By: Natasha Archary
We’ve touched on why we find comfort in food, during stressful times, colder months and in general really. There’s some deeper connection between us and food and why we find so much pleasure in sustenance.
With a few more weeks of unbearable Winter to contend with, we thought it would be good to share some of the cuisines that pack on the flavour and bring the heat. Perfect for those cold nights in, when all you want is to be warmed up from the inside.
Funnily enough, when people think Indian cuisine all they link it to is rich, spicy curries. And yes, there is merit behind the link but Indian cuisine is a lot more diverse and decadent than chilli-infused sauces. There’s a delicate blend of savoury, spicy and pungent flavours that go into the perfect curry paste. The basic mix consists of:
A garlic, ginger and onion mixture, sauteed in a little oil.
Adding the generous dash of tumeric, garam masala(cumin, dhania, cinnamon and other spice blend), chilli powder and whole spices into the mix. The whole thing brought together by either chopped tomatoes or coconut milk.
Depending on your level of spice tolerance, this curry paste can be the base to most popular curries, soups and stews with an Indian influence.
Mexican cuisine is loaded with flavour and depth of spice. With favourite dishes including some heat from jalapeno peppers, cilantro and zesty lime, Mexican food is a taste explosion of fresh ingredients and perfectly balanced notes. Quesadillas are perfect for the kids, using tortillas, it’s a light but satisfying meal. Served with guacamole or salsa, to your liking.
Also on our list of favourites are the pulled pork tacos and nacho platters. Most Mexican food is served family style, making for the perfect finger style food setting.
Most recipes call for the distinct, spicy, pork chorizo today. It’s not like local spicy, pork sausages and has a unique and unmistakable flavour which is becoming hugely popular in South Africa. With many weekend markets importing the linked, fatty goodness due to popular demand.
Spanish flavours are more subtle than the previous cuisines and spices. Unlike Indian and Mexican food, Spanish spices don’t include a lot of chilli or chiles. Instead, the foundation of Spanish cuisine lies in smoked sweet peppers or paprika. Jarred piquillo peppers are also used to add a gentle heat that is not invasive. The Spanish do use a lot of saffron, which is really expensive but has a distinct flavour and golden hue.
South Africa has a number of popular Portuguese restaurants, known for value for money, family-style food that is big on flavour. Piri-piri chicken, ribs and prawns are amongst firm favourites and that means that cayenne pepper or piri-piri is a big influence in Portuguese cuisine.
Try an easy marinade for your next braai:
Portuguese Dry Rub and Spice Mix
- 4 tablespoons of salt.
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder.
- 2 tablespoons of sweet paprika.
- 1 teaspoon of crushed black pepper.
- 2 teaspoons of cumin powder (optional)
- Optional if you want a spicyblend (1 teaspoon of Piri Piri or Cayenne pepper powder)
The marinade can easily be turned into a wet rub by including 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
With a green or red curry paste to choose from, Thai cuisine is another firm favourite the world over. All curry pastes are made from fresh ingredients with options for either vegetarian or meat lovers, Thai cuisine has something for everyone. Spicy or mild you have options for heat tolerance. Salt is not the preferred choice in Thai cuisine and salty flavour is brought to the curry by the use of fish sauce. Lemon grass, lime leaves and red Thai chilli are some of the founding flavours of Thai cuisine.
The next time you’re looking for a bit of flavour inspiration, take your tastebuds on a trip to one of these exciting food destinations.