The well-travelled home cook returns from an overseas adventure with three things: a few extra pounds, a camera roll full of food close-ups and mid-bite snaps, and a yearning to recreate the best meals they fell in love with while on the road.
To reproduce global specialties at home, an equally well-travelled kitchen pantry is required. For culinary destinations ranging from east Asia to southern Italy, these global pantry staples will ensure the adventurous chef can always revisit their most treasured culinary memories. If you need some gift inspiration for the travelling home chef, scroll through their social feeds to see what trips they’ve taken recently or choose an item from a specific spot you know holds a special place in their heart. If you’re up to the challenge, finding these global pantry staples will make the perfect gift for any well-travelled chef.
This red pepper paste is the quarterback of many a Korean recipe. Made from red chili peppers, sticky rice, fermented soybeans, and salt, it’s thick, sticky, and pungent, with a spicy-sweet kick. You can use gochujang as a condiment for noodles or stews, or as a central ingredient in marinades, sauces, and dips. Just make sure you stick to advised amounts—this is one powerful paste that packs a punch.
Also known as Chinese cooking wine, Shaoxing is a salty wine made from fermented rice. Most varieties sold in grocery stores are intended solely for cooking. Shaoxing is a necessity if you’re going to be recreating any Chinese recipe—it appears in countless Chinese dishes, from stir-fries to noodles to dumplings. Can’t find Shaoxing at your local market? Dry sherry makes for an acceptable substitute.
Like gochujang, harissa is a hot chili pepper paste, but with North African roots—Tunisian, to be specific. It’s made from roasted red peppers and spicy Baklouti peppers, along with a variety of spices and herbs, including caraway and coriander seeds, as well as olive oil and garlic. Some versions include citrus or vinegar. If you’re going to be whipping up a specialty from Tunisia, Morocco, or Israel, you’re going to need a jar of harissa in your fridge.
Mexican cooking is more than just tortillas and limes. Dried, mild guajillo chilis are a must for making moles, stews, salsas, and sauces. It offers a rich red colour and a subtle, yet complex flavour that other chilis can’t quite create. Guajillos are not inherently spicy, which is why you’ll find most recipes pair them with other varieties for a kick of heat.
Double zero flour
When it comes to Italian cooking, not all flour is created equal. For crispy yet chewy pizza crusts and light-as-a-feather pasta, doppio zero or double zero flour is your best choice. Double zero is the most finely milled, whitest flour from Italy, with a silky consistency. In North America, you’ll pay more for this imported ingredient than regular all-purpose flour, but the results are worth it.
It’s impossible to reduce Indian cuisine to just one ingredient—its distinct flavours rely on an arsenal of items. One sure way to elevate home-cooked Indian dishes is to keep a supply of curry leaves on hand. Bought fresh, frozen, or dried, these leaves have a subtle citrus flavour, along with slightly bitter notes. Use them in stews, pastes, chutneys, relishes and of course, curries.
Red Boat fish sauce
Hailed as the purest fish sauce on earth, Red Boat is a Vietnamese staple treasured by professional chefs and home cooks alike. Made from black anchovies salted fresh from the seas surrounding Phu Quoc island, then aged for over a year in wooden barrels, this sauce is packed with B vitamins and protein (think of it as the extra-virgin olive oil of fish sauces). All the flavor without any of the preservatives.
This umami-packed ingredient is so much more than a soup base. Marinades, dressings, sauces, and sandwiches are instantly transformed with even just an almond-sized dollop of miso. Whisk a teaspoon amount with tahini, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and soy sauce for a complex dressing to drizzle over everything from salads to soba noodles. Mix it with pesto and toss with noodles for a tangy, herbaceous pasta dish. Pulse it with toasted pecans for a creative alternative to peanut butter. If your giftee raved about the food they ate on their trip to Japan, this addition to their culinary repertoire will be a pantry game-changer.
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