As an avid home cook, I love to experiment with new dishes and cuisines, discover new flavors, and expand my culinary arsenal in my home kitchen. It can feel intimidating to venture into cooking a new cuisine that you are not familiar with. It’s not hard to see why, after all, a particular culture may have developed and enjoyed a certain style of cooking for centuries before you, and so jumping in and cooking, without any foundational knowledge of that craft, may be overwhelming. For example, many people enjoy eating Thai food on a regular basis, but their knowledge of the ingredients and cooking techniques involved in cooking Thai food may be very limited.
Of course, that shouldn’t deter you from trying; any sincere step forward into learning a culture’s norms should be regarded with admiration. It’s good to learn beyond your boundaries. In this post, we’re going to offer four delectable and diligent steps you can take toward entering into a new style of cuisine. This could include gastronomy from across the known world, to those adored by your own culture that you just may not have experienced yet.
Eat at Restaurants
Eating at restaurants is a universal pastime that involves eating delicious food without having to cook or do the dishes. It’s typically not a daily occurrence for most families, but it can be used as an opportunity to try different foods and refine your palate. You can even treat this like a research exercise. Go to the best restaurant in your area for cuisine, or if you can afford the drive, go out a little further. For the best barbecue around you might try The Grilling Master, or you may head to your local Korean BBQ joint, the best Italian, or enjoy authentic tapas at the coast.
If your budget and schedule allow, you can even head abroad to the culture itself to see the authentic recipes. If you want to get the best Parmesan cheese, for example, then Modena, Italy is certainly your best bet. There are also certain regional cuisines that cannot be found in other parts of the world that are definitely worth a flight.
Experiment With Signature Dishes
Now you have a taste for the culture you’re eating from, you can experiment with its signature dishes, but make sure they’re correct to your area and consider where adjustments have been made. For example, eating Chicken Tikka Masala, a British-Indian dish, is not something you’d eat for an authentic flavor of India, but would be if you’re in Britain. Signature dishes are usually widely loved by many different types of palates and there should also be many recipes available.
You can deconstruct certain dishes to their baser elements, learn the recipe, and also the logic of the cooking. For example, an authentic Carbonara uses guanciale (from the cheek of the pig), and pecorino cheese – with no cream, just eggs, cheese, and fat from the protein. You can make adjustments after the fact if you so wish, but signature dishes are a phenomenal place to start.
Learn Baseline Cooking Methods
You may learn that cooking a new cuisine is simpler than you think once you learn the most basic elements and can do them well. So for example, learning to properly roll a pizza dough for use on your grill, or making pasta by scratch can be great too.
In Latin American cuisine, Ceviche is a great technique whereby you prepare raw fish in citrus juices instead of traditionally cooking them. This can denature the proteins in the fish which allows you to cook it without actual heat. It also intensifies the flavors and provides a wonderful freshness that can work fantastically well with tortillas or crackers.
As you can see, having a new cooking technique like this in your arsenal can really help you fall in love with the alternate logic of cooking a particular cuisine, be that learning to moderate spices with Indian cuisine or making very basic but unbelievably fresh ingredients sing in Italian cooking.
Take It Slow
You can’t expect to become a master overnight. Just have fun with that particular cuisine and slowly integrate it into your schedule. Moreover, go with your natural curiosity. Don’t feel obligated to learn every technique or practice every dish, that’s a quick way to feel bored. Instead, you might focus on a simple task, like learning to make an adequate sushi roll at home with fileted fish and sushi rice. You don’t have to be as good as the sushi masters (and you probably won’t be without years of practice), but you’ll have still enjoyed the process, shared joy, and had a great time.
This can help you accept mistakes, move forward, and go where your taste buds take you.