Each country has unique food preparation and presentation, reflecting its vast cultural identity. Learning about them will give you endless cooking recipes and help you understand that culinary adventures are not just limited to food tasting but go beyond even exploring different cooking techniques that open up a world of flavors, textures, and cultural richness.
Diversity in Culinary Techniques
Whether you are just interested in learning new dish recipes for your dinner or a professional chef exploring new global cooking techniques, paying attention to these unique methods will expand your understanding and improve your cooking practices.
From grilling and roasting to steaming and frying, each technique brings out the distinct flavor and texture of food. These are just a few of the many fascinating aspects of culinary diversity. For example, the French are famous for their meticulous attention to detail in braising and sautéing, resulting in delicate and refined dishes. On the other hand, Asian cuisine often uses stir-fried and fried dishes to create rich, vibrant flavors. Here are some of the famous international cooking techniques practical for everyone embarking on their culinary journey:
Asian Cooking Techniques
Steaming in Banana Leaves, Cambodia
Cambodian cuisine is known for its unique flavors and cooking techniques. One of these techniques is steaming banana leaves, a method widely used in the country. Steaming in banana leaves brings a distinct aroma and flavor to the dish and brings an element of tradition and culture into the dining experience.
This method imparts a unique flavor to the food and helps to retain its moisture. Fresh and cleaned banana leaves are used as a wrapping material. They are often softened by passing them quickly over an open flame to make them more pliable. An exemplary example of this method is Fish Amok.
Fish Amok is an authentic steamed fish curry prepared according to the classic recipe of older cooks. “Amok” means steamed in banana leaves in Khmer, and this delicate dish is probably a Khmer royal specialty dating back to the Khmer Empire.
Bamboo Baking, Thailand
Bamboo baking is a traditional cooking method practiced in Thailand for centuries. This is a Thai custom of preparing feasts held by indigenous tribes in the hills of northern Thailand and selling them in bustling markets in Bangkok.
This unique technique involves using bamboo as a cooking vessel, creating a natural and flavorful way to prepare food. This process begins with selecting fresh bamboo shoots, cleaning them, and cutting them into pieces. These portions contain various ingredients, such as rice, meat, and vegetables. Then, the bamboo tree is covered with banana leaves and placed on the stove.
One of the most famous bamboo dishes is khao lam, a sticky mixture of rice and coconut milk stuffed into bamboo tubes, covered with banana leaves, and grilled over an open fire. This sweet and sticky dish is popular with locals and tourists throughout Thailand. Next time you are in Thailand, look for khao lam at night markets and street stalls.
Hot Pot Cooking, China
Hot Pot is a popular traditional Chinese dish that has been popular for centuries. This is a communal dining experience in which a pot of simmering and boiling broth is placed in the center of the table, and diners cook the ingredients in the broth.
This type of dining involves a large pot filled with a delicious broth made from various ingredients such as bones, meat, vegetables, and spices. The broth is heated until boiling; then, diners can add meat, seafood, vegetables, and thinly sliced noodles to cook in the broth. The ingredients are cooked quickly, resulting in a fresh and healthy meal.
Hot pot cooking is not only about the food but also about the experience. It brings people together as they gather around the table to cook and eat. Hot Pot’s communal and interactive nature makes it a social and enjoyable dining experience.
European Cooking Techniques
French Sautéing and Flambéing
French cuisine is renowned for its exquisite techniques and flavors. Two of French cuisine’s most iconic cooking methods are sautéing and flambéing. These techniques enhance the dish’s taste and add a magic of elegance to the overall presentation.
Sautéing is a technique that allows food to be cooked quickly with little or no oil at relatively high temperatures. Sautéed foods are brown while retaining their natural moisture, texture, and flavor. Sautéing can create a sauce using leftovers left in the pan after stir-frying chicken, fish, or other meats.
Flambéing, on the other hand, is a technique that involves igniting alcohol to create a spectacular, explosive flame. This technique is often used to perfect a dish or to add flavor. The alcohol used to light the fire is usually brandy or liqueur, which adds a unique flavor and creates a visually impressive display. Starting a fire requires caution and skill, as flames can be dangerous if improperly handled.
Spanish Cooking in Clay
Cooking in clay pots has a long history in Spanish cuisine, dating back to ancient times. Using clay pots in Spanish cooking became a traditional method rooted in the rich culture. The porous nature of the clay enables slow and even heat distribution, causing a result of perfectly cooked dishes. The clay pots also retain moisture, keeping the food tender and flavorful.
One of the most iconic Spanish cooking techniques is using clay pots called “cazuelas.” These earthenware pots have been used for centuries and are an indispensable utensil in the Spanish kitchen. A popular dish called Cazuela de Mariscos is a seafood casserole that includes a variety of shellfish, such as clams, mussels, and shrimp, cooked in a delicious broth with garlic, onions, and tomatoes. Traditionally cooked in a cazuela, a terracotta pot, this Spanish-style shellfish Stew makes an elegant entrée you’ll be proud to serve at the center of your table.
