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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.

                                        3. Cambodian definitely. People complain that it isn't as interesting as Thai or Vietnamese but the Khmers ruled that region for so long that a lot of Thai and Vietnamese food was influenced by them. What many fail to appreciate is that Cambodian meals need to be eaten as such rather than a single dish so each meal has a spicy soup, a salad, a vegetable dish, protein of some sort, etc so the mral is more than the sum of its parts.

                                          Great question!

                                          16 Replies
                                          1. re: Rocky74

                                            Cuisines/ Gateway dishes:

                                            Portuguese/ Caldo verde, Bacalhau, Pork and clams, Bife a Portuguesa, Portuguese corn bread.

                                            Serbian/ Sarma(stuffed cabbage), Bureks, Pasulj bean soup, Cevapcici, Pljeskavica, Srpska salad.

                                            Foods of the Balkans (Serbia/Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, etc.) would totally be the 'next-big-thing' only if more ppl knew about them. Essentially Mediterranean tastes with Central/Northern European touches.

                                            1. re: arktos

                                              Agree with you 100%. I personally am enthralled with Balkans food, especially Croatian, as I know it so well. There are many dishes I would add but one in particular is peka or cooking under a lid for 12-24 hours. The process and the lid is called peka - the ingredients (i.e. potatoes, leeks, fresh herbs, pork) are placed into a large metal container with a huge bell lid. Burning embers are then heaped on top and cooked very long. Then the coals are scraped off and the dish is served. Fabulous.

                                              Ajvar is excellent, too.

                                              1. re: chefathome

                                                oh i love ajvar! I bought a jar of it in a tiny grocery when i lived in arlington, va and fell in love. I now live in SE CT and wish I could find some.

                                                1. re: kubasd23

                                                  Though it is easy to make, we have several jars in our pantry from Croatia. Hope you are able to find some! I am actually able to purchase it in Alberta of all places.

                                                  1. re: chefathome

                                                    Ajvar is amazing! It can be mild or quite fiery. Our favourite is the Macedonian Ajvar. Also 'liutenzia' is amazing!The dried meats of Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, etc are simply divine!

                                                    1. re: shantihhh

                                                      The dried meats are incredible, aren't they? Not to mention the fantastic white truffles in Croatia...

                                                  2. re: kubasd23

                                                    @kuba, you can order ajvar online if you really need a fix :) Whole Foods in Glastonbury or West Hartford should have it in the aisle with the oils, jarred peppers, etc if you ever shop there...or, even better, stock up at Fairway if you happen to be near one at some point - they have a great selection.

                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                      hmmm.... glastonbury is only about 20 minutes from me... TBH I hadn't really thought about it in a while until I read this post, but now i'm really craving it. I think a trip to Whole Paycheck is in order, thanks GHG

                                                      1. re: kubasd23

                                                        you might want to call before heading over since products do vary from store to store...but they stock it at the locations in Bergen County, NJ so i imagine the other NE region stores have it as well. hope you find some!

                                                  3. re: chefathome

                                                    Our son-in-law is from the former Yugo (born Montenegro/Serbia, grew up in Croatian, then the civil war and ended up in Pristina, Kosovo as many Serbs did. His mum was a chef over there and wow do they cook. Nothing like a whole piggie or lamb on the spit..

                                                    1. re: shantihhh

                                                      He must have interesting stories! Man. I agree - their spit grills are divine! I just love them. We try to do at least one or two each time we are in Istria.

                                                      1. re: chefathome

                                                        Yes many stories from all the family now here in the SF Bay Area. They all are great cooks!

                                                  4. re: arktos

                                                    My sister was in the Czech republic last summer and RAVED about the food. Especially goulash. You can find goulash here, but she says it is nothing like what they have there.

                                                    1. re: zeuspoodle

                                                      o re here is but tink whatgives it the right flavour is excellent paprika from Hungary or Spai. I like the smoked one 50/50 (sweet/hot). For some reason many Americans use that flavourless papria that adds nothing but colour. Goulosh soup is also awesome. I like the one at J' istro in Concod, CA. http://www.djsbistro.net Great czech food and beer -Pilsner Urquell on tap! Yes, on tap. Regular sizes are 0.5L for $4...

                                                    2. re: arktos

                                                      I strongly agree with the Balkan reference. While it's similar to Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food - it definitely has it's own flare. In Bosnia, Cevapi appears really similar to a kebab in a pita - but the style of bread is a bit different and the meat is just served with raw onion.

                                                      Actually, foods of the Balkans and foods of Georgia/Uzbekistan would both be appealing to someone with an interest in Middle Eastern/Turkish/Greek food. Georgian/Uzbekistani food I'd roughly describe as a mix of Russian and Mediteranean food.

                                                    3. re: Rocky74

                                                      Don't under rate or over look the amazing cuisine of Laos-much like Issan in N. Thailand. Some of our favouriters are to be found there. Having traveled to SE Asia 30+ times I must admit Thai is still #1 for us for cuisine, BUT love all SE Asian cuisines. Burma has some interesting influences from their neighbours too.

                                                    4. Malaysian-Chinese cuisine. Rarely available outside of the major/largest metropolitan areas in the West.
                                                      Some entry dishes: Bak Kut Teh, Hainan Chicken Rice, KL Hokkien Mee, Penang Assam Laksa, Har Mee, Sambal Kangkong, (Ampang) Yong Tow Foo... Geez, so many others to choose from...

                                                      ETA: OK, on reflection full-scale Bak Kut Teh might qualify as mid- to advanced level although it would be a great spotlight on the cuisine. :-) However, basic/core BKT and/or the Teochew version - rather than the full-on Klang version - would be suitable as an entry-level dish.

                                                      11 Replies
                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                        I love Straits Chinese recipes. It is like Hokkien, Teo Chew, and Cantonese delights with heavier kick from chiles and Malay ingredients. Great confluence of flavors. I have been to Singapore and Malaysia with the main purpose of the trip being just to eat. It would be a sheer delight to find good Malaysian-Chinese food regularly available in the US.

                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                            Love Nonya & Straights Chinese food. It's hard to find, not even that many good cookbooks in English.

                                                          2. re: luckyfatima

                                                            Nonya cuisine is amazing ie Straights Chinese who came to Singapore/Malaysia regions and used local ingredients for the family recipes. Also speaking of overseas Chinese cuisine-the best Chinese food I have ever eaten is in India-ie Delhi in particular. I have traveled to China, HK, and Taiwan over 30 times and live in the San Franmcisco Bay Area and yes I do know real Chinese cuisine-lucky me! :-) Did you know noodles (Pad Kee Mao, Pad Thai, etc) were introduced to Thailand by immigrant Chinese! Great story btw of the noodle carts around WWII.

                                                            Spreaking of Thai cuisine, that probably is our favourite and I have been learning and cooking same for over 30 years. Have learned so much from home cooks, local friends, 5 star chefs, and even grow many of the ethnic veggies and herbs in our garden. Here is one of my recipes I have formulated

                                                            Love cooking our way around the world for our family. Have traveled to over 70 countries (some over 30 X each) and to me there is nothing better than wandering local markets early in the morning (and night markets too) and learn of the culture. *sigh* where is that jet plane headed to next?

