July 22, 2024


Built General Tough

18 Registered Dietitians Share Their Favorite Cultural Foods

I generally whip it up in my Instant Pot—I throw in a chicken carcass from my freezer, then add a cup of rice, about 8 cups of water, ginger, and minced shiitake mushrooms. My favorite toppings are not necessarily traditional, but I love adding sautéed shiitake mushrooms, a soft boiled egg, sesame oil and chili oil, and green onions.” —Leanna Tu, M.S., R.D.N.

7. Stewed Okra and Black-Eyed Peas

“I’m not a big sweets person. I love savory, earthy, full-flavor foods, and these (along with the ‘trinity of greens,’ as they call it—turnips, mustard, and collard greens with apple cider vinegar) are some of my favorite side dishes for Sunday family meals. Growing up in the South, my family owned land and my dad grew several types of produce and raised livestock. I came to know and enjoy these as meal staples. You can eat them with dinner or lunch, and I’ll even eat black-eyed peas with breakfast if I have grits and eggs. It just depends on how I feel.

Black-eyed peas are easy, and you can buy them in bulk. Soak them overnight, and cook them like my mom used to do it in the pressure cooker or Instant Pot. I usually get the frozen option and cook them on the stovetop. As for the greens, fresh tastes better than canned to me, and are lower in sodium. I like veggie broth, onions, garlic, peppers, and a little olive oil in mine with apple cider vinegar.” —YaQutullah Ibraheem Muhammad, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.

8. Baingan Bharta

“Being a melting pot of different cultures (Pakistani, Italian, and Polish) has always been the core to my identity. Growing up, I was exposed to a variety of delicious cultural cuisines, and my two favorites involve one of the most versatile vegetables—eggplant. While eggplant parmigiana, from my Italian side, is a close second, baingan bharta (roasted eggplant curry), from my Pakistani side, is my all-time favorite dish. Baingan bharta is made from roasted eggplant and seasoned with the most commonly used masalas and spices, such as coriander and cumin, along with tomatoes, onion, and garlic. It’s absolutely delicious.

Baingan bharta was one of the main dishes at all of the family events I had with my Pakistani father’s side. I loved to eat it with roti (flatbread), because I could eat with my hands and no utensils! These days, I enjoy baingan bharta with rice and a seasoned cucumber-yogurt sauce, also known as raita. My husband is Trinidadian and this dish is also popular in his culture–so we enjoy it often together! For a while, I was intimidated to make my own eggplant curry, but since it’s truly a lifelong favorite, I figured it was time to start making it from scratch.” —Kalloo

9. Tachin

“I’m Persian American—my parents grew up in Iran and moved here when they were in their early 20s—and crispy rice is my favorite. Tachin is a layered rice dish that looks like a cake, and inside is layered with a saffron, yogurt, egg-rice mixture, and boiled chicken. The top of this ‘rice cake’ is pretty much all crispy rice, and it’s garnished with sautéed barberries, slivered almonds, and pistachios!

I was raised with this meal, and we always had it as a staple at our table, especially at celebrations—it’s a vibrant addition, and it’s so full of flavor. I like to pair a piece of tachin with a side of a leafy green salad or shirazi salad (a Persian cucumber, tomato, and onion salad) or an optional side that is common in Persian food, such as shallots in plain yogurt or fresh bread with feta cheese, walnuts, and herbs. Since this is predominantly a rice dish, it can be paired with any main entrée. This meal doesn’t have to be made with chicken or red meat—it can be made vegetarian (lacto-ovo friendly, since it will still contain eggs and yogurt), and you can pair it with your choice of plant protein. I’d encourage everyone to try it, and I love encouraging clients and friends to try new meals, especially ones that contain lots of herbs and spices.” —Yasi Ansari, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.S.D.

10. Pão de Queijo

“My mother is from Brazil, so I grew up going to visit family in Brazil and speaking Portuguese. My favorite food from Brazil is pão de queijo, or cheese bread, which I was introduced to as a young child in Brazil. Pão de queijo is soft, chewy, and has a delicious mild, cheesy flavor with a light, crusty outside and a soft inside.