The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is here!
Can the United States continue to write history and make it a three-peat as FIFA World Cup champions? Can newly minted European champions England ascend to the global throne?
The tournament this time has expanded to 32 teams, making the field for the United States that much deeper and tougher to defend their title. With the expanded field, we are likely going to see some memorable upsets on the field, throwing the knockout stage brackets into chaos. However, this isn’t about breaking down nor predicting who will lift the trophy on the Aug. 20 Final. This is about learning what the national dishes of each country are, some officially recognized by their respective governments, most commonly accepted through popular opinion polls. Get your cutlery and eating stretch pants ready, it’s time to learn about the food of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup teams.
GROUP A: NEW ZEALAND (co-hosts), NORWAY, PHILIPPINES, SWITZERLAND
NEW ZEALAND: PAVLOVA
The origin story of the meringue-based cake is a fascinating contest. Australians have claimed it’s theirs under a different name, while New Zealand have said differently. It’s highly unlikely that whenever the two nations meet in the realm of athletics that anyone thinks about fighting for the honor of claiming “We invented the Pavlova, so there.” The name itself is reportedly in honor of Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who had toured the two countries during the 1920s, a clear history lesson that stanning has existed well before the Internet. Also interesting note about the Pavlova, in 2018 a Norwegian pastry chef took from New Zealand the title of making the world’s largest pavlova — behold, The Pavlova Derby.
Not many national dishes are so official that they get their own recognized day on the calendar, yet that is the case with Norway’s national dish of lamb and cabbage stew. Every September, the last day of the month is hailed as Fårikål Feast Day and as you’d expect, it’s served all over the country with the encouragement of inviting your people over and have a good time. While the national dish status of Fårikål has been in play since the 1970s, then Food & Agriculture Minister Sylvi Listhaug in 2014 thought it would be fun to shake it up and run a new poll to crown a new national dish of Norway. The people only reconfirmed Fårikål as the national dish, and while Listhaug’s political career didn’t come to an end because of this, perhaps food takes from a Ronald Reagan admirer (among other things) shouldn’t be trusted.
Just declare us the group winners already. The sign is right there: Group A as in Adobo. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. Adobo is basically a marinated stew dish, with the name also about the cooking process using vinegar, garlic, salt, soy sauce, and other spices. Chicken (adobong manók) and pork (adobong baboy) are the most commonly used meat for obvious reasons, but each region of the Philippines has variations of the dish which can include seafood, vegetables-only, and exotic meats like snake. If you’ve had Philippine cuisine, then you know how vast and delicious the food is — and the World Cup is just the latest avenue in which we’re taking over. Journey, Blue’s Clues, Olympic weightlifting, locking down the White House Executive Chef post since 2005, we’re everywhere.
A recipe so simple that it can be boiled to just five words: grate potatoes, sauté in butter. The potato pancake started as a breakfast dish, but in the modern era is more of a side dish to an entrée. The historical neutrality of the military is well known, but the Swiss take Rösti very seriously as on two occasions they’ve made the World’s Largest Rösti. They first achieved it in 1994 with that creation reported at three square meters (32 square feet which is roughly a 6-foot by 5-foot room). That record stood for 28 years until last month when as part of a 125th anniversary of a Swiss farmers union, they obliterated that record with a 13-square meter (140 square feet) heap of Rösti. Yes, there is a video report of that endeavor and yes that is a lot of potatoes.
GROUP B: AUSTRALIA (co-hosts), REPUBLIC OF IRELAND, NIGERIA, CANADA
AUSTRALIA: It depends.
There’s the aforementioned claims over New Zealand that the Pavlova is theirs. The reality is that determining what is Australia’s national dish is dependent on who you ask. Some say it is roast lamb. Some say it’s meat pie. Or the inclusion of pea soup with said meat pie. And then you have the timeless and notorious, Vegemite on toast. Perhaps in the build-up to the tournament, they’ll decide on a definitive national dish. That said, contrary to what the Mad Max films may have taught you about Australia, gasoline nor milk are NOT their national dishes.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: IRISH STEW
Meat, potatoes, carrots, celery. Doesn’t get any more timeless than that. The Wiggles, yep, The Wiggles cut a song about Irish Stew and there’s some impressive choreography that we should all now be hoping that the Republic of Ireland national team is learning, because this World Cup better have some strong goal celebrations.
