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Looking for easy international recipes

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I enjoy American and Italian food, but I'd rather make Asian or African recipes. For some reason, eating spaghetti and meatballs evokes a feeling of contempt brought on by familiarity.

Problem is, I am a novice in the kitchen. I can bake and fry a few dishes, but beyond that, I'm lost. If you have any suggestions for books, sites or blogs I could visit to increase my cooking chops, it would be much appreciated.

Ideally, I'd like the recipes to be healthy, but that's not a firm requirement. I just want to make exotic food that someone besides myself might want to eat.

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  1. I'm culinarily challenged, so my Chinese mother taught me a very simple and delicious recipe for Teriyaki Chicken. I use boneless chicken thighs and like my meat extra tender so after I wash and dry it I pound it with a tenderizer (looks like a hammer) on both sides.

    marninade per lb. of chicken:
    3 TBSP soy sauce
    3 TBSP mirin
    3 TBSP water
    1 TBSP sugar
    1 small piece of kelp (optional)
    1 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in water

    To make marinade, combine ingredients (except for cornstarch) in small pan and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer 5-10 minutes, keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn't burn. When it's thickened, reduced to about a half, add the cornstarch/water and simmer some more, another 5-10 minutes until very thick (again, keep an eye on it!). Wait for the pan to cool off or put it in a larger pan w/cold water if you want it to cool faster.

    Marinate chicken in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 2 hours. My mother likes to use a knife or fork and stab tiny holes in the chicken. Then fry in sautee pan or skillet; during cooking add the extra marinade (fry about 4-5 minutes on each side, depending on thickness - cut gently with a knife to make sure all the pink is gone).

    For a simple stirfry dish, sautee chopped garlic and a few slices of ginger in sesame oil. Add a bag of frozen vegetables (I usually use the asian stirfry). Add 1-2 tsp soy sauce and 1-2 tsp oyster sauce and sautee for about 8-10 minutes.

    I'll usually have brown rice with it - bring 2 cups water to a boil, add one cup brown rice and simmer with the lid shut for 45 minutes.

    1. This is an easy, delicious and pretty healthy recipe for grilled/broiled yogurt marinated chicken:


      1. I have had great luck with recipes by Charmaine Solomon. Lots of Asian and Indian, but other cuisines as well. They are easy to follow, authentic and tasty. She's got a bunch of cookbooks out but I think some of her recipes are online as well.

        1. Definitely get your hands on a Claudia Roden cookbook. Her recipes for Arabic food are healthy, flavorful and not too complicated. By playing with Middle-Eastern spices, you will develop your palate and your ability to understand layered flavors.

          "Memories of a Filipino Kitchen" by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan is a fantastic introduction for Americans unused to Filipino cookery. It is easily accessible and offers a wealth of simple and healthful dishes like adobo (meat braised in aromatic vinegar), sinigang na isda (salmon and vegetables in sour tamarind broth) or kilawin (fresh fish cured in palm vinegar and spices).

          1. Though they both are somewhat time consuming, they are so delicious and so much fun to make. I hope you enjoy! Two of my very favorites are:

            Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves) - Middle Eastern

            Summer Rolls with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce - Thai

            (And for a little Latin-inspired libation, you've gotta try: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...)

            1. I've just been on an Asian cooking spree using recipes I found in Cooking Light magazine. I've had success with most of their recipes so I recommend that magazine as a good source. My two favorite soup and salad cookbooks are both from Moosewood - Low-Fat Favorites and Daily Specials. Most of the soups are uniquely seasoned and represent a variety of ethnic cuisines. In my area I can buy dried herbs and spices at a food coop or health food store where I can measure out what I need and they are very reasonably priced.
              I'm at work so I'll try to post a veggie stir fry recipe that I think is especially flavorful and would go well with the great sounding teriyaki recipe already posted.

              1. Mark Bittman's Best Recipes in the World cookbook is an excellent cookbook, with recipes from lots of regions that have a wide range of levels of sophistication. I'm not a novice cook, but I think the recipes are written at a level that you should be able to pull most of them off.

                To check out a few, go here:


                His Minimalist column and Bitten blog in the NY Times also have a pretty good range of recipes.

                1 Reply
                1. re: heatherkay

                  I second the recommendation for Bittman's Best Recipes in the World....everything I've tried from it has been great. I especially like that many, many recipes can be made with ingrediants commonly found in grocery stores...no ethnic markets in our area! His directions are easy to follow, and lots of the recipes would be quick and easy enough for weeknight dinners.

                2. A simple African dish we make is Potatoes with masamba. (Masamba means "greens" in Malawi, and the same word is used in Kenya and/or Uganda for "farm". We use collard greens or kale. Cut it into narrow strips, removing the center rib if it's thick/seems tough. Steam them and serve with a mixture of peanut butter and salsa.

                  We also make what some call Israeli salad (others call it Shepherd's salad among other things). Mix some tahini and lemon juice, add some chopped tomatoes, chop up an English/Armenian cucumber and a carrot or two, finely dice a jalapeƱo, chop up some parsley and a red bell pepper. Mix it all together. We sometimes throw in some already cooked garbanzos or marinated mixed beans.