HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Traditional Ethnic Recipes

Hi all,

I'm looking for authentic recipes that showcase cuisines - Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Persian, Greek, Ethiopian, etc.

My goal is to have 2-3 "go-to" recipes per cuisine that highlight traditional flavours. I'm looking for simple, home-y recipes.

I'd prefer not to buy a cookbook for each cuisine, and I'm tired of using google only to have the top hits being recipes beginning with "1/2 a cup of X-brand thai peanut sauce"

Does anybody have any bright ideas?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Other than searching below the top Google hits, I think there's a couple of ways you could go forward.

    First is to think of a good cookery book for a cuisine, then see if the author has a website which includes recipes. Second is to track a discussion board for ex-pats of the particular country and see if it has a foody sub-forum.

    Pleased to see you're looking for "traditional" flavours , rather than the considerably nebulous "authentic" - but you may wish to amend the thread title to fit.

    1. There are many good resources for Japanese cooking. I especially like Cooking with Dog (You Tube), justhungry (and the bento version- justbento), japanesefood.about.com (no longer active, but is still a good resource) and Japanese Food Report.

      For Korean I like maangchi and Aeri's kitchen.

      1. For Ethiopian, I've made these (vegetarian) recipes and found them pretty comparable to local restos (with a few tweaks as I recall, mostly increased spicing - I don't keep track but go by taste, which should be easy if you've gone to Ethiopian restaurants):

        Split peas: http://fatfreevegan.com/blog/2010/04/...
        Red lentil stew: http://fatfreevegan.com/blog/2010/03/...
        Veg with garlic & ginger: http://www.globalgourmet.com/destinat...

        1. Hit up Wikipedia for an article about a specific country's cuisine (for example, Mexican...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_...


          Pick specific dishes to do searches for. Look for posts by bloggers who write about that country's cuisine. There are usually groups of bloggers who often link to each other. You want to find a blogger who actually gets comments on posts and who posts more than just a recipe and pretty pictures.

          1. The answer to your dreams on this subject is "The Prudence Penny Regional Cook Book" (Copyright 1941) which is still available through various sources, including Amazon.com.
            I have a first edition that I received as a gift many many years ago. Wouldn't trade it for anything.

            1. Check YouTube. I searched "Mexican cooking" and "Ethiopian cooking" and got several hits that looked like videos of mom or grandmom making traditional dishes. Can't vouch for the recipes, of course, but they look pretty darn authentic.

              1. Do you plan on buying special ingredients for each of these cuisines, or are you expecting to make all the recipes from items that you would normally stock? What's wrong with 'x brand thai peanut sauce'? Too processed or too specialized?

                One old book that you might find in used book stores is
                The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors
                It does what you want, give a snap show of a couple dozen cuisines, essentially the recipes that can be demoed in an hour.

                I also have a collection of Hermes House picture-cookbooks that focus on various cuisines. I have found these in clearance/used bookstores. They are a relatively inexpensive way of getting books for specific countries.

                4 Replies
                1. re: paulj

                  I find the processing of bottled sauces to be a huge turn-off. As long as the food is tasty (and preferably not expensive), I don't mind buying exotic ingredients.

                  Also, I'm more interested in learning traditional flavours, not learning the flavours a food conglomerate considers marketable. I feel like if I'm cooking food from a country I've never visited, with people who aren't from that country, how can I know if that bottled whatever actually comes anywhere close to being the real deal? IMO better to learn to do it myself, if only for the sake of it.

                  I'm also a bit of a geek, if that isn't obvious already :D

                  1. re: timoftheshire

                    I do get where you're coming from but at the same time it isn't practical to make your own homemade soy, fish or oyster sauces. I've travelled throughout much of SE Asia and it did seem like that just about everyone, whether restaurants or home cooks, heavily relied on Maggi processed sauces, bullions and seasonings. "traditional flavours" and "the flavours a food conglomerate considers marketable" are not mutually exclusive. Just FYI.

                    1. re: timoftheshire

                      go on a shopping trip to a store specializing in food of that country/region -- then at least you're getting what folks from that country/region probably buy.

                      I love wandering my local Asian grocery. I don't know what half the stuff is, or what you do with it, but it's always interesting, and I've come home and googled things frequently to see what it is or how it's used. (and sometimes I go back and buy some of it)

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        When I come home from ethnic stores, my cell phone camera is always jam-packed with pictures I've taken when I'm in the stores Then I have a day of research and reading about these products. What great fun!

                        I do the same with wine. Cell phone easy pics for research.

                  2. Check your local library. Many libraries have huge collections of excellent cookbooks, an amazing resource. You could browse used bookstores too -- buy the books, then resell them when you've learned what you want from them.

                    1. There are food/cooking blogs for seemingly every possible cuisine variants in the world. Poke around the internet and see what you can find. Usually googling a phrase like "thai food blog" will be sufficient to find a couple of the top ranking blogs. These cooking blogs tend to feature fairly easy recipes commonly cooked at home by the practioners of the cuisine.

