This is one heck of a complicatedly delicious topic worth exploring. National dishes are linked to the culinary identity of the respective nations. There is no central authority which decides the national dish of each country. Rather there are some unwritten standards that are mutually agreed upon by the countries on their own which help them finalize a single dish as their nation’s culinary identity.
In this new post I am not going to touch upon all the 193 countries and their national dishes, because that will literally transform this blog into a Wikipedia page. Jokes apart, and coming back on the track, I will try to cover those national dishes which are famous or the national dishes of famous countries. So either of the criteria needs to be famous. There can be few exceptions, if I really like a recipe or a dish I will include it in this list.
For a dish to be declared as a national dish, it has to be developed from locally grown ingredient. Or it needs to be a part of cultural heritage which is traditionally being served over the years. Another way of direct qualification could be from the official authority of the country to declare it as a national dish. So are you excited to know which dishes belong to which country? Let the fun begin.
Afghanistan: Kabuli Pulao
There is no denying about the fact that Afghanistan is the epicenter of some of the most delicious Pulao or Pilaf that one can eat. So food experts say that the Kabuli Pulao from Afghanistan could be way better than Biryanis served at some famous places in the world. If this is an exaggeration then I am sure it won’t go down well with Biryani lovers. But if it is true then Afghanistan should be on your bucket list, especially if you are a non-vegetarian.
This traditional recipe is a very simple dish, it has less ingredients but then too it stands out with its subtle flavours. The onions are fried in the oil and then the meat which is either beef or lamb is put in it and cooked for a while. Later few spices and salt is added. To finish the stock they add some grated carrots and raisins. Now presoaked rice is put in the stock and then everything is cooked together on dum-pukht.
Since there are no major spices, this dish turns out to be a little sweeter, especially because of the caramelized carrots and raisins. I have seen enough videos of the preparations, and in each video the portion size is really generous. It tempts you to experience it. Would you love rice preparation with huge chunks of meat on it?
Bahrain & Saudi Arabia: Kabsa
One of the most famous dish from the middle-east is the Kabsa, which is originally prepared with Basmati rice, tomatoes, spices and goat or lamb meat. Over the time it has evolved and diverted a bit from its origin as per the taste and preferences. The choice of meat now ranges from lambs and goats to beef and fowl and at some places it includes camels too.
In India you get Kabsa at many places now, some of the famous places are Persian Darbar, Afzal’s restaurant and Mumbai Darbar which are all located in South Mumbai. I know that Indian version may not be exactly the same that they offer in middle-East, but at least you will have an idea about the taste. I personally can recommend you the one that they serve in Persian Darbar.
This one needs the least amount of efforts and words to put across for your understanding. I hope you too are wishing if life could have been this simple. Frites are nothing but French fries which originated in Belgium and hence it is a national dish. Isn’t it funny? For some reason I feel it is funny. Whatever the dispute about the origin is, French fries are officially the most loved junk food all over the world. If you are a foodie you ought to be in love with those crispy and crunchy fries.
Among so many national dishes on the list, it would be fair enouh to declare the French fries as the national dish of the world for all the global citizens out there.
A basic non-spicy stew which has perfectly salted meat with black beans. The preparation is not at all complex. A clay pot is used to cook the black beans and the meat (either beef or pork), together. The beans cook in the fats released from the meat cuts and the meaty flavour profile is enhanced with this. It is generally served with orange slices as a side dish, which has 2 benefits. It helps in iron absorption from the beans and aids digestion.
It is said that Portuguese carried this recipe to the Brazilian land and they spread the tradition of eating Feijoada in all colonies of Portuguese rule. So in India you can get this dish at Goa, but only at selected places. Over a period of time, there are few additions to the original dish. Meat sausages are served with this stew to increase the meat quotient.
People’s Republic of China: Peking duck
Peking duck is in existence since the Ming dynasty. Historians say that this dish was served in the imperial court during Ming dynasty. Bianyifang was the first restaurant in 1416 CE to serve this dish in Beijing. It is also among the favorite dishes of world leaders like Cuba’s Fidel Castro and former German chancellor Helmut Kohl.
