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10 National Dishes Around the World

10 National Dishes Around the World

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There’s a lot to be said for “eating like a local” when you’re traveling abroad. Enjoying the regional cuisine in the same way as the people of that country always gives you a better sense of the flavors, cultures, and the history of the place. National dishes are a must try because they usually embody the best tastes the country has to offer.

Click here to see the 10 National Dishes From Around the World (Slideshow)

National dishes are not like the national bird or the national coat of arms… they’re rarely officially designated as the endorsed dish representing the country (though in some cases this does indeed happen). National dishes are considered more the favorite food of the country — something it’s known for and that the local population enjoys eating regularly. For example, indulging in a big bowl of Doro Wat in Ethiopia, a spicy stew usually made with slow cooked lamb in a regional red wine (“wat” means “stew” or “curried stew”), is as normal a fare as chowing down on a burger and fries in the U.S.

In many countries, the national dish represents the melding of many different cultures; it’s the amalgamation of hundreds of years of colonization, occupations, and the settling of immigrant populations that all brought their own foods with them and integrated it into the local cuisine. Today those national dishes are a wonderful mix of all those flavors and histories.

In South Africa, for example, a common national dish is bobotie — a mixture of minced meats baked in an egg-based topping and served with rice and spicy chutney. The recipe actually appeared in a Dutch cookbook from the South African Cape as early as 1609 but the dish actually goes back much further than that… likely all the way back to Indonesia and a similar dish called “bobotok.” Today it’s enjoyed by people all over the country, though especially by communities in the Cape Peninsula.

Argentina is known for its high-quality, grain-fed beef so it’s understandable that the national favorite dish of churrasco con chimichurri, a grilled flank steak served with a delicious tangy herb sauce, is built around that beef. In the Philippines, lumpia, similar to egg rolls, are so popular that the Filipino communities abroad have imported the dish to eat no matter what country they’re in.

Read on to find out more about some incredible and delicious national dishes eaten across the world.

Philippines — Lumpia

Also sometimes called Filipino Spring Rolls (and the smaller meatier ones are called Lumpiang Shanghai), these are usually made of ground meat, minced onions, finely chopped carrots, and seasoning all rolled up in a paper thin wrapper made with flour and water. It is sealed at the end either by using a sticky beaten egg or plain water.

Argentina — Churrasco con Chimichurri

This Argentine favorite is a grilled flank steak with a tangy herb sauce that is traditionally made with the grass-fed beef and cooked over a wood fire on a grill grate called a parilla or a cast-iron skillet called achapa. At home, you could use a charcoal or gas grill, a broiler, or even a cast-iron grill pan. If you're using a grill and want to add extra smoke flavor, toss a handful of soaked wood chips over the coals before cooking.

Read on for more about the 10 National Dishes From Around the World


Ever wonder what people eat around the world? Different cultures eat different food, which made me think about how much it actually changes from country to country. Do neighbouring continents really differ that much from each other? I thought it would be interesting to see what National dishes are served at dinner tables around the world.

Photo credit: Metro

It’s been a busy week for me. Between starting a new job, having family returning to Europe and some major planning and sorting, I haven’t had much time to blog. I recently caught up with some very good German friends of mine before saying goodbye to my sister at the airport. We had dinner at the Brisbane German Club, where I ordered my favourite dish called Sauerbraten, together with some really good German beer. While eating, I felt a little homesick because German food is so similar to Czech food, and with my sister returning to Prague, it made me think about how we take comfort in food that reminds us of home. I might make this blog a series and eventually cover all the countries in the world. For now, here’s 14 National dishes that are served around the world which you can make yourself.

Top 10 National Dishes You Should Try

Most regular readers of Listverse will know that I am a food fanatic. It started as a child watching my family members baking on the weekends, and ultimately led me to try to teach myself French cuisine. Recently, I have been on a Korean food kick, and I can&rsquot get enough of it. Because so many people on my Facebook profile have been seeing photos of my food exploits some suggested another food list. So this is the result. Here, I have tried to select a dish that is truly the main signature food of each country &ndash in some cases when there are more than one, I have tried to choose one &ndash but some may disagree. Please use the comments to mention your other favorite dishes from each nation here (or those not mentioned). Where possible I have included recipes.

