You know what comfort food is just by looking at it. It’s the warm, carby deliciousness that gets us through bad days, homesickness and the flu. Every country has its own version of the stuff, so if you ever find yourself looking for something perfect on a rainy day but feel tired of the usual mac and cheese, why not try one of these international favorites?
1. Spain: Croquetas de jamón
Let’s be clear: Croquetas — real ones, not the ones that come frozen or on a hospital food tray — are little fried morsels of delightfulness. Like most comfort foods, this one utilizes little bits of leftovers. In this case, it’s ham. Croquetas are to the Spanish what stovies are to the Scottish.
2. Japan: Okayu
Some comfort foods serve one basic purpose: to cure what ails you. The next time you’re sick, try a steaming bowl of okayu. You may never accept chicken soup on a sick day again.
3. Russia/Ukraine: Borscht
There are plenty of jokes to be had about borscht, and I find almost universally that the people who make them have never had a bowl of it done right. This is borscht done right, and you will love every spoonful of it.
4. France: Clafoutis
Traditional clafoutis is a sweet dish stuffed with cherries (pits and all!), but modern renditions take a savory twist, like this tomato version, and are not to be missed.
5. Canada: Poutine
Ask any Canadian, and they will tell you there is no such thing as proper American poutine, a dish made with pomme frites, cheese curds and gravy. It is the ultimate food for getting over hangovers and heartaches.
6: The Philippines: Kare-kare
Kare-kare is a stew that uses a peanut-based broth, oxtail, cabbage and occasionally offal, among other ingredients. If any of that makes you wary, I suggest pretending you don’t know what’s in it. If you miss a chance to have traditional kare-kare, your life will be incomplete and sad.
7. Poland: Pierogi
Ah, pierogi. Who can resist the siren song of carbs wrapped around starch? It’s the definition of comfort food.
8. Cuba: Picadillo
Picadillo originates in Spain and is popular in Latin countries.The Cuban version usually has olives in it and is served over black beans and rice.
9. Mexico: Chilaquiles
Tortillas. Eggs. Salsa. Chilaquiles are the perfect breakfast on any day, and the perfect all-day meal on really bad days.
10. Ireland: Colcannon
Oh, colcannon. It warms my little Irish heart to be able to share this with anyone who has never had it before. If you think you don’t like cabbage, this dish will almost certainly change your mind.
11. Jamaica: Oxtail soup
There are tons of versions of oxtail soup, which is made with beef, not necessarily oxen. My personal favorite is the Jamaican version. It’s actually a great soup for hot days too, so you might want to hop on this while there’s still a little bit of warm weather left.
12. India: Moong dal khichdi
Khichdi is a great dish. It’s easily digestible for off-tummy days, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring. It has a wonderful texture and a great flavor that comes from lovely soft rice and lentils. Just be warned: Turmeric, the spice that gives this dish its rich color, can stain pretty much everything it comes in contact with. I’m of the mind that it’s worth it, though, and once you taste khichdi, I think you’ll agree.
13. The Middle East: Kibbe
I feel kind of bad lumping multiple Middle Eastern dishes together, but with so many rich cultures and countries, it would take an entire separate post to go over all the great foods from each one. But most Middle Eastern countries have a version of this delicious dish, kibbe.
14. Greece: Moussaka
Moussaka is technically a casserole, but it just feels wrong to apply the name to something so delicious.
15. Indonesia: Pisang goreng
Pisang goreng is deep-fried bananas. That right there is perhaps the most perfect sentence in the English language.
16. Sri Lanka: Kottu roti
Vegetables, eggs, a flatbread called “roti,” delicious Sri Lankan spices… I could go on, but I don’t want to take too much of the time you could be spending on cooking or otherwise securing this dish.
17. Italy: Spaghetti alla carbonara
This bowl of carbs and bacon is the perfect dish for any day, and on top of that, it takes only minutes to make. Just remember, kids: Only total heathens put cream in their carbonara.