I have two regular cooking goals that I’ve started: cooking a medieval dish each week and cooking an ethnic dish each week. I’ll be tracking the medieval progress on my other blog while keeping the ethnic dishes here.
My big discoveries last year were condiments; I think I started out making red chile sauce for tamales and then started digging into similar things from other cultures. Before long, I was solidly into harissa and have made at least 8 different kinds so far, mostly from different peppers, but also using different adjuncts. My favorite, by far, was my lime coriander harissa, though none of them have lasted long. It’s such a versatile tool; it kicks up simple things with such a complex punch. It’s deeper than, say, just putting hot sauce on things.
Why focus on ethnic foods? I want to discover more about more cultures and their food; even in looking at Italian, Chinese, or Mexican cuisines as we know them in the U.S., they’re often not as they’re known in their original countries. In addition, so much is just not known widely, here. Ethiopian, Spanish, Basque, or trying to, say, differentiate between significant differences between Northern Italy and Southern Italy, or the many, many regional variations of India or China. “Chinese” is a thing we can find readily enough, as is “Indian”, but both are so generic, we can’t say whether we’re familiar with different regions of those countries or something entirely different that’s evolved since coming here.
Certainly, I’ll be hitting things that aren’t pegging as “ethnic” to me, too, especially since I think the regional variations of the U.S. are as rich and varied as elsewhere, but I’ll also be tackling Irish and English cuisines, being what I grew up with. Not that I’ll be recreating what I grew up with, necessarily, but digging into the dishes we might not know of as being Irish or English.
That all being said, I kicked it off with asa dulet, an Ethiopian fish dish. The one I’ve had was really simple; the one I found online added onions, and others I’ve seen add garlic, but otherwise, it seemed like it was just a minced, firm white fish and diced jalapeño.
It…did not turn out quite like the restaurant’s. It was good, still, but I might be questioning the onion. Cooking – even over high heat – released liquid, and the dish was definitely drier when I’ve had it out. The flavor was good, but Katy and I both added a slightly-fruity green curry sauce for more flavor and heat. To be fair, I didn’t use jalapeños – I grabbed some cans of diced green chiles – but fresh jalapeño definitely would’ve been closer. Maybe I didn’t mince the onion finely enough? Looking at the photo…yeah.
In the end, it was good, but needs tweaking, at least if I’m trying to hit the dish I’m familiar with. Which, to be fair, may not be representative in its own right, but it is good…