Other significant dishes: Pampushki (potato dummplings), galushki (dumplings)
Most unusual dish: holodets (minced jellied pig&rsquos feet)

Borscht is a soup, of Ukrainian origin, that is popular in many Eastern and Central European countries. In most of these countries, it is made with beetroot as the main ingredient, giving it a deep reddish-purple color. The soup began its existence from trimmings of cellared vegetables, consumed throughout the winter months. Most families had a container, usually a kettle or stove pot, kept outside to store those trimmings. Around the first spring thaw, that pot was placed on the fire and cooked into a soup-like meal. One of the primary vegetables of the Slavic diet consumed during the winter months was beets. Hence, the recipe morphed into what is traditionally known of as a beet soup. [Recipe]

Other significant dishes: Mandi (rice and mutton), shawarma (kebab)
Most unusual dish: roast sheep&rsquos eyes

Kabsa is an extremely tasty rice and meat dish from Saudi Arabia. There are many kinds of kabsa, and each kind has a uniqueness about it. The spices used in kabsa are largely responsible for its taste these are generally black pepper, cloves, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, black lime, bay leaves and nutmeg. The main ingredient that accompanies the spices is the meat, such as chicken, goat, lamb, camel or sometimes beef, fish and shrimp. In chicken machbūs, a whole chicken is used. The spices, rice and meat may be augmented with almonds, pine nuts, onions and raisins. A popular way of preparing the meat is called mandi. This is an ancient technique, whereby meat is barbecued in a deep hole in the ground, that is covered while the meat cooks. [Recipe]

Other significant dishes: boerewors, biltong (jerked meat)
Most unusual dish: Mopane worm (caterpillar)

Bobotie is a South African dish consisting of spiced minced meat baked with an egg-based topping. Early recipes incorporated ginger, marjoram and lemon rind the introduction of curry powder has simplified the recipe somewhat, but the basic concept remains the same. Some recipes also call for chopped onions to be added to the mixture. Traditionally, bobotie incorporates dried fruit like raisins or sultanas, but the sweetness that they lend is not to everybody&rsquos taste. It is often garnished with walnuts, chutney and bananas. Although not particularly spicy, the dish incorporates a variety of flavors that can add complexity. For example, the dried fruit (usually apricots and raisins/sultanas) contrasts the curry flavoring very nicely. The texture of the dish is also complex, with the baked egg mixture topping complementing the milk-soaked bread which adds moisture to the dish. [Recipe]

Other significant dishes: Roti canai (flatbread)
Most unusual dish: Pekasam Ikan (yeast coated fermented fish)

With roots in Malay culture, &ldquonasi lemak&rdquo is a Malay word that literally means &lsquofatty rice&rsquo. The name is derived from the cooking process whereby rice is soaked in coconut cream and then the mixture steamed. Sometimes knotted screwpine (pandan) leaves are thrown into the rice during steaming to give it more fragrance. Spices such as ginger and, occasionally, herbs like lemon grass may be added for additional fragrance. Traditionally, this comes as a platter of food wrapped in banana leaf, with cucumber slices, small dried anchovies, roasted peanuts, hard boiled egg and hot spicy sauce (sambal) at its core. As a more substantial meal, nasi lemak can also come with a variety of other accompaniments such as chicken, cuttlefish, cockle, stir fried water convolvulus, pickled vegetables, beef rendang (beef stewed in coconut milk and spices) or paru (beef lungs). [Recipe]

Other significant dishes: Papa a la Huancaina (yellow potato salad)
Most unusual dish: cuy (roast guinea pig)

Ceviche is relatively well known around the world. It is raw fish marinated in a citrus-based mixture, with lemons and limes being the most commonly used. In addition to adding flavor, the citric acid causes the proteins in the seafood to become denatured (effectively partly cooked). Traditional style ceviche was marinated for about 3 hours. Modern-style ceviche, created by Peruvian chef Dario Matsufuji in the 1970s, usually has a very short marinating period. With the appropriate fish, it can marinate in the time it takes to mix the ingredients, serve and carry the ceviche to the table. The classic Peruvian ceviche is composed of chunks of raw fish, marinated in freshly-squeezed key lime or bitter orange (naranja agria) juice, with sliced onions, chili, salt and pepper. Corvina or Cebo (sea bass) was the fish traditionally used. It is such an important dish in Peru that they have a national day for it. [Recipe]