The duck is braised in closed oven according to the traditional recipe. These are special ducks which are grown for 45 days and are well fed for next 20 days and are used to cook the fattiest ducks which give the roasted duck a flavorful crispy texture. This is a signature of the dish. The roasting marinade is made from Soy sauce, maltose syrup and five spices powder. The sweet and spicy flavours brings out the best out of this dish.
France: Pot-au-feu"I want no peasant in my kingdom to be so poor that he cannot have a poule au pot on Sundays." –King Henry IV Click To Tweet
If you are too much into food reading then you must be surprised why I didn’t include Beef bourguignon here instead of Pot-au-feu. To answer this I would say, the Beef bourguignon was invented in the 19th century and hence I chose a much more traditional dish over it. Pot of fire as the English translation goes by, it is a beef stew. In 1600 CE, King Henry IV of France (1553-1610) declared, “I want no peasant in my kingdom to be so poor that he cannot have a poule au pot on Sundays.”
This story is enough to declare it as a French national dish. It is a slow cooked stew which may take a whole day to cook in some cases. Cartilaginous meat is preferred or marrow rich parts are chosen to be cooked with root veggies like carrot and turnip, etc. A bunch of herbs along with cloves and black pepper are used to bring out some subtle flavours.
Are you also thinking that it sounds Indian by its name? But the truth is that it is not Indian. Intangible cultural heritage of Georgia is what this national dish is referred as. This dish is so common that in some places the Khachapuri index is used to measure the inflation. The Gastronomic Association of Georgia, has declared a National Khachapuri day on the 27th of February.
Does these all facts make you curious about Khachapuri? Let me tell you what it is. It is a freshly baked, cheese filled bread. Baked to such a perfection that the crust is crumbly and the cheese melts in the heat. The crust is supposed to be tore apart and dipped in that melted cheese to have a gooey bite of cheesy goodness. The sulguni cheese is used commonly which is salty and sour in taste. I so wish to eat this someday, what about you?
Germany: Doner kebab
A dish with Turkish Origin which managed to conquer Germany. Everyone who knows how Shawarma is made, will not have any problem in imagining the making of Doner kebabs. Stacks of succulently seasoned meats cooked on a horizontal rotisserie and then a thin slicer cuts the meat which is roasted to perfection and is oozing fats which enhances the flavour.
It is said a Turkish migrant worker made this dish famous in Germany that too in the year 1969. Talking of the recent times the Doner kebab has transformed into a multi-billion dollar industry with the ever increasing demand. Originally it was served with meat, onions and a small quantity of salads. Now the salads is served in huge volume along with sauces to compliment the kebabs.
Indonesia: Nasi goreng
The Indonesian stir-fried rice is how you can simply imagine this dish called Nasi goreng. In India you must have seen this dish already, some Indo-Chinese restaurants offer it on their menu. It is Pre-cooked rice fried in small amount of oil and spiced with sweet soy sauce (distinguishing ingredient), shallot, ginger-garlic paste, tamarind and chili. Addition of shrimp paste is very central to the original recipe which separates it from the other fried rices.
Have you tasted Falafel? Some of the malls in Indian metro cities offer it in their food courts. Finally a vegan friendly dish on the list. A patty made from mashed chickpeas or fava beans and sometimes both. The patty is deep fried till the wet batter forms a solid brown crust. It is served with a Pita bread and pickled vegetables. Tahini based sauces are added for more variation in flavours. First vegan dish in the list of national dishes.
It is very common in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine. The chickpea and fava beans are soaked overnight and are ground coarsely with some parsley. Mild spices like cumin powder and coriander powder are added to the coarse batter. For a healthier version you can always bake it instead of frying.
Italy: Pasta, Pizza
Mama Mia!!! Prelibatezze Italiane!!! How melodious does it sound? These dishes do not even need introduction. I guess more than Italy they are loved the most in India. Obviously with slightly Indian touch. So it is no wonder that these dishes are the official national dishes of Italy. Pizza is registered with the European Union as a Traditional Specialty Guaranteed dish.
