What do you think? Are these the best foods?

By Harveena Herr

Check the dishes you’ve demolished, ones you’ve never eaten and the ones you’re okay to not go anywhere near.

We’ve kept sugar at bay and all foods are savoury. Write in. Tell us what tickled your fancy and what we missed!

1-Fish & chips; Britain. Smoking hot. Batter-dunked and deep fried fish with thick-cut potato chips. With tartar sauce, preferably.

2-Garlic bread, toasted in the oven, edges too have to be slathered with butter; anywhere, really.

3-Falafel sandwich, with tahini and olives and pickles; Arab.

4-Sushi!! Sashimi. Put away the mayo jar, and bring on the gari and wasabi; Japan.

5-Idli with ghee and gunpowder (podi: a toasted and ground lentils-and-spices accompaniment) and — secondary — sambhar and chutney; Tamil Nadu, India. In a word: fluffy.

6-Manaeesh with sujuk; Syrian/Arab. Flatbread with spiced ground beef toppings, or zaatar. Or hmm, cheese.

7-Galawati kebabs; India, Lucknow. Made for a toothless nawab it is said, by a devoted chef, these rate as the silkiest kebabs in the world.

8-Momos; Tibet. A staple snack, or even a side, they come stuffed with chicken, lamb and other meats. These have the thinnest skin of any dumplings, but Russian pelmeni and East European khinkali follow close behind, with meat, potatoes, cheese or vegetable stuffing. Bear meat pelmeni, anyone?

9-Saag, makki ki roti and gur; India, Punjab. Slow-cooked mustard greens, with unleavened cornmeal flat bread. Don’t forget the ghee or a pat of soft white butter. Round it off with a hunk or two of jaggery, and a tall glassful of lassi (churned yoghurt).

10-Shbalay; The Tibetan take on meat samosas and all sorts of samosas, such as the middle-eastern sambusek, southeast Asian curry puffs, south American Empanadas — basically, a stuffed and fried or baked pastry triangle of potatoes, or meat of every description. Bring it on.

11-Appam with stew; coastal India. Patience for this one — like all good things, it takes time. A related version is the lacy, steamed Idiyappam in southern India, as well as Sri Lanka, and Putumayam (with shredded coconut) in Malaysia. Confused? Called String Hoppers in English, then. Works brilliantly to mop up any good meat curry or stew.

12-Khichdi; Rice and lentils cooked together for so long that they slide into each other. Comfort food, mildly spiced, eaten with yoghurt and/or pickles. India.

13-Mansaf; Jordanian dish exported to other parts of the Arab world. Lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented, dried yogurt and served with rice or bulgur on all major occasions. Traditionally eaten by hand.

14-Fried peanuts tossed at home even, with onions, coriander, and chopped green chillies. Substitute with cashew for a posh version.

15-Beef rendang; The most amazing way to treat beef. Beef cube dry curry slow-cooked with spices and coconut milk.

16-Secret ingredients: lemongrass, kaffir lime, and candlenut paste.

17-Parotta beef fry; Arguably, Kerala could position Karimeen (pearl spot fish fry) as its best, but flaky parotta encounters hot, spicy lashings of beef, and we just sizzle.

18-Rib eye, tenderloin or T-bone, fans have their own notions of what makes the perfect steak. And the doneness levels. Best version: keep it simple, sear the meat to seal in the juices, and don’t wait too long. But we could argue till the cows come home.

19-Laksa spicy noodle soup has Peranakan/ Nyonya origins. Contains chicken, prawns, seafood and even tofu. The soup has a creamy coconut version, or the sour and spicy asam (tamarind) base. The laksa leaf gives it a unique flavour kick. Singapore, Malaysia (Penang!), Indonesia, Thailand.

20-Pasta; All pastafarians have their favourite pasta shape. Plain with a smidge of garlic and some good olive oil, it is divine. Cheesy, white sauce or red, or a rich pesto can take pasta up a few notches. Truly versatile, it stars in layered dishes such as lasagna, stuffed ravioli, tortellini and others.

21-Rava fried calamari; The humble squid raised to crunchy divinity. Only found in the back lanes of villages in Goa, India. The rest of the world has no clue.

22-Dim sum. The Cantonese Yum cha (tea) tradition required small bites to accompany frequently refilled little cups of green tea. Which is fortunate — dim sum is now mainstream, served in stacked steamer cane baskets. Steamed and fried versions of dumplings available with occasional sides such as stuffed rice rolls, congee, steamed buns, phoenix feet (chicken feet!) and others.

23-Pepper crab; Insanely good treatment of the delicate meat of the crustacean. Liberal use of freshly ground black pepper. South-east Asia. Also vastly superior to the cloyingly sweet but famous chilli crab of Singapore.

24-Creamed mashed potatoes; A most comforting side, the dish can be enhanced with butter or cream and cheese. Plump sausages optional. French fries, or wedges or chips, preferably with rock salt and truffle oil, maybe a sprinkling of Parmesan; from anywhere, really.

