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Are you addicted to home 'world cuisine' changes?

Are you the kind of home cook who has sudden urges to change to different cuisines totally? I am and it doesn't seem to ever work out. Example: I have lots of cookbooks devoted to Japanese food, Malaysian food, French food, Chinese food and on and on. The other day I was looking at my cook books and I had a sudden impulse to cook only Japanese food, maybe forever. 'Forever' for me always seems to last a few days fortunately for my wife. So I dig my Japanese cook books out and make a list of all the ingredients I 'must have' in the pantry. These bottles of mirin/dashi etc are then set out ready to use. This time it's going to be different from all the other times. Trouble is inevitably after screwing up a couple of dinners I sort of loose interest in Japanese food. I never really liked miso anyway. This happens about four times a year. I must have bought then given to the thrift store a dozen bamboo steamer sets. And wok sets? There's a container of miso in the back of the fridge I must have bought a year ago. I opened it and it had one spoonful used. After my last episode of 'Maylasian Madness' I asked my wife what she wanted for dinner the next night. "How about some braised short ribs and roasted garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli?". The next day the 'kitchen elves' had removed all those strange bottles and bags from the counter. Does this sort of sickness have you in it's grips? If so what are your experiences with say 'going Thai'?

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  1. My experience has taught me that I am better off finding a really great restaurant locally (30 minute radius) and letting them maintain their expertise :)

    This works well for Szechuan, Thai, Indian, and sushi. I am just NOT going to be able to find all the right ingredients to make my favorite menu items from these places. I mean, without driving to 3 different markets and I am far too lazy/busy to do that.

    It has not worked as well for Irish, British, or American foods like lamb shanks, pot roast, or meatloaf. Or pot pies. But those are all things I can easily find the ingredients for, and I do want to cook sometimes :)

    1. I usually eat the food in country and then buy a couple of definitive cook books on the cuisine. Sometimes from restaurants. Then my meals are heavy on the latest passion for about 6 months. Then it naturally fades away until I have 6 or 10 that merge into my usual rotation of meal planning.

      Last nights meal was chicken in fermented black beans, kale with habanero peppers, mashed potatos, and stir fried snowpeas with garlic. That is called merging.

      1. For a while I was addicted to cooking Indian frood from 660 Curries. I bought all kinds of spices and lentils and flours (some still unopened!). I really enjoyed doing it though and still use the cookbook occasionally. This little project taught me to, like EngineerChic, leave some of the cuisines up to the pros. I have no fear of cooking what the restaurants cook, but finding the right ingredients can prove very difficult, time consuming, or even impossible in a smaller city. I absolutely cannot find curry leaves anywhere in my hometown so I have to stock up on them when I go to the Northern Virginia area.

        1. I am prone to brief bouts of cuisine-shuffling. Someone mentioned "condimentia" on another thread. I am in its thrall. Half the real estate in the fridge and cabinets is taken up by partially used jars and bottles of ingredients from exotic cuisines. There's not much room for the stuff that I *do* use constantly. I vowed not to buy/open any non-basics until I've used up or discarded what I have. I am not tied to recipes, though. Yesterday I found some paneer that I'd frozen, and there was a can of spinach that I bought for pilaf that I didn't get around to making. There was frozen boneless, skinless turkey, and fresh Brussels sprouts. So I wound up with a take-off on saag paneer. Pretty good over brown jasmine rice, which started out as an exotic and has become my standard rice.

          1. i have easy and inexpensive access to ingredients for all kinds of cuisines. 20+ years or so ago, when i was fresh from culinary school and finding my own niche as a cook, i did go nuts on exotic ingredients and condiments. after a few years of dried lily buds and kim chee languishing in my fridge, i decided to stick with what i really enjoy cooking and eating. i leave the other stuff to ex-pats and happily let them cook and serve me.

            your behavior sounds a little compulsive, lol. maybe channel the energy elsewhere?

            1. I find that it's easy to get overwhelmed when I buy too much, too soon. If I start by buying a few versatile basics and stick to simpler techniques and recipes, I'm less likely to get frustrated and quit. It took me a long time to grasp the concept of buying ingredients I like the smell and taste of (derp!) instead of the ones I was "supposed" to use, which would then languish on the door of the fridge and make me vaguely uneasy every time I looked at them. I make a lot of generic Asian sauce from soy and/or hoisin, vinegar, brown sugar, sriracha, and sesame oil (and sometimes peanut butter). Lately I add Thai roasted chili paste. I also cook it down instead of thickening it with cornstarch, and I often toss it over rice noodles. I'm sure there's no one in the world who would call that foodie or authentic. But the thing is, I like it! I'm finding that in recent years I'm much more interested in pleasing myself, saving myself money and feeding myself more healthily than takeout, rather than earning other people's respect. I think if you put too much pressure on food, it takes away from the pleasant primal satisfaction that it should be. When you buy a whole bunch of expensive ingredients, you feel obligated to justify it, and it can become stressful. If you fed yourself in a quick and cost effective way but that technique didn't quite work, it's much less upsetting. I usually find myself seeking out the poor food or street food of a culture, because finding a totally new thing to do with eggs, beans, and potatoes thrills me, while turning out a perfect from-scratch meal after hours of sweating in the kitchen seems to give me ambivalent feelings.

              1. I am going to 'tone it down' in 2013. Thanks for the thoughts.

                1. I have when I have not had a good restaurant of that ethnicity near to me. We used to cook Thai at home, and we used to cook Indian. Now we have great restaurants near us (in an expanding area).

                  Now we do as someone else mentioned -- generic Asian. We also BBQ ethnic food, and that seems to hit the flavor profiles without all the labor and ingredients.

