Growing up in a multi-cultural home, I was given the chance to explore the different tastes from my parents' home countries. From my Mexican father who came here to the States over 30 years ago to my mother who's a First Generation Eurasian born in America. As a child, I never experienced any issues in racial identification. Both parents felt it their duty to instill in me an appreciation for my heritage. Everyone has different methods for raising their multi-ethnic child, however. This was my parents' way though. And, with it, came the passion for all things food.
It runs in my family. My grandfather came here from the Philippines and eventually found work in a kitchen. From there, his experience gifted him the coveted title of Executive Chef. By the time my mom was eleven years old, she was working with my grandfather in the kitchen as well. Today, she's an Executive Chef at a prestigious country club. Then there's my dad who began the pursuit of the American dream in a restaurant, cooking on the line until, eventually, his experience garnered him the title of Executive Chef and then Food and Beverage Director. Everyone in my family has worked at least one tenure in what the restaurant business calls the back of the house.
All this experience has allowed me to delve deeper into the preparation of cultural dishes. Sometimes, it feels as if its lost its meaning over time. As generations pass down recipes, they lose their traditions. Food is just food, no big deal. But, for me and my family, it's more than that. A connection to the past, to a land you've never visited before, to a group of people whom you're related to but will never meet. It's the celebration of one's heritage and a way to bring people together. In America, we're so culturally diverse but everything is too fast paced that we hardly have time to really appreciate our individuality and what makes us who we are.
So, without further ado, I present my Top Nine favorite dishes from each of my cultures. I'm curious to know who else recognizes or has eaten some of these meals.
1. Pork Adobo - Philippines
Slow cooked pork in a vinegar broth then seasoned to perfection. Served over white rice. I like it with a banana and okra.
2. Tamales - Mexico
There are so many different kinds of tamales from chicken to cheese to sweet ones with strawberries. Wrap them snugly in their corn husk, tie it tightly at the ends then steam until cooked. These are traditionally made during Christmas time.
3. Split Pea Soup - Netherlands
Made with carrots, onions, leeks and ham, Dutch split pea soup brings savory to another level. You can taste the smokiness of the ham complemented by each vegetable's unique flavor. Definitely great on a cold day.
4. Pancit - Philippines
A stir fry of Bihon noodles, pork and vegetables, Pancit is like heaven in a wok. Delicious with soy sauce!
5. Pozole - Mexico
There are three different types of pozole: rojo, verde or blanco (red, green or white, respectively). All are equally amazing. Pork, hominy, and lots of chiles. Eaten with sliced radishes, shredded cabbage, a few spritzes of lime, cilantro and tostada shells.
6. Pumpernickel Bread - Netherlands
This bread is glorious. A hint of sweetness and best paired with real butter (the Dutch love their butter!), cheese and fruit. Speaking of cheese, the Dutch have various types that are probably a required taste. Gouda is perhaps their most popular.
7. Cheese Ice Cream - Philippines
Mixing and matching various foods has always been a Filipino custom. Their ice creams are no exception. Though they have a wide array of flavors varying from avocado, corn, and even wasabi ice cream, I've chosen cheese as my favorite. Don't knock it 'til you try it!
8. Champurrado - Mexico
Best served hot, champurrado is a chocolate atole that is paired with cookies or churros. Atole is thickened with corn masa or cornmeal then flavored with cinnamon and brown sugar. Cinnamon sticks are a nice touch for stronger flavor but remain optional.
9. Broodpap - Netherlands
Broodpap translates into bread gruel - a custard bread pudding dessert made with cinnamon, sugar, egg yolks and milk. Lots of milk. Ideal to make with all the leftover bread that can't be saved.
So there you have it. My favorite dishes from each of my cultures. There are no doubt several more dishes I need to try - some of which are a part of other's cultures as well.
Tell me what your favorite dish is from your country. Tell me which ones all foreigners should try at least once. And let me know which of these you've tried or are willing to try once.