It always comes as a surprise to me that some people who are open minded enough to travel remain closed to other cuisines. My motto is, I will put any food in my mouth at least once. Lots of people will argue about which dish is a country’s national dish. So instead of joining in the debate, I will list my favourite dishes from each country. I of course have enjoyed dishes from many countries but for the sake of this list I will limit myself to dishes from the countries I have visited only.
Oddly enough for such a multicultural country Australia really has no national dish. I cannot think of one anyway, beyond some little desserts. I guess if pressed I would say the spectacularly lowbrow meat pie but that hardly counts as a dish. Anyway, with so many cultures here we don’t need one.
The Wiener Schnitzel, a lightly crumbed veal escalope. I’ve had plenty in Australia but not whilst in Austria. Pleasant enough dish, though not exactly haute cuisine.
Being as adventurous as I am I actually sought out the wild Cambodian food like fried crickets and duck embryos. I actually liked the crickets and wouldn’t go back for the duck embryo. But Cambodia’s true national dish is Fish Amok, a coconut based fish curry cooked in coconut leaves. Delicious dish, not dissimilar to Thai cuisine.
The closest thing they have to a national dish would be Ropa Vieja (old clothing), shredded beef in a tomato sauce base. They also have congri as a staple, rice cooked with black beans. Both are fine, without being exceptional. Cuba is a poor country but a lot of their produce is actually very good, which is why I found their lack in culinary skills quite puzzling.
Koshari is an enormously popular meal most Egyptians enjoy for lunch – rice, lentils, macaroni in a tomato chili sauce. It sounded iffy to me and I was no more impressed when I saw it. But I have to say it was very tasty. That said I still prefer a good Falafel roll.
Wow, where to even start. Given France’s fine food history it’s difficult to select one that truly represents France. We have Escargots, Boeuf Bourguignon, Pot-au-Feu, Créme Caramel, Soufflés, Foi Gras or even the humble Croque Monsieur. I don’t think it really matters which you choose, I’m pretty sure they’re all delicious. For mine, I do love a good Paté and Cassoulet – a rich, slow-cooked casserole originating in the south of France, containing meat, pork skin and white beans. I had a very good one in Paris a few years ago – https://wanderlust63.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/le-languedoc-paris-france/
I’m not entirely sure what dish the Germans consider their national dish. Probably one of their many sausages or sauerkraut. To be honest I wasn’t particularly fond of what I was eating in my time in Germany, except for one thing. They are particularly good at roast pork. I ate a few roast pork rolls at the Munich markets. My first meal was indeed a pork knuckle which was lovely. Just keep your dumplings – give me potatoes.
The two most famous Greek dishes are Moussaka and Souvlaki. I did not have a Moussaka in my time in Greece but one of my lunchtime favourites was the Souvlaki. Cheap and delicious, they are hard to bypass.
You can forget about the Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice). The one greatest contribution Indonesians have given the world is Sate (satay), skewered marinated meats cooked over an open flame and served with a spicy peanut sauce, cucumber, raw onions and compressed rice. Easily one of my top ten dishes of all time.
Some could argue for Pizza or Risotto, but Italy’s national dish can only be Pasta, in its many forms and sauces. It can be argued that Marco Polo ‘stole’ the idea from the Chinese (not proven BTW), but what the Italians have added to Pasta have well and truly made it their own. The best pasta I had in my trips to Italy was a simply wonderful plate of Spaghetti Carbonara in Bologna. It’s no coincidence that Bologna has been called La Grassa (the fat one), in reference to its rich culinary history.
Malaysians are made up primarily of 3 races – the local Malays and immigrant Chinese and Indians. These races have not only brought their own cuisines but through the years have come up with mixed cuisines of their own. In Melaka, Chinese settlers mixed with local Malays to produce magnificent Nonya cuisine. There are several dishes which could lay claim to be the national dish, among them Nasi Lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk served with deep fried anchovies, sambal, hard boiled eggs and maybe a curry), Rendang (a dry coconut based curry) and Roti Canai (Indian bread with curry). My personal favourite among these is Laksa (noodles in a coconut based curry broth). There are several versions of this dish, depending on which state you’re in.
There is no question as to what NZ’s national dish is – Roast Lamb. When I was there years ago we were served this for dinner it seemed 90% of the time. I like it as much as the next person but it was a bit much. That said, they cook it very well.
In Peru one dish in particular is king – Ceviche, a dish made from fresh raw fish cured in lemon or lime juice seasoned with chopped onions, salt or coriander. Ceviche is usually accompanied by side dishes like sweet potato, lettuce and corn kernels. Tangy and very refreshing.
Like Malaysia, Singapore’s rich culinary history to its immigrants. With Singapore, most of its great dishes have Chinese roots. Arguably the best place in SE Asia for hawker food due to its hygiene levels. There are so many amazing dishes to choose from but the undisputed king is Hainanese Chicken Rice. The rice is cooked using chicken stock and served with succulent steamed chicken, chicken broth and accompanied by a tangy chili sauce, dark soy and a ginger sauce. Possibly my all time favourite dish, it may have had its beginnings in China but Singapore has truly made it its own. I had a chat to famed Australian chef Tetsuya Wakuda about this dish and he agreed – it’s a winner. Made well, it’s hard to beat. I like the one they serve at the Wisma Atria food court. Give me two servings of this (they’re on the small side) and a large glass of ice cold sugar cane juice and I’m in heaven.
My first impression of Spanish cuisine was not a good one, having endured the Bocadillo, a horribly dry, unbuttered roll with some processed cold cut. But when one speaks of Spanish dishes one generally mentions the Paella and Tapas. I had some Paella in Valencia which was passable without being exceptional. The culinary highlight of my trip was dining on some sensational Tapas at a bar not far from the Segrada Familia in Barcelona. I’m not a fan of Tapas in general but these were sensational.
Beyond Turkish Delights, Turkey is best known for the Shish Kebab – skewered meat and vegetables grilled over a flame. I preferred it over the Kofta, which is more of a long meatball. The flame always adds an amazing flavour.
When one speaks of Vietnamese food tow names spring to mind – Pho (soup with flat noodles, herbs and meat) and the Banh Mi (baguette filled with roast pork, pork liver paté, herbs, mayo etc). I like the Banh Mi very much but consider the Pho very overrated. I did enjoy a dish in Hanoi called the Bun Bo Nam Bo (Thin noodles on top of a bed of fresh lettuce and topped with a mixed stir-fry of beef, bean sprouts and onions. Then a broth is poured over and chopped roasted peanuts and dried shallots are sprinkled over the top.) If you’re in Hanoi you must try it. I couldn’t find it in south Vietnam.
Nothing says America more than the Hamburger in its various forms. I struggled to finish my enormous burger at the Cheesecake Factory. Perhaps it was the size of it, perhaps I was saving room for dessert or perhaps I was on my best behaviour because I was on a date. All I know is that it was very good.