There are two major reasons why we should all give Greek food a try. Firstly, Greek cuisine is a mother of all western cuisines. Its 4000 thousand years long culinary tradition and ingredients adopted from the East have influenced the cuisines of Europe and beyond in the best ways possible!
DISCOVER GREAT RECIPES, TIPS & IDEAS!
Secondly, Greek cuisine is a Mediterranean cuisine. We have already discussed the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and stressed the importance of using fresh ingredients like olive oil, vegetables, grains, seafood, and fish. Greek cuisine encompasses all of these, but also adds meat, both white and red (including poultry, lamb, pork, and rabbit). Other widely used foods include cheese, yogurt, bread, olives, zucchini, eggplant, herbs, and lemon juice. As far as sweets are concerned, there’s an abundance of fruits, nuts, and honey; however, that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
The good news is we don’t need to travel to Greece in order to enjoy delicious Greek food! Imagine days filled with tzatziki, gyros, baklava, and frappes. Ready to go to Greece? Brace yourselves, some seriously tasty food is coming your way!
Gyros are the first Greek food to try after setting foot in this country. There are gyro stands and restaurants at almost every corner throughout the country. Gyros are not only utterly tasty and authentic; they’re also very fulfilling and, on top of it all, ridiculously cheap!
Gyros are made of pita bread, a slightly leavened flatbread, wrapped around chicken or pork. The meat, which is roasted vertically and turning on the spit, is called ‘gyro’. The meat is sliced and then combined with tomatoes, onions, French fries, lettuce, tzatziki, and various condiments (ketchup, mustard, etc.) Warning: Gyros are quite messy to eat, which makes them even more satisfying!
Dilly Grecian Gyros
#2 Greek Salad
People in Greece serve Greek salad with almost every meal, as a starter or side dish. It contains tomatoes, cucumber, olives, and feta cheese cubes. Onions, bell peppers, and lettuce can be added optionally. Dressings can vary depending on personal preferences but they usually include olive oil, vinegar (or lemon juice), salt, and pepper. Oregano is often added for an extra Mediterranean twist!
Sunshine Greek Salad
When you and your big hungry family decide to have Greek food, enter the first taverna and order a moussaka. This juicy and creamy dish has a number of versions in the Balkan and Middle Eastern countries but in Greece, the traditional recipe is made with sautéed eggplant, minced meat (usually lamb), and tomato, all covered a white, savory sauce and baked until brown. Onion, garlic, and spices (salt, pepper, cinnamon, allspice) are also commonly added. When it comes to moussaka, the serving temperature is very important; it should be served warm in order to prevent it from falling apart.
Light and Easy Moussaka
To most people in the western countries, tzatziki is the first association for Greek food. This simple and yet spectacular sauce has many variations but it is essentially made of yogurt, garlic, olive oil, as well as fresh herbs like mint and dill. Cucumbers (finely chopped or grated) can also be added. Tzatziki tastes best when served chilled and makes beautiful combinations with freshly-fried foods like potato pancakes, breaded vegetables, fried chicken and more!
Creamy Tzatziki Sauce with Garlic and Dill
Souvlaki translates as ‘skewered meat’ and is one of the most beloved Greek foods. It is comprised of skewered & seasoned meat, complemented with tzatziki sauce. However, the fact that the word ‘souvlaki’ is also used to refer to any type of meat wrapped in a pita can be rather confusing to inexperienced Greek food enthusiasts, so beware when you order it!
Pork Souvlaki with Lemon Rice
Saganaki is a term which encompasses a number of dishes prepared in a small pan. The most famous Greek food belonging to this category is the appetizer made of cheese, fried until bubbly, seasoned with lemon juice & pepper and served with bread. Other Greek foods cooked in a saganaki frying pan include mussels saganaki and shrimp saganaki, both of which include tomato sauce, spices, and feta cheese.
Shrimp Linguine in a Tomato and Feta Sauce a.k.a Shrimp Saganaki Linguine
Pastitsio, also known as Greek lasagna, is a baked pasta dish which includes ground meat and sauce. The typical Greek version is made with a bucatini layer on the bottom (or another kind of tubular pasta), followed by ground meat (beef is most commonly used, sometimes lamb and veal), tomatoes, as well as spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice. Pastitsio is covered in a sauce which can be either Béchamel or egg-based custard. Finally, cheese is sprinkled on top. This Greek food is usually served as a main course, accompanied by a salad.
Pastitsio (Greek Lasagna) with Greens
If you’d been to Greece without tasting baklava, you’ll need to go back as soon as possible and remedy this wrongful doing! Baklava is a rich, very sweet dessert made of layers of crispy filo pastry and filled with chopped nuts.
