26 Useful Cooking Lessons From International Cuisines

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“Even a small amount of it in scrambled eggs, to sauté vegetables, or to finish off homemade sauces makes a world of difference to the flavor and texture.”

Cuisines from around the world are all different, yet they all rely on certain techniques and lessons that can be adopted and applied to your home cooking. So Redditor u/CreatureWarrior asked “What are some cool and useful things different cuisines have taught you?” Here’s what people said.

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(And I loved this question so much, I even threw in a few of my own responses.)


“Cooking dishes from Indian cuisine really showed me that being vegetarian or introducing more plant-based dishes into your routine really doesn’t have to be that hard. Moreover, vegetarian dishes can be just as tasty as those containing meat. Indian cooking taught me that using ‘fake meats’ really isn’t necessary at all. I was so intrigued by some meatless Indian dishes like Punjabi Rajma Masala (kidney bean curry) that I realized I need to further explore the potential of veggies.”


“Learning how to make the specific Italian dish cacio e pepe helped me understand the meaning of ‘less is more.’ This dish is just pasta, good olive oil, fresh black pepper, and Parmesan cheese, but these simple ingredients work together to create something so delicious.”


“Thai cuisine really taught me how to balance strong flavors. Thai style salads (called ‘yum’) are so diverse, but they always share the same flavor profile: they are salty, spicy, sour, sweet and umami all at once. The way you achieve this complexity all comes down to learning how to balance ingredients rather than shy away from them or reduce them.”


“Cooking Italian cuisine taught me the magic of anchovies and anchovy paste. These flavor-packed little fish get an unfair reputation. While on their own, they may be off-putting to some people, they add a salty depth of flavor to so many dishes, from aiolis and pastas to roasted vegetables and dressings. I cook with them all the time now.”


“Spanish cooking taught me a trick I use often now, which is how to grate tomatoes on a box grater to make fresh tomato purée. In Spanish cuisine, this is how you make pan tomate. Once upon a time, I used to peel, de-seed, and mash fresh tomatoes, which takes so long that I would often just buy the canned stuff. But now I just cut a tomato in half, scrape the visible seeds off, and grate the cut side like a block of cheddar. It’s effortless, and there’s nothing that compares to fresh tomato purée.”


“From French cooking, I learned the value in using very basic ingredients to create elevated meals. If you think about most French recipes, they are simple: French onion soup is onions, ratatouille is just chopped veggies, Niçoise salad is made of eggs, potato, and canned tuna, and cassoulet is beans and meat. But it’s all about the technique and preparation that makes these dishes taste amazing.”


“Szechuan cooking taught me a lot about experimenting with a range of textures, many of which are often avoided or underutilized in American cooking. Think of ‘QQ texture’ like that of mochi or boba, of ‘slimy’ ingredients like okra, silken tofu, or nameko mushrooms. Chinese cooking, and Szechuan cuisine in particular, often focuses on these textural elements as the focus of a dish, and inspired me to start playing around with those textures.”


“Making Texas barbecue has taught me a lot about patience. There’s no rushing the process. You’ve got to let your meat do its thing until it’s fall-off-the-bone tender.”


“From Korean cuisine, I realized that you can easily make cheaper, tougher meats taste absolutely amazing. I’m talking about braised beef short ribs that fall off the bone, melt-in-your-mouth grilled pork belly, and tender marinated flank steak for beef bulgogi. Korean cooking showed me that you don’t need the fanciest cuts of meat to make delicious recipes. Rather, it’s all about how those cuts of meat are prepared, marinated, and served.”


“Indian cooking taught me that spices are fat-soluble, not water-soluble. In other words, if you’re adding spices to a dish, add them at the beginning with the fats (such as coconut milk or yogurt) and aromatics. Don’t save the spices for when you add water or stock.”


“Discovering authentic Mexican cuisine was a huge awakening for me in terms of the real importance of fresh, homemade ingredients. The first time I had a taco served on a freshly ground masa corn tortilla, it was like a revelation. It literally tasted like a different cuisine and made it very difficult to ever go back to those store-bought, processed tortillas.”


