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Last Updated on 10/02/2021
Food is an essential part of travel. You can learn a lot about a country by its flavours and the way food is used to bring people together. No matter what the culture, food plays an enormous part in celebrations, families and social gatherings. Some of the most beloved recipes from around the world have been passed down for generations. They’ve become symbols of love, heritage and pride.
You don’t need to travel to explore the global culinary scene. These easy international recipes from some of the most famous dishes in the world can be replicated in your own kitchen. So, if you want to transport yourself to the other side of the world even if it’s just for a bite or two, discover the origins of some of the most celebrated international dishes with recipes included:
Pad Thai, Thailand
Bring a taste of Thailand into your kitchen with the country’s street food favourite, the Pad Thai. Simple yet mouthwatering, the Pad Thai is a rice noodle dish with stir-fried eggs and a choice of meat, shrimp or tofu. Generous helpings of garlic, chilli, tamarind pulp, sugar and fish sauce give it an exquisite sizzling flavour.
Although the dish is popular in Thailand, the Pad Thai actually has more similarities with Chinese and Vietnamese-style cooking. The noodles in the dish are akin to the ones used in the Vietnamese pho whereas the concept of pan-fried noodles was popular among Chinese immigrants in the country.
When made right, the Pad Thai hits all five flavour profiles: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and spicy. Have a go at making your own with this quick and easy Pad Thai recipe from BBC Good Food.
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Shakshuka, Middle East and North Africa
Shakshuka is the ultimate comfort dish. It’s quick, easy and inexpensive to make with ingredients that you can usually find in your kitchen. Perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner Shakshuka is, in its basic form, a comforting vegetarian dish with tomatoes, peppers, onions and whole eggs cracked onto the top. There’s no wrong or right amount of time to cook it for and you can choose whether you want the eggs soft poached or hard.
One of my favourite easy international recipes, Shakshuka as we know it originates from North Africa although a tomato-less version could have descended from the Ottoman Empire. It made its way to the Middle East when Jewish immigrants from Libya, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia travelled to Israel and it has gained in popularity ever since.
Now well-loved on brunch menus, Shakshuka is hearty and unpretentious. Simply put it’s a thick tomato sauce with eggs but if you want to spice it up you can always add chorizo, crumbled feta and aubergine. Here are some simple recipes by Cookie and Kate.
Lasagne is one of the most popular dishes of all time for good reason. It’s a mouthwatering combination of layered pasta, sauces, cheese and mince. Vegetarians can easily supplement the meat for Quorn, vegetables or my personal favourite, lentils. The origins of lasagne are hotly contested with some versions of the dish being recorded as far back as Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Naples.
The lasagne that we know and love today has a closer resemblance to the version made in the Emilia Romagna region of Northern Italy. This recipe was traditionally made with layers of pasta, ragu, Bechamel sauce and Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan) sauce.
It’s hard to know exactly where and when the lasagne was invented, whether Naples or Emilia Romagna came up with it first but it’s believed that the dish came about sometime between 1544 and 1692. Interestingly, Italy wasn’t a country until 1860 so at that point, lasagne was invented in the area known as Italy today.
Lasagne is an ideal easy recipe for families or for a meal that can last you the week. Simply make one or two batches to freeze and then pop one in the oven when you’re feeling lazy. For one of the best easy lasagne recipes, check out Good Housekeeping. For a vegetarian version try this hearty puy lentil lasagne from BBC Food.
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Nigerian Jollof Rice, Nigeria
Jollof rice is a West African dish but its exact origins are highly contentious with Nigerians, Ghanaians and Senegalese making a claim. History accredits Senegal as the inventors. It is widely believed that the dish was conceived in the Senegambia region among the Wolof people before it made its way throughout the region, branching off into different versions each with their own cultural significance.
So why has a simple rice dish caused so much friction? The secret is in the flavour. Tomatoes, peppers, spices and meat are boiled with plain rice to create a punchy feast for the taste buds. The rice is tender and juicy and the flavours are rich and complex with levels of sweetness and spice.
Serve up Jollof rice with salads and avocado and you’ve got yourself a delicious West African meal. Here’s a classic Nigerian Jollof rice from Food52 and a Ghanaian version from Tasty. These easy international recipes can be made vegan, vegetarian or meaty.
The quesadilla has been a staple of the Mexican culinary scene for centuries. The Aztec people would stuff corn tortillas with pumpkin to make a sweet dish. Cheese and meat weren’t added until the 16th Century when Spanish settlers brought over sheep and cows.
The quesadilla as we know it has many cultural influences to its name. In addition to Spain, roots can be traced to North America when Native Americans ate tortillas as part of a staple diet. Oaxaca cheese, a common ingredient added to quesadillas is stringy in texture, much like Italian Mozzarella.
Quesadillas are simple to make and deliciously indulgent. You can stuff your tortillas any way you see fit but to start you off, here are some quick easy recipes from Delish. The recipes use chicken but you can easily sub in mushrooms or tofu if you’re vegetarian.
Dal is probably the most humble of Indian dishes but it doesn’t make it any less delicious. Its signature creamy texture is common throughout India but it’s the spices which set each variation of the dish apart.
