Five Cuisines You’ve Probably Never Tried...But Should
With The Festival of the World opening last week in London (at the top of our list of things to do in London this summer) we got to thinking about all the different foods there are out there beyond the standard Italian, Chinese and Mexican fare. It’s always fun to try new things so here’s our roundup of five lesser known cuisines from around the world, what’s great about them, and where you can go to eat them in London.... if you dare.
If you like your food hot and spicy, then Ethiopian cuisine is sure to hit the spot. It’s characterized by thick, spicy stews (“wats”) made from meat and vegetables and served on injera, a large sourdough flatbread. Berbere, a combo of chili powder and other fragrant spices, is the secret fiery ingredient. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, order a plate of Kitfo, raw ground beef marinated in a very spicy chilli powder. There’s a lot of ceremony involved with Ethiopian dining and everything is served to you in rituals. If you want to do as the Ethiopians, tuck into your food with your right hand (no cutlery is required) and use the injera bread to mop up the stew.
Where to go: Queen of Sheba, 12 Fortess Road, NW5 2EU
Much like its Asian neighbours, Korea’s cuisine is based around rice, vegetables and meats but it has its own distinctive dishes. With every meal you’re served a spread of small side dishes (banchan) that consist of a range of snacks and stir-fried and pickled vegetables, such as the famous Kimchi (fermented vegetables – usually cabbage - seasoned with spicy chili, garlic, ginger, chili and soy sauce, among other things). The Koreans also like their barbecued meats and fish, marinated in delicious spices. If you want a challenge, ask if there’s any gaebul on the menu (also known as penis fish, we kid you not). It’s a species of marine spoon worm that the Koreans like to eat raw with salt and sesame oil, the sight of which is enough to turn your stomach. We’d advise having a glass of soju (Korean rice wine) on hand to wash it down with.
Where to go: Koba, 1 Rathbone Street, W1T 1NA (review)
When you think of Russian cuisine, the first thing that probably springs to mind is Beef stroganoff (sautéed beef in a rich sour cream sauce) but Russia also offers some other delectable dishes. The cuisine is traditionally very hearty due to the often harsh climate and features a lot of soups, stews, meat, potatoes, dumplings and breads. Pirozhki are Russia’s answer to 'Cornish pasties' filled with beef, pork, cabbage and chicken, or fish. Another must-try is of course Russia’s famous blinis (small buckwheat pancakes served with sour cream and caviar or smoked salmon). And trade the standard bottle of wine for a few vodka shots.
Where to go: Mari Vanna, 116 Knightsbridge, Wellington Court, London, SW1X 7PJ
Just like Scandinavian design, the Scandinavian cuisine is simple. But there’s more to it than those creamy Swedish meat balls you’ve probably sampled on a trip to Ikea. The region also eats a lot of pork, fish, potatoes and beets and most things come either salted or smoked. Specialties include pickled herring and Biksemad (chunks of roast pork sautéed with onions and potatoes and topped with fried eggs and beetroot). For those of you with a stomach of steel, Lutefisk is another regional delicacy, aged, dried white fish soaked in lye (sodium hydroxide) that gives off a very pungent aroma.
Where to go: Madsen, 20 Old Brompton Road, SW7 3DL
If you like eastern Mediterranean cuisine, you’ll find similarities in Egyptian food with its flat breads, falafel and grape leaves. Egyptians are big fans of vegetables and beans and one of their most popular dishes is Ful madams, fava beans mashed into a coarse paste and mixed with olive oil and lots of spice. But for a true taste of Egypt, try the national dish, molokhia (also known as Jew’s mallow or nalta jute) which is a soupy stew made from a special leafy green vegetable that’s not spinach. Its characterised by a very slimy texture and a strong taste (definitely an acquired taste) and flavoured with chopped garlic and coriander.
Where to go: Ali Baba, 32 Ivor Place NW1 6DA
Hoping to whip up some of these curious creations in your own kitchen? Get some great tips at one of our cooking classes in London before you tackle some of these more complicated recipes.
Know of any other things to do in London involving delicious world cuisines? Leave us a tip in the comment section!