Gratin is a dish topped with cheese or breadcrumbs mixed with pieces of butter, then heated in the oven or under the broiler until golden and crispy. This delectable dish combines layers of ingredients, such as vegetables, pasta, and cheese, baked to perfection. The result is a mouthwatering, comforting, and satisfying dish, perfect for a typical day.
The key to Italian Gratin’s success lies in the ingredients’ quality. Fresh vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes are sliced thinly and topped with cooked pasta. A generous amount of cheese, such as mozzarella or parmesan, is sprinkled on top to create a crisp, golden crust.
Italian Gratin can be served as a main dish or a side dish. It goes well with fresh salads or crusty bread. Dishes are diverse and can be customized according to each person’s preferences. You can tailor the recipe by adding other vegetables like eggplant or bell peppers or incorporating different herbs and spices. If you are interested in creating unique dishes and want to be ahead in learning different cooking methods and equipment, check out the different types of cooking thermometers.
American Cooking Techniques
Barbecuing in an Earthen Oven – Hawaii
Barbecuing meat is a popular cooking method that has been practiced for centuries. In Hawaii, a unique way to grill meat is to use a clay oven. This traditional method brings a distinct flavor to the dish and brings people together in a shared culinary experience.
Traditional Hawaiian lū’au is a famous pork barbeque. The star of this dish is kalua pork, a pig cooked in an underground oven called an imu. The word kalua means “cooked underground” and requires much preparation.
Preparation of kalua pork begins about 11 hours before the event. First, a hole up to 5 feet deep is dug into the ground. An intense fire was lit at the bottom of the pit and covered with rocks. When the stones became white hot, some were removed from the hole and placed in the pig pen. Then, a layer of moist banana leaves is placed on the stone.
The pig is wrapped in wire mesh and lowered into the imu which is an underground oven to cook (about an hour for 8 pounds), covered with a layer of banana leaves, then a damp tarp, and finally sealed with a layer of soil. Cooking can last up to nine hours, producing a perfectly cooked and roasted pig with succulent meat that falls off the bone.
Smoking with Wood – Southern USA
Smoking over wood is a centuries-old tradition in the Southern United States. This cooking method has been passed down from generation to generation, requiring patience and skill. The meat is cooked at a low temperature for an extended time, allowing the flavors to develop and the meat to become tender. This slow-cooking method produces a distinct smoky flavor that cannot be replicated with other cooking methods.
Among the many famous dishes made from this method, Central Texas-style barbecue came on top as this style is typically referred to as the cooking brisket using the fattier portion called point. In contrast, the leaner piece is called flat), low, and slow, usually over a post-oak fire.
One of the critical elements of smoking with wood is the choice of wood itself. Different types of wood contribute different flavors to the meat, so choosing the suitable wood for the desired taste is essential. Oak and mesquite are commonly used, each offering their unique characteristics.
The meat is seasoned with spices, salt and pepper. It is then cooked in smoker ovens while the heat and smoke from the fire pass through the meat, adding an irresistible smoky flavor to the brisket (although chuck ribs, short ribs, and larger short ribs are also very popular).
African Cooking Techniques
Cooking techniques in Africa can differ regionally, but some standard methods and practices are prevalent. Grilling and barbequing are popular cooking methods in many African countries. Meats, fish, and vegetables are often cooked over an open flame or on a grill. This creates a unique smoky flavor to the food.
Braai is a well-loved barbeque in South Africa. This dish will only be considered authentic if the meat is cooked on fire. The meat selection usually includes steaks, boerewors sausages, roasts, sosaties, and marinated pork, chicken chops, or lamb chops, while fish and crayfish are more prevalent in coastal regions. Once cooked, the meat is traditionally served with pap or krummelpap, salad, and vegetables, if desired.
Another common cooking technique in African cuisine is stewing. Stews are a staple in many African countries, often made with meat, vegetables, and spices. The slow process of cooking allows the flavors to meld together, creating a rich and hearty dish.
In addition to stews, braising is another popular cooking technique in Africa. This method involves searing meat or vegetables and then simmering them in a savory liquid until they are tender and juicy. Stews are often served with staple foods like rice, couscous, or fufu. These dishes will be perfectly prepared with proper kitchen tools such as knives. You can check the article about the ultimate guide to kitchen and cooking knives to learn about food preparations.
Exploring the varied culinary cooking techniques allows you to discover the different dishes famous in other regions and delve into the world of international cooking techniques that reflect rich culture and traditions. Understanding these techniques allows one to expand one’s culinary knowledge and create extraordinary dishes.