                      In recent years I've come to utilize a handful of food blogs that I trust for new recipes rather than buying new cookbooks.

                      Last but not least, home cooks across the world use processed seasoning including curry powders, soy and peanut sauces. It's nothing to be afraid of.

                      1. I can help out with Turkish, if you're looking for a resource for that particular ethnic cuisine. Dh is from Turkey and I have his mother's hand-written recipe book. My turkish is not great, so if I need help and he's not around, I go to http://www.turkishcookbook.com/ to look up recipes. They are all authentic and the results I get from her recipes taste like we're sitting at dh's sister's table back in Istanbul.

                        1. Unless you read the language, hard to get an "authentic" (whatever that means) recipe that's been translated to English.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Although not impossible. We try to buy a cookbook as a souvenir of our travels. Assuming you are travelling to a reasonably touristy part of a country, then you can often find one that tends to stick to a fairly traditional (I also don't like "authentic") cuisine.

                            By the by, I have a couple or so regional American ones from past trips. They are often the most difficult to work to - it's the use of "cups" that make it difficult, together with the use of packaged ingredients (like seasoning mixes) that we don't have in Europe.

                            1. re: Harters

                              We do this as well. I have a very nice collection of traditional books from all over Europe that are not translated to English. Italian is easy to understand but others? Not so much. So, I try to figure them out with the help of friends, books, googling and so on. But we have not purchased books with baffling letters, just those that at least have most of the same letters as we do. I am learning Croatian and my Croatian cookbooks really help with the language, actually. Not an easy language to learn by any stretch but that is a different topic. :-)

                              1. re: chefathome

                                The first French magazine I sat down and read was a cooking magazine -- it helps your language skills immensely if it's something you're interested in. (articles about yet another windbag politician, not so much!)

                                Harters, do you have a set of US measuring utensils? I hate that it eats so much space, but I have two sets of measuring utensils -- US liquid and dry measuring cups, US measuring spoons for my US recipes, and a scale, a liquid measuring cup, and a set of spoons for all my other recipes.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  No, I just stick with my metric utensils and wing it when I come across cups in a recipe. As you indicate, we all accumulate clutter in the kitchen

                            2. re: ipsedixit

                              I've found this myself. When a recipe is written in English it's not just translated, but adjusted to be compliant with ingredients and equipment available in its target market. [and vice versa]. Very local ingredients are substituted for, for example.

                              And total authenticity is limited by the ingredients available. There are dishes in my *own* home cuisine - stuff I can cook with my eyes closed and one hand behind my back - that I can't do properly now, because I can't get the right ingredients, or can't afford the imported ones, or have different cooking facilites. So something like Chinese or Indian food is going to be different made in the US than in China or India, even when made by people from that culture.

                              I've had good luck from blogs or websites done by people who live in a particular country, or are from there. I also second the library idea - head out to your local library for an afternoon, and browse though the 641s. I tend to like books that don't have a lot of pictures, but do spend about half the book talking *about* the cuisine, rather than just giving recipes. That can give you more insight into cooking techniques, ingredients, and the philosophy of the cuisine. I have a Thai cookbook called "Cracking the Coconut" that's good that way.

                            3. Years ago I came across a cookbook (in the store) that tried to define typical flavors for various cuisines, focusing in particular on spice pairings. I don't recall the details, but am sure that Greek included lemon. Italian probably included basil. Using this approach you could take a French stew; tweak it a bit make it Italian; a further tweak Greek, and next Moroccan. But this approach builds more on stereotypes than 'typical flavors'. It is also much harder when going further a field to India, Thailand and Korea.

                              Is it possible do any better than this with 2-3 recipes, and no (indepth) cookbook? Doesn't that mean, almost by default, that you have to make something stereotypical? That would doubly true if you rule out exotic ingredients (e.g. teff for your injera, fish sauce for Thai dishes, Gochujang and kimchi for Korean.

                              As an exercise can we suggest the 2-3 go-to dishes for each cuisine?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: paulj

                                If you have specific ideas of dishes you can share, feel free!

                                And true - I'm okay with stereotypical. But I'd like to be able to make a butter chicken (if that happens to be one of the go-tos) that makes an Indian person say "this is better than in India!"

                                ***along that line, apparently the gazpacho recipe from Michael Smith's Chef at Home kicks the tail of any gazpacho in Spain proper. Or at least the reviews I got said it did.

                                Oh, and exotic ingredients are okay. I'm lucky to live in Vancouver - outside of alcohol, you can find almost any ingredient you could want here.

                                1. re: timoftheshire

                                  I'm not quite following you now.

                                  You said you wanted "authentic recipes....that highlight traditional flavours."

                                  Now you're implying you want to learn recipes that would be better than in their place of origin? If the gazpacho recipe kicks the tail of any gazpacho in Spain, then it probably isn't 100% "authentic."

