A national dish is any country's culinary, and to a large extent, cultural identity. However, there are some countries which do not have an official national dish. In such countries, some dishes have gained so much importance, they are considered the de facto - although unofficial - national dish. In some cases, national dishes have been decided through general public voting by organizations (that may or may not have affiliation from the government).
While smaller nations, like Spain and Mexico, have a nationally common cuisine, some countries, like Italy or India, are so vast and diverse in their culinary cultures, that picking just one national dish seems difficult. Some others, like England or United States of America, are an amalgamation of so many ethnicities, that their multiple national dishes reflect the 'melting pot of many cultures' that they have become.
Tastessence charts up for you a list of national dishes from around the world - some yummy (think hotdogs) ... some exotic (think lobster in vanilla sauce) ... some outlandish (think six-month old fermented shark)!
Click on a country to view the national dish and its description. Not all mentioned dishes have been officially designated as national dishes.
Afghanistan (Kabuli Pulao)
Long-grained Basmati rice steamed in meat broth, with assorted lentils, raisins, carrots, lamb, and chopped nuts (almonds and pistachios).
Steamed semolina salad tossed with carrots, potatoes, turnips, parsley, etc. Sometimes served with a bowlful of chilled buttermilk.
Australia (Meat Pie)
A fist-sized baked pie filled with ground meat gravy and cheese. The gravy often contains onions and/or mushrooms. The pie is topped with tomato ketchup just before eating.
Austria (Wiener Schnitzel)
Veal escalope, breaded and deep-fried in butter. Traditionally served in Vienna with a salad and a potato preparation (usually potato salad or roast baby potatoes).
Meat, rice, grains or vegetable stuffed grape/eggplant/cabbage leaf rolls. If the dish is to be served warm, it is usually accompanied by yogurt-garlic sauce or clotted sour milk.
Bangladesh (Fish and Rice)
Ilish fish marinated and steamed in a banana leaf. Usually, a little marination is kept aside to pour on the fish after it's cooked. The steamed fish is always accompanied with rice.
Fresh mussels cooked in olive oil and white wine with garlic, thyme, and shallots, and served with potato fries. Common accompaniments include mayonnaise or garlic-flavored crème fraîche.
Belize (Belizean Rice and Beans)
Red kidney beans and rice stewed in coconut milk. Carrots are a seasonal addition.
Bosnia & Herzegovina (Ćevapi)
Grilled ground beef kebabs served with chopped raw onions. Modern customizations include green salad or fries on the side.
Kidney beans stewed with beef and pork. Sometimes vegetables, like tomatoes, potatoes, and carrots, may be added.
French fries topped with a mildly spicy chicken or turkey gravy and fresh cheese curd. The dish is assembled just prior to serving to avoid soggy fries.
Chile (Pastel de Choclo)
A base of ground beef, onions, olives, and raisins, topped with a sweet corn crust. The sweet corn crust is a paste of sweet corn kernels and basil cooked in milk or lard.
China (Peking Duck)
Maltose syrup glazed-duck is roasted in an oven till it turns brown. While the skin is served dipped in sugar-garlic sauce, the meat is served with sweet bean sauce, spring onions, and pancakes. Cucumber sticks are additional accompaniments.
Costa Rica (Gallo Pinto)
Kidney beans and rice cooked together until all the liquid has dried out. Kidney beans are often replaced with black beans or pigeon peas.
Cuba (Ropa Vieja)
Shredded flank steak cooked in tomato sauce. Served with a piece of meat, rice, and sweet plantain fritters.
Flat meat patties - consisting of minced beef, chopped onions, milk, and eggs. Boiled potatoes, potato-mayo salad, creamed cabbage, gravy, and pickled beetroot are popular accompaniments.
Traditional Roast Beef Dinner
Roasted beef with gravy, potatoes (roasted or mashed), Yorkshire pudding, carrots, broccoli, green beans, and peas.
Fish & Chips
Beer-battered or crumbed deep-fried fish and thick-cut potato chips; served with tartar sauce, peas, and a lemon wedge. Fish and chips are sprinkled with salt and malt vinegar prior to serving.
Equatorial Guinea (Succotash)
A salad-like dish consisting of corn, lima beans, sweet peppers, tomatoes, and other available vegetables sautéed in butter.
Thin wheat or buckwheat flour batter pancakes. Sweet fillings include chocolate sauce, jelly, preserves, spreads, or whipped cream, while savory fillings include ham, sausage, cheese, and mushroom.
Sulguni cheese-filled, leavened, and baked bread topped with a cracked soft-boiled egg and butter just before serving.
Beef braised in its own marinade and simmered in a pot for several hours. The marinade typically consists of red wine vinegar, cloves, nutmeg, peppercorns, cinnamon, ginger, and juniper berries. Potato dumplings and red cabbage are popular accompaniments.
Layers of sautéed eggplant and/or potatoes and spicy ground lamb topped with Béchamel sauce and baked.
A spicy tomato-paprika-based stew of meat, noodles, and potatoes.
