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Oct 2, 2011 08:06 AM

Underappreciated Cuisines & The Dishes You Would Choose To Spotlight Them

Most of us are somewhat or very familiar with the usual suspects: French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Indian, Greek, Thai, Korean, etc.

But what are some cuisines you think are underappreciated/underrepresented in our culinary spectrum, and what gateway dishes from those cuisines would you choose to get a newbie to want to try more?

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  1. well these cuisine names you have mentioned are umbrella terms that cover a huge number of distinct regional cuisines - so I think it's fair to say that most people don't know them that well at all!

    6 Replies
    1. re: Muchlove

      I think that's true. Perhaps the OP might consider this anew.

      1. re: huiray

        Muchlove and huiray, with respect for both your opinions, not really. I did after all say most of us are "somewhat OR very familiar" with those cuisines. And I'm comfortable that enough people understand that I'm not saying that most people are deeply, extensively or exhaustively familiar with any or all of the listed cuisines and/or their regional variations.

        As evidenced by the responses downstream, there are those who read my question as intended, but I appreciate your differing interpretation, too. :)

        1. re: inaplasticcup

          Oh, I understood what you were getting at, but thanks too for your consideration.

          Nevertheless, I view Muchlove's post as having truth in it and more as a caution rather than a "differing interpretation". With respect to the 'downstream' posts, there are already cautions/caveats about what constitutes German or German/Hungarian food. ;-)

          1. re: huiray

            I understand what you mean. The next post might very well be about a certain regional and lesser known type of Indian cuisine, or Northeastern Italian food, for instance.

            I didn't intend to paint any of those cuisines with a broad or simple brush stroke, but most of us foodnik type people have either heard of or eaten something from them. There are just some cuisines that never seem to get the time of day, and I am interested in learning about those as well as any lesser known regional dishes of generally well known cuisines.

            But you're right - we don't want to reduce any rich, complex and varied cuisines into something less than they are, and thank you both for making that point.

            1. re: inaplasticcup

              You might also want to consider what is underrepresented in YOUR country. I am assuming you are referring to America? For example Korean is not very well represented in the UK, but I guess it is reflective on the population size.

    2. Most Americans know very little about the contributions of the Shakers to their country's cuisine.
      The Shakers were the first to make extensive use of herbs and spices, not to mention that they created the paper packet seed industry, among their scores of other innovations. They invented a dough-kneading machine and a vertical rotating oven that backed dozens of cakes, pies or loaves of bread at a time. There are many Shaker cookbooks with inventive but hearty and still familiar dishes, like Spiced Grape Drink, my favorite summer alternative to lemonade.

      4 Replies
      1. re: greygarious

        That's very interesting, greygarious. I just googled the spiced grape drink, and it seems to be a lot like spiced apple cider. Do you drink it both hot and cold?

        1. re: inaplasticcup

          Cold, with ice, but I have heard of hot. When the restaurant at the Shaker Village in Canterbury NH was in its original location, there were pitchers of it on the communal tables(which is probably how it was done when it was a working Shaker community). If you ordered it, they brought you a glass with ice and you helped yourself. I will post the recipe in Home Cooking.

        2. re: greygarious

          It's interesting that the Shakers are often praised (righlyl) for their innovative cooking of the time yet I read, more than occasionally, Americans describing British food as bland. Mother Ann Lee originated from Manchester (the centre of my metro area) and clearly took with her the British cooking of the time. And, of course, that style of cooking continued to develop in Britain as it did in America.

        3. Hungarian food is good. I love spatzle.
          But I think there needs to be more Minnesotan Tater-tot hot dish in the world:)

          30 Replies
          1. re: danionavenue

            LOL. That made me chuckle, but it's sort of true, isn't it? With all the focus on what we call *ethnic* and *gourmet* cuisine, good ol' Midwestern fare has gotten the shaft!

            1. re: danionavenue

              Based on my exposure to the US public image of German/Austrian food (heavy, too much beer, too much sausage, too much sweet wine of poor quality eg Liebfraumilch etc), it appears to me that German cuisine receives a bad rap. I've worked briefly in Germany and have had some refined, tasty dishes (eg macerated pork w/mushroom/cream/wine sauce, trout pulled out of a stream just prior to cooking etc).