                                                            1. re: shantihhh

                                                              That curry is beautiful, shantihhh. Thanks for sharing it with us. :)

                                                              1. re: shantihhh

                                                                Good for you!

                                                                Hmm, what you say about Nyonya cuisine and their practitioners is a little simplified. A convenient decent summary is given in the Wiki article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peranakan

                                                                Heh, Chinese-Indian food can be said to be in a separate subcategory, as is Chinese-American food, etc, as you know. Were you eating traditional Chinese dishes in Delhi, or Chinese-Indian dishes?

                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                  both many times, as my office was close to a couple great take aways.

                                                              2. re: luckyfatima

                                                                Thank you for posting, that was what I was going to say, Singapore and Malaysia. A trip to that area of the world is likewise a dream of mine. Not that I've tasted much, but I just know I would love it.

                                                              3. re: huiray

                                                                Ampang yong tau foo.....YUM!! One of my favorites whenever I'm in KL. I lived in Ampang for a couple of years. Sabah vegetable is also superb. And not to forget Mamak-style almost anything! :)

                                                                1. re: chilihead2006

                                                                  Heh. When were you living there? (I am aware you have a Malaysian spouse)

                                                                  If you look carefully, my current avatar shows a batch of Yong Tow Foo I made not so long ago. :-)

                                                                  1. re: chilihead2006

                                                                    hawker food in Singapore is a delight!

                                                                2. Burmese. Ginger Salad.
                                                                  Lao - the same cuisine as Issan Thai or Northeastern Thai. Rice Ball Salad. Nam Khao.
                                                                  Bolivian food, Saltena - like a football shaped empanada with a soupy interior.
                                                                  Jamaican Food- Oxtail Brown Stew
                                                                  Filipino - Daing Na Bangus, marinated milkfish.
                                                                  Salvadoran - papusas.
                                                                  Peruvian - Cancha (pan fried corn nuts) and Lomo Saltado
                                                                  Senegalese - Yassa chicken
                                                                  Tunisian - Brika (crepe stuffed with egg, potato, merguez, many possibilities of stuffing)
                                                                  Yemeni - Fatah
                                                                  Palestinian - Makluba / Musakhan
                                                                  Haitian - Crab farci
                                                                  Ethiopian - Doro Wat
                                                                  Indonesian - Rijstafel
                                                                  Mozambiquan - Peri Peri Chicken

                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Steve

                                                                    Keep in mind that Rijsttafel (two t's) is more a Dutch Colonial adaptation/compendium of Indonesian dishes. It is uncommon in Indonesia nowadays.

                                                                    However, you can have nasi padang or tumpeng instead...

                                                                    1. re: Steve

                                                                      you beat me to the Saltena, Steve! Bolivians also have a fantastic potato dish - a ball of mashed potatoes is stuffed with basically the same beef stew that's in the saltenas (diced beef, onions, olives, hard boiled egg, raisins) then the ball is rolled in egg wash and flour, then fried in butter until crispy on the outside.
                                                                      Very with you on the Brika - so amazing. I had it in Marseille, were it was called brique.
                                                                      For Peru, i might offer up anticuchos - grilled skewered beef heart in a spicy sauce. so good!
                                                                      I had amazing roast lamb in Croatia, along with "small-fish" - which seemed to be like little mackerals quickly sauteed and then simply served with olive oil and lemon.
                                                                      Persian food - chelo kebab-koobideh, barg, kuku sabzi, the buttery, crispy bottomed rice called tahdig...

                                                                      1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                        Ah, how could I have left out Persian food!!! I will fight you over the bottom of the rice pot!

                                                                        1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                          I was coming to post about Persian kebab kubideh! Sumac for your rice, mast o moosir, dough and Persian tea. Wish we could get some in Central PA!

                                                                        2. re: Steve

                                                                          A BIG +1 on Peruvian - throw in cebiche, causas, chaufa, and aji salsa verde and pollo a la brassa.

                                                                          1. re: Steve

                                                                            Indonesian - Rijstafel
                                                                            is really Dutch

                                                                            Indonesian food is very regionalized-like Filippino food. Here is a great snapshot:


                                                                            1. re: shantihhh

                                                                              Forty years ago we had a great Dutch-Indonesian restaurant in Albuquerque, before Thai, Viet Namease or other Asian cuisines arrived. It was my first exposure to Asian cuisines other that Cantonese. It opened up am whole new world of flavors. The owner became my hero when he told a loud, obnoxious tourist and his family, who was hassleing the waitress, whom saying that the food was taking too long, The owner came over to the table and told the tourist that there was no charge for the meal, the way he treated the waitress was bullying and to never come back. The other guests broke into applause and the tourist bully "slunk" away w/out a peep.
                                                                              Gimme a lumpia, nassi goreng and a sate, will ya.
                                                                              Unfortunately the restaurant is no more.

                                                                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                My first expierence with Rijstafal was in Amsterdam when I was 18 I will never forget that meal, although I ate at the Rangoon Racquet Club in LA many times, as well as in Indonesia. I have prepared a Rijastal meal at home a few times and I love it. I always keep Sambal Badjak, Sambal Asam, Sambal Balado and Sambal Oelek in my pantry as well as Kecap Manis.This reminds me I should make up some Sambal lado ijo as I have plenty of green tomatoes now and Thai Chiles(Phrik Chee Fa) which work in place of their close relative-Lombok chile. You can use Phrik Kee Nu for the Cabe Rawit chiles. Some even use naga jolokia in Lombok!

                                                                                Love to make Sambal goreng teri kacang (with anchovy and peanuts) as it is a perfect drink food!There are over 350 types of sambals I have been told by Indonesian chefs in the islands as each little area or village has a special one.

                                                                                1. re: shantihhh

                                                                                  My first Rijstfal too was in Amsterdam in '78 with Dutch friends I made in New Mexico. But I knew the cuisine since '71 at the above mentioned resto. in Albuquerque.

                                                                                  Swiss cusine, much more than fondeau and rosti.

                                                                                  But really has anyone ever seen an Finnish restaurant in the US of A?

                                                                                2. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                  Seriously??? My family moved to ABQ 25 years ago, apparently too late to visit this restaurant. Not exactly the same, but my mom (from New England) first learned to cook in Malaysia when she was in the Peace Corps, and also had a good Indonesian friend who she cooked with. I love this food, and had no idea that there had been such a restaurant in ABQ. please share where it was located and what it was called so that I can shed a tear each time I drive by . . . What a shame it (or another) had never reopened.

                                                                            2. The cuisine of Zanzibar. It is a unique amalgam of East African-Coastal cuisine/Swahili cuisine with Gulf Arab-Yemeni, Indian, Persian, Portuguese, and British influences. I have this fantasy of opening a Zanzibari food truck or cafe but first I would have to learn to cook the food. I would serve mandazi (deep fried sweet bun) with milky masala tea, mishkaki (mutton seasoned in spicy tamarind marinade and barbecued on skewers, also there are chicken and seafood versions like cuttlefish on a stick), Zanizibari biriani, and other delights. Vitumbua are kind of like South Indian idlis but cooked like pancake balls and not steamed, samosa, cutlets, there are a lot of items that would do well as cafe fare and are familiar to US diners via Indian restaurants but have their own Swahili flare when done Zanzibar style.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                boy, does that sound good. let me know when you open your truck!

