6 years ago
Beginner Courses for the Timid Culinary Connoisseur
  • Posted Mar 5, 2014
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I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, where meat, potatoes, and the occasional spaghetti dinner was the norm. I used to think sushi was something people only ate on TV, not a habit I would pick up by 19. Naturally, my taste buds were a bit unrefined when I came out into the real world. While wanderlust has been surging through my veins since I was very small, I never really thought about what I would eat when I got somewhere.

This is a blog for the edible-y challenged. The picky girls who grew up on American fare, but still want to conquer the world anyhow. Here are ten dishes you should try, in order expand your taste palette, before you travel abroad.

sushi

1. Sushi

def: a Japanese dish consisting of small balls or rolls of vinegar-flavored cold cooked rice served with a garnish of raw fish, vegetables, or egg.

If you’re attending college in a metropolitan area, it’s almost impossible to go four years without hearing the words “let’s get sushi!” I balked at those invitations for at least a whole semester before I let my curiosity get the best of me. I went in slowly, choosing a mostly cooked concoction, smothered in spicy mayo and “tempuraed” to perfection. I was instantly hooked. Eventually, I worked my way to hand rolls and then nigiri! The rest is history.

pad thai

2. Pad Thai

def: a stir fried rice noodle dish prepared with your choice of meat or seafood. Sweet and spicy, made with a peanut sauce.

I resisted this widely acclaimed eclectic thai spaghetti for 23 years before I finally caved and took my first bite of pad thai. I loved it instantly and regretted my snap judgement of this delectable dish for so many years.

butter chicken

3. Butter Chicken

def: A mild curry in which marinaded chicken tikkas are cooked in butter with a makhani sauce.

Indian food always seemed daunting to me, but I consider this dish an introductory course to Indian cuisine. Curry has such an intense presence, that it’s quite overwhelming the first time you encounter it, so it’s best to take it slow. But India is one of the most populous countries in the world, so chances are you’ll run into Indian cuisine in literally any city on the journey to becoming a cosmopolitan.

pate de foie gras

4. Pate de foie gras

def: a pâté of fat goose liver and usually truffles sometimes with added fat pork

Such a pretty name for such an intimidating dish! Once you get past the consumption of internal organs – translation is ‘liver of goose’, it’s actually quite delicious. This French dish is extremely popular, but I could probably get by on wine, cheese and crepes if I really had to.

gumbo

5. Gumbo

def:   a soup thickened with okra pods or filé and containing meat or seafoods and usually vegetables

This New Orleans dish is more readily available than it once was, but an authentic creole gumbo is still hard to find. This is a spicy cousin of your typical chili, but really more of a hodge podge of everything delicious New Orleans has to offer. Think andouille sausages, shrimp, crawfish and rice in a great big melting pot of awesomeness.

gyros

6. Gyros

def: a Greek dish of meat roasted on a vertical spit. It is commonly served in a sandwich with tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce.

I like to call this a Greek taco, but never out loud because it sounds ludicrous. The thought of eating a little lamb always seemed cruel to me, so I avoided this item for a long while before eventually trying it at a fair. The tzatziki tantalized my tastebuds and nothing was the same ever since.

tamales

7. Tamales

def: a traditional Mesoamerican dish made of masa, which is steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper.

Eating Tex-Mex all my life has set me up for confusion when traveling to authentic Mexican locales. Nachos and burritos aren’t really as plentiful south of the border as Americanized mexican joints would have led you to believe, and enchiridos don’t exist outside TacoBell.  But tamales are more of a typical dish you would encounter in the field. Just remember, the husk comes off before you inhale.

paella

8. Paella

def: A saffron-flavored Spanish dish made with varying combinations of rice, vegetables, meat, chicken, and seafood.

Easily confused for gumbo, authentic Spanish dish is a mixture of rice, meat or seafood and vegetables. What makes it seem a little outside my comfort zone, is that it is often mixed with rabbit. It’s essentially  just your typical rice dish, with a tasty twist.

poutine

9. Poutine

def: a dish of French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy.

This sounds a little scary, but really it’s quite casual actually. Canadians like to douse their fries with gravy and cheese and call it poutine. An alternative cheese fry can’t be that bad, eh?

pho

10. Pho

def: Vietnamese soup made of beef or chicken stock with rice noodles and thin slices of beef or chicken

Ok, you got me. I’m no pho-thority on this soup made of Vietnamese secrets.  I still haven’t encountered any. Though Vietnamese restaurants seem to be popping up all over the place these days, so I know I won’t escape the pho pho-ever.

I know it sounds a bit daunting but you gotta start somewhere. Open your mouth and your mind… it might surprise you.

What is a dish you have always been afraid to try?

Which ethnic dish is a MUST on your list for newbie foodies?

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