Round III: A Food-Ball World Cup Tour of 2022; Check Inside
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With the 2022 FIFA World Cup (and all of its attendant controversies) underway in Qatar, we’re focusing on a subject that enjoys even more of a dedicated fandom than football: food.

In a four-part series, we’re sampling the national dishes of each of the 32 participating countries, tackling two groups in each edition of this newsletter. Read part 1 (Groups A & B) here, and part 2 (Groups C& D) here.

And today in part 3, Groups E and F:


Spain — Paella

Paella — Spain’s national dish — is a saffron-flavoured rice, with a variety of meat and vegetables. Its origins are traced to the region of Valencia, and its name is derived from the vessel in which it is cooked: the “paellera”. This is a shallow, large, round pan with handles on either side. Traditionally, it is set over an open fire in order to cook the paella. First, the meat of choice (seafood, chicken, pork or hare) is cooked in olive oil, seasoned with herbs, onion and garlic. Then, the meat is removed from the pan and the rice is cooked in stock, with saffron and tomatoes providing the flavouring. The meat is added back in, along with seasonal vegetables of choice, and the contents of the pan are allowed to simmer and steep in the combined flavours.

Costa Rica — Gallo Pinto

“Gallo Pinto” literally translates into “speckled rooster”, but this Costa Rican staple has nothing to do with poultry. Instead, it is a mix of rice and beans, cooked with a variety of spices, that is a breakfast favourite across the country. The name actually refers to the appearance of the dish — the white rice and the black/red beans combine in a bowl to create a colourful mound. Red peppers, cilantro and onions are the other ingredients that go into the Gallo Pinto. Most important though, is the Salsa Lizano — a quintessential Costa Rican condiment that comprises water, sugar, salt, vegetables, chili pepper, molasses, mustard, celery and a whole lot more. As you can tell by the ingredients, this is no ordinary salsa. 

Neighbouring Nicaragua also considers the Gallo Pinto its national dish, and (much like the Odisha vs Bengal Rosogolla Wars) how it should be prepared, and with which ingredients, is a matter of some good-natured contention between the two countries. 

Germany — Sauerbraten

Bratwurst, brötchen and beer may dominate its culinary landscape, but it is Sauerbraten that is Germany’s national dish. “Sauerbraten” means sour meat, and a look at how the dish is prepared will explain why. Traditionally made of horse meat, beef or venison are now the protein of choice for the dish. The meat is first steeped in a mixture of red wine vinegar, herbs and spices (sugar, bay leaves, black pepper, salt, cloves) for 10 days. Once pickled, it is cooked in a sweet-n-sour gravy (the sweetness is added by ginger snap cookies, raisins, sugar, honey or sugar beet syrup) and served alongside potato dumplings.

Japan — Curry Rice

Japan’s national dish has an Indian connection. The British are believed to have brought curry to Japan in the late 19th century. Japanese curries tend to be very hot and spicy, comprising meat and vegetables (sweet onions, potatoes, carrots) in a gravy of a stew-like consistency. (It is thickened with fat and flour and seasoned with “curry spices”.) Curry can be as fuss-free or as luxurious as you want to make it: In Japan, it is available both as an instant/”boil in the bag” mix or more decadent versions like kaki-curry (with salt-water oysters) or wagyu-curry (made with wagyu beef).


Belgium — Moules-Frites

Belgium’s national dish brings two of its most consumed food items together: mussels and fried potatoes. For the Moules-Frites, fresh mussels are steamed in a light/flavoured broth or sauce and served in the same pan they are cooked in. French fries, made of bintje potatoes, are heaped on a separate dish. Depending on the ingredients used while cooking the mussels, the “Moules” part of the dish can have several variations. These include Moules marinière (white wine, shallots, parsley, butter); nature (celery, leeks, butter); à la crème (flour and cream used as thickening agents); parquées (raw mussels, served in their shells with lemon-mustard sauce); à la bière (beer replaces the wine from the marinière recipe); and à l'ail (with garlic).

Canada — Poutine

The Belgians must certainly approve of the Canadian fondness for poutines. Hailing from Quebec, the Poutine has come to be popular enough across the globe that like the burger or pizza, it needs no introduction. The standard Poutine combines fries with a gravy and cheese curds. A number of toppings may be added, including meat, olives, jalapeños, coleslaw, onions, festive-specials like turkey or stuffing, and so on, with some poutineries offering as many as 30 types of Poutine.

Morocco — Couscous

Like Tunisia, its one-country-away-to-the-east neighbour, Morocco too counts Couscous as its national dish. This isn’t surprising considering couscous’ status in much of North Africa — apart from Morocco and Tunisia, Algeria and Mauritania were part of a combined (successful) bid to get intangible heritage status for the staple, from UNESCO. That said, couscous isn’t cooked the same way in Morocco as it is in Tunisia. Tunisian couscous tends to have a spicy tomato sauce base, whereas Moroccan couscous uses saffron. Salads to main dishes (where it is a substitute for rice) — all use couscous in Morocco, and vegetables, dried fruits and spices add flavour to the dish.

Croatia — Zagorski Štrukli

Several dishes carry the “national” tag with pride in Croatia, including Fritule (a type of fried pastry that resembles donuts, has a rum-and-raisin filling, and is dusted with icing sugar) and Istrian Jota (a stew popular in the Adriatic region, which is made with beans, sauerkraut or sour turnip, potatoes, bacon and spare ribs). But the Zagorski Štrukli has an edge over these. Quite simply, it is pastry dough with a filling, that is either boiled or baked. To make the Štrukli, pastry sheets are rolled out as thinly as possible, and then covered with a layer of cottage cheese, eggs, sour cream and salt. The pastry sheet is then rolled and cut into slightly longer than palm-sized pieces. The Štrukli is either baked with clotted cream, or boiled with fried onions and parsley until cooked.

Mushroom & Tomato Bruschetta

Via AllRecipes

Makes 12 portions. Prep time: 30 mins. Cook time: 15 mins.


  • 1 loaf bread, cut into 3/4-inch thick slices (ciabatta/baguette)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 225 gm fresh mushrooms. diced
  • 5 green onions, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded



Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Toast in the oven for 1-2 mins. While the bread toasts, mix tomatoes and balsamic vinegar together in a bowl.


Heat olive oil in a pan. On medium heat, add mushrooms, green onions, garlic, salt, black pepper and parsley; cook and stir until mushrooms are soft and juicy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.


Top each toasted bread slice with the mushroom mixture, then spread tomato mixture on top and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Return the tray to the oven until the bruschetta is heated through and cheese has melted, about 5 minutes.