Almost every country has its national dish, an iconic meal that is the most widely eaten thing within its borders. National dishes are part of a nation’s identity and culture and also a popular subject of foreign visitors. When you travel abroad, you always want to taste the most famous culinary dish of the visited country. As a little inspiration, we made a list of 25 outstanding national dishes you will definitely want to try.
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Barbados: Cou-cou and Flying Fish
Barbados has many popular local fish such as kingfish, tuna, barracuda or red snapper, but they are hailed as “The Land of the Flying Fish” and this kind of fish even made it to the national dish of Barbados, a meal called Cou-cou and flying fish. Cou-cou consists mainly of cornmeal (corn flour) and okra (ochroes); the flying fish is usually prepared fried or steamed.
Originated in Quebec in the late 1950s, Poutine is the favorite Canadian dish, made with French fries and topped with a light brown gravy-like sauce and cheese curds. Although the basic recipe is very simple, there are many variations of Poutine. Some restaurants offer Poutine with such toppings as chicken, bacon, or Montreal-style smoked meat, three-pepper sauce, or even caviar and truffle.
Also popular in Lebanon, Palestine or Jordan, this typical Syrian dish is made of burghul (cracked wheat), minced onions and finely ground lean beef, lamb, goat or camel meat. The best-known variety of Kibbeh is a torpedo-shaped fried croquette stuffed with minced beef or lamb. Other types may be shaped into balls or patties, and baked or cooked in broth.
Bigos (mening Hunter’s Stew), is a traditional meat stew typical of Polish, Lithuanian and Belarusian cuisines but only the Poles consider this meal their national dish. This very hearty and tasty stew is made from a wide range of ingredients such as cabbage, sauerkraut, various cuts of meat and sausages, tomatoes, honey, mushrooms, pepper, caraway, bay leaf, marjoram, dried or smoked plums, and others. Bigos can be served on a plate or sometimes in a bread loaf.
Greece is a country that is home to several well-known dishes such as Fasolada, Moussaka or Tzatziki but it is Souvlaki that is usually considered the most iconic dish of the country. This popular Greek fast food consists of small pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer. It is usually made from pork, although chicken and lamb may also be used. It can be served on the skewer for eating out of hand, in a pita sandwich with garnishes and sauces, or with fried potatoes.
Since pizza is well-known all over the world, there is no need to introduce this popular dish. Instead, we will tell you about the possible origin of the archetypal pizza type – Pizza Margherita. The legend has it that Pizza Margherita was invented in 1889, when the Royal Palace of Capodimonte commissioned the Neapolitan pizza maker Raffaele Esposito to create a pizza in honor of the visiting Queen Margherita. Of the three different pizzas he created, she preferred a pie in the colors of the Italian flag: red (tomato), green (basil), and white (mozzarella). Supposedly, this kind of pizza was then named after her as “Pizza Margherita”.
Ireland: Irish Stew
First recognized as early as about 1800, Irish stew is the most common meal of the country and a staple of Irish pubs worldwide. Originally a thick broth of slow-boiled mutton with onions, potatoes, and parsley, Irish stew nowadays often incorporates other vegetables.
Hamburgers, similarly to pizza or pasta, are famous and eaten all over the world but the country most associated with them is the USA. Everybody knows what hamburger usually consists of but not so many people know that the term “hamburger“ originally derives from Hamburg, a German city, from which many people emigrated to the United States. This term, however, has nothing to do with food because in German language, “Burg“ means fortified settlement.
Goulash became a national dish of Hungary in the late 1800s, when Hungarians sought symbols of national identity to distinguish themselves from their partners in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Later on, this hearty meal spred to Central Europe, Scandinavia and Southern Europe. It is a soup or stew of beef (sometimes also veal, pork, deer or lamb), and vegetables, richly seasoned with pepper and other spices.
Common dish not just in Israel but throughout the entire Middle East, Falafel is a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both. It is usually served in a pita, or wrapped in a flatbread known as lafa. Falafel became so popular that McDonald’s for a time served a “McFalafel” in some countries.
Jamaica: Ackee and Saltfish
Although originated and most popular in Jamaica, this savory meal is also widely-eaten n the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. To prepare the dish, salt cod is sautéed with boiled ackee (nutritious fruit with a buttery-nutty flavor), onions, tomatoes, and spices. It is usually served as breakfast or dinner with breadfruit, hard dough bread, dumplings, or boiled green bananas. It is often washed down with coconut water.
Austria: Wiener Schnitzel
Wiener Schnitzel is a very thin, breaded and deep fried schnitzel made from veal. It is the most popular and well-known Viennese as well as Austrian dish. It is prepared from slightly tenderized veal tenderloin, slightly salted, and rolled in flour, whipped eggs and bread crumbs. The dish is traditionally served with potato salad, cucumber salad, parsley potatoes, French fries or roasted potatoes and garnished with a slice of lemon.
