You may be wondering what a lot of those jars and packages of food are in the international aisle of your market. Some may be familiar, while others will have you scratching your head. This is also true of that one area of the produce section that has exotic-looking fruits and vegetables.
There are some unique and very tasty international ingredients that you might want to give a try. Some of these you might have to order online.
Chinese Chili Oil
Almost every region of China has a variation of chili oil. These oils are infused with ingredients that are native to the individual areas. For instance, the oil might be heated over a low flame and infused with Sichuan peppers, onions, and sesame seeds. Once infused, the oil is poured over Chinese chilis that can be either spicy or mild.
Chili oil is often poured onto hot soups as a finishing oil. Egg drop and wonton soups are perfect vehicles for chili oil. Another way to use chili oil is to lightly dress ramen noodles for a slight kick or add a few drops to a dumpling dipping sauce. According to Trustana, chili also has great health benefits such as boosting metabolism, reducing inflammation and pain, improves cardiovascular health and increases life expectancy.
In West African cuisine, especially that of Ghana, cassava root and plantains are boiled and pounded into a sticky paste to accompany a spicy tomato soup called fufu.
Cassava is a tuber that resembles the shape of a sweet potato. Once peeled, the flesh can be boiled, baked, steamed, grilled, fried, mashed, made into chips, or added to stews. It can also be ground into flour and used to make doughs and bread. It has a subtle earthy taste and a potato-like texture.
If you can find an African market, you will likely see fresh cassava root, as well as packages of cassava flour, flatbreads, and chips. These are perfect for those on a gluten-free diet. An African market will also likely carry additional ingredients that you can try in your cooking for new flavors and recipes.
Yuzu kosho is a Japanese condiment that is made from spicy chilis that are fermented with salt and fresh yuzu juice. Yuzu is a tart and quite fragrant citrus fruit, similar to a lemon, that grows in eastern Asia.
The flavor of yuzu kosho paste is a pungent mix of acid, salt, and heat. The paste can be mixed into salad dressing, spooned on top of grilled meats and fish, or eaten with sashimi. It’s a quick way to add a lot of flavor to any dish.
Salty anchovy fillets from Spain are nice to keep on hand for a variety of dishes. In a tapas bar, you are likely to find this preserved fish served on toasted and buttered bread slices just as they are.
These anchovies are a little more expensive than common tinned ones you might find in the market. They should be used to make a dish shine. They are a good ingredient for making a simple spaghetti dish with garlic, lemon zest, parsley, and of course lots of anchovies.
Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar may be a common pantry staple. However, aged balsamic vinegar from Italy is in a class by itself and does not compare with grocery store brands. It is made with fresh local grapes that are pressed into a must. It is then slow-cooked and barrel-aged for up to 25 years.
This tick and slightly sweet vinegar is versatile. It can be used to lightly dress a Caprese salad, made into a marinade for chicken breasts, added to stir-fries, and even drizzled on fresh stone fruit.
If you want to expand your pantry and elevate your cooking, try some of these suggestions for international ingredients. You are sure to impress your friends and family.