Saturday, December 7, 2013

Exotic food kits

A couple of months ago, I bought myself a wonderfully exotic cookbook that covered about 8 different Asian cuisines, including Burmese, Thai, and Indonesian. I was really excited to try one of the Thai recipes (a coconut custard with fragrant sugar syrup) and spent a good deal of time and energy traipsing around New York City to collect the ingredients. When I finally found everything (including pandanus leaf*), I had visited 4 stores and spent a huge amount of money. And the worst of it is that I had all these leftover ingredients that I really had no idea how to use on my own (i.e., without a recipe).

Anyway, when I saw these recipe kits called Destination Dinners, I was very impressed. In each kit, you get all the ingredients you need (minus any perishables) to make an exotic dinner. But you get only the amount you need and no more.

Each kit includes the premeasured ingredients, a grocery list for the fresh items you need, plus a little history and culinary trivia for the cuisine you've chosen. For example, one of the kits is for a Thai green curry with jasmine-scented sponge cakes, and the exotic ingredients included were jasmine rice, rice flour, green curry paste, fish sauce, jasmine water and palm sugar.

The handsomely packaged kits cost $30-35 and serve 4 to 8 people, depending on which recipe you've chosen. In addition to the Thai green curry, the 12 kits currently available include chicken garam masala (Bangladesh), jerk chicken (Jamaica), falafel (Israel), pork and egg rice bowl (Japan), beef bulgogi (Korea), baked spiced lamb (Lebanon), chicken and cashews (Thailand) and jambalaya (Louisiana).

If you really get into it, you might want to look at what they call the Destination Passport, which is basically a kit-of-the-month club. You can buy a 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month passport.

*Just in case you're curious, pandanus leaf is a long thin leaf that looks sort of like a piece of palm frond. It's used in Thai cooking to flavor coconut-based desserts and sugar syrups.

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