After baking, this sweet Greek food is covered in a sticky sherbet (boiled water & sugar) or honey, which is then left to get absorbed into the pastry. Besides in Greece, baklava is also found in almost all Levant, Balkan, and Middle Eastern countries. What sets the Greek variety apart, though, is the fact that it is supposedly made of 33 layers of filo pastry, one for each year of Christ’s life.
You’re relaxing on a beautiful Greek beach when suddenly you’re startled by a loud “Loukoumadeeeees!” Don’t worry, it’s only the vendors who sell tasty Greek donuts. Traditionally, loukoumades are small golden balls of fried dough sprinkled with sweet syrup, nuts, powdered sugar, and/or cinnamon. Modern varieties of this sweet Greek food can be filled with chocolate cream or fruit jams. Whichever variety you decide to try, you can expect a soft & fluffy inside and a crispy outside. Don’t forget to pair them with a frappe for a perfect summer satisfaction!
Loukoumades – Greek Donuts
#10 Greek Coffee
When it comes to coffee, there are two authentic Greek varieties to choose from. The first one is Ellinikos, a type of coffee regularly made in almost every Greek household and usually served in a traditional copper pot called ‘briki’. Ellinikos can be made with three different levels of sweetness – very sweet, medium, and no sugar.
DISCOVER GREAT RECIPES, TIPS & IDEAS!
The other popular coffee variety is frappe. Frappe is an iced, foamy drink made of instant coffee granules and water. Besides refreshment, Greek frappe offers an instant wake-up at zero calories!
If there is one word that perfectly summarizes Vietnamese food, that’s ‘flavorful’.
Vietnamese cuisine represents a perfect combination of sweet, savory, sour, and hot flavors, achieved by combining a plethora of fresh herbs & spices (Vietnamese mint, cilantro, lemongrass ginger, coriander, Saigon cinnamon, tamarind, chili, lime, and Thai basil leaves); sauces, especially fish sauce in generous amounts, followed by shrimp paste and soy sauce, as well as cane sugar.
DISCOVER GREAT RECIPES, TIPS & IDEAS!
Nearby Asian cuisines like those of China, Thailand, and Cambodia have largely influenced Vietnamese food; thus, rice appears in all forms – steamed, sticky, noodles, porridge. Meat is also widely used, especially chicken, pork, beef, and seafood.
Traditional Vietnamese cooking is largely centered on fresh ingredients, giving primate to vegetables and tropical fruits like banana, rambutan, papaya, kalamansi citrus, and mango at the expense of oil and dairy products.
The balanced use of ingredients results in rich dishes that, besides great taste, also offer a wide array of nutrients. So, if you are looking for a change in your weekly dinner routine, we offer ten essential Vietnamese foods to inspire you.
Vietnamese cuisine offers a great variety of noodle soups which have developed distinct features depending on regional influences. However, most of these soups have one thing in common – rich broth.
As mentioned before, pho (pronounced ‘fur’) is the most popular representative in this category. This Vietnamese staple is composed of a light & clear broth made from boiling meat (usually chicken or beef) and spices (coriander and ginger are most commonly used). The broth is then combined with rice noodles and complemented with spring onions, meat slices and, optionally, fresh herbs.
Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup
Vietnamese rice dishes belong to the broad category called ‘com’. Com tam, which translates to ‘broken rice’ is one of the most popular Vietnamese street foods. Ingredients can vary but it is usually combined with grilled pork (sometimes beef, chicken, and prawns), pickled veggies, greens, steamed egg and, of course, fish sauce.
Banh Mi and Banh Xeo
Banh is the Vietnamese term for pastries. Many banh recipes require wrapping the pastries in plant leaves (banana, bamboo, or dong) before boiling or steaming.
Bahn mi is a dish that reflects French influences from the past – a baguette bread sandwich stuffed with various fillings, including pâté, omelet, Vietnamese mayonnaise, jalapeños, pickled carrot, pickled white radish, and cucumber slices. The sandwich can also contain ham, pork, tofu, cheese, and canned sardines. Banh mi sandwiches are usually seasoned with coriander leaves and black pepper, and accompanied by fresh greens. Bahn mi is well-loved in its homeland but it is also one of the most popular Vietnamese foods worldwide.
Banh xeo translates to ‘sizzling pancake’. It is a large, inexpensive savory flapjack made with pork, shrimp, egg, and bean sprouts. The pancake is fried and complemented with greens & a spicy sauce for dipping.
Grilled Chicken Banh Mi
Spring rolls have a special place in Vietnamese cuisine. They appear in many different varieties and form a separate category of Vietnamese foods.
Goi cuon is also known as Vietnamese fresh rolls, summer rolls, or salad rolls. The dish consists of translucent rice paper packed with a combination of pork, crab, shrimp, greens, herbs, and rice vermicelli. These rolls are usually served with a bowl of lettuce and dipped in fish or peanut sauce.