Other significant dishes: kleftiko (lamb stew), fasolada (bean soup)
Most unusual dish: Patsa (feet and tripe soup)

Everyone loves lasagna &ndash but if you haven&rsquot tried moussaka you really are missing out on something quite extraordinary. Moussaka is the Greek equivalent of lasagna but it differs in a number of ways. Generally, it is made with veal or lamb (as opposed to beef), and instead of lasagna sheets it uses sliced eggplant (aubergine) or potato (in the Turkish version). The meat is flavored with cinnamon and pimento (allspice) and mixed with white wine. Like lasagna it is coated with a rich white sauce and it really is the most delicious Greek food. [Recipe]

Other significant dishes: Pad Thai (Thai noodles)
Most unusual dish: Laab Luead (raw pork dressed with pig&rsquos blood)

Tom yum soup is a hot, spicy and sour soup which usually includes prawns or chicken and mushrooms, cilantro (coriander), lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and thai basil. It is a very fragrant soup (as is typical of much Thai food) and is very healthy &ndash being very low in fat and carbohydrates. There are other varieties of tom yum, such as tom yum nam khon which includes coconut milk, but for the true delicious taste of Thailand you must try tom yum. Fortunately for most of us westerners it is possible to buy pre-made tom yum paste, which saves the many hours pounding all of the herbs together first. Of all the entries on this list (as well as the one above), tom yum soup is the one that most readers will have tried &ndash but if you haven&rsquot &ndash do. Oh &ndash and if you live in Wellington, New Zealand, the best Tom Yum soup in the city can be eaten here (as you can see by the rave reviews). [Recipe]

Other significant dishes: Golonka
Most unusual dish: Czernina (black duck&rsquos blood soup)

Bigos (Hunter&rsquos Stew), is a traditional meat stew typical of Polish, Lithuanian and Belarusian cuisines. There is no single recipe for a savory stew of cabbage and meat, as recipes vary considerably from region to region, as well as from family to family. Typical ingredients include white cabbage, sauerkraut (kapusta kiszona in Polish), various cuts of meat and sausages, often whole or puréed tomatoes, honey and mushrooms. The meats may include pork (often smoked), ham, bacon, beef, veal, sausage, and, as bigos is considered a real hunters&rsquo stew, venison or other game leftover cuts find their way into the pot as well.

Bigos is usually eaten with rye bread and potatoes. As with many stews, bigos can be kept in a cool place or refrigerated then reheated later&mdashits taste actually intensifies when reheated. A common practice is to keep a pot of bigos going for a week or more, replenishing ingredients as necessary. [Recipe]

Other significant dishes: Lechon, Sinigang
Most unusual dish: Balut (duck embryo eggs)

Before colonization by the Spanish, the Philippines had their own unique method of cooking with vinegar, which preserved food and made it incredibly delicious. Pork adobo is almost certainly the national dish of the Philippines for that reason. Adobo was employed initially as a method of food preservation, but in time &mdash with the advent of refrigeration methods &mdash adobo became used primarily as a method of flavoring foods before cooking. Adobo typically involves cooking meat for a long period of time in a mixture of vinegar, garlic, salt and laurel leaves (bay leaves). The dish is either cooked until dry or cooked until a little of the cooking liquid remains as a sauce. The meat become very tender and the bite of the vinegar is removed whilst the flavor remains. It is a delicious dish that everyone should try. Pictured above is pork adobo I made with pork belly &ndash it is served with rice and french beans. [Recipe]

Other significant dishes: Bulgogi &ndash 불고기 (marinated beef &ndash often called Korean Barbeque)
Most unusual dish: Bosintang &ndash 보신탕 (dog stew)

I had to put Korean food (한식 &ndash Hansik) first because it is my current passion &ndash as you can see here. Also, it is quite unique in that much of the food is not prepared just for taste, but for health also &ndash as has been the case for thousands of years. Much of Korean food is based on fermented products (naturally preserved) such as gochujang (hot pepper paste) and doenjang (soy bean paste &ndash like Japanese miso). This gives it the easily recognizable red color. In addition to these pastes Korean food often includes hot pepper flakes &ndash an essential ingredient in kimchi (which is pronounced gim-chee, NOT kim-chee, despite the spelling). Kimchi is fermented cabbage. There are many types of kimchi &ndash cabbage kimchi (the most common), radish kimchi, water radish kimchi, etc.

