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Life and living: Global gourmet goodies

You may not be able to travel, but you can get a taste for some of the places you might like to visit in the future with just a short trip to your local supermarket. Check out these great global finds that are readily available, courtesy of

Sometimes called Chinese barbecue sauce, this umami-packed condiment is a traditional meat glaze. Try mixing it with beer, mustard and cider vinegar to marinate and baste ribs. 


A must for Middle Eastern cooking, the ingredients of this spice blend vary, but often include sesame, sumac, marjoram and thyme. Za’atar typically dusts dips and pitas, but you can also try it on buttered toast or in a simple cucumber salad. 


This sesame seed paste (think Middle Eastern peanut butter) swings sweet or savory. Add tahini to caramelized onions to top burgers or stir it into hot chocolate or chocolate sauce. 


Fiery North African harissa is a paste made of chilis, garlic and spices. You can mix it with honey, lemon and olive oil for a zippy chicken-wing glaze. 


This dried seaweed comes in many forms in Japan, but stores in the United States usually carry sheets for sushi. You can finely grind pieces of the sheet with salt for a popcorn topper—or mix with wasabi and oil to brush on grilled veggies. 


Spicy-yet-sweet gochujang is a staple in Korean cooking. The sticky red chili paste pumps up everything from barbecued beef to stews. Whisk some gochujang with honey and butter, then melt it on steaks. 

Coconut milk

Tropical, rich and wildly versatile, this “milk” is simply shredded coconut blended with water. When making rice or oatmeal, swap in coconut milk for some of the cooking water. 

Thai curry paste

This aromatic import comes in a range of colors from mild green to spicy red. It’s often simmered with coconut milk for creamy curries, but you can also whisk some green curry paste into vinaigrettes for new spins on salad. 

Fish sauce

Anchovies, salt and time create this funky sauce that flavors everything from Pad Thai to pho. Use fish sauce to add a hint of umami to barbecue sauce and chicken brine. 

Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

This Mexican pantry staple is used for both the intense chipotles (smoked jalapeños) and the tangy tomato sauce they’re canned in. Try pureeing both, stir them into melted butter and then brush the sauce on grilled shrimp. 


Aging intensifies the flavor and color (which varies from mellow white to robust red) of this Japanese fermented soybean paste. You can even blend white miso with butter and maple syrup to top cornbread.

Purchase a few—or many—of these global gourmet goodies and enjoy this journey around the world, with just a short trip to your supermarket 

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