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The World Cup of Food

Posted by on June 7 2010 in Food Travel, Trends
S. Africa FIFA World Cup Mascot

Image Courtesy of Nestor Cerami

We couldn’t let soccer’s 2010 FIFA World Cup go by without throwing in our two cents — which as you might expect, has less to do with our feet than with our mouths. So while serious sports fans spend this week debating which squads got the crap draw and which teams are most likely to make the second round, foodies can put all that aside and take a look at our 2010 World Cup Food and Drink Rankings, in which we’ve ranked the 32 participating nations from worst to best, based not on soccer skills but on the appeal of each country’s most iconic dish.

For the record, I offer no apologies for the dishes or the order in which they are ranked—I had many discussions with my international friends when researching these and they have disagreed with me on many—for that, you can leave your opinions in the comments.

#32. Australia – Vegemite on Toast

Australia - Vegimite on Toast

Usually when there is a petition on Facebook in support of something, you know it’s a desperate plea, and Vegemite on Toast is no exception. This isn’t one of those love-it-or-hate-it kind of foods, this is simply a hate it kind of food. Yes, there are nearly 111,000 facebook users on the record as supporting it, but I’m pretty sure that’s roughly the population of Australia, right? Let’s hope for their sake that the Aussie lads find something better to chow on before their matches in South Africa.

#31. Ivory Coast – Kedjenou

Ivory Coast - Kedjenou

Factoid: the current coach of the Ivory Coast team is former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson. I’m sure old Sven has some tricks up his sleeves planned for the field, but you’ve got to admire the Ivory Coast’s cooking tricks, too. Kedjenou, like many other West African dishes, starts with some tough old chickens and basically cooks the shit out of them ’til they’re edible. It may not be the quickest way to make a meal taste good, but it sure as hell beats Vegemite.

#30. Slovenia – Buckwheat

Slovenia - Wilted Greens with Buckwheat Noodles

I task you with something — Google “Slovenia” and “food.” Whatever the result is it’ll surely include buckwheat. Buckwheat, buckwheat and more buckwheat. Could you be any more boring, Slovenian cooks? If you must have a Slovenian soccer dish, I sifted through the ES archives and stumbled upon this tasty dish, vegetarian too — Wilted Greens with Buckwheat Noodles (and an egg).

#29. Greece – Ouzo

Greece - Ouzo

No wonder Greece is in a state of bankruptcy — they are the proud creators of Ouzo, an alcohol so potent it makes tequila look like a little girl’s drink. It’s equally effective at erasing your memory, lighting fire pits, and drowning your sorrows after a tough loss. Go on Greece, take a shot and forget your on- and off-field troubles — because losing your table is the least of your worries.

#28. Algeria – Couscous

Algeria - Couscous

Algeria is an exclusive member of Group C, as British tabloid The Sun put it, E-A-S-Y — for England. And that’s how I view couscous, easier than burning toast. Traditional Algerian Couscous requires a myriad of root vegetables, but in the summer heat I recommend something a little less heavy, like this ES favorite.

#27. Germany – Spätzle

Germany - Spatzle

I know what you’re thinking — the Brit chose something totally unappetizing for Germany, forcing them a low ranking. If you look at our footy history, you might be right. But the truth is, spätzle is a solid standby that can go with almost anything German — kielbasa, sauerkraut, bratwurst — anything. Like the German soccer team, it’s a little boring, but it gets the job done.

#26. Nigeria – Jollof Rice and Chicken

Nigeria - Jollof and Chicken

I consulted my Nigerian colleague for this one and she told me that if I didn’t mention jollof rice she would personally beat me down. Honestly, I know less about this dish than I do about the Nigerian backfield, but after searching around the internet I came across this great piece on all things jollof that has my interest piqued, with some great recipes to boot. Speaking of boots, the nickname for the Nigerian team is “Super Eagles” and they have appeared in three previous tournaments.

#25. Japan – Sushi

frushi-433-x-284

Japan’s iconic food displays an endless amount of versatility, from intimidating dragon rolls to hot dog sushi. If Japan can show half this much inventiveness on the field, they’ll breeze through Group E (that’s a big if).

