One of the best aspects of traveling is sampling and enjoying the local cuisine. Food is near the heart of every culture (as folks like Anthony Bourdain, David Chang, and others have shown us over the years), and has a way of solidifying a memory.
You may not remember all the details of a trip, but there’s a good chance you’ll never forget the best food you had there.
In 2020, exploring different cuisines from your own kitchen is easier than ever. Food-focused social networks and sites such as Allrecipe, PatiJinich.com, EatPeru, and more have become invaluable resources for home chefs.
Now, one trip to the grocery store can yield a half dozen more in your dining room. Below, we outline some international recipes that will take you around the globe—from Egypt’s take on the falafel and green curry from Thailand to the Mexican al pastor taco, and more.
From Egypt: Ta’ameya
One doesn’t necessarily think of Egypt as a destination for foodies. When you have remarkably preserved historical sites connecting ancient times with the modern age, it’s easy to see why the cuisine is an afterthought for tourists. But Egypt’s unique geography—with ties to North Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean—gives its food a tasty blend of spices and flavors.
Ta’ameya is the Egyptian version of falafel, and it carries an important distinction from the popular street food: It’s made with fava beans instead of chickpeas. Turn your kitchen into a bazaar with this recipe.
- 2 cups dried fava beans
- 1 red onion, quartered
- ½ cup fresh parsley
- ½ cup fresh cilantro
- ½ cup fresh dill
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ cup coriander
- ½ teaspoons of salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 cup sesame seeds (optional)
- Vegetable oil for frying
Let the fava beans soak in water overnight (or for at least eight hours) before draining. In a food processor, blend beans, red onion, parsley, cilantro, dill, garlic, coriander, salt, and cumin until it reaches a dough-like consistency. Toast sesame seeds on a skillet over medium heat for about five minutes. Roll your dough into balls and coat them with toasted sesame seeds. Fry in vegetable oil for three to five minutes, or until balls are golden brown. Let dry on a paper towel and serve.
Falafels are great by themselves, but you can also get creative with dips: Try yogurt or hummus for starters and add a kick with sriracha or your favorite hot sauce.
From Thailand: Thai Green Curry
If you’re lucky enough to enjoy authentic dishes on the streets of Bangkok, the experience can be life-changing, especially when coupled with a sojourn to a jungle temple or a trip to the beach. There’s a lot to like about Thailand in general. But the food will always draw rave reviews. You can’t go wrong with Pad Thai, of course, but why not go a bit further with this simple Thai Green Curry recipe?
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup uncooked jasmine rice
- 1 onion, cut in wedges
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 pound chicken tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tablespoon green curry paste (more to taste)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- 1 eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
- ⅔ (32 oz) carton chicken broth (more to taste)
- 1 (15 oz) can light coconut milk
- 1 (8 oz) can bamboo shoots
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- 1 small bunch fresh basil leaves (more to taste)
Cook rice separately while you heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, fish sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic; cook and stir for five minutes. Add the chicken, curry paste, and basil, stirring occasionally. After five minutes, mix in eggplant, cover the saucepan, and reduce to low heat for five minutes more. Finally, pour in the broth, coconut milk, and bamboo shoots and cook until the eggplant is tender (five to 10 minutes). Finish with lime juice and serve over the rice with basil as a garnish.
Swap out the chicken for shrimp for a seafood change-up. Tofu works great for vegetarians.
From Mexico: Tacos Al Pastor
Mexico is a country made up of hundreds of cultures sewn together in delightful and, at times, discordant ways. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the cuisine. With seven different forms of mole sauce, to say nothing of the hundreds of ways Mexican cuisine uses corn (tamales, tortillas, and huitlacoche, oh my), you could traverse from the snow-swept mountains to the beachy tropics and still not even scratch the surface of what Mexico has to offer.
The taco is ubiquitous, though. This al pastor recipe from renowned celebrity chef Pati Jinich will add authenticity to Taco Tuesday.
Ingredients (Makes 12 to 14 tacos)
- 3 pounds pork shoulder, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 3 cups achiote adobo marinade
- Half a pineapple, cut into ½-inch slices
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- Salt to taste
- 12 to 14 corn tortillas
- Cheese of choice (Mexican mix, cheddar, Monterey jack)
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped for garnish
- 1 cup white onion, chopped for garnish
- 2 limes, cut into quarters, for garnish
- Serve with salsa
Marinade the pork for at least three hours (though, a day or more is ideal) in the refrigerator, leaving ¾ of a cup of marinade for the pineapple later on. Heat a skillet over medium heat, adding a tablespoon of oil once it’s hot. Sear pineapple, brushing on the reserved marinade, until both sides are slightly charred. Cut the pineapple into thin slices and remove the core. Leave off to the side. Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet, and place as many slices of pork, leaving some space between. Sprinkle in salt to taste and cook about two minutes per side, until meat is browned. When finished, cut it into thin slices, then add back to the skillet (on reduced heat) with any leftover marinade. Stir for another minute. Cover and set on table with the rest of the fixings. Heat the corn tortillas one to two minutes per side over medium heat. Now you have a taco buffet.
