International Incidents: When Ethnic Foods Collide

By Reba Ray

What do you get when you cross a Spanish dessert with the tropical taste of Thailand? Or how about the somewhat sacrilegious act of renderin’ an Indian entrée with beef? These are what I call culinary international incidents, and though they aren’t makin’ headlines, people are ravin’ about ‘em at my house. I got this notion of crossin’ two ethnic foods to come up with a unique concoction and these recipes are the result. In all honesty, some countries don’t take to each other right away. I tried injectin’ some Irish into an egg roll, and the net result was a stomach ache. I’m tweakin’ that recipe and you can watch out for it in a future column. But for now, make yur kitchen into the great meltin’ pot with these.

Tikka Masala Meatloaf Sandwich

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 ½ c. plain bread crumbs
1 egg
½ c. plain yogurt
½ tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. minced ginger root, or ½ tsp. ginger powder
Large clove of garlic, pressed
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1 c. tomato sauce
Cilantro flakes
One package of nan (or foccacia in a pinch)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with cookin’ spray. In a large bowl, combine the beef with bread crumbs, egg, yogurt, and spices (except cilantro). Roll up yur sleaves, wash yur hands (shame on ya if you started cooking with dirty hands!), and dig in with yur fingers to work all these ingredients into each other until you can’t tell one from another. Scrape the bowl with yur fingers and lift that hunk o’ gooey, raw meat out of the bowl and into the loaf pan. (Wash yur hands again.) Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the meat starts to look brown on top.

Remove meatloaf from the oven and while it’s coolin’ just a bit, mix together in a small saucepan the tomato sauce and whippin’ cream. Keep it just shy of the boilin’ point, but heat through for about three minutes. Warm the bread and then plop a piece of nan on a plate, slap a slice of meatloaf on top, slather it with ½-cup of the red “gravy” and finally sprinkle with cilantro flakes.

This is enough for four servins’, so if you don’t have company, put yur gravy in a plastic or glass container and store the meatloaf in a separate air-tight container and this will keep for about five days in the fridge. Or, freeze half the meatloaf, and when yur ready to eat it, defrost in the microwave for about four minutes for a ¼-pound servin’. Then mix up the gravy fresh.

Thai Tropics Arroz con Leche
The typical Spanish (and Mexican) version of this dish uses milk and raisins, but I’m gonna “Thai it up” by usin’ coconut milk and mango. Makes two servins’ – you’ll want it two nights in a row, I guarantee.

1 cup white rice
¾ c. coconut milk
¾ c. cow’s milk
3 tbsp. brown sugar
½ c. dried mango, chopped into small pieces
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. cardamom

First, a note on cardamom: Don’t go springin’ for it unless you like to cook and experiment with new foods. It’s not a spice you’ll use a whole heck of a lot. Consider it optional, but it does contribute a unique flavor to this dish.

Fix the rice according to package directions, ‘cept for one difference – add the chopped mango in about halfway through cookin’. Dried mango is kind of tough and the heat and water will soften it up a bit to give it more the consistency of raisins. If you forget to do this, you can always put the mango and a few tablespoons of water in the microwave and heat for 90 seconds on high.

After the rice is ready, transfer it to a bowl. Stir in all the rest of the ingredients. Now put a lid on it (or plastic or foil) and let it cool for about ½ an hour. Eat warm, or more traditionally, chill it for a couple of hours and eat cold. This also makes a yummy breakfast, hot or cold.

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