There are more than 300 varieties of Pastas in dry and wet forms. It says enough about the stature of this dish. The total names by which these varieties are recognized is somewhere around 1300 and counting. Let us not get into the number of recipes that could be made out of this yummy permutation and combination. These 2 big dishes do not need further elaboration to be on this list.
First of all tell me, if you too think that Sushi is just raw fish??? If you think so then do not worry, half the people in the world have the same perception. So first things first, sushi is a preparation of vinegared rice and it is not raw fish that is used but a fish which is slightly cooked just to remove the raw fish flavours. The raw fish serving is called Sashimi and is often confused with Sushi. Maybe for Indians and the people from sub-continent Sushi is not the most lucrative cuisine. What you think?
Jamaica: Jerk chicken
A drool worthy marinade made out of few ingredients out of which the two important ones are the allspice (Jamaican pepper) and scotch bonnet chili pepper. Rubbed into the chicken and marinated for some time. Then cooked on a wood fired barbeque to give than smoky flavour to the chicken and get that glazing burnt finish. Is your mouth watering?
National dish with chicken as the main ingredient, who would object that? In India some famous restaurants do offer this dish. Some of the Pop-Tate’s outlets have this on their menu. It is spicy, it is sweet, and it is amazing. Want to make one at home? Check out the original recipe in this video.
Nepal: Dal bhat
Do I need to say anything about it? Steamed rice well cooked and a Dal (Lentil based stew) tempered with seasonings. It is a comfort meal for almost all over India and the sub-continent. It feels great to know that a comfort food like this is even a national dish of a country. This dish suits the country for the simplicity it possess, this dish is a true reflection of Nepal. Most simple one in this list of national dishes.
New Zealand: Meat pie
A flour based crusty pie filled in the center with minced meat, some gravy, some onions and mushrooms. It is widely loved in the New Zealand and is proud a national identity. Since 1997 there is an award called ‘The Bakels New Zealand Supreme Pie Award’ which recognizes the best meat pie manufacturer. This clearly underlines the fascination of the people with this national dish.
India’s most talked neighbor has one famous thing that nobody could deny and that is their Mughlai cuisine. Nihari is a slow cooked mildly spiced stew which is meant to be eaten in the early morning to provide a great boost of energy. It was invented in the 18th Century India. The royal Awadhi kitchens can be credited for the invention of this recipe, which is confirmed through various sources.
This dish traveled to Pakistan after Partition in 1947 CE and then the rest is history. The bone shank meat cuts are cooked on slow heat with amazing spices and fats. The leftover is added to the next day’s recipe which is called as taar and this taar is believed to bring that wholesome flavour to the Nihari. Have you tried Nalli Nihari?
Singapore: Chilli crab
Chilli crab is promoted by the Singapore Tourism Board as one of Singapore’s national dishes. It started its journey from a pushcart and then now has managed to reach a stature where it is a prestigious national dish of Singapore. CNN ranked this among the top 50 dishes of the world in 2011. A sweet, spicy and savory taste puts this dish in the league of the best foods.
Mud crabs are used to make this, the sauce is tomato and chili based thick marinade. The crab is stir fried in the slurry of this delicious sauce and the shells releases the flavours into the gravy. For seafood lovers this is a very sought after dish which they can’t resist.
Spain: Spanish Omelette
It is commonly referred as tortilla de patatas. It is an Omelette of eggs and potatoes with some people including onions as per preference. The thinly sliced starchy potatoes are sauted in olive oil with or without onions. To this, the whisked eggs are added and cooked from one side, then a dish is placed on the top and it is flipped to be returned on the pan again to cook on both sides. It is very fluffy in texture and gooey in the middle.
In 1930 CE the Swiss cheese union promoted the Fondue as the national dish of the Switzerland. A small pot containing melted liquid and flavorsome cheese in which you can dip bread and have a hearty bite. The pot has a small candle beneath it so that it can keep the cheese warm. One very subtle dish among the list of famous national dishes.