NIGERIA: JOLOFF RICE
A dish celebrated and representative of West Africa, Nigeria’s version uses long-grain rice to go with base ingredients of tomatoes, tomato paste, and spices. The point of contention of Nigerian Jollof Rice comes in the form of Ghana’s variation of the dish, which calls for basmati rice as the base. While the two seemingly will forever trade banter as to who has the best Jollof Rice (since 2015, August 22 has been known as World Jollof Rice Day) a common ground was found in 2014 when ALL OF WEST AFRICA united and dunked Jamie Oliver for his abomination of a twist on the dish.
It might sound silly that putting any kind of sauce, gravy in this case and cheese curds on top of French fries had to be “invented,” but you can say that about any dish, and that’s what we have here with Canada’s national dish. According to the dictionary people, Merriam-Webster the origin story of the dish’s namesake may be a Québécois slang term translating to “mess,” which tracks with the early days of the dish being considered not menu-worthy and something of a joke. Oh how far we’ve come that there are endless variations of the dish and while many hockey players traditionally drink champagne or alcohol from the Stanley Cup, Mathieu Joseph ate the fries, gravy, and cheese curds gooey goodness out of the iconic trophy.
GROUP C: SPAIN, COSTA RICA, ZAMBIA, JAPAN
Originated in Valencia, the dish is named after the frying pan it’s cooked in. Short grain rice, chicken, rabbit, vegetables, green beans, garrofons, saffron are the traditional ingredients of the dish, with chorizo and seafood being common variations, often in place of rabbit meat. Guinness World Records officially recognizes chef Juan Carlos Galbis’ endeavor in 1992 of creating the world’s largest paella, which reportedly fed at least 100,000 people and weighed at 27,215 kilograms (nearly 60 thousand pounds). Do you want to see a 30-minute documentary of the world’s largest paella being made? Of course you do!
COSTA RICA: GALLO PINTO
Don’t be mistaken, this is more than just rice and beans. It’s the spices and use of Lizano sauce that elevates this dish, which is why many Costa Ricans start their day off with Gallo Pinto. The translation of the Spanish name is “spotted rooster,” in reference to the specks of black beans among the white rice that is the foundation of the dish. Costa Rica’s claim of it being their invention is a point of contention with neighbors Nicaragua, who swear the dish originated there. The result has been a back and forth of Gallo Pinto throwdowns with each country producing mass quantities of the dish to one-up the other country’s previous effort.
The thick cornmeal porridge accompanies just about every Zambian meal. While it can be eaten on its own, the correct way is to serve it with Ndiwo, a relish-like side dish of sautéed greens, (sometimes with meat) and as you see in the video below, there is also a correct method in eating nshima — you must use your right hand. The importance if not outright requirement of having ndiwo along with nshima makes sense from a flavor aspect with nshima being cornmeal with little to no flavor. Interesting note about nshima — according to this thorough article about nshima and its prominence in Zambian cuisine by Mwizenge Tembo, a sudden raise in the price of corn meal caused a political crisis, attributing to the oust of President Kenneth Kaunda, who held the office for nearly three decades.
JAPAN: CURRY RICE
Curry was introduced to Japan in the 1860s. At the turn of the 20th century (1900s) curry rice became a mainstay for the Japanese military and in turn the general population. The modernization of food manufacturing would only take the dish’s popularity further with curry mixes being available in pre-made form, adding so much convenience. Morieda Takashi wrote in 2000 that curry was eaten more in Japan than sushi and tempura. Whilst the curry itself can be served over noodles or inside a pastry, curry over rice is the timeless classic. Curry House CoCo ICHIBANYA wears the crown as the world’s largest restaurant chain focused on Japanese curry, with some 1,400 locations worldwide and their menu would put any IKEA assembly guide to shame.
