Andrew Zimmern's Recipe Guide to the Globe
Japan: Pork Tonkatsu
Tonkatsu is one of my top-five favorite foods. The crucial ingredient is possibly the best processed food on planet Earth: tonkatsu sauce. It's sweet and pungent, with apple and raisin notes, a hint of fermentation and a whisper of Worcestershire. Three brands stand out, all available at Asian markets, the first sold at most mainline grocers: Bull-Dog, Ikari and Kikkoman (Japanese label only).
China: Pork-and-Shrimp Shumai
When I'm in the mood, there's not a better food than fresh shumai. This variation on the Cantonese classic has a simple and short ingredient list that makes the most of shrimp, pork, ginger, scallions and sesame.
India: Butter Chicken
This well-known and beloved Indian dish has plenty of onions, tomatoes and vibrant spices in a rich, creamy sauce. It's possibly one of the tastiest chicken dishes ever.
Philippines: Chicken Inasal
This vinegary grilled chicken originated in the province of Negros Occidental and is famously associated with its capital, Bacolod City. The original Bacolod style, which includes annatto seeds and omits soy sauce, is the real deal. Serve with plenty of rice and small bowls of coconut vinegar seasoned with slivers of garlic and minced hot chiles.
Liberia: Pepper Shrimp
The foods of West Africa are some of the world's most underrated. The Liberian coast, for instance, provides outstanding seafood for this spicy—I mean very spicy—dish. Liberian cooks often use Maggi seasoning cubes and ground peanuts here, but I've skipped them for simplicity's sake. I like to serve the dish with icy glasses of fresh mango pureed with yogurt and orange juice.
Italy: Roman Fried Artichokes
On average, I eat carciofi alla giudia twice a day when I'm in Rome, where cooks in the Jewish Quarter invented this earthy, nutty dish. Because I'm an art geek, they remind me of Van Gogh's sunflowers. The key to their greatness is the twice-fried method. The first fry makes the artichokes tender; the second creates the aroma of burnt vegetal sweetness and the crisp edges. I serve them with a very tart lemon-and-anchovy mayonnaise for dipping, or simply with sea salt and a squirt of lemon.
Spain: Flan De Caramelo
For the home cook, nothing is more comforting than a custard—nothing. And this one is phenomenally delicious, thanks to the simple addition of orange, a Spanish signature. This version is my tweak to my late father's recipe. I'm not sure where he got it, but I suspect it was a 1970s recipe from Penelope Casas, one of the early advocates of true Spanish cooking in our country.
Thailand: Coconut Chicken Soup
Ask Americans to name a Thai dish they love, and they say, "Pad thai...and that amazing chicken soup with coconut." The soup has a name: tom kha gai. It's a basic Thai recipe, made with ingredients sold at any Asian market.
France: Sole Meunière
Fillets of sole sautéed in butter and served with caper-butter sauce are supremely soul-satisfying. Even the squirmiest eater will love this delicate, white-fleshed fish. Plus, the techniques behind the dish—sear, pan-cook, then deglaze—lend themselves to thousands of recipes. One historical note: Meunière means "in the style of the miller's wife" and refers to the dredging of the fillets in flour before they hit the pan.