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What is your favorite "ethnic" food to make?

I'm really excited about expanding my culinary horizons and learning to make more foods from different cultures/regions of the world. I wanted to start a thread where people can share their favorite dishes, exotic recipes, etc! So to that end:

My two favorites are pad thai and swedish meatballs. I can provide the recipe if anyone is interested:)! I've been perfecting both recipes for some time now and they always are so comforting and plain good!

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  1. Welcome to the vortex. I experienced your view toward expanded culinary horizons quite a few years ago. The only issue is that it never ends. Each culture has, within itself, wide varieties of food types and styles for preparation. Some become frustrated with the experience; I think it's a beautiful thing. You'll start out identifying "favorites" but the list will become so long that when some asks you, as you have asked us, "what is your favorite", your head will begin to spin. I truly love German, Italian, French and Mexican cooking. But not to the exclusion of Indian, Chinese, Japanese and other types of food. Regardless of the ethnic group I might focus upon, it's the actual food items (recipes) that intrigue me. That said, I will add one of my "favorites" (a specific food item) to your list. Not because it's my most favorite, but ranks high on the list.
    That would be Baumkuchen. I don't have access to a rotating "spit" so I prepare it under the broiler. It's a challenge to make, a beautiful presentation and there are enough styles for preparing it to keep me challenged each time I prepare it.
    Good luck ... you're in

    1. My favorite ethnic food to make is my favorite ethnic food to eat ~~ Italian. I married into an Italian family and MIL is Sicilian, so I learned from her.

      I live in Sothern California so I also enjoy making and eating Mexican food. Although, here in SoCal it is so ubiquitous as to almost not be considered "ethnic" IMO

      2 Replies
      1. re: laliz

        Yah, same here -- Italian. My second love is Sichuanese, but it's much more difficult to get good results, as the regular home stove just doesn't have enough heat output to achieve the wok 'hei'. But pasta dishes are so easy to recreate, and so delicious.

        Seafood pasta, and mushroom pasta come to mind, mostly. Oh, and caprese salad if you can get good tomatoes and Buffalo mozzarella that doesn't cost an arm and a leg....

        1. re: laliz

          That's funny, I don't even think of Italian food as ethnic food, since it's become so regular in our home. Same with Mexican--we cook it so much it's standard fare and nothing exotic.

        2. A few weeks ago, I had Puerto Rican night at my house. If was amazing. I made Arroz con Gandules, Mofongo, Pernil and Flan. That is by far my favorite ethnic food.

          1. Growing up, a child of southern Az. Mexican was our comfort food no matter where the Air force sent us. In the past few years I have been exploring Vietnamese more and more. It is great food for hot sticky summers in south central Indiana. I do a fair amount of just about anything. i do find Indian fairly labor intensive and much Middle Eastern also. Some of those I reserve for group cooking projects.

            1. Original or as close to original Mexican as I can get and Thai, I love the cooking but have a lot to learn.

              1. I love your excitement; it's something I can totally relate too. My two favorite categories would have to be Latin/Mexican style and Indian. Slow cooked pork wrapped in homemade tortillas (topped with fresh herby goodness) or a tomato chickpea curry - any day of the week! I'm hungry just thinking about it.

                Now if only I could work on more Asian cuisine. I just don't get the timing right or something.

                1. Goulash, West Indian chicken curry, risotto, enchiladas, Catalan seafood stew, and dal makhani are my most recent favourite "ethnic" foods to make at home. But if I really think about it, all the food I eat at home is "ethnic". No mangiacake food for this Chowhound!

                  1. Moles, sushi, thai curries, Indian curries. Stir fried noodle dishes. When you have the time and are able to prep, I find it very theraputic to spend quality time in the kitchen.

                    1. French (especially sauces and techniques), Mexican (all sorts but not a mole master), Japanese (traditional peasant food), Lao (what I can get ingredients for - whole carabao not included), Italian (just a few things), Viet (lots), Indian (lots, but my own versions).

                      1. Given that I mostly eat Middle-Eastern, Filipino, Spanish and South Asian at home, I consider American food to be an exotic deviation from the norm, hence my excitement on the rare occasion I can make chicken fried steak or sloppy joes. But other than American, while there are lots of recipes I know, I most frequently turn to a steady stream of
                        Thai - red curry, larb, pad prik khing
                        Chinese - kung pao ji ding, red-cooked pork, tofu noodles
                        Japanese - oden and other soups
                        Central European - goulash, paprikash, dobostorte, bigos, fleischpflanzerl
                        And given that I grew up in a fusion household, a lot of my food tends to have a fusion take that defies being limited by ethnic boundaries such as my Callos a la Joven which combines Spanish tradition and Filipino technique with Arabic and Southeast Asian seasonings.