Long-grain rice cooked with spices and meat. Often topped with fried onion flakes and boiled eggs. Vegetarian versions are also popular.
Whole chicken marinated in yogurt and spices, and baked in a tandoor- a traditional Indian clay oven.
A thin and crisp fermented batter pancake with a spicy potato filling. Usually served with a lentil preparation called A thin and crisp fermented batter pancake with a spicy potato filling. Usually served with a lentil preparation called sambar..
Indonesia (Nasi Goreng)
Fried rice; Stir-fried with shrimp, shallots, and soy sauce, and topped with a fried egg. Often accompanied with a grilled sausage.
Iran (Chelo Kebab)
Cylindrical skewered ground meat (lamb or beef) kebabs served with saffron rice and grilled tomatoes.
Ireland (Irish Stew)
Mutton stew with potatoes, onions, carrots, and parsley.
Flat pasta randomly distributed in layers with ground beef (or other meats), cheese, and tomato sauce, and baked in an oven. Garlic and oregano are added for flavor.
Flat round bread topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and various meat/vegetarian/seafood toppings, and baked in an oven.
Cornmeal porridge - eaten plain or fried/grilled. A version in some parts of Italy includes spooning over meat stew on plain polenta.
Ivory Coast (Aloco)
Deep-fried plantain. Before frying, plantain slices are rubbed with a very spicy onion-ginger-chili-aniseed paste.
Meat and vegetables in simple curry sauce with Japanese spice additions. Usually, served on top of plain steamed rice.
Nori (seaweed) and rice rolls (rolled using specialized sushi mats) with raw fish or cooked fish fillings.
Wheat noodles in a fish or meat broth with soy sauce flavoring. The end product, just prior to serving, is usually topped with sliced pork, dried seaweed, and green onions.
Ground meat salad with fish sauce and roasted ground rice flavored with lime juice, chili, and mint.
Latvia (Grey Peas, Bacon, and Onion)
Grey peas soaked overnight and then sautéed with bacon, salt, and pepper. Onions can be added to the pan while sautéeing the peas and bacon, or served raw with sautéed peas and bacon.
Torpedo-shaped bulgur fritters stuffed with ground meat (beef, lamb, or camel) cooked with chopped onions, chilies, and spices.
Malaysia (Nasi Lemak)
Rice soaked in coconut cream overnight and cooked with pandan leaves, lemon grass, ginger, and other optional spices. It is usually served with a hard-boiled egg, fried anchovies, sambal paste, and roasted peanuts.
Mauritius (Dholl Puri)
Yellow split-pea flatbread. Green chutney and lima bean curry are folded inside the flat bread while it is being rolled.
Tortilla folded with ground beef and cheese filling. Garnished with tomatoes, onions, and cilantro, and served with guacamole, sour cream, and salsa.
Yellow maize flour porridge cooked to a bread-like consistency. Grape or cabbage leaves stuffed with ground meat are a popular accompaniment.
Chicken stew with spices, vegetables, olives, and preserved lemons. Served with couscous.
Nepal (Dal Bhaath)
Stewed lentils topped with clarified butter and chili tempering; served with plain steamed rice.
New Zealand (Pavlova)
A meringue-like dessert with a crisp Cornstarch-based outer crust, and a soft and moist core. Whipped cream and fruits, such as kiwi or passion fruit, are used as garnishes.
Nicaragua (Gallo Pinto)
Kidney beans and cooked stale rice sautéed in oil with onions and garlic.
North Korea (Kimchi)
Vegetables (cabbage, radish, or scallion is commonly used) seasoned using ginger, brine, garlic, etc., and put through a fermentation or pickling process.
Chunks of raw fish marinated in lime juice, mixed with onions, chili peppers, and garlic. Fish bone broth, salt, and pepper are used for seasoning.
Philippines (Chicken Adobo)
Chicken marinated in garlic and vinegar before being shallow-fried in oil, and simmered in its own leftover marinade. Traditionally served over a bed of rice.
A stew of white cabbage, sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), mushrooms, tomatoes, ham, and an assortment of different meats such as pork, beef, veal, bacon, venison, etc.
Dumplings with a 45% beef, 35% mutton, and 20% pork filling. The filling is seasoned with salt and pepper, while mushrooms and onions can be optionally added.
Sheep's heart, liver, and lungs ground and sautéed with onions. The mixture is then wrapped in sheep stomach and simmered in spiced sheep stock with oatmeal for a couple of hours.
Singapore (Hainanese Chicken Rice)
Boiled chicken is tossed in chili-ginger-garlic-soy sauce on high heat, and served with rice boiled in coconut milk.
Sri Lanka (Rice and Curry)
Boiled rice (sometimes boiled in coconut milk) served with assorted curries (potatoes, yam, okra, green beans are common), a curry (chicken or fish), sambal, thick lentil stew, and crisp legume wafers called papadums.
Sweden (Swedish Meatballs)
Ground beef meatballs served with gravy, pickled cucumber, and lingonberry jam.