Different recipes exist for each type, but one which I think is best for cabbage kimchi involves making a thick slurry with rice flour and water, and adding to it all of the seasoning: hot pepper flakes, scallions, Asian chives, raw oysters (or fermented squid), garlic, ginger, onions, pear and fish sauce. This is then spread on the individual leaves of the cabbage (which is kept whole). The cabbages are then kept in a container (traditionally outside in earthenware pots, but these days usually in glass or plastic in the fridge) where they ferment over time. Kimchi has a fresh taste and a crunchy texture and you can eat it immediately or when it is very well fermented (when it takes on a more sour flavor). For many Koreans, Kimchi is eaten with breakfast, lunch and dinner, and is such a staple part of the Korean diet that most Korean homes have a separate kimchi refrigerator. When Kimchi gets too sour to enjoy, you can use it as the basis for kimchi pancakes or kimchi stew. [Recipe]

Portions of this text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License additional terms may apply. Some text is derived from or courtesy of Wikipedia.

More Great Lists

Jamie is the founder of Listverse. When he’s not doing research for new lists or collecting historical oddities, he can be found in the comments or on Facebook where he approves all friends requests!

5. Kabuli Palaw

Quabili palaw, Qabuli, Kabili, Kabuli Pulao, کابلی پلو ,قابلی پلو (Afghan)

Kabuli Palaw is made by cooking basmati with mutton, lamb, beef or chicken, and oil. Kabuli palaw is cooked in large shallow and thick dishes. Fried sliced carrots and raisins are added. Chopped nuts like pistachios, walnuts, or almonds may be added as well. The meat is covered by the rice or buried in the middle of the dish. Kabuli palaw rice with carrots and raisins is very popular in Saudi Arabia, where it is known as roz Bukhari (Arabic: …

A national dish of Afghanistan

A national dish of Afghanistan

Traditional dish of Nicaragua and Costa Rica made with rice and beans. The history of Gallo Pinto is not well known, and there are disputes between Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans about where the dish originated. One theory suggests that gallo pinto was brought into Latin America by African slaves that migrated into Latin America . Most Latin Americans agree that the dish is part of both countries now and that they share more similarities than differences. Variations of gallo pinto …

7. Vinegret – Ukraine

You may not be very familiar with the Ukrainian cuisine, and wonder if their vegetarian offerings are worth attempting. Let’s tell you all about the best of Ukraine’s vegetarian dishes, the Vinegret!

It is a popular salad that originated in the Soviet Union, and has been adopted by many countries in the Eastern Europe. The salad comprises fresh veggies like carrots, beetroot, onions and potatoes tossed with pickles and . We’d recommend this salad as an inexpensive savory delight!

Chana masala — a Punjabi staple — is a symphony of flavor depending on the blend of spices you use.

A northern Indian vegetarian favorite , chana masala — also called chole — is a chickpea stew made with tomatoes and ample spices that are warming, savory, and soothing at the same time.

Many well-stocked Indian grocery stores offer a variety of pre-mixed chana masala spice blends that you can buy — or you can toast your own and keep your favorite spice blend handy if you make this dish often.

Since many recipes call for dried chickpeas, there are plenty of Instant Pot-friendly variations of this dish around as well.

Gurkensalat (German Cucumber Salad)

Gurkensalat is a German Cucumber Salad with dill that is the perfect balance of creamy and crisp.

Coastal Vacations Sunrise

As Anthony Bordain would testify, one of the most exciting things about being lucky enough to travel the world is sampling truly authentic local food. Region to region, culinary traditions vary dramatically, reflecting the people, their passions, landscapes and cultures. Sampling the cuisine is one of the best ways to get an understanding of local life. Seek Retreat has compiled a list of some of the world’s most popular dishes from all corners of the world – places you’ll almost certainly want to venture after reading this. But just in case a world tour on your schedule right now, we’ve dug up some of the best authentic recipes to bring the flavors of the world to you. So ready your taste buds for some of the most exotic taste sensations on the planet and get cooking our Top 10: Signature Dishes from Around the World.

Compiled and written by Nicole Muyingo

1) Spain: Paella
Having pawed over most of Spain’s favorite national recipes, I still couldn’t resist the beloved Paella. The culinary equivalent of ‘having it all’ – what could be better than your favorite meats paired with the freshest Mediterranean seafood? Paella can be a tricky, time-consuming dish to prepare, but put the time in and you’ll find it’s definitely worth the effort.

