Monday, May 31, 2010
Although popularly considered a single cuisine, Thai food would be more accurately described as four regional cuisines corresponding to the four main regions of the country: Northern, Northeastern (or Isan), Central, and Southern, each cuisine sharing similar foods or foods derived from those of neighboring countries and regions: Burma, the Chinese province of Yunnan and Laos to the north, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to the east and Malaysia to the south of Thailand. In addition to these four regional cuisines, there is also the Thai Royal Cuisine which can trace its history back to the palace cuisine of the Ayutthaya kingdom. Its refinement, cooking techniques and its use of ingredients were of great influence to the cuisine of the Central Thai plains.
The culinary traditions and cuisines of Thailand's neighbors have influenced Thai cuisine over many centuries. Regional variations tend to correlate to neighboring states as well as climate and geography. Southern curries tend to contain coconut milk and fresh turmeric, while northeastern dishes often include lime juice. The cuisine of Northeastern (or Isan) Thailand is heavily influenced by Lao cuisine. Many popular dishes eaten in Thailand were originally Chinese dishes which were introduced to Thailand mainly by the Teochew people who make up the majority of the Thai Chinese. Such dishes include chok (rice porridge), kuai tiao rat na (fried rice-noodles) and khao kha mu (stewed pork with rice). The Chinese also introduced the use of a wok for cooking, the technique of deep-frying and stir-frying dishes, and noodles and soy products.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean Cuisines. Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. This results in a unique, interesting and flavorful blend of the several different cultural influences. A small, but noteworthy, Chinese influence can also be accounted for, mainly in the Havana area. During colonial times, Cuba was an important port for trade, and many Spaniards who lived there brought their culinary traditions along with them.
As a result of the colonization of Cuba by Spain, one of the main influences on the cuisine is from Spain. Along with Spain, other culinary influences include Africa, from the Africans that were brought to Cuba as slaves, and dutch, from the French colonists that came to Cuba from Haiti . Another important factor is that Cuba itself is an island, making seafood something that greatly influences Cuban cuisine. Another contributing factor to Cuban cuisine is the fact that Cuba is in a tropical climate. The tropical climate produces fruits and root vegetables that are used in Cuban dishes and meals.
A typical meal would consist of rice and beans, cooked together or apart. When cooked together the recipe is called either, “Arroz congri“, “Congri“, or “Arroz moro” if cooked separately it is called “Arroz con/y Frijoles”--Rice with/and Beans”. A main course (mainly pork or beef), some sort of vianda (not to be confused with the French viande which stands for "meat", this term encompasses several types of tubers, such as yuca, malanga, and potato, as well as plantains, unripe bananas and even corn), a salad (usually simply composed of tomato, lettuce and avacado, though cucumber, carrots, cabbage and radish are not uncommon). Curiously, typical criollo meals largely ignore fruit, except ripe plantains, which are usually consumed together with the rice and beans. Tropical fruit could be served, however, depending on each family's preferences. Usually, all dishes are brought together to the table at once, except maybe for desserts.
Rice and beans are a culinary element found throughout Cuba, although it varies by region. In the eastern part of the island, "arroz congri oriental" is the predominant rice and bean dish. White rice and red kidney beans are cooked together with a sofrito and then baked in the oven. The same procedure is used for the above mentioned Congri Arroz Moro, The term Moros y Cristianos, literally "Moors and Christians" which uses black beans, it is not used in Cuba but in other parts of Latin America. Although the process of preparing the black bean soup contains basics (onion, garlic, bay leaf, salt) each region has their tradition of preparing it.
Meat, when available on ration book is usually served in light sauces. The most popular sauce, used to accompany not only roasted pork, but also the viandas, is Mojo or Mojito (not to be confused with the Mojito cocktail), made with oil, garlic, onion, spices such as oregano and bitter orange or lime juice. The origin of Cuban mojo comes from the mojo sauces of the Canary Islands. Cuban mojo is made with different ingredients, but the same idea and technique is used from the Canary Islands. Of course with so many Canary Islander immigrants in Cuba, the Canary Islander influence was strong. Ropa vieja is shredded beef dish (usually shank) simmered in tomato-based criollo sauce until it falls apart. ropa vieja is the Spanish name meaning "old clothes", in which the dish gets its name from the shredded meat resembling "old clothes". Ropa vieja is also from the Canary Islands, as is many of the origins of Cuban food. Boliche is a beef roast, stuffed with chorizo sausage and hard boiled eggs.