                        1. Indian, Moroccan, Persian and Greek are my VERY favorite ethnic foods to make. Indian is my particular favorite and I'm thinking about taking Julie Sahni's 3 1/2 day Indian cooking course this fall. http://juliesahni.com/

                          1. I've not made pad thai but love making Swedish meatballs. One of my favorite cuisines, as a result of COTM, is Vietnamese. The recipes were interesting and varied, and a lot less "one note" than I had expected them to be. In part, that may be due to the French influence. So, you might want to check out the threads listed here:


                            Also, of late, I've become fascinated with British cooking, though I suppose we could argue about whether or not that is ethnic:


                            2 Replies
                            1. re: MMRuth

                              British foods I take for granted like a Scotch egg, a morning fry up or a Sunday roast are regarded by my American friends as exotic as the rogan josh or pork sauteed with shrimp paste that I also take for granted. Taking them to Myers of Keswick for a pork pie was like taking little children to the zoo.

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                of course it is ethnic food

                                although one might argue "british" is too broad to be ethnic, and english, irish, and scottish foods wold be the ethnicities.
                                but by that argument chinese food is not ethnic, but hunan etc is.

                                as i've said before - all food reflects SOME ethnicity. i find it a ridiculous phrase, that most people mean to mean "food not like what my mother cooked"

                              2. I would love to hear your pad thai recipe!

                                I have just started branching out into making my favorite eithnic dishes also, but I am in the very early stages...made the Cooks Illustrated Chicken Tikka Masala Tuesday night and while the chicken came out flavorful the sauce was pretty disappointing. Next on my list to try is the Epicurious Chicken cashew curry (crossing my fingers for better results!)

                                1. Traditional but relatively unknown Baked Giant Tamales - not those time consuming little steamed things...

                                  Moroccan Lemon Chicken Tajine


                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: KiltedCook

                                    Do you have a recipe for the Baked Giant Tamales?? I have never heard of these before. I do make regular tamales a few times a year and it is a two day process as I make about 100 if I am going to do all that work. One day for the fillings, one day for masa, wrapping and steaming. A less time consuming tamale would be welcomed!

                                  2. Funny word that, ethnic. I suppose hamburgers are ethnic American food. So is popcorn. And is it favorite ethnic food to make or to eat? For years in our family we served an "Indian Dinner" which was a British style curry that came to us through the U.S. Navy. Now I like to cook something more authentic when I can. So put me down for Murgh Masala. But the also tamales--expecially in the style of Oaxaca. Though this thought of tamales with porcini mushrooms goes through my head--fusion food: a riff on polenta and porcini sauce. But if you consider them ethnic, my favorite foods in the world to eat and make are a good boule of sourdough bread and Hoppin John.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Father Kitchen

                                      i'd say popcorn is probably neanderthal ethnic food, but why quibble?

                                      1. re: thew

                                        Who's quibbling? Just a little humor to point out that in this great melting pot of a nation that we live in, ethnic means many different things to different people.

                                        1. re: thew

                                          Maize is a New World Crop never seen by Neanderthals. Quibble, quibble, quibble....

                                      2. Peruvian lomo saltado. It was a revelation to me that I can make this at home, it is one of my favorite restaurant dishes! I found a great recipe and have made it several times, with much success.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Michelle

                                          This is a great dish, can you give us your recipe??

                                          1. re: Michelle

                                            Yes, I would love this recipe too!

                                            1. re: mcel215


                                              Sure! It is a recipe from recipezaar, here is a link:


                                              I usually double or triple the marinade, depending on the amount of meat I have to use. Enjoy!

                                          2. I'm Italian, so I don't consider that ethnic, but it is one of my fave cuisines.

                                            Otherwise, I love making hot & sour soup, if only because I love to eat it. Ditto chana masala.

                                            1. I like making Spanish (paella), Moroccan (tagine), Mexican, Portuguese (bacalao) and some Canadian (pea soup)

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: sarah galvin

                                                Paella and tagine both are a fave for me.

                                              2. Every Saturday evening I do something from the following cuisines: Indian, Sichuan/Hunan, Thai, Cajun, SE Asia, and Peruvian. Probably in that order of frequency.

                                                I have about 50 favorites so I can go about a year without repeating but I never do.

                                                My wife won't touch any of it so I am free to do it my way.

                                                  1. want the recipe or a link for the giant tamales!
                                                    and the pad thai

                                                    1. Pakistani is my favorite and most frequently cooked at home. My Brother-in-law is from Karachi, and I go over to his and my sisters house every weekend to play with my nephews and cook a big Sunday meal.
                                                      We don't use specific recipes, just play around with a lot of similar ingredients and different proteins, and try to find a method of making flatbread that will tide us over until we get that backyard tandoor finished! On a charcoal BBQ is our favorite so far.