GROUP D: ENGLAND, DENMARK, CHINA, HAITI
ENGLAND: FISH & CHIPS, CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
Apparently when you spend centuries colonizing the world, you have the hubris to declare two national dishes. First, the fish & chips, a dish that can validate its reliability through time by boasting that through two World Wars, it was never rationed, because you never know. This past June, Enzo’s in Glasgow thought they were filling a need of society by “upgrading” the fish & chips to include 24 karat edible gold. This order will cost you £80, roughly $93 US dollars. Yeah.
Chicken Tikka Masala was annointed its role of representing England because of what the late Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said of the dish in 2001, emphasis mine:
“Chicken tikka masala is now a true British national dish, not only because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences. Chicken tikka is an Indian dish. The masala sauce was added to satisfy the desire of British people to have their meat served in gravy.”
Anyways, the dish itself, subject to contentious claims as to where it originated from — a Glasgow curry house in the 1970s? Punjab, India? An unnamed Bangladeshi chef? Much like other origin stories of food, we’ll never know definitively. What is known is that the British love the dish, with grocery chain Sainsbury’s boasting they sell 1.6 million ready-made meals of the dish every year.
DENMARK: STEGT FLÆSK
At first glance it looks like thick-cut bacon with potatoes, with the translation of the dish to “fried pork belly,” this dish was voted as the country’s national dish in 2014 with its origin traced as far back as the 1800s. The white sauce that accompanies the pork belly and potatoes is a parsley cream sauce. While eaten year-round, Stegt Flæsk has become a favorite on election night, because hey why not eat through your skepticism of the campaign promises politicians make, right? Danish potato chip brand KiMS produced a since-discontinued stegt flæsk-flavored chip, because of the dish’s popularity and legacy.
CHINA: PEKING DUCK
Roasting a duck has been a cooking practice in China since the Northern and Southern Dynasties of 386 to 589. The origin story of the dish itself goes back to a mention in an imperial kitchen inspector’s manual in 1330, and then came the name “Peking Duck” under the Ming Dynasty, 1368 to 1644. It was under the same dynasty that the restaurant Bianyifang was founded and first to feature the dish on the menu. And yes, Bianyifang is still in operation today. Quanjude is another restaurant known for Peking Duck and variation of cooking open-oven style, compared to the traditional closed-oven, which Bianyifang practices. Quanjude also stands out for opening a Peking Duck Museum, celebrating and educating visitors the legacy of the dish. While there are plenty of places that stick with the tradition of Peking Duck being on the high end of the menu, there has been strides in having it at more accessible price points so curious palettes can experience the dish, like this 2018 Buzzfeed video.
HAITI: SOUPE JOUMOU
A soup consisting of squash, beef, potatoes, malanga, and green vegetables like celery and cabbage. On New Year’s Day, soupe joumou is served in celebration of the country’s independence from France. In 2021, the dish was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. “Soup joumou is freedom in every bowl,” says chef Fred Raphael in this Smithsonian piece about Haiti’s national dish. In the article, Raphael says his two restaurants have made it a tradition of giving away free bowls of soup joumou on the night of December 31st to ring in the new year.
GROUP E: UNITED STATES, VIETNAM, NETHERLANDS, PORTUGAL
UNITED STATES: N/A
Many say it’s the hamburger because of its overwhelming popularity and never-ending want to rank which fast-food chain does the best burger to induce unnecessary debate. The US is very much a melting pot when it comes to food.
Like other countries that don’t have a national dish, it’s a case of depending on who you ask as to what they think it is for the United States. For every person that says it’s the hamburger, someone will say it’s the apple pie, hot dog, unflavored ice milk, or high fructose corn syrup.
