Ditch the Turkey: Try 12 Foreign Fall Recipes

You’re an adventurous traveller (even if its just at heart), and so we’ve compiled a list of Thanksgiving-type recipes from afar that will make your dinners as interesting and varied as your life. Roasted-to-perfection turkey drizzled with cranberry sauce, and fluffy mashed potatoes, sautéed green beans, corn bread and stuffing may epitomize one tasty traditional Thanksgiving meal, but the intrepid shouldn’t settle for the commonplace, and that’s why we’ve sniffed out exotic Fall-themed alternatives. Food tour guides worldwide, like Serena Bartlett in San Francisco who leads a lovely picnic tour, and Joe Facciolo who runs a phenomenal Finer Things Dinner Tour in British Columbia, Canada, will encourage you to try cuisine outside of your usual diet, and in that spirit we say, “Step aside, butternut squash soup. Hello butternut squash gnocchi!” (Click on the dish names in the following titles, which will take you to the corresponding recipes.)
Typically for Thanksgiving supper, butternut squash is served in soup-form, but we’ve gone Italian this year: introducing butternut squash gnocchi with sage brown butter. Gnocchi is a traditional Italian type of pasta of Middle Eastern origin that has delighted many an Italian dinner table since Roman times. Food guides in Italy never hesitate to rave about the little dough dumplings whose name either derives from nocchio, meaning a knot in wood, or nocca (meaning knuckle), and since these guides know what epitomizes good food, we’ve taken their favorite and turned it into something Thanksgivingish; we’ve added the squash component, taking gnocchi’s taste (and visual appeal) to the next level.

It’s time to put the trusty roasted turkey aside and spice up your Thanksgiving with turkey biryani, an aromatic rice dish that consists of tossing together rice, spiced turkey, raisins, cashews and peas. Food guides in India who have been raised on the one-pot meal will boast of its flavorsome nature, but they will also explain that the typical versions are made with mutton, chicken, pork, egg, shrimp, fish, dal (lentils), or tofu. Regardless, Indian food tour guides, like Akhilesh Chandra Mishra, Rajeev Goyal, Anubhav Sapra, and Sunil Kumar who lead life-changing tours around Delhi’s food markets, attest that once you try turkey biryani, it’ll be hard to go back to the plain old roasted stuff.

Cottage pie has been a staple English meat pie with a crust of mashed potato for centuries. It started off as a hearty meal for the poor (the “cottage” part of the name refers to rural workers’ modest dwellings), but has since become a national favorite, especially when brightened (and lightened) up with sweet potato, a healthier, lower carb alternative to the usual golden potato component. And besides being healthier in that respect, sweet potato cottage pie is also more heart-friendly than the usual sugar-heavy sweet potato casserole dishes that frequent the average Thanksgiving celebration. This year, instead of topping your baked sweet potatoes with marshmallows, turn them into a mash and layer them on top of a rich filling of minced beef, onions, carrots, and mushrooms.

Glazed carrots may not grace every menu in China, but these ones entail a substantial soy sauce component that categorize them as East Asian in nature. Usually, Thanksgiving vegetables are either roasted, sautéed or steamed, but glazing your carrots with soy sauce, brown sugar, butter and five-spice powder will turn your default on its head. Guides in China will lead you to some of the country’s best Chinese restaurants, but for a piece of Far Asia in your very own kitchen on Thanksgiving, simply whip (or, rather, chop, stir, and simmer…) up these Asian-inspired glassed carrots.

Ireland: Beef Stew

Turkey is the traditional Thanksgiving meat, but Irish beef stew embodies everything Fall: deep and rich flavors, and warmth. Guides in Ireland don’t go a week without indulging in this native dish — especially Ireland’s adventure guides, like Michael Byrne and Terry Lambert who lead day tours of Wicklow that include horse riding, visiting the locations where “P.S. I Love You,” “Leap Year,” and “Brave Heart” were filmed, and exploring the Wicklow Mountains National Park and the 6th Century monastic site of St Kevin, and who need a good warming up after trekking and biking in the country’s often wet weather — and they’d approve of it being served in place of turkey at this year’s Thanksgiving supper; after all, you can’t go wrong with something so deliciously thick you can eat it poured over biscuits.

This year, bump that creamed spinach to Christmas, and enjoy the more French green vegetable dish of leeks baked with cream, garlic, thyme, and parmesan cheese instead. Many food tour guides in France have wound up there because they believe the French have the best cuisine (for example, Nico, a guide who leads Secret Food Tours Paris that takes you to six hidden French gems in the city’s Montmartre district, has travelled extensively, but chose Paris for his food guiding careers because he believes the food is unbeatable), and, in many respects, quite right they are; they even know how to turn leeks into something utterly mouthwatering and moreish.

Egypt: Kofta

We know we’ve already suggested replacing your usual roast turkey with Indian turkey biryani and Irish beef stew, but in true Thanksgiving spirit — the spirit of piling your plate with enough to feed a small school — we’re also recommending Egyptian kofta. In their simplest form, koftas consist of balls of minced beef or lamb mixed with spices and onions, but simple they are not in taste: koftas are some of the most flavorful meatballs out there. Guides in Egypt may favor different Egyptian landmarks, but one thing’s for sure: when you ask what their favorite local meat dish is, they’ll reply, “Kofta!”

The prospect of finding a Japanese dish to include in your Thanksgiving celebration may have had you scratching your head, but we’ve hunted down just the recipe: Panko-roasted cauliflower. Let’s just say that with the addition of cumin and Japanese bread crumbs, roasted cauliflower will never be the same again.

Guides in Indonesia are fortunate to live in that part of the world for many reasons, but Indonesian-style green beans is definitely one of the top contenders. And, with recipes like this floating around, we wonder if we’ll ever be happy with plain green beans again! On chilly Thanksgiving days, adding the likes of coconut, lemongrass and peanuts to your green beans may seem out of place, but don’t let the exotic get you out of sorts: you will not regret this delectable recipe one bit.

Out of the way, mashed potatoes, this Thanksgiving we’re bringing in the mother of all potato dishes: Mexican Potatoes. Guides in Mexico, like Luis Muñoz who takes guests on sunset cruises along the coast of the Sea of Cortez, as well as to the world’s best whale-watching spots, will attest that their country has some of the best food worldwide, and we can’t object having coming across this potato dish that makes use of some of the best ingredients: olive oil, garlic, chili powder, paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper and sour cream.

Germany: Hot Potato Salad

Worry not, this is not the type of potato salad served at barbecues; on the contrary, this German version is entirely Thanksgiving-appropriate: it’s warm and packed with crispy bacon! Guides in Germany may rave about their country’s top-of-the-line beers, but when it comes to German food, it’s all about the hot potato salad.

Pumpkin soup takes its place at the majority of Thanksgiving suppers in the United States and Canada, so this year make things a touch more interesting by adding coconut milk, lemongrass, lime, ginger, red chili, turmeric, coriander, cumin and fish sauce to the mix. Local guides in Thailand know the best of Thailand (for example, the Taste of Thailand tour lead by Eric Elder, Puukii Moonlasan, Darcy Hauser and Adam O’Keefe will take you to the the best places to see elephants, snorkel, party, and swim beneath waterfalls), and they also know that thai pumpkin soup is the best version of pumpkin-anything to date.

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