Around the World in 45 Dishes: Fascinating Facts About Global Cuisines

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1Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Pad Thai, the national dish of Thailand, is actually not a traditional dish, but was invented, standardized and promoted by the Thai government, and imposed upon the people, as part of a broad cultural effort to establish a sense of national identity.

2. Wounded Viking warriors were always given strong onion soup. After a few minutes, someone would smell the wounds and if onions could be detected it meant that there were serious abdominal injuries and that death was inevitable.

3. Lobsters used to be considered “cockroaches of the sea.” It was fed to prisoners and apprentices, and was used as fish bait. They would actually grind up whole boiled lobsters so the prisoners would have to pick through the little bits of shell and meat. It was considered cruel and inhumane and some groups fought to have it put to an end.

4. Kiviak is a traditional wintertime Inuit food from Greenland that is made of little birds stuffed inside a seal skin to be fermented. In 2013, 2 people in Greenland died of botulism after eating poorly prepared Kiviak. The family of the first victim not knowing that the meal caused his death served it at his funeral, leading to the death of his daughter.

5. When curry was introduced in Japan it was considered a British dish, not an Indian one, because of its popularity among British sailors.

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6Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken

The Scots had a tradition of deep-frying chicken in fat. Scottish immigrants to America continued this frying chicken tradition and are responsible for the introduction of it to African slaves.

7. Spam (the canned meat) is considered a delicacy in South Korea. It's common for people to give each other large Spam gift packages for special holidays.

8. Though sweet baked beans may come across as excessively sugary or a product of the processed food industry, it is actually a traditional Native American dish. It was originally sweetened using maple syrup, also a native product.

9. A songbird named Ortolan is a French delicacy. It involves blinding this small bird and force-feeding it before you drown in Cognac. It is then eaten whole (save for feet) in one bite with a napkin over the face to preserve its aroma.

10. Nearly 200 years before turducken became popular, a Parisian gastronomist invented the Rôti Sans Pareil, a warbler stuffed inside a bunting, inside a lark, inside a thrush, inside a quail...lapwing, plover, partridge, woodcock, teal, guinea fowl, duck, chicken, pheasant, goose, turkey, bustard. It is a 17-bird stuffed meal.

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Dandelions are not only completely edible raw and cooked but also packed with nutrients and may have many other benefits to their consumption.

12. Alcatraz had some of the best food in the federal prison system including chili dogs, butter-drenched potatoes, pork chops, biscuits, and gravy & banana pudding because the warden believed “most trouble in prison is caused by bad food.” The prison staff ate the same food as the prisoners.

13. Francesinha, Portugal's national sandwich has steak, ham, dry sausage, fresh sausage, cheese and then it's covered in melted cheese and beer sauce.

14. Cassowary meat is so tough that people were told to cook it with a stone in the pot. “When the stone is ready to eat, so is the Cassowary.”

15. The origin of French Fries is a hotly contested issue between Belgium and France. Belgium claims a 1781 family manuscript proves they were invented there, while France claims Paris street vendors invented the dish just before the French revolution.

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16Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Casserole

Campbell’s Green Bean Casserole is so popular that Campbell’s estimates 40% of their Cream of Mushroom Soup is used to make the dish.

17. Baked beans started with a bean native to the Americas exported to France/Italy in the 1500s. They were brought back to America with European colonization, then exported to the UK as an "American delicacy" in the late 1800s, and are now reimported to the US as “UK Baked Beans.”

18. Pozole, a traditional Mexican soup, was originally made with human flesh by the Aztecs. When cannibalism was banned, pork was used as it “tasted very similar.”

19. Budae-jjigae, a Korean soup dish which is a fusion of common soup ingredients in Korea and scavenged foods from US bases had a period of "illegality"; as spam smuggling was punishable by death under President Park in the 1960-70s.

20. Dinner was once the main meal of the day, served around one or two in the afternoon, while 'supper' was a much lighter meal, or even just a snack, eaten around sundown.

21Raw Meat

Raw Meat

The most prized delicacy in Ethiopia is raw meat. Ox is the most common meat consumed raw but the more expensive goat is gaining momentum. Despite official health warnings, Ethiopians still prefer to buy their animals live and slaughter them at home.

22. The flesh of the Sleeper Shark, which feeds on colossal squid, contains such a high concentration of anti-freeze that it must rot for months before consumption as the popular Icelandic dish Hákarl.

23. Salt-cured capybara (the largest living rodent) is consumed during Lent in Venezuela, where the popularity of the dish prompted the Vatican to declare that capybara isn’t meat but fish.

24. Upscale steakhouses use dry-aged beef where the beef is hung on a rack to dry for several weeks. This process evaporates moisture in the muscles and promotes the enzymatic breakdown of connective tissue which together yields very flavorful meat.

25. Dry red kidney beans can be toxic if they are cooked in a slow cooker, which doesn't get hot enough to get rid of phytohaemagglutinin, causing severe symptoms.

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