15 Most Interesting Dishes from Around the World

15 Most Interesting Dishes from Around the World

Traveling is frequently associated with discovering new and exquisite places. By flocking to one of the four corners of our flat Earth, we broaden our horizons by interacting with other customs and cultures. One area of travel that best exemplifies this rich interaction is getting to taste the world’s most interesting dishes from local cuisines and regional culinary cultures. The dinner table conveys culture. On a very primitive level, food expresses the relationship between people and the environment they belong to. It is also a manifestation of the relationship between people and their belief systems. So what are the most interesting dishes from around the world?

When the Interesting meets the Distasteful

While traveling, people often combine business with leisure and pleasure. To unwind and de-stress from work, people unite around interesting dishes that the world has to offer. While some may fascinate you and intensify your connection with a certain geography and its people, others may be distasteful, strange and even outright gruesome. In various parts of the world, people eat foods that others would consider to be inedible- such as ants, cockroaches or spiders. You don’t have to taste everything that is considered a delicacy in a particular country. Still, if you’re brave enough, the dare may be worth your while. You may well surprise yourself, as it may turn out that you’re a big fan of Chinese chicken feet, French escargot, or the super-hearty Chicago deep dish pizza. Yuck!

Let’s look beyond the noise and identify those dishes worth trying while traveling around the world. And yes, there’s much more to the world than a German Hamburger or your comfort Mac ‘n Cheese. Check out theses 15 most interesting dishes from around the world.

Paella, Spain

Paella – probably most of us have heard about this dish from TV or friends. To taste paella we have to go to the country of origin, Spain. This dish consists of rice with saffron, seafood, rabbit or poultry meat, and vegetables. It is prepared in a specific metal pan with handles- called paella (hence the name)- in the open air. Tasty, no? If you do not have the opportunity to go to sunny Spain- I suggest you prepare it at home. And maybe you’ll get a sense of what we’re talking about.

Calzone, Italy

Calzone – another delicious dish from Italy. Hopefully the Italian bias goes unnoticed! Anyway, I decided to include this dish on this list as I have made it myself several times; so moreish. It is a dumpling-shaped pizza with a variety of fillings. In other words, feel free to include J chicken, pepper, ham, tomato, etc.. Your destiny is in your hands.

Tom Yum Soup, Thailand

Thai cuisine’s most popular sweet and sour Tom Yum Goong incorporates an array of flavor incorporated in one dish. The soup comprises shrimps, mushrooms, coconut milk, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and crushed chilli among other herbs and spices. Variations abound, with some versions that additionally use fish, prawns or chicken. The end result is the same, a powerful broth that is sweet, sour, spicy and savory.

Hummus, Middle East

Hummus is an all-time family household staple. Who hasn’t eaten hummus, right? Whether you’re on a night out, or having a family gathering at home, hummus appetizes, and blends well with whatever’s being served on the day. Basically, hummus comprises the following main ingredients: chickpeas, sesame paste, lemon, garlic, olive oil and cumin (and salt). In some cultures, Greek yogurt and hot peppers are used.

Everybody has their own version of hummus, whether intentionally or not. Messing up the tahini, or sesame paste proportions begets a totally different hummus. Same applies to cumin. Moreover, you can drizzle some olive oil and herbs, top it with chickpeas towards the center, serve it with a pita and vegetables on the side, or maybe top it with braised lamb. And this all counts as “Hummus”. Westerners have gone even further. The recent emergence of dessert hummus in the US, and in particular, chocolate hummus, has caused outrage of seismic magnitudes across the Middle East. Some experts believe this could be the spark that unites Muslims and Jews against the chocolate hummus plague, bringing lasting peace to the Middle East.

Masala Dosa, India

India’s food heritage needs no introductions. Its Masala Dosa is a perfect on-the-go meal, or breakfast idea. It is basically a rice-based crepe that includes a hot spicy mix of mashed potatoes, tomato and lentil sauce, pickles and coconut.

Tabbouleh, Lebanon

This is one of the least reproducible dishes on this list, and there’s quite an intriguing story. The Lebanese are known to be travelers who’ve traveled the world, finding remarkable success, particularly in the Americas, Europe, and Africa. However, while cementing their status as one of the most successful diasporas in the world, they have not managed to reproduce their most celebrated national dish abroad. It is, indeed, quite a mystery.

The story of Tabbouleh

The tabbouleh, a seemingly simple dish, is actually quite labor-intensive. It involves hand-chopped parsley, onions, tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil and burghul- burghul is a rugged dried wheat. And lastly, add some fresh mint. Tabbouleh is eaten on a flat bread, lettuce leaves, vine leaves, or cabbage leaves. So why is it so hard to reproduce the famous tabbouleh in, let’s say, New York, or Paris? Well, the solution to the mystery is eloquently revealed in this post by The Economist. Reject the so-called tabbouleh salads served in plastic containers in Western supermarkets and European delis- and often notably bulked out with semolina. That is the antithesis of what a tabbouleh is all about- freshness!

The Lebanese tabbouleh, in fact, requires fresh parsley, sweet onions, crunchy crisp burghul, fresh mint from your garden and mountain tomatoes. Mountain tomatoes are “big, flat, firm, red with a green flush and have an incomparable taste”. Lastly, a note about olive oil. Wherever that bland olive oil came from, it’s not helping the cause of the tabbouleh. Some of the best olive oil comes out of the land of the Phoenicians, yet the world remains in the darkness. Definitely worth visiting Beirut or the mountains of Lebanon, even if only to taste a fine Lebanese tabbouleh!

