Cooking with flavor profiles is not a way to recreate the authentic dish that abuela made, or a dish made in the kitchen of a Mumbai housewife. Rather, it is a way of using flavor profiles to create the essence of the cuisine in a new and different dish. This list includes many of the flavor profiles we love at Andersen casa. If this is new to you, pick one or two to get started. Stock the pantry items, and keep some of the fresh items on hand. You might be surprised at how easy it is to cook with flavor profiles!
Making Chinese food at home can be very simple! Stir fries are so quick, and with a few good pantry items, all you need to add is a few fresh ingredients. Of course Chinese cooking, as in all cooking, varies by region. However, you will usually see garlic, fresh ginger, soy or tamari sauce, rice wine, etc. We love to make char siu bao (barbecue pork dumplings), potstickers, and stir fries such as my Stir-Fried Chicken, Green Beans, & Peppers, Pork and Shrimp Fried Rice, and Stir-Fried Green Beans & Shiitake.
Your well-stocked Chinese pantry may include many sauces: Soy, tamari, dark soy sauce, ponzu, sesame oil, oyster sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), rice wine or saké, and sriracha (hot sauce). At the very least, you will want a good soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, and sriracha or sambal oelek (chile garlic sauce). Chinese Five Spice is a flavorful addition to your pantry, but is not quite as widely used and versatile as the sauces. Jasmine rice is very important! You may want to keep peanuts and/or cashews, sesame seeds, and dried shiitake. Fresh items such as garlic, ginger, and scallions are a must.
The most characteristic element of Greek cuisine is olive oil, which is used in most dishes. Not all Mediterranean countries rely heavily on olive oil, however. There really is no “standard” Mediterranean cuisine, but it is a term most people understand. Loosely defined, Mediterranean cuisine includes the cuisine of countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. The diet tends to be very healthy; the benefits of olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, lean proteins (fish, shellfish, chicken, rabbit), legumes, whole grains, red wine, are widely accepted. Hummus and pita bread; chicken breast marinated in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and lemon juice; Greek salad with romaine, kalamata olives, tomatoes, and cucumbers; my Tuscan Fish With Cannelini Beans & Spinach, and my Mediterranean Fish & Lemony Orzo are examples of dishes we enjoy regularly.
Some of the “Mediterranean” items you will always find in my pantry: Good olive oil, garlic, good diced tomatoes (such as Pomi), capers, anchovies, artichoke hearts, tomato paste, arborio rice, couscous, several types of pasta (I like Barilla Plus), orzo, tomato paste, and sun-dried tomatoes, garbanzos, cannelini. In my refrigerator, you will find at least one aged, hard cheese (romano, parmesan, asiago), prosciutto or pancetta, homemade or commercial pesto (depending on season). Fresh items would include tomatoes, lemons, and fresh herbs like mint, dill, basil, oregano, parsley, and rosemary.
The cuisine of India is so varied and wonderful. Vegetarian dishes abound. Cooking Indian food can be complex, but it can also be very budget-friendly. Authentic Indian flavors come from toasting whole spices, grinding them, and frying them. Some of my favorite dishes are grilled tandoori chicken, butter chicken, palak paneer, Calamari Curry With Coconut Rice, and Chana Dal With Spinach.
Pantry items to keep on hand would include basmati rice, various types of dal (lentils and pulses), garam masala, turmeric, cumin and coriander seed, whole cardamom, black mustard seed, fenugreek, dried chiles, tamarind paste, and coconut milk. Fresh ingredients to have on hand include cilantro, fresh ginger root, onions, garlic, nonfat plain yogurt, spinach, potatoes, fresh chiles, etc.
Japanese cooking can be very simple as in miso soup or teriyaki or yakitori grilled chicken. It can also be complex and/or require a high degree of skill as in sushi. Menus typically include steamed white rice, soba, or udon noodles. Because Japan is an island nation, seafood is fresh and abundant. Several types of mushrooms are widely used including the always popular shiitake mushroom. Dashi stock – made from bonito flakes – forms the base for many of their soups. Some of my favorite Japanese dishes include sushi (which my two middle sons love to make), and udon noodle bowls. Using the Japanese flavor profile, I created my recipes for Smashed Potatoes, Japanese Noodles , and Seared Tuna With Shiitake Cream Sauce.
Pantry items to keep on hand would include miso, good soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds, rice wine and mirin, rice vinegar, ponzu, wasabi, nori (seaweed), wakame (seaweed), bonito flakes and kombu for dashi, short-grained rice, udon and soba, dried shiitake, etc. Fresh items would include scallions, ginger, and garlic.
Korean is probably less familiar to many home cooks, but has become a favorite in our house. Kimchi is a signature condiment, and can be amazing when made with fresh ingredients at home – as in my Korean Street Tacos With Green Onion Kimchi. Sweet Potato Noodles With Chicken, Shiitake, & Chard includes japchae noodles (Korean sweet potato noodles) and is an interesting twist on stir-fried noodles.
Pantry items to keep on hand would include most of the typical Asian sauces and condiments. Kimchi, vegetable side dishes, are very important in Korean cooking, and include many varieties of vegetables fermented in brine. I don’t care for the typical commercially prepared cabbage (which tastes much like a pickle), but homemade or restaurant kimchi can be delicious.