              1. re: danionavenue

                Spätzle are Swabian. You might be talking about galuska, which is the Hungarian version. That said, I don't know a hell of a lot more Hungarian dishes than that and paprikash.

                I was almost going to say German, but I think most people have a fairly good idea of the cuisine, save for the idea that we solely live on pork and kraut.

                1. re: linguafood

                  Spaetzle is certainly a good gateway food - easy on the palate, homey, comforting... I haven't had much German food, but a German friend once made some amazing weisswurst and kraut for me, and that was fantastic.

                  1. re: inaplasticcup

                    About the Sauerkraut always regarded as German food:
                    In my ca 21 years living in Germany I ate Sauerkraut a total of about 5 times. Americans eat a LOT more Sauerkraut than that!! And I ate Weisswurst only here in the USA, never saw it in Germany. But I always thought it was a Swiss type of wurst.

                    1. re: RUK

                      Weisswurst is Bavarian, not to be eaten past 11 a.m. I guess it's 'our' version of cappuccino.

                      1. re: linguafood

                        I see. :-) . I am mostly familiar with food from Thuringia and Rhineland.

                        1. re: RUK

                          That goes to show how different regions can be. A lot of food in Northern Germany is similar / the same (frikadellen, rote grütze, open faced sandwiches, etc...) to what is called Danish/Scandinavian food. Things overlap a lot all over in all directions.

                            1. re: huiray

                              It's the Mason-Dixon-line of sausage culture.

                          1. re: linguafood

                            I'll take weisswurst over cappucino most days I think. :)

                            1. re: inaplasticcup

                              These days, I'm more of a coffee-in-the-morning kinda gal myself (can't really eat anything before noon, generally).... but I remember a conference in the 90s in Bavaria where 'breakfast' was weisswurscht & Bavarian beer. Pretty awesome conference :-D

                            2. re: linguafood

                              What a swell country you come from, linguafood.

                        2. re: linguafood

                          I have a hard time distinguishing between German and Hungarian dishes b/c my Grandmother made both, though I think her cooking was heavily German. Her mother was German but from Hungary and for a time was a cook of Hungarian food for wealthy families in northern New Jersey. Growing up we had a lot of spätzle and sauerbraten at her house, but no wurst (and I don't remember sauerkraut either). She also made a lot of dishes not typically seen as German, such as many types of dumplings (mmm, my favorite was plum dumplings). Also not really seen as German, but which was common on her table, were salads - cucumber salads, carrot salad, coleslaw (vinegar based), cabbage salads. Rather than wursts she was much more likely to make fish.

                          But I don't remember a lot of soups or stews, which I think would be typical of Hungarian food. She was married to my German grandfather, so she probably cooked to his tastes, not necessarily to what her mother cooked.

                          1. re: Cachetes

                            The salads you mention are very much German, I think. Back in the day, any German 'home-style' restaurant would have an overly vinegary mix of slaw or cabbage salads.

                            And German cucumber salad is lovely! I crave it almost on a weekly basis.

                            1. re: Cachetes

                              "Also not really seen as German, but which was common on her table, were salads - cucumber salads, carrot salad, coleslaw (vinegar based), cabbage salads."

                              Those were and are staples of German cooking.

                              1. re: linguafood

                                I expressed myself poorly - I was trying to point out that I think a lot of people in the U.S. see German food as just wursts and maybe sauerkraut. But, as you say, salads are a staple.

                                1. re: Cachetes

                                  Ah. Toot my light (= tut mir leid!) -- I misunderstood.

                                  But yeah, there is so much more to German food than pork and kraut... game, fowl, boar, trout, pike perch, wild mushrooms, WHITE ASPARAGUS, North Sea shrimp, maultaschen, lots of potato dishes, etc. etc.

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    Linguafood mentioned "WHITE ASPARAGUS". Ursula Hegi ruined white asparagus for me after reading "Stones From the River" ;-) Every time I see white asparagus I see that family peeing in the bathtub to flavor/tenderize their white asparagus and I simply can't eat it any more. I know that this is irrational...


