Three Asian chefs cooking some national dishes from all over the world in a restaurant kitchen.

8 National Dishes You Need To Try

Last Updated on February 17, 2023

Whilst traveling, you’re likely to come across some very weird and wonderful food combinations. Whether you’re choosing cheap and cheerful or opting for dishes that are a little fancier, discovering food in other countries is an experience in itself. But trying a country’s national dish can often take traveling to a whole new level.

You can tell a lot about a country by eating their national dish. You get to experience where it came from, the nation’s history and culture and the pride that people have for their national food. Whether you’re enjoying a bowl of ramen at high slurping speed or a piece of jerk chicken in Jamaica, food gives traveling a whole other story. All national dishes have huge significance, so here are a few of the dishes that you need to try on your travels.

Har Gow, Hong Kong


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A lot can be said about a dim sum chef’s skill when it comes to their Har Gow. Essentially a prawn dumpling, it is the simplicity of this dish that makes it a favorite in Hong Kong. However, Har Gow is not easy to master. Prawn meat is wrapped in thin, translucent pastry and everything has to be done perfectly to get the right end result. Hong Kong is the home of dim sum, and Har Gow is the ideal snack for travelers: cheap and easily available.

Fondue, Switzerland

An obvious choice, but Swiss fondue typically gets a bad rep from most well-seasoned travelers. Associated with leg warmers and perms, some people think this dish belongs back in the 80s. But don’t let that put you off of trying this deliciousness. There’s nothing better than enjoying a hot pot of several different types of melted alpine cheese, mixed with some chunks of freshly baked bread and passed down with a glass of white wine.

Chicharrones, Peru


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Most people will pair Peru with ceviche, a seafood dish which has been marinated in citrus juice. Ceviche is an extremely popular dish in Peru, but there is another national delicacy that holds a special place the hearts of many Peruvians: chicharrones. To understand the national love for chicharrones, you just need to read the description. The dish is made from pork shoulder which is boiled in a spicy broth. It is then sliced, fried and served on a warm crusty roll with a red onion and lime juice relish and sweet potatoes. Traditionally a breakfast dish, this can be enjoyed at any time of day and won’t take too big of a bite out of your budget.

Parmigiano-Reggiano, Italy

Italy is a travelers paradise when it comes to food and budgets. We might all think that pizza is its national dish since it can be found on pretty much every street corner in the country. However, the true national dish is Parmigiano-Reggiano. We know it doesn’t exactly count as a “dish,” but this sharp and salty cheese is used on almost every Italian preparation in every kitchen across the country.

Som Tam, Laos


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The green papaya salad represents everything that is good about southern Asian cuisine. Som Tam is always fresh as some of its essential ingredients are papaya, tomatoes, and herbs. Combined with the quintessential tastes of the region – heat from the chilies, sour lime juice and salty fish sauce – this dish is loved everywhere you go. Som Tam is a good dish for travelers. It is usually very cheap and contains a lot of fresh ingredients that are sure to help a hangover.

Ramen, Japan

Whilst there are many great styles of Japanese cuisine, none come close to capturing the country’s heart than ramen. It originally came from China, but the Japanese have perfected the art of ramen and have become obsessed with it by doing so. There are endless versions of ramen but all are filled with joy.

TAKEAWAY: When first introduced to Japanese supermarkets in 1958, Ramen was considered a luxury food item. It was roughly 6 times the cost of fresh udon noodles.

You may also like: Tips to Make Ramen at Home

Jamón Ibérico, Spain


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Many people assume that paella or tapas are the national dish of Spain, but if you speak to a Spaniard, then the answer you’ll actually get is Jamón. Never to be confused with prosciutto, Jamón Ibérico is the delicious cured meat from a “pata negra,” or black Iberian pig. Often cured for up to 48 hours, this meat is cut into paper-thin slices. The dark meat and buttery melt-in-your-mouth fat is truly a delight for your taste buds if you have never tried it before. Served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you won’t have to go very far in Spain to find this dish.

Hákarl, Iceland

If you’re easily put off by your food, then this probably isn’t the dish for you. Greenland sharks are poisonous when eaten fresh, so you’d think that they are unlikely to be considered a delicacy. However, in Iceland they gut and clean them and then bury them in the ground for anything up to 12 weeks, allowing the fish to ferment. The smell is indescribable, but this just means that it is ready to be eaten. Hákarl is one of the weirdest foods around the world but is much loved by many of the older locals in Iceland. The taste is likened to that of a very strong cheese.

Whilst traveling, many people experience new foods that they’ve never tried or even heard of before, which is one of the many pleasures that traveling and exploring offers. Whether you find a new favorite dish that will always transport you back to the first time you tried it, or you experience a dish that you would rather forget about all together, food and dining in a different country is a great way to get to know a new culture. And these national dishes will provide you with a delicious insight of the country you are visiting.

About Natalie Wilson

Natalie Wilson is a freelance writer in the travel field and is particularly interested in immigration solicitors London.

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