                                                                                1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                  Your post reminds me of the Tenacious D song.... "What's your favorite dish? I'm not gonna cook it but I'll order it from Zanzibar!!" haha now it's stuck in my head!

                                                                                2. Namibia - every type of Antelope preparation, Springbok being the most tender.
                                                                                  South Africa - best Steaks ever
                                                                                  Libya - Camel Stew or Camel Tajine.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: RUK

                                                                                    Can I assume you had those items in their native countries? If not, please identify the restaurants. Thanks

                                                                                    1. re: t19103

                                                                                      Yes, we ate these dishes in their native countries. Some of the locations were quite colorful.

                                                                                  2. This is fantastic. So many dishes I've never heard of that I want to learn more about now.

                                                                                    Looking forward to yet more. :)

                                                                                    1. Burmese Food. In 2004 I wrote an article about it. It is like eating Indian, Chinese, Thai and Malaysian food, all at the same time. Don't miss the fermented tea leaf salad.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                        I have eaten food from most of the nations mentioned on this list but what really stands out to me is Haitian food. I have eaten at several Haitian restaurants across New York, in Haitian-American homes and in Haiti. The food has consistently been excellent. No pomp and circumstance, just well-prepared, fresh delicious food.

                                                                                        I have also had a Senegalese dish that I dreamed about and fantasized about for weeks later. Amazing. Little hole in the wall place in Harlem.

                                                                                        The other place that I have been fantasizing about is an Egyptian restaurant in Paterson NJ that I visited over a decade ago. I could not believe how great the food was.

                                                                                        But, alas, I don't know any of these cuisines well enough to nominate anything in particular as my tried and true fave.

                                                                                        I would have to formally nominate Jamaican food. Very varied- Caribbean, Chinese, Indian, Portuguese and African. Small repertoire due to the size of the country. I would recommend a variety of dishes starting with the famous ones- curried goat with rice and peas, jerk chicken, ackee, escoveitched fish, and beef patties. I would also recommend some of the lesser known items such as gizzada, sorrel, bulla, bammy, mackerel with banana, and bun and cheese.


                                                                                        1. re: t19103

                                                                                          Do you remember the name of the Senegalese place in Harlem?

                                                                                          Egyptinas (as well as other North Africans) do a rice with little curls of pasta that is a simple, wonderful treat. Makes you wonder why we don't see it more often and in other cultures.

                                                                                          Ok , here is another:

                                                                                          Venezuelan, tequenos (or tequenones - I think these are larger?). Cheese sticks wrapped in pastry. Why aren't these on every street corner everywhere? They are so simple and good.

                                                                                          Colombian arepas - corn cakes stuffed with cheese, preferably. Venezuelan arepas are like sandwiches, stuffed with a variety of ingredients, Reina Papeada arepas are stuffed with a chicken and avocado salad.

                                                                                        1. re: E Eto

                                                                                          My uncle (third removed) has a cousin from Hiroshima that I met decades ago - he was telling me that he was going to start a chain of horumon stands - I have to wonder if he's involved in them. Was his name Koichi?

                                                                                        2. Regional Cantonese Chinese cuisine:

                                                                                          Hakka Cantonese - representative dishes include salt baked chicken, pickled sour mustard greens with pork belly, pan fried tofu stuffed with ground pork on top, basil clams, fresh fish that is pan fried then steamed with pickled mustard greens + black bean sauce + soy sauce with ginger, cilantro, and scallions, stuffed Chinese squash (in soup), a stewed soup consisting of a whole chicken stuffed into a pork stomach and more

                                                                                          Chiu Chow/Teochew Cantonese - the soul of teochew/chiu chow Cantonese is said to be a marinade containing soy sauce and tons of fragrant spices and herbs and meats (particularly foul) simmered/slow cooked, served thinly sliced, numerous kinds of noodle soups including fishball noodles, and of course numerous variants that made its way into Singaporean and Vietnamese Chinese cuisine. In Hong Kong, cold crab Teochew style is very famous, where crabs are cooked with saltwater and refrigerated overnight to let the flavors sink in.... the big ones will easily run over US$100++ per and while it may seem like an easy dish, it is not. This is another world of regional Cantonese that is undiscovered outside.

                                                                                          Shunde style Cantonese (as well as surrounding areas such as Zhongshan, Panyu) - far too many items to list as this is virtually undiscovered territory outside of HK and China.... but...dishes include items made with water buffalo milk (including stir fried milk with egg whites), dace fish dishes including a stuffed whole dace fish reconstructed and fried (or fried then steamed, resting on a bed of tofu), pork and/or shrimp paste stuffed lotus root and deep fried, and lots of amazing rustic flavors.

                                                                                          Hakka Taiwanese: there are very tiny hints of this style of cuisine perhaps in California, but the best way to get this so far is to fly to particular regions of Taiwan and have it there with the original receipes and ingredients. A different version of stewed pork belly with pickled mustard greens (where the mustard greens are a lot more pungent and do not taste sweet like the Cantonese versions), simmered pork trotters with or without mi xien noodles, mi tai mu rice noodles (which are like rice udon but a bit more chewier, if paired with the right broth it is delicious), pork intestines with julienne ginger slices, herbal black chicken soup, Hakka style stewed pork belly with bamboo shoots (a different prep), Hakka tofu (with the texture of really fine and smooth melted cheese)....very rustic, but extremely comforting. It is one of those cuisines where one could potentially fail by trying to upscale it.

                                                                                          Then there's Hokkien food, the various styles from China (e.g. Xiamen) with immigrants settling in various parts of Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines etc. e.g. oyster omlette.....very different in Northern Taiwan vs Central/Southern, to how Malaysian Chinese do them. Truly amazing stuff that's still to be explored and perhaps exploited by the non Asian food media.

                                                                                          29 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: K K

                                                                                            Yeah, I find that for a lot of cuisines, people are familiar with a small section of that cuisine that has become mainstream - Hong Kong Cantonese for Chinese, sushi and tempura for Japanese, BBQ for Korean - but know very little about the rest of the country, or for Japanese food, the kind of things people eat at home.

                                                                                            I'd say about 75% of the Chinese food I eat in Taiwan is stuff that's outside of main-stream Chinese cuisine in the US. Some things I think would be a hard sell, though. I love the traditional medicinal chicken soups, but they definitely are very foreign tasting. And oyster omelettes, while delicious, do look pretty gross.

                                                                                            One Chinese cuisine that I think has a good potential for the NA market is Buddhist buffets. I'm a thorough omnivore and am not generally fond of meat substitutes, but I find the Buddhist vegan cuisine very tasty, even if I'm not sure what I'm eating. I think it's the long history of practice in making the food and making it taste good, compared to western style veg*an substitutes.

                                                                                            I do find that people's range of experience in international food depends a lot on location. In a good sized city, or a city that's a hub for immigration, you can find an amazing variety of stuff if you look. I still remember the Ethiopian restaurants in Toronto fondly - delicious, interesting food, cheap prices, cool ambience. But if you live in smaller or less food-adventurous places, it's a very different story. I've had friends move to towns for work who bemoan the fact that the sole options for international dining are multiple American style Mexican restaurants and the single "Asian" restaurant in town.

                                                                                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                                                              Here's a not-that-old (2010) video snippet of David Chang talking about his idea of an underrated cuisine:

                                                                                            2. re: K K

                                                                                              I'm very much intrigued by the idea of that Teochew style cold crab, KK. Is salt the only seasoning?

