How well do you know your favorite country’s food? By now, I’m sure you’ve tasted some of your favorite travel destination’s most popular food items, but next time you go back, do try these amazing alternatives!
Known for: Goulash
Iconic of Hungarian cuisine is the hearty, soul-warming stew called Goulash. It is so popular in Hungary, in fact, that it has become both a national dish and a national symbol. It’s a versatile dish that can be served either as a stew (which is eaten alongside nokedli, or potato dumplings), or as a soup (which is eaten with a nice chunk of fresh bread). The popularity of goulash means that it is a constant dish in menus across Central Europe, with each country offering a variation of the Hungarian Goulash using local techniques or flavors.
Heavily spiced with paprika, which gives goulash its trademark deep-red color, Goulash is perfect during the brutal Hungarian winters. It is usually made with beef, but lamb, pork, and veal variants exist. It is then topped with Hungarian sour cream.
Deceptively simple but unbelievably delicious, Lángos is a traditional Hungarian street food that can also be made at home. Lángos is basically deep-fried bread dough topped with a wide array of ingredients, ranging from a simple mixture of sour cream, garlic, and cheese, to more complex toppings like tomatoes, onions, bacon, and parsley.
Affordable, simple, and available all-year round, Lángos is popular for all types of occasions and is enjoyed by everyone.
Known for: Schnitzel
Schnitzel is one of the most popular dishes in Austrian cuisine, particularly in Vienna. Wiener Schnitzel, or Viennese Schnitzel, is made with a thinly cut piece of veal, garnished with slices of lemon and a hearty potato salad on the side.
Much like French wine or Italian cheese, Wiener Schnitzel is a protected product, which means that for a dish to be called Wiener Schnitzel, it MUST be prepared with veal. If any other meat is used, it MUST be called Wiener Schnitzel Vom Schwein if its made of pork, and Wiener Schnitzel Vom Huhn if it’s made of chicken.
This is for those with a serious sweet tooth! Sachertorte is a specific type of chocolate that’s associated with Vienna. It is so popular in fact, that it has its own holiday: December 5th is celebrated as National Sachertore day in the U.S. Originally created by Franz Sacher in 1832 for his employer, Prince Wenzel Von Metternich.
Sachertorte is basically a dense chocolate cake topped with a thin layer of apricot jam. It is then coated in dark chocolate icing. It is served with unsweetened whipped cream on the side and is typically enjoyed while sipping a cup of Viennese coffee.
Known for: Paella
Paella is one of those dishes that has something for everyone: it’s a rice dish that, depending on the region, is topped with various kinds of meat, seafood, and vegetables. Originally hailing from Valencia, paella has become so popular that you can now see different types of paella all over Spain and the world.
Served either for lunch or dinner, different regions in Spain will have different versions of this rice dish. In Valencia, traditional paella is made with beef, chicken, or a combination of both. Meanwhile, in coastal areas of Spain, seafood like squid and shrimp are used in lieu of meat.
Popular in large cities like Madrid and Barcelona, Bocadillo is the everyman’s go-to lunch sandwich. Cheap, tasty, and hearty, Bocadillo is made with a slightly sweet Spanish bread and filled with either meat, sausage, omelets, cheese, or tuna. Rarely do you see a Bocadillo with lettuce or tomatoes. It is a popular snack in tapas bars and restaurants.
Because of its versatility, people can use different kinds of condiments with Bocadillo, from simple toppings like mustard and ketchup, to more complex ones like aioli or hot sauce.
Known for: Spring Rolls
Spring rolls originate from the Guangzhou region of China and is ubiquitous with Cantonese cuisine. It is typically a deep-fried cylindrical dimsum filled with vegetables and meat, it can also be filled with sweet mung bean paste and served as a dessert.
Spring rolls are especially popular with tourists and westerners, as it is a versatile dish that can be filled with whatever is lying around in the kitchen. It’s easy, fast, and delicious.
Try: Xiao Long Bao
Known as soup dumplings in the West, xiao long bao are small and delicate dimsums filled with soup and ground pork. It originates from Shanghai and is fast becoming a popular dish around the world.
To eat, allow the dumpling to cool on your soupspoon. When it’s cool enough to handle (usually after 3 minutes), place a bit of black vinegar and ginger matchsticks on your soupspoon and pop the whole thing in your mouth in one fell swoop!
Known for: Kimchi
A staple dish in Korean cuisine, Kimchi is any type of vegetable that is salted and then fermented with chili paste, garlic, scallions, and other aromatics. While cabbage kimchi is the most popular type of kimchi, other variants exist using different vegetables like radish, carrots, and even fruits like pears and apples.
Usually eaten as a side dish, kimchi can also be added to fried rice to give it a spicy and tangy kick.
A Chinese-Korean dish, it’s become a very popular noodle food across South Korean. Jjajangmyeon consists of noodles in a savory black bean sauce which can also include bits of beef, pork, and onion.
It’s best eaten with a side dish of yellow pickled radish. It’s a perfect dish for those who can’t handle spicy food, as the black bean sauce is very mild and smooth.
Known for: Tom Yum
Tom yum is a type of hot and sour Thai soup. Tom yum has its origin in Thailand. In recent years, tom yum, specifically “tom yum goong” which is made with prawns, has been popularized around the world.
Tom Yum is characterized by its hot and sour flavor, given to it by its generous use of chili peppers and lime juice.
Try: Pad Thai
Pad Thai is popular among locals because it is cheap, easy to make, and filling. Made with dried rice noodles stir-fried with eggs and tofu, Pad Thai gets its distinct flavor from tamarind, garlic, chili peppers, and fish sauce.
It became a ubiquitous Thai dish after the Second World War, when a rice shortage in Thailand prompted the government to promote eating noodles instead. Since then, it has become the national dish of Thailand.
I’m sure you also have a local favorite! Share with us your favorite dish from your favorite country by commenting below!