“I’m Italian, and since my native cuisine prefers olive oil to butter, I almost exclusively cook with oil. But after living in Kentucky for a few years and familiarizing myself with the cuisine of the American South recipes, I’ve how to use butter and lard instead of olive oil. There’s so much you can do with these cooking fats, especially if you’re not shy with them.”


“Eastern Mediterranean cooking like Greek and Turkish really drove home the idea of acidity. I never realized how much an acidic ingredient like a big squeeze of lemon can do to liven up and enhance a seemingly lacking dish.”


“From Chinese cuisine, I learned a lot about how to make the most of every single ingredient available to me. This cuisine finds delicious ways to use ingredients so that nothing goes to waste.”


“I discovered the game-changing technique of cooking a whole fish from Greek cuisine. Whenever I would go out for Greek food, I’d order the whole sea bass or dorade or whatever was on the menu, but I was always so intimidated to make it at home. But finally, I followed my first Greek-inspired recipe and made a whole roasted branzino at home and it pretty much changed my life. Simply prepared with lemon, olive oil, and herbs, it’s so easy, basically fool-proof, and it results in the most tender, flaky, and perfectly-cooked fish with so much flavor.”


“Filipino cuisine has really influenced the way I cook at home. Filipino cooking relies on lots of different sauces and vinegars like soy sauce, fish sauce, apple cider vinegar, etc. Now, I keep a whole slew of these essential ingredients stocked in my pantry, and I rely on them heavily. I use them for anything from jazzing up instant noodles or gravy to making stir fry or adobo. You can even take scrambled eggs to the next level with the help of some sweet soy sauce.”


“Chinese cuisine has shown me that a wok can be used for literally anything. Invest in one and you can cook so many dishes in it from scrambled eggs and soup to steamed vegetables.”


“Cooking Asian cuisines like Thai and Vietnamese has shown me how versatile peanuts can be. I don’t really like peanuts on their own or peanut butter (I was never a fan of PB&J sandwiches or Reese’s), but I love using peanuts in a sauce for noodles or sprinkled on top of a vermicelli noodle bowl.”


“French cuisine — both eating it and cooking it — proved to me that butter really does make everything better, and that I shouldn’t be afraid to use it in my home cooking. Even a small amount of butter in scrambled eggs, to sauté vegetables, or to finish off homemade sauces makes a world of difference to the flavor and texture.”


“Chinese cooking taught me about the importance of velveting, which is a method of marinating to keep delicate meat and seafood moist and tender during the cooking process. I learned how to velvet chicken, pork and beef, and it has made my home cooking so much better.”


“Asian cuisine in general taught me that MSG is amazing and, contrary to what American culture has taught us, it’s not an ingredient to be avoided. Rather, it adds an amazing amount of umami to whatever you’re cooking.”


“Italian cooking is all about using fresh ingredients and letting them shine. For example, use only fresh garlic (never the jarred), good San Marzano canned tomatoes or tomatoes that are fresh and in-season, proper Parmigiano Reggiano cheese by the block (never pre-grated), and table wine aka the wine that’s good enough to drink. If you focus on quality ingredients, the rest of the dish will follow.”


“Japanese cuisine taught me that eggs are one of the most versatile and best secret weapons in the kitchen. And actually, they can (and should) be eaten just about any time of day. Japanese cooking uses a ton of eggs: whether it’s a soft boiled egg in a bowl of rich and decadent ramen, a bowl of warm rice topped with a cracked egg, or chicken fried rice wrapped in a savory egg omelet. Just adding a simple soft boiled egg on top of rice, a salad, or a bowl of soup makes it so much more delicious.”


“Cooking Chinese food showed me how to flavor cooking oils. Now I add fragrant ingredients such as green onions or garlic to any stove-top oils and fry my food with them. It immensely improves the depth of the dish, and it’s particularly delicious when making fried rice.”


“From Italian cooking I learned that pasta is really meant to be cooked al dente. To some people it might seem or taste undercooked, but the firmness to the bite adds to the desired texture of the dish and prevents it from becoming a plate of mush.”

What’s an important cooking skill, technique, or lesson you’ve learned from another cuisine? Tell us in the comments below.

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