Take your guests around the world at this year's Oscars

Tonight's Academy Award nominees list is one of the most culturally diverse in the ceremony's history.

There's no better example than Best Picture nominee "Babel," a sprawling film with storylines set in Morocco, the United States, Mexico and Japan. Also set in Japan is fellow Best Picture nominee "Letters from Iwo Jima," a World War II drama directed by American Clint Eastwood.

Beyond that, we've got British import "The Queen," featuring Best Actress nominee Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, up for Best Picture. And rounding out the global group are two actors being honored for their roles in African-set films - Best Actor nominee Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland" and Djimon Hounsou for "Blood Diamond."

When planning your Oscar shindig, it seems appropriate to serve an array of ethnic dishes, inspired by this year's multilingual, multicultural nominees. Here, we've come up with a few international ideas to get you started.

Check out page 4G to read more about this year's international nominees.

- Compiled by Shelley Mann, Anna Ferguson and Rachael Mason.


"The Queen's" Helen Mirren seems to be one of this year's sure winners. But she's not the only Brit who may walk away with a gold statue. The Best Actress category alone also includes Judi Dench for "Notes on a Scandal" and Kate Winslet for "Little Children," while British directors Stephen Frears ("The Queen") and Paul Greengrass ("United 93") will also go head-to-head for Best Director honors.

Pay tribute to this talented bunch by serving up a popular snack from Wales, Welsh rarebit. Also known as toasted cheese, it's sort of a sophisticated take on mozzarella sticks.

Welsh Rarebit

51⁄2 ounces applewood-smoked cheddar cheese, grated

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1⁄2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

6 slices crusty white bread

Watercress, to garnish

In a bowl, mix together the cheese, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Grill one side of the bread slices. Turn the bread over. Spoon the cheese mixture over the bread and grill until bubbling and golden. Serve garnished with watercress. Makes 6 servings.

Source: British Cheese Board


Best Supporting Actress nominee Rinko Kikuchi of Japan plays a key role in "Babel," which is nominated for seven awards. Her riveting performance as a deaf-mute schoolgirl was set in a fast-paced, modern Japan, while this year's other prominent Japanese film - Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima" - takes place in the bleak shadow of World War II.

Pay tribute to both Japans by setting out a plate of sushi as well as serving sake, an age-old alcoholic beverage made from rice. Sushi, versatile finger food, can be made with a variety of ingredients so it's sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Salmon and Seaweed Sushi Roll

6 sheets of nori seaweed

One six-inch pickled radish

Pickled ginger

8 ounces sushi rice (recipe on Page 2G)

6 ounces raw fresh salmon

2 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon wasabi paste

Slice the pickled radish into a thin strip. Slice the raw fresh salmon into a slightly thicker strip and place with the soy sauce and sugar. Drain; then coat with wasabi paste.

Position the nori seaweed sheets on a flat working surface, and place the sushi rice on the seaweed. Place one strip of salmon and one strip radish in the center and roll to form sushi. Slice and serve with pickled ginger.

Source: www.sushirecipes.org


Mexico's Adriana Barraza is up for Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Babel," and three Mexican directors are also competing for Oscars tonight - Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for "Babel," Alfonso Cuaron for "Children of Men" and Guillermo del Toro for "Pan's Labyrinth." To honor their work, serve up a Mexican taco bar at your Oscar gala.

"Tacos are always a huge hit," said John Rodisill, manager of Dos Copas in Dacula. "You can put out an assortment of salsa, from mild to flaming. There is always that one guy who thinks he can take the super hot."

For guests, set up an assembly line of toppings, with offerings of shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, onions and a variety of shredded cheese, paired with guacamole, sour cream, salsas and refried or black beans. Whether using soft or hard shells, fresh is always best, Rodisill said.

Smoky Carne Asada Tacos

3 pounds beef stew meat, cut into thin strips, about 2 by 1⁄2-inch strips

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1 cup water

2 tablespoons Tabasco chipotle pepper sauce

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 large clove garlic, minced

8-inch flour or 6-inch corn tortillas

Red and green bell pepper strips

Coarsely chopped onions

Toss beef strips with flour and salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 5-quart saucepot over medium-high heat. Add half of beef strips; cook until well browned on all sides, stirring frequently. Repeat with remaining oil and beef.

Add water, Tabasco chipotle sauce, cumin and garlic. Heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover; simmer 20 minutes longer or until beef is tender, stirring occasionally.

Spoon beef onto platter. Serve with warmed tortillas, bell peppers and onions. Makes 6 servings.

Source: Tabasco

South Africa

In their search for an illustrious jewel, Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou ran through the lush countryside of South Africa, and wound up with Oscar nominations. Inspired by their dazzling performances in "Blood Diamond," we gathered a few tips for serving the heat-packed dishes native to South Africa.

"In South Africa, they like to kick it up a notch," said Molly Gunn, general manager of the South African restaurant SAGA, which stands for South Africa and Georgia, in Atlanta.

Seafood is a staple in the coastal African nation, as is rice. Gunn suggested creating a dish of prawns - similar to shrimp, only larger - served with a sweltering Peri Peri sauce (also spelled Piri Piri), over a plate of rice.

"Peri Peri sauce is a very spicy sauce or marinade," Gunn said. "We use an African birdseye chile. But if that is too hot, you can substitute jalapenos, or a milder pepper."

Serve the prawns on skewers for an easy appetizer.

Peri-Peri Marinade

2 fresh hot chile peppers, chopped

4 tablespoons lime juice

4 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 teaspoon minced garlic (or garlic powder)

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients. Grind and mix the ingredients into a smooth paste. Adjust the ratio of cayenne pepper and paprika to taste. Rub marinade onto meat and allow to marinate in a glass bowl for at least 30 minutes, or overnight if possible, before cooking. The marinade works well on prawns, shrimp, chicken or beef.

Source: The Congo Cookbook, www.congocookbook.com

Sushi Rice

3 cups of uncooked calrose rice

3 cups of water

1⁄2 cup Japanese rice vinegar

1⁄2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Wash the rice and rinse thoroughly. Add 3 cups of water and cook in a rice cooker. Mix together the rice vinegar, sugar and salt; cook over a medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool. Put the cooked rice into a large mixing bowl; then pour the vinegar sauce over the hot rice and mix.

Source: www.sushirecipes.org