                                                                                              1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                The problem with "cold crab" is that it can be subjected to interpretation.

                                                                                                Here's a youtube clip on a quick fix version


                                                                                                where the ingredients are crab, ice, red vinegar, garlic, salt. Other receipes call for some ginger and Chinese wine (more specifically 花雕酒 and others might use white vinegar instead of red). Others apply some of the said ingredients after the crab has been cooked and refrigerated. The consensus of the top Teochew cold crab specialist restaurants in Hong Kong refrigerate the crab overnight, so if someone is doing it on the fly (immerse in ice water for an hour) it's not the same.

                                                                                                On the surface it seems like a very simple thing to do, but there are many things that can go wrong. One online source says the technique is similar to that of boiling, as any over steaming will cause the crab meat to be too dry. The more careful chefs will find a way to not let the crab struggle in boiling water and thus lose precious essence and proteins (it has to be numbed first, either via injecting it with some Chinese wine or soaking it in ice/ice water). This is to keep the flavors sealed in once it is refrigerated.

                                                                                                1. re: K K

                                                                                                  I couldn't access the link, but that whole dish intrigues me. I'm going to look into it further. Thanks for all the information.

                                                                                                  1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                    Apparently cold crab isn't the only cold seafood dish in Teochew/Chiu Chow Cantonese but certainly the more well known one.


                                                                                                    手撕凍烏頭 - this is a mullet fish steamed then refrigerated (yes served cold). What's more fascinating is that the flesh is then hand torn, layed out on the plate.

                                                                                              2. re: K K

                                                                                                As another example amongst much additional stuff of "known cuisines" but that is under-appreciated or unknown in the West/USA there's a "rustic" and homestyle dish I used to eat that I have never found here in the US either - Cantonese salted preserved fish (鹹魚) chopped up into minced pork, together with finely chopped ginger then steamed (in an enameled metal dish or other suitable dish).

                                                                                                I asked a restauranteur one day if they had salted fish and if they would whip up that salted fish and pork dish for me and she replied that they did not carry salt fish and would never put such a dish on the menu because "no-one" would order it and would flee from the place if such a dish were brought out. This was a place regularly voted to be one of the best "Chinese Restaurants" in my area although patronized largely by Caucasian Americans, although they also had a Chinese menu (furnished on request) for "other diners".

                                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                                  It sounds similar to a VERY Western dish--but not common anymore (at least in the US): salt cod. That's the way it was traditionally eaten so as to preserve it. Of course, cod is very rare now due to massive overfishing--but that's another issue.

                                                                                                  1. re: Wawsanham

                                                                                                    Salt cod is still very common in Maine and Portugease communities in the Northeast.

                                                                                                    1. re: Wawsanham

                                                                                                      Aha. Did folks chop up salt cod into other meats and cook them together in some way too?

                                                                                                      Hmm, I believe I've eaten salt cod and my memory says when I was living in Cambridge/Boston - but I don't remember it as having the particularly pungent "aroma", shall we say, of the Cantonese salted fish that I have in mind...after cooking...but my memory is hazy on that point.

                                                                                                      1. re: Wawsanham

                                                                                                        The preserved fish huiray mentions gets pickled. Hence the pungent aroma and flavor. This can be done using salt or vinegar. The end result is not like any salt cod I've ever had.

                                                                                                        I'm not sure where huiray is from but there are Hunan and Sichuan restaurants in the DC/Baltimore area that will serve a variety of pungent dishes not for the faint of heart.

                                                                                                        1. re: Steve


                                                                                                          Those DC area restaurants - could you name some of them, please?

                                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                                            Joe's Noodle House and Sichuan Pavillion, both in Rockville, MD
                                                                                                            Hong Kong Palace (Sichuan) in Falls Church, VA
                                                                                                            Peking Palace (Hunanese) in Germantown, MD
                                                                                                            Hunan Taste in Catonsville, MD

                                                                                                            Give me a shout anytime you're planning on coming to the DC/Baltimore area.

                                                                                                            1. re: Steve

                                                                                                              I'll keep your kind offer in mind.

                                                                                                      2. re: huiray

                                                                                                        Yeah the Cantonese steamed pork patty has tons of variants, and is quite a comforting rustic favorite, here are some examples

                                                                                                        steamed with ginger and salted fish (some like the patties pan fried, as it is more toasty and flavorful) - if the salted fish comes from Hong Kong waters and is made the traditional way, there are upwards of 2 to 3 varieties depending on what is in season, including 馬友 threadfin. There is a place in Tai O (a fishing village on Lantau Island) that is probably the last surviving business to sell salted fish the old school way, where they manually use a hook to remove all innards/guts before cleaning it and stuffing it with salt and letting it sun dry. Those who mass produce salt fish cut the belly open to remove the guts and that degrades the flavor integrity of the end product, and others take shortcuts to hasten the end product (e.g. temperature controlled environments with dehumidifiers etc), but the place in Tai O sun dries them, and even takes time to rotate the fish in the sun on the docks (of course moving them indoors before it starts to rain). Poor quality or badly processed salted fish reeks and stinks (and contains all sorts of bad things)...a good salted fish should taste and smell very nice.

                                                                                                        steamed pork patty with salted duck egg yolk

                                                                                                        steamed pork patty with dried squid

                                                                                                        steamed pork patty with Hakka Cantonese pickled mustard greens (the most rustic of them all)

                                                                                                        1. re: K K

                                                                                                          There's nothing quite like a big bowl of rice topped with a big mound of Chinese steamed pork patty (made with pickled cucumbers) and then the entire thing garnished with a fried egg, and then mixed all together to create this lush, savory bowl of ultimate comfort food.

                                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                            I just remembered a variant I once helped make that contains chopped water chestnuts, that I did not like at all.

                                                                                                            The pork patty versions with squid bits in Hong Kong, if following an old school receipe, are mixed in with hand chopped pork butt or tenderloin with some fat content (using cleavers in each hand with a drumming like motion), never grounded with a machine, then the pork mix is picked up by hand and slapped/slammed into the mixing bowl to create a desired texture, then steamed. Not as easy to find in HK these days apparently, since it is a cheap dish that requires a bit of handiwork.

                                                                                                            Dried scallop shreds could be a substitute for those that worry about salted fish bits (or if out of reach). The addition of a fried egg sounds killer.

                                                                                                      3. re: K K

                                                                                                        My favourite Teochew dish has always been the braised goose, deftly carved, the slices layered over taugua (the version of tofu with a brown skin from frying), both meat and taugua soaking up the braising stock, and their flavours opening up dramatically by a dip in clear vinegar with chopped garlic and chilli. Requires smaller geese for the delicate flesh.

                                                                                                        1. re: limster

                                                                                                          This sounds delicious! I've never even had goose, but it still sounds great!

                                                                                                          1. re: limster

                                                                                                            Yeah that's one of the dishes I miss from HK Teochew restaurants, marinated goose slices.

                                                                                                            Here's a pic of the dish but w/o the tofu, but paired with goose liver slices


                                                                                                            Ridiculously good stuff.

                                                                                                            1. re: K K

                                                                                                              That looks delectable! Thanks for the pic!

