Do you want to learn more about historical cuisine? Are you looking to expand your international food repertoire?
We recently featured some of the most famous national dishes from around Europe, here we cover the national dishes from the rest of the world.
Want to learn more? Continue down the page to immerse yourself in international cuisine history.
Afghanistan – Kabuli Pulao
Widely recognised as the national dish of Afghanistan, Kabuli Pulao (Palaw) is a staple, historic speciality. The dish, notwithstanding its popularity, has a social function in Afghan society. Often, the marriage potential of a bride rests largely on her ability to cook Kabuli Pulao, making it an essential component of Afghan culture.
Originating as the dish favoured by Afghan royalty, Kabuli Pulao became a more popular dish to all as wealth accumulated among the middle ranks of society.
The key to crafting a good Pulao is ensuring the rice does not break during the process, so be careful!
Algeria – Couscous
The availability of Couscous means you can find it in essentially every shop now. It’s versatile, unique, and a great choice if you are looking to spice up your evening meals.
Couscous has its roots in the seventh-century region of North Africa. For the countries in the Mahgreb region (mainly Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania, and Libya), Couscous is acknowledged as a cultural delicacy, with regional specialities offering a wide variety of flavours. Of course, over time, the dish has become popularised around the world, owing to its taste and accessibility.
Traditionally produced by Agricultural societies, Couscous has always been celebrated for its minimal requirements.
Brazil – Feijoada
Feijoada derives from ‘feijo’, roughly translating as ‘beans’. It is a South American favourite but is widely enjoyed throughout the world. Packed full of hearty ingredients, it’s a gorgeous blend of Brazillian-Portuguese influences.
Hailed as Brazil’s national delicacy, the dish is usually slowly-cooked and eaten in the afternoon, allowing for savouring throughout the day. The rich textures of the stew make it a perfect addition to your afternoon lunches.
As the Kingdom of Portugal expanded its empire throughout the early modern period, they brought with them a host of new spices and ingredients to the Americas. Over the years the dish has welcomed new varieties of meat and spices, making it one of the most versatile foods to experiment with.
China – Peking (Beijing) duck
Peking duck has its origins in a 1300s manual written by an imperial kitchen inspector. For both Northern and Southern dynasties, the roasted duck speciality has endured to become one of the most popular dishes in the world. It is typically roasted in an oven and served with hoisin sauce.
Spanning a long but durable history, the dish we commonly associate with ‘Roasted Peking Duck’ was developed during the late Ming dynasty, and was a popular dish featuring in imperial courts.
By the twentieth century, Peking duck had become a national dish of China. Ever since, it’s been a favourite among all classes and tourists of China.
Did you know? During US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s first secret visit to China in 1971, the dish became his favourite meal. Peking duck has since become a favourite among diplomats visiting the country, including Germany’s former Chancellor Kohl.
India – Biryani
This classic dish needs no introduction. If you’ve visited any kind of curry establishment in your life, you’ll instantly recognise this evergreen dish. Even if you’ve yet to try a curry, you’ll still probably be familiar with it!
The mix of aromas, spices, and flavours that combine to produce the Biryani have established it as the apogee of traditional Indian cuisine around the world.
Even so – whilst it may be widely associated with India, the dish has its early origins in West Asia.
The true origin of the Biryani is wrapped around several myths and stories. One of the most popular, however, places its roots with Mumtaz Mahal, the queen who inspired the Taj Mahal. After visiting undernourished soldiers, she asked the barracks chef to produce a dish consisting of nutritious meat and rice.
Israel – Falafel and Hummus
The history of falafel and hummus is steeped in controversy that has become entangled with the Middle East crisis. What is established, however, is that Falafel and Hummus have become world-renowned dishes. Their meat-free variants and versatility have made them into a suitable choice for those following vegetarian diets.
Made more traditionally with chickpeas, Falafel balls contain various spices such as coriander and cumin. These would have been readily accessible during the spice trade that thrived across the Middle East. Often a substitute for meat, you’ll find these deep-fried balls in street food counters.
Hummus is a dip commonly made from chickpeas, lemon, olive oil, tahini, salt, and garlic. The earliest recorded dish that resembles hummus can be traced to the 13th century in Cairo. Their basic ingredients, however, mean that early hummus dishes will most definitely have been consumed for millennia.
Japan – Sushi
You may be surprised to know that ‘sushi’ does not translate as ‘raw fish’! Instead, it refers to a vinegar rice dish served with toppings and spices that could include raw fish.
Its purpose was purely functional: acting as a method of preserving fish wrapped in fermented rice. At the end of this process, rice was discarded and just the fish was consumed.
Sushi is commonly thought to have originated from China from as early as 5th century BCE (for preserving fish in salt). The original form of sushi can be traced to 8th century Japan, with each region crafting its own variant.
Nigirizushi, the form of sushi we are most acquainted with today, has its roots in early 19th-century Japan. It has been developed over time however, to gradually become the bite-sized pieces we think of today.