Goi Cuon with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Bo Luc Lac
There are so many delicious meat dishes in Vietnamese cuisine but our favorite is Bo Luc Lac. This French-influenced dish translates as ‘shaking beef’. To prevent you from imagining all sorts of explanations, the term merely describes the method of preparation which involves ‘shaking’, i.e. tossing of the beef in a wok pan after it’s seared. The meat can be served with a number of ingredients including lettuce, rice, and sautéed or pickled onions. Dipping sauces are also served along with the dish, most often soy sauce combined with lime, salt, and pepper.
Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef)
The category of seafood dishes includes this pearl – prawn cake on a sugar cane! Chao tom is a traditional Vietnamese dish originating from the central regions. It is comprised of shrimp paste (surimi) which is prepared by grilling on a sugar cane stick. Chao tom is often prepared for special occasions like holidays and weddings.
Chao Tom (Vietnamese Sugarcane Shrimp)
Goi is a term that refers to salads. In Vietnamese cuisines, salads are made with less-than-usual greens like mango and papaya, combined with fresh veggies like cabbage, grated turnip, kohlrabi, and cucumber. Meat also finds its way into Vietnamese salad recipes, usually boiled or grated. The most commonly used meat types are beef, pork, and shrimp. Other ingredients and condiments include peanuts, herbs, spices, garlic, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper.
Vietnamese Citrus and Noodle Salad with fresh Herbs and Fried Yuba
In Vietnam, curry dishes are called cà ri. They contain chicken (sometimes beef, duck, or even oxtail are used!), potato, sweet potato, taro roots, coconut milk, and garnishes like green onion and cilantro. Vietnamese curry is somewhat more liquid than Indian curry and is often served with a baguette bread, steamed rice, or vermicelli. Vietnamese curry is especially popular in the central and south parts of the country due to Malay and Indian influences.
Vietnamese Curry Chicken and Rice Noodle Bowl
Banh Cam Dessert
Choosing one Vietnamese dessert is not an easy task. Besides fresh fruits, Vietnamese also make candied fruit and fruit preserves. Many sweet Vietnamese foods are influenced by the French cuisine. One such example is Banh flan, which is served with coffee sauce or caramel.
DISCOVER GREAT RECIPES, TIPS & IDEAS!
However, we consider Banh cam to be one of the most authentic representatives of the Vietnamese sweet cuisine. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, these deep-fried glutinous balls are filled with a sweet mung bean paste and sprinkled with sesame seeds on top.
Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Have your Banh cam with a glass of authentic Vietnamese coffee! Cà phê đá is a traditional Vietnamese iced coffee recipe. The basic variety is made with hot water and dark-roast Vietnamese coffee using a special metal drip filter. The hot coffee is then poured into a glass filled with ice for serving.
More elaborate recipes call for an addition of 2-3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk. A specialty called “egg coffee” from Hanoi requires mixing the condensed milk with a raw egg!
Have you found your favorite Vietnamese food recipe?
Can you imagine the world without Italian food? What a dull world it would be!
Pizza day has come and gone but we’re still lingering on Italian food. After indulging in different pizza recipes, we got inspired and started exploring Italian cuisine. To our surprise, we realized that our knowledge is mostly limited to pizza and pasta. What is Italy’s favorite meat? What about vegetable dishes? Can we name a famous Italian dessert other than tiramisu? Italian cuisine is one of the most influential in the world and yet we know so little about it.
DISCOVER GREAT RECIPES, TIPS & IDEAS!
Is there more to Italian cuisine than these two types of food? If there is, it must be delicious. Probably high-carb and high-calorie as well but hey, part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like. These are the words of Mark Twain, not ours. Besides, there’s nothing wrong in having a cheat day and enjoy great food. You’ll make it up in the gym tomorrow.
Our goal is to experiment with new ways to prepare well-loved Italian dishes but also dig out some less familiar recipes originating from this country. Can we beat the good old spaghetti Bolognese? Can we bring the taste of Italy to our kitchens? Let’s find out!
The Rise of Italian Food
Like all rich and delicious cuisines, Italian cuisine has its roots in antique times. It has two main features that make it so special and well-loved:
– Simplicity. It’s really difficult to mess up a bowl of spaghetti, right? Most Italian recipes call for up to four ingredients. Italian food experts give primate to quality ingredients instead of complicated preparation of presentation. This love for simplicity goes back to antiquity when the first known Italian food writer named Archestratus wrote a poem about using only high-quality ingredients and forbade masking the flavors with the use of herbs and spices.
– An abundance of flavors. Despite being simple, Italian food offers a rich mixture of regional cuisines and ingredients.