Grated potato patties pan-fried in butter or oil.
Deep-fried meat dumplings of bulgur-onion-ground meat.
Taiwan (Beef Noodle Soup)
Braised beef brisket, vegetables, and noodles cooked in beef broth.
Thailand (Pad Thai)
Stir-fried rice noodles with scrambled eggs, fish sauce, tamarind pulp, bean sprouts, roasted crushed peanuts, chicken bits, and random seafood (usually shrimp).
Bulgur flour (semolina) steamed to a crumbly paste and tossed with carrots, potatoes, turnips, parsley, etc.
Turkey (Döner Kebab)
Sliced or shaved crisp beef folded in flat bread with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and cucumbers. Cheese is occasionally added.
United Arab Emirates (Shawarma)
Grilled meat (chicken and lamb are most commonly used) shavings are wrapped in a taboon bread with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and hummus.
United States of America
Ground meat patty between two sesame buns with lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, and other additions, such as ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard.
Grilled sausage served between a sliced long bun, with optional additions, such as ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, relish, cheese, chilli con carne, or chopped onions/tomatoes.
Rice simmered in meat and vegetable stew; spiced with various spices. Lamb, onions, carrots, and garlic are common additions. Plov is typically topped with raisins and deep-fried onions.
Rice noodles in beef broth seasoned with cumin, coriander powder, black cardamom, roasted onion powder, roasted ginger powder, fennel, and cloves.
Bahamas (Crack Conch with Peas and Rice)
Tempura fried conch shell served with tomato rice and black-eyed peas.
Bahrain (Chicken Machboos)
Rice cooked with chicken, dry fruits, and nuts. Rose water is used to add fragrance to the dish.
Barbados (Cou Cou and Flying Fish)
Thick cornmeal and okra porridge topped with steamed flying fish curry.
Benin (Kuli Kuli)
Roast peanut paste - seasoned with sugar, salt, and other spices - deep-fried in the shape of balls or pretzel sticks. Eaten with garri soaking (tapioca soaked in sugar water).
Bhutan (Ema Datshi)
Hot specimen of chilies cooked in yak milk cheese (cow milk replaces yak milk in urban areas).
Thick tapioca starch eaten after wrapping it around long bamboo prongs. Stews or sauces are used as dippings.
Cambodia (Amok Trey)
Fish, coated in thick coconut milk extract, and a native Cambodian spice paste, stewed in a banana leaf cup.
Ndolé leaves stewed with fish and nuts.
Cape Verde (Cachupa)
Corn, beef, fish, and beans stewed together.
Colombia (Bandeja Paisa)
A meal platter consisting of - stewed red beans, steamed white rice, fried egg, plantains (plain or fried), chorizo, black pudding, arepa, fried pork rinds, Colombian hogao sauce, and avocado.
Comoros (Langouste a la Vanille)
Roast lobster in vanilla sauce.
Dominican Republic (La Bandera)
A meal of red or black bean stew, white rice, meat curry, fried plantains, and a side salad.
Green lentils, rice, and macaroni mixed together and topped with caramelized onions and tomato-based sauce.
Shallow-fried blood sausage with sour cream.
Boiled and mashed yams. Usually served as a side.
Meat stewed in a cassava root-based sauce with cinnamon and peppers.
Haiti (Fried Pork with Rice and Beans)
Rice cooked with kidney beans, served with fried pork shoulder chops.
Honduras (Plato Tipico de Honduras)
Rice with fried beef and refried beans. Fried plantains and sour cream are served as sides.
Hong Kong (Dim Sums)
Bite-sized dumplings (steamed or fried) with various fillings.
Greenland shark fermented for five to six months.
Lamb cooked in ferment yogurt gravy and served over rice.
Horse or lamb meat with flat noodles and onion sauce.
Maize flour porridge cooked till it thickens like dough.
Mutton accompanied with rice cooked in its broth.
Boiled cornmeal porridge.
Libya (Cuscus Bil-Bosla)
Couscous cooked with lamb, chickpeas, potatoes, and tomatoes.
Pasta and sweet onions in cheese sauce.
Luxembourg (Judd mat Gaardebounen)
Smoked collar of pork with broad beans.
Beef and green leaves stew.
Week old air-dried and aged stockfish.
Slow-cooked lamb shank stew.
Dried and salted cod fish, served with potato and wine.
Fish and rice cooked in tomato sauce. Cassava, onions, and carrots are optional additions.
Slovakia (Bryndzové halušky)
Potato dumplings with sheep cheese.
Pot-steamed unripe bananas.
Venezuela (Pabellón criollo)
Steamed plain rice topped with shredded beans, stewed black beans, and plantain fritters.
Brown meat stew served with rice.
A national dish represents a country. It speaks for a country. It stands for the country's cultural and economical identity. A national dish typically uses regional staples and native cooking techniques/ideas of its home country. This makes it possible for all regions and communities in the country to access its ingredients. Also, people belonging to all strata of society can cook and enjoy the dish. That is exactly what makes a dish go 'national'!