This delicious flavor profile is among the newest ones I’ve played with, and has quickly become a favorite. I’ve followed recipes for years, but only recently ventured out to trying my own. Warm spices such as cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, cayenne are common. Spice blends such as Ras El Hanout (cardamom, nutmeg, anise, mace, cinnamon, ginger, peppers, turmeric, etc.), and delicious and flavorful Harissa (a paste made with spices, garlic, seeds, chiles, etc.), and Dukkah make even a simple vegetable dish taste amazing. Try my Roasted Vegetables With Dukkah, Roasted Harissa Chicken Thighs, Pressure-Cooker Braised Lamb Shanks & Couscous, and Grilled Harissa Shrimp and Moroccan Couscous Salad.
Pantry items to keep on hand would include spices like coriander seed, cumin seed, caraway seed, cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg, ras el hanout and berbere (spice mixes), etc. Orange blossom water, pomegranate molasses, chick peas, dried fruit, and couscous are typical pantry items. Fresh ingredients include mint, ginger, lemons, and chiles. This is a very broad and varied flavor profile, and one I’m still learning.
Peruvian cuisine is definitely a World-wide trendy cuisine! With global influences from Chinese, Japanese, Italian, and African immigrants, the flavors are so interesting and delicious. I have begun playing with Peruvian flavors in dishes like Peruvian Chicken Stew With Corn and Peruvian Chicken and Cilantro Soup.
Key pantry items include aji amarillo chile, aji panca paste, huacatay (black mint), aji limo, dried corn (such as mote). Fresh items include onions, garlic, cilantro, limes, sweet potatoes, yucca, etc. Yum!
The cuisine of Provençe is defined by its landscape – gnarly olive trees on rocky slopes; rosemary, fennel, thyme and sage growing wild alongside bay laurel and juniper. Olive oil and olives, anchovies, capers, tomatoes, and garlic – lots and lots of garlic – characterize this wonderful cuisine. Tapenade, ratatouille, Seafood Stew With Saffron-Infused Broth, and Aioli (garlic mayonnaise) are representative of the cuisine, and among my favorites to prepare and enjoy.
Pantry items to keep on hand would include good olive oil, anchovies and/or anchovy paste, capers, good canned tomatoes, whole garlic bulbs, minced garlic, dried thyme leaves, sage, and bay leaves. Keep fresh ingredients on hand when possible – rosemary, parsley, thyme, sage, bay, lemons, fennel bulb, etc.
Southwestern and Mexican food varies by region, but includes many common flavors and ingredients from region to region. The hot, dry climate produces favorites like corn, beans, squash, and chiles. Corn may be fresh on or off the cob, and dried in the form of cornmeal and masa. Some of our favorite dishes would include molé; tamales, squash, corn, and chiles cooked in milk (Native American Indian); Grilled Pork Over Hatch Green Chile Polenta ; fish tacos; and tacos with slow-cooked pulled pork.
Pantry items to keep on hand would include ground and whole cumin seed, cornmeal and masa harina, Mexican oregano, garlic, canned chipotle chiles, dried chipotle powder, good green salsa like Herdez, black beans (dried and/or canned), pinto beans, rice, etc. Fresh ingredients would include cilantro, green chile (fresh and frozen fresh), avocados, tomatoes, corn on the cob, limes, mangoes, etc.
We love Spanish flavors at Andersen casa! The ingredients aren’t readily available, so I’ve ordered things like bomba rice (short grained and absorbs a lot of liquid), and chorizo (hard like salami), from internet suppliers. Saffron and Spanish smoked paprika are easier, but until recently, you couldn’t get it in our local markets. Paella is an obvious Spanish favorite dish, but the list is endless. My Spanish Fish With Chard, Cannelini, & Tomatoes, Spanish Mussels With Chorizo and Saffron Broth, and Spanish Style Chicken and Chick Pea Stew With Grilled Bread are “regulars” on our dinner table…
The combination of garlic, olive oil, and parsley may be Spanish (or Mediterranean). If you add tomatoes, the probability of Spanish dish increases, while for olive oil, onion, garlic and smoked paprika the chances that a dish is Spanish is somewhat likely. If you add saffron and/or sherry to any of the previous combinations, I’d bet my last dollar it’s 100% Spanish! If you keep good olive oil, fresh garlic and parsley, smoked paprika (hot and/or mild), and saffron in your well-stocked pantry, you can probably create a fairly authentic Spanish dish. We try to keep bomba rice and Spanish chorizo on hand as well. Do not confuse Spanish hard chorizo with soft Mexican chorizo!
I have to say Thai is probably the favorite at Andersen casa! We cook as a family every Sunday night, and it seems to be our “go to” cuisine. Thai beef salad, any variety of Thai curry over rice, and pad Thai appear regularly on our Sunday funday menus. My own Thai recipes include Thai Curried Snapper In Banana Leaves and Thai Fried Ground Pork With Angel Hair.
There will be some common ingredients with other Asian cuisines – garlic, ginger, limes, chiles. Fresh herbs will include cilantro, basil, and mint. I keep Thai curry paste (red, green, or yellow), fish sauce, lemongrass, rice noodles, and coconut milk in addition to the other Asian items in my well-stocked pantry.