The 12 Best Dips around the World
Twelve of the best dips from around the world to tickle your tastebuds.
Dips are one of the most convivial ways to eat and gain an insight into a country’s cuisine. Here are twelve of the best.
The omission of hummus is deliberate: it has been debased by ubiquity, though we won’t deny hummus can be a dip of delectable protein-packed joy if made with care: it is immeasurably better when made using either jarred chickpeas or top-quality dried chickpeas soaked overnight, and, as chef Yotam Ottolenghi suggests, made with much tahini, good extra virgin olive oil and iced water. Here are twelve of the best dips to try from around the world.
A sun-ripened roast red pepper dip made throughout North Macedonia in autumn when bell peppers turn properly ripe. Whole streets are alive with the intoxicating smoky aroma of peppers seared on outdoor charcoal grills by everyone and their granny – whose recipe is inevitably the best. According to Philip Evans of Pelagonia, the first to import Ajvar throughout Europe, Ajvar is roasted with aubergine and mixed with extra virgin olive oil and should retain a fruity freshness. Ajvar is brilliant when added to brunch dishes such as shakshuka.
Made with either potato, for a smoother texture, or bread with a grainier finish, skordalia is finished with nuts: walnut, almond or chestnut, depending on the region. Sometimes an egg is beaten into the skordalia for a richer dish. As with most dips, it is best made with a pestle and mortar for a better consistency: simply pound mashed potatoes with olive oil, vinegar, raw garlic, lemon juice and almonds. Served at room temperature it is usually a dip for raw vegetables. When chilled, warm pita bread makes a better accompaniment.
Romanian food is beginning to be better appreciated and smooth, creamy fasole batută, a traditional Romanian bean dip made with mashed white beans combined with minced garlic, oil, bean stock, salt, and pepper is a healthy, fibre-rich dip to add to the repertoire. It is typically topped with onions which have been cooked with tomato paste, sugar, and paprika and served with flatbread and olives.
Guacamole & its relations
Grinding guacamole in a molcajete, the Mexican lava stone pestle and mortar, releases the volatile oil of the vegetables and disperses the flavours of ripe avocado, tomato, white onion, serrano chili peppers and coriander more evenly. According to Mexican cooking guru Diane Kennedy, there should be no lime, or only a little added very sparingly, whilst Martha Ortiz of Dulce Patria in Mexico City and Ella Canta in London suggest soaking the onion in lime juice for half an hour. Coriander gives the guacamole a beautiful dark green colour. Guasacaca is Venezuela's version of guacamole with added vinegar and parsley, that is served as a dip with fried plantain and yuca, but it can also be drizzled on empanadas. Whilst Peruvian guacamole is called salsa de palta made with the addition of aji rocoto paste and lime served with fried cassava.
Muhammara is originally from Aleppo. The Syrian dip is made from a combination of roasted red peppers, olive oil, and ground walnuts. The peppers give the dish a particular sweetness and smoky flavour, while ground walnuts make it texturally exciting. It is served with freshly baked pita bread.
Muhammara is originally from Aleppo. The Syrian dip is made with a combination of roasted red peppers, olive oil, and ground walnuts. The peppers give the dish a particular sweetness and smoky flavour, while ground walnuts make it texturally exciting. It is served with freshly baked pita bread.
Moutabal or Baba Ghanoush
A rich Middle Eastern dip made from charred aubergine, onions, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, yogurt, olive oil, and salt and served at mezze tables throughout the Middle East. The secret is to char the aubergine over a barbecue or open flame or under a hot oven grill. Pre-eminent food writer Claudia Roden in her definitive A New Book of Middle Eastern Food refers to baba ganoush as “exciting and vulgarly seductive.” Baigan choka is a vegetarian dip also made with aubergine as the key ingredient. The aubergine are traditionally roasted over an open flame, then mashed and combined with garlic, hot chili peppers (usually Scotch bonnet), onions, tomatoes and olive oil and served with ‘fried bake’, i.e. buttered and fried roti bread.