Simplicity wasn’t always a predominant trait in Italian cuisine. On the contrary, ancient Romans were hedonists who enjoyed heavily spiced foods. Their favorite foods were quite different from today’s staples; they loved Sicilian cheese, leeks, artichokes, and goat meat. They also had Greek bakers make bread for them.
Crunchy Roman Salad
Italian food as we know it today began to take its shape after the fall of the Roman Empire when different cities gained autonomy and started forming their own traditions. In terms of food, this separation is visible in the different cooking methods between the north and the south, as well as the different types of dishes, pasta, and bread. Thus, the south became famous for pizzas, the north excelled in risotto recipes, whereas the central regions favored tortellini.
Salami Pizza with Peppers
In fact, the oldest Italian cuisine is the one from Sicily, with influences from both Greece and Rome. When the Arabs invaded Sicily in the 9th century, they introduced rice, spinach, and almonds. Sicily is also considered the home of spaghetti. Records from the 12th century state that people were making strings from ‘atriya’, a mixture of water and flour. During this period, the Normans brought casserole recipes and popularized sea fish like stockfish and cod.
Sicilian Stuffed Foccacia
The oldest Italian cookbooks date from the 13th and 14th century. They feature recipes for Roman-style cabbage, torta (pie), a bean dish, and lasagna. Another cookbook dating from the 15th century lists saffron as one of the spices used in a Sicilian macaroni recipe, which is a reminiscent from the Arab conquests. This book, titled “Libro de Arte Coquinaria”, clearly marks the transition from using heavy spices to relying mostly on fresh herbs for seasoning.
Creamy Macaroni Salad
Hearty Macaroni Stew
The most important cities in terms of gastronomy were Rome, Venice, Florence, and Ferrara. In the 16th century, pies and tarts with different fillings started to pop up, popularizing the use of sugar and various spices in desserts. The same period also marks a significant change in the type of meats consumed in royal courts and aristocratic homes; namely, fancy people started favoring domestic animals at the expense of wild game. They especially liked shoulder, head, and tongue cuts! The lavishness was tamed during the period of Lent when people turned to marinated fish which could be broiled, poached, grilled, or fried.
Italian Sausage Pie
Savory Mediterranean Tart
Ricotta Raisin Tart
This is also the time when the early predecessor of pizza appeared. However, the recipe was sweet as tomatoes had not been introduced to Italy yet. Tomatoes entered Italian cuisine after the discovery of the New World together with ingredients like potatoes, maize, bell peppers, and sugar beet marking an milestone in the development of Italian cuisine.
In the 17th century, fruits and vegetables gained popularity. They were no longer regarded as side dishes but rather as individual meals, simmered or roasted with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. During this period, eating habits underwent some refinement as well. Books appeared with instructions how to set a table for guests and eating etiquette tips.
At the beginning of the 18th century, regionalism became apparent in cookbooks. Another important turn took place in this period – the first food related texts were published and the importance of local ingredients was stressed. Meats began to decrease in popularity at the expense of vegetarian foods like fresh herbs, fruits, seeds, and roots. Tomato took center stage in a great number of recipes and the first recipes for tomato sauce appeared. The first combo for pasta with tomato sauce dates from the 19th century, as does the first pesto recipe.
Italian Meatballs and Spaghetti
Pasto Cheese Spirals
Double Pesto Steak Pie
Italian Staple Foods
Even though different regions prefer different ingredients and have different ways of preparing foods, there are a few things the whole country has in common:
– fresh ingredients;
– subtle seasoning;
– pasta dishes with tomato;
– the use of olive oil.
The north of the country focuses its cuisine on:
– fish & seafood;
– rice, potatoes, truffles, and maize.
– as far as meat is concerned, pork and sausages lead the way, followed by prosciutto and salami.
– cheese is also well-loved, especially Parmigiano-Reggiano.
– food is often seasoned with basil, olive oil, and nuts.
– tomatoes are, of course, an integral part of this cuisine, with the most popular sauce being ragù, aka Bolognese.
Mediterranean Fish Medley
Italian Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches
In the central parts, people eat:
– all types of meat & fish
– pecorino cheese
– pasta is usually combined with meat sauce.
Skillet Spaghetti and Meat Sauce
The southern cuisine is more focused on fruits and veggies. Besides fresh & cooked tomatoes, the following ingredients are considered staples:
– ricotta cheese
– fish (sardines, anchovies, and tuna)
Italian Zucchini Casserole
Italian Chicken and Olive Tartlets
The Almighty Pasta
How many types of pasta can you name? The trademark of Italian cuisine appears in a great number of shapes and sizes: macaroni, spaghetti, penne, fusilli, linguine, lasagna, rigatoni, gnocchi, accompanied by stuffed pasta varieties like tortellini and ravioli.
