12 comfort foods from around the world

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Sweet, greasy, meaty, home-made… whatever you long for on a gloomy day, these comfort dishes exist simply to make you feel good

Opinions on what is comfort food are widely different, and there seems to be no consensus in sight. Some of us like our ultimate comfort food greasy and carb-heavy like fried cheese and french fries while others prefer snacking on peanut butter biscuits dunked in warm milk.

Dishes that fall into this category might not be the healthiest for our bodies but arguably, most (if not all) are decent options for your emotional well-being. Comfort food can be linked to a memory from our childhood, a crazy story on a backpacking trip, or someone we had a nice time with. Here are 12 comfort foods from around the world we think look tasty.

“Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” — Ernestine Ulmer

French toast Hong Kong style

Hong Kong is a mecca for food lovers. Besides regional influences, Hong Kong’s cuisine draws inspiration from European dishes. French toast belongs among the top favorites in Hong Kong but it has a twist on the classic breakfast dish most of us are familiar with.

The toast is enjoyed more as a dessert at afternoon tea. It’s made out of layered toast stuffed with peanut butter or fruit jam, dipped in egg, and fried. Often crowned with a knob of butter and topped with syrup or condensed milk, this dish is deliciously sweet, rich, and indulgent.

“The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later, you’re hungry again.” — George Miller

Arancini, Italy

Arancini are best served warmArancini are best served warm — Shutterstock

When it comes to Italian food, every region has its own favorites. Arancini is typically found in the southwest of the country — it is said to have originated in 10th-century Sicily and has since become a staple in the local cuisine.  

Arancini are essentially rice balls with meat and mozzarella filling, covered with breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Best served when warm, they’re crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.

Picadillo, Latin America

Intense and rich in its taste, picadillo can be found in many cuisines across the Caribbean, Latin America, and even the Philippines. Since it’s consumed in many cultures, inevitably there are many variations of this popular dish.

Typically it’s made with ground beef, tomatoes, olives, sweetened with raisins, and served with rice.

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” — George Bernard Shaw

Poutine, Canada

Can there be anything more comforting than a bowl of crispy fries topped with cheese curds and gravy?Can there be anything more comforting than a bowl of crispy fries topped with cheese curds and gravy? — Shutterstock

The beauty of poutine lies in its simplicity. No wonder that this comfort food is often associated with Canada and the north of the United States — can there be anything more comforting and warming than a bowl of crispy fries topped with cheese curds and gravy?

Since its popularity has gone through ups and downs over the decades, there now exist countless variations of poutine. It can be consumed as a fast-food snack with a plastic fork or as an haute-cuisine meal at a gourmet restaurant.

Spätzle, Germany

The origins of this eggy, chewy, pasta-like food go back to 18th-century Germany, and specifically the southwestern region of Swabia whose people proudly consume the dish on many occasions throughout the year.

Thanks to its simplicity, Spätzle allows for a variety of garnish to make it a wholesome meal or can be incorporated into other dishes, such as soups.

“The secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” — Mark Twain

Kimchi Jjigae, Korea

The main ingredient in kimchi jjigae is fermented kimchiThe main ingredient in kimchi jjigae is fermented kimchi — Shutterstock

This stew-like dish has a whole range of flavors, from sour through to salty, spicy, and greasy. As the name suggests, the main ingredient is kimchi — and the older and more fermented it is, the better. Other ingredients depend on personal taste but often include pork, seafood, onions, and tofu. 

Marmite on toast, United Kingdom

With the slogan “You either love it or hate it” introduced in the 1990s, the sticky, salty spread Marmite is an all-divisive matter. It was first sold in England in 1902, although it was discovered by German Chemist Baron Justus von Liebig as a byproduct of the beer brewing process. 

Its utilization is truly diverse but some say it’s best on buttered white toast. Possibly thanks to its compact packaging, the popularity of Marmite has spread globally.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” — Virginia Woolf

Koshari, Egypt

At first sight, koshari may seem like a strange mix of ingredients but altogether it worksAt first sight, koshari may seem like a strange mix of ingredients but altogether it works — Shutterstock

A bowl of goodness and carbs, koshari can be found at every street food stall in Egypt. At first sight, it might seem like a strange mix of flavors and textures but altogether it creates a yummy quick bite. It’s so popular that it has even become a national dish of the country. 

Koshari is made of rice, macaroni, lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, and garnished with fried onions. 

Vetkoek, South Africa

The South African vetkoek or fat cake is exactly what it sounds like: dough bread deep-fried in cooking oil. It originated with the Dutch oliebollen in times of migration centuries ago.

It’s a popular snack or a meal throughout the entire day, cut open and usually stuffed with a savory filling like mince or spread with honey or jam. 

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” — Harriet van Horne

Filipino adobo

The two main base flavors for preparing adobo are soy sauce and vinegar adding both rich dark color and zinginessThe two main base flavors for preparing adobo are soy sauce and vinegar adding both rich dark color and zinginess — Shutterstock

Adobo isn’t only a dish, it’s a cooking method and a way to marinate and preserve meat whose tradition goes back centuries. When preparing adobo, oftentimes chicken thighs are used but any protein would do the trick — pork, shrimp, or even tofu. 

The two main base flavors for preparing adobo are soy sauce and vinegar, adding both rich dark color and zinginess. There are many variations on this type of dish but it often goes best with a side of rice.

Lahmajun, Armenia, Turkey & the Middle East

Lahmajun is a favorite in Armenia, Turkey, and the Middle East, and resembles a pizza in its appearance.

Its base is made from a small piece of dough that is rolled out into a thin, round flatbread and topped with mince, chopped onions, tomatoes, peppers, and other ingredients. Often it’s flavored with spices like paprika, red pepper flakes, and sometimes even cinnamon, and baked for a brief moment in wood-fired ovens. 

“Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal.” — Voltaire

Ice cream, all over the world

This list wouldn’t be complete with something as iconic as ice cream. Packed in a scoop of sweetness, it brings many of us back to our childhood. 

Yet we don’t really know who to thank for the creation of this dessert. Some credit it to Roman Emperor Nero who allegedly mixed snow with wine and honey while others may believe that it was Marco Polo who brought it to Italy from China. Either way, ice cream is now enjoyed all around the world and that’s what counts.

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