As we all know, the Olympics are in full swing, bringing all the nations of the world together to create one big, happy family. Or something like that. But if it’s fish & chips and bangers & mash being served up in the athlete’s village, we imagine there are at least a few disgruntled out-of-towners who are complaining. Here’s PetiteFolle’s assessment of the world’s best cuisines…
The French know how to cook up a right tasty feast and for my money they come up trumps over their European rivals. When visiting Froggyland, be sure to leave your lactose and gluten intolerances at home… they will not be welcome in the land of bread, cheese and creamy sauces!
Often notions of a nations’ cuisine are full of stereotype, but when it comes to France the outside world’s view is spot on… snails, frog’s legs and foie gras exist happily on the menu of most typical French restaurants, wherever in the country you happen to be. Add a myriad of regional specialties such as aligot (an amazing concoction of potatoes, cream, cheese & garlic), cassoulet (white beans, tasty sauce and a variety of meats), crêpes bretonnes (thin buckwheat pancakes stuffed with cheese and other goodies) not to mention 400 different varieties of cheese and wines from 14 major production regions… and it is clear that the glowing reputation of French cuisine is not undeserved.
If you are a politically incorrect smart***, you might suggest that Ethiopian cuisine generally consists of… well… nothing. But if you are fortunate enough to have tried it, you will know that there is more to this out-of-left-field choice than thin air.
Ethiopian cuisine comes into its own in a group situation where ordering a mix of curries (either vegetarian, meat-lovers or a variety of both) is the way forward. They will be served on a large round platter accompanied by injera, a sourdough pancake. Then the fun starts… simply rip off a piece of injera with your hands, scoop up one (or a mix) of the rich, tasty curries and insert it all in your mouth. Simple. This experience of eating with the hands and sharing from a communal platter creates a wonderful sense of community between diners that is not present in Western dining. Try it if you haven’t already.
Growing up in Australia, the local Chinese restaurant was about as exotic as food came. Golden, deep-fried, and oh so fatty, the Chinese cuisine we typically know in the Western world resembles not at all that which you will find in China. Perhaps all Chinese citizens exiting the country in the 60s and 70s were given cheap deals on deep-fryers on their way out?
Forget sweet & sour pork and lemon chicken. With a billion citizens and a vast territory, China’s culinary offerings are virtually limitless. Of course some amount of caution must be paid by the delicate-stomached Western visitor, but wandering the street stalls, observing the strange and unusual local delicacies laid out raw before you, and watching them transformed in front of your eyes to tasty treats is an experience not soon forgotten. And I haven’t even got around mentioned the blessings of yum cha (or dim sum, depending on your location) for Sunday brunch!
I have one word. Sushi. Thank you Japan. And America for that matter. The addition of avocado to the raw fish, rice and seaweed mix was sheer genius. The infiltration of this wonder food into Western culture has given us a truly healthy fast food option. Maccas? KFC? No thanks, I’ll take some sushi.
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg… teriyaki, tempura, teppanyaki, don buri, katsu, ramen … the offerings from the land of the rising sun are wide and varied. The one unique feature that sets this cuisine apart from most of its Asian counterparts is its distinct lack of herbs and chillies. The tastiness of Japanese cuisine is driven almost exclusively by the freshness of the ingredients used… with a little help from a faithful old friend known as soy sauce. Light, tasty and generally very healthy, Japanese cuisine is truly a gift.
First it was Chinese, followed by Thai. Then Vietnamese took its place in the Western spotlight as the Asian food of the moment. And rightfully so.
Mint, chilli, lemongrass, fish sauce… a Vietnamese meal typically leaves the palate refreshed. Similarly to Japanese cuisine, the use of fresh ingredients is key. But here the role of and herbs and spice gives an amazing depth. Garnering influences from as nearby China and as far-flung as France, Vietnamese cuisine is a melting pot of styles with one common denominator… deliciousness. With offerings such as pho (deliciously rich beef soup with rice noodles), com tam (“broken” rice served with pork), bahn mi (baguettes filled with pork, pâté and vegetables), bahn xeo (pork and prawn filled crispy pancake) and bun bo xao (rice noodles served with beef and spring roll), Vietnamese is my winner of the world food awards. Now just to get me a ticket so I can go try it in-country…