The flavors and aromas of a signature dish can tell colorful and intricate tales about a nation’s spirit, its history, and its culture.
While tasty platters today may be held up as proud testaments to a people’s resilience or stamina, many dishes originated in far darker times. Dishes like Argentina’s asados were introduced when colonizers arrived in the New World from Western Europe, and wild meat at the heart of Malta’s specialities was introduced by Middle Eastern invaders.
Portugal’s specialty bacalhau was created for sailors who would spend years on board explorer ships, and in the Netherlands, the signature cuisine is eaten each year to celebrate the end of a year-long siege by Spanish forces many centuries ago.
If there’s an international trend among national dishes, it’s the ingenious use of lower-cost ingredients made edible, like conch in the Bahamas and Brazil’s organ meat-rich feijoada. Others illustrate just how creative people have been over the years in finding ways to let nothing go to waste.
Many of the cooking methods in use today are ancient, like dishes cooked on sizzling rocks, buried in the ground, or nestled in homemade stone ovens. Archaeologists have found utensils and pots that are evidence people in some regions have been cooking the same dishes for millennia.
The origins of some dishes may come as a surprise. State tourism authorities in Bulgaria concocted its signature dish to spread a fiction about the nation’s eating habits. Perhaps the best known Thai export, the noodle dish pad thai, was the