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June 21, 2011 10:51 AM   Subscribe

What is the best recipe of the signature dish of each of the world's great cuisines?

Watching Masterchef last night, they had a challenge that was basically, "cook something French." I always love figuring out what I would make if I were on a cooking reality show, and this one flummoxed me: "Oohhh ... well, I can make coq au vin, albeit not especially great ... and beyond that, I don't really know anything about French cuisine."

So it got me thinking: It would be awesome to have in one's cooking arsenal, one truly great recipe of one great dish from each of the world's cuisines.

What would your suggestions be - both for the dish, and for your favorite recipe for it?
posted by jbickers to Food & Drink (39 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
 
French: Cassoulet, sole munier (a big Julia Child inspiration)
Indian: Daal
Mexican: Pozole, menudo, tamales
American: (White) clam chowder or chicken fried steak. Or barbecue.

Sorry, no recipes. I'm more of a "look up 15 recipes, then make it up as you go along" sort of person.
posted by Gilbert at 11:08 AM on June 21, 2011


You might want to try asking this on chowhound.com. They are much better at answering questions like this.
posted by TheBones at 11:08 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


For me Tex-Mex cooking (not to be confused with actual Mexican cuisine) is nothing without good cheese enchiladas, and this recipe is very good (as are all the other recipes on the Homesick Texan blog.
posted by TedW at 11:09 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


For particular recipes I recommend the World Cookbook for Students. It's a 5 volume set (1312 pages) covering traditional recipes and techniques for the cuisine of essentially every country in the world.

You may be interested in this Wikipedia article on the 'Holy Trinity' of various cuisines around the world. A trinity is the mixture of ingredients (typically three of them, hence the name) that are emblematic of a particular cuisine.
posted by jedicus at 11:10 AM on June 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


American:...chicken fried steak.

Also at Homesick Texan
posted by TedW at 11:11 AM on June 21, 2011


This is the kind of thing where you're going to get about 20 different dishes for each "cuisine", and 20 different recipes for each dish, as well as sub-contextual tangents about whether a given cuisine is its own entity or a sub-entity of a larger cuisine (Gilbert's mention of Clam Chowder, above, is something I would personally categorize as something from "New England" cuisine, rather than "American").

That said: jambalaya is a pretty easily-grasped signature Cajun dish which lends itself well to lots of individual experimentation, so you can find one basic recipe and then browse others for other ideas and make it your own.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:13 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


And anyone who says that Cajun and Creole cooking are not distinct cuisines in their own right will earn my undying scorn.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:14 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Global cuisine doesn't really work this way. See EmpressCallipygos' musings above.

The main reason it doesn't really work this way: I'm Cajun, and I'd say our "signature dish" is gumbo rather than jambalaya.
posted by Sara C. at 11:20 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think any cuisine that could be considered great can be summed up in one dish. Whatever permutation of sushi you happen to prefer isn't sufficient to cover Japanese cuisine. Pasta with red sauce doesn't cover Italian cuisine, etc. Great cuisines are made up of many incredible regional dishes, often with little in common with each other and sometimes in direct conflict with each other. Great cuisines come from people with strong beliefs about how things should be done. Just try to get people from Texas and the Carolinas to agree on what bbq is. Hell, the people in the middle east can't agree on what belongs in falafel and we expect them to be able to solve intractable problems that have lasted for generations.
posted by foodgeek at 11:22 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


In my defense, I made no claim that jambalaya was a "signature" dish, only that it's something that makes people think "hey, New Orleans!" (Also in my defense -- I'm from Connecticut, so I don't know jack.)