Setting the Record


And to settle the record over who invented hummus, let’s at least agree that hummus is a dish that’s been enjoyed over centuries and centuries- long before the birth of the nation state. So we won’t waste time drawing national boundaries for ancient staples, nor will we entertain claims that hummus is “Lebanese”, “Greek”, “Egyptian”, “Palestinian” or “Israeli”. In fact, many other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries claim hummus as their own unique national dish. The fact is that the oldest mention of hummus dates back to 13th century Egypt, according to this article. So yeah, this is a Middle Eastern dish to be accurate.

Francesinha, Portugal

Be warned. This is as close to fast food as it can get in Europe. Consider this the equivalent of a turkey n’ cheddar cheese sandwich in the US. If you’re working your way to fitness, or planning to wear last year’s swim suit once again in August, then this is not for you. It basically comprises a ham, sausage, or steak sandwich, baked under a thick layer of yellow cheese. This fast food meal is served in tomato and beer sauce. In simple terms, it is a sandwich stuffed with lots of meat.

Goulash, Hungary

Goulash- another dish that celebrates meat as its main ingredient. In addition to the meat, there are also peppers and onions. The local name pörkölt comes from a word meaning “toasted, browned”. The goulash is often served on a shallow plate as a second course. A salute to the meat lovers.

Tacos, Mexico

Now let’s try something from North America – the Mexican classic that is tacos! These are small cornmeal tortillas, folded in half and stuffed with chicken or grilled beef, corn, cheese, beans, onions, cilantro, chorizo sausage.. You can really include whatever ingredients you want, such is the versatility of the mighty Mexican taco. Drizzle some lime and top it off with guacamole or tomato salsa. Tacos can serve as a breakfast, lunch, or a late night dinner, and definitely after a long night out.

Polish Pierogi, Poland

Polish pierogis. Over the years, I’ve had pierogis of all sorts and kinds, whether from food trucks or at fine restaurants. This Polish delicacy has kept Polish bellies full and bodies nourished across generations as well as throughout rough winters. Today, it remains one of the most popular dishes in Poland, while growing into an internationally popular dish. Its advantage is that it can be filled with literally anything, from potatoes, meat, mushrooms, to spinach, cheese and fruit. It all depends on personal tastes and preferences. Sometimes it is even served with cream, sugar or fried onions. Smacznego!

Neapolitan Pizza, Italy

When visiting Italy, do not miss out on the chance to try an authentic Neapolitan pizza. Authentic, in this case, involves very few ingredients, but lots of tradition and simplicity. Italians prepare it according to an age-old recipe. To start with, the dough is made up of a select few ingredients: water, salt, yeast and flour of course. It must include special San Marzano tomatoes and traditional mozzarella fior di latte. As for the dough, its thickness should not be greater than 3 mm and the cake should not be baked for more than 1-1.5 minutes at a temperature above 430 degrees celsius. Thereby, you get a pizza that’s thin towards the middles, with plump, puffed edges and a crust that looks black-ish from the fire.

Most importantly, you don’t have to go to Naples, home of the Neapolitan pizza, to enjoy this dish. Since it is by far the most popular pizza among locals and foreigners alike, you may enjoy this traditional dish all over Italy.

Viennese Schnitzel, Austria

Now something for the die-hard carnivores – Viennese schnitzel. It is a baked thin cutlet of veal, breaded in breadcrumbs. Usually it tends to be served with a pine vinaigrette and spices salad, potato salad, or cucumber salad. Austrians also serve this dish with French fries, potatoes, or rice.

Sushi, Japan

The Western world perceives sushi as a fancy delicacy enjoyed by those who have mastered the art of chopsticks, as well as those willing to splurge on some fine dining. However, in Japan, sushi is traditionally the food of the poor. Yes, raw food that basically anyone could prepare at home, with basically no need to possess nor consume cooking and heating resources. Today, sushi is an international dish. Rice and seaweed comprise the base, and can hold anything from vegetables, eggs, seafood such as tuna or salmon, and meat. It is normally served with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger on the side.

Croissant, France

Croissant, s’il vous plait. Greasy dough in butter, a large amount of raspberry jam, soft center, no filling.. In a nutshell, heaven in your mouth! It’s not hard to fall in love with this delectable croissant that goes perfectly with a cup of morning coffee. The only issue is that the croissant is never done consistently across the globe. In the US, for instance, your local bakery will most likely involve a crazy amount of butter and produce something bready and so greasy it can’t be further from the real thing. Or maybe you’ll find a Pain au Chocolat under the label “Croissant”. Quel dommage!

Lasagna, Italy

Lasagna is another Italian milestone contribution to human civilization. Curiously, lasagna is the name of a dish and pasta. It consists of pasta (must be in the shape of large rectangular slices), tomato sauce, and minced meat- yet another triumph for Italy’s simple cuisine. Both children and adults adore it, so you’ll never go wrong making Garfield’s favorite dish.

Conclusion

Most of the dishes mentioned above can be made from the comfort of your kitchen. Yes, you can travel the world in one kitchen. Of course, capturing the authentic taste may require you to splurge on some oyster sauce, Chinese Kaoya sauce, or fine herbs from Trader Joe’s, Mariano’s, or- God forbid- Whole Foods. At the end of the day, the fact is that the ingredients sourced for a dish in China for instance will simply never be identical, if present to begin with, here in the US for instance; and that dilutes an authentic recipe into nothing more than a rudimentary guide. That’s why I think it’s worth going to the destination country and tasting the dishes prepared by local chefs, made with fresh local produce.. For more on the most interesting places worth visiting, visit this link.

As you can see, the cuisines of the world abound in remarkable, exquisite dishes. Our taste buds deserve better. So maybe the next time you have the chance, why not be open to try out sushi, snails, or frog legs? If fine dining is not your thing, well guess what, there’s much more to international cuisine than fancy Wagyu beef, or the infamous Frenchy snail-based Escargots à la Bourguignonne. There’s something for everybody when it comes to food tasting.