Whether you are looking to try something new or maybe you want to challenge yourself you will probably need to use some unique ingredients. Now first unique is really only in the eye of the beholder. What is unique to you might not be unique to someone else. Depending on many factors such as upbringing, culture, your general philosphy on food. Some people want to try every food under the sun (like myself) and some people are comfortable with a certain set of ingredients they use all the time.
If for whatever reason you are looking for some unique ingredients, we got you! We’ve put together a list of what we consider unique ingredients but we also wanted to try to keep it to things that most people can probably get ahold of. Not saying they will be everywhere but with a google search you will likely be able to either find these online or at a local store. So without further ago here is our list:
Meats and Proteins
This is your make or break ingredient as typically this is the focal point of your dish. Paneer is an indian cheese that you can make at home or buy, it’s often used like a meat substitute in dishes but is extremely versatile and most important delicous. Anchovies are another really versatile ingredient, Can be used in suaces and dressings but also can be treated as a protein for your dish. Another great thing about anchovies is they are litterally available everywhere. Oxtail and goat are great for stews and broths. Venison while a bit gamey can be made into jerky, steaks, stews and despite the gamey-ness when you prepapre it right is amazing. On top of what I have already mentioned you may want to give some of these a try:
- Paneer (how to make – Credit Indian healthy recipes)
- Cornish Hen
Fruits and Vegetables
Sauces, side dishes, and sometimes even can be the main focal point of a dish. Vegetables and fruits can provide some great falvors and textures to your dishes. The fun part of using these is when you have to google how to actually get into them or which parts you should eat and which you shouldn’t. Some of our favorites are Yuca, dragonfruit, and durian.
Yuca is sort of similar to a potato but also similar to some other roots. It’s a bit weird to work with but when done right adds a great texture and flavor my favorite is yuca “fries” . Dragonfruit is amazing because it just looks so cool, would definitely recomend using this in a way to great something visually stunning, whether it be just for color or using the skin as a garnish. Durian is the oddest of them all, a custardy sweet fruit that smells like stinky feat. It’s just unbelievable odd but if you get past the smell it really does have an awesome texture and taste combo. If these 3 aren’t what you are looking for we have some more ideas for you below:
- Watermelon Radish
- Passion Fruit
Grains, Flour and bread
Truth be told this is kind of a catch-all category for items that didn’t fit in any other. No less important though. A few notes about these. Glutinous Rice Flour is pretty hard to find, at least in our area. This one likely needs to be ordered online but it really can create some cool texture to baked items, it’s what is used to make mochi if you didn’t know. Bulgur is similar to like couscous or quinoa, the cool thing about it is when you cook it it absorbs whatever flavor you cook it in, like say chicken broth. So it really allows you to be super creative there. Naan might be our favorite bread option. It is really flexible, you can use it as a pizza crust, a side dish, sandwich bread, basically anywhere that bread or dough could be used. If none of those tickly your fancy, we have a few more ideas for you:
- Tapioca Flour
- Glutinous Rice Flour (from Amazon)
- Coconut Wraps
- Injera(ethiopian Flatbread – recipe here – credit Daring Gourmet)
Sauces and Seasonings
Maybe this is really your make or break ingredient, but this is the subtle one. No one ever talks about a dish and is like wow the salt was amazing, they say the chicken was amazing or the pizza was great. That does not make the seasoning any less important, it’s just the one that does the work but doesn’t get the credit. There are a lot of winners here from the salty coconut aminos, to the sweet and spicy harissa, to the i don’t know what heck it is of vegemite.
If you read our Australian BBQ article you know that we don’t like Vegemite, so this is the ulimate challenge. If you can make this taste good you might be the greatest chef in the entire world. For actual favorites that we think taste good liquid smoke is a great way to add a smokey flavor without spending the day smoking something. Coconut oil is an awesome healthier subsistute for butter that can taste as little or as much like coconut depending on how it’s used. Cardamom can be used in baking or as a spice similarly to cinnamon (which can be used for so much more than sweets). We could go on and on about flavors, but we won’t bore you with that, just a list of a few more ideas:
- Vegemite or Marmite
- Coconut Aminos
- Hawaiin Salt
- Fish Sauce
- Rice Vinegar
- Chinese 5 Spice (How to make – Credit SpruceEats)
- Liquid Smoke
- Coconut Oil
- Matcha Powder
Unique Ingredients and You
We challenge you to use as many of these as possible in your cooking, not only because it will make you a better cook but also because it’s fun to try new things and learn how to use them. You can’t know if you like something until you try it!