Originating from the northern region of the country and at one point during the 1950s, it was sold in secret, Pho is ubiquitous with Vietnamese cuisine and hailed as comfort food for the country. Rice noodles, broth, spices, beef, and the variations that have followed to meet various dietary needs and preferences, the global popularity of Pho had McDonald’s for the Vietnam market in 2020 experimenting with a “Pho Burger” on their menu — in which the broth of the iconic soup has transformed into a thick sauce to glaze the two beef patties.
A simple dish of mashed potatoes with vegetables and a smoked sausage that comes with a fascinating folklore connected with an episode of the Eighty Years’ War known as the Seige of Leiden. The gist is, Spain waged a year-long attempt to claim the town of Leiden. They failed and upon exit in defeat, left pots of stew, in which Stamppot is believed to have been born out of using the same cooking pot. Pile your potatoes, green vegetables of choice and sausage into the pot and let it all cook together. A popular spinoff of the dish is called Hutspot, where instead of green vegetables, it’s carrots and onions that accompany the mashed potatoes and stewed meat of choice.
Salted cod (the name is also the Portuguese translation) and a staple in Portuguese cuisine. With origins dating back to the 16th century, it’s been said there are 365 ways to cook Bacalhau, one for each day of the year.
GROUP F: FRANCE, JAMAICA, BRAZIL, PANAMA
The name translates to “pot on the fire,” and it’s your classic stew. Meat and vegetables brought to a boil in a slow-cook process so the meat becomes melt-in-your mouth tender. While King Henry IV of France had proclaimed he wanted no one, regardless of social/economic class, to be without a pot of the stew, the dish very much was a luxury item in the beginning. Novelist Gustave Flaubert’s play Le Château des cœurs (The Castle of Hearts) depicts the dish as something of a God-like icon, being worshiped by the middle class until a rather amusing M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist occurs.
JAMAICA: ACKEE & SALT FISH
One half of Jamaica’s national dish has a component that can kill you. Do we have your attention now? Anyways, the pulp of ackee contains hypoglycin, thus the importance of eating the fruit when it’s fully ripened and properly cooked. The fruit originated from West Africa, brought to Jamaica around the 1700s, while the salted codfish came by way of the slave trade. Since its introduction to the country, growing ackee has made it Jamaica’s national fruit and one of their biggest commercial exports. Scotch Bonnet peppers and spices usually accompany the dish and is considered the breakfast of champions for Jamaicans, just ask Usain Bolt. The late Harry Belafonte mentioned the dish in his song, “Jamaica Farewell.”
This stew consists of black beans, beef, and pork. The dish’s name derives from the word, feijão which is Portuguese for bean. Traditionally served with white rice and orange slices, the dish as you’d expect has regional variations throughout Brazil. In the state of Bahia, the variation of feijoada includes various vegetables. The song, “Feijoada Completa” by Chico Buarque is about the ingredients and preparation of the dish. According to Brazil national team, OL Reign midfielder Angelina, Texas de Brazil in Tacoma makes a good feijoada.
A soup consisting of chicken, vegetables, and corn on the cob. Traditionalists say the use of culantro, a sharper-tasting version of cilantro is what has made the soup so beloved. The second episode of Spanish-language podcast Sancocho Talks (yep, named after the soup) talks about the legacy of the soup and how it’s become a gateway to culinary traditions of Panama.
GROUP G: SWEDEN, SOUTH AFRICA, ITALY, ARGENTINA
Meatballs and lingonberries have been adopted as the de facto national dish. While not a dish, the Swedes can claim credit for the presentation of many dishes in a single meal, best known as smörgåsbord. A proposal to the media colleagues on-site at the World Cup: Ask Stina “Rap Name” Blackstenius what her favorite Swedish dish is and anoint that as their national dish.
SOUTH AFRICA: BOBOTIE
A minced-meat casserole dish, Bobotie has an alleged origin story going back to the recipe being in Dutch cookbooks in the 1600s. The recipe made its way to South Africa, specifically the Cape Malay community as part of the slave trade and thanks to colonialism, was nealry wiped away from kitchens. However, the dish survived the tests of politics and time and is one of the beacons of South African cuisine. Minced meat, onions, curry powder, spices, and an egg and milk custard topping are the foundations of bobotie, which additional ingredients vary depending on recipe.
