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Ethnic recipes to spice up your diet

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Spicy recipes from around the globe

If your mostly All-American diet is making your taste buds yawn, it's high time to spice up your meal planning with global recipes featuring new ingredients and tantalizing flavors. We've pulled the following ethnic recipes from three of our favorite new cookbooks.

Spicy pork stir fry

Spicy Pork Stir-Fry

Korean food never disappoints when it comes to flavor and this stir-fry recipe from Marja Vongerichten's cookbook, The Kimchi Chronicles (Rodale, 2011), will please your palate while filling your belly with a healthy dose of veggies and lean meat. Vongerichten shares more than 100 traditional Korean recipes with contemporary twists and all carefully adapted to the American kitchen.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soju, sake, vodka or water
  • 2 tablespoons gochujang (red pepper paste)
  • 1 tablespoon gochugaru (red pepper powder)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1 pound pork loin, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 carrot, cut into strips
  • 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps, cut into 1/3-inch wide slices
  • 1 fresh long red chile pepper, seeded, finely slivered
  • 1 small handful snow peas, halved lengthwise
  • Cooked white rice, for serving

Directions:

  1. Whisk together soy sauce, soju, red pepper paste, red pepper powder, sugar, scallions, onion, garlic and ginger in a large bowl.
  2. Add pork and stir to coat. Cover and let the pork marinate at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add pork with all of its marinade. Cook, stirring now and then, until beginning to caramelize, about two minutes.
  3. Add the carrot, shiitakes, chile pepper and snap peas and another drop or two of oil if it is sticking to the pan. Continue to stir until the pork is cooked through and the vegetables are just tender, three to four minutes. Serve with rice.

Smoky Fire Roasted Eggplant

With so many tongue-tantalizing recipes in Chef Hari Nayak's cookbook My Indian Kitchen (Tuttle, 2011), it was hard to choose a recipe to feature here. However, since I am always on the lookout for a new way to cook eggplant, I fell in love with Chef Nayak's spicy twist on the low-calorie fruit (yes, botanically, eggplant is a fruit). Try this chunky smoky dish with flatbreads. If you're hungry for more Indian food, try Chef Nayak's Samosas, Chicken Tikka Masala, Pork Vindaloo and Chicken Tandoori.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 baby eggplants (Asian or Italian) or 2 large (globe variety) eggplants, about 2-1/2 pounds total
  • 3/4 cup ghee or oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 fresh green chili peppers, minced
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

  1. Preheat grill to medium heat or a broiler to 325 degrees F. and set an oven rack five inches below the heat source.
  2. Flame-char the whole eggplants on the gas grill, turning constantly until blackened and soft, about 15 minutes. Alternatively, you may roast the eggplants under the preheated broiler on a sheet pan until completely soft and lightly burnt and the skin starts peeling off, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Immerse the grilled or roasted eggplants in cold water to cool. Remove the skin and stem and coarsely chop the flesh. Set aside.
  4. Heat the ghee or oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the cumin and sauté until it begins to crackle, about 30 seconds. Add the onion and cook until transparent, about two minutes. Add the ginger and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium low. Add paprika, salt and tomatoes and cook for two minutes. Add eggplant and green chili peppers and cook, stirring constantly, until soft and mushy, about four to five minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve hot.

Mexican Chicken with Yogurt and Almonds

This fusion recipe from John Gregory-Smith's Mighty Spice Cookbook (Duncan Baird, 2011) features the usual Latin flavors, garlic, hot chilies, bell pepper and green onions, but adds yogurt and almonds to give the chicken creamy and nutty dimensions. Gregory-Smith features other Mexican-inspired recipes along with many other spice-infused recipes from around the globe, including Malaysian Spice Garden Shrimp Curry, Zaatar Lamb Cutlets, Lebanese Pizza and Gung Bao Chicken.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 chicken thighs on the bone, 5-1/2 to 7 ounces each
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1-1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 red jalapeno chilies
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/3 cup blanched almonds
  • 4 green onions, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Greek-style yogurt
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Tortilla chips to serve

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Add chicken and cook, skin-side down, three to four minutes until the skin turns a lovely golden color. Turn the chicken, chuck in garlic and cook 30 seconds longer or until fragrant.
  2. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 20 minutes, or until chicken is just cooked through and tender.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add chilies and peppers. Char them, turning occasionally, three to four minutes until they develop a few really blackened areas. This provides the lovely smoky flavor so typical of Mexican cooking.
  4. Once cool enough to touch, skin and seed the chilies and remove any really charred bits from the peppers. Thinly slice the pieces of pepper and the chilies.
  5. Put almonds in a food processor and pulse a few times. You want the almonds ground well but still retaining some chunky texture.
  6. Bring the chicken back to a boil over medium heat, then add the chilies, peppers, almonds, green onions and orange juice, and season with a really good pinch of salt and pepper. Mix everything together so it is well-combined and cook 10 minutes.
  7. Add the yogurt, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes longer, or until the sauce is like a lovely thick soup. Serve immediately with tortilla chips on the side.

Tell us

What's your favorite type of ethnic cuisine?

Share with us in the comments section below!

More ethnic meal ideas

Ethnic burger recipes
Easy ethnic lunches for kids
Monday Mom Challenge: Try a new cuisine

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