Easy Ethnic Eats, Global Cuisine in minutes

Fresh baked gyoza. | Priya Hutner

It’s been a year into the pandemic and cooking has become a tireless chore for many households. Cooking fatigue has many wishing someone else would cook dinner. Many people responsible for cooking for their family are tired, bored of the same old menus and stuck in an endless cooking rut. Let’s explore some fresh ideas that might help you break out of the cooking blues.

Gyoza (Japanese) or eggrolls, potstickers and dumplings (Chinese) are somewhat easy to prepare and delicious. With some chopping and grating, an enjoyable addition to your dinner can be had with relative ease.

I lean into ethnic recipes from around the world that offer unique flavors to spice up the dinner plate. Mexican and Italian dinners are the backbone of meals for many families and both cuisines are relatively easy and comforting. I love Asian food. It is one of my all-time favorite things to prepare for dinner. It’s versatile and healthy. I tend to lean toward Japanese, Thai and Chinese, and lately, I’ve been exploring Korean recipes.

Try Priya’s Cuban Black Bean Soup

For some, the idea of whipping up a Japanese dinner can often be daunting and intimidating. Gyoza (Japanese) or eggrolls, potstickers and dumplings (Chinese) are somewhat easy to prepare and delicious. With some chopping and grating, an enjoyable addition to your dinner can be had with relative ease.

For gyoza, potstickers or eggrolls, I use red and green cabbage, carrots, radish or daikon, ginger root and green onions. A food processer or hand grater makes this an easy task. Add seasonings and roll with either gyoza or eggroll wrappers and bake or fry or steam.  It’s easy to add proteins like shrimp, pork, tofu or chicken. Dipping sauces make this a fun family dinner.  Another dinner favorite is Okonomiyaki. These Japanese pancakes are easy and healthy, and sauces to top them are key to a tasty experience. Chinese fried rice can be made in less than 20 minutes with leftover rice and frozen mixed vegetables.

The aroma of exotic spices fills the kitchen. When I was young, my dad made Cuban Black Bean Soup and served it with rice, raw onion, sour cream and white vinegar, which he claimed was the secret to this delicious soup. With a few cans of black beans, this soup can be made in less than 30 minutes.

Chicken Paprikash, rich and hearty, is an ode to my Eastern European roots, and fresh paprika is the key. I forgot how good and hearty this meal is a chilly night. It’s a one-pot dish that can be prepared on the stove or in the Instant Pot.

If Korean calls to you, try a quick and easy bulgogi (fire meat), which can be made with beef, pork or chicken. This meal requires some planning and marinating the meat is the most time-consuming (anywhere from 1 hour to overnight). Once the marinating is complete, the cooking can be done in 30 minutes or so. Serve over rice or in lettuce wraps with a side of kimchi. It’s so good.

Singapore street noodles, Thai coconut curry, or red lentil and butternut squash dal are also on my go-to list for quick, easy, and flavorful meals. Culinary cuisines from around the globe inspires and educates

While making dinner can be a tedious task, including children in the process can open their world and offer a unique experience. Trying different cultural meals broadens their palate and horizons as they learn about the various spices people cook with and the different flavors of foods worldwide.

Consider making gyoza or dumplings for good luck and prosperity to celebrate the year of the ox during the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year on Feb. 12.

Easy Vegetarian Gyoza or Eggrolls
From the kitchen of Priya Hutner

1 package eggroll wrappers or gyoza wrapper
¼ head red cabbage
¼ head green cabbage
2 carrots, peeled
2 green onion
1 small knob of ginger
¼ C daikon radish
2 t salt
¼ cup soy sauce
2 T toasted sesame oil and extra for brushing on wrappers
2 T seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 T sesame seeds (I use black sesame seeds)
Optional: ground pork, shrimp, tofu or chicken.

Grate ingredients with food processer and place in a large bowl. Add salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Then, squeeze any excess water from the cabbage mixture.

For gyoza or eggrolls, place a small amount of mixture in the middle of the wrapper.

For gyoza fold the wrapper over the filling to create a half-moon shape, pinching the edges to seal. For eggrolls, fold like a burrito and place on a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Brush wrappers with sesame oil and sprinkle some black sesame seeds over the top.

Bake at 375 for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once until brown and crispy.

Gyoza can be deep-fried in vegetable oil or steamed.

Serve with sweet chili sauce, peanut or soy and lemon dipping sauce.

Lemon Soy Dipping Sauce
½ C tamari or soy sauce
1 lemon, juiced
2 cloves, garlic minced small
2 scallions sliced
1 t sesame seeds

Mix ingredients in bowl and serve with eggrolls or gyoza.

Sweet Chili Sauce
½ C rice wine vinegar
½ C water
½ C sugar or honey
1 T ketchup
1 chili pepper, minced
1 T grated ginger
2 cloves garlic pressed
1 t cornstarch to thicken

Add water and vinegar to a pot and bring to a boil. Add remaining ingredients except cornstarch and stir until sugar dissolves, add cornstarch and thicken. Place in bowl, and refrigerate before serving.

Peanut Sauce

1/2 C organic peanut butter
1 clove of garlic minced
3 T Tamari or soy sauce
1 T rice wine vinegar
½ t chili pepper to taste
Hot water for desired consistency

Add all of the ingredients in a bowl mix thoroughly adding hot water for desired consistency and set aside.