                                    1. re: KateBChi

                                      Is that a common practice, Kate? And where does Stones From The River take place? :)

                                      1. re: inaplasticcup

                                        Sorry, it is a work of fiction that takes place in Germany and I assume this was purely literary license. A family in the book is famous for their white asparagus. They sell it to the fanciest restaurants and gourmets with the money to pay for it until it is discovered how they make it so "special". Nobody in the town would touch it after the discovery. I don't for one minute believe that any sane person would actually do what these fictional characters did. It's a very quirky book but very well written.

                                        1. re: KateBChi

                                          Haha. I love it. Way to fictionally stick it to rich folk.

                                          (Not that I personally have anything against them...)

                                          1. re: KateBChi

                                            Wow, I read that book and don't remember anything about the asparagus tub. I think I won't reread it.

                                        2. re: KateBChi

                                          I've never evereverEVER heard of such a thing. Gross.

                                          Won't stop me from eating the white gold every year in the short spring season, when it is at its most glorious.

                                          1. re: linguafood

                                            LOL. Not me, either. But I just wanna know where they do that so I won't eat the white asparagus there if I happen to visit! :P

                                          2. re: KateBChi

                                            Don't read or watch The Tin Drum or you will never eat eels or herring!

                                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                                              I have, and I do. That scene's overhyped, unless you're preggers, maybe.

                                    2. re: Cachetes

                                      Those salads you mention are traditionally quite German--also typical for any central European country I suppose. Germany just isn't famous for salads--not like all the sausages--but people do eat them there! The dumplings are also common in Southern Germany and Austria.

                                      1. re: Wawsanham

                                        Exactly! I think a lot of people in the U.S. think there are no vegetables in German food, except perhaps cabbage, and I was, in very poorly worded terms, trying to demonstrate that there are a lot of salads.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    Just wondering what some Native American dishes might be. I've tried fried bread, and it wasn't very good, probably because the ingredients were sub par. I've heard of fried bread tacos, but never had them.

                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                        PBS Create has a series called Seasoned with Spirit, hosted by Loretta Penfield Oden, in which she travels around the US exploring Native American foods. However, it's not on their current schedule.

                                    1. This Summer we spent a couple of weeks in Iceland (and Greenland).
                                      Regarding Iceland (and never mind the fermented Shark washed down with Angelica infused Schnapps, tested on every tourist) - Seafood dishes are certainly high on the list:
                                      There was one dish served to us on several occasions for lunch. It was a very delicious seafood soup accompanied by fresh, still warm chunks of bread. I really enjoyed these light and tasty soups so much that I tried to recreate them at home. It seemed to me that one started out by making a light roux ( strictly my perception), added milk, sometimes bits of broccoli, shredded carrots, leek, sometimes finely chopped parsley and then added chunks of Cod or Haddock, Shrimp, Langoustine tails and such. All soups had a lot of Pepper.
                                      All around a really nice lunch, not to weigh you down, but left you satisfied!

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: RUK

                                        Your recreation of the soup certainly sounds delicious, RUK. I know what you mean about the strange seafood associations with that part of the world because I always think of Zimmern or Bourdain both wincing at the fermented shark, and then of course they have pickled fish in those countries too, right?

                                        Do you remember what that soup was called?

                                        1. re: inaplasticcup

                                          No sorry, I don't know the exact name of the soup, since we conversed in English. We tried to "recreate" some Icelandic words but simply gave up, it made for very funny conversation. It is not an easy language.

                                          Btw the Schnapps is a well deserved reward for tasting the Shark. I don't wish to hijack your thread, so here is my link regarding this "dish" as an aside.

                                        2. re: RUK

                                          I have never had any real Icelandic "food" but I am a big fan of skyr. I spent some time at the Rejkjavik airport last month and bough a bag full. Can't get it in the US it seems. I have had some that was made here but it wasn't the same....

                                          1. re: t19103

                                            I thought Skyr was very close to the German Quark.