We Indians tend to be wary of trying out new cuisines. We have our very particular preferences because of our traditional food habits. So here are some cuisines from around the world that Indians can start experimenting with.
1. Thai Cuisine
Thai food… ooh la la! Thai cuisine is based on the philosophy of a balance of five tastes in every dish: salty, sweet, spicy, sour and bitter. This is very close to our Indian philosophy of balancing six rasas. Thai cuisine is also very adaptable to vegetarian cooking. And they even do curries! No wonder it has started becoming such a popular cuisine in India.
Dishes to try: Apart from the quintessential red and green Thai curry, try Pad Thai (flat noodle in a spicy sauce), Som Tam (spicy raw papaya salad), Khao Pad (fried rice), Thai Pineapple Fried Rice and their Stir-Fried Greens. Wash it down with some refreshing Lemongrass juice and end on a sweet note with a dessert of sticky rice with Thai mango.
2. Turkish Cuisine
Turkish cuisine has many influences that make for tastes which Indians will enjoy. Turkish cuisine has a lot of dips and Mezze platters for spice lovers. It uses a lot of fresh vegetables for salads and vegetarian meals. And for the meat eaters they have fantastic kebabs.
Dishes to Try: At the heart of Turkish cuisine are their lavish Mezze platters which you simply should not miss! Their Icli Kofte (minced meat croquettes), lamb Kebabs, Dolma (stuffed vegetable dish) are fantastic too. You can have some ayran (salty yoghurt drink) or Turkish mint tea to digest the meal. Don’t forget their Baklava and Lokum if you like your sweets!
3. South African Cuisine
South African cuisine has a variety of vegetable and meat dishes for the Indian palate. It uses a lot of spices in cooking, and like our garam masala it has different spice mixes for curries. It has also been greatly influenced by Indian immigrants over the years. So there are a lot of dishes which have origins in traditional Indian cooking.
Dishes to Try: Their Chakalaka (vegetables in onion and tomato gravy), Potjiekos (a slow-cooked meat and vegetable curry), Boerewors (spicy grilled sausages), and Bredie ( a hearty meat stew made in winters) are to die for! You can drink their traditional local beer or rock shandy (South African style lemonade) to quench your thirst. For the sweet tooth they have Koeksisters (fried twists dunked in sugar syrup) and Malva pudding.
4. Brazilian Cuisine
Like Indian cuisine, Brazilian cuisine varies greatly from region to region. This means there is a wide variety of food for all our preferences. For fish lovers, North Brazilian cuisine is the way to go while meat lovers can opt for South Brazilian cuisine. Brazil also has a lot of rice and bean dishes, fruits and breads for vegetarians.
Dishes to Try: Feijoada (a stew of meats and vegetables served with rice), Moqueca (salt water fish stew in coconut milk), Acarajé (black-eyed peas’ fritters) are all great to chow down. In desserts, you can try Beijinho (candy of condensed milk and coconut) and Quindim (a baked custard). If you’re thirsty from all the eating, look no further than Cachaça (a distilled spirit made from sugarcane), Cajuína (non-alcoholic drink of cashew apples) and cocktails made from a combination of these with other mixers!
5. Mexican Cuisine
Mexicans use chilli peppers in their food like we use our red chilly powder! That makes their dishes spicy and appealing to chilli-starved Indians across the world. They also use corn and beans and it’s easier to adapt their cuisine to a vegetarian version. Just order with no meat and only beans, and you’re good to go!
Dishes to Try: Chilaquiles (corn tortillas with red or green salsa and chicken and egg toppings) huevos rancheros (eggs cooked in a spicy pepper and tomato sauce), torta cubana (Mexican version of a sandwich), pozole (slow cooked corn stew with meats) and tacos al pastor (Mexican version of a shawarma) are great apart from the nachos and burritos. For dessert, try their churros dipped in chocolate, flan (an open pastry with a sweet filling) and sopaipillas (fried breads with sweet accompaniments) . In beverages you have tequila, cervaza preparada (a beer and tomato juice cocktail) and pox for alcoholics whereas teetotalers can sip on the spicy Aztec Hot Chocolate or refreshing fruit aguas frescas.
6. Italian Cuisine
Italian cooking is quite similar to Indian cooking. The best food is homemade food from mom’s kitchen. There are family recipes that are highly secretive and passed down from generation to generation. And there are no measures except a handful of this or a pinch of that! They use a lot of fresh herbs and flavourings that are absolutely delightful to the Indian palate.
Dishes to Try: Pizzas, pastas and risottos are all good, but try their risi e bisi (rice and peas dish like our khichdi), eggplant parmesan, robust spiced meatballs and preserved meats. Pair the meats with amazing local wines and round up your meal with the ever-popular tiramisu and gelato or the lesser known panna cotta (pudding of cooked cream), cannoli (fried pastry dough tubes filled with ricotta-based creamy filling or Zuppa Inglese (custard based dessert).
7. Spanish Cuisine
Spanish cuisine is gaining popularity in India, mainly due to the culture of tapas which are small dishes had with a drink while bar-hopping. The cuisine of Spain is primarily focused on fresh ingredients, seafood and lightly flavoured sauces. Their use of olive oil and garlic is legendary. They also use a lot of herbs like paprika (smoky chilli pepper), saffron, oregano, rosemary and thyme, cheeses and hams and sausages.
Dishes to Try: The most famous tapas are Gambas al Ajillo (garlic shrimps), Patatas Bravas (chunky fried potatoes topped with spicy sauces) and Tortilla Espanola (Spanish omlette). You should not miss Paella (seafood and rice dish), Spanish fish and clams in Garlic Wine Sauce, Jamon Serrano and Chorizo Sausage. Spanish wines go great with their food. And you can end on a sweet note with Panellets (small cakes and cookies), quince paste (jelly), teja (dumpling shaped confectionary with sweet filling) or crème brulee.