I’ve spent the last 10 years gallivanting around the globe and realize my fondest memories are usually enjoyed late at night, after a few beers, glasses of wine or craft cocktails. I’m always searching for that blissful moment, when a boozy beverage pairs perfectly with a dish devoured on the regular by locals in the wee hours of the morning.
The world’s most famous dishes to enjoy drunk typically feature a contrast of crunch and munch, sweet meets sour, salty and sweet. When you load up on carbs, fat, sugar and salt and you’ll find your mug smug whether you find yourself in Toronto or Timbuktu.
The World’s 15 Best Drunk Foods
I must start things off as a patriot with poutine. Quebec invented and perfected poutine, a dish which is now served across Canada and recognized as the nation’s must try dish for visitors. I’ve even seen poutine on menus in Chicago, Seoul and Mumbai. Crispy french fries are topped with fresh cheese curds and topped with steaming hot gravy. Pairs perfectly with a bitter beer, and Quebec’s craft beer scene offers plenty of options!
Egyptians love Kushari, so much so that the bustling metropolis of Cairo has a handful of restaurants dedicated exclusively to serving up the dish. Kushari first appeared in Egypt in the 19th century and its ingredients are a testament to the country’s multicultural makeup. Steaming hot bowls feature rice, macaroni and lentils mixed together, topped with tomato-vinegar sauce, garnished with chickpeas and crispy fried onions, sprinkled with garlic juice and hot sauce.
Forget sushi, come to Japan simply to indulge in okonomayaki! The dish is associated with the Kansai region of Japan and each city/town in the province serves up their own unique interpretation. Okonomayaki translates to “as you like it,” and is often referred to as Japan’s version of the pizza as diners select their desired toppings (although in reality its better described as a pancake or omelette). Okonomayaki dedicated restaurants double up as bars (beer and sake flow freely into the wee hours of the morning) and are popular in city’s like Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima. Batter is fried on a teppan, sprinkled with cabbage and topped with bacon, shrimp, squid etc… the pancake is served slathered with otafuku sauce, sweet mayonnaise and bonito flakes.
Gyros are the go-to street food for night hawks in Greece. The ubiquitous wrap is made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie (beef, veal, mutton, pork or chicken) and usually served in a pita with tomato, onion and tzatziki sauce. A perfect grab-and-go when you find yourself on the isle of Mykonos zig-zagging back to your hotel at 3am!
Pad Thai is a stir-fried rice noodle dish commonly served as a street food in Thailand. It is made with soaked dried rice noodles, which are stir-fried with eggs and chopped firm tofu, and flavoured with tamarind pulp, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic, red chili pepper, palm sugar, and served with lime wedges, roasted peanuts and coriander leaves. I’ll never forget eating this plate of Pad Thai while guzzling down a bottle of SiamSato lager while huddled around a plastic table under a freeway in busy Bangkok.
Tacos are a traditional Mexican dish composed of corn or wheat tortilla folded or rolled around a filling. A taco can be made with a variety of fillings, including beef, pork, chicken, seafood and cheese, allowing for great versatility and variety. Taco’s are generally eaten without utensils and are typically accompanied by salsa, guacamole, tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Best enjoyed at sunset with a bottle of cold beer while your heels rest on the beach.
German’s love their currywurst, served across the country at street food stalls, festivals and late night eateries. The dish consists of steamed, then fried pork sausage, whole or sometimes cut into slices then seasoned with curry ketchup on top of a mountain of crispy fries.
Chinese BBQ, known locally as Siu Mei is an addictive treat for culinary tourists seeking to authentically eat their way around Hong Kong. The Cantonese term refers to meats roasted on spits over an open fire or a huge wood burning rotisserie oven. The process creates a unique barbecue flavour and the roast is usually coated with flavourful sauce before roasting. Varieties include char siu (barbecued pork), siu ngo (roasted goose), siu aap (rosted duck) and siu yuk (roasted pig with crispy skin).
I spent a year living in Seoul Korea as a teacher and each semester would ask my new students the same question, “if you only had one dish to eat for the rest of your life what would it be?” They all answered with great enthusiasm, “bulgogi!” Bulgogi is made from the slices of sirloin beef which are marinated before cooking to enhance its flavour and tenderness with a mix of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, pepper, scallions, ginger, onions and mushrooms. Best served with a steaming bowl of rice, tangy kimchi and ice cold Hite.
Papeete’s famed food night market, Les Roulottes is located by the city’s cruise terminal and features a bustling al fresco dining room dotted with street carts and food trucks. The diversity of street food in the Tahitian capital was what impressed me most: French creperie, American burger joint, Italian pizza pie and Polynesian roast pig which I found rotating over a spit. Locals will tell you that the most iconic Tahitian street food can be found at the food trucks owned by Chinese immigrants. The night market is open until the wee hours of the morning and the drunk food of choice after dancing yourself silly on a weekend is a sizzling plate of chow mein.
I’m pretty sure the world’s most universally enjoyed comfort food is the dumpling. You’ve got dim sum in China, gyoza in Japan, mandu in Korea, perogy in Poland, empanadas in Latin America and even sweet cherry filled treats in Hungary. Russia is an excellent spot to devour these steamed and fried treats via pretty pelmeni. A close cousin to Eastern Europe’s perogy, Russia’s tiny dumplings are served covered in sour cream and best enjoyed with a few shots of chilled vodka.
Selecting one drunk food created by entrepreneurial cooks in the US would be a disservice to the country’s varied culinary culture. So pardon me mac & cheese, shrimp & grits, Tex Mex and beefy burgers but Fried Chicken & Waffles is the dish worth flying half way around the world for. Its origin is under debate but stems from African American’s love for fried chicken. I’ve dined at the holy grail in Oakland California (Roscoes Chicken and Waffles) but enjoyed some of the most creative creations in American restaurants that celebrate the South via New Orleans, Savannah and beyond.
Jerk is a traditional Jamaican cooking technique featuring meat that is dry rubbed or wet marinated with a very hot spice mixture featuring allspice, cinnamon, Scotch bonnet peppers, cloves, scallions, ginger, brown sugar and nutmeg. The most famous spot on the island to enjoy Jerk BBQ is at Scotchies Jerk Centre (in Kingston, Ocho Rios or Montego Bay). Guests are greeted by an open concept kitchen where cooks chop steaming BBQ meat (typically chicken, pork and sausage) that spend hours sizzling over sweetwood and pimento logs. Best enjoyed with sweet yams, rice n’ peas and a bottle of cold Red Stripe.
In Turkish cuisine, the word pide refers to a pizza-like dish where fresh toppings are placed on boat-shaped dough before baking. It’s very much similar to the concept of Italian pizza but features unique Turkish flavours such as locally cured sausage, Arabic herbs and feta cheese. Pide is often served late at night on beer sloshed patios in Istanbul and paired with pickled vegetables, creamy garlic sauce and hot sauce for dipping.
Fish and Chips is a hot dish of English origin, consisting of battered fish (typically cod or haddock) and fries commonly sold as take out across the UK. Fish and Chip Shops (chippy or chipper in modern English slang) typically serve the crispy dish with by salt, vinegar, tartar sauce, mushy peas or pickles.
Do you have a favourite drunk food that didn’t make the list? Let me know in the comments below!