Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans. It has a savory, umami flavor and is used in a variety of dishes such as soups, sauces, marinades and also as a glaze for seafood. There are different types of miso, each with a distinct flavor and color. White miso, also called shiro miso, is the mildest and sweetest type. It’s often used in dressings, marinades, and soups. Then we have red miso or aka miso, which is stronger and saltier, and it’s best used in hearty soups, marinades and glazes. Finally, there is the dark and rich brown miso, which is known as hatcho miso and it’s often used for making hearty soups, stews, and sauces.
There are many other exotic ingredients from around the world that are worth exploring, such as Berbere from Ethiopia, Harissa from Tunisia, or Ras el hanout from Morocco. These ingredients can take your cooking to the next level, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try something new. Remember to start small and taste as you go to find the right balance of flavor for your taste. And don’t forget to have fun with it!
In summary, this guide has provided an overview of some of the best exotic flavors from around the world, their origins and how to use them in your kitchen. Spices, chilies, herbs, and other ingredients from India, Mexico, China, Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, and Japan have been discussed and explained as examples to show how diverse and rich the global culinary scene is. With a little experimentation and creativity, you can easily bring these flavors into your cooking and take your dishes to the next level.