Add in jalapeños for heat. Have a selection of cheeses and salsas available. You could also swap out the pork for seitan if you have vegetarian or vegan eaters.
From Jamaica: Jerk Chicken
The spice of the cuisine is a little like the heat of the Caribbean itself: inescapable and, once you’ve adjusted, exactly what you wanted all along. Jamaican jerk chicken comes at your taste buds with sweet heat and a savory finish. Serve it over rice with some juicy pineapple, and then close your eyes. Let the flavors take you to the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean with this recipe.
- 1 teaspoon onion, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 habanero pepper, sliced
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves; cut into 1-inch strips
Use a food processor (or blender) to blend onion, brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, thyme, sesame oil, garlic, allspice, and habanero until the mixture is smooth. Place chicken in a Ziploc bag, add in ¾ of the sauce, and seal off. Leave in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Preheat your oven’s broiler. Remove the chicken from the bag, and broil it for 10 to 15 minutes, turning it over halfway through. Heat the remaining sauce and drizzle over finished chicken when serving.
If you want to go truly Jamaican, cook up some plantains for a sweet side dish.
From Portugal: Caldo Verde
When one thinks of European cuisines, Italian, French, and even Spanish tapas come to mind first. Portugal deserves a mention alongside those bigger nations. As a small Atlantic country with Arab influences, hundreds of miles of coastline, and acres upon acres of ancient forest, the Portuguese know how to prepare fish and stuff a sausage. The latter stars in Caldo Verde, a sausage, kale, and potato soup that lasts for days.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 6 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 quarts cold water
- 6 ounces linguica sausage, thinly sliced
- 2 ½ teaspoons salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 1 pound kale, rinsed and julienned
Cook onion and garlic in three tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in potatoes, mixing constantly for three minutes more. Pour in water and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are soft (about 20 minutes). In a skillet, cook sausage over medium heat for 10 minutes. Drain the excess fat. Mash or puree the potatoes. Stir the sausage, salt, and pepper into the soup and return to medium heat. Cover and simmer for five minutes. Add in kale last and cook for five more minutes before serving.
Add in whitefish for an Atlantic Ocean element.
From Peru: Lomo Saltado
Here’s a fascinating piece of trivia: Though it’s more associated with European and American dishes, the potato actually emerged in Peru. It remains a star of Peruvian cuisine to this day, in many forms. Lomo Saltado is good, old-fashioned meat and potatoes, Peruvian style. That means there’s plenty of spice and flavor. And it’s also a pretty simple dish to put together. Follow this recipe from EatPeru and bookmark the site while you’re at it. You won’t regret it.
- 18 oz sirloin steak, cut into slices
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 2 tomatoes, chopped into 8 slices
- 1 ají amarillo chili pepper sliced finely, veins and seeds removed
- 1 teaspoon fresh garlic paste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 20 ounces cooked white rice
- 11 ounces thick potato slices, ready for frying
- ½ cup beef stock
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons plain vinegar
- Handful of cilantro
- ¼ teaspoon ground oregano
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Salt to taste
Fry the potatoes in vegetable oil in a pan, then set them aside. Marinate the steak, cut into slices, in a mix of cumin, salt, a tablespoon of vinegar, a tablespoon of olive oil, and soy sauce for at least 10 minutes. Bring another tablespoon of olive oil to high heat in a saucepan (a wok works great). Add the steak and cook until each slice is sealed and brown.
You could swap out fried potatoes with your potato of choice: Hash browns, tater tots, or even french fries make for a good side here.
From Italy: Tiramisu
With all of these savory dishes to enjoy, you'll need a good dessert to cap the meal. For this, we turn to Italy and tiramisu. This favorite delivers smoothness with mascarpone and whipped cream, a subtle bite with hints of coffee, and a sweet, chocolaty finish. Although it only emerged in the 1960s, it's a certified dessert classic. Try this recipe.
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 1/4 cups white sugar
- 1 1/4 cups mascarpone cheese
- 1 3/4 heavy whipping cream
- 2 (12 oz) packages ladyfingers
- 1/3 cup coffee flavored liqueur
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
- 1 (1 oz) square semisweet chocolate
In a double boiler, combine egg yolks and sugar over boiling water. (If you don't have a double boiler, use a heat-safe bowl over a saucepan or small pot of boiling water; just make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water directly.) Stir constantly over low heat for about 10 minutes, then remove and whip yolks until the mixture is thick and yellow. Add mascarpone to the mix and beat until it's combined. Off to the side, whip the cream until stiff peaks form (the cream points straight up when you remove the whisk). Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone/yolk mixture and set aside. Line the bottom and sides of a large glass bowl with the ladyfingers, and add a layer of the cream mixture, add more ladyfingers over the top, and repeat. Garnish with cocoa powder and chocolate shavings. Refrigerate for several hours (or overnight) and serve.
Tiramisu is complete with an espresso. You could also add a scoop of ice cream to take dessert to the next level.