                                                                                                          2. re: K K

                                                                                                            Taiwanese Hakka, now you're talking.

                                                                                                            1. re: K K

                                                                                                              As evidenced by your post and others here rustic Cantonese cuisine - and many other types of rustic dishes from the various regions - is seldom seen outside of homes that cook them, i.e. in restaurants available to the general public, especially in the West. I made another of these last night - Tai Yee Ma Kar Lui (大姨媽嫁女) , a simple but tasty classic Cantonese homestyle dish. I used the basic components only - hairy gourd, dried prawns, glass noodles (and garlic and salt). Passed down from parents to their offspring through the years.

                                                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                Never heard of that dish you describe, but it has quite an interesting name.

                                                                                                                Maybe you've heard of 老少平安 (Lo Siu Ping On) which is basically soft tofu, dace fish (with meat near the bones and head), a little pork, all steamed together. A little soy sauce on top and a lot of cilantro. Really good simple comfort fare fit for the young and old (hence the name).

                                                                                                                In Hakka Taiwanese heartland in Miaoli county, I once had the pleasure of eating at a restaurant up in the hills. Primarily catering to out of town visitors, but there was definitely no gimmick or pretense....more or less farm to table by default w/o the need for such marketing.


                                                                                                                The herbal black chicken soup, while not my cup of tea, was considered expensive by local standards, but a meal like this, anywhere else even if you pay you cannot get that kind of quality and vibe.

                                                                                                                1. re: K K

                                                                                                                  Heh. Yes, an interesting name, the etymology of which no one (that I am aware of) has managed to pin down convincingly. But if you were to Google it you will see what it is. :-)

                                                                                                                  I don't think I've eaten 老少平安 although the dish as described stirs memories of similar dishes. As for the additional Taiwan tidbits you talk about - fascinating. What an entertaining blogpost. Thanks.

                                                                                                                  1. re: K K

                                                                                                                    That Hakka restaurant makes me homesick for the Taiwan I knew and loved in the early '80s. Thanks for the memories, K K.

                                                                                                                    1. re: K K

                                                                                                                      It have discovered that this dish ("大姨媽嫁女") is known by another name by some people: "阿駝拉纜" :-)

                                                                                                                    2. re: huiray

                                                                                                                      During my many years traveling in China (I was Director of a Taiwanese Cali based company) the cuisine in the country side is far away from the city and big hotel tastes. I'll never forget in Chaozhou in a countryside inn being served a claypot of rice and mystery meat :-) with star anise. As the meat was hacked (what a surprise) I couldn't figure it out. The gov agent with me drew a photo nd I thought great rat! Finally they brought the mystery meat complete on a large try............aha of course......there curled up from gangs to tip of tail with long claws was an armadillo! Found out upon arrival home from my doc who is Chinese that they carry Leprosy (Hansen's Disease). I was in to see him about the bacterial intestinal bug I had picked up while eating rice paddy snake-they don't boil the water as they keep adding water. Cepro works. Oh I could write a book on travels in China, India, etc of the cuisine and bathrooms :-)I drove my doc crazy!

                                                                                                                      1. re: shantihhh

                                                                                                                        And of course the local Chinese medicines to cure your ailments will require you to consume cooked/stewed/boiled dehydrated bugs and nasty earthy root mixtures that tastes equally foul, maybe alongside exotic reptiles and creatures.

                                                                                                                        Luckily my Hakka Taiwanese meals in the suburbs did not have me bathroom hunting at all.

                                                                                                                        But the time I visited Shenzhen and Taishan in 1997, had stomach problems the whole week. The food was ok, and the meal at Taishan was all home cooked in the village, and the food in Shenzhen I ate were entirely group tour food at hotel and restaurant (booked in Hong Kong)....I shudder to think how much pesticides I ingested those meals. Definitely not the kind of cuisine meant to be showcased to the world...

                                                                                                                  2. I feel like Persian is more accessible to mainstream US customers, at least in most major cities. I think people would stick to chelo-kabaab/grill plates. I hadn't had Peruvian EVER living in my town in Texas, but here on the Atlantic Coast, especially in the DC area, Peruvian is just as common as Thai, it seems. So, I think these cuisines are not necessarily unknown. I think there are some medium sized towns in the US where Mexican, Thai, and Vietnamese would still be extremely exotic (but of course they will have an American-Chinese restaurant). It really just depends on the size of the town, the history and patterns of immigration that contribute to the demographics, etc. I would love to try some of the cuisines mentioned in this thread...so many interesting things to eat!

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                                      Sometimes opening a restaurant is not a good thing for a cuisine. Not only are the dishes changed to meet American tastes, but the selection of dishes is frozen. I've just found 2 Lebanese salads with bulgur that aren't tabbouli, but I would be astounded to find them in a Lebanese restaurant here.

                                                                                                                    2. Basically you just have to look at a map and think of countries whose dishes you basically never hear about:
                                                                                                                      Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Sudan, Central African Republic, Madagascar, Tibet, Papua New Guinea would come to mind.
                                                                                                                      Anything in the Americas (Peru, Bolivia, etc...), pretty much Europe and coastal southern to easten Asia I think seems VERY represented--though maybe with misconceptions and US versions that have taken on a life of their own: American versions of Mexican, Chinese, Italian, German, etc...

                                                                                                                      1. Vastly underrated in the culinary arts is American Southern cooking. I mean the classic. A fine blend of English, West African, and a sprinkle of French and Hispanic influences. The best southern fried chicken in Florida is usually found at Publix supermarkets. There is one place in my area, a walkup window, that serves collards cooked in bacon grease. Cornbread, hominy, and hushpuppies are impossible to find on the same menu.

                                                                                                                        Ever had a country ham that needed soaking in lye and a stiff brush to get the mold off. And soaking for a week to soften. Ever had red gravy? Black eyed peas with snaps? Regional ques of the south? I just ate my way from central Florida to Milwaukee along the Gulf and up the Mississippi. I saw more Thai restaurants than any other genre. Other than the chains.

                                                                                                                        And the dumplings that seem to predominate down here are sliders. But it has been so long since I saw them on a menu, it may just be a home thing.

                                                                                                                        So what's underappreciated? I would suggest your own regional or local cooking. Try eating only that for a week. All three meals. No fusion, no cheating. It may be harder than you think. Especially in a restaurant.

                                                                                                                        9 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                                                                          Interesting way to look at it, IRF!

                                                                                                                          I've lived in Southern California for 27 years now, and I'm not sure what exactly qualifies as regional cooking where I am. California Cuisine is very much rooted in fusion, but that's a contemporary development. We share a border with Mexico, so that's big around here, too. But, we are influenced by so many food cultures...

                                                                                                                          So here's a question for you: As a person from another part of the country, what do you know to be local/regional dishes from my part of the country? Looking forward to your response. This should be very enlightening! :)

                                                                                                                          1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                            Fish tacos, bad BBQ, seasonal lobster, dungeoness crab, Cal/Mex, lots of Asian enclaves like Little Saigon, real Mex. and surf shack burgers. Unusual pizza. And lots of easterners whining for what they left behind (except the rain & snow)!

                                                                                                                            1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                              This is based on periodic visits over 30 years, predominently to San Diego, Lompoc, and San Francisco, with jaunts into the deserts, mountains, and the north.