Equally popular are tamales, although not exactly similar to its Mexican counterpart. Made with corn flour, shortening and pieces of pork meat, tamales are wrapped in corn leaves and tied, boiled in salted water and served in a number of different ways. Tamales en cazuela is almost the same recipe, although it does not require the lengthy process of packing the tamales in the corn leaves before cooking, but rather is directly cooked in the pot. Tamales as well as Black Bean soup, are among the few indigenous foods that have remained part of the modern Cuban cuisine.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
The cuisine of India is characterized by the use of various spices, herbs and other vegetables and sometimes fruits grown in India and also for the widespread practice of vegetarianism across many sections of its society. Each family of Indian cuisine is characterized by a wide assortment of dishes and cooking techniques. As a consequence, it varies from region to region, reflecting the varied demographics of the ethnically diverse Indian subcontinent.India's religious beliefs and culture have played an influential role in the evolution of its cuisine. However, cuisine across India also evolved due to the subcontinent's large-scale cultural interactions with ancient Greece, Persia, Mongols and West Asia, making it a unique blend of various cuisines across Asia. The spice trade between India and Europe is often cited as the main catalyst for Europe's Age of Discovery. The colonial period introduced European cooking styles to India adding to the flexibility and diversity of Indian cuisine. Indian cuisine has had a remarkable influence on cuisines across the world, especially those from Southeast Asia.
The staples of Indian cuisine are rice, atta (whole wheat flour), and a variety of pulses, the most important of which are masoor (most often red lentil), channa (bengal gram), toor (pigeon pea or yellow gram), urad (black gram) and mung (green gram). Pulses may be used whole, dehusked, for example dhuli moong or dhuli urad, or split. Pulses are used extensively in the form of dal (split). Some of the pulses like channa and "Mung" are also processed into flour (besan).
Most Indian curries are cooked in vegetable oil. In North and West India, peanut oil has traditionally been most popular for cooking, while in Eastern India, mustard oil is more commonly used. Coconut oil is used widely along the western coast and South India, Gingelly oil is common in the South as well. In recent decades, sunflower oil and soybean oil have gained popularity all over India. Hydrogenated vegetable oil, known as Vanaspati ghee, is also a popular cooking medium that replaces Desi ghee, clarified butter (the milk solids have been removed).
The most important or frequently used spices in Indian cuisine are chilli pepper, black mustard seed (rai), cumin (jeera), turmeric (haldi, manjal), fenugreek (methi), asafoetida (hing, perungayam), ginger (adrak, inji), coriander (dhania), and garlic (lassan, poondu). Popular spice mixes are garam masala, which is usually a powder of five or more dried spices, commonly including cardamom, cinnamon, and clove. Each region, and sometimes each individual chef, has a distinctive blend of garam masala. Goda masala is a popular sweet spice mix in Maharashtra. Some leaves are commonly used like tejpatta (cassia leaf), coriander leaf, fenugreek leaf and mint leaf. The common use of curry leaves, curry roots is typical of all South Indian cuisine. In sweet dishes, cardamom, saffron, nutmeg, and rose petal essences are seasoned.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Pork is an important meat in Alsace and the pig is known as le seigneur cochon (the noble pig). A type of stew called baeckeoffe ("baker's oven") is initially prepared at home with pork, mutton, beef and vegetables being marinated in wine for two days then put between layers of potato and taken to the baker's to be cooked. Choucroute alsacienne is sauerkraut (aromatic pickled cabbage) and is served hot with sausage, pork or ham, and a local beer or glass of wine. Flammeküche, or what is called tarte flambée in French, is pastry filled with cream, onions, cheese, mushrooms and bacon. A vegetarian alternative to this is zweibelküche or tarte à l'oignon, which is an onion tart. Tourte is a pie containing ham, bacon or ground pork with eggs and leeks.
For a couple of weeks in late May, asparagus (asperges), are available and the Alsatian variety are sought after all over France. Another delicacy from Alsace is fois gras, and this kind is heavily in competition with the fois gras from southwest France.
Fish is cooked in a variety of ways, notably with Riesling wine. Such
Alsace is also renowned for its patisseries, including the kougelhopf, a sultana and almond ribbed moulded dome-shaped cakes, or the tarte alsacienne, a custard tart with local fruits such as quetsches (plums). Birewecks are made with dried fruit that has been marinated in kirsch.
Kirsch is to cherries what cognac is to grapes and there are lots of different kinds of fruit brandies available to round off you meal in Alsace.