Comfort food has long been lingering in the back of minds around the world. Popping up at birthdays, holidays and special occasions, these are the dishes that take us back to childhood, family, and home. Rich in flavor and memories, they can make you cry or help dry the tears. But everyone can attest that comfort food is a necessity to life, even if not eaten frequently. Read on to see at what comfort food looks like from all around the world.
By Catherine Baker
Meaning “bills” or “receipt”, these Argentine breakfast pastries are ideal for anyone with a sweet tooth. Sold in corner panaderías (bakeries), the doughy treats come in various shapes and sizes, and can be filled with creams, custards, and jams. Perhaps the most popular filling is Dulce de Leche, which is caramelized milk, and I’m told is an Argentine staple. In a baking mood? Here’s a recipe to try the delectable sweets.
Australia: Vegemite on Toast
Either you love it or hate it; there’s no middle of the road for Vegemite tasters. What exactly is it? In short, it’s a yeast extract paste, but don’t let that fact put you off completely. After beer is fermented, the leftover yeast is concentrated and mixed with various vegetable and spice additives. It was created in Australia in 1922. Typically served at breakfast, the salty paste is thinly spread on buttered toast and can be accompanied with cheese, tomato or avocado, according to the locals. If you’re lucky enough to find Vegemite in your country, try this simple recipe if you haven’t already.
Ah, the national truffle of Brazil! Brigadeiro is a chocolate dessert created by mixing sweetened condensed milk and cocoa powder. After heating those ingredients together in a saucepan, the sticky mixture is rolled into balls and covered with chocolate sprinkles. It’s often served at birthday parties, but you could use just about any excuse to make this Brazilian treat. Try this recipe here.
China: Hot Pot
In the winter time, Hot Pot is quite the popular dish among the Chinese. It consists of a simmering pot of stock placed in the middle of the table. Fresh vegetables and various meats or seafood are cooked in the liquid and accompanied with a peanut and soy sauce dipping sauce. The Chinese are accustomed to putting many different spices in their hot pot as well. Try this recipe here.
Columbia: Patacones Con Hogao
A cousin to the banana, plantains are consumed all across Latin and South America. Peeled, fried, smashed, and then fried again, these savory fritters will bring a smile to anyone’s face. Paired with a tomato and onion chutney, Colombia’s comfort food is sounding a little bit better than American french fries. You can taste for yourself by trying this recipe here.
Czech Republic: Svícková
This popular Czech dish definitely falls under the comfort food category. Beef tenderloin or sirloin is marinated overnight with root vegetables— typically carrots, onions, and celeriac— and spices, such as allspice, thyme, and bay leaves. The next day the meat is roasted with the vegetables, and then the vegetables are puréed and used as a cream sauce to pour over the meat slices. Often served with dumplings and cranberry sauce, the Czech have created quite the hearty meal, and you can try your hand at it here.
Dominican Republic: Sancocho
This traditional stew contains many tropical vegetables, various meats, and is normally accompanied with white rice and avocado. After the meats and vegetables have slowly cooked together in a broth, orange and lime juice are added for a citrus flare. Stuck inside on a cold, snowy day dreaming of the islands? Try this recipe here and at least your stomach can visit the Caribbean.
England: Rhubarb Crumble
Forget scones— rhubarb crumble is the English treat to make this season! It’s quite an easy dessert to make and is similar to a brown betty or cobbler. The topping requires you to mix flour and butter together with your fingertips, adding sugar and nuts once combined, and then sprinkle over the soften rhubarb. A custard is typically added on top of the crumble just before serving. Try this recipe here.
It was especially hard to pick just one comfort food dish from France— simply because I think almost all French dishes could be considered comfort food! It’s hard to go wrong with potatoes, cream, and cheese. Similar to the Gratin Dauphinois I mentioned, this French favorite is from the Savoie region in the Rhône-Alps and calls for the local cheese Reblochon. Smokey stripes of bacon, or “lardon,” is combined to the mix to be baked to perfection and consumed after a full day of skiing (or just a full day of whatever you happen to be doing). Try this recipe here and you can thank the French later.
There seems to always be a comfort food dish consisting of a starch and cheese, and this one hails from south Germany. Considered the German version of macaroni and cheese, it contains caramelized onions, egg noodles, and cheese. Though the casserole takes some time to prepare, it is well worth the wait, and you should switch up your regular weeknight dinner dish for this one recipe here.
Who doesn’t love a warm stew in the middle of winter? Although most countries have their own version, the Irish have perfected the cold weather staple. Lamb or mutton is traditionally used instead of beef, and in modern times Guinness is added for extra flavor. Boiled potatoes or creamy mashed ones can accompany the slow-roasted meat and vegetables, making this a guarantee repeat dish at your house. Try this recipe here.
While enchiladas and tamales are pretty comforting, Sopes are a Mexican specialty close to the hearts of many. Masa (corn dough) is formed into discs and fried until golden brown. Various fillings can be piled on top of the masa rounds, typically refried beans, avocado, and cheese. This recipe will help you experience a little bit of Mexico where you are and surely liven up those taste buds.
By now, everyone knows that the Spanish have blessed the world with their creation of tapas, which could all be defined as comfort food! Croquetas, or croquettes, are oblong-shaped fritters which can contain an array of fillings from cheese to ham to potatoes. A béchamel sauce is also mixed in with the main ingredient. They are ordered as appetizers and can be found in just about any establishment that serves tapas. Don’t worry if a trip to Spain isn’t in the foreseeable future— you can bring the Spanish to you by testing this recipe here.
South Africa: Koeksisters
These syrup-coated doughnuts from South Africa almost look too pretty to eat! Derived from the Dutch word for cookie, koeksisters have a crunchy, sticky exterior and a warm, syrup-y interior. There are two versions: the Afrikaner one which has a lighter dough and the Cape Malay one which has a more cake-like dough, different spices in the mix, and coconut sprinkled on the outside once fried. You’re most likely to find koeksisters sold at intersections in South Africa, but they can be re-created in the comfort of your own home with some time and patience.
Matoke are a specific group of bananas found across East Africa. When harvested, the green fruit is first steamed, then mashed while wrapped in the banana leaf. It’s typically served with beans or a sauce made from vegetables or peanuts poured on top of it. You can boil the matoke fruit instead of steaming, and this recipe is excellent for bringing the Ugandan national dish to your home.
A North Georgia native, Catherine grew up in the kitchen— from mastering the art of Southern barbecue with her restaurateur father to perfecting the technique of frying plátano at home with her Dominican mother. Continuing her passion for food and cooking, the Georgia Southern University graduate resided in France for two years before returning back to the South where she currently works in hospitality at Blackberry Farm, a Relais & Châteaux property nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.