                  1. I do get on kicks, but I don't feel driven to switch to one cuisine forever. Instead I'll delve into them heavily and then the favorites will go into regular rotation until we get sick of them. Luckily my family share the same passion so it's not all on my shoulders. Right now I'm in a slump.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: rasputina

                      In a slump you say? GO MALAYSIAN! I've got some 'Cili Kering, Galangal, Kari Ayam dan Daging, Kari Ikan, Kerisik,Asam Jawa,Sos Cili Manis, Kicap Manis, Belacan, Gula Melaka, Bawang Goreng and a couple of barely used Malaysian cookbooks with those beautiful "food-porn" photos I'm letting go cheap. And two unopened bottles of rose water.

                      1. re: Puffin3

                        I bought rose water for Crescent Dragonwagon's Rose of Persia Cake (google for recipe), which is pound cake-like, flavored with lemon, pistachio, and dried cherries. It's quite good, and also uses up some of that chickpea flour that you probably also have on hand.

                        1. re: greygarious

                          That sounds incredible. I have 2 of her cookbooks, the cornbread one and the bean one.

                        2. re: Puffin3

                          All it took was cooking latkes last week ( which I hadn't made in years) and I'm back on a Jewish food kick. Switched back to bagels from English muffins and I'm dragging out my old kreplach recipe, begging my husband to make his rugelach and hamantashen. I guess I was slow to get on board, he has been eating Reuben sandwiches non stop since I started fermenting sauerkrat last spring. Finally broke down and bought the Inside the Jewish Bakery cookbook that came out last year. I've been dying to try making pumpernickel bread.

                      2. I specialize in the ethnic cuisine known as Bay Area Melting Pot, leaning heavily towards Mexican and Indian, with some Thai thrown in, since those are my faves. I wouldn't call it <insert country> cuisine as much as <insert country>-inspired cuisine. I rarely make specific shopping trips for special ingredients (since I can get most of them in any grocery), and I'll cheerfully mix country-specific ingredients (I like mirin as a marinade for seafood, along with chiles).

                        I've learned some good techniques from reading Indian cookbooks - like toasting the spices before grinding them and using more onions than one would think necessary - and my Indian-born neighbor once commented that the smells from my kitchen were very Indian-like. I don't use any special equipment, though, and I try to stick to cuisines that have some overlap of ingredients so I'm not buying large amounts of stuff for one or two meals.

                        1. Short answer...yes.
                          I don't compete if we have one or more really good restaurants locally for a given cuisine but if I've traveled somewhere and there is no good local alternative I go in phases making that food..
                          Right now I am cycling back to Indian food. We have a couple of Indian restaurants but they are very Americanized.
                          Friends just gave me Paula Wolfert's Food of Morocco for Christmas.Our one Moroccan restaurant closed about a year ago. As of last night I have a jar of preserved lemons going and I am scheming to make tajine without actually buying the pan.

                          1. This seems like one of those threads in which only those who *are* "addicted to home 'world cuisine' changes" answer, so I will go against the grain and answer "no." My basic cooking leans towards Italian-French-American in its inspiration, and that never changes.

                            I'd just as soon eat Asian food out every now and again than make it myself. Part of it has to do with smell. I like eating Indian food, for example, but I don't want my kitchen (and the rest of my apartment, and the hallway) to smell like Indian spices for one second longer than it takes me to eat whatever Indian dish I made.

                            It's always lovely, though, to have an apartment that smells like someone's making Bolognese.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Jay F

                              I'm with you on the Bolognese. LOL
                              Where we park in town we walk down a narrow alleyway which has a couple of 'ethnic' restaurants venting their kitchens on each side. We know to take a big breath and hold it until we have exited the alley. East Indian on one side and Chinese on the other! Gaaaah! By themselves the odors are fine but combined? No way.

                            2. I find this thread and the responses to it really bizarre. I mean, yeah, I've immersed myself in a cuisine and then moved on, but I always take the ingredients and techniques with me. You don't have to be cooking Thai food to use fish sauce or galangal.

                              1. I have collections of various dry-good cooking staples from the favorite cuisines from which I cook, but I go on a single or at least regional cuisine cooking spree when I cook Chinese because of the fresh ingredients. I'll have chunk of tofu that I need to use up, or too many fried tofu squares. And a lot of baby bok choy or Chinese broccoli or something. And so I'll end up making Chinese meals for 3-4 days in a row. It also happens to me with Korean. Depending on what it is that I need to use up, I may do alternate days of Chinese and Korean because of the overlap of fresh ingredient usage. So it actually ends up being an East Asia spree. I don't know much about Japanese cuisine and never cook it at home, otherwise I might be able to diversify.

                                1. Just making the dumplings from a country is a good way to go- there are minimal seasonings but enough to get a feel for the cuisine at home and to allow you to make it to your liking. If you don't mind making dough these are worth it.

                                  1. I tend to add new cuisines, but not drop them. As a result, I've got a startling variety of condiments and spices - a giant bin of various herbs and spices, miso, dashi, kombu, soy, Wocester sauce, kimchi, mirin, sake, Chinese rice wine, black bean sauce, several nationalities of hot sauce, six types of vinegar, four types of oil, ghee, fish sauce, fish paste, anchovy paste, Thai and Japanese curry pastes, four types of rice (short grain, long grain, brown and black), lentils, chickpeas, half a dozen types of other grains, coconut milk, dried chilis of various types, and so on.

                                    The main downside is that sometimes ingredients go bad before I can use up a single purchase size container.

                                    Some we eat more than others - Japanese and Italian at least once a week, for example, others less frequently, or when I feel like putting more effort into a meal on the weekend.