There are two basic pasta styles – fresh and dried. Fresh pasta is usually made with durum flour or durum semolina and very often contains eggs. It keeps for 2-3 days in the fridge. Dried pasta is made without eggs and can be kept for up to two years in a dark and dry place!
Pasta is traditionally cooked by boiling until al dente (this means it should be slightly firm when bit, not overcooked). Can’t decide which one to try? Try them all!
Linguine with Clam Sauce
Spinach Alfredo Lasagna
Spicy Sausage Rigatoni
Baked Parmesan Gnocchi
Ricotta Cheese Ravioli
Holidays and Special Occasions
The love of food in Italy is especially obvious during weekends, special occasions, and holidays. In these cases, meals are composed of several courses and last for hours! So, when in Rome, eat like Romans do:
Before the meal, aperitivo (aperitif) is served. Usually, this is Martini, Campari, Prosecco, Spritz, or Vermouth. The aperitif is usually combined with an antipasto composed of bread, ham, and cheese appetizers.
The main meal is composed of a first course (primo), which is quite filling, usually pasta or risotto. The second course (secondo) is the main dish, usually meat in the North (chicken, pork, beef, veal) and fish in the South. Salad or cooked veggies are served as a side dish (contorno), usually arranged around the main dish.
Italian Beef Stew
Italian-Style Roast Beef
Rustic Panzanella Salad
Cheese and fruits are often served after the main meal as the first dessert, followed by a ‘real’ dessert like ice cream, cookies, or cake. Coffee is also served at this point, followed by a digestive, i.e. liqueurs like Amaro, Grappa, Limoncello, etc.
On normal days, the meal consists of a primo or secondo, side dish, and a cup of coffee.
Desserts & Beverages
The country that invented espresso and the term “la dolce vita” certainly deserves a special section dedicated to coffee and desserts, don’t you think? Compiling a list of the most quintessential sweet treats coming from the Boot wasn’t easy, but here goes:
This refrigerated dessert unites the Italians’ love for sweets and coffee. The name translates as ‘pick me up’ and it is considered to originate in Veneto, northern Italy. Tiramisu is made of ladyfingers dipped in espresso, complemented with layers of a cream cheese-whipped egg yolks-and- cream mixture.
Gelato, the famous Italian frozen delight actually comes from China! Traders brought it to the Boot in the 14th century but it took four centuries for Italians to become truly obsessed with it. Compared to American ice cream, gelato contains more milk, less cream and egg yolks. Also, it rarely contains sugar and is rather sweetened with fruit purees. Gelato is also churned at a slower speed, which makes it thicker and more flavorful than ice cream. Finally, gelato is also kept and served at a higher temperature than our ice cream, so it is softer and creamier.
Fresh Strawberry Gelato
Panna Cotta translates to ‘cooked cream’ and comes from Piedmont. Traditionally, it was made by cooking cream egg whites and honey. Today, the cream contains gelatin and is left to set in a mold. Jiggly Panna Cottas are usually served with fruit preserves, chocolate syrup, or caramel sauce on top.
Chocolate Panna Cotta Cake
Cannoli are pastry disks shaped as a tube and fried. The word means ‘little tubes’ and their place of origin is Sicily. They’re usually filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and candied fruits.
Cocoa Orange Cannoli
Another dessert coming from Sicily is cassata, a rich, spongy cake with ricotta cheese and candied citrus zest. The cake is covered in marzipan and garnished with candied fruits or marzipan-shaped fruits. Naples also has its variety of this cake, which replaces the ricotta cheese with gelato and is covered in sugar glaze instead of marzipan.
The island of Capri gave us torta Caprese, a simple but utterly delicious chocolate almond cake with a heavenly soft center. Yum!
Torta Caprese Bianca
Semifreddo means ‘partly cold’ and refers to a broader range of chilled desserts including mousse, gelato, fruits, and whipped cream. They are served frozen but not too hard, hence the name.
For Italians, coffee is more than a hot beverage which serves the purpose of waking you up in the morning. Coffee is an important part of the country’s culture, a daily ritual, and a way to socialize.
The Italian style coffee is known as espresso. It is made from a blend of roasted coffee beans and, contrary to popular belief, has less caffeine than other coffee types. The North and the South have different preferences when it comes to coffee as well – the further south you move, the darker the espresso gets!
Italy has developed several coffee recipes that are popular throughout the planet. Is your favorite on this list?
– Espresso is plain black coffee made using espresso machine. It is usually served in a demitasse cup and can be short, medium, or long. In Italy, it is simply called caffé (espresso is considered a technical term). Never ever call it ‘expresso’. No!