#24. Switzerland – Fondue

Switzerland - Fondue

No food says Swiss like cheese, and no dish does Swiss cheese prouder than fondue. If there was a way to eat fondue daily without  gaining 100 lbs I would — and you would too. A great pick for a WC watch party, this is one of those fun food events you can do with your friends. Don’t you just love those sticks with the colored handles? I always get confused after a glass or two.

#23. Chile – Pisco Sour

Chile - Pisco Sour

I won’t get into the politics of who owns the Pisco — Peru, if you were good enough to qualify for the final 32 then I may have considered you for it, but you suck so I can’t. So during this tournament, go with Chile’s extra-bitters version. Everyone who reads ES know we are obsessed with eggs, but eggs in cocktails just blow our mind!

#22. Honduras – Chayotes

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Hondurans love Chayotes, which involves a particular type of squash known as chouchou or mango squash, boiled in condensed milk. If that doesn’t sound appetizing enough, I’m told it goes well with fried fish heads. I’ll stick with just the chayotes.

#21. Serbia – Cabbage Rolls with Sour Cabbage and Rice

Serbia - Cabbage Rolls with Sour Cabbage

I’m going to be honest here — going into this I had no idea what Serbian food consisted of. Why would I?  Cabbage rolls with sour cabbage and rice. This is one of those ethnic dishes that sounds so bad, you figure it just has to be good — otherwise why would they make it?

#20. Cameroon – Kondre

Cameroon - Kondre

Even adventurous foodies often write off African stews as “tried one, tried them all.” And Kondre is indeed a thick, hearty stew, similar in some ways to many African dishes. But with 12+ ingredients, this one’s got some fun surprises, with a sweeter, more complex taste than most. This kondre recipe explains all you need to know.

#19. North Korea – Soju

Korea DPR - Soju

Fine. Who the fuck knows what the people of the North eat? All Google could tell me when I researched this is that the country is under major famine alert, except of course for its trusted leader. Which I’d say calls for a round of Soju in respect of our friends in the north.

#18. Slovakia – Haloushki

Slovakia - Haluski

Sort of like a more creative take on spätzle, haloushki is a simple, traditional noodle or potato food that can be incorporated into almost any dish. Just so long as it’s lumpy all is good — a poor man’s gnocchi some might say.

#17. Paraguay – Sopa Paraguaya

Paraguay - Sopa

Sopa Paraguaya is a cornbread, not to be confused with straight up sopa, which is a soup. Apparently there can be many variations of this bread, although the version above, which I am insisting you make, is likened to a Latin Yorkshire Pudding — yes, I can bring anything back to England. Plus it’s made with chicken drippings, for some extra-greasy joy.

#16. Portugal – Bica

Portugal - Espresso

We all like our caffeine fix, but perhaps none of us more than the Portuguese, who on average consume 3 bica‘s daily, which might explain the dirty tactics of one particular Portuguese soccer player. If you are not wanting to booze up during any of these early-morning games, go for an extra-strong bica espresso to brighten your morning blues. Cristiano Ronaldo, I hate you, despite you being so cute.

#15. Ghana – Fufu

fufu

Say it with me — Fufu. I love that word. Ghana almost got the top spot for the word alone. Unfortunately, they lost 14 places when I found out what it looks like. What we’re talking here is a starchy, plantain-based dish. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it probably tastes better than it looks. If it doesn’t, I apologize —  so here is a recipe for fufu and here’s a back-up recipe for some delicious plantains.

#14. France – Ratatouille

France - Ratatouille

Only the French would have the gall to give basic chopped-up vegetables a fancy-pants name like ratatouille. But let’s be honest, only the French can make something like basic chopped-up vegetables taste so goddamn delicious.  I especially love this ratatouille recipe, because it is inspired by the cartoon of its namesake. Isn’t it great how you can learn something from a talking rat?