                                                      1. American has the most foreign-ethnic connotations for me -- I grew up eating Cantonese homecooking every day, while watching my friends bring Lunchables to school and my college roommates heat up frozen dinners. Since I lean more toward other ethnic cuisines when I cook (mostly Italian, Puerto Rican, and Spanish), American food still holds a lot of mystique and it seems it's becoming a bit of an Achilles heel. I remember a particularly bad rendition of country fried steak recently...the biscuits and gravy were a bit of a disaster, too. But I may have asked for it -- frying is still relatively new to me, I've only made gravy once, and I'm afraid of ovens. Catastrophe much?

                                                        To answer the question, though, I'd have to go with arroz con gandules. The SO is half Puerto Rican, so I'd eaten this glorious dish for years before realizing it'd be possible to cook it myself. Learning how to do it did me a few other favors -- now I make my own sofrito and achiote oil -- and there's nothing quite like pulling out a container of arroz con gandules from the freezer on a cold day...

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: theannerska

                                                          I've been cooking Chinese food for a couple of years now, but more specifically Sichuan food - fish fragrant aubergines and Ma Po Tofu are my favourite. Also, I've been starting to make dim sum which, while time consuming, is very satisfying.

                                                          1. re: hollow_legs

                                                            Ooooh! Do share your ma po tofu recipe, will ya? How do you get the ground pork all crispy on your home stove?? .

                                                            1. re: hollow_legs

                                                              Yes I second the request for Ma Po. I've always wanted to make this.

                                                              1. re: hollow_legs

                                                                Haha, my mom has been trying to perfect her ma po tofu for years -- she considers non-Cantonese Chinese a huge challenge. I third the request for your rendition!

                                                            2. My favourites are Sichuan, Thai, Vietnamese and Indian. I also cook Italian quite a bit, and French, Spanish and Middle Eastern/Moroccan. I'm not very familiar with Mexican or South American food, as I live in England and there's not much of it about.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: greedygirl

                                                                If you want to try out very authentic Mexican, there's an American bloke, Rick Bayless, that has many cookbooks out. One, propery entitled Authentic Mexican, has dozens of really good recipes that are awesome. I lived in Mexico and spend quite a bit of time down there--I make his recipes for family there and they are serious hits.

                                                              2. When I cook Asian it turns into slop, when I cook Indian I hit it sometimes, but when I cook Middle Eastern/Greek it comes out perfect every time so I'd have to say that's my favorite ethnicity to cook. Hummos, baba ganooj, fatoush, tabboule, koresh with beef and eggplant, ME meatballs and squash, spanakorizo, moussaka, avgolemono soup, baklava and related pastries, galaktoboureko---foolproof and delicious.

                                                                1. I absolutely love miso-glazed fish - I made this Misoyaki Salmon for Valentine's Day this year and it was fantastic. I found both types of miso at Whole Foods in the refrigerated section (near yogurt).


                                                                  1. Hummus is really the only 'real' ethnic food other than some German/Austrian/Hungarian food that my grandmother used to make.

                                                                    1. I am Jewish and enjoy preparing old Yiddish recipes
                                                                      like Petcha, cabbage soup,vegetable barley soup with flanken, potato latkes, etc

                                                                      1. Thai food. I grew up in Thailand so it's a comfort food from my childhood. I like making curries and noodle dishes such as Pad Thai or Drunken Noodle. But my favorite is Thai Basil and chili sauce seafood over steamed rice. And the one my family demands I make them the most is Thai Chicken Coconut soup.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Cremon

                                                                          Would you mind sharing you Pad Thai and Drunken Noodle dishes? I love both and would love to make them. And the Thai Basil is probably wonderful too. :)

                                                                          I am close to H-Mart, a huge Asain Market here in Boston. But, I am unfamilar with some of the ingredients to buy as well.


                                                                          1. re: mcel215

                                                                            mcel215 - love your blog!!

                                                                            My recipe will be at the bottom of this post.. Super H is an excellent supplier for any Asian cooking - they are all over the U.S.. I buy fresh Thai basil leaves from their produce section as well as fresh Thai Chili peppers. They have the most popular brands of fish sauce and they sell lychees in the can (a great fruit treat).

