Cook up a global feast without leaving home
Food enthusiasts from Japan, Mexico, Thailand, Palestine, Korea, India, Brazil share insights into their cuisines
Yoshimi Hayakawa. Photograph: Julia Dunin
We’re often told we can travel through food, but how easy is it really to get authentic tastes in Ireland? Chefs and food enthusiasts living in Ireland, who hail from more far-flung places, share their impressions on how authentically their home food is represented here, and suggest ways to replicate the tastes and flavours they miss the most.
Yoshimi Hayakawa, chef and owner Wa Cafe in Galway
Japanese food usually contains rice, fish, meat, vegetables and miso soup. It’s not just about sushi. Dashi, which is soup stock in Japanese, is a staple ingredient made with katsuobushi, or bonito fish flakes, and kombu seaweed, but vegetable dashi can be made with root vegetables, dried mushrooms and seaweed. It’s added to many Japanese foods to deepen the flavour and add umami.
You can find katsuobushi and kombu in Asian shops and health shops and make your own dashi, but to get real dashi taste or to cook rice perfectly is difficult because of water differences between Ireland and Japan. Japanese water is very soft which brings out the taste quickly and is good to make dashi, but Irish water is hard, containing more minerals, so it takes time to extract the flavour.
Useful tip: When it comes to eating Japanese food in Ireland, I would like to suggest people use soy sauce more like salt. Don’t use too much, just enough to enhance your food.
Lily Ramirez Foran, chef and owner of Picado Mexican shop and cookery school in Dublin
Mexico is a huge country. The food is sophisticated, delicate, fresh and incredibly flavoursome, and not the starch-fest most people tend to associate with Mexican food. Little by little, we’re seeing real Mexican food becoming more mainstream in Ireland.
The past two years have seen some Irish farmers dipping their toes in and growing Mexican vegetables: tomatillos, fresh poblanos, Mexican chillies, squashes and many other things. It’s very exciting to see this happening. Twenty years ago, you couldn’t find a chilli here to save your life.
Don’t be frightened to experiment with dried chillies. When you buy them, ask for help as chillies are fruits, so when they dry, they develop loads of fruity flavours and not all of them are hot. Getting to know the flavour profile of a chilli will give you endless possibilities in the kitchen.
Best recipe resources: Anything by Diana Kennedy would be a great way to start. Her meticulous recipe research over 60 years has ensured many recipes have been saved for posterity.
Janya Lyons, owner of Kin Khao Thai restaurants in Athlone and Maynooth
Nam Prik Masang, or wood apple chilli relish, is the dish that I miss the most from home. I first tried this dish when I was a young girl during my school holidays at my mother’s hometown in Ta Phraya, Sakaeo province. Thailand has a long history and culture, so there are many varieties of Thai cuisine.
Thai salads and soups are so underestimated, they are a kaleidoscope of flavours. Many of our chefs at Kin Kaho Thai hail from Isaan province in north east Thailand. When we cook together, Isaan is the food of choice. This food is like no other. It is gutsy, fermented and fiery.
When I first arrived here in 2003, I could not even get fresh coriander in the supermarket, but nowadays I can even pick up fresh lemongrass or turmeric everywhere.
Essential ingredients: The brand of fish sauce you use should be 75 per cent anchovy content or higher, and use coconut milk with high-fat content. You can freeze Thai herbs such as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, fresh chillies, and turmeric.
Izzedeen Alkarajeh, co-owner of Izz Cafe in Cork
The traditional ingredients used in most Palestinian dishes are rice and spices. We use Egyptian rice because the grains are more rounded than long so it’s more suitable for stuffing and mixing with other ingredients. Luckily, most ingredients are available in ethnic shops in Ireland.
Flavours that are hard to find here are some of the wild plants that we used to harvest from our mountains like oregano, thyme and sage and the natural sweetness of the fruits. Nothing really matches the quality in Palestine.
I miss the meals that are cooked in jameed, a hard dry laban (yoghurt). We cook using vine leaves picked by my mother, preserved in plastic cola bottles and sent by post.
Best recipe resources: If you’re trying to recreate authentic recipes, most resources are in Arabic. However, a Palestinian chef co-wrote a book which is on my wish list. It is Falastin: A Cookbook, by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley
Gunmoo Kim, owner of Jaru Foods in Dublin
Korean restaurants in Ireland tend to have sushi, ramen, yakisoba änd chicken katsu curry on their menus. Nothing wrong with those, I love them, but it is not Korean food.
Basically, Korean food is about fermentation. And, of course, rice and noodles. There are three key jang (sauces) in Korean cooking: gochu jang (fermented chilli), doen jang (fermented soybeans), gan jang (soy sauce). And we can’t talk about Korean foods without kimchi (fermented cabbage). Koreans eat kimchi with almost every meal: as a side, soup, stew, roasted or even freshly made.
In Ireland, I appreciate what I have in my hands to cook Korean foods here; the seaweeds, mushrooms, wild vegetables, dairy products, free-range and organic meats. Some are even nicer than the ones from Korea.
Best recipe resources: There are some amazing Korean cookbooks I’d recommend such as My Korea by Hooni Kim and Our Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo.
Shilpa Razniewska is a food photographer, stylist and blogger in Dublin
Indian food is not as complicated as it sounds, but it is a lot more than just curries. Getting the spices right is the heart and soul of Indian cooking. Dal is widely made all across India, everyone makes their own version. Indian street food or chaats is what I miss the most.
Chaat is a traditional savoury street-style snack, a combination of several different things like chutneys, fried puris and veggies combined together into one delicious plate. I can make this at home, but it is quite tedious and there is something amazing about enjoying these foods on the street more than at home.
Indian restaurants and takeaway are also changing here, introducing more traditional Indian dishes rather than generic ones, which makes me happy.
Best recipe resources: Indian chefs Kunal Kapur and Sanjeev Kappor have recipes online that are easy to understand, authentic and traditional. If you love to collect cookbooks, then I recommend Maunika Gowardhan’s Indian Kitchen.
Pedro Ferraz is a chef at Wigwam in Dublin
Brazilian cuisine is still very young in this country, but I think we are doing a good job of introducing our food culture to Ireland. Rice, beans and farofa are probably the top three ingredients I use, but it depends on the region that you are trying to reproduce in your food. You could also add dendê oil (similar to palm oil) and coconut milk (typically found in the Caiçara cuisine) and banana da terra (plantain), of course.
Brazil is a huge country with different flavours spread all over it and a big shore that provides us with very good quality ingredients. We have very good quality cattle in Brazil, and meat is important for our traditional barbecue, which is a big thing.
Fortunately, there are a good few Brazilian shops in Ireland now and some of the Asian markets sell Brazilian or similar products also.
Must-try dishes: If you are a meat eater, feijoada is the dish to try, but if you are more into seafood, the moqueca, a seafood stew with coconut, is another brilliant speciality.
Where to shop for world ingredients online in Ireland
Kwality Foods, kwalityfoods.ie. Well stocked Asian supermarket, delivery in Dublin only
Picado Mexican, picadomexican.com. Online Mexican grocer selling pantry staples and unique imports
Mezze, mideastmezze.com. Middle Eastern ingredients along with some equipment and cook books also
Green Saffron, greensaffron.com. High-quality whole and ground spices sourced directly from farms