#13. Uruguay – Chaja

Uruguay - Chaja

World Cup fact: Uruguay was the first nation to host the tournament in 1930, and the first winners — they actually won a second time in 1950. And they’re winners at the dessert table too, with chajá, often referred to as “peaches in trees.” Peaches, whipped cream, sponge and meringue —this gooey mound of fun should be eaten with a very large spoon and shared with everyone at your table.

#12. The Netherlands – Advocaat

Netherlands - Advocaat

Random fact: despite the Dutch flag being red, white and blue, the Dutch team wears orange, as do their fans, obsessively so (in honor of the Dutch Royal Family and its lineage to Willem van Oranje.) One place the orange looks super-attractive is in this Dutch dessert, called  Advocaat, for which I’m one passionate advocate. Go on, add a little brandy to it.

#11. Argentina – Pionono de Deluce de Leche

Caramel Jelly Roll

After many heated email exchanges with my Argentinian friend, we settled on this caramel jelly roll as their de facto national dish.  I just love the look of these babies, perfectly drenched in deluce de leche to make for that ideal bite. Argentina has won the World Cup twice, 1978 & 1986, so apparently their players don’t eat too many of these.

#10. USA – Hamburger

USA - Hamburger

Yes, there are those of you who might say the hot dog, the NY strip or the lobster roll — but for me, there is nothing more American than eating a nice juicy burger, something old fashioned. If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve realized by now that England is ranked higher than the U.S., but take solace in this — the last time our two countries played each other in a World Cup was 1950, and USA beat England, 1-0. We’ll find out who’s really number one when the two meet in the opening round.

#9. Italy – Mascarpone Pancakes with Raspberries

Italy - Mascarpone Pancakes with Raspberries

Unfortunately for us in the U.S., we’re probably going to miss most of the World Cup, since we’ll either be getting ready for work or will be too hungover for the 8am wake-up calls. For those of you fortunate enough to be productive in the morning, you’ll need some grub to get you through. And when it comes to breakfast, the normally dinner-focused Italians come through pretty strong here as well. As in mascarpone pancake dish with raspberries. Sure puts Vegemite to shame.

#8. Denmark – Frikadeller

Denmark - Meatballs

Fried. BALLS. Pork. These words speak for themselves. Meatballs — they’re balls– like footballs. OK, I’m a child, but seriously, these are some A-list balls, and also an ideal dish to make ahead and serve during half time. Footy fact — Denmark qualified for the World Cup by defeating Sweden, ending Sweden’s World Cup dreams, hence no Swedish meatballs. Long live the new northern European king of balls.

#7. South Africa – Bobotie

South Africa - Bobotie

With South Africa being the host nation they also have the honor of being the first African country to host the World Cup, so in honor of the moment we have to go as traditional as possible, which brings us to bobotie. Eggs, meat, vegetables, curry, fruit. All in the same dish. Holy crap, SA. That is some serious cooking. I doubt South Africa will make the quarterfinals, but this dish sure does.

#6. Spain – Paella

Spain - Paella

I’ll be honest, I’ve only ever had paella once and that was twelve years ago while vacationing in Tenerife, the day David Beckham kicked Diego Simeone of Argentina, ultimately causing England to lose out on penalties in the 1998 World Cup. That has left a bitter taste in my mouth and I’ve never gone back. But if I did, there would only be one reason: paella. I suggest you take a look at these mouthwatering pictures and take your pick of which one to make.

#5. South Korea – Bi Bim Bap

Korea Republic - Kimchi

Let’s do the hip, the hop with the bi bim bap. I went there, don’t judge. Served in a large cast-iron bowl, sizzling hot and beaming with intense flavors, BBB is a delight for your senses. And the fried egg on top, now that is really the icing on the cake. Give it a go at home with this bi bim bap recipe.

#4. New Zealand – Lamb

New Zealand - Lamb

Everybody loves lamb — so versatile, from rack to chop to curried, shank, grilled, roasted…And New Zealand raises those little babies the tastiest. Like their Australian neighbor, I don’t think the Kiwis are going to go far in the tournament, but I don’t think they’ll get too bent out of shape about it. They always seem so damned happy. Maybe because they’ve got all those little lambs to go home to.

