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Monday, July 7, 2014

HUNGRY FOR CULTURE

International cuisine is the star of culinary event

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Rich, savory, mouthwatering cuisine is a part of living in Louisiana, and Shreveport’s Multicultural Center of the South will celebrate a palate of cultures for the annual Taste of Culture event July 19 at DiamondJacks Casino.

Nearly 20 cultures will be represented in North Louisiana at the event this year.

“We want to promote each and every culture that’s located in Shreveport-Bossier and North Louisiana and educate people,” Janice Gatlin, director of the Multicultural Center of the South, said. “One of the best ways for people to get to know people is to come out to a fun event over food and entertainment and have a good time.”

This is the ninth year of the event, and the fundraiser supports the educational programs of the center. The Multicultural Center of the South provides intercultural events, diversity training and youth oriented outreach programs that teach acceptance of others. The center houses historical items from each of the 26 identified cultural groups showcasing artifacts and relics reflecting its history and values. Represented this year at the Taste of Culture event are Creole, Cajun, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Turkish, German, Hispanic, Filipino, Lebanese, Italian, Greek and new this year is Haitian.

Frea Moise, a native of Haiti, relocated from Florida to Shreveport, the city she now calls home. She cooks all of her meals from scratch and plans to bring her food to the table to show Shreveport-Bossier City what Haiti cuisine is all about.

“Haitian people always teach kids how to cook,” Moise said. “If a Haitian woman says she doesn’t know how to cook, she’s lying.”

The food she plans to prepare is full of spices, many the same as used in the United States. Moise said the big difference is that Haitian’s always use fresh herbs and spices, nothing from a can or in powder form.

Moise will cook traditional rice and green beans with shrimp, lasagna and fried chicken.

“Each year we always try to embody a new culture,” Gatlin said. “This year we explore Haiti, and I think folks will really enjoy Frea’s perspective on cooking.”

Like the traditional dishes Moise plans to serve, other groups will come together during the July 19 feast. “This is something important,” Gatlin said. “They want to prepare their food and they want to display it for the community.”

Here’s a look at the food from some of the cultures:

INDIAN 

When it comes to Indian food, spice is key. But don’t be fooled, spice doesn’t always mean hot.

“Spicy is misrepresented in America. It doesn’t always mean hot, but it does always mean flavorful,” Gurubux Bhatia, o

wner of Indigo Indian Bistro in Shreveport, said.

Bhatia will showcase foods from his culture during the event, and he said he’s most excited about seeing everyone try his dishes, some for the first time.

Indigo will provide chicken tikka masala (roasted chicken in orange sauce) and Chettinad chicken (chicken with curry leaves and black peppercorns, spicy). 

Traditional spices: Turmeric, cumin seeds, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg.

CHINESE 

A staple in Chinese culture, fried rice is a must in any kitchen.

Mae Gao, of Shreveport, and her husband will prepare Yeung Chow fried rice, a blend of cooked rice, cooked shrimp, scallions (spring onions or green onions, chopped), fresh vegetables such as peas, corn, bamboo shoots and egg whites.

“Chinese people always like the white color in their fried rice. It’s traditional,” Gao said.

Other staple foods in Chinese culture are noodles, soybeans, wheat and vegetables. 

Traditional spices: Ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce.

ITALIAN 

Aromatic blends of cheese and hearty sauces are sure to fill any trattoria. Pizzas, pastas and tasty treats are the bread and butter of Italian cuisine.

As early as the 1920s, Shreveport has boasted a flavorful community of Italian families, including early on in the Allendale and West End sections that were known as “Little Italy.”

Many grocers downtown were Italian, and today that family style culture remains the same with L’Italiano, Monjunis, Fertitta’s and Ristorante Giuseppe.

Giuseppe Brucia, owner of Giuseppe’s, is originally from Sicily, Italy, and came to Shreveport in 1975.

“I am authentic Italian,” Brucia said. He said one of his most well-received dishes are his traditional meatballs made of veal and beef.

“In Italy we don’t use spice for a hot meatballs,” he said. “America has changed the culture of Italia, and they like it spicy.”

Brucia said he learned many of his recipes from his mother, who was great at two things: soup and fish.

“She never cooked anything spicy,” he said. Popular meals include chicken parmigiana, fettuccine alfredo, lasagna, veal marsala, pasta primavera and traditional spaghetti. 

Traditional spices: Coriander, nutmeg, pepper, saffron and oregano.

GERMAN

Louisiana has a rich German culture. The earliest recorded German immigrants to Louisiana arrived in 1722, and from there it’s been a melting pot of German culture since.

DiamondJacks own Chef Gunter Kilian will prepare his favorite dishes from his home, Black Forest, Germany, and to share a piece of history. He will prepare two signature dishes, a German goulash (beef stew with unique spices – “very good tasting”) and Spätzle, homemade German noodles served like macaroni and cheese.

Kilian has served the tourism industry for 43 years and is known for his recipes and knowledge of fine cuisines. 

Traditional spices: Caraway seed, marjoram, garlic, paprika, lemon rind, salt and pepper and thyme.

GREEK & LEBANESE

Stop by Athena any day of the week and there will be a crowd. The popular Mediterranean hot spot encompasses the best of two cultures: Grecian and Lebanese.

Nasim Jamhour, owner of the Shreveport restaurant, will bring his culture to DiamondJacks, and he said it’s all about the authenticity.

“People in general like to try new stuff. If it tastes good, it doesn’t matter where it’s from,” Jamhour said. “We guarantee you’ll love the food.”

Athena will provide tzatziki sauce (Greek cucumber sour cream dip), hummus (mashed chickpeas and sesame butter), grape leaves (stuffed with rice and vegetables), and pita bread. Traditional spices: cumin, saffron, turmeric, nutmeg, mint, garlic and olive oil.

CAJUN

Louisiana is thick in its Cajun roots with a blend of spices from around the world.

Cajun cuisine is usually a three-pot meal, one dedicated to the main dish, the second for rice and/or seafood, and the third containing available vegetables. Shrimp and pork sausage are staple meats used in a variety of dishes.

David Bergeron, co-owner of Bergeron’s Boudin and Cajun Meats in Shreveport, said a lot of people think Cajun food is too spicy, but he said if it’s made right, it will complement.

“It’s not about the hotness of the product,” he said.

“I think people have a misconception of Cajun food and think, ‘Oh my God. It’s going to be too hot.’ What we try to do here is make it flavorful and have a little bite on the end.

“We’ll take your tastebuds down the bayou,” Bergeron said.

Common Cajun dishes include boudin, gumbo, jambalaya and crawfish étouffée.

Traditional spices: Parsley, bay leaf, green onions, paprika, dried cayenne pepper and dried black pepper.

Want to go?

What: taste of Culture When: 6 p.m. July 19 DiamondJacks Casino, 711 DiamondJacks Blvd., Bossier City Featuring: culinary dishes, a silent auction with emcees tom Pace and KSLa-tV 12’s Charisse gibson; and entertainment by local cultural groups. Admission: $50 Info: 424-1380 or www.mccsouth.org.

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