Ask any seasoned traveler about their most memorable experiences, and you’ll likely hear more than a few stories about incredible food that they’ve tasted in different parts of the world.
While traveling may be mainly about seeing new places, food is often at the very center of it. Culinary experiences allow us to connect with the local culture in a deeply immersive way. Much can be learned about customs, history, and traditions through the types of foods and spices that are used.
What’s more, sharing a meal has always been important in cultures, helping people find connections and common ground. It’s not surprising that the significance has remained the same even today.
But what are some of the best dishes in the world that are renowned across borders? And what are some of the most popular foods in the world?
Let’s explore the top 10 favorite foods in the world, their origin, and the reasons why they are so popular.
No list of the most popular food in the world can be complete without the inclusion of pizza.
Although historians are still disputing when exactly the first pizza came to be, the truth is, various forms of pizza (or focaccia) have existed for thousands of years. It’s the modern form (with the most popular toppings) that only just appeared in the last couple of hundred years.
The Italian immigrants that came to America in the late 19th century brought their culinary heritage with them as well, and it’s not surprising that a simple yet brilliant dish like the pizza became an instant hit in the U.S. and worldwide, with many people naming it the best dish in the world.
Pasta is not only one of the most consumed foods in the world, but it’s also one of the most accessible. Numerous cultures from around the globe have their own variations of pasta.
If talking about the Italian variant of pasta, it is made using durum wheat, water, and sometimes eggs. The high-gluten and low-moisture qualities of pasta make it perfect for cutting it into various shapes and serving with a range of sauces, as it can blend with and enhance almost any flavor.
The versatility and simplicity of pasta are the main reasons why the dish is so popular, but even though almost anyone can make it, pasta remains an incredibly popular dish among even the most high-end chefs from around the globe.
Today, hamburgers are considered a staple dish in the United States, and they’re served everywhere from McDonald's to high-end restaurants.
However, the beef sandwich that is known as a hamburger today didn’t actually originate in the U.S. but was, in fact, created in the German city of Hamburg, which helps explain the origin of the name.
The hamburger first became popular in the 19th century, as a minced cow meat patty that was served as a steak, without the bun.
Later, as German immigrants brought their favorite foods to the U.S., the Hamburg steak became popular there as well. One day, someone decided to make it easier to eat on the go by putting it in a bun, which is how the burger that might be considered the most popular food in the world came to have its current form.
Although the category of “soup” may be a bit more general than the foods discussed previously, it is so prominent in all cultures of the world that it deserves to be looked at from a broader perspective. It might just be the most consumed food in the world.
From what we know, it was already being eaten by humans as far as 20,000 years ago.
The unique flavors that can be created by boiling different ingredients in hot water offered a convenient and delicious way to consume produce. This is why you’d be hard-pressed trying to find a type of food that has a more diverse range of recipes.
Whether it’s a beef broth, a lentil soup such as dhal, or a soothing vegetable soup, cultures from around the world have discovered their own ways of using hot water to create flavors that warmed and comforted people for thousands of years.
Vegetables have been an integral part of the human diet for thousands of years, so it’s not surprising that salads are some of the most popular dishes in the world.
A salad is healthy, easy to make, very versatile, and allows getting the most out of the available fresh produce. The only limitation on this dish comes from the specific ingredients that are available and the imagination of the chef.
The first recorded instances of salad dishes can be traced back to Roman times. This is where they get their name as well. “Salad” is derived from the word “salt” because, back then, salads featured a salt-based dressing.
But salad-type dishes have been popular throughout history in all of the continents, even if they may look quite different in other parts of the world.
No list of food would be complete without the inclusion of bread—the most basic of foods that’s also a symbol of civilization and agriculture.
The first traces of bread were found in the current Egypt territories more than 10,000 years ago. Since then, it has been reimagined in various forms across the globe. This makes it one of the top 10 most eaten foods in the world, perhaps even the most eaten, period.
Although most people, when thinking of bread, imagine it being made from wheat, it can actually be made from almost any kind of grain.
In different cultures, bread is made from corn, barley, rice, millet, and amaranth.
Although the earliest civilization used mainly wheat cultures, rice has been around for around 5,000 years. According to some estimates, rice has fed more people than any other type of grain.
Over the centuries, rice has become an integral part of some of the most popular cuisines in the world. It has been used across cultures in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas.
The reason why rice has been so prominently used around the world is its versatility—it can grow in almost any conditions and thus has fed many generations of people in various climate zones.
Whether it’s the famous risotto in Italy, nasi goreng in Indonesia, or tahdig in Iran, each culture has found its own way to bring out the flavor and qualities that rice has to offer.
For many people, eggs are an integral part of a full and healthy breakfast.
But while the omelet or a boiled egg may seem like Western dishes, eggs have been used across the world in various shapes and forms for almost 10,000 years, including about 5,000 years in Egypt, and 3,000 years in Europe.
Throughout history, humans have valued the nutritional value and versatility that eggs provided, cooking them, adding them to various other dishes, or even eating them raw.
In China, you can enjoy an egg in the form of an egg flower soup, while the Japanese have the intricate tamagoyaki. Eggs are appreciated in all corners of the world (and for good reason).
When it comes to the most popular food in the world, the list we explored above only begins to scratch the surface of the diversity and ingenuity that different cultures have when preparing their meals.
If you want to not only learn about these foods but discover them on your own, the best way to do that is to try famous dishes in the places where they originated.
Zegrahm offers adventure travel expeditions to all of the world’s continents where you will not only experience the local culture and explore famous and remote landmarks but will also get to taste authentic cuisines that cannot be found anywhere else.