Schug is highly addictive, bright with green herbs and earthy with dried spices including cumin and cardamom with plenty of fresh jalapenos for heat. New York-born, Israeli resident food writer Adeena Sussman, author of Sabada, calls schug “one of Yemen’s greater contributions to Israeli cuisine”. It can accompany almost every Middle Eastern dish or be served as a dip with new potatoes roasted in an extra hot oven until crispy. The heat of the schug will mellow if left in the fridge covered with a little oil.
Schug is highly addictive, bright with green herbs and earthy with dried spices including cumin and cardamom with plenty of fresh jalapenos for heat. New York born Israeli resident food writer Adeena Sussman, author of Sabada calls schug “one of Yemen’s greater contributions to Israeli cuisine”. It can accompany almost every Middle Eastern dish or be served as a dip with new potatoes roasted in an extra hot oven to crispness. The heat of the schug will mellow if left in the fridge covered with a little oil.
Anchoïade is a classic Provençal dip simply made with just the best anchovies, exceptional extra virgin olive oil, good white wine vinegar, and garlic. The large tubs found in the markets of southern France simply don’t have the same intensity and are inevitably made with cheap anchovies. Enjoy as a dip with crisp, sweet fennel and other seasonal crudités like carrots, celery, cucumber, raw artichoke, lettuce hearts and radishes. It's like the quirky-cool update to tapenade.
Bagna cauda literally means warm bath and originates in Piedmont in northern Italy. Great for a convivial gathering with a good Barolo and big platters of vegetables usually raw though sometimes boiled: most traditionally with puntarelle. Bagna cauda is made with anchovies, garlic, soaked first in milk, extra virgin olive oil and butter and kept warm in an earthenware pot over a spirit flame in the middle of the table. It is popular as an aperitivo in the historic cafes of Turin. As Giorgio Locatelli details in his Made in Italy: Food & Stories opus: sometimes, when only a little of the sauce is left, people break in some eggs and scramble them for a warm, comforting end to supper.
Bagna Cauda literally means warm bath and originates in Piedmont. Great for a convivial gathering with a good Barolo and big platters of vegetables usually raw though sometimes boiled: most traditionally with puntarelle. Bagna cauda is made with anchovies, garlic, soaked first in milk, extra virgin olive oil and butter and kept warm in an earthenware pot over a spirit flame in the middle of the table. It is popular as an aperitivo in the historic cafes of Turin. As Giorgio Locatelli details in his Made in Italy: Food & Stories opus: sometimes, when only a little of the sauce is left, people break in some eggs and scramble them for a warm, comforting end to supper.
A quintessential Catalan dip is thick, unctuous romesco made from grilled roasted red peppers, toasted almonds, garlic, olive oil and toasted bread with smoked paprika. Bought romesco is no substitute. The dip adds even more smoky intensity to charred calcots. Sweet and delicate, calcots are are somewhere between a leek and spring onion in the onion family and are traditionally eaten at calcotadas. These are Catalan winter barbecues and calcots are packed onto grills until they blacken before being eaten with bowls of romesco. Prawns or grilled bread are also delicious dipped into romesco.
Aioli is an irresistibly garlicky unguent best made by hand by pounding garlic to which egg yolks and salt are added before slowly drizzling in preferably fruity, powerful Provençal extra virgin olive oil until it emulsifies like mayonnaise. One of the most decadent ways to entertain is a grand aioli, a meal of poached salt cod (or fresh cod) with all manner of seasonal vegetables especially artichokes, cauliflower, potatoes, carrots and hard boiled eggs – all to be eaten with aioli. Accompanied by chilled rosé, this is surely among the best ways to entertain in the summer. One of the most memorable grand aiolis is served by La Colombe d’Or in St Paul de Vence in the south of France on their incomparable terrace.
Mojo red & green Canarian dip/sauce
Seen on several summer menus in London, mojo rojo is a frankly moreish red garlic sauce made with red peppers, red chili pepper, garlic, cumin, sweet paprika, a little white bread and red wine vinegar. It originates on the Canary Islands and is served especially with papas arrugadas, Canary-style salty, wrinkled roasted new potatoes.
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