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At the heart of every cuisine there are a few ingredients that essentially become the soul of cooking. In most places, onions or garlic (or both) are combined with other aromatic ingredients to give food a distinct flavor. Perhaps the most popular combo of them all is French mirepoix. A blend of carrots, onions and celery, this trio forms the base of many classic dishes. Italians call this blend soffritto (which literally translates to 'sub-fried') and use it as the base for bolognese sauce and countless other recipes. If the French and Italians have their own mirepoix, what are other people around the world cooking with? In our effort to answer this broad question, here's a general overview of the ingredients that make up the 'base' of different world cuisines:
According to August Escoffier, the godfather of modern French cuisine, the proper ratio for making mirepoix is the following: 50 % onion, 25% carrot and 25% celery.
Ever wonder what gives paella it's irresistible flavor? Sofrito is at the heart of it all. Made with a blend of onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes sautéed in olive oil, sofrito can perk up any dish. Inherited from the Spanish, sofrito is also common in Latin America. You'll find local variations featuring native herbs and peppers but the recipe still remains close to the original.
Do you find gumbo and jambalaya irresistible? Louisiana Cajun and Creole cooking wouldn't be the same without the holy trinity of onions, celery and bell pepper. A general rule of thumb is to use two onions, two celery stalks and one bell pepper. Some cooks prefer to add garlic, shallots and even parsley to the mix.
Want to know the secret to a great curry? It all starts with sautéing ginger and garlic. Although there are some exceptions, most Indian curries begin with this dynamic duo. Onions are later added to the mix, along with chilies, tomatoes and tempered spices. This mix is generally referred to as tadka.
The Chinese are also fond of ginger and garlic but they kick things up a notch with scallions. This fragrant trio goes in everything from stir fries to soups, stews and protein-based dishes. The potency of these aromatics depends on how long they've been cooked.
If you've ever developed an addiction to Thai curries, here's what you can blame it on: lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime. These highly fragrant ingredients, along with basil and ginger, are what give Thai food its irresistible umami.