Traveling in person to other nations is the best way to experience cultures and see the world. When you can’t do that, these easy dinner recipes can give you a taste of world. Read on for recipes from Ireland, Italy, Thailand, Greece, Ukraine, China and more.
The enrichment of travel brings so much good to the lives of family in normal times. When travel isn’t possible, there are ways you can experience culture without leaving home — including by viewing virtual museums and trying different cuisines through easy recipes.
Plus it will help you break the monotony of slow cooker recipes, instant pot delights, sheet pan dinners and chicken breasts.
There are castles in Ireland where you can stay the night. In Dublin, the nation’s capital, you can shop on Grafton Street and stroll the medieval streets of Temple Bar. And across the land, rolling green fields give the country its nickname — the Emerald Isle.
When you can’t hop on a flight to the Republic of Ireland, you can celebrate this nation while at home through food and culture. Home to more than 4.8 million people, the area where Ireland now stands has a rich history dating back to 6000 BC featuring Celts, Vikings and more.
Visit: The National Gallery of Ireland has a Virtual Tour available on its website. View stunning artwork by Goya, Gainsborough and more in galleries on your virtual stroll through this fantastic art museum. You can also see the colorful photos and read about the experience of road tripping in Ireland.
Eat: Get into your kitchen and cook up an Irish classic. No, we’re not talking about corned beef and cabbage — which is an Irish-American classic. We’re talking real foods from Ireland like Dublin Coddle, an Irish stew, with this easy recipe.
This flavorful, classic Irish stew features sausages, bacon, potatoes and more in a light broth. Traditionally made with Irish bangers, a type of sausage, and rashers, a type of bacon. In this recipe, you can substitute flavorful, savory sausages like garlic and herb ones, and your favorite bacon. You’ll get the spirit of the dish without the specialty ingredients — perfect for an easy dinner.
Dublin Coddle Recipe
- 1 tbsp olive oil 4 savory sausages, about 10 oz. total
- 1/2 lb bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 lb fingerling potatoes, quartered
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
Fry the sausages in olive oil over medium heat until cooked through and browned on the outside. Remove from the heat and cut into 1-inch pieces.
In a Dutch oven, brown the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the onions to the bacon fat and cook until golden, stirring frequently – about 8-10 minutes. Add the potatoes and carrots and cook for one minute.
Drain the bacon grease from the Dutch oven, and then stir in the chicken broth. Add the pieces of sausage and the bacon to the mixture and stir well. Cover, and cook on medium for 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and enjoy immediately.
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The Mediterranean country of Italy has contributed much to Western food and culture through its rich history. It’s home to the Vatican, the center of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as Venice with its many canals, Florence with its prized art like Michelangelo’s “David,” and Milan, a fashion capital. Food from Italy is world-renowned.
Visit: For a short virtual visit, try the virtual tour of Uffizi Gallery in Florence, including closeups of notable artworks and a gallery tour. Or fall into the stunning photos of Sardinia, Italy in the off-season. Or take a more immersive virtual tour — complete with history. The University of Reading is offering a free five-week course on Ancient Rome, featuring virtual tours, history and more. Why not try it as a family? The best thing about this course is that it encourages discussion between your family and with the class.
Eat: From “Eat Pray Love” to “Under the Tuscan Sun,” literature (and movies) extol the many flavors of Italian cooking. From creative paninis and Neapolitan pizzas to the pasta dishes like the wonderfully garlicky Aglio e Olio and pillowy gnocchi, Italian food is nuanced, flavorful and delightful. This pasta dish, a take on a classic, simplifies the creamy pasta carbonara with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. It’s an easy recipe perfect for lunch.
Easy Carbonara with Bacon
Serves 4 (lunch portions)
- 8 oz pasta, such as spaghetti
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 oz bacon, chopped
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Fresh parsley, minced, to taste (optional)
Heat a pot of boiling water on the stove and add the pasta. Cook to desired tenderness, according to package directions (al dente preferred). Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks until well-beaten. Add the reserved pasta water immediately (while it’s still hot) and whisk to combine. This will temper the eggs so they stay creamy.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes, until just beginning to brown. Add the crushed red pepper flakes and the garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Pour in the white wine and stir vigorously to loosen the pan drippings.
Add the pasta to the skillet and toss well to combine with the bacon mixture. Pour the egg mixture over, and toss vigorously to coat the pasta. Continue until the mixture thickens — about 2 minutes total. Remove from heat.
Season the pasta with salt and pepper, sparingly, and sprinkle with Parmesan and parsley. Toss vigorously to combine.
A version of this recipe appeared on Sarah’s Cucina Bella.
