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Culture Guide

Ten National dishes from around the world

27 July 2023

Ten National dishes from around the world

…and a little bit about each one, so you can impress your party

If you’re planning a trip aboard, there are few better ways of ingratiating yourself, than requesting one of their favourite dishes. And it’s even better if you already know a little bit about it.

1. Sauerbraten, Germany

German cuisine is all about marinated meats, sticky potatoes (kartoffelklöße), dark breads and big beers. Various popular dishes have spread around the world, like sauerkraut and currywurst, but sauerbraten holds a special place in our hearts. It translates to sour roast, as the meat is marinated in wine and vinegar for three days before cooking. And although it’s most commonly served as beef, you’ll also see venison, mutton or pork varieties on some menus.

2. Bandeja Paisa, Colombia

Colombia’s platter-style dish comes from the Andean region, offering a wonderful variety of tastes and textures for dinner time. It consists of various meats like chicharrón (fried pork rinds – basically crackling), carne en polvo (powdered beef) and chorizo; a fried egg, white rice, corn, plantain, red beans, and avocado.

3. Sambal matah, Bali

This fresh tuna dish roughly translates to raw chilli sauce, offering a perfect balance between sweet and spice. It’s made with shallots, long red chillies, lemongrass, ginger, shrimp paste, garnished with a fresh squeeze of lime.

4. Dāl bhāt, Nepal

Dāl or dahl, translates to lentil soup or stew, while bhāt just means boiled rice. So, put them together, and you’ve got a lentil curry with a side of basmati. The dāl is prepared with a healthy serving of herbs and spices, including garlic, chilli, garam masala, cumin, turmeric and coriander, as well as tomatoes and onion. In some northern areas of Nepal, where it’s too high and cold to grow rice, it will be substituted for buckwheat or barley.

5. Pot-au-feu, France

The literal translation of this French dish doesn’t really give much away – pot in the fire. But if you see this traditional, hearty dish on a menu, you can expect stewing steak, root vegetables, and spices. Perfect on a cool winter’s eve to warm your cockles.

6. Ackee and saltfish, Jamaica

Were you to find yourself in Kingston for brunch, you’d be able to enjoy a healthy serving of delicious ackee and saltfish. Ackee is a savoury fruit, which strangely tastes a bit like scrambled eggs when cooked. However, it can be poisonous if eaten before it’s ripe – so make sure you do your own research before attempting to cook this one at home. The dish is served with boneless salted cod, peppers, spring onions, tomato and garlic.

7. Köttbullar, Sweden

If you’ve ever been to IKEA, you’ll likely already know what Sweden’s national dish consists of… you guessed it, köttbullar is meatballs. The Swedish meatball is typically smaller than those you’d expect on top of spaghetti and is made with ground beef or pork, bread crumbs, onion, eggs and seasoning. For pure authenticity, serve with a thin gravy, boiled or mashed potatoes, and lingonberries.

8. Hákarl, Iceland

To the uninitiated, Iceland’s hárkarl might come as a bit of a surprise, but whiffy cubes of shark on a stick are quite popular. After the sleeper sharks are fished out of the freezing waters, they’re fermented and hang-dried for five months. Before being chopped up into cubes, and enjoyed all year around.

9. Moules-Frites, Belgium

You can’t go far wrong with a big bowl of mussels (moules), next to a big bowl of fries (frites). When the Belgians aren’t tucking into a box of their world-famous chocolates, or supping an Abbey-strength beer, it’s all about mussels, steamed in white wine and cream, for a rich and moreish sauce. A thick slice of crusty bread is recommended for dipping.

10. Haggis, Scotland

It doesn’t get not much more Scottish than haggis – a mixture of sheep’s pluck (the heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal and spices. It’s famously served with mashed neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes), especially on 25 January, also known as Burn’s Night. Celebrating the life and times of Scottish poet, Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns.


So, where are you going first? Are you hankering for hárkarl, dreaming of dāl bhāt, or busting for bandeja paisa? Answers on a postcard, please.