Every week, the WoW! community and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture, or daily living. This week’s question:What Is Your Favorite Foreign Cuisine?
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz: French, and Catalonian, in that order, in-country.
Wonderful cooking, best found in small restaurants favored by locals: The sort of places where the cook (the cook, yes) posts the daily menu on a chalkboard on the sidewalk.
Doug Hagin:Tough choice, but I have to say Italian. Garlic, extra virgin olive oil two of my favorite things. From Lasagna, to all the other incredible pasta dishes, great breads, cheeses. Oh Bruschetta, in so many varieties, Scallopini! Marsala! So many ways to go with great sauces and pastas.
Rob Miller: I have to divide my faves into three categories…stuff I ate before I observed kashrut (Kosher dietary laws), stuff I eat now and stuff I cook. We didn’t really cook much in my house when I was a kid, so I taught myself, using cookbooks like Julia Child’s classics, Dan Beard’s and a couple of others. I did it because I wanted to, shall we say, maximize my social life, which it definitely did. Besides, it was fun! And now that I keep kosher, there’s a lot of stuff I can’t eat unless I make it.
The first foreign cuisine I ever really ran across was Mexican food, which is way different and much more diverse than most of what we see here. It gave me a hot tooth that still exists. I can’t really eat the stuff in the restaurants anymore because a lot of them use lard, but I can make killer enchiladas, refried beans from scratch (including tomatillos, nopalitos and chilies) Pollo con mole, Pollo Anchiote (from Yucatan) and stand up chili at home.
I’m also decent at some of what the French call ‘cuisine bourgeoisie‘ sort of what we’d call home cooking. Stuff like onion soup (no cheese in my version, since it uses beef broth) Poulet Marengo, Poulet Dijon, Bouef Borguignion, Bouef Flamande’, stuff like that. I can also make decent pasta dishes and basic sauces like bolognese and yer basic tomato sauce with mushrooms and herbs from scratch, as well as fondue, beef stroganoff(sans sour cream) and a decent Hungarian goulash without the sour cream they osmetimes use. I rate myself as a decent amateur cook.
While I like the continental stuff, my out and out favorite is has always been Thai food, a delightful combination of Indian food (another fave), Chinese and Southeast Asian influences…they even have curries like Musselman Curry, which I now make at home. The food is fresh, spicy, inventive and exotic. One of my favorite Thai dishes is larb, a delightful sort of salad made with beef or chicken, rice noodles, cabbage, chilies, fresh mint and lime juice. I never tried making it myself but my beloved makes a wonderful version of it, so I don’t have to.
I like Vietnamese food as well, which combines French influences with Chinese and southeast Asian. One dish I absolutely love is Pho, a wonderful beef soup with a heavenly aroma. I haven’t had it in a long time since the beef they use isn’t kosher, but one day maybe I’ll take a shot at making it. I’ve been told it ain’t easy.
Israeli cuisine is a fave. To me there’s nothing like a good felafel with Israeli style salad, pita, fresh tahini and a little shuk to top it off. They also make great shawarma, a distinct kind of couscous, a wonderful egg dish called shakshouka, labna, hummus, burekas, kibbeh (bulgar with meat and vegetables) and delicious lamb, chicken and beef. It’s basically a melting pot for the entire Middle East, because the Jews who were ethnically cleansed from the Arab world brought their food with them. And there’s also Ethiopian food, eaten with the right hand and with the aid of a spongy bread called Injerah. Rich wats (stews), spicy vegetables and delicious thickened sauces. There’s an Ethiopian community near where I live and some really nice restaurants, some I which I used to go to. But unlike the Ethiopian places in Israel, none of them are kosher, so….another culinary challenge awaits!
Patrick O’Hannigan:I guess “foreign” would be a subjective measure. When they were small, my children (one of whom is Korean) saw a movie with an Asian character in America whose most memorable line was about some kind of rice-based dish that she identified as “food of my people.” For awhile, that line was a family joke.
All things considered, I’d have to say that my favorite cuisines are Italian (I’m a “pasta head”) and Korean (Bibimbap! Beef bulgogi!).
Scott Kirwin:I can’t pronounce the dishes, and half the time I don’t know what I’m eating, but I’ll go with Indian.
I used to work with an Indian-American and we would hit the Indian restaurants around Wilmington Delaware for lunch. We found this one place that served authentic Punjabi cuisine at a little hole in the wall in a neighborhood of questionable virtue.
We both would eat so much at the buffet that we’d be struggling to make it back to the office without exploding.
There’s something about the cuisine that just works for me, and I’m not sure why because I didn’t grow up with it at all.
I’m hoping to travel to India just to eat.
Laura Rambeau Lee:The one food I crave if I haven’t had it for awhile would be Mexican. I love a spicy carnitas (pork) with verde sauce served with refried beans and rice and flour tortillas. And of course crispy tortilla chips and salsa and a refreshing glass or two of Sangria. Muy bueno!
Thanks for the easy question this week Rob. Now I’m craving Mexican. LOL!
Dave Schuler:Tough question. I like everything. Let’s start by assuming you mean “cooking” rather than “cuisine”. A cuisine is an organized system for for cooking and there are only a few of them: French, Italian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese. There is Swiss cooking but no Swiss cuisine. It’s a cuisine paysanne. That’s true of Mexican food, Greek food, and many others.
Well, obviously French. I’m a French cook and I don’t exaggerate in claiming that I’m probably the best French cook you’ll ever encounter who isn’t a professional chef. You know that exercise in the book/movie Julie and Julia? I did the same thing thirty years previously: taught myself French cooking by making every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I had an advantage in that I came from a cooking family, had worked as a short order cook, had cooked for crowds as large as 500 people on a regular basis, I even catered a little.
In addition to French, I particularly like Hungarian food, Japanese food, and I’ll admit to a fondness for British pub food.
Bookworm Room:My two favorite cuisines are Chinese food (from the Northern region, not Hong Kong style) and Middle Eastern food. Growing up in the Bay Area, Chinese food was a given.
Because my parents grew up in the Middle East, they were good at finding the best Middle Eastern restaurants around. In those days, back in the late 1960s and 1970s, before the average Arab on the street had become hyper-politicized, we were greeted warmly in those restaurants. Now, I seldom eat Middle Eastern food, because when I walk in, I’m usually faced with pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli propaganda on the walls. Those things make me lose my appetite.
Well, there it is!
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