Food, glorious food! If there’s one thing that unites the human race, it’s a tasty meal. Over the years, various cultures have poured time and dedication into perfecting their own national specialty, and with the wonders of modern transportation and the global market, we’re lucky enough to live in an age where many of us can try all of them.
Here are the seven culinary pinnacles of perfection, famed dishes from all four corners of the Earth – and it’s not hard to see why they’ve achieved such prestige and popularity.
Let’s start with an obvious one. Everyone’s a fan of this delicious comfort food from Italy, the first mention of which comes from a Latin manuscript (presumably in the form of a takeaway menu!). The modern pizza as we know it today was developed in Naples in 1889, when a famous pizzaiolo (pizza whizz) was commissioned to create one especially in honour of Queen Margherita. Guess what he named it?
Of course, the United States have adopted the dish as one of their own, with two rivalling factions offering thin-based and deep-pan varieties from New York and Chicago, respectively. But if you want a truly authentic Neapolitan pizza, you’ll have to head to Italy (it’s even safeguarded by an official organisation!).
Tajine, Morocco / Algeria
Cooked inside a distinctive and bulky pot, this slow-cooked stew is infused with a variety of nuts, dried fruits and spices, including cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, saffron, ginger, paprika and chilli, in addition to the base ingredients of vegetables and / or meat. Traditionally, it is cooked over substantial chunks of charcoal, specially chosen for their size and their ability to burn for long periods of time.
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Nowadays, it’s quite common to see it cooked in a pressure cooker or standard oven, with Arabic restaurants springing up all over the globe often offering this delicious dish on its menu. For the real deal, however, head to northern Africa.
Pad Thai, Thailand
This quintessential Thai dish is most commonly found on the streets of all cities in the country, peddled by vendors swarmed in clouds of steam and spices. Don’t let that put you off though – you’d be hard-pressed to find a bad pad Thai throughout the nation, and they invariably come at rock bottom prices.
The dish itself is comprised of rice noodles stir-fried with garlic, shallots, fish sauce, tamarind pulp, palm sugar, eggs and bean sprouts. Chicken, squid, shrimp or crab is normally added, with tofu acting as a vegetarian substitute, and the whole thing is garnished with chili oil, peanuts and lime wedges. A tasty and affordable snack wherever you find it in Thailand.
Peking Duck, China
The Chinese capital may have changed its name to Beijing in English half a century ago, but that hasn’t affected the moniker of this wildly popular dish. It’s unique in that a traditional Peking duck will be comprised of very little meat of the bird, with its delicately crispy skin making up the majority of the meal.
The animals involved are bred specifically for the purpose and are killed after 65 days, when they are seasoned and roasted. The meat is served with pancakes stuffed with cucumber, sweet bean puree and scallions. The Huffington Post named it as one of the ’10 foods to try before you die’ – get yourself over to the Chinese capital to tick this one off your bucket list prior to kicking the bucket.
When most of us think of sushi, we envisage the tiny rolls of rice, seafood and vegetables wrapped in seaweed, but in fact this is more accurately described as makizushi (or simply maki for short) and is only one example of a wide variety that this versatile dish has to offer. Indeed, the only common denominator in all types of sushi is rice – though raw seafood is often a key component, as well.
Presentation styles vary wildly and in recent years, tropical fruits have infiltrated the sushi mix, bringing a zest and zing to the dish. Sushi restaurants in Japan itself will obviously offer the most authentic options, but such is the popularity of the dish that excellent eateries can be found all over the globe, adding their own unique twist to the theme.
Another dish containing raw fish, ceviche is a popular seafood salad on the west coast of Latin America. As a general rule, South American cuisine veers away from spiciness and heat, but ceviche is an exception to the rule, with chili peppers and red onions bringing a kick to this fresh and flavourful meal.
The raw fish which provides the centrepiece of the dish is first cured in citrus juice and spiced with chilis, before being accompanied by a selection of side dishes. These include (but are not limited to) corn, avocado, sweet potato and plantain. The level of spiciness varies depending upon the establishment and the discerning taste of the customer.
Though its ingredients might sound revolting, haggis is a delectable delicacy that has been handed down through the generations. It was initially created in a bid to not waste any parts of the animal, owing to the poverty of its proponents, and has today evolved into a sophisticated and celebrated dish wheeled out normally at special occasions.
It is created by combining the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep with spices, oatmeal, onion and suet in a minced conglomeration, before cooking the whole lot inside the stomach of the beast. These days, it’s quite common to prepare the ingredients inside an artificial lining instead, but it’s invariably served with ‘neeps and tatties’ – mashed turnips and potatoes – and complemented with a whisky or pepper sauce. Don’t let its description put you off – haggis is a truly delicious Highland dish.