Food culture is on the upswing like never before. On television, amateur cooks compete to make scallops, talented confectioners bake matcha cakes in time and chocolate masters create sculptures of African animals. As we walk out into the street, we pass more bars and restaurants serving dishes from the world’s farthest corners of the world. You can already eat a Korean bowl of bibimbap, a Middle Eastern makali or an African lentil dish, dhali, without having to figure out how, where and why it’s so far away (you may still wonder why it’s so expensive, though). And to top it off, supermarkets and discount stores invite us to feast on Italian, Greek or Spanish style, serving traditional products typical of the cuisines there.
For dessert, it’s worth adding that culinary tourism, which involves discovering a place through the flavors it offers, is becoming increasingly popular. So where are you going? That’s easy. Ask your stomach what it wants!
One of the most popular inquiries regarding food still arises from our curiosity about the national dish of a specific country. Here we are with a tray loaded with local delicacies! In front of you are 16 national dishes, and 16 phrases you should know to order them.
What Is The National Dish In 16 Countries?
Creating this list wasn’t the easiest task. First, the choice should have been narrowed down to only one dish, and second, national dishes are sometimes relics of the past. In the era of fusion cuisine, molecular gastronomy and soy protein isolate that smells like chicken, Polish bigos or English steak and kidney pie (lamb kidneys in pastry) can seem a bit antiquated. Some countries have official national dishes, but many don’t. Despite that, we’ve compiled a list that will probably delight some and outrage others (food is always a source of heated debate). We apologize for any indigestion if you disagree, and that our linguistic tips will prove more palatable.
England: Fish And Chips
- How To Order: One portion of fish and chips, please.
- Interesting Fact: The English love fish and French fries so much that they have established the first Friday in June as an annual holiday for the dish (National Fish & Chip Day).
- For Language Geeks: The distinctive wooden fork with two tines stuck into fish or French fries is a chip fork.
United States: Burgers
- How To Order: Could I have a burger, please?
- Interesting Fact: According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Americans consume an average of 2.4 burgers per week per person, or 50 billion a year!
- For Language Geeks: In Brazil, you can order a dish called x-burguer. The X in Brazilian Portuguese is pronounced in several ways, including [shiss]. So a [shiss]-burger is simply a cheeseburger.
Germany: Würstchen Mit Kartoffelsalat
- How To Order: Einmal Würstchen mit Kartoffelsalat, bitte.
- Interesting Fact: There are many types of sausages served together with potato salad. Among the most popular are Bockwurst (made from veal and pork), Bratwurst (usually a pork sausage cooked on the grill) and Wiener Würstchen (a cooked sausage in a natural casing).
- For Language Geeks: Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder exposed himself to younger generations who are gradually moving away from eating meat by calling German Wurst “Kraftriegel der Arbeiter.” Kraftriegel are healthy muesli bars designed to give you energy between meals at work. According to the controversial politician, this role is fulfilled by the traditional German sausage.
Italy: Pizza Margherita
- How To Order: Una pizza Margherita, per favore.
- Interesting Fact: On December 7, 2017, pizza Napoletana, a traditional Italian pizza, was inscribed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Pizza Napoletana comes in two types: Margherita (with tomatoes, mozzarella, oil, and basil) and Marinara (with tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and oil).
- For Language Geeks: A person who prepares pizza in Italian is a pizzaiolo. In Rome, you may come across the regional name for this profession, which is pizzettaro.
France: Bœuf Bourguignon
- How To Order: Un bœuf bourguignon, s’il vous plaît.
- Interesting Fact: The world fame of Burgundy-style beef was brought by a cookbook written by Julia Child titled The French Art of Cooking. Many years later, the American cook was played by Meryl Streep in the film Julie & Julia. The title characters go through ups and downs while making the French national dish, among other things.
- For Language Geeks: In the word bœuf there is a ligature œ. A ligature is the combination of two or more letters into one. In this case, these are the letters o and e. Interestingly, this is not the only ligature in French. The second is æ, a combination of a and e.
- How To Order: Una paella, por favor.
- Interesting Fact: Like pizza Napoletana, paella is also on UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage List. World Paella Day is celebrated every year on March 27.
- For Language Geeks: The key to making the perfect paella is socarrat, a bottom layer of caramelized and toasted rice with a distinctive brown color. The etymology of the delicious underside goes back to the fired clay tiles of the same name covered with black and brown paintings. On the other hand, paella comes from the Latin word patella, meaning a metal bowl in which the ancient Romans made offerings to the gods.
- How To Order: Tacos al pastor, por favor.
- Interesting Fact: Tacos are the national dish of Mexico and a typical street food in the country. The corn flour tortilla contains chunks of grilled beef, marinated pork or chicken and vegetables typical of Mexican cuisine, namely tomatoes, onions, garlic and beans. Tacos are another dish on our list of UNESCO’s World List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
- For Language Geeks: There are several theories about the origin of the word taco. One of them refers to Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs who inhabited the area of present-day Mexico. The word taco in their language meant “half” or “in the middle,” and it is from this that the name of the national dish was derived. On the other hand, according to the Spanish Royal Academy — the publisher of the Dictionary of the Spanish Language (Diccionario de la lengua española) — taco is a word derived from the Mexican variety of Spanish, literally meaning “stopper” or “ball” and, in the context of cuisine, “light meal.”
- How To Order: Uma feijoada completa, por favor.