                                                                                                                              San Diego was filled with wonderful things south of the border. Those were the only restaurants my uncle took us to. We were taken to numerous places Chinese while in San Francisco. Lompoc consisted of weak and boring red wines, split peas, and other prison style food. I think the prison influence was of the federal type.

                                                                                                                              So my recollections are at least 10 years out of date, and thus fuzzy, especially after the Santa Ynez expedition.

                                                                                                                              Sea food. All things tuna, especially albacore. Abalone and those big crabs. Salmon farther north, and those sardines and grunnions that bury themselves in the sand. My first taste of seaweed as a veggie. And who knew a sea urchin is edible!

                                                                                                                              Fruits and vegetables. California is the envy of the world. It is not known as the land of fruits and nuts for nothing! A huge price break and diversity even in the supermarkets. A wide range of climates that allow the cultivation of world ranging foodstuffs. An appreciation for fresh and local, even back then.

                                                                                                                              And don't forget the wide range of fresh herbs and spices. Is pot the top pollen count as it was in the 90's?

                                                                                                                              So what is California Cuisine to me? Something produced "in country" that is applicable to a wealth of pan-asian and pan-american cuisines. And that definately includes steak and eggs for breakfast, first place I ever had it, when I was 14 years old.

                                                                                                                              1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                Trying to ID food in California as a regional cuisine is far too difficult in my eyes. California, has always been a moving target when it comes to culture, and food is a part of it. California is too large and so diverse - the food culture reflects this - no one culture can earmark their cuisine as California Cuisine. If anything, the food culture here is subdivided into so many segments. In many cases, what is new and fresh one day becomes standard and blasé the next. Food tastes and preferences go through an evolutionary process about as often as buildings go up and then are torn down for something that works better in the here and now. Although California is demarcated as one state, it probably is more like five or six or more: Coastal So Cal, Inland SoCal, Central Coastal, Central Valley, Bay Area (and the surrounding counties), and NorCal. The most focused on food would be the Bay Area, and what becomes popular there is often accepted and copied in serious food circles elsewhere in the state.

                                                                                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                                                                  and so often fun "fusion" happens like Korean tacos! We are fortunate to not only have such a diverse culinary atmoisphere here due to nationalities, fresh local produce, and treasures from both the sea and land. We literally eat our way around the world at our home. I think my favourite Indian cuisines is Awadhi from Lucknow which is very time consuming and wonderful.

                                                                                                                                  Here a few photos of our meals at home.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                      Thanks! The celadon plate is from Chiang Mai factory and the Pineapple pattern Blue & white is part of a "set" we have gathered during our many trips to Thailand. Same with the cutlery. I love serving on handcrafted pieces of the region of the cuisine. Years ago I was VP of BIA Cordon Bleu and have quite a selection of French porcelaine as well as old hand hammered copper pots. My poor husband has lugged a lot of treasures like my large brass wok for a month in Thailand. :-) Kids call it mom's spa pan.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: shantihhh

                                                                                                                                        Thailand is one of the handful of places abroad I've been privileged to visit, and I so love it there. Can't wait to return someday. :)

                                                                                                                              2. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                                                                                Locavore is easy here in the SF Bay Area-right from my own garden, the sea and of course such as our free range organic chickens, even local escargot, cheeses, fruit and on and on. This week I am making varietal tomato sauces, ajvar, pickled eggplant, pickled Thai chiles, and Dalmatian style fig spread all from my garden :-)

                                                                                                                              3. Beaten to the Bolivian saltenas! Majadito, a Bolivian rice and charque or dried beef concoction, Pollo a la broasted (my kids miss it), Amazon River fish, mutton and chuno stew and Cuy (guinea pig). Norway: smorbord (all of Skandinavia), A dozen types of marinated herring, fried cod tongues and cheeks, salmon w/ wild mushrooms, nettle soup, bif karbonada, an open face burger w/ a fried egg. Finland: baby reindeer chops, midnight daylight rapu (cray fish) fest w/ Korskonkorva iced shots of vodka. A fast food concoction called a lija pirraka y kaksi nakkia or a beef & rice filled deep fried crueller stuffed w/ 2 hot dogs, and the hangover preverter grilli or Balkan makkara (grilled sausages).
                                                                                                                                In the old USSR: cheap Beluga caviar and, a very environmentally incorrect, deep fried chunks of sturgeon. I knda miss the greasy sausages and the black bread and salted apps. and herring.

                                                                                                                                1. Underappreciated cuisines ... French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Indian, Greek, Thai, Korean, etc.

                                                                                                                                  Most Americans go for the stereotyipical dishes, such as Italian lasagna, Thai red, green, yellow curries. My question is how many go into these restaurants and order something unfamiliar

                                                                                                                                  In terms of Thai, Laotian food is little understoood.

                                                                                                                                  It is my opinion that the dishes that a cuisine is "known" for are not the soul of the cuisine. They are probably the dishes that have general appeal.

                                                                                                                                  I just came back from a year in Guatemala ... which even the best known dishes are underappreciated.

                                                                                                                                  So say Guuatemalan and people will think pepian or other such stews.

                                                                                                                                  But this is a country closely embraced by two seas. So it is the seafood to look for. Even Jonathan Gold didn't know cewviche is a major dish with its own local spin.

                                                                                                                                  Guatemala makes the best tortillas in the world. The rolls are also very good. There are maybe 30 different types of atol (not spelled atole in GT). And then there are the tamales. I have a cookbook with over 30 distict types ... and that doesn't begin to cover it.

                                                                                                                                  Getting back to seafood, I had the most amazing deep fried fish. There is a wonderful soup called tapado which is all the fresh seafood of the day in coconut broth and sliced plantains.

                                                                                                                                  For Halloween, so to speak, there is a special cold salad called fiambre which has more than a dozen differen t meats and sausages plus beans plus about 25 different veggies. The Day of the Dead is similar to our Thanksgiving. The fiambre like the turkey ... you have leftovers for days and days.

                                                                                                                                  However, even those that have some knowledge of Guatemalan cuisine and they will say it is boring ... or Pollo Campero

                                                                                                                                  Actually most Central American cuisine is underappreciated. El Salvador is more than pupusas. They have killer chicken sandwiches. Costa Rica has fabulous tamales that have rice. Panama has lots of deep fried snacks made of corn. Those only scratch the surface. As the infomercials say ... but wait, there's more ... much, much more.

                                                                                                                                  But most people don't want to delve further than the known and familiar. Their loss.

                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                    This happens to all cuisines. People end up associating them with certain signature dishes they know--eventually if this cuisine gets so popular in a country, that country ends up having its own version of it (American Chines, American Italian, American Mexican, etc...). Maybe this is precisely because these cuisines are so immensely popular, a perverted sense of appreciation I suppose, and probably unavoidable.

                                                                                                                                  2. I realize I may get laughed off this thread, but I'm going to posit that Mexican cuisine has yet to get its fair shake in the culinary world. I'm not talking about the burritos and nachos that pass for Mexican on this side of the border, but the moles, the ceviche, the barbacoa. Heck, even carne guisada has a depth of flavor to it that has never really been appreciated at large. Menudo, caldo de res, countless numbers of salsas. I've helped make carne enchilada that really impressed a lot of people who didn't know such a thing even existed (thank you Ms. Kennedy). I keep hoping for Mexican to be the next Indian: I think it's earned it.

