Are you dreaming about when you can travel again? Do you miss the excitement of the new when visiting a foreign destination? While it might not be an equal substitute for the rush of the unfamiliar, we can at least cook up some exotic dishes to get us beyond the mundane.
It looks like we’re all going to be stuck at home for a while and not traveling by plane, train, or automobile. These days when I take a hike into the mountains above my city, that’s what passes for a grand adventure. Before I highlighted some international cocktails to make at home, now it’s time for food.
I don’t publish recipes on my site though and there are plenty of others who do, so I roped in a few bloggers who cover food more extensively to share one of their suggestions for exotic dishes. Each of these has a short description of what you could be eating, then has a link to where to get the rest of the info so you can prepare it yourself at home.
We intentionally picked things that don’t require you to visit a bunch of ethnic markets like a scavenger hunter. Most of what’s required you can purchase in a good general supermarket or order online from Amazon.
Carne Asada Street Tacos from Mexico
By Tammilee from Tammilee Tips
These Carne Asada Street Tacos were inspired by a taco tour we took in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The guided taco tour took us through the streets of Puerto Vallarta visiting taco stands that each make their own version of a street taco. The Puerto Vallarta Taco Tour also included a mezcal stop and my favorite stop at the local churro stand. After having a freshly made churro that is still warm, no other churro can compete.
The recipe includes marinating beef skirt steak with jalapeno peppers, garlic, lemons, teriyaki sauce and bell peppers. The flavors of this Carne Asada Taco are amazing! After the steak marinates all you have to do is barbecue the skirt steak to the level you enjoy and then cut it up for the tacos. We used street tacos and topped the skirt steak with pico de gallo. The flavor is amazing.
We love to pair this with a Mango Margarita which was also inspired by one of our favorite restaurants in the world La Cervezia Union on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta. One of our favorite things about being in Puerto Vallarta is the epic restaurants. From the taco carts that have been passed down generation to generation to the local restaurants on the Malecon you can always find something delicious to eat. How can you go wrong enjoying an epic meal with the cool breeze blowing in from the Bay of Banderas and palm trees swaying in the breeze? This plate of tacos will take you there.
See the full Carne Asada street tacos recipe here.
Caribbean Rice and Beans from Costa Rica
If you say rice and beans in Central America, most people think about gallo pinto. And while gallo pinto exists in Costa Rica, it is not the only rice and beans dish. In fact, in southern Costa Rica it’s not the most popular dish either.
Southern Costa Rica is heavily influenced by Caribbean flavors as it has been home to many immigrants from nearby islands, including Jamaica. Many Jamaicans came to Costa Rica to work on the railroad and they not only heavily influenced the cuisine in the region but also brought many of the Costa Rican fruit trees we associate now with the country.
There is no Spanish name for this dish, everyone calls it rice and beans. It’s a fish made with white rice, red beans cooked with coconut, and spicy Panamanian pepper. You will find versions of this dish along the Caribbean coast in Central America and also in Jamaica where it is called rice and peas.
The Panamanian pepper is also known as aji chombo and is both fruity but also very spicy. Unfortunately it does not grow well in other climates and is too delicate to export. However, you can substitute a habanero pepper, and if you can stand the heat the scotch bonnet pepper is in the same family.
For those that aren’t so brave a jalapeño is perfectly acceptable.
See the full Caribbean beans and rice recipe here.
Caldo Verde Soup from Portugal
By Rosemary Kimani & Claire Rouger from Authentic Food Quest
Also known as “green broth” or Portuguese green soup, Caldo Verde is Portugal’s most iconic soup. It is one of the country’s best-loved dishes and was voted one of “7 Wonders of Portuguese Gastronomy.”
This simple soup is made with couve verde, a Portuguese green cabbage that can be substituted using kale or collard greens. Other ingredients include potatoes, Portuguese chouriço or linguiça sausage, olive oil and salt to taste.
You can find Portuguese chouriço or linguiça sausage at international supermarkets, or you can substitute using Spanish chorizo.
Caldo Verde originated from the Minho region in northern Portugal and can be found all over the country. It is often eaten as a starter or as a main meal and will run you less than $5 per bowl.
The soup is a favorite during cooler months as well as for birthdays, weddings and festivals. It is traditionally eaten with a regional dense bread called broa, but you can use artisan bread instead.
Caldo Verde is the perfect comfort soup. It is hearty, healthy and comes together easily with just a few simple ingredients.
To taste Portugal at home, just follow the instructions in this simple Caldo Verde recipe.
Simple Vegetarian Bean Dishes from Morocco
By Amanda from MarocMama
Beans play a really important part in the Moroccan diet, though few visitors to Morocco ever eat these dishes because they’re not common on restaurant menus. These foods have historically been used to make meals go further and provide an inexpensive but filling option when produce was scarce or too expensive. The best part of making these at home is that you probably have everything on hand already and they can mostly be made in a pressure cooker or instant pot to speed up the cooking time.
Moroccans always eat these types of dishes (except for the soup) by scooping it up with bread. You can make Moroccan bread at home really easily too: see the details here.
To make the various kinds of Moroccan beans we prepare you’ll usually just need 5-10 ingredients that you already have on hand or that are easy to find, such as olive oil, paprika, cumin, lemon, garlic, and hot peppers.
Locro de Papa from Ecuador
By Stefan Arestis from Nomadic Boys
Locro de papa is a hearty potato soup – comfort food for Ecuadorians, particularly those that live in the Andes highlands. The soup also includes cheese, served with avocado and cooked with garlic, onions, achiote (annatto) powder and cilantro. The word “locro” originates from the Quechua word “ruqru”, which means stew. “Papa” means potato in Spanish.
We had a lot of locro de papa during our big trip around Ecuador, especially in the capital, Quito, where it can get quite chilly in the evening. You can order locro de papa as a starter in any local restaurant in Ecuador, as well as at one of the many markets in Quito. It usually costs around $5 or less and is quite filling.
The main cheese used is the soft Ecuadorian queso fresco. A good alternative if you can’t find it is mozzarella. Another thing to note is the achiote/annatto is a red food coloring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree, which is what gives the soup its peppery/nutty fragrance. It’s also a common ingredient in Caribbean and Mexican cooking. If you cannot find any, we suggest using paprika as an alternative.
As foodies, we tried to recreate an authentic locro de papa. Follow that link for the recipe.
Iskender Kabab From Turkey
By Ilke Baris from Turkish Foodie
In Turkey, “iskender kebab” is perhaps the most popular and beloved dish among the meat lovers. Originally from Bursa, it is also very popular with the tourists who have been to Turkey for several times. They, and even some of the first-time visitors will ask, “Where can I eat iskender kebab?” once they land in Turkey.
It is not the meat itself that produces the wow effect. It is the combination of tomato sauce, yogurt, pita bread, and sizzling butter combined with the thinly sliced lamb meat. The good news is; it is not that all that hard to prepare. You can make this magnificent meat dish at your home without any special equipment and make your household members’ faces smile, bringing back memories of their last Turkish visit.
Ingredients needed: lamb, onions, olive oil, red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, pepper, tomato paste, butter, pita bread, and natural yogurt.
See the full Iskender Kebab recipe here.
We hope you get to make and enjoy at least one of these. Other signature dishes that won’t take all day are pibimbap from Korea, green chicken curry from Thailand (if you buy the pre-made paste), dal makhani from northern India, dal bhat from Nepal, goulash from Hungary, empanadas from Argentina, or Moussaka from Greece.
What exotic dishes are you cooking up from around the world?