Just about every red-blooded man knows about the essential grill fare. You know, burgers, hot dogs, steaks, and the like. All of those things are undoubtedly delicious, and there’s certainly nothing wrong  with you if those foods make up most of your grilling activity. But, life is about adventure, and it’s about experimentation. Your grill is a powerful tool, and it’d be a shame if you didn’t use it to its full potential by trying to make something wild and exotic. The food of other ethnicities can possess certain charms that regular continental cuisine just doesn’t have. Get ready for a taste of the unusual, the delectable, and even the bizarre as we give you the lowdown on four ethnic dishes you can grill at home.

 

Grilled Octopus. Go to pretty much any southeast Asian country, and you’re going to find all kinds of seafood on display. Those folks eat almost anything that comes out of the ocean, and they’ve become adept at preparing food without the comforts of an oven. With just an open flame and some hot stones, they can take a cuttlefish and turn it into a grilled delicacy. We’re talking about a whole octopus here, not just some cut portions of it, so prepare to be a little (okay, more than a little) adventurous with this dish. Most seafood markets can order octopus for you, which will usually arrived cleaned and ready for consumption. Double-check to make sure it’s cleaned.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole, thawed octopus
  • 2 Cups White Wine Vinegar (or enough to cover octopus for marinating)
  • 2 Tablespoons black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Directions:

1. Start by tenderizing your octopus. With a meat mallet, pound the head and tentacles for about fifteen minutes. That’s a lot of pounding, but octopus can be a bit chewy, so this tenderizing is necessary. Be thorough!

2. Put your beaten octopus in a big plastic bag, and then add in the vinegar, black pepper, and olive oil. Put the bag in the freezer, and let it sit overnight. The acid in the vinegar is going to help break down the chewy tissue of the octopus even more.

3. Get the grill up to medium-high heat (350-400 degrees). Plop the octopus right down on top of the heat. The size of the octopus will influence the cooking time, so cooking could take as little as ten minutes, but cook also take up to half an hour.

4. Baste your octopus with the marinade, and turn it once during the cooking process. The octopus will start out soft, but as it cooks it’ll firm up. To check doneness, press the meat with your finger. When the meat feels firm and pushes back a bit, it’s done.  A whole octopus serves quite a few people, so share the love!

 

Samgyeospal (Grilled Pork Belly) Anyone who’s eaten Korean BBQ will be familiar with this dish. It’s not an actual pig stomach, so don’t let the name throw you. It’s actually the piece of meat from which bacon is made, but instead of cutting it thin, it’s cut into thicker chunks. All of the fat in this cut makes it unbelievably tender and flavorful. Make it once and your friends will be asking for it every time you have a barbecue! In South Korea, this dish is served with a bevy of fresh greens, and even the pork itself is wrapped in lettuce or rice and served with a dipping sauce. You can go that route as well, but for starters, we’ll just look at the meat.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb. pork belly (grocery stores won’t have it, but a butcher shop will)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tsp Soy Sauce
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp dark brown sugar
  • ½ tsp sesame oil

Directions:

1. Partially freeze the pork belly. This will make the meat easier to cut into pieces. Cut into ¼ inch thick pieces. This may look like a lot for one piece, but most of that fat is going to be eliminated during cooking. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and let the meat stand for fifteen minutes.

2. While the meat is resting, mix together the soy, chili powder, sugar, and sesame oil. Mix well!

3. Get your grill up to medium-high heat, and place the pork in a single layer on the hot grill. Give it 30 seconds per side, which will leave you with golden brown pork. Dip the meat in the sauce, and consume!

 

Grilled Heart Of Palm. This South American delicacy is a real treat. Heart Of Palm is a small, tubular vegetable that comes from the buds of certain trees (like coconut, for instance). They’re flavorful and healthy, and most important they are versatile. They’re firm enough for grilling, and they yield a texture that is reminiscent of prawns. You can find them canned, usually at an upscale grocer. You can also order them wholesale, which given their long shelf-life is perfectly fine. Best served with other light ingredients, Grilled Heart Of Palm will dazzle your dinner guests!

Ingredients:

  • Two cans of hearts (about 28 oz. total)
  • 2 tsp. Olive Oil
  • Pinch of Smoked Sea Salt
  • Pinch of Black Pepper
  • 2 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup of feta cheese

Directions:

1. Drain and rinse the hearts, and then preheat your grill to medium heat (275 degrees)

2. Toss the hearts with the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. You’re looking for a good coat of seasonings. Let the hearts sit for a few minutes before grilling to ensure that the spices don’t simply fall off during the grilling process.

3. Lay the hearts across the grill, and cook theme each for about three minutes per side. Don’t worry about under cooking them, as under is better than over. Remove the hearts, and top with the crumbled feta cheese. Serve!

 

Grilled Lamb Gyros. The Greeks love themselves some lamb. They’re masters of preparation, and they’ve been doing it for a long time. Do you think that in ages passed they had fancy convection ovens and stovetops? No way! They were grilling, baby. And of course, when there’s Greek lamb, there’s gyros. These wraps are always delicious, so bust out your grill for a trip around the Greek isles!

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 lbs. leg of lamb
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon each of dried oregano, rosemary, salt, and black pepper
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil

Directions:

1. Start by trimming the excess fat from the lamb. Be sure to remove the silver skin, if any. That’s the shiny membrane sometimes found of the outside of the meat. It’s tough, chewy, and not very tasty. Discard.

2. Combine the garlic, the spices, and the olive oil in a bowl, and rub all over the meat. Cover and refrigerate for two hours.

3. Remove the meat and let it stand to room temperature. While doing that, heat the grill to medium heat. Brush the grates with a little olive oil to prevent too much sticking.

4. Place the meat over the grill, turning occasionally. Be on the lookout for too much char, and continue to brush the olive oil on the meat. It takes some time for the meat to be done. Check the internal temperature, and when it hits 145 degrees, you’re done. It should take an hour or so. Let the meat stand before carving!

 -Stu Moody