4 Simple Ways to Totally Transform the Flavor of Any Dish

4 Simple Ways to Totally Transform the Flavor of Any Dish

When you’re itching for a change of pace, switch the flavor of any dish in a flash!


By Lorraine Allen

If you’re like me and you feel like you are constantly cooking for your family, and constantly making the same dishes with the same flavors, despite many intentions to try new dishes, get some variety into your diet, and keep things interesting -- fear not. Here to save you are five basic pantry ingredients that you can keep on hand to enhance and totally transform the flavor of any dish in a flash. By using these, you can keep cooking the dishes you know and that your family loves, but add some variety, new and interesting flavors, and a little extra spice to everyone’s life.

For a Thai or Indian twist, try coconut: Substitute coconut milk instead of heavy cream in any sauces, stews, or soups you typically make, and you’ve got an immediate exotic twist.

If you add a dash of curry powder with the coconut milk, say to a pumpkin or carrot soup or chicken stew, you’ll have a rich Indian flavor.

If you include some basil, a hot chili, and cilantro, or a little lemongrass instead with the coconut milk -- say to a pasta dish or rice dish with veggies or meat -- you’ve got a great Thai-inspired meal just like that.

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For a Middle Eastern flavor, toss in a dash of cumin: The secret to delicious Middle Eastern food is in their spice mixes, and cumin is the most distinctive -- and strongest -- of these ingredients. Just a teaspoon is all you need to add to any chicken, lamb, fish, or vegetable stew, soup, or roast. Then, you’ve got a whole new, smoky flavor that goes really well with almost any dish.

You can also mix the dried cumin with some coriander, paprika, a little dried ginger, onion, or garlic to further enhance and deepen the flavor of your dishes.

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For a Japanese or Chinese flair, reach for soy sauce and sesame oil: If instead of plain old roasted chicken or grilled steak, fish, or vegetables, you want to make an Asian stir-fry, just marinate the meat for an hour in a mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil. A couple of tablespoons of each is all you need.

Fresh ginger and garlic also complement these flavors well. Cook your dishes as usual, and serve with rice for a delicious Asian-inspired meal. Garnish with chopped scallions if you want to be fancy.

For a Spanish or Hungarian twist, pepper in some paprika: Paprika is a rich, dark red spice which comes in several varieties and is used a lot in European dishes -- from Hungary to Spain. You can try the mild or hot versions, or go with the smoked Spanish pimenton paprika, all of which are available in any spice aisle these days. A couple of teaspoons adds a rich depth to any stew, ragu, or sauce. Paprika is also versatile, so don’t hesitate to use it on any fish, red meat, chicken, or vegetarian dish.

Which spices transform your regular dishes?

Lorraine Allen is a writer, and mom and personal chef to one spunky 6-year-old girl with severe food allergies. You can enjoy their delicious recipes and follow their amusing family cooking adventures at Feeding Lina.

Image ©iStock.com/elenaleonova


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