- Interesting Fact: Feijoada is an extremely meaty dish that includes cuts of pork, beef, bacon and sausage, linguiça. The latter is a very popular sausage in Portugal and Brazil, seasoned with paprika and garlic, which is sold fresh or after smoking.
- For Language Geeks: Feijoada is a time-consuming dish to make that should be served in a clay shallow dish called a cazuela. Nowadays, cazuela also refers to different variants of the stew that can be found in South American countries.
- How To Order: Poproszę porcję pierogów.
- Interesting Fact: The secret to perfect dumplings is the stuffing, although poorly prepared dough can ruin a culinary masterpiece. The most important thing is water, which must be lukewarm, and flour, which should be of type 500 or 550. Do not, under any circumstances, add an egg. This is the opposite of the Italian “ravioli,” which requires fresh eggs.
- For Language Geeks: There are several theories about the etymology of the word pieróg (formerly piróg), but according to one of them, the word comes from the Proto-Slavic word pirogъ, which root pir meant “feast,” or “feasting.” Interestingly, in Croatian and Serbian to this day pir are specifically related to weddings.
- How To Order: Мне окрошку, пожалуйста.
- Interesting Fact: This is an extremely richly flavored soup, made with egg yolks, mustard, bread acid and pickles, with chunks of veal and pork ham floating in it. Okroshka is served cold, as its sourness is refreshing during hot weather. One legend has it that the soup was created by accident when a pipe-smoking cook, while preparing a vegetable salad, poured bread acid into a bowl of vegetables.
- For Language Geeks: The soup takes its name from the Russian verb крошить, which means “to crush,” “to chop into small pieces” or “to pick up small pieces.”
The Netherlands: Boerenkoolstamppot
- How To Order: De boerenkoolstamppot, alsjeblieft.
- Interesting Fact: Boerenkoolstamppot is a type of stew in which crushed, pre-cooked potatoes should be mixed with cooked kale. The dish is often served with rookworst, or Dutch smoked sausage, a bundle of which is placed on top of the pot.
- For Language Geeks: Stamppot refers to any dish with ingredients that have been mashed into a purée. This type of dish is so popular in the Netherlands that the country’s residents get together during Stampotavond, or “stew nights.”
- How To Order: Bir tane lahmacun alabilir miyim, lütfen?
- Interesting Fact: In March 2020, Kim Kardashian asked her fans on Instagram if they knew lahmacun, adding that it is a traditional Armenian pizza. Her statement was met with outrage among Turkish fans, who said it was a dish typical of their cuisine. Nevertheless, in the United States, Armenian pizza or Turkish pizza are popular names for lahmacun, perhaps introduced for the convenience of customers who did not know how to pronounce its name: /lɑːməˈdʒuːn/.
- For Language Geeks: The name of the dish comes from Arabic and perfectly describes its contents. بعجين لحم (Lahm b’ajin) means “meat in the batter.” It’s worth noting that in addition to beef or lamb, the traditional Turkish dish also contains vegetables, including grilled eggplant, and Middle Eastern spices and herbs.
- How To Order: Tre stykker smørrebrød, tak.
- Interesting Fact: Smørrebrød are sandwiches on rye bread, rugbrød, served with toppings, the number of which is basically limited by our imagination and the strength of the bread. We can meet sandwiches with fish, egg, asparagus, red cabbage salad, pickles, sprouts, and many other ingredients.
- For Language Geeks: Smørrebrød are perfectly in line with the idea of hygge, or inner peace and balance, which Danes achieve in a cozy and warm environment by, among other things, serving themselves small pleasures. Among them, colorful and healthy sandwiches typical of the country.
- How To Order: En porsjon fårikål, takk.
- Interesting Fact: Fårikål is another dish on our list that has its own day. Indeed, Norwegians celebrate Fårikål Day on the last Thursday of September. In addition, Norwegian mutton in cabbage has been featured in the Guinness Book of World Records. On September 29, 2012, nearly 595 kilograms of Norway’s national dish were prepared in Oslo and eaten by some 10,000 gathered guests.
- For Language Geeks: Fårikål is a combination of two words, får, and kål, where the former means “mutton” and the latter means “cabbage.”
Sweden: Sill Och Potatis
- How To Order: En portion sill och potatis, tack.
- Interesting Fact: Sill och potatis is nothing more than marinated herring with potatoes. There are quite a few ways to serve herring, among them herring with onions (löksill), herring in mustard (senapssill), herring in a dill dressing (sill dill) and instead of Baltic herring, matias (matjes), or young Atlantic herring caught before the spawning season.
- For Language Geeks: Sweden’s national dish is particularly popular during the country’s Midsommar holiday, the celebration that precedes Midsummer Night. After decorating the Maypole (Midsommarstång), Swedes dance and party around it and then sit down at a table where there’s no shortage of sill och potatis.
Indonesia: Nasi Goreng
- How To Order: Satu porsi nasi goreng, ya.
- Interesting Fact: Fried rice is an extremely popular dish in Indonesia, and it has many regional variations. In its simplest version, it comes with onions and spices, but you can easily find a version with chicken, shrimp or tofu. Served hot and cold.
- For Language Geeks: Nasi in Indonesian means ‘rice’ and goreng means ‘fried’. Often the dish is accompanied by belacan, which is a shrimp paste that’s especially popular in Malaysia, as well as in some regions of Indonesia.