Ever wondered what junk food looks like around the world?
Anything fried, really, is commonly known as junk food. Of course, the term “junk food” is all relative. These foods clearly aren’t the healthiest, but in moderation – it won’t kill you either. So if you’re planning to treat yourself, why not go on an all out international cuisine tour of junk food right here on this little island?
From decadent desserts, to fried guilty pleasures, feast your heart out and check out at these international eats.
1. Germany: Currywurst
If you travel to Germany, you can find this iconic German snack in street sausage vendors around the cities. The dish is essentially bratwurst covered in curry ketchup served with paprika fries or Brotchen.
2. Canada: Poutine
You’ve probably heard of this polarising Canadian treat. Poutine is made of crispy fries smothered with cheese curds and gravy, hailing from the Quebec region in the 1950s. It’s not for everyone, as the cheese curds may be foreign to many. But this greasy beauty is the epitome of comfort food, and perfect for post night-out snack to soak up the extra booze.
3. Belgium: Waffles
Ah, the ever so classic Belgian waffles, a popular guilty pleasure not just amongst the Belgian themselves. These waffles are thicker than regular waffles, with larger and deeper squares to maximise oozing syrup, whipped cream, or ice cream into the waffles. What’s not to love?
4. Japan: Takoyaki
Takoyaki emerged from the Japanese city Osaka around 1945. These wonderful fried octopus balls are a popular street food all over Japan. You can find them in street vendors, supermarkets, and pubs. Takoyaki is usually served with sweet and salty takoyaki sauce, which pairs well with beer and other alcoholic drinks. You see why these are great junk food snacks when you’re at the bar.
5. Mexico: Takis
If you’re on the hunt for a snack type junk food, these are worth picking up. Takis are seriously addicting and the definition of finger-licking good. Think Cheetos and Hint of Lime Tortilla Chips had a baby, that’s what Takis taste like. Spicy and tangy with the lime, these are tiny corn taquitos of perfection.
6. Middle East: Knafeh
This traditional Middle Eastern dessert beautifully combines flavours from the cream cheese base, shredded filo pastry, and a sugary syrup on top. No one knows where Knafeh originates exactly, but this favourite dessert can be found pretty much anywhere in the Middle East. Crunchy and creamy all at once, this dessert is truly a decadent treat. It can be topped with clotted cream or nuts, depending on the region. The spelling, too, can be different.
7. Indonesia: Martabak Manis
This Indonesian treat pack a real decadent punch, but they are oh so worth it. These are thick, buttery Indonesian pancakes with a variety of fillings. The popular favourite being Martabak slathered in chocolate, peanuts and cheese. Slightly crispy on the outside but chewy and soft in the inside, you can’t go wrong.
8. Scotland: Fried Mars Bars
Scotland? Although Fried Mars Bars certainly sounds like an American creation, it is indeed Scottish, originating from chip shops in the 1990s. This ooey gooey goodness has taken over Britain’s, and the world’s, junk food scene by storm. What’s not to love?
You don’t have to find a British spot to enjoy this greasy beauty. It’s actually quite simple to make. Simply cover the chilled Mars Bars in a light batter and deep fry it till your hearts content. You can follow this recipe here. Need more of a sweet punch? Vanilla ice cream pairs perfectly well.
9. South Korea: Korean Fried Chicken
Who doesn’t love fried chicken? Korean Fried Chicken has a special place in our hearts, with tender and juicy chicken that’s glazed with the iconic sweet and spicy sauce. It can be an appetiser, a meal, an afternoon snack, or a post-night out drunk feast. Breakfast? We don’t judge.
10. Spain: Churros
Who doesn’t love fried dough? Churros is thought to be originated from Spanish and Portuguese regions, typically coated in cinnamon sugar. But this European fried dough may have been borrowed from the Chinese You Tiao by the Portuguese. But enough of history, these cylindrical chewy goodness is an essential breakfast, snack, or dessert.
11. USA: Burgers and Milkshakes
It’s no secret that Americans love their burgers as the top junk food choice, with a giant milkshake to go with it because everything is just bigger in the USA. A popular origin myth of the famed Hamburger was that a man walked into a diner in Connecticut and asked for a quick meal. The owner fixed him up with steak trimmings between two slices of toast, and there is the birth of the burger. Turns out, burgers are a lot older than that. You can find more here, pretty fascinating stuff.
12. USA: Chicken and Waffles
The USA might just be King of junk food and so it deserves a second mention for this Southern gem. Hailing from the African American community of the South, this soulful and hearty breakfast will sure fire up your morning. It may sound strange for those who haven’t heard of this dish, but trust that it’s a magical pairing.
Originally by Isabel Wibowo, July 2021