It was aggressively promoted in the country with help of slogans like “La fondue crée la bonne humeur” ‘fondue creates a good mood’. The cheese fondue is a mixture of cheese, wine and seasonings. The pot is rubbed with garlic and then white wine is added to deglaze and absorb the garlic flavour. To this some corn starch is added and then the grated cheese is added to create the perfect fondue.
Finally a dessert on this list. It is kind of a sweet dough based pastry with crunchy layers and a filling of chopped nuts with sweeteners such as honey or sugar syrup in it. It is a delicately sweet recipe which is famous in the entire middle-east actually. Origins of this recipe can be traced back to Istanbul.
The filo dough sheets are placed on each other with generous application of butter and oil in between the layers the chopped nuts are added in the center. This process is repeated till several layers form a thick slab. It is then baked in oven at 180-200 degree Celsius. Finally it is soaked in the sweet syrup which is either sugar or honey based. It is mildly sweet and a very desirable dish that anybody can eat after a good meal.
United Arab Emirates: Harees
A meat based porridge is what we can call this treat. Boiled wheat which is coarsely ground is cooked with the red meat. The cooked meat is pound in a large vessel till it forms a thread releasing paste. All the spices, ghee, oil and fried onions are added to this along with the coarse wheat. It is often cooked for long hours to achieve a velvety texture. The original recipe is found in 10th-century cookbook ‘Kitab Al Tabikh’. The Hyderabadi Haleem is a variant of Harees.
With so much of protein, this dish is often made during Ramadan to ensure the energy levels are restored optimally after a long day of fasting. It is served in Iftar along with ghee and fried onions and some ginger juliennes.
United Kingdom: Fish and chips
Combine two things and serve it on a single plate, this kind of formula is used in the national dish of UK. A fish dipped in batter and deep fried in oil to get a golden crispy crunch and a mouthwatering moist fish meat. To heighten the experience throw in some deep fried potato chips which are a little thicker than the French fries. The Cod or Haddock are the main choice of the fish but other fishes too can be used.
At the risk of sounding ignorant toward British cuisine, I personally feel this is the real jewel among the otherwise bland cuisine this country has. You can find it in almost every restaurant and eatery, because the Britishers just love this junk and tasty food.
United States: Hamburger
Nobody can separate hamburgers from the American culture. You can eat it on the street, order it at home, or find it on the menu of a fine dine establishment. A go to dish for most of the people in USA. A meat patty mostly made out of ground beef which is either pan seared, grilled or smoked with some mild seasoning. The patty is placed on the half cut bun along with tomatoes, lettuces, onions, pickles and sauces of different flavor and then the other half of bun is pressed from the top.
There are many sources which claims the invention of this but none of them have the evidence to cement these claims. But one thing is certain and that the Hamburger is much of a celebrated fast food across the USA.
Closure of National Dishes:
These were some famous national dishes or national dishes from famous countries. Some countries had more than one national dish listed, I tried to pick the most famous one here. India, China and Mexico are those countries which have a very vast and diverse culinary variety. This is a reason that they do not have any national dish as such. But if given a chance which dish would you choose as India’s national dish? For me it is Dal Makkhani from a personal standpoint because, it qualifies the criteria of being a vegetarian and vegan delicacy.
All this national dishes highlight the importance of food in history and politics. This proves a point that food is inseparable part of any country’s tradition, heritage and values. It often happens that when we hear about a place we instantly either think of a famous monument or a famous food associated with that place. This is how much special food is to each and every citizen of this globe. I hope this love for food continues and helps in easing other pain points of humanity.
With this your foodie_khiladi signs off for the day. I hope you have made it till here if you are a food enthusiast. I thank you for reading it with full attention. If you are here for the first time then you can check out my other blogs on this link here. If you liked this post then do share with your loved ones. For any queries and concerns you can reach out to me at [email protected] or DM me at foodie_khiladi007.
See you soon in my next post, till then keep smiling and spreading the smile.