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                                                                                                                                    1. re: gilintx

                                                                                                                                      Nothing laughable about that at all! I think it's getting there in some parts of the country, but there's definitely so much more to it than most of us know about. (As is the case with so many popular cuisines that have so much more to offer than what is best known about them.)

                                                                                                                                      And now you've made me crave a great bowl of menudo... :)

                                                                                                                                      1. re: gilintx

                                                                                                                                        That wasmy pointt on every cuisine. There is more of it than the usuals.

                                                                                                                                        While mole might be more common, usually it is the same chocolate mole when there are so many more than that.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: gilintx

                                                                                                                                          I agree - in the UK our Mexican offerings are limited to what you would probably call 'Tex Mex' - burritos, enchiladas etc. In the past year or so there have been a few street food type places set up in London which are slowly introducing 'authentic' (whatever that is!) Mexican food, moles, barbacoa and the like but we still have a long way to go.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: gilintx

                                                                                                                                            Agreed. The Mexican food most Americans know is really Tex Mex and enchiladas, tacos, tostados, etc. are traditionally snacks.

                                                                                                                                          2. I think Gullah/ Lowcountry cuisine could stand a bit of exposure. With southern comfort food having it's moment in the sun right now, this is not that far of a stretch and I think a lot of people would embrace it. She crab soup is the standout, hoppin' John and limpin' Susan are favorites, shrimp and grits, and lots of variations of crab dips. Because this cuisine was brought to Carolina and Georgia from west Africa, rice is heavily featured along with seafood, okra and greens. And it has quite a kick from cajun-like spices. The only problems I can see with cooks making these recipes taste exactly right at home is that uber fresh seafood is not available to everyone.

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                                                                                                                                            1. re: alliegator

                                                                                                                                              What's in that shecrab soup, allie? That sounds like it has something to do with lots of tomalley, which would be right up my alley. :)))

                                                                                                                                              1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                                It's got a bisque type base, a ton of Atlantic blue crab meat, and the roe in it. The roe is really what makes it special. I've seen a lot of recipes out there where people are crumbling in hard boiled egg yolks instead, and I can't imagine it would even be worth it then. I have had it made with lobster and it's roe, and it's almost just as good.
                                                                                                                                                The interwebs are full of recipes, you should give it a try sometime :)

                                                                                                                                                1. re: alliegator

                                                                                                                                                  That sounds delicious. I will definitely hit google for that one.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                                    I'd never heard of it either until I moved to the South. There's a restaurant in Charlotte (Eddie's Place) that has a great version. They serve it with a shot of sherry. I've had it in Charleston too although I never heard of adding crumbled hard boiled eggs.

                                                                                                                                            2. Portuguese: besides obvious Caldo Verde and Bifanas...
                                                                                                                                              the Cod cakes are the best on earth, Piri-piri chicken (listed in this thread as from Mozambique but actually from Portugal) - the Chouriço sausages having a distinct character from the Spanish ones (chunkier, heartier) - the sweets (egg-based and VERY scrumptious if you have a sweet tooth) - the sugared almonds in Easter - the Picado mixed meat roasts - the interesting mix of western europe spices with moroccan ones (ex. dishes with paprika + cinnamon, etc).........

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                                                                                                                                              1. re: Face_hole

                                                                                                                                                Real Japanese cuisine. Most Japanese restaurants in this country sell the same old thing--some sushi, noodles, teriyaki. There is so much more, but you have to go to Japan to get it.

                                                                                                                                                Southern Indian. So delicious what they can do with vegetables!

                                                                                                                                                Afghani cuisine. Kind of a meld between Indian and Middle Eastern. Delicious! (athough I bet the average Afghani doesn't get to eat that way)

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Face_hole

                                                                                                                                                  One of our favourite Portugese dishes to make is Cataplana! I usually use clams w/Chouriço and tomatoes, etc., but also shrimp, clams, mussels then served over pasta as in phjoto is awesome too. We have a large Cataplana as in photo and also 2 individual ones.

                                                                                                                                                2. It's perhaps not an "underappreciated/underrepresented" cuisine, but I'd like to throw Marcus Samuelsson's "Soul of a New Cuisine" into the mix here. In that book, he introduces what might be called African Fusion cuisine. It's never going to become ubiquitous as Asian Fusion... but the book's a delight, and Samuelsson's "new cuisine" is worthy of broader appreciation.

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                                                                                                                                                  1. re: drongo

                                                                                                                                                    Hmmm, that sounds like something I would definitely enjoy, thanks for sharing.
                                                                                                                                                    And I must say, I'm loving this thread!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: drongo

                                                                                                                                                      Marcus is competeing as the next Iron Chef on FoodNetwork. I think it begins this weekend! His food is stellar, so creative!

                                                                                                                                                    2. I think my culinary vocabulary has expanded more in the 5 days since I posted this thread than in the 5 years before it. Thanks to all. You're so much of the reason I keep coming back to this place!

                                                                                                                                                      1. "ve tried for years to find a Finnish resto. in NYC. The only ones I can find through the net are Houghton, in the UP of Michigan, home of Suomi U. Anyone know of a Finnish restaurant???

                                                                                                                                                        1. Dutch!

                                                                                                                                                          While it's certainly not the most colorful or spicy cuisine on the planet, we have a lot of great comfortfood dishes and delicious pastries.

                                                                                                                                                          Beef slowly braised in butter, Dutch split pea soup with tons of pork and smoked meat (cooked for 5-6 hours to get a really thick and gelatinous soup), the speculaas - spiced cookies and pastries, stamppot - equal amounts of mashed potatoes and kale, carrots or sauerkraut, served with smoked sausages or braised beef, meat and shrimp croquettes (and the bite sized version, bitterballen) herring, Dutch style eggnogg, Dutch bacon pancakes, Dutch apple pie, boterkoek (butterpastry with ginger), and so much more!

                                                                                                                                                          and.. Surinamese. Pom, a casserole of the tuber pom tajer, and chicken or fish, flavored with (among other things) orange juice, is one of the most unusual and delicious things I ever tasted.

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                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Klary

                                                                                                                                                            Great post, Klary! So many of those dishes sound so easy to love. I do love Dutch pancakes, and boterkoek.

                                                                                                                                                            That beef braised in butter - just how much butter are we talkin?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                                              about 100 grams of butter for about 450 gram of beef ;)
                                                                                                                                                              not much else: a bay leaf, a clove, salt and pepper, a splash of water.

                                                                                                                                                          2. Persian food is 'oh my god' good -- so comforting and delicious and as accessible to the western palate as Italian ro Greek. I mean, I love Indian, etc, but find I can eat it only every so often, whereas I can eat Persian as often as I eat pasta. Of course, it may be because I've had the good fortune to have lots of Persian friends, so I've eaten lots of delicious homemade Persian food over the years (Persians are very hospitable :) ). As well, on travels to the Middle East (Egypt, Israel and a culinary tour of Turkey), I expected to find food similarly delectable to the Persian I'd had here, but while there were good dishes, it didn't compare overall to Persian. A Persian friend explained to me that Persian food is to Middle Eastern food what French food is to European food -- granted, she could be biased, but in my culinary cruising to date, I'd have to agree that Persian cuisine is by far the most developed, refined and delicious of all the Middle Eastern dishes I've experienced. My faves are their leek/parsley/beef stew (gormeh sabsi -- pardon my spelling), the lamb & eggplant stew (khoresh de bademjan), the pomegranate chicken, (fesanjan) and of course their awesome rice dishes. Having grown up on bland German-Canadian rice (sorry mom!), my first experience of Persian basmate rice was revelatory -- I still remember it all these years later -- it was a beautiful preparation of 'shereen polow', which I believe is basmati rice steamed with saffron, butter, orange peel, julienned carrots, pistachios, and chicken pieces nestled into it... heaven!