ITALY: RAGU ALLA BOLOGNESE
The origin of a meat-based sauce aka ragù can go back to the 18th century in Imola, near Bologna. Chef Pellegrino Artusi in 1891 is credited with publishing the first recipe to have the bolognese name, and while that recipe didn’t include tomato sauce, in 1982, the Italian Academy of Cuisine recorded what can be seen as the modern recipe, which does include tomato puree. What’s also grown with the sauce is the preference of tagliatelle pasta. While “spaghetti bolognese” has become a common menu item around the world, there’s no such thing in Bologna and calling the dish by that name is a faux pas. The correct term is, tagliatelle al ragù.
Translating the word, it’s grilled. So grilled meat is often considered Argentina’s national dish, but it’s the social aspect that Argentinians take the most pride in. Non-Argentinians may equate it to a barbecue, but it’s more than that. The food is plentiful and holding an asado is often tied with family gatherings to celebrate milestones. Argentinians love their meat and holding a national competition to hold the title of best asado is serious business.
GROUP H: GERMANY, MOROCCO, COLOMBIA, SOUTH KOREA
The literal translation of the name is “sour roast meat,” and the exact origins of the dish haven’t been definitively established, though the Cologne region is often hailed as the region that popularized it. The marinade for the meat is vinegar and wine-based, lasting on average three to ten days before cooking. Accompanying the meat is a gravy made from the cooked marinade and potato dumplings.
A staple of Maghrebi cuisine (the western region of North Africa: Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania), couscous is a time-tested dish with some historians believing it dates as far back as third century BC. Often acting as the foundation to being topped with vegetables and meat, a common trait with Moroccan couscous is the use of saffron. In a show of culinary diplomacy, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Mauritania did a joint-submission of couscous to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists in 2020. The recognition was for the knowledge and practices for the production and consumption of couscous.
COLOMBIA: BANDEJA PAISA
The first half of the name translates to platter, with the second half of the name being in ode to the Paisa region in northwest Colombia. Platter exactly is what you get as the dish is a generous offering of rice, red beans, multiple forms of meat, a fried egg, black pudding, and plantains, at minimum. While other national dishes in other countries are often debated as there’s another popular dish, the controversy around bandeja paisa being Colombia’s national dish comes from 2005 where the government tried to make it official. Citizens argued that it’s not as widely-eaten in the country, with some arguments that chicken and potato soup Ajiaco as if not more popular. Compared to other national dishes, the origins of Bandeja Paisa is very short, with recorded accounts of the dish only going back to the 1950s.
SOUTH KOREA: KIMCHI
Ubiquitous with every meal in Korea, kimchi are fermented vegetables that have been a staple of Korean cuisine for centuries. The Silla dynasty (57 BC to AD 935) is said to have been the earliest accounts of kimchi being a fabric of life. While we know kimchi these days as being spicy, chili peppers weren’t introduced to the dish until 1614 by Portuguese traders. Fast forward to the modern era, kimchi is in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. It’s also been the focal point of economic and political beefs with China. There’s at least 180 recognized variations of kimchi, with napa cabbage and radish indigenous to Korea being the most common. In 2008, astronaut Yi So-yeon was the first Korean to go to space. She did so bringing among things, a specially-engineered version of kimchi to eat during her stay in the International Space Station.
Lots of things will happen on the pitches of Australia and New Zealand over the course of the tournament — goals, saves, shocking results — in a way the World Cup is like the sport’s all-you-can-eat buffet. Some good, some tension, and after a penalty shootout, you feel bloated and just want to go to sleep.
The beautiful game can connect and unite people, but so does food and without a doubt better than the world’s game could ever. It’s often said that the window into a culture, its people, and their history is through food and the ways the food is celebrated.
If you’ve made it to the end of this culinary journey and your shirt isn’t submerged in drool because of so many food visuals, you’re a better person than me.
Now, go get your culinary passport stamps as you enjoy the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.