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Best Ethnic Foods to Try

More than three-quarters of Americans report they enjoy eating ethnic food when dining out. The problem is, they say, finding authentic fare. But what many forget is all ethnic cuisine is really a fusion of the indigenous foods of a place with those of the traders and invaders who have passed through. Each group of outsiders brings new crops to a region and different ways to use the local ones. Traditional cooking methods are modified to accommodate newly acquired utensils and techniques, while commercially made foods eventually replace homemade. Being open to new flavors and “food fusions” is a perfect way to celebrate National Ethnic Foods Month this September.



Influences: Spain, Britain, Africa, India, China, Rastafarian

Classic Dishes: Curry goat with rice and pigeon peas, Jerk chicken, Dried and salted cod (national dish) with Ackee (national fruit), Callaloo (vegetable dish made from amaranth), Jamaican patties (turnovers filled with meat, fish and/or vegetables)

Notable Flavors: Scotch bonnet (pepper), Tamarind, Coconut, Allspice, Thyme, Black pepper, Garlic, Escallion (Welch onion)


Influences: China, France, India, Thailand, Czech Republic (former Czechoslovakia), Russia

Classic Dishes: Noodle soups and Congees, Fried and Sticky Rice dishes, Savory filled dumplings, Rice flour pancakes, wraps and rolls, Pickled vegetables

Notable Flavors: Fish sauce, Shrimp paste, Soy sauce, Lemongrass, Mint, Long Coriander, Thai basil leaves


Influences: Hindu, Jain and Islamic beliefs, Britain, Portugal, Turkey, Mongolia, Malaysia, Singapore

Classic Dishes: Samosa (fried savory turnover) Paneer (cottage cheese), Daal (lentils), Biryani (seasoned rice with vegetables and/or meat), Curry (blend of spices), Vindaloo (hot & tangy curry dish), Masala (dry spice mixture or paste), Tikka (marinated chunks of meat grilled on skewers), Chapati (flatbread), Naan (leavened flatbread), Parantha (pan-fried flatbread), Dosa (rice pancakes)

Notable Flavors: Chili pepper, Black mustard seed, Cardamom, Cumin, Turmeric, Ginger, Coriander, Garlic


Influences: Burma, China, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia

Classic Dishes: Jasmine rice, Phat thai (fried noodles), Kaeng som (hot & spicy soup), Kaeng phanaeng (coconut curry), Kaeng khiao wan (green curry), Kaeng phet (red curry), Thot man (deep-fried fish cakes), Phat phak ruam (vegetable stir-fry), Kaep mu (fried pork rinds)

Notable Flavors: Cilantro, Kaffir lime leaves, Lemongrass, Mint, Thai basil, Turmeric, Fish sauce, Chili pastes, Coconut, Lime juice


Influences: Turkey, Arabia, Persia (modern Iran), North Africa and the Balkans (former Ottoman Empire)

Classic Dishes: Stuffed grapevine leaves,Horta (salad of wild greens), Spanakopita (spinach & cheese wrapped in phyllo pastry), Tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber & garlic sauce), Fasolada (bean soup), Briam (baked summer vegetables), Pastitsio (layered oven-baked dish), Souvlaki (skewered meat in a pita)

Notable Flavors: Olive oil, Olives, Honey, Citrus fruits, Oregano, Garlic, Onion, Dill, Bay laurel leaves, Fennel seed, Cinnamon, Clove


Influences: ran, Mongolia, Levant (modern Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria), Afghanistan, Uzbek, Tibet

Classic Dishes: Pilav (rice pilaf ), Bulgur pilavi (bulgur pilaf) Kuskus (couscous), Manti (filled pasta triangles), Dolma (stuffed leaves), Humus (chickpea spread), Kebab (grilled and skewered meats, stews, casseroles), Kavurma (roasted lamb), Karniyarik (filled eggplant)

Notable Flavors: Onion, Garlic, Parsley, Cumin, Black pepper, Paprika, Mint, Oregano, Allspice, Thyme, Red pepper


Influences: Berber (North Africa), Moorish, Arabia

Classic Dishes: Khobz (bread), Harira (tomato lentil soup), Kalinti (chickpea flour and egg quiche)Pastilla (meat pie), Tajine (stews cooked in earthenware pot)

Notable Flavors: Saffron, Cinnamon, Turmeric, Ginger, Paprika, Coriander, Pepper, Sesame Seeds, Lemon, Orange, Mint, Olives


Influences: Influences: Amerindian, Africa, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland, Lebanon

Classic Dishes: Feijoada (national dish of black beans and pork with rice), Churrasco (grilled meat on large skewers), Chourico (spicy sausage), Caruru (shrimp and okra mixture), Pasteis (savory filled pastry), Mandicoa (cassava), Pao de queijo (cheese bread)

Notable Flavors: Tomato, Onion, Garlic, Cilantro, Coriander, Parsley, Okra, Acai berry, Palm oil, Sugar cane, Pinhao (pine nuts)


Influences: Spain, Italy, China, West Africa, Japan, Inca Empire

Classic Dishes: Chupe de camerones (shrimp stew), Papas a la huancaina (potato and cheese dish), Cebiche (lime marinated fish), Tacu-tacu (fried beans and rice topped with steak), Shambar (smoked ham and beans soup), Cuy chactado (fried guinea pig),

Notable Flavors: Aji panca (red chili peppers), Rocoto chilis (very hot spicy chilis), Tagetes minuta (green herb), Lucuma (fruit exclusive to the Andes), Clove, Lemon verbena