The jackfruit, native to Southeast Asia, had the distinction of being the largest edible fruit that grows on trees. It belongs to the family Moraceae or the mulberry family, and of the genus Artocarpus, an important group of about 50 species which also contains breadfruit and other edible starch fruits that can serve as staples. The jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam) bears fruit which can weigh up to eighty pounds or even 100 pounds, reaching three feet in length, eighteen inches wide, with a two-foot circumference. Unlike most tree fruits, the fruits grow on the main trunk of the tree. The fruits are so large that branches could not support them.
Gochujang (or kochujang) red chile pepper paste is a staple ingredient in Korean food. It is a soybean paste mixed with dried red pepper flakes, glutinous rice and other ingredients and seasonings. It came into use in Korea during the later 16th century after red peppers were introduced into the area. The paste is a deep red color and very hot! It is sometimes called red pepper paste, hot pepper paste, or chili pepper paste.
I used to cringe every time my son would insist on having cotton candy. Not only is it almost pure sugar, and a lot of air, he would never finish it. Cotton candy is a treat the appeal of which I never understood. Talking about not getting your money's worth! Yet, children all over the world have their own version of what we in America call cotton candy. It's still usually just sugar spun with air. But, some version of the wooly confection goes back thousands of years.
Hoisin sauce is a sweet and spicy soybean-based sauce that is widely used in Chinese cooking as both an ingredient and a condiment. It regularly accompanies Peking duck in the United States.
Many food aficionados might scoff at the idea that a Thai person would resort to eating instant noodles! Instant ramen noodles like "Top Ramen" are nothing more that mass-market slop for ignorant Americans. Surely, the best you can hope for are those unidentifiable salt-bombs labelled chicken, beef, or vegetable.
Although we tend to associate rice with China, Thailand is one of the largest producers of rice in the world, and rice export is a very important part of the country's economy. Rice has been in Thailand for 5000 years and is served with every meal. The two main kinds of used in Thai cooking, are a long-grain rice called Jasmine rice and a short-grained rice called sticky rice or sweet rice.
Sea Lettuce (Ulva lactuca) is a widespread type of edible seaweed with thin crinkled green fronds that resemble a slightly translucent lettuce when it is submerged, but may appear more as a slimy green mass if washed up on the shore. It is found all over the world and is actually an alga from a family of algae called Ulvaceae.
A tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica) looks like a small green tomato covered with a pale green leaf or husk. In fact, the name tomatillo means "little tomato" in Spanish, and the fruit is indeed related to tomatoes, both being a part of the nightshade or Solanaceae family. They are close relatives of the Cape gooseberry (not a true gooseberry) and the Japanese Lantern fruit (bladder cherry). All of which are in the genus Physalis.
Tomatillos are very popular in Mexican and Southwest cooking.
Bamboo shoots can basically be thought of as baby bamboo. These have been an important source of food in Asia for over 2,500 years.They are the very young and pale yellow beginnings of a bamboo "tree." Keep in mind that bamboo is really a very tall and woody grass, not a tree. There is a staggering number of different bamboo varieties, but only a few are edible. At the early stage, when the bamboo is first shooting up from the ground, these shoots have a tender heart, which is the part that is eaten.
Candlenuts (Aleurites moluccana) are a relative of Macadamia nuts and resemble them in appearance and in texture. They have a hard furrowed shell and the the nuts are yellow, waxy, and brittle, much like their Macadamia cousins. They are so named because they used to be used to make candles. The name is sometimes rendered as two separate words, candle nuts.
Fleur de sel is French for "flower of salt." It is a very expensive kind of sea salt that gathered from evaporated sea water from several coastal areas of the world, including most famously from the marshes of the Guérande in Brittany (Fleur de sel de Guérande) as well as other areas of the west coast of France such as Vendée, Aigues-Mortes, Île de Ré, and Noirmoutier1, and Aigues-Mortes in the South.
Brains are actually somewhat nutritious. They are high in protein, at least. Some folks eat them, and some folks find the idea of eating them offensive, on many levels. Nobody is going to want to eat cow's brains, for fear of "Mad Cow Disease" and not many of us would Doesn't 'partake' sound less gross than 'eat?'partake of monkey brains like in Indiana Jones. But what about pig brains? Ever heard of pig brains with eggs? It's a thing. What about canned pig brains in milk gravy in a can? Apparently that's a thing too.
Red adzuki (azuki, aduki, adsuki) or Vigna angularis is a cousin the the North American kidney beans and small red beans. They are also sometimes called adanka. They are a native of India or Japan and have been used in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cooking for over 2000 years. Adzuki are used especially for sweet cakes and other delicacies, as well as sweet and savory dishes. The name adzuki comes from the Japanese word for the plant, azuki. They have a less beany flavor than other beans. In Japan, they are known as "the king of beans."
Nam Pla is a Thai fermented fish sauce, similar to Vietnamese nuoc-mom, but with less salt used. Like all fish sauces in Southeast Asia, it is a counterpart to garum of ancient Rome. Nam pla fish sauce is often said by Thai cooks to be the most important flavoring ingredient in Thai cooking.
Acocado, the fruit, is of course very important to Mexican cuisine. You may not know that avocado leaves, or hojas de aguacate, are used in cooking as well, especially in the Southern regions of Mexico such as Oaxaca.