What are the world’s best foods? We thought we knew. Apparently we don’t. Our list of the World’s 50 best foods stimulated some impassioned debate about the conspicuous lack of French dishes and the merits of ketchup over mayonnaise.
“Ketchup? Pop Corn? Chips? Plenty of Thai but few Malay food? What about Chinese (Sichuan, Cantonese, etc)? No Brazilian or Argentinean?” queried commenter Max. Reader LoveFoods wrote, “OMG why are people hating? If you don’t like the list, make your own! I love Thai and Japanese foods.”
LoveFoods was right. So we threw it open to a vote on a Facebook poll. And now, after more than 35,000 votes, it appears we got it all wrong. The world’s most delicious food is not Massaman curry, as we suggested, but a meaty, spicy, gingery dish from west Sumatra.
Couscous and lemon curd cake both took scores of votes, but didn’t make the list. Some 439 people thought gelato deserved a place in online history. The world’s 50 best foods according to CNN readers are below. Bon appetit.
50. Goi cuon, Vietnam
This snack made from pork, shrimp, herbs, rice vermicelli and other ingredients wrapped in rice paper is served at room temperature. It’s “meat light,” with the flavors of refreshing herbs erupting in your mouth. Dipped in a slightly sweet sauce laced with ground peanuts, it’s wholesome, easy and the very definition of “moreish.”
49. Lechon, Philippines
Young pigs, chosen for their tender meat, are rotated and roasted thoroughly over a fire pit for hours. The result is a thin layer of crispy skin on juicy, succulent meat. Every mouthful makes you wonder why you eat anything else. Great way to kick off this list.
48. Parma ham, Italy
Possibly the most versatile and best food of all. You see it folded around melon, wrapped around grissini, placed over pizza, heaped over salad. There’s good reason for that: these salty, paper-thin slices of air-dried ham lift the taste of everything they accompany to a higher level, following the same theory as the Italian guy who thinks carrying around a copy of “Candide” makes up for the tiny Speedos.
47. Fettucini alfredo, Italy
Saying no to fettucini alfredo is like saying you don’t find Monica Bellucci attractive. It’s just wrong. The main ingredients are butter and Parmesan cheese; it’s rich and creamy and it can be made in 15 minutes (consumption time included). A good serving of this can turn dinner with the family into something you actually look forward to.
46. Maple syrup, Canada
With poutine and Montreal-style smoked meat not making the top 50, maple syrup becomes the sole Canadian representative in the list. But before selling you on its natural flavor and balanced sweetness, we must give credit to its mentor, the waffle, playing Batman to maple syrup’s edgier, sexier Robin.
45. Roti prata, Singapore
The truth is curry wouldn’t be curry if it wasn’t for this dough-based pancake. Looks and tastes like Indian naan, roti prata is flipped and turned and flipped again before it’s heated over a grill plate. Its preparation is so theatrical you’ll feel like dancing a jig while you’re eating it.
44. Laksa, Singapore
Whether it originates in Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia as reader Bob Haris Mandela claimed, an authentic bowl of laksa always comes with slippery vermicelli, a spicy broth (the spicier the better) and generous toppings of shredded chicken and fresh prawns. One whiff of its pungent curry-coconut aroma and you’ll be transported to all three countries. Best way to travel ever.
43. Fajitas, Mexico
This assembly kit of a dining experience is a thrill to DIY enthusiasts everywhere. Step 1: Behold the meat sizzling on a fiery griddle. Step 2: Along with the meat, throw side servings of capsicum, onion, guacamole, sour cream and salsa into a warm, flour tortilla. Step 3: Promise all within hearing range that you’ll have “just one more.” Step 4: Repeat.
42. Hamburger, Germany
When something tastes so good that people spend $20 billion each year in a single restaurant chain devoted to it, you know it has to fit into this list. McDonald’s may not offer the best burgers, but that’s the point – it doesn’t have to. The bread-meat-salad combination is so good that entire countries have ravaged their eco-systems just to produce more cows. A global best food contender.
41. Galbi, Korea
“Yeah, I would have thrown Kalbi Jim or something similar on there,” wrote reader Nobody. “Some Korean dishes are savagely good.” We could forgive Nobody for opening 222 Facebook accounts to put Galbi in the list. But we’re pretty sure the balance of sweet and savory in Korean short ribs means there’s no underhand vote-rigging required.
40. Bibimbap, Korea
Mixed vegetables and beef, sitting atop steaming-hot rice, held together by a half-raw egg. The beauty of this Korean dish lies at least partially in the diner’s DIY mixing of the ingredients. Bibimbap is best when served in a heated stone bowl, and eaten with metal chopsticks.
39. Masala dosa, India
A crispy, rice-batter crepe encases a spicy mix of mashed potato, which is then dipped in coconut chutney, pickles, tomato-and-lentil-based sauces and other condiments. It’s a fantastic breakfast food that’ll keep you going till lunch, when you’ll probably come back for another.
38. Warm brownie and vanilla ice cream, Global
There are some diners who will not frequent an establishment if it does not have brownie and ice cream on the dessert menu. You may call them fools. We do, too, but having done so we then happily leave the first restaurant after the main course to visit one we know has this perfect dessert on offer.
37. Potato chips, United States
Despite major criticisms suggesting that potato chips aren’t real food, voters like Deepti Ravi believe that they “rock.” What started as a chef’s trick on a fussy diner is now one of the world’s most child-friendly foods. But think of them this way – if a single chip cost, say, $5, it’d be a far greater (and more popular) delicacy than caviar, a prize worth fighting wars over.
36. Moo nam tok, Thailand
Grilled pork combined with lemon juice, green onions, chili, mint sprigs, fish sauce and toasted rice. Legend has it the blood from the meat along with the dressing inspired some happy carnivore to name this brilliant dish “waterfall (nam tok moo) meat.”
35. Neapolitan pizza, Italy
The best pizza was and still is the simple Neapolitan, an invention now protected by its own trade association that insists on sea salt, high-grade wheat flour, the use of only three types of fresh tomatoes, hand-rolled dough and the strict use of a wood-fired oven, among other quality stipulations.
With just a few ingredients – dough, tomatoes, olive oil, salt and basil (the marinara pizza does not even contain cheese) – the Neapolitans created a food that few make properly, but everyone enjoys thoroughly.
34. Shrimp dumpling, Hong Kong
Succulent shrimps, steamed well but not overdone, wrapped inside translucent rice paper. This simple form of dim sum has been a must-eat dish for decades. Words on the street say the more pleat folds there are the more skillful the chef is.