2) Brazil: Feijoada
Grab yourself a Caipirinha! It’s the perfect accompaniment to the rich flavors in this, Brazil’s most popular signature dish. Named after the Portuguese word feijão, meaning beans, this traditional peasant dish is a rich mélange of meats and beans, cooked low and slow in a flavorful broth. Feijoada is usually served with shredded kale or collard greens, streamed rice and an orange slice. Popular weekend fare in Brazil, it’s traditionally shared by friends at daylong gatherings that focus on heart-warming food and spicy gossip.

3) Italy: Fritto Misto
Seeking out the best homemade pizza and pasta while traveling in Italy is a must, but if you want to delve a little deeper into the culture try ordering the not-so-famous but just-as-delicious national favorite Fritto Misto. This iconic Venetian dish demands the freshest local catch so net yourself the best seafood in your area and get creative!

4) Egypt: Ful Medames
Famously described as the rich man’s breakfast, the shopkeeper’s lunch and the poor man’s supper, Ful Medames is Egypt’s national dish. This humble bean stew is in fact eaten by Egyptians from every walk of life, throughout the day and is said to date back to the time of the pharaohs.

5) Japan: Tuna Maki
With 45,000 sushi restaurants in Japan, sushi wins hands down as the most popular cuisine in the country. It may not seem like home-cooking to us but the Japanese are just as content rolling their own at home. You may think you need to lock yourself away with a sushi-making guru for months to master the art but it’s far easier to prepare than you may think. Most seaweed comes with instructions but we particularly liked this instructional video. Once you’ve learned the basic maki-making techniques, you can impress your friends with exotic rolls that taste as good as any Japanese restaurant they may frequent.

6) Jamaica: Jerk Chicken
Made with Scotch bonnet pepper, one of the hottest chilies in the world, Jerk Chicken is not for fainthearted. The Caribbean version of bbq. chicken, Jamaican Jerk’s other secret ingredient is pimento (allspice to you and me) which is indigenous to the island. It’s the plant’s berries that give the chicken its unmistakable flavor. The traditional version of the dish is also slow-smoked over a fire made from pimento wood, but we don’t expect you to try that at home.

7) Mexico: Red Snapper Veracruzana
Who doesn’t love Mexico for its tacos, burritos and enchiladas? But when Mexicans from the south do ‘healthy’ their famous Red Snapper Veracruzana is their go-to dish. The name comes from its origin in the state of Veracruz, which is a long, narrow state stretching along the south of Mexico’s Gulf Coast. So, it’s perhaps not surprising that seafood figures prominently in this area’s cuisine.

8) Russia: Borscht
Borscht plays a central role in Russia’s culinary heritage as well as many of the Eastern European nations. Hot or cold, vegetarian or most popularly with sausages, served hot, Borscht usually contains heavy starchy vegetables including potatoes and beets, carrots or peppers. For the authentic experience, serve it as an appetizer with dark rye bread.

9) China: Yangzhou Fried Rice
Yangzhou Fried Rice is quick and easy to prepare, so grab your chopsticks and get ready to chow down one of Shanghai’s most popular dishes. It’s one of the most versatile dishes you can throw in a pan and have ready in minutes. Yangzhou Fried Rice can be paired with your favorite meats, fishes or vegetables and will literally be ready in a flash.

10) Lebanon: Baba Ghanouj
In Syria and Lebanon, Baba Ghanouj is usually served as an appetizer or side dish but this ubiquitous delight is now served, as part of a Middle-Eastern mezza plate, all over the world. Baba is the word for “father” in Arabic and ghanouj means soft, wanting affection or cuddly. Some believe that the word Baba refers to the eggplant as the “father of vegetables,” and ghanouj to the fact that anyone lucky enough to taste it will be spoiled by its smooth, creamy goodness. What’s for sure is that it’s never better than when it’s freshly homemade. .

Malaysian Noodles With Pork and Seafood (Char Kway Teow)

Roan Gumangan / Getty Images

Char kway teow is a popular Malaysian dish combining hearty meat, shrimp, vegetables, and glutinous rice noodles in a savory seafood sauce. You'll be amazed at how quickly it comes together in a hot wok or skillet once you've assembled the ingredients. Top with fresh bean sprouts for a crunchy finish.