What a culture eats can say a lot about its character. It's called cuisine, doofus, and a lot of countries have one iconic dish that is the most widely eaten thing within its borders. But how do these meals stack up, say, from a taste and ingredient standpoint? We set out to rank them, from least impressive to world-class.
Naturally, not every country has a most-loved pick, and some are just too big and diverse -- we're looking at you, India -- to pick one. So, without further ado (or any tandoori), here are 27 countries' favorite dishes going head-to-head:
Credit: Flickr/Funky Tee
What it is: Fermented shark
Why it placed where it did: Sharks in the movies seem to have a big appetite for people, but the reciprocal isn't really true; Anthony Bourdain tried this stuff -- rotten, fermented shark -- and said it's the worst thing he's ever eaten. And that dude's eaten raw seal eyeball. And probably a lot of other things that weren't on his show.
Credit: Flickr/Mike Krzeszak
What it is: Sauerkraut and meat stew
Why it placed where it did: This Polish hunter's stew is assuredly hearty, but that's about all it's got going for it. Best washed down with Sobieski. The vodka. Not the Leelee.
What it is: Mashed potatoes and kale
Why it placed where it did: Despite being the subject of many a jaunty Irish tune, colcannon isn't too awe-inspiring of a dish. Fun to say, though. Especially after a few pints of Uncle Arthur.
Credit: Flickr/N Wong
What it is: Mussels and fries
Why it placed where it did: When you get mussels at any Belgian restaurant, you usually get a huge portion -- and that can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your personal level of affection for mussels ("meh," says I). The fries are universal. As are the Mussels from Brussels jokes.
What it is: Mashed fava beans in oil with cumin
Why it placed where it did: In addition to being a favorite of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, fava beans are just plain OK. Kinda lacking in the food group department (it could use some pita), though.
What it is: White beans, vegetables, and olive oil stew
Why it placed where it did: The last entrant in the "IT'S JUST BEANS" category is Greece, whose fasolada is a stew with big white beans and olive oil and some veggies, like tomatoes and peppers. It was supposedly the dish most heavily favored by the ancient Greeks, and those guys invented democracy... but, like this dish, their version wasn't perfect.
What it is: Danish meatballs
Why it placed where it did: These aren't technically meatballs; more like minced meat dumplings that are composed of veal, beef, or pork. They're generally served with boiled potatoes and gravy. Rated middle-of-the-road because the meat factor is there, but they're a bit lacking in imagination -- like the similarly named 1979 Bill Murray vehicle (That's right, we said it!).
What it is: Vinegar-stewed meat
Why it placed where it did: The word "adobo" is a loanword from Spanish, which was first used by explorers when they experienced the cooking of the Philippine islands. It means "marinade," and that's pretty much what adobo is -- any meat simmered in vinegar, soy sauce, and other stuff until it's tender. It's delicious, but there are better meat preparations on this list.
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