First, what do we mean when we say “Global flavors”? For me this means a taste that brings to mind a specific place or region. It can come in the form of a spice mix, a sauce, or even a certain preparation. For example, when you think of jerk seasoning it brings to mind the flavors of Jamaica. Or, when you hear “spaghetti carbonara” you think of decadent Italian cuisine. In our kitchen here at MAKE, we are constantly exploring these global flavors through the lens of our refugee and immigrant participants who each bring their unique flavors to us from their home kitchens. As a chef its so exciting to explore the many ways they use different spices, ingredients, and techniques and incorporate them into our different meals.
I’m often asked, “Is the food you’re making authentic?”. To be honest I’m not entirely sure what this means as the definition can be quite loaded! While sometimes we will attempt to execute a recipe quite faithfully from a particular culture, more often than not we take bits and pieces of these global flavors from our diverse array of past and current participants to create something new and unique that blends them together. In a number of ways this is actually more “authentic” to our kitchen where you will find on any given day a Somali working next to an Afghan who’s working next to a Cambodian and so on! Our conversations in the kitchen naturally lead to discussions about each other’s foods and then the food we create naturally becomes a blend of these flavors. So, in short the best answer to the question at the beginning of this paragraph is “its authentic to our kitchen!”
So, back to incorporating these Global Flavors in your meals. First, I suggest exploring the amazing world of spices that are out there. From Somali xawaash to Cambodian curry paste to Persian Baharat there is a huge array out there which you can play around with. Go check out your local middle eastern market (such as North Park Produce) and go to the spice aisle. Google what you find there and see how its used. Or try it out on something that’s a blank canvas to see if you like it. For example, I recently used some Persian Baharat to spice up some simple roasted potatoes and it was delicious! Add a little xawaash to your pasta sauce for a legit Somali experience and something different to plain old pasta and red sauce. Besides spices, start playing around with some all purpose sauces. A while back we started playing around with a Syrian style Muhammara which is a roasted red pepper sauce that is often used as a dip for bread. However, we’ve found its actually delicious on nearly anything and have used it as a spread for burgers, on roast chicken, grilled fish, or spooned over simply steamed veggies!
Fortunately, we live in a world with so much information right at our fingertips (by this I mean our phones!). Explore that international aisle at the grocery store or better yet, go to an international style market and pick up a few things you haven’t tried. Taste and play around with what you find and see what you come up with. When you’re stumped or unsure what to do I encourage you to swing by our Saturday café or come to one of our many Globally inspired events and see how we’re doing it and ask questions! I’m lucky enough to continue these conversations every day with our participants and I love sharing them with you!