– Macchiato is espresso topped with steamed milk or foam;
– Latte macchiato is a cup of warm milk with a little coffee added;
– Caffe latte is equal steamed milk and espresso, usually served in a large mug;
– Cappuccino is espresso mixed with milk or topped with hot, foamy milk
– Ristretto is made with a smaller amount of water and is stronger in taste than espresso;
– Corretto translates as ‘corrected’. The substance used to ‘correct’ the coffee is a booze like brandy in small amounts;
– Marocchino, is an upside-down cappuccino – it starts with cocoa powder at the bottom of a small glass, then a layer of frothed milk, then finally, a shot of espresso;
– Bicerin is a thick mixture of cappuccino and hot chocolate, with a little milk. Milk foam, whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and/or sugar are usually added on top;
– Caffè alla nocciola is a foamy espresso with hazelnut cream.
The love for coffee and the many varieties it appears in have produced a number of coffee rituals. So, if you want to learn to enjoy coffee like a true Italian, here is what you need to know:
– Have milky coffees in the morning. Unlike other types of coffee which are consumed after a meal, cappuccino, latte macchiato, or caffé latte are consumed first thing in the morning. Makes sense, since having that much milk after an Italian-style heavy meal would upset the stomach.
– True Italians almost never drink double coffee. They’d rather have coffee several times a day than one or two doubles. They also don’t like experimenting with additional ingredients, except for the above-mentioned combos. For instance, if you feel the urge to surprise your Italian guests with a mint or ice cream coffee, restrain yourself. They’ll probably be appalled.
Italy produces the largest amount of wine in the world! Wine production in the country is strictly controlled in order to obtain only the best quality wines. Italians love drinking wine, usually along with water during meals. In fact, meals are almost always served with wine, other beverages are practically banned! In the recent years, a sparkling champagne-like wine called Prosecco is gaining popularity in the country and abroad due to its high quality and lower price.
Beer is gaining popularity in the recent years, especially in the northern German-speaking regions. The most consumed type is pale lager, usually served in pizza restaurants.
DISCOVER GREAT RECIPES, TIPS & IDEAS!
Other alcoholic beverages
Besides wine and beer, Italians are also very fond of liqueurs. Some of the most popular ones are Limoncello, a traditional strong lemon liqueur from Southern Italy; Amaro Sicilianos, a Sicilian digestif made with herbs; Grappa, a typical alcoholic drink of northern Italy; as well as the three internationally recognized Italian aperitifs Martini, Campari, and Vermouth.
“You have to taste a culture to understand it.” – Deborah Cater
When it comes to aromatic and flavorful food, Indian cuisine is unmatched.
Once you try it, you are hooked! The amazing layering of flavors, exotic ingredients, the use of spices, and unfamiliar dishes that go together so harmoniously… all these traits make Indian cuisine uniquely delicious!
DISCOVER GREAT RECIPES, TIPS & IDEAS!
Guided by the motto “I don’t want to look back and think ‘I could’ve eaten that’”, the MyGreatRecipes team has set a goal to taste and make as many different dishes from around the world. Today, we’re traveling to India. Interested? Curry on!
Indian Cuisine 101
India is a vast country, a home to many ethnic groups and cultures that form the patchwork regional cuisines. The various flavors and eating habits are also dictated by the climate and soil in the region, availability of ingredients, but also the people’s religious traditions.
For instance, Hinduism considers cows sacred animals and beef is forbidden in Hindu communities. Vaishnavism followers avoid eating garlic and onion, whereas Muslims don’t eat pork. Jains are strict vegetarians who, besides excluding meat from their diet, also avoid root vegetables like potatoes.
In fact, large portions of the population in India are vegetarians. The judicious use of sauces and spices added to potatoes, eggplants, cauliflowers, peas, cheeses, and breads makes India a truly vegetarian-friendly country!
History has also influenced different regional cuisines in the country. The records that go back to the 6200 BC give us an insight in the early diet in the Indian subcontinent. It consisted mainly of vegetables, fruits, dairy, honey, and legumes.
In the past, India was a focal point of traders from Europe and Asia who, along with foreign invaders and colonists, introduced a number of important ingredients. For instance, tea was introduced during the Middle Ages, along with new cooking techniques. When India was invaded by Central Asian tribes, the two cuisines blended and created the Mughlai cuisine, in which saffron is one of the central ingredients.
Indian Salmon Curry with Saffron Rice
Believe it or not, chili peppers were brought by the Portuguese from the Americas, together with potatoes which today are a staple food in many Indian regions!
The bottom line: Indian cuisine is a fusion of regional palettes of flavors and and the only thing that connects them is the elaborate and skillful use of spices!
Indian Staple Foods
Spices & Flavorings
Let’s start with what makes Indian cuisine unique – spices. There are about 20 to 30 basic spices that are frequently used in many recipes. The beauty of spices is that, besides contributing amazing flavor, they’re also very healthy. You have surely heard of turmeric being one of the healthiest foods on the planet, helping treat and prevent various chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease!