The exact origins of the Indian dal are virtually unknown but archaeological evidence suggests that it made its first appearance in the Indus Valley Civilisation where lentils were a staple part of the diet. Ancient texts reveal that dal was enjoyed as part of a celebratory feast as far back as 303 BCE. Now dal is found on every dinner table in India whether they’re rich or poor.
Dal is a wonderfully nutritious and inexpensive dish that can be eaten as a side or as a main with rice or fistfuls of warm naan. Don’t hold back on the seasoning as spices are the key to unlocking its magic. Serve with spoonfuls of yoghurt and a dash of coriander to garnish and you’re ready to go. Check out this super quick and easy vegan dal recipe by the Wanderlust Kitchen.
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Chow Mein, China
Chow mein is a signature Chinese dish which is enjoyed in restaurants, takeaways and among the Chinese diaspora all over the world. In its simplest form, the dish consists of stir-fried vegetables and boiled noodles.
Originating in Northern China, the chow mein that has made its way to the West has since been altered to appeal to Western tastes. The difference can be spotted in how the noodles are prepared. In Chinese cuisine, the noodles are boiled before they’re added to the stir-fry to keep them fairly soft. Americans prefer their chow mein noodles a lot more crispy.
Chow mein is surprisingly easy to make. The ingredients are adaptable so don’t be afraid to play around a little if you find that your kitchen is missing one or two of them. You can keep it simply vegetarian with heaps of stir-fried vegetables and noodles or add tofu or chicken to the mix.
This easy recipe by BBC Food takes less than ten minutes to make and you can add your favourite vegetables.
Welsh Rarebit, Wales
If you thought cheese on toast couldn’t get any better than just wait until you try Welsh rarebit. Melted cheese on toast with mustard or spices is a delectable snack which has been enjoyed since the 1500s under the name ‘caws pobi’. It’s believed that the dish originated somewhere in the South Wales Valleys and it was eaten as part of a staple diet.
The first reference to the dish as we now know it was in 1725 when it was called ‘Welsh rabbit’ – perhaps as a joke. It was given the name ‘Welsh rarebit’ at the end of the 18th century and it’s now a celebrated dish throughout Wales and the British Isles. The beloved dish even has its own national day – 3rd September FYI.
Welsh rarebit is one of those easy international recipes that can be enjoyed as part of a meal or as a hearty and indulgent afternoon snack. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you want but the best Welsh rarebits are made with a good mature cheddar, mustard and stout. Here’s a recipe by Tesco Real Food. Enjoy!
Korean Fried Chicken, South Korea
In South Korea, fried chicken is a symbol of happiness. It’s a comforting street food dish that’s frequently enjoyed as a lazy snack or an after-work treat. Korean fried chicken is relatively new to the scene with some historians claiming that a deep-fried version was introduced by the US military during the Korean War.
The 1960s and 1970s saw the fried chicken trend grow but it wasn’t until the 1980s that fried chicken dipped in a sweet and sour sauce with gochujang (fermented chilli paste) rose to popularity.
In 1997, the Asian financial crisis led to a surge in new fried chicken restaurants as recently laid-off workers sought to profit from the trend. The Korean fried chicken that we know and love today was invented during this time.
My Korean Kitchen has a popular recipe for Korean popcorn chicken. There’s not much difference between this version and Korean fried chicken except that they use smaller boneless pieces of chicken for a less messy meal.
Ratatouille is a classic and healthy French vegetable stew. The version that we’re familiar with was eaten as a peasant dish throughout Provence. Some food historians believe that the ratatouille’s roots could have been Catalonian or Basque.
The date of its conception is unclear but courgette and tomato are native to the Americas and aubergine came from India. These ingredients weren’t used in European cooking until the 1600s.
Ratatouille has spread in popularity all over the world. What was once seen as a simple peasant dish has now become a meal that’s served in some of the top restaurants across the globe. There isn’t a set recipe as such but more a set of guidelines to follow. You can eat this French dish as a vegetable side or as a main alongside rice or crusty bread. Ratatouille is one of the best easy international recipes for first-timers. Try this vegetarian recipe by The Spruce Eats.
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Spanish Omelette, Spain
The Spanish omelette or ‘tortilla de patatas’ is a simple filling omelette that just hits the spot with every bite. Like most of these easy international dishes, the exact origins of the Spanish omelette is not well known. Some historians pinpoint its first appearance in an anonymous letter to the Court of Navarre in 1817. Others claim that the dish was invented by the army general Tomás de Zumalacárregui who came up with a cheap way to feed his troops during the siege of Bilbao. Another story is that the Spanish omelette was invented by a poor housewife.
Traditional Spanish omelettes contain just four ingredients – potatoes, eggs, olive oil and onions (although purists might argue that onions aren’t called for in authentic recipes). The key to a good Spanish omelette is the olive oil you use. For the best flavour, you want to use an extra virgin olive oil as its distinct fruitiness brings out the richness of the potatoes and the eggs.
This recipe by Happy Foods Tube follows the authentic Spanish omelette recipe. You can keep it traditional or add a splash of colour with peppers or chorizo.
Planning on trying any of these easy international recipes? Let me know in the comments!
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