It isn’t hard to get into a cooking rut. Sometimes, the dishes we like can become stale, but we keep churning them out because they are familiar — and we are usually too busy to consider new recipes. Thankfully, Planet Earth has wonderful countries whose inhabitants enjoy cooking delicious foods. There are plenty of easy-to-cook options available, from comfort foods to spicy selections — and everything in between.
1. Potaje de Garbanzos, Spain
Spaniards eat potaje all year round, even in the siesta-inducing mid-summer. Potaje is a slow-cooked stew with pulses, usually flavored with different pork products, such as chorizo and cured pork belly. The dish’s garbanzo-infused version stems from the Phoenicians, while their use in potaje came from the 12th century onwards. Spain’s Antonio Gázquez Ortiz is a food historian who states potaje derives from the Jewish-Spanish dish, Adafina. This historical dish is a delicious one-pot specialty that almost anybody can cook.
2. Banh Xeo, Vietnam
Vietnam’s colonial history is present in much of its gastronomy, and France’s 19th and 20th-century influence is tangible. Banh mi is a great example of this fusion: French baguettes filled with Vietnamese-style meat and vegetables come with a smear of paté. One can also sample the delicious Banh xeo, which draws inspiration from the French crépe, but this one is filled with steamed seafood and beansprouts. All one needs to do is pre-prepare the batter and par-cook the filling before enjoying the delectable seafood pancakes.
3. Foul Mudammas, Egypt
Locals across Egypt eat foul (pronounced fúl) in the mornings with flatbread and a boiled egg. This dish is stewed fava beans with a lemon and garlic finish, a staple of most Egyptian regions. However, the local version can be very simple, so embellishing the stewed beans with onion, garlic, chili, and fresh tomato makes for a mouthwatering, fiber-packed, super breakfast (or lunch, dinner, or supper).
4. Pambazos, Mexico
Few people have heard of these delightful sandwiches, though according to Practical Wanderlust, pambazos are available mainly in Mexico City. Pambazos are stuffed bread sandwich rolls soaked in guajillo sauce before filling. Famous for their startling, bright red color, pambazos are usually filled with chorizo and potatoes.
5. Korean Fried Chicken
Okay, this may not be that simple, but the rest is easy if you can survive the flouring and frying part. There are fewer forms of fried poultry to beat Korean fried chicken, and the barbecue sauce made with gochujang paste elevates this dish to god-level status. Marinating brown chicken meat in corn flour, egg, and milk gives the deep-fried meat a thick crunch before being tossed in the sticky, sweet Korean sauce. There can’t be many better meals for game night.
6. Jollof Rice, Nigeria
While Nigerians are not the only West African country to enjoy jollof rice, they have made it their own, despite its alleged Senegalese origins. This easy-to-follow dish starts with fried onion, garlic, ginger, peppers, and canned tomatoes, cooked until sweet, before stirring through rice and cooking until tender. Many African nations enjoy this dish alongside roasted goat, chicken, or beef — for the best garnish, add fried plantains.
7. West Chinese Grilled Potatoes
Go to any Chinese city, and you will find what locals call “Muslim” restaurants, which are just Xinjiang ‘Uyghur’ residents from far Western China. For a region once known as East Turkmenistan, the province’s food — and people — look different from what most people consider Chinese. A great example of this cuisine is blistered, fire-grilled potatoes brushed with oil, cumin, and garlic chives. This dish is uncomplicated and makes a great partner for Uyghur-style barbecued lamb.
8. Lumpia, Philippines
The humble crépe appears in this fresh, easy-to-prepare Filipino staple. Lumpia are thin-rolled pancakes filled with blanched vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and green beans. The pancakes are rolled like burritos, keeping the flavor inside; a thick, sweet, savory lumpia sauce sits on top — crushed peanuts are optional.
9. Pavlova, Australia
The origin story is surprising for a dessert that sounds like a Slavic ballerina. Australians and Kiwis have been clashing over who designed it for decades, which may be a moot point. Australian Germanic settlers brought their meringue-based dessert recipes in the 20th century, so the Antipodeans were merely dessert stewards. Regardless, this dessert is simple yet luscious — a baked, crunchy meringue with a gooey, soft filling topped with heavy cream and strawberries.
10. Colcannon, Ireland
Many famous Irish recipes consist of potatoes, which is unsurprising considering Ireland’s historic relationship with the tuber family. Colcannon differs between regions, and many Irish families have their twist on the classic. Colcannon is light, milky, whipped potatoes and cabbage, stirred through with green onions and butter. This dish usually comes alongside lamb chops or Irish stew.
11. Cream Tea, England
As simplicity goes, it is hard to beat the humble English clotted cream and raspberry jam cream tea. The tea refers to the English tea one must drink alongside this afternoon pleasantry. What Americans call biscuits, the British call scones, and instead of sausage and gravy, they serve clotted cream (a super-thick and rich baked cream) with a healthy dollop of raspberry jam. No cooking is necessary if you can find a bakery with rich butter scones; you just need to reassemble the three components — and one must serve their tea strong.
12. Potato Dumplings, Germany
Better known as kartoffel kloesse in Germany, these potato dumplings are like a giant but much lighter gnocchi, served with brown butter sauce. Consisting of potato, egg, and flour, German potato dumplings are good, no-hassle cooking, and they make a perfect bedfellow for roasted meat or a hearty stew. Disclaimer: do not operate heavy machinery after consuming these.