#3. Brazil – Caipirinha

Brazil - Caipirinha

Five-time winners Brazil, undoubtedly the most formidable of opponents, are also undoubtedly the most formidable of drinkers. So why not steal a page from their playbook and celebrate the World Cup with a Caipirinha? (or 32). My lack of being able to pronounce the damn thing does not stop me from pounding a few, and I think you should too.

#2. Mexico – Mole Poblano

Mexico - Mole Poblano

I stopped counting the number of ingredients in this dish when I hit 20. Amazing. Mole Poblano is one of the many dishes that exemplifies Mexico — the beauty of the spice and the depth and sophistication of the flavors really tells you where you are, or perhaps where you want to be. Mexico will likely make an impact on this 2010 World Cup, but they’d have to do pretty damn well to outshine the impact they have on food.

#1. England – Chip Butty

England - Chip Butty

I could have written about a bacon sandwich, fish and chips, or the English breakfast — all solid winner. But there is nothing more special than a greased-up sandwich packed with fries chips and laced with ketchup. All I ask is that you give it a try. It really is something special and perhaps one of the best foods to eat while watching a game, in my honest unbiased opinion. I don’t just predict a second World Cup win for England, but I am confident that England’s greatest culinary invention will be a winner with anyone brave enough to try it.

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30 Responses leave one →
  1. June 7, 2010

    Great idea for a post!

  2. June 7, 2010

    Thanks for including my recipe for mascarpone pancakes. Guess my real heritage, Russian, is not applicable ;)

  3. June 7, 2010

    I love the round up (even with being a passionate football hater :-) ). Thank you for the shout out and you had me smiling!

  4. June 7, 2010

    England should NEVER come as number one on any ranking that involves food ;-)

  5. Nordo permalink
    June 7, 2010

    Mannnnnnnnnnn… I get all the way to the end knowing what would be there, anticipation getting stronger and stronger the closer I get, only to find that instead of Chicken Tikka Masala there’s a sandwich made of white bread, ketchup, and chips? My forehead hurts from slapping it. Welp, it was a great read anyways. Lots of good links in there.

  6. June 8, 2010

    I love it all–especially the Vegemite and the Bi Bim Bap. I’ll even try the Bobotie. German food, though, you can keep THAT.

  7. June 8, 2010

    Mannnnnnnnnnn… I get all the way to the end knowing what would be there, anticipation getting stronger and stronger the closer I get, only to find that instead of Chicken Tikka Masala there’s a sandwich made of white bread, ketchup, and chips? My forehead hurts from slapping it. Welp, it was a great read anyways. Lots of good links in there.
    BTW I love your blog!

  8. June 8, 2010

    Great post. Love the England sandwich… That is definitely something I should try.

  9. LatvianChef permalink
    June 8, 2010

    Hmmm… As a Brit who lived in Germany for 10 yrs and now in the US for 6, I can honestly say that virtually everything I ate out in Germany beat anything I’ve had here, hands down! Much fresher, healthier and less processed. Now – hand me that chip buttie!

  10. June 8, 2010

    So as a Yank, I had to figure out what the heck went on top of Chip Butty…turns out its either ketchup or brown sauce.

    Its super uncouth, but, liking neither of those toppings, a super American variation might be to add Cheese Whiz to it…cheese friends on bread…yum

  11. June 8, 2010

    I’ll kick your ass to the curb if you were to bring that crap near any chip butty I made, sacrilege.

  12. June 8, 2010

    LOVE LOVE the fact that Australia’s Vegemite was top ( or was it bottom) of your list!!! I couldn’t agree more, being a New Zealander living in Australia, we favor “Marmite” as our number one yeast spread. Very similar to vegemite only 1,000 x tastier!!!!

    And go the chip butty… thanks to our English colonial past we love a good chip butty too!

  13. erica permalink
    June 9, 2010

    i gotta say, there is nothing whatsoever in me that desires to try the chip butty. maybe if it was tartar sauce instead of ketchup… all the same, i’m glad it has a place in this big ol’ world of food :)

  14. June 9, 2010

    Great idea! I’m doing one too! Let’s exchange recipes/pointers?
    Also found each of the countries foods at local restaurants in Houston, TX (it was tough).

