Small World, Big Taste

In today’s global village, Latin American spices are used in Indian curries, and pestos garnish stuffed chiles. One way to create fusion food is to combine herbs used in cuisines across the globe with vegetables and proteins indigenous to your own region. Here are some winning combinations from diverse culinary traditions.

| October/November 1999

8 recipes from around the world

Garam Masala 
Curry PowderChocolate Chili PowderPesto, Presto!Creamy Sorrel Vegetable SoupArugula Pesto PastaThai Green Curried Chicken and VegetablesCilantro-Mint Chutney

The Europeans’ discovery of America in 1492 forever changed the culinary world. Experimentation exploded as cooking techniques, spices, and vegetables were cross-pollinated between cultures on both continents. Pork and chicken from Spain ­combined with chiles and tomatoes in ­Mexico to provide hearty stews. Tomatoes and corn traveled from the New World to Italy, transforming the traditional chestnut mush into heavenly polenta. Indian and Thai cuisines, once reliant on black pepper and ginger for heat, were revolutionized by the chile pepper.

Today, as technology rapidly makes the world smaller, culinary collisions continue at an even faster pace. In Miami, Latin American spices mix with Asian flavorings, native citrus, and even a southern Creole influence. In the Pacific Northwest, adventurous chefs mix bok choy, ginger, and mint with the area’s celebrated berries, fruits, and salmon.

No matter where you live, growing your own exotic herbs and spices can be easier than you think. You don’t have to live in a Mediterranean climate to grow arugula, chervil, cress, and many other unusual herbs. High-desert dwellers can grow peppers from Peru or Hungary and Mexican herbs such as epazote and Mexican mint marigold—and so can people from Arkansas or Pennsylvania. Orach, perilla, short-season hot peppers, and sorrel thrive in colder climates, while Asian herbs such as Vietnamese mint, galangal, and kaffir lime like warm, humid climates such as those of the Deep South and parts of Southern California. On the other hand, anyone with a greenhouse or a sunny window can grow tender herbs when the weather is too harsh outside.

For information on growing your own exotic herbs, see the chart on pages 44 and 45.

Gigia Kolouch is a culinary instructor who specializes in ethnic and natural foods. Her students love embarking on culinary journeys through her classes at the Seasoned Chef and the Starkey Institute in Denver, Colorado. 

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