13. Finnish Salmon and Dill Pie
Finland is not renowned for its culinary prowess, but they are passionate about dishes involving salmon. Nothing beats a Finnish smoked salmon, except maybe a Finnish shortcrust pastry salmon pie. Like a quiche, this dish uses a filling of salmon flakes, fresh dill, cream, and eggs, which meld to form a rich, buttery delight, complemented by the upper notes of fresh dill.
14. Japanese Grilled Street Corn
Although the Hokkaido region plants and exports corn, the nation still imports a huge amount. Corn usually denotes Mesoamerican food, such as the connection between the land and cultures. However, Japan’s take on barbecued corn will inspire any backyard griller. The corn is basted with soy, mirin, sugar, and shichimi togarashi — a spice blend including yuzu, ginger, red chili powder, and grounded sesame seeds.
15. Saag Paneer, India
Indian food has seen a renaissance in the USA with the influx of so many Indian migrants since Congress abandoned its nationality quotas for new arrivals in 1965. Since then, the Indian-born population has rocketed, doubling since 2000. With these arrivals came more Indian recipes, and soon, Indian food became one of America’s top takeout choices. A no-nonsense Indian dish is saag paneer, which combines fried, milky Indian paneer cheese with spiced and sautéed spinach and garlic.
16. Bifanas, Portugal
Portugal has had a sizable yet understated influence on much of the world’s cuisine — they introduced chili peppers to India in the late 16th century. One can only imagine how Indian food would look sans chili. A local Portuguese staple is bananas: tenderized pork cutlets steeped in wine, garlic, and paprika, then grilled and served in a crisp Portuguese bread roll.
17. Shakshuka, Tunisia
Middle Eastern food has many staple dishes, such as hummus, falafel, and shawarma. A favorite breakfast dish with origins in Tunisia is shakshuka. Popular in most parts of North Africa, shakshuka is a hearty tomato, garlic, and bell pepper ragu topped with soft-poached eggs. Nothing beats a shakshuka, whether you serve it with warm flatbread, roti, or toast. Ironically, considering its teetotal surroundings, this dish makes a perfect, nutritious hangover breakfast.
18. Chicken Meatballs, Thailand
Many countries have their own variation of meatballs. From Polpette in Italy to bitterballen in the Netherlands, the humble meatball transcends national borders. Thailand’s version is unsurprisingly easy, involving a food processor and Thailand’s Holy Trinity of flavors: ginger, garlic, and lemongrass. However, Thais prefer them with a zesty lime-chili sauce and served on a bed of rice noodles.
19. Cabbage Rolls, Romania
Although cabbage rolls originated in Turkey and are a longtime favorite in the surrounding regions, their popularity spread through Eastern Europe. Romanians have a surprising affection for this recipe, giving it special-occasion status and serving it during religious festivals and holidays. Ground pork is most commonly used, though variations with beef or lamb are found elsewhere. Romanians add rice, onions, spices, fresh herbs, and tomato purée, which they wrap inside the braised cabbage leaves.
20. Pastitsio, Greece
Among many other achievements, the Greeks gave the world philosophy, medicine, and mathematics. However, their food has withstood millennia, and much of it is still popular worldwide. Pastitsio is a lesser-known dish, like a hybrid of baked penne pasta and marinara sauce with a lasagne topping. Those who love lasagne but don’t enjoy its meatiness can opt for this simple yet comforting recipe.
21. Curry Goat, Jamaica
There is one rule for this dish: don’t get the word order mixed up lest you fall foul of the locals who eat it regularly. Although this dish takes many hours overall, it is still simple. Goat meat is marinated with ginger, garlic, curry powder, and Jamaica’s favorite chili, the Scotch bonnet. After slow cooking, serve with rice and peas or plain steamed rice.
22. Dolmas, Bosnia
Stuffed peppers are eaten differently across Europe, the Middle East, and the Caucasus regions. So, why not try the Balkan variety? Bosnians like to use green bell peppers stuffed with ground beef. However, the addition of ajvar, a potent roasted pepper and eggplant paste, makes these dolmas stand out.
23. Spaetzle, Germany
Countries worldwide have their take on carbohydrates, which are part of most square meals. For example, Italians have pasta and gnocchi; Northern Europe prefers the potato as its starch, while Asians and Middle Eastern nations eat more rice. However, continental Europe makes an egg and flour batter and feeds it in drips through a spaetzle spoon, a perforated scoop, through which the batter falls into boiling water. Once cooked, it can be mixed with butter or eaten like mac-and-cheese as a main course.
24. Stuffed Flatbreads, Lebanon
This tiny country sits on the edge of the Middle East, but its influence over much of the region’s cuisine is measurable. Lebanon’s capital city, Beirut, has the moniker “the Paris of the Middle East” for a reason, with the Lebanese laying claim to many Arabic staples such as shawarma, falafel, and fattoush. One delectable Lebanese treat is arayes kafta, or flatbread stuffed with ground beef or lamb, garlic, onion, and parsley. These are grilled on a barbecue or a sandwich press. Served with tahini, this makes a wonderful portable picnic treat.
25. Croque Monsieur
France claims to be the home of European gastronomy, and the French make a good point, considering most modern cooking techniques originate there. However, for all France’s fanfare over expensive produce and cooking techniques, simple pleasures work best. A croque monsieur is like a grilled ham and cheese but with a bubbling cheese bechamel grilled on the crispy sandwich’s top. Vive le croque monsieur.