                                  I wouldn't worry too much about authenticity or even what constitutes the list of ingredients. Find recipes that appeal to you and learn how to make them well.

                              2. <My goal is to have 2-3 "go-to" recipes per cuisine that highlight traditional flavours.>

                                Very ambitious. For Chinese, I will suggest a very simple one. Oyster sauce with Gai Lan (Chinese broccoli).

                                Blanch the Gai Lan in water with a touch of oil until the vegetables start to turn bright green (not too dark).

                                Drain and then add oyster sauce.



                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Spanish basic recipes?

                                  Tortilla de Espana
                                  Gambas al ajillo

                                    1. I really like the book World Vegetarian Classics by Celia Brooks Brown. They're obviously all vegetarian recipes, but it doesn't take shortcuts and it focuses on recipes that are traditionally vegetarian rather than the type that try to make cottage pie out of tofu.

                                      1. I've been married to my wife of Italian heritage for 52+ years, and I've seen enough pasta for 3 lifetimes. "I miei antenati non erano italiani (My ancestors were not Italian). That said, let's do risotto using a short grained rice like Arborio. Risotto is a good way to use leftover chicken, turkey, or fresh protein like shrimp or sausage.

                                        It's my job to prepare the risotto in our empty nest. Ergo, I'm cooking for 2. The ingredients can vary from time to time.


                                        4 cups chicken or homemade turkey stock, preheated
                                        2 Tbs. olive oil
                                        1 Tbs. butter + more butter at the end of the cooking time
                                        1 medium onion, diced
                                        2 celery ribs, diced
                                        1 bell pepper, any color, diced after stem and seeds are removed
                                        1/2 cup dry vermouth, madeira or marsala
                                        1 cup of Arborio rice
                                        At least a couple of cups of shredded leftover cooked chicken, a couple dozen cooked shrimp, diced ham or sliced cured sausage (what Americans call pepperoni or diced Genoa salami)
                                        A good amount of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
                                        No salt or black pepper is added. Other ingredients are salty enough for us.


                                        Have the stock preheated in a covered deep sauce pan before starting the process.

                                        Add the olive oil and butter to a 3-quart stockpot (10" diameter 2" deep) at medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the onion, celery and bell pepper to stock pot and allow the aromatics saute until the onion is translucent.

                                        Add the rice to the pot and stir with a wooden spoon until it is coated with oil-butter mixture. Add the alcoholic liquid and stir the mixture. When the liquid is absorbed, add a ladle of heated stock and stir.

                                        Each time the liquid is absorbed add another ladle full of stock. Repeat until all the preheated stock has been incorporated into the risotto.

                                        Add whatever protein you've selected for the concoction and stir. Now add some more butter and grated cheese until the mixture looks creamy. Remove from the heat source and serve immediately.

                                        Nota bene: The key to making good risotto is "pazienza, pazienza, pazienza" (patience, patience, patience).

                                        In bocca al lupo e buon appetito! (Good luck and good appetite!)

                                        Vivi, ama, ridi e mangia bene! (Live, love, laugh and eat well!),


                                        PS: I recently learned that wishing someone "Buona fortuna" (Good luck) is sarcastic like saying "Lotsa luck" to someone with a hare-brained idea.

                                        1. Thanks guys! Some awesome ideas here. I'm going to be busy with this for a while....

                                          1. Hi, timoftheshire. We've taken the liberty of amending the title for you since you seemed to want it done.

                                            1. What would you recommend if someone wanted to do the same with Canadian food?

                                              Would poutine quality as one of those 2-3 dishes? If so, what's required to get an authentic taste? The parts are simple - fries, curds, gravy. But fresh curds are impossible to find in many places (even in Canada); not many home cooks make their own fries from scratch; and making the gravy from scratch requires some knowledge of classic French sauces. Would it be ok to use a package of St Hubert Poutine mix?

                                              The same sort of issues apply when talking about Thai, Indian, Peruvian or Mexican.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: paulj

                                                Pardon my complete ignorance, but while I'm sure that Canada has a national cuisine, my presumption (wrong?) was that given its status as a country of mostly immigrants, much like the states and Australia, the cuisine is characterized primarily by the odd blend of its varied transplanted cultures. Other than the vague 'California cuisine' moniker, there hasn't really ever been much associated with Canadian or US cuisine other than its ubiquitous fast food 'culture'.

                                                So--what is Canadian cuisine characterized by?

                                                1. re: chrisjuricich

                                                  The OP is from Vancouver, and I was just trying to look at this 2-3 'typical flavors' idea from a different angle. In other words, take your 'native cuisine' (we all have one), and try to distill it down to a couple of recipes "that highlight traditional flavours".

                                                  What I tried to do with poutine, could just as well be done with pad thai, or murgh makhani.

                                                  What is Indian cuisine characterized by? Chinese? Can you do that without contrasting them to American/Canadian cooking?