These fast vegetarian dishes let you savor ethnic fare without leaving home.

We’ve always maintained that you can make a meal faster than you can buy one. Think about how much time it takes to go out of your way to stop at a store or favorite takeout restaurant, park the car, choose your meal, stand in line at the checkout, pay for the food, and drive it home. Even if you usually order takeout on the phone, you probably don’t call until you’re hungry, and then you have to wait―and wait―for the delivery.

You could be having a lot more fun in your own kitchen. If you have a well-stocked pantry (and that includes the refrigerator and freezer), you can make a great meal in no time―even the kind of ethnic fare you usually order from restaurants. And the meal you prepare at home will almost always taste better. It will also be more healthful, too, because you’ll have control over the quality of the ingredients you use and the amount of fat used to cook them.

One of the reasons many folks like takeout, beyond its convenience, is that they love the flavors―Asian, Italian, Mexican―that may not be part of their everyday repertoire. But these dishes are really not difficult to cook once you stock up on a few ingredients, such as soy sauce and ginger, chile peppers and salsa, garlic and olive oil. And these foods require no special skills or tricky techniques to cook.

Some of the ethnic takeout that has become so mainstream is vegetarian to begin with―think pizza without the pepperoni, Buddha’s Delight, and Yang Chow Fried Rice without ham or shrimp. Even authentic Mexican nachos can be made with pintos, queso fresco, creamy avocado, and cilantro. That’s how you can whip up a world-class meal in minutes.