But you can see the problem with this question; establishing one single "signature dish" is gonna be tough, and you may want to think more like "what's a dish" rather than "what's the dish". This way, you can also try to find something easily-made rather than having to push yourself into learning how to make duck a l'orange, say, because "it is THE traditional dish of whatever". Duck a l'orange may be a "French" dish, but so is bouillebaisse, and bouillebaisse is a HELL of a lot easier. (Basically, it's fish stew, which is flippin' easy.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:26 AM on June 21, 2011


UK : Chicken Tikka Masala
posted by Static Vagabond at 11:33 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's a blog post with links to recipes for 8 different global street food dishes (i.e., what Egypt has instead of hot dog stands). This may be of interest, because street cart food kind of needs to be pretty easy by necessity.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:36 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Previously
posted by soma lkzx at 11:36 AM on June 21, 2011


Here's my recipe for traditional Dutch split pea soup.
posted by monospace at 11:39 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also in my defense -- I'm from Connecticut, so I don't know jack.

Also in your defense -- this was precisely my point! Not that you don't know jack, but that "The Signature Dish" is going to differ based on who you're talking to and what their point of view is. A Bengali is going to have a different "signature dish" for India than a Keralan. A Brit without a ton of experience in the matter is going to think of something else, and an American would probably think of something totally different. Opinions would vary even more if you asked a Singaporean, a Trinidadian, a Peruvian, or a German. You probably shouldn't even ask a Pakistani.
posted by Sara C. at 11:47 AM on June 21, 2011


Actually Singapore has two absolute classic "signature dishes"; namely chilli crab and chicken rice. I don't think those two would be disputed by anyone. There is no definitive recipe for either.

For UK cuisine, Heston Blumenthal had two series of a TV show called Perfection, where he devised "the best" recipe of all our classic dishes. The books of the show are available.
posted by roofus at 11:52 AM on June 21, 2011


Response by poster: I don't think any cuisine that could be considered great can be summed up in one dish. Whatever permutation of sushi you happen to prefer isn't sufficient to cover Japanese cuisine.

Yeah, I'm sorry if my phrasing was a bit muddy on that. I don't mean, what one dish encapsulates a culture's cuisine. I mean, what is one excellent dish from each major cuisine that you could learn and have in your back pocket, in case someone challenges you to "make something French" or that sort of thing.
posted by jbickers at 12:04 PM on June 21, 2011


Well, the national dish of Belgium is moules-frites (mussels with fries).

Carbonnade Flamande (Flemish beef and onion stew made with beer), the eponymous Belgian waffles (which, according to my mom, no one actually makes at home) and creamed endive with ham and Swiss cheese are also traditional. But who am I kidding? It's all about the french fries.

If I can get my mom to send me her recipe for Carbonnade in a timely manner I'll post it here because it's really, really good.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:16 PM on June 21, 2011


Response by poster: Or, to put it another way, in my question I should have said "a signature dish" instead of "the signature dish."
posted by jbickers at 12:16 PM on June 21, 2011


Canada: poutine
posted by SNACKeR at 12:33 PM on June 21, 2011


Actually Singapore has two absolute classic "signature dishes"; namely chilli crab and chicken rice.

Which proves Sara C.'s point, b/c if you'd asked me, I'd have om-nominated fish head curry and rojak.
posted by Westringia F. at 12:41 PM on June 21, 2011


For Korean "dishes," I think ddukbaegi bulgogi and dolsot bibimbap are the obvious choices. But I don't really use recipes for either of these.
posted by smorange at 12:45 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


i I compiled a list of stereotypical dishes for world cuisines off the top of my head

Chinese: orange chicken, chow mein
Japanese: pork tonkatsu, udon, ramen, salmon teriyaki
SE Asia: Vietnamese banh mi, Pad Thai
India: tandoori chicken
Middle East: schwarma, chicken paprikash
Greek: gyros
Italian: Carbonara, Marinara sauce, gnocchi
French: duck l'orange, duck confit, pot a feu
Eastern europe: Goulash, schnitzel, spatzel
England: fish and chips
Spanish: paella
Mexican: mole, carne asada
American: hamburger

then i found this wikipedia page which is basically the same thing

however, as is pointed out above, you do end up missing out on some tasty foods/cuisines. I would recommend trying to think of types of restaurants you go eat at and what you would order from each of those, and perfecting that recipe.
posted by wayofthedodo at 12:51 PM on June 21, 2011


The national dish of the Philippines is Adobo, but I personally like Kare Kare and Lechon better. And if anyone says that Filipino is not a "great world cuisine" I will fight them.
posted by AceRock at 1:04 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.
— Alice May Brock
(of Alice's Restaurant fame)
posted by Lexica at 1:16 PM on June 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Australian national dish is ...

wait for it ...

