Round IV: Here's The Food-Ball Tour Of FIFA World Cup 2022
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With the 2022 FIFA World Cup 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’ve sampled 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, part 2 (Groups C & D) here, and part 3 (Groups E & F) here.

And today, in our concluding part, Groups G & H:


Brazil — Feijoada

Pronounced fey-jwa-duh, Brazil’s national dish is a flavourful stew with two main ingredients: black beans and salted/smoked meat. In fact, its name is derived from the Portuguese word for beans: feijão. Like many stew dishes, the Feijoada too is a way to get a wholesome, filling meal out of cheap cuts of meat. Accordingly, you’ll find that the Feijoada pot contains salted and smoked pork; spareribs; pig ears, feet and tail; carne seca (dried salted beef) and tongue. After simmering into a rich, comforting stew, the Feijoada is served hot with rice. It is also accompanied by sautéed collard greens, oranges and farofa (made with cassava flour that is toasted).

Serbia — Wedding Cabbage

With an unexpectedly rich and varied cuisine, Serbia has something for every kind of palate. And while there are a number of iconic dishes associated with Serbian cuisine, their popularity differs from region to region — and from rural areas to an urban hotspot like Belgrade. This is where a traditional dish like the Wedding Cabbage comes in. A throwback to mediaeval Serbia, the dish — as the name suggests — is prepared during large communal events like weddings, festivals and other celebrations. Cabbage and meat (usually pork) are layered in a large clay pot, covered with water, and left to boil over an open fire. Paprika, pepper and salt are added for the seasoning, along with bay leaves and parsley. Vegetables like onions, carrots may also be added to the pot, which is allowed to simmer for several hours.

Switzerland — Rösti (also spelt as Rööschti)

If anyone tries to tell you that fondue is the national dish of Switzerland, shoot them down firmly with a “no, it’s Rösti”. Then, having delivered your little mic drop, walk away. Now, just in case such a fictional scenario does come up, you can also wow all and sundry (that is, the non-fondue partisans) with your knowledge about the dish: Potato — boiled or raw — is thinly grated and then fried in a pan with plenty of oil or butter. It is shaped into a roundish form during the frying process, and is a typical breakfast item. Eggs may be served along with the Rösti. Many cooks prefer to bake Rösti rather than shallow-frying it; it makes no difference to the final dish. It;s more popular in the German-speaking regions of Switzerland.

Cameroon — Ndolé

Cameroon’s national dish derives its name from the ingredient that is its mainstay: the leaves of the ndoleh. The ndoleh is a shrub that belongs to the daisy family, indigenous to West Africa. Its leaves have a bitter flavour. However, this bitterness is offset by stewed nuts, seafood and meat in the Ndolé. Ndolé is most commonly served with plantains and the Cameroonian staple, bobolo (cassava or placali, fermented and wrapped in banana leaves, such that it resembles a short string of sausages).


Portugal — Bacalhau

Cod has been popular in Portugal for at least the past five centuries. Further, the practice of preserving fish with salt also has a remarkably long history in the country: Portugal used to be a leading supplier of salted fish to the Roman Empire, reportedly. Given this history, it’s unsurprising that Bacalhau is considered Portugal’s national dish, even though other delectable treats — like the pastel de nata — have spread the renown of Portuguese cuisine far and wide. Bacalhau is dried, salted cod that is soaked in water or milk before being cooked with potatoes, carrots, eggs and cabbage. Its importance in Portuguese cuisine cannot be overestimated: it is lovingly referred to as “fiel amigo” (faithful friend). You could follow a different recipe for Bacalhau every single day of the year, and still not run out of some variations to try: there are said to be over 365 different ways to prepare this dish.

Ghana — Fufu

Fufu is eaten in most of Western and Central Africa, and is a sort of dough ball that accompanies a main dish like stew. Cassava is pounded with raw plantain to form a flour that is then boiled with water to form a starchy dough. The dough is shaped into round forms, and resembles a peeled potato. The fufu itself is mostly flavourless, but works wonderfully well with spicy sauces and soups.

Uruguay — Chivito

A sandwich that could easily lay claim to the crown of “the world’s most delicious”, the Chivito is a lip-smacking combination of steak, mozzarella, mayonnaise, bacon, olives and a boiled/fried egg, all stacked between two slices of bread, or a halved bun. Now these are just the basic ingredients — you can add a whole lot more to your Chivito if you’re inclined towards the “more is more” school of thought. Beetroots, peas, grilled peppers, cucumbers are all perfectly legitimate additions to the Best Sandwich In The World.

South Korea — Kimchi

If you’ve watched enough KDramas, you’re bound to have encountered kimchi even if you don’t consider yourself a particularly curious foodie. As much plot device as background scenery, kimchi is a side dish that elevates even the blandest of meals. (Not that Korean cuisine is bland to begin with.) No two kimchis taste alike — recipes can be closely guarded daily secrets and the ingredients and fermentation process themselves ensure that one batch of kimchi is rarely a twin of a previous one. Cabbage is washed, drained and salted, then marinated in a paste of chilli, garlic and fish sauce. It is carefully stored in clean containers and left to ferment for several months. The result: a sharp, sour and spicy bite.