What happens when you open your pantry? Are you staring at the same cans of beans? Do you find your usual jars of pasta sauce staring back you? When you open your fridge are your only condiments mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise? If so, it may be time for you to explore new foods. One of the best ways to do this is to visit either the international section of your local grocer or better yet, if available, visit international markets near you. International markets specialize in selling imported foods from around the globe. They also carry produce and meats that you are highly unlikely to find elsewhere. Here are five ways to diversify your kitchen:
1. Asian Markets
Depending on where you live, you may have access to markets featuring Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, and/or Thai food. Each cuisine has its own flavor profiles and pantry essentials. Do a Google search on pantry essentials for whichever cuisine you wish to explore. For example, if you wanted to learn more about Japanese cooking, this website called justonecookbook will show you everything you need to know. Almost every ingredient has a clickable link for more info. If you like spicy garlic hot sauce, grab some Sriracha. Don’t forget to get some Furikake (sesame seaweed seasoning) to put on everything.
2. Indian Markets
Not only are Indian markets a great place to find many different kinds of rice, spices like curry powder, gram masala, and cumin, but you are also likely to find many British products there. It can be very hard to find imported British chocolates in regular grocery stores. Look for the savory British yeast spread called Marmite. It’s a unique flavor that many love on buttered toast. Search out essentials like paneer (cheese), ghee and fenugreek seeds for dosas (Indian crepe), and many types of dal (lentils). There are also a ton of Indian recipes for the pressure cooker, so this is a great cuisine to make in an Instant Pot.
3. Latin American Grocery Stores
Latin markets are a wonderful place to get marinated meats of all kinds! Need carne asada (steak)? Check! Want to get some Peruvian hot chocolate? Do it! You will often find freshly made masa (corn meal) and tortillas so that you can make your own tamales and tacos. You are also likely to find multiple types of chorizo sausage. The Mexican chorizo is very different from the Salvadorian variety. Both are delicious! Be sure to stock up on dried chilies while you’re there.
4. Mediterranean & Middle Eastern Grocers
Greek treats like baklava and melopita (honey pie) await you! All the ingredients you need to make Armenian Lula kebabs (lamb) and Lebanese fattoush salad (fried pita and greens)! Try different hummus from around the globe. Take in the smells of freshly baked pita bread if they have an in-house bakery. Many grocers will also have their own cafes with freshly fried falafel (doughy chickpea balls)! Look for souvlaki (grilled skewered meats), shawarma (meat cooked on a spit), and every kind of olive imaginable plus imported deli meats and dolmas (rice wrapped in grape leaves). You may notice a beautiful display of eggplant and pepper spreads in jars decorating the aisles.
5. The All Mighty Internet
If you live somewhere with limited grocery store options, then the internet is your best friend. Your browser gives you quick access to a world of diverse foods. Amazon has an extensive grocery section where you can find most ingredients for any recipe. You can also seek out specialty sites for foods from any culture about which you wish to learn more. When you expand your food knowledge you will also learn more about the history and languages of other cultures.