Food Trends

Spice Up Your Palate: Embracing Authentic Cuisine for a Taste of Cultural Diversity

Everyone gets bored with their daily food routines at some point. This is an ideal time to try diverse foods that add a rich cultural diversity to everyday life. -BY JOHN JACOBS

Food boredom is common, because people tend to stick with familiar recipes when cooking at home, and familiar menu items at favorite restaurants, both locally and when traveling. One day, you realize you are bored with your food, and that should be the start of a cultural trip through food diversity. It can be a trip taken through the recipe books in your kitchen, visiting a new local restaurant serving cultural food, or taking an international trip with a determination to try new foods. Maybe it is just trying Thai peanut dipping sauce for sushi, or Italy’s gnocchi alla Sorrentina. You could cook (or order in a restaurant) India’s native dish of Madras lentils, Greek souvlaki, or Mozambique’s Galinha à Zambeziana. Some dishes take longer than others to prepare, and some are primarily available in the country of origin. Still, a desire to escape food boredom should motivate you to look for unusual and unknown recipes in cookbooks and unfamiliar menu items in restaurants.


Gnocchi alla Sorrentina (strangulaprievete alla Sorrentina) is a dish originating in Sorrento, Italy, in the Campania region. Gnocchi is a small, soft potato dumpling and is technically not pasta. Some historians claim it first appeared in ancient Rome in the 14th or 15th century. Still, others say this deliciously soft dumpling appeared in its current form in Europe in the 16th century, when explorers brought potatoes and tomatoes to Europe. Sorrento gnocchi is an iconic cultural dish, because Sorrento cooks added their Amalfi coast tastes to the recipe, making it stand out from the others. Gnocchi alla Sorrentina is made with gnocchi baked in a tomato, basil and garlic sauce covered with mozzarella or pecorino cheese.

Turning to India for food inspiration, you find dal makhani (madras lentils), a dish made with black urad dal (split beans related to mung beans and cowpeas but often called lentils or black gram beans) and sometimes red beans. Madras lentils are not the brown beluga lentils that people are most familiar with. The word “dal” means “to split,” and makhani means “butter.” Originally, dal makhani was made in Punjab, by the Peshawaris. When the Peshawaris crossed the border into India after the region split into India and Pakistan, they brought dal with them. Whole urad dal was simmered for long periods, but interestingly there were no tomatoes in the original recipe before the country separated into two. An Indian restauranteur who popularized tandoori cooking in Delhi developed a version of the dish with tandoori chicken, pureed tomatoes, cream, and butter. Dal makhani is a vegetarian version created by Kundan Lal Ji for his vegetarian customers. Serve it with Laccha Paraanthha (or laccha paratha), a flatbread made with whole wheat flour.


Ready for a trip to ancient Rome via Greek food? Some historians say there is evidence of Roman dishes similar to Greek souvlaki dated to the 17th century BCE. The modern-day souvlaki is a grilled skewer (souvia) of beef, chicken, pork, lamb, or chicken, and the cubes of cooked meat are wrapped in a pita with sauce. It differs from a gyro because gyros are made with rotisserie meat sliced very thin. Aristotle, Aristophanes, Xenophon, and Homer all reference meats roasted in a spit in their writings, which is why it is believed that souvlaki is an ancient food. The “modern” Greek souvlaki is dated to 1924, when Isaac Meraklidis arrived in Athens from Egypt and opened a restaurant still open today. The souvlaki calls for pita bread, which is uniquely Greek. Before then, ordinary bread was the accompaniment. Souvlaki is a common food and a national Greek treat today, but what makes this a great food ‘boredom interrupter’ is that you can easily make and customize this food item yourself. Choose your favorite sauce or dips, add tahini, wrap the chicken bits in bacon, or add whatever garnishes you want – tomatoes, onions, green peppers, etc., to name a few adaptations. You can grill the meat on your backyard BBQ and eat like the ancient Romans.

Let us go to Africa now to taste Mozambique’s Galinha à Zambeziana. Mozambique’s unique version of a chicken dish is a favorite of those who like spicy foods. The iconic grilled chicken dish has a murky history, but Mozambique’s food culture, in general, is the result of encounters between people of Africa and Europe with some Indian and Arab influences.

Many Mozambican dishes include a hot sauce made with piri piri (chilies) combined with lemons or limes. Piri piri is the name of a chili as well as a sauce. The piri piri sauce is used as a marinade for chicken and shrimp and is believed to be a Portuguese contribution to African cuisine. Galinha à Zambeziana marinade is made with lemon or lime, garlic, coconut milk, and piri piri sauce and makes a perfect grilling chicken. You can buy a bottle of piri piri sauce or make your own. To make authentic African sauce, you need African Bird’s Eye chili peppers grown in Africa and other ingredients like garlic, red bell pepper, bay leaf, olive oil, and lemon juice with everything blended. There are numerous versions of piri piri marinades and sauces, so have fun creating the spicy flavor you crave.


Are you bored with your food? There is no need to be when global cuisine beckons with its history and many ingredients and flavors. Food and cultural history go hand-in-hand, so changing recipes and food choices affirms the richness that diversity brings to life. Diverse foods fill the senses, satisfy the body, and open the mind to an appreciation for traditions passed between generations. Sometimes, planning a fascinating trip could mean finding a recipe you have never heard of with origins in another country and heading to the kitchen. Authentic cuisine is a delightful way to open our minds to new experiences. Choose a recipe, research its history, and prepare to be delightfully surprised by ingredients you have just now heard of.

Oh, and by the way: Thai peanut sauce for sushi is delicious!

© DiversityCan Magazine. All Rights Reserved.