I think this is probably one of my favorite tips of all time, but perhaps that is because I love ethnic food so much! (Read the rest of this series here). Whether it is a spicy Indian curry, a smooth hummus, a flavorful beef pho soup, or bean and rice Cuban dish, other countries are masters at making delicious, yet frugal food. They know how to take smaller amounts of meat and stretch them into a meal and dishes often center on legumes, grains and other frugal ingredients.
Taking a cue from them, I shred leftover roasted chicken and put it in an Indian curry that is served over rice. Cold winter nights may find me eating a thick lentil soup (or a homemade pho, or a wide variety of other soups!). We also love to make fried rice with leftover rice and bits of vegetables and leftover meat or seafood (pictured above is a fried rice made with leftover salmon). It is meals like this that help stretch our food budget money out.
Plus, many of the flavorful spices and ingredients used in ethnic foods have been proven to have a wide variety of health benefits. Just a few examples, Turmeric, an ingredient in many curries, has been researched widely for its anti-cancer properties. Lemongrass, a common ingredient in Thai food, has also been studied for it’s digestive soothing, pain relieving properties. It’s health benefits appear to be wide spread from everything to antibacterial and antiviral, to a strong antioxidant profile. Hot pepper are in wide use around the world, and they also boost a wide variety of health promoting attributes. The point is, Ethnic food may not only help your budget, it may also help your health!
Here are a couple online recipes as examples:
- 3 simple hummus recipes (guest post from Katie
- Simple Persian Soup (a five dollar dish)
- Garam Masala Lentil Soup (This one is a family favorite!)
- Thai Chicken Curry (I don’t have my chicken curry recipe online yet; this one doesn’t use leftover shredded chicken, but you could certainly adapt the general idea of the curry to using leftover chicken if you want).
These are just a couple of online examples, but I really enjoy getting cookbooks at the library for a wide variety of ethnic foods and learning how to cook certain dishes from them. I really want to learn how to cook a new favorite, Ethiopian sourdough teff bread with different toppings.
It is also worth noting that when we eat out, we often find ourselves at a restaurant that is either Thai, Vietnamese, and Ethiopian, (among others) because the prices are good, the meals are flavorful, and we can easily share entrées. These meals eaten out often give me inspiration for learning how to make them at home, for even cheaper! Lamb, by the way, is almost always completely grass-fed, so we often choose that when we can.
To get started: Browse recipes online, borrow books from the library, and pick non-intimidating recipes to start with (preferably recipes that aren’t too complicated or use too many ingredients that you aren’t familiar with). A local ethnic store can be a great source for many ingredients (though always label check, some contain soy oil, MSG, and other unsavory ingredients), as well as fresh seafood, and hard to time food items.
I’d love to hear from you! What are your favorite recipes for ethnic food?