Thai green curry chicken with rice, takeaway ... with a side of spring rolls and sweet chilli dipping sauce (and a beer, or a white wine).

No, Seriously!
posted by jannw at 1:37 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


But, OK. Let me stop being a devil's advocate. Here's a list of cookbook authors from various cuisines that lots of people swear by.

French: Julia Child, especially Mastering the Art...

Italian: Marcella Hazan. I also like Lidia Bastianich, but I don't think she's quite as widely adored.

Indian: Madhur Jaffrey, also Manjula's Kitchen.

For East Asian I love the "Seriously Asian" series of posts at Serious Eats. These are often not National Dish type recipes, though.
posted by Sara C. at 3:16 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think any cuisine that could be considered great can be summed up in one dish.

Pshaw.


Vietnam's pho. Perhaps mankind's greatest creation to date.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:00 PM on June 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


India and China are both way too huge to be covered by a single dish.
posted by maryr at 5:59 PM on June 21, 2011


And chicken paprika(sh) is definitely Hungarian, not Middle Eastern.
posted by maryr at 6:00 PM on June 21, 2011


Around the world in 80 dishes is a collection of what one culinary journalist believes to be the most iconic recipes across many different nations, with each recipe being prepared by instructors from the Culinary Institute of America.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 6:13 PM on June 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


The Guardian tries to answer this sort of question with its "How to cook the perfect [...]" series. Well worth checking out.
posted by chill at 4:56 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


As for the dishes, for England it has to be Roast Beef, no? Fish & chips is all well and good, but it's not a dish people will generally cook at home, it's take out food.
posted by chill at 5:00 AM on June 22, 2011


I came into second Pho from Vietnam!

Also, vermicelli (also Vietnamese) is pretty easy to make.
Boil and cook rice vermicelli, top with grilled pork/beef/chicken and some fresh veggies (cucumber, beansprouts, thinly julienned carrots, lettuce etc) and pour nuoc mam sauce all over it. And then eat furiously.
posted by cruncheweesy at 8:54 AM on June 22, 2011


Adding onto where Sara C. was going with Chefs:

Diana Kennedy is said to be the 'Mexican Julia Child'.
posted by wcfields at 11:45 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


chill: "As for the dishes, for England it has to be Roast Beef, no?"

I'd take it a step further. The most "distinctly British" dish I can think of is Yorkshire Pudding (not a dessert; kind of like roast beef stew poured onto a popover).

I'm not sure I actually liked them, but writing this is making me crave one.

Indian food is a bit of a minefield -- it's very difficult to pick apart what originated in India itself, what was brought over by British colonists, what was influenced by British colonists, and even more maddeningly, what recipes were created by actual Indians who emigrated to Great Britain...and were then brought back to India by British colonists. Tikka masala is likely some combination of the above.
posted by schmod at 1:06 PM on June 22, 2011


Indian food is a bit of a minefield -- it's very difficult to pick apart what originated in India itself, what was brought over by British colonists, what was influenced by British colonists, and even more maddeningly, what recipes were created by actual Indians who emigrated to Great Britain...and were then brought back to India by British colonists. Tikka masala is likely some combination of the above.

You've also got a significant Portuguese influence in parts of India. The end result is that Indian cuisine can mostly be summed up as spicy or flavorful or say, the opposite of central Canadian cuisine which may or may not exist.

posted by foodgeek at 1:12 PM on June 22, 2011


This might be useful: The World in 202 Meals - Discovering London’s international cuisines, one meal at a time. Rated as one of the top 15 food blogs in the world by New Statesman magazine (via Sydney-based Grab Your Fork, also in the list).
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:31 PM on June 26, 2011


Of course Russian is Borscht...
posted by litnerd at 1:16 PM on October 12, 2011


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