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                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Celena

                                                                                                                                                              agree on the Persian food. Its what I make for friends when I really want to wow them with unusual flavors. Fesenjan, sooo good, and I love the herby omelets, and the elaborate rice dishes.. with the golden saffron crust.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Klary

                                                                                                                                                                Persian food was one of the first "ethnic" cuisines I was exposed to. My mum was friends with the late George Markidian of Omar Khayyam’s in San Francisco near Union Square. I now have two of his cookbooks-mom's and mine. His recipes are simple authentic Persian/Armenian Cuisine.WONDERFUL!His restaurant was instrumental in waking my inner wonderlust spirit of discovering cultures and cuisines early on.I began the adventure by cooking for my family every night from age 11, then traveling at age 18 out of the US and will never stop until I can do it all the time!

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Celena

                                                                                                                                                                I absolutely agree about Persian cuisine. Given the deep history and the refined and broad nature of the flavors, it deserves more of a spotlight. It seems like outside of Los Angeles, Persian restaurants in US cities are few in number relative to the size of Iranian communities, and generally very modest in the food they offer.

                                                                                                                                                                I think Turkish food is equally, if not more, deserving of broad attention and higher restaurant aspirations. It is frequently named as one of the world's 5 great cuisines. You can read Paula Wolfert's books to get a sense of the regional diversity within Turkey. For some reason, Turkish food in the U.S. is all too often relegated to a sort of pan-middle east/kebab type of venue with the lowered expectations and aims one might expect. That being said, in the NY metro area there are more specialized places serving a broader swath of cuisine, e.g. Paterson, NJ and Brooklyn. From what I have seen, the Turkish situation is much better in the UK and Germany.

                                                                                                                                                                As luckyfatima explains, Zanzibari/coastal Swahili food is delightful, and has the kind of intense sweet, spicy and aromatic flavors that should please a crowd. Saveur had a recipe collection recently, and I recommend the crab dish included.

                                                                                                                                                                One cuisine that I had never even heard of until very recently is Cape Malay cuisine of South Africa. http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/01/28/... I have never heard of a restaurant in the US that serves it.

                                                                                                                                                                Also, certain regional Brazillian, e.g. the palm-oily, spicy Afro-centric food of Salvador do Bahia; the rain forest sourced food of Belem and the north featuring tacaca, vatapa, cupuacu, acai and the other amazing fruits and produce available there.

                                                                                                                                                              3. What a fun thread! I'm learning a lot. One cuisine I didn't see mentioned is Cuban food. Many, many people to whom I mention it assume it's basically just like Mexican food (or their understanding of Mexican food). It's actually very different and very delicious. It's hard to find Cuban food in Ohio unless I make it. Basics are main courses like fried pork chunks (masitas de puerco) and ropa vieja (literally, "old clothes"...shredded beef in a tomato-based creole sauce), fried plantains (both sweet in the form of maduros and green in the form of tostones), black beans & rice, fried yuca, fabulous Cuban bread and Cuban coffee. Cuban sandwiches are gaining popularity around the country, as mojitos make the cocktail rounds, but there is so much more to Cuban cuisine than those. When I'm visiting my Cuban relatives in Miami, I love to go to Cuban restaurants like Versailles, Cafeteria Latino-Americana (are they still open? Haven't been recently), David's Cafe, Islas Canerias, La Carreta, Palacio de los Jugos for carry-out. When I'm home, I cook from a few Cuban cookbooks. One is "A Taste of Old Cuba." "Memories of a Cuban Kitchen" is good, too. My favorite is "Cuban Home Cooking" by Jane Cossio. I might have to go check out Columbus' Plantain Cafe or introduce my wife to the Starliner Diner this weekend!

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                                                                                                                                                                1. re: lunabliss

                                                                                                                                                                  Yet more great dishes! My personal fave is rabo encendido, and I think every omnivore and their mother should try that. :)

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: lunabliss

                                                                                                                                                                    New York had Cuban/Chinese restaurants on the upper West Side when I lived there in the early '80s, with two sides of the menu. You could get ropa vieja and platanos maduro with your Chinese. The guys who cooked and worked there were ethnic Chinese from Cuba who spoke Spanish. Great food, and cheap.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. Turkish food! I spent six weeks in Turkey last spring and the food was AMAZING! I can't find any Turkish restaurants around where I live. Good dishes would be:
                                                                                                                                                                    Eggplant Imam (or pretty much any of their eggplant dishes really)
                                                                                                                                                                    Manti (with Turkish yogurt, not North American)
                                                                                                                                                                    Kebabs, but REAL kebabs (so the plates with meat, and yogurt etc)
                                                                                                                                                                    Lentil soup (ok, we have that here, but the soup/corba over there was so good!)
                                                                                                                                                                    And Baklava. I mean, we already have it, but you can never have too much, right??

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                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: zeuspoodle

                                                                                                                                                                      I'm a big fan of Turkish food too, though there's plenty of it here in NYC.

                                                                                                                                                                      The eggplant imam dish you name is called (in Turkish English) Imam Bayildi, but in Turkish, İmam bayıldı (pronounced "bayuhlduh"). Good stuff indeed.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. I know it's not obscure or anything, but Polish food is my favorite. It is so comforting and soul soothing. My goal is to master making many polish dishes in the next 5 years. I think good introductory foods are the more familiar dishes like golobki/galumpki with sour cream in the sauce, pierogis, kielbasas, bigos, haluski etc...

                                                                                                                                                                      1. I just created a post about this very subject, oddly enough under the Portuguese/Spanish cuisine. Now, within the United States, I would say that anything from the Rocky Mountain area sounds pretty underrated to me. Utahan cuisine is particularly underrated, and usually associated with Jello. However, I beg to differ. From an internet search:

                                                                                                                                                                        *Utah scones- a thinly disguised sopapilla variant.
                                                                                                                                                                        *Funeral potatoes- though they have an unfortunate name, I hear they are a lot like a hash brown casserole. Sounds good by me.
                                                                                                                                                                        *Frog's eye salad- No actual frogs eyes are used in this "salad", which is more like a dessert. It actually resembles ambrosia, only with a starch- in this case, acini di pepe pasta.

                                                                                                                                                                        For more:


                                                                                                                                                                          1. Colombian food. Give me a Bandeja Paisa with a big glass of lulo and a strong exquisite coffee on a lazy Saturday morning. An Arepa con queso after a nasty hangover. A big bowl of Ajiaco or Sancocho on a chilly night. Colombian food is just lovely stuff no one really appreciates.

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                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: rayrayray

                                                                                                                                                                              A good Colombian arepa is truly a thing of beauty. There's a very fine bakery in Tamarac, Fl: El Buen Gusto.