South Korea: Bulgogi
Translated as “fire meat“, Bulgogi is a typical South Korean dish that usually consists of grilled marinated beef. The marinade is a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, onions, ginger, sugar, wine, scallions, and sometimes also mushrooms. Many South Korean restaurants have miniature barbecues embedded in tables where diners grill the meat themselves.
Derived from the Latin word “crispa“ ( meaning “curled”), crepe is a type of very thin sweet pancake, usually made from wheat flour. Crepes are served with a variety of fillings, they can be both sweet (filled with sugar, fruit jam, strawberries, maple syrup etc.) or „salty“ (with cheese, ham, eggs, ratatouille, mushrooms, artichoke and various meat products).
China: Peking Duck
Peking Duck is the most famous dish from the country´s capital city of Beijing and one of the most iconic Chinese meals. The crispy duck meat is eaten with scallion, cucumber, sweet bean sauce and thin pancakes. Sometimes, a little bowl of spicy sauce such as Hoisin sauce, can be added to the main plate.
The basic ingredients of this hearty and very tasty dish are beans with fresh pork or beef. Brazilian feijoada is prepared with black beans, a variety of pork or beef products, such as pork trimmings, bacon, or smoked pork ribs, and at least two types of smoked sausage and jerked beef. It is customary to serve it with white rice and oranges, the latter to help with digestion.
Originated in Ukraine but popular in many Eastern and Central European countries, Borscht is a thick and spicy soup made with beetroot as the main ingredient. It is almost always made with a beef or pork broth and it usually contains chunks of the meat used for the broth, as well heavy starchy vegetables including potatoes and beets. Occasionally, carrots and peppers can be added. It may serve as a main dish, but it is usually eaten as an appetizer with bread.
Thailand: Pad Thai
Pad Thai is a stir-fried rice noodle dish commonly served as a street food or as meal in Thai restaurants. This savory dish is made with soaked dried rice noodles, which are stir-fried with eggs and chopped firm tofu, and flavored with a wide range of ingredients such as tamarind pulp, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic, shallots, chili etc. Pad Thai can be served with lime wedges and chopped roast peanuts. Varying with different regions, it may also contain fresh shrimp, crab, chicken or other meats.
Czech Republic: Svickova
In the Czech Republic, there has been an ongoing speculation if the Czech national dish is Knedlo-vepro-zelo or Svickova. We picked the other option. Svickova is a beef sirloin with creamy vegetable sauce and bread dumplings. This delicious but not very diet dish is sometimes served with lemon slices and cranberries as a garnish.
Made of ground maize dough or cooked flour, Arepa is considered the national dish in Venezuela and sometimes also Colombia. Various sizes, maize types, and added ingredients are used in different parts of the country. In Eastern Venezuela, for example, the most common variety is usually about three to eight inches in diameter and about 3/4 inch thick. Nowadays, the meal is often made in electric Arepa makers that reduce cooking time from 15 to 25 minutes per side to seven minutes or even less.
Originated in Turkey, where street vendors have been shaving crispy meat from a vertical spit, Kebab has become one of the most popular fast food dishes in most European countries. The traditional meat for kebab is lamb, but depending on local tastes and religious prohibitions, other meats may include beef, goat, chicken, pork or even fish. It is usually served in pita or sandwich.
Singapore: Chili Crab
The main ingredient of this delicious sea food dish is Mud crabs which are stir-fried in a semi-thick, sweet and savory tomato and chili sauce. CNN Go listed this Singaporean specialty as one of “World’s 50 most delicious foods” at number 35.
This Balkan dish made of various ground meats is popular in all Southeastern Europe. Traditional Serbian Pljeskavica is made from mixture of ground lamb, pork, beef, or veal meat, grilled with onions and served hot on a plate with veggies and side dishes, usually fries or bread. This tasty and spicy meal has been recently gaining popularity in other European parts and is served in some specialty fast food restaurants.
New Zealand: Bacon and Egg Pie
This savory pie consists of a crust containing bacon, egg and often onion, peas, tomato and cheese. Sometimes served with ketchup, the pie tends to have a heavier texture and feel, and is generally high in calories. Apart from New Zealand, this appetizer is also popular in neighboring Australia.
Meaning “mussels and fries“, this meal originated in Belgium and is considered this country´s national dish but is also popular in France and other Western-European countries. What is unusual about this traditional Belgian meal is the size. The portion of mussels in Belgian restaurants tends to be about 3.3 pounds per person. As a dish, the mussels and the fries are usually served on separate plates or dishes so that the fries do not become moist.