    Check it out at worldcupfoodchallenge.blogspot.com!

  15. June 11, 2010

    The Caipirinha is the best pick. See the Grill from Ipanema to get the well-versed drink of Brazil.

    P.S. Go yanks

  16. June 11, 2010

    Great post! But just an observation: it’s “dulce”, not “deluce” de leche. It’s a wonderful kind of fudge and one of the two or three good things about Argentina, counting barbecue and.. that’s it. Argentina doesn’t have nothing else which worth mention.
    And yes, I’m Brazilian. =)

  17. June 15, 2010

    Love of soccer + love of food = love this post! The advocaat from Nederland looks to be my pick.

  18. June 16, 2010

    Hey, good round-up and list of delicacies, I consider food and football as my two favorite things in life. I also love a deliciously made Mexican mole! I would say that Japanese Sushi should rank quite a bit higher though!

  19. June 22, 2010

    Vegemite is so misunderstood. like anything in food it’s all about balance. for starters, nothing but white bread will do. preferably crusty. then it needs lots of butter and a little bit of vegemite. everyone simply applies the vegemite too thick! It’s like saying you don’t like mexican food when all you’ve eaten is taco bell or (bill). and try a beer with it!

  20. June 23, 2010

    Thanks for more ideas! We’re cooking/eating our way through the World Cup.

    Check out what we’ve eaten so far…
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/blessltd/

  21. July 8, 2010

    As the Tournament draws to a close, we’ve officially cooked our way through all 32 countries and posted the recipes for all of the dishes mentioned above, along with fusion dishes that we’ve created specifically for individual matches at http://worldcupfoodchallenge.blogspot.com/

    Germany v Spain? Try a traditional Spanish pork tenderloin recipe marinated in German doppelbock instead of sherry:
    http://worldcupfoodchallenge.blogspot.com/2010/07/july-6-spain-v-germany.html

    Fan of Uruguay’s Chivito? Try our Dutch version:
    http://worldcupfoodchallenge.blogspot.com/2010/07/july-6-semi-finals-feast.html

    Or go all out and recreate our Quarter Finals Feast, fusing together the street foods of every country that made the cut:
    http://worldcupfoodchallenge.blogspot.com/2010/07/july-2-3-quarter-finals-feast.html

  22. July 19, 2010

    The Chip Butty looks very good, BUT! It needs something. Something to purk it up some. Something to add to the great taste of the fries and ketchup. What could it be? I ask. Well the only thing that I can think of is. Is.
    Is.

    a

    Hamburger patty. YES that’s it a hamburger patty

  23. World Foodie permalink
    March 23, 2011

    For starters, Pisco is Peruvian, so you need to get your facts straight. It’s not readers’ fault you neither know where Pisco is located or that you obviously do not know much about it or Peruvian cuisine for that matter, or any cuisine (Vegemite, really?). I understand that your limited polling of limited international friends may have swayed you in certain directions but if you are going to label an article as the “The World Cup of Food” standards need to be a little higher because you will end up misleading your readers. As a writer, you need to not only read some more, but travel and actually eat more so that you can actually knowledgeably speak about other cultures as opposed to saying, “Peru, if you were good enough to qualify for the final 32 then I may have considered you for it, but you suck so I can’t.” Brittania, you suck because you don’t know any better, sadly.

    How about ceviche for starters? Or lomo saltado, tallarin saltado, papa a la huancaina, pollo a la brasa, anticuchos, escabeche and those are only some of the the world-renowned Peruvian entrees. Not sure what town you’re from but it doesn’t matter because with the internet nowadays, you should have done your research. Better luck next time.

    With love from New York City (Manhattan)- the crossroads of the world.

  24. August 15, 2011

    You may find it strange, but Vegemite is actually delicous! It’s also very healthy being one of the world’s richest known sources of B vitamins, specifically thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid. It is a favorite of a lot of Australian athletes to take as snack between games.

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