Roasted Potatoes with East Indian Spices
The most important spices and flavorings are chili powder, turmeric, cumin, ginger, coriander, black mustard seed, cardamom, asafetida, and garlic. Garam masala is a popular powdered spice mix that blends together dried cinnamon, cardamom, and clove although each region has its own version of garam masala. Goda masala is another frequently used spice mix which is a bit sweeter.
Indian Style Lentils with Pork Tenderloin
When it comes to herbs, their most used parts are the leaves, in particular, mint, bay, fenugreek, and coriander leaves. In the southern parts of the country, curry leaves and roots are also widely used.
Desserts and sweets are richly spiced as well, usually with cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, clove saffron, and rose petal essential oils.
Indian Spiced Nuts
Oils & Butters
Vegetable oil is the most common choice for cooking in India. Butter ghee (dashi) was popular in the past but it seems to have decreased in popularity at the expense of other types of oils like hydrogenated vegetable oil (Vanaspati ghee). Certain regions seem to favor certain oils:
– peanut oil – western and northern parts
– coconut oil – western parts (Kerala)
– mustard oil – eastern parts
– sesame oil – southern parts
Grains, Beans & Pulses
Pearl millet was one of the earliest staple foods in India that remains popular to date. That’s a very long time to love something! Indian people also love whole wheat flour, rice, and especially lentils. Lentils seem to appear everywhere around you, in various shapes and colors – red lentils, black gram, green gram, mung beans, whole or, the most commonly used type, split (known as dal).
Chicken and Rice with Coconut Milk and Pistachio
Green Lentils Soup with Curried Brown Butter
The northern regions favor pulses like chickpeas, kidney beans, and black-eyed peas. Some pulses are used to obtain flour called besan.
Indian Cauliflower Fried Rice With Chicken and Roasted Chickpeas
Many types of meat are used in Indian cuisine, but chicken and mutton are most prevalent. The north-east and the coastal areas also cook with beef and fish.
Spiced Pork Samosas
Eating Habits & Etiquette
In India, breakfast is very important and is usually combined with coffee or tea. What people eat for breakfast depends on the region:
– North India – roti or parathas flatbreads and a vegetable dish, accompanied by pickles and curd;
– South India prefer idli (savory cake made of black lentils) and dosa pancakes accompanied by a chutney;
– West India – dhokla (food made of fermented batter derived from rice and chickpeas) with milk.
Samosa Potato Cakes with Green Chutney
There is something called ‘evening breakfast’ in India, which is an equivalent of the English tea time when the family sits to talk with tea and snacks.
Lunch & Dinner
Lunch consists of a main dish which is based on whole wheat flatbread in the north or rice in the south. It is typically combined with up to three types of veggies and bread.
Dinner is considered as the main meal of the day.
Eating Habits & Etiquette
Indian cuisine is the best proof that you don’t need a fork in order to eat good food! Hands are the main tool– the left hand is used to serve yourself, whereas the right one is used for eating. Alternatively, flatbreads or savory crepes are used to scoop dishes that are too liquid, like curry.
In the southern parts, food is served on banana leaves which are disposed of after the meal. This custom is less common today, except on special occasions.
In the past, food was eaten while seated on the floor or on low stools. However, throughout the years, eating habits have been influenced by other cultures. For instance, the Anglo-Indians often use western cutlery to eat their food.
Desserts & Beverages
Indian desserts are called mithai. They are usually fried delights that contain milk & sugar in the base. Other ingredients vary depending on the region. What all sweet treats have in common throughout the whole country is the extensive inclusion of spices, as well as nuts. The most popular Indian desserts include:
– gulab jamun, spongy milk-based balls soaked in syrup;
– laddu, balls made of flour, sugar, and minced dough
– jalebi, deep-fried maida flour batter in shaped like pretzels or circles, soaked in sugar syrup;
– puto, steamed rice cake;
– sutarfeni sweet, flaky rice flour roasted in ghee, blended with melted sugar to form a cotton candy, then topped with chopped nuts.
– pinni, a winter dessert made of wheat flour, desi ghee, jaggery and almonds, sometimes raisins.
Betel leaves are often served with desserts after meals to aid digestion.
Coffee is very popular in India, especially in the southern parts. The two most consumed coffee varieties are instant coffee and filter coffee.
With India being one of the largest producers of tea in the world, it’s no surprise tea is a staple beverage. Tea leaves are boiled in water, then combined with milk and spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cardamom. During ‘evening breakfast’, tea is usually served along with snacks such as pakora (an onion-based deep fried snack made with chickpea flour, salt, and light spices) or biscuits.
