Ask any non-Italian to name that country’s national dish and you’ll get some combination of pizza-pasta-gelato. Ask someone who isn’t Japanese about Japan, and they’ll most likely say ramen, sushi, tempura. Vietnam? Pho (however you like to pronounce it). America? Hamburgers and hot dogs. And so it would go through all the countries you can name.
Of course, none of these answers reflects the depth and variety of these places’ cuisines or the way people eat day-to-day. Our ideas about other people’s food are often inaccurate, cartoonish cliches, cultural shorthand that tells us about as much as a 1960s primary school geography textbook: climate, population, main export, national dish.
Last week Good Food writer David Dale set out to uncover what Australia’s national dish might be ahead of Australia Day 2020.
As part of the story, Dale asked chefs around the country to nominate a national dish, and the answers say as much about the chefs’ cultural heritage and kitchen experience as they do about us: salt and pepper squid (Luke Nguyen and Adam Liaw); slow-roasted lamb (Janni Kyritsis); chargrilled octopus or spaghetti alle vongole (Lucio Galletto); and pad thai (Joe Kitsana).