Growing up in NYC, I was lucky to have the opportunity to experience a lot of different cultures through food. Some of my fondest food memories are not necessarily family dinner table memories, they are memories of my mom and I eating out at different ethnic restaurants. As I have said before, you don’t have to be chained to your dinner table. It doesn’t matter where you are eating, as long as it’s together! Food should be fun! It’s super exciting for a kid to try Japanese food sitting on the floor, eating with chopsticks or eating with their fingers at an Ethiopian restaurant. My mom worked full-time and raised me as a single parent and most of our time was spent hanging, exploring the world together. Money was tight but we saw the world together, through food.
Even if you don’t live in a city that is as ethnically diverse as New York, these adventures can still be had at home. You can explore faraway places with your family through food without ever having to leave the comforts of your own home. Visiting different ethnic markets or even ethnic sections of your local grocery store can be a blast! In these tougher economic times, not everyone can take a vacation to places like Hungary; but we sure as heck can go there through our stomachs. Pick a country, any country and use the Internet to look up the regional dishes for the country you’ve selected. Print out a copy of their flag to decorate your table and get cooking! Even if you can’t find all of the ingredients you need, improvise and you may find that you have stumbled upon something great! Check out my links below for some great recipe links as well as some great Internet resources for hard-to-find ingredients.
P.S. I didn’t misspell Goulash by accident. We already discussed my obsession with Halloween so I thought I would rename one of my childhood favorites in honor of my favorite holiday/non-holiday-Halloween. Serve this one up on Halloween eve. It’s sure to warm the bones of even your scariest Ghosts and Goblins.
Uncle Tom’s Hungarian Ghoulash
This recipe is dedicated to my Uncle Tom who is a great cook. He used to make this for me as a child. Just the smell of it brings back great memories.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 pounds good chuck beef, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
8 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika (the sweet kind not the Spanish smoked kind)
2 bay leaves
1 small onion, finely diced,
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 large celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 large turnip, cut into 1//2-inch chunks
1 large parsnip, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup dill, finely chopped plus more for garnish
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2-3/4 cup of water
1. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat.
2. Add in about half of the beef cubes and brown evenly on both sides, about 5-7 minutes. Remove cooked beef and set aside. Brown remaining beef.
3. Add cooked beef back into the pot and cover with cold water.
4. Stir in the salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Continue cooking uncovered for 1 hour.
5. Add in all of your chopped veggies and cook covered for another 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally.
6. While the veggies are cooking, prepare your dumplings. Stir together the flour, salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder. Combine with the water and olive oil, mixing lightly. You may need more or less water, it really depends on the day and the humidity in your house. Mixture should appear wet and sticky. After the stew has cooked until tender, drop the dumpling batter by (heaping) teaspoonfuls into the simmering stew. Cover and cook for 10 additional minutes. Once you have covered the pan, do not uncover while the dumplings are cooking! In order for them to be light and fluffy, they must steam.
7. Stir in dill and serve.
Travel around the world via these fun dishes:
Gyoza/Jiaozi (ground meat or veg dumplings)- aka pot stickers which have both Japanese and Chinese origins. Another great finger food and soo fun for dipping!!!
Panzanella– (Tuscan bread salad) – soo many possibilities and combos for this dish and great use for stale bread! Check out my girl Chowmama Stacie’s version here.
Great sites for hard to find ingredients:
Ethnic Foods Co.