25-Doner kebab/shawarma (chicken/lamb); Meat slow roasted to perfection on a standing rotisserie. Carved off the stack when done in thin slices, it is stuffed into pita or Arabic bread sandwiches with tahini, garlic cream, briny pickles and shredded lettuce. Sprinkle sumac. Seconds, please.

26-Bibimbap/ bulgogi; Korea. Mixed rice meat with vegetables, often topped with a beautiful egg. A touch of seaweed, a dash of kimchi, the length of bean sprouts and thinly-sliced carrots, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds to top it all — familiar comfort food in a bowl.

27-Tandoori chicken; India. Marinated in yoghurt and spices, skewers of the meat are cooked over high heat in a tandoor (originally, clay oven). Don’t confuse it with UK’s balti grub — tikka masala and its ilk.

28-Thai green curry; Usually chicken or beef in a creamy coconut curry cooked with a paste of onion, lemongrass, galangal, shrimp paste, lime juice and coconut milk. Coriander and green chillies lend the mild green colour. A real winner with steamed rice.

29-Kung pao chicken; China. Quick stir-fry of chicken, peanuts/cashew, veggies.

30-Watermelon, olive  feta salad; Mediterranean? Greek? Probably invented by French Chef Jacques Pépin, but that could be urban legend.

31-Asian hotpot or steamboat; China, Korea, Mongolia, Asia at large. Most versatile tabletop cooking station with a mild soup base into which you dunk an assortment of meats, seafood and vegetables, enriching the soup in the process. Great family/ friends shared activity, with delicious food at the end of it.

32-Mutton biryani; Believed to have originated in Persia, the Iran of today, traders carried the recipe far and wide and local variations have taken over to make this a robust or subtle dish. Popular in the subcontinent, as well as other countries — Malaysia calls it briyani and Indonesia as well, where it sometimes answers to beriyani. Tastes great, all the same.

33-Ramen; Japan. Serious comfort food, a steaming bowl of ramen has wheat noodles with miso, in a chicken or fish-based broth, with toppings of sliced barbecued meats, chives and seaweed.

34-Palak paneer; India. A creamed spinach dish cooked with cubes of fresh cottage cheese. Perfection.

35-Smoked salmon, origins varied. The raw meat is cured with smoke and preserved. Ready to go in salads, sandwiches or a flavourful addition to other dishes.

36-Puri-alu; India. Deep fried discs of wheat bread, puris make an appearance on special occasions, accompanied by dry or curried potatoes, or chickpeas, or even halwa to celebrate festivals. But shhh, we’re not sweet-talking our readers right now.

37-Khow suey; Myanmar. Popular curried noodle dish from the land of the golden pagodas. Improves with squeeze of lime.

38-Burrata; Italy. Cheese made from the high fat-content milk of the water buffalo. Soft mozzarella and cream. Need we say more?

39-Grilled Halloumi Fresh, middle-eastern cheese. Beautiful grilled, side with fresh hummus and babaghanouj. Or tossed into salad.

40-Padron peppers; Small green peppers from Padron in Spain. Mostly mild, the occasional one kicks off a super-hot party in your mouth. Simply stir fry.

41-Foie gras; Oh! the cruelty of ducks and geese fattened on force-fed corn. But why does it have to taste so good? It’s just wrong.

42-EGGS!  Every region; Anda bhurjee/ scrambled eggs, omelettes — fried, baked, scrambled or stirred.

43-Khandvi; Gujarati, lentil rolls.  Chilla, Rajasthani protein-rich, low fat breakfast food or snack. And did we mention Khakhra? Snacks from the western quadrant, India.

44-Tacos with extra guacamole and sour cream; Mexican. Brilliant, addictive snack or excuse to scoop up guac which should rate an entire category by itself.

45-Chili con carne; US, Mexico; Red kidney beans cooked together with minced beef, tomatoes and chili peppers. Delish Indian avatar, rajma, is quite definitely vegetarian.

46-Paella; Spanish rice dish with seafood and sausage. Many say: complete nutrition.

47-Koshari; Egyptian. Macaroni, rice, chickpeas, lentils, fried onions, garlic. Hot tomato sauce and yo’re good to go.

48-Lamb chops; Various. A cut of meat from the back with section of bone. Grilled, fried, broiled, baked to satisfaction.

49-Raw papaya and peanut salad; Thailand. Som tam combines julienned green papaya pounded together with roast peanuts, lemon juice, palm sugar, chillies, garlic and a splash of fish sauce!

50-Tempura/pakoras (Japan/India) Fritters by any other name, crunchy homage to vegetables. And the occasional shrimp.

51-Pizza; thin crust! Italian flatbread with toppings of cheese and/or tomato sauce, meats, cold cuts and veggies. Helps the world go round.

harveena@khaleejtimes.com

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