The southeast Asian country of Thailand is a stunning place to visit with beautiful beaches, opulent palaces and historic temples, as well as some amazing flora and fauna. Thousands of elephants live in the country, for instance, along with some of the smallest creatures in the world. This wildlife is widely seen in the country’s artwork.
Visit: Check out the colorful, stunning, transcending art at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok though images and a virtual gallery tour. Then check out Thailand’s temples, beaches and cultural tours.
Eat: The cuisine of Thailand is fresh and flavorful. Some of the most popular dishes include Tom Kha Kai, a coconut soup with chicken; Satay, a marinated protein dish with peanut sauce; and curry dishes like Thai red curry. Pad Thai is another popular dish — and it’s a pretty easy recipe too. This one is like having takeout at home.
Pad Thai with Shrimp
- 8 oz. flat rice noodles
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 clove garlic, minced
- 2 green onion, white parts minced, green parts sliced (divided)
- 1 lb large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 cup bean sprouts
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- ¼ cup lightly salted peanuts, finely chopped
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
Cook the rice noodles according to package directions. Drain. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and white parts of the green onions to the skillet. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
Add the shrimp to the skillet and stir well to combine. Cook for 2-3 minutes until just beginning to turn pink. Add the egg to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are opaque and the eggs are lightly cooked. Remove the skillet from the heat.
Add the rice noodles and bean sprouts to the skillet and toss to combine.
Whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar and fish sauce. Pour over the rice noodles mixture and toss well. Divide evenly onto two plates. Top each with half of the peanuts and half of the green onions. Serve with lime wedges.
A version of this recipe appeared originally on Sarah’s Cucina Bella.
Cody Siler, who has led Backroads Travel tours of Spain for the last 3 years, shared this recipe for Spanish Tortilla:
More Easy Dinner Ideas from Around the World
- France: Easy Ratatouille from The Kitchn — This French classic recipe featuring eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes and more can be time-consuming to make, but it’s worth the effort. Consider this vegan stew for a weekend dish to serve the whole family.
- Mexico: Mexican Ropa Vieja from Mexico in my Kitchen — A lot of what we consider as “authentic” Mexican food is actually Tex-Mex. Fajitas, for example, originated in Texas. It’s a dish of Mexican ranch workers. But this dish, Ropa Vieja, is the real deal. It’s a stew with shredded beef and vegetables (including jalapeno peppers!) in a tomato broth. This will take you about an hour to make but still could make a good weeknight dinner. Serve this with rice and corn tortillas. Avocados are a nice touch too.
- Spain: Spanish Lentils with Chorizo from HolaFoodie — This authentic Spanish recipe hails from the northern province of Avila, where it has been a comfort food favorite of families for generations. With a variety of veggies and spicy chorizo, it’s a filling and delicious stove top recipe for dinner.
- United States: Minnesotan Hot Dish from Tablespoon — The United States is home to some interesting regional cuisines. And in terms of comfort food, Minnesota’s tradition of hot dish — it’s a casserole with crispy tater tots, ground beef and more — is king among the regional cuisines. It takes about an hour to make and requires a few simple ingredients you might already have.
- Ukraine: Borscht from Simply Recipes — This beet and beef stew is a tradition in Eastern European cultures. It’s best made a day ahead, so make it on a weekend when you have the time and serve it on a busy week night.
- Greece: Greek Chicken Gyro from Lemon and Olives — Gyros are Greek sandwiches in pita bread, featuring meat, vegetables, tzatziki sauce, feta cheese, tomatoes and onions. This version, made with barbecue chicken (the recipe doesn’t specify chicken breast or chicken thighs, so you could probably use either), is a good at-home foray into the vibrant food and culture of Greece. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
- China: Authentic Chicken Fried Rice from Steamy Kitchen — As far as easy recipes go, authentic fried rice is among the easiest. And this recipe, which includes a ton of tips and advice for getting just right, will help you make it easily at home. Plus it’s ready in about 20 minutes — so it’s a quick dinner too.
- Japan: Yakisoba from No Recipes — A traditional Japanese street food, yakisoba is a flavorful noodle dish with stir-fry vegetables, meat and a sweet-savory sauce. Take note of the substitution suggestions as they will help you make this quick dinner (ready in about 10 minutes) even easier to make while ingredients are hard to come by. This could be an excellent weeknight meal.
- Cuba: Frijoles Negros A La Latina from My Big Fat Cuban Family — This Cuban black bean dish is a saucy delight featuring yellow onion, bell pepper, garlic and more. Serve it over rice. And while you are on this site, poke around a bit — there are some wonderful stories of Cuban life and Latin American cooking.