                                                                            Pad Thai Recipe

                                                                            ½-1 lb of thin strips of chicken

                                                                            ½ lb peeled and deveined shrimp (if you like shrimp – use the full 1 lb of chicken if you don’t)

                                                                            1 egg

                                                                            3 cloves minced garlic

                                                                            ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

                                                                            2 tablespoons fish sauce

                                                                            Juice of 1/2 lime

                                                                            2 minced shallots

                                                                            1-1/2 cup green onions

                                                                            2 tablespoons palm sugar

                                                                            2 tablespoons tamarind paste

                                                                            1/2 package Thai rice noodles

                                                                            2 tablespoon vegetable oil

                                                                            1/2 cup packed Thai basil leaves

                                                                            1-1/2 cup bean sprouts

                                                                            3 tablespoons well chopped unsalted dry roasted peanuts

                                                                            You can make Pad Thai with almost any meats or vegetables. Traditional recipes call for Tofu but I personally don't use it in mine. But you start by soaking the noodles in tepid water (don’t use hot water or the noodles will get too mushy - if that happens, your noodles will end up as one big gloppy mess). For the cooking I use a no-stick wok. Any kind of wok works best but if you don’t have a wok, a large pan will suffice (woks are cheap though – anyone cooking Asian food really ought to have one). Also, it works best if you have a 15,000+ BTU burner on your stove – one secret to Asian cooking is very high heat. Get the noodles to where they can be shaped in your hand but they aren’t super limp and expanded with water (or again - gloppy mess will result). For me, this takes less than 10 minutes with room temperature water. Also, I mix the palm sugar, fish sauce and tamarind paste thoroughly before I start to get the palm sugar well dissolved (it’s hard to mix it in with the noodles evenly while it is a lumpy paste)

                                                                            I like to cook the chicken and shrimp separately and scramble the egg before I even start the noodles – you can do it in the same pan while the noodles cook, but I like having the meats cooked already before I begin.

                                                                            Ok, get the wok very hot. Preheat it – don’t add the oil until the wok has started to heat (too hot to touch).

                                                                            Toss in the oil (it should smoke slightly with the heat), garlic and shallots and stir quickly. When the garlic starts to brown, drain the noodles and put them in the wok. Keep stirring or the noodles will start to stick.

                                                                            Add the tamarind, the palm sugar, and fish sauce and stir. The liquids should evaporate with the intense heat – if they DON’T, your wok isn’t hot enough – keep a mental note for next time.

                                                                            Dump the scrambled egg in and mix it in with the noodles.

                                                                            Add the basil leaves and mix in quickly.

                                                                            Add the chicken and shrimp and lime juice. At this point I taste a noodle – they should be chewy – not limp. If they are too dry, add a little water. I’ll also add more fish sauce at this point if I think it needs it.

                                                                            Put in the white pepper, the green onions and bean sprouts (reserve half the bean sprouts) and mix well for about 30 seconds to a minute.

                                                                            Take off the heat and serve. I will add a teaspoon of minced Thai chilli peppers to mine which will give it a strong kick. My family does not like the hot peppers so I omit it for theirs. But at this point, I sprinkle the chopped peanuts and reserved bean sprouts over the top and enjoy.

                                                                            1. re: Cremon

                                                                              Thank you Cremon, so much for taking the time and typing this recipe for me. I am printing it down now. :)

                                                                              I will have to pick up palm sugar at H-Mart on my next trip. I wondered if you know any brand names for Thai Rice Noodle, or are they all pretty okay?

                                                                              Thanks for the compliment too.


                                                                              1. re: mcel215

                                                                                They are all rice noodles. The one I buy comes in a plastic bag and is silk screened with 3 female dancing silhouettes on it (one red, one blue and one green) with lots of Thai writing. The noodles are VERY cheap. I imagine they are all about the same quality, you know? The ingredient list for rice noodles is rather short - I don't know how a manufacturer could mess that up. I buy a half dozen packs at a time and they last my family and I a while. I also buy a lot of tamarind paste. You'll use that in a LOT of Thai cooking.

                                                                                Hope you enjoy your Pad Thai - good luck!

                                                                        2. When I try to cook Asian the product turns to slop. I can hit Indian maybe 50% of the time. But Middle Eastern/Balkan is foolproof and has become my go-to cuisine for entertaining. Tabbouleh, baba ganooj, hummos, meatballs in a tomato sauce with mint, dill, cinnamon, and lemon juice, moussaka, spanakorizo, skordalia, cucumbers in yogurt, fatoosh salad, buttery baklava and other phyllo pastries---and you can do every bit of it ahead of time.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Querencia

                                                                            I would love your meatball recipe. I have a ton of dill and lemons in my fridge, but little use for them at the moment.

                                                                          2. Favorite to make can be different than favorite to eat:

                                                                            Indian - because it's so easy to make and it wows people.

                                                                            BBQ - The real stuff cooked over hardwoods (Hot Smoking) because the actual results when done correctly are sublime.

                                                                            French cuisine - It's still the crème de la crème of cooking imho, I tend to combine and blend Nouvelle with classique.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                              Regional cuisines of China or Vietnamese dishes are probably my favourites, but I'm ecstatic when I make something Indian and it screams authentic. A lot of my Indian attempts have fallen flat because I've insisted on using far less ghee or oil in an attempt to make my Indian dishes healthier. They never taste right without the appropriate amounts of fats, even though they are often really delicious in their own right.