Aro-what? If you’ve ever sautéed onions and garlic in olive oil to make homemade soup, those veggies were your “aromatics” and your soup would have been pretty bland without them. Cuisines all over the world use different combinations of veggies and spices sautéed in a fat – olive oil, butter, ghee, etc. – to build their aromatic base, which helps make each dish so deliciously unique. Here we introduce the foundation ingredients for five flavourful cuisines and show you how to recreate them at home.


Italian

Also called soffritto, basic Italian aromatics are chopped carrots, onion and celery cooked in olive oil. Veggies are finely chopped and cooked in oil until translucent — about 15 minutes — before being added to classic tomato sauce, soups and stews. Try it yourself in this Easy Tomato & Basil Chicken Stew.


Indian

Many of the scrumptious dishes of India start with onion, chilies, garlic and ginger cooked down in ghee (clarified butter) and enhanced by a wide range of ground spices. In this Chicken Tikka Masala recipe, chicken pieces are tossed around in the aromatics for maximum flavour while Tikka Masala Cooking Sauce takes the guesswork out of which spices to use.

Thai

Those hallmark salty-sour-spicy-sweet flavours of Thailand begin with garlic, shallots (or onions) and chilies simmered in coconut milk, often enriched by lemongrass. Try a little Thai with our quick and easy Coconut Shrimp Curry—those hard-to-find hot chilies and lemongrass are built right in thanks to prepared Thai curry paste.


Cajun

The combination of onions, green peppers and celery is so highly valued in Cajun cuisine that it’s known as the “The Holy Trinity.” Our Shrimp Jambalaya recipe adds diced green peppers near the end so they retain their fresh flavour, but you can always toss a few in with your onions for a more authentic taste.

Spanish

A sofrito is just the start of exciting Spanish stews and paellas. Sofrito begins simply with onions and garlic cooked until fragrant; tomatoes are then added and brought to a boil. In this family-friendly Spanish Chicken Rice recipe, chunks of chicken, rice and peas simmer away in the aromatic base until all the liquid is absorbed.

CUISINE

FAT

AROMATICS

Italian

Olive oil

Carrots, onions, celery

Indian

Ghee (clarified butter)

Onions, chilies, garlic and ginger

Thai

Cooking oil/coconut milk

Garlic, shallots (or onions) and chilies

Cajun

Olive oil/butter

Onions, green peppers and celery

Spanish

Olive oil

Onions, garlic, tomatoes



For more on aromatics, visit CookSmarts.com