(NEXSTAR) — America is known as the great melting pot, rich with immigrants who have brought their unique flavors to the table. It’s no wonder that international dishes have become a part of the Thanksgiving feast.
Here are some cultural staples to add to the traditional turkey-and-stuffing menu.
Peking duck was created in Beijing and served since the imperial era. Once enjoyed exclusively by royalty, it is now a common Chinese dish at Thanksgiving celebrations. The dish is characterized by its thin, crisp skin, which is the main feature — eclipsing the meat itself — in authentic versions.
Couscous, which has its origins in Northwest Africa, is technically a grain, though many people confuse it with pasta because of its similar consistency and taste. Though both are made from semolina, a granular form of durum wheat, couscous’ grains are crushed while pasta’s are ground. At Thanksgiving, couscous is commonly served in place of stuffing, rice or potatoes.
Baklava, arguably the Greek’s favorite dessert, is a Mediterranean concoction made with layers of phyllo pastry soaked in butter, chopped nuts and spices. It’s baked and drenched in sweet syrup, which permeates its many pastry layers. Because it’s not exactly an easy dessert to make, it may be wise to give yourself some extra time ahead of Thanksgiving dinner.
Mole, a rich Mexican sauce best-known versions are native to Puebla and Oaxaca, is a popular way to complement the Thanksgiving turkey. The ingredients for many mole recipes are easy to find, either already residing in your pantry or at any store. Common ingredients include allspice, raisins, almonds, chocolate and dried chiles.
Biryani is an Indian and Pakistani mixed-rice dish. Often made for special occasions, it’s no wonder it finds its way to many Thanksgiving tables. It’s made with meat — such as turkey, chicken or lamb — paired with rice for a one-pot meal that can be served as a Thanksgiving main course option. Though meat is common in this dish, vegetable biryani would be good, too.
Rum cake is a traditional Caribbean holiday dessert made with — you guessed it — rum. The Caribbean and Latin America produce most of the world’s rum supply, so it’s not a surprise that it’s used for more than drinking. Rum cakes are descended from holiday puddings, and the traditional version uses rum-soaked dried fruit mixed into a dense doughy batter. Soaked in even more rum, the baked cake can be kept without refrigeration for years. Rum cakes have been popular in the U.S. since since at least the 1970s.
Lasagna, one of Italy’s most famous dishes, has long been an Italian-American tradition at Thanksgiving. The origins of the one-pan pasta dish have traditionally been ascribed to the Italian city of Naples. The dish is made of stacked layers of thin flat pasta alternating with fillings such as ground meats, tomato sauce, vegetables, cheese and seasonings. Though it’s usually served as a side dish at the Thanksgiving table, who would say no to lasagna as the centerpiece?
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