Here's how to find the best of easy global cuisine in your local natural food store
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Did You Know?
Ghee (clarified butter), which is a staple of Indian cuisine, makes an ideal cooking oil because of its high smoke point.
In the company of international spices and condiments, ordinary grocery items become global culinary creations. For example, combine zucchini, onions, and red bell peppers with coconut milk, lemongrass, and green curry, and you’ll have a fragrant Thai dish. Those same vegetables matched with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, black olives, and basil, are reminiscent of Italian cuisine.
Ready to take a trip around the world? Start today, with some of these favorites:
Thai: The foods of Thailand in Southeast Asia are characterized by their reliance on characteristic flavors of ginger, lemongrass, and chile peppers, and by their abundant use of fresh, rather than dried, herbs and spices. In the condiment section, look for coconut milk, fish sauce, palm sugar, and red and green curry paste. Thai cuisine makes ample use of fish, shellfish, and tofu; peanuts and cashews are often crushed and sprinkled over finished dishes. You’ll serve your Thai concoction on jasmine rice or rice noodles, also known as pad thai noodles.
Produce you’ll need: ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, limes, Thai basil, Thai chile peppers, cilantro, snow peas, bean sprouts, green beans, red peppers, onions.
Instant international: Native Forest Organic Coconut Milk; A Taste of Thai Green Curry Paste; Thai Kitchen Sweet Red Chili Sauce.
Mexican: Best known for its enthusiastic use of hot spices, Mexican cuisine also relies heavily on cilantro, salsa, corn, and various combinations of rice and beans. In the spice aisles, look for cumin, oregano, coriander, and chili powder. Canned chipotles are irreplaceable, and their accompanying adobo sauce will instantly transform most any dish. For quick meals, buy canned black, kidney, and pinto beans, salsa, and premade mole, a heady combination of chiles, nuts, spices, and chocolate. Mexican cuisine uses a lot of meat, though the states bordering the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico prominently feature seafood. Serve your concoction over rice, or on corn or wheat tortillas, and garnish it abundantly with cilantro.
Produce you’ll need: green bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, corn, jalapeños, cilantro, garlic, avocado, tomatillos.
Instant international: A Fare To Remember Chipotle Sauce; Bearitos Low Fat Spicy Refried Beans; Tulocay Made in Napa Valley Mole Simmer Sauce; 505 Organic Green Chile Sauce.
Chinese: Cuisine from this vast nation is characterized by wildly divergent regional styles and ingredients, but most share common elements of pungent, salty flavors. In the grocery aisles, look for water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, soy sauce, chile paste, and five-spice powder. Sauces-black bean, oyster, and hoisin-add instant Chinese flavor and flair to chicken and seafood. And of course, you’ll want rice; choose both long- and short-grain varieties, as well as rice or bean starch noodles.
Produce you’ll need: bell peppers, ginger, mushrooms, carrots, celery, green onions, broccoli, and bok choy.
Instant international: Ka-Me Szechuan Sauce; Annie Chun’s Chinese Stir Fry Sauce; Koyo Foods Organic Udon and Organic Soba noodles.
Italian: Italian and other Mediterranean cuisine is marked by its rich and fragrant tomato sauces, and by the abundant use of garlic and olive oil. Herbs and spices are essential; look for basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, saffron, nutmeg, and coriander. From the grocery aisles, stock up on capers, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, white beans, chickpeas, balsamic vinegar, artichoke hearts, and a variety of black and green olives. And of course, olive oil; choose one for cooking and a pricier version for drizzling over dishes before serving. Choose a variety of pastas, as well as polenta, and several varieties of hard cheese to shave or grate over your finished meals; they’ll keep for some time, and add instant dimension.
Produce you’ll need: tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, radicchio, zucchini, and spinach.
Instant international: Divina gaeta olives; Mediterranean Organic Sundried Tomatoes; Mediterranean Organic Fire Roasted Red & Yellow Peppers; Native Forest artichoke hearts.
Japanese: Japanese cuisine emphasizes seasonal ingredients, and usually, an exquisite attention to detail in preparation. In the grocery aisles, look for gomashio, a sesame seed condiment; mirin, a sweet rice wine; miso; shoyu soy sauce; toasted sesame oil; rice vinegar; sake; seaweed; and wasabi. Because Japan is surrounded by the ocean, its cuisine relies heavily on seafood, such as tuna, salmon, and shrimp. A variety of white fish are also common, as are tofu and soybeans. Serve your Japanese creation on short-grain brown rice or noodles; popular varieties include somen, udon, and soba.
Produce you’ll need: Japanese eggplant, green onions, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, spinach,
bok choy, ginger.
Instant international: Eden Organic Mirin; Ohsawa Organic Nama Shoyu; Spectrum Organics Toasted Sesame Oil; Marukan Organic Rice Vinegar.
Indian: While the cuisine of India varies dramatically between regions, it’s most commonly characterized by fragrant spices, rich sauces, and curries. You’ll find many blends in the grocery aisles; or try a premade simmer sauce, for instant Indian flavor. Other spices and seasonings include turmeric, asafetida, cumin, chile peppers, cardamom, fenugreek, coriander, and garam masala. Yogurt and paneer-a soft, mild cheese-can be used to moderate the intensity of the spices. Indian cuisine uses little meat, and is marked by its reliance on legumes, especially red lentils, yellow lentils, split peas, chickpeas, and mung beans. Cashews, walnuts, and coconuts are common as well. Serve your Indian meal on basmati rice, or with naan, a flat bread, or pappadam, a crisp wafer made from lentils.
Produce you’ll need: tomatoes, potatoes, chile peppers, squash, ginger, cauliflower, peas, and spinach.
Instant international: Seeds of Change organic Jalfrezi medium-hot simmer sauce; Stonehouse 27 Spice Co Tamarind & Garlic Gourmet Indian Cooking sauce; Arora Creations organic Rajmah spice blend; Jyoti Natural Foods Papadum and Mango Chutney.