Mexico. Beans, salsa, corn tortillas, and avocado. These are Mexico’s bread and butter and probably the most common staples in Central America – nevertheless, there is not much that can beat hot off the skillet handmade tortillas, especially when they are filled with basic vegetarian taco stuffing.
About a decade ago, when I spent several months trudging California’s Baja deserts, vegetarian tacos were a staple for me. As I trekked through the sunburned wilderness, many are the times I caught whiffs of cooking tortillas in the wind – that warm, toast scent of carbohydrates cooking on a cast-iron pan. The tell-tale aroma of a ranch!
Following the scent, I’d soon hear the pat-pat-pat of tortillas being prepared by hand over the sounds made by jingling goat bells. Back then, I was relentless cheese-eater but would often buy 30 corn tortilla snacks. For dinner, I would eat tacos filled with nothing but lime, avocados, and tomatoes.
As a traveler, be wary of lard. While corn tortilla dough generally consists of nothing but salt, masa, and water, it is worth noting that some tortillas are prepared on skillets that have been rubbed with swine fat. If preparing your tortillas at home, make sure that you rub your pan with some coconut oil before preparing your tortillas.
India. Chana Masala. The chickpea or great garbanzo bean is the star of this classic Indian dish. India is home to over 400 million vegetarians, and chana masala is one of their favorites. The masala is a protein-rich garbanzo stewed with tomatoes, onions, and a handful of spices including turmeric, coriander, and cumin.
It is often eaten with naan (often prepared using buffalo butter, also known as ghee) or served over rice. The meal often garnished with green onion, cilantro or mint is one of the main staples in cheaper Indian restaurants and is as satisfying and elegant as most of the celebrated Mediterranean Europe dishes.
Thailand. Coconut Curry. To most travelers, Thailand means snorkeling in clear-as-air waters, bamboo beach huts, and elephant rides through jungles. For gourmet lovers, it is home to some of the best creamy and thick coconut curries you will find anywhere. These curries are often based on spicy shrimp pastes or animal broths and are generally served with meats.
But what if you want a vegetarian coconut curry but cannot find it at any of the street food stalls? Well, you could always make your own. To do this, you will need a pot on a fire, coconut milk, vegetable broth, lemongrass, curry spices, and palm sugar. Beyond that, the crock is what you make it.
You could try stewing plantains, sweet potatoes, and taro root. For dessert, you could go across the border to Laos and give khao niao durian (a pungent, fleshy fruit smashed into sticky rice mixed with coconut milk) a try.
Italy. White Bean Peasant Soup. They grate their cheese over almost every main meal, they wrap their figs in bacon and stuff their truffles in veal slabs – quite interesting considering that Italy isn’t what we’d call a vegan paradise.
However, ribollita, or peasant soup, was traditionally a vegan dish made without cheese. According to Chef Mario Batali, the poor peasants of old Italy often never had meat to cook, and whenever fortunate to have some leftover or some crusts and scraps, they would sometimes mix all of these up in a stewing pot.
Containing white beans, the meal provided both carbohydrates and proteins in a single hit. If you’d like to try this dish, consider adding some red wine and dried porcini mushrooms to your broth for a hearty kick. Alternatively, you could try this lighter recipe that includes sautéed apples. According to Batali, ribollita is one meal you can never mess up.
I’ve managed to pick up loads more of these over the years and I’ll probably post a few more articles like this. But if you’ve ever wondered where you can get these ideas, then all you need to do is tune into food related TV shows from all over the world.
I use Aus IPTV all the time as they have the largest selection of channels from all over the world.
Stay tuned for more ideas.