Lassi is a traditional drink based on yogurt. The yogurt is combined with water and various spices like cumin and saffron. There are also savory versions of this drink that include salt. Other popular lassi flavorings include sugar, lemon, mango, peach, strawberry, and rose water.
Peach and Buttermilk Lassi
The love for rose flavoring is also evident in sherbats. These sweet cold beverages are made from fruits or flower petals (rose, bel, lemon, orange, pineapple, etc.). Besides being utterly tasty and refreshing, sherbats are believed to be very healthy. Rose milk and rose water are also used in the making of other popular drinks like gholi soda.
Other widely consumed non-alcoholic beverages include coconut water, lemonade, and badam doodh (almond milk with cardamom and nuts).
Coconut Water Iced Coffee
When it comes to alcoholic beverages, the beer takes the central stage as the most popular choice, especially lagers. There is also local beer called ‘hadia’, made of rice and herbs. This beer is quite low in alcohol and often served very cold. Chaang is another beverage similar to beer, made from millet, barley, or rice. This beverage is served cold in summer and hot in winter.
Besides beer and beer-like beverages, Indians also like fenny, a beverage made from cashew apple juice or coconuts. Coconut is the main ingredient in ‘kallu’, an alcoholic beverage often consumed with fried chicken or fish.
Cooking Indian Food at Home
The fact that the restaurant industry is in demand for fresh, high-quality foods and diverse ethnic flavors is great news for all of us foodies. This means that the number of Indian restaurants will continue to rise. But before you venture to eat out, why not give Indian food a try at home?
Incorporating the tastes of India in your kitchen is not difficult at all. Start by including Indian spices and flavorings into familiar recipes like chicken, fish, and roasted veggies. Try with one spice like chili powder, then add another one like cumin or ginger. The point is, you don’t have to buy 20 spices from the beginning.
Next step, choose simple Indian food recipes to start with. Look for those based on potatoes or meat that usually have fewer ingredients. The wide array of spices and condiments allows you to play and experiment.
Crispy Indian Spiced Potato Wedges
Need an idea? Start with a curry. Despite popular belief, not all Indian dishes are curries. Curry is a common name for all spicy meat or vegetable dishes with sauces. Messing up a curry is difficult because they appear in many different forms – dry or liquid, red or green, hot, hotter, or hottest. So, to start with, throw together a simple chicken curry and serve it a rot flatbread and some dal.
Creamy Chicken Curry
Isn’t this a great way to freshen up your daily dinner repertoire?
Indian Restaurants in the US
Unlike other national cuisines, Indian cuisine seems to be quite undervalued in the States. According to Washington Post, there are over 40.000 Mexican restaurants throughout the country and almost the same number of Chinese restaurants. But when it comes to Indian restaurants, this number goes as low as 5.000 in total.
Why is it so? Certainly not for the lack of deliciousness! Experts claim that it’s the prices. Indian food requires higher culinary skills to be prepared and that is why it is more expensive. Cheap Indian dishes are usually not as tasty and once people try such low-quality dishes lose interest in the cuisine in general.
However, this is about to change. Thanks to experiment-prone millennials, Indian food is the rise. In 2007, a survey conducted by the Washington Post showed that over 1.200 Indian food products have been imported in the US since 2000.
The number of Indian restaurants in nation-wide is constantly increasing, with the most represented regional cuisines are the North and South Indian. The best part is that even standard restaurants have started to introduce Indian dishes to their menus! It is expected Indian food to be one of the hottest 2017 food trends!
However, the dishes are adapted to western tastes which generally means they are not as spicy as their original recipes.
DISCOVER GREAT RECIPES, TIPS & IDEAS!
So, if you are still hesitant about trying Indian food at home (despite all these amazing recipes and cooking tips), you’d better google “best Indian restaurant near me” and start exploring. Feeling lazy? Try “Indian food delivery”, sit back, and relax!
Here is a list of the best Indian restaurants to give you a kick start:
Indian restaurant near me Las Vegas – Delhi Indian Cuisine
Indian restaurant near me Chicago – Indian Garden Restaurant
Indian restaurant near me Atlanta – Aamar Indian Cuisine
Indian restaurant near me Tampa – Saffron Indian Cuisine
Indian restaurant near me Tucson – Gandhi Cuisine of India
Are you ready for another giveaway? This time, MyGreatRecipes is raising the stakes by awarding one lucky user a $100 Amazon Gift Card!
To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is download our recipe app. So, what are you waiting for?
The giveaway will run from September 4 at 12 am through September 13 at 12 am.
The winner will be randomly selected and notified via e-mail (be sure to use a correct e-mail address). Once the winner has responded, they will be emailed an Amazon Gift Card Code for $100!
Best of luck!
MyGreatRecipes Giveaway 2