20 Comfort Foods That Bring Joy From Around the World

Kimchi Jjigae: A Taste of Home for a Korean American

For Herrine Ro, a Korean American, her favorite comfort food is kimchi jjigae, or kimchi stew. Growing up, her mom would make this spicy, salty, and savory dish for dinner often. Herrine describes the flavor as having a special “son-mat” or “hand taste” that her mom’s cooking had. Even though she tries to recreate the dish in New York, it just doesn’t have the same comforting taste as her mom’s version.

Amala and Okra Soup: A Nigerian Favorite

Tomi Obebe, who is Nigerian, loves the comfort food of amala and okra soup. To make it, yam flour is poured into boiling water and quickly stirred to create a thick, doughy consistency. This is then dipped into a savory okra soup. Tomi remembers sneaking pieces of the amala as a toddler, and now the dish reminds him of the comforts of home.

Bake and Saltfish: A Trinidadian Tradition

For Sarah Isoke, a Trinidadian, her favorite comfort food is bake and saltfish. This dish consists of fried dough, called “bake,” and salted, boiled, and sautéed cod fish. Sarah associates this meal with memories of her grandmother, who would give her and the other children pieces of the dough to play with while she cooked.

Griot: Crispy Haitian Pork

Matthew Ferere’s favorite Haitian comfort food is griot, which is fried pork shoulder. The pork is seasoned well, baked briefly, and then fried to get a crispy outside and tender inside. Matthew remembers griot being served at every Haitian family gathering, making it a reliable source of joy and satisfaction.

Pastina: An Italian-American Childhood Favorite

Lisa Paradise’s comfort food is pastina, which she describes as an “unhealthy version of Italian wedding soup.” It consists of just pasta and meatballs, with her mom’s special meatball recipe being the key. The mix of pork, beef, and veal, seasoned with just five ingredients, is what Lisa craves when she’s feeling down or sick.

Grilled Cheese: A New York Staple

Naja Newell, from New York, finds comfort in the classic grilled cheese sandwich. As a picky eater growing up, grilled cheese was a reliable dish she could get from family and restaurants. Now, she still turns to the simple combination of bread and American cheese to bring her back to her childhood.

Jamaican Beef Patties: A Flavorful Favorite

Alyson Brown’s Jamaican comfort food is beef patties. Growing up, her father would bring home boxes of the savory, flaky pastries, and the family would have to fight over them. Alyson loves the diversity of patty fillings, from beef to callaloo to ackee, and the way they remind her of her Jamaican heritage.

Mangu: Dominican Mashed Plantains

Manuel Silva-Paulus, who is from New York and Dominican, finds comfort in mangu, a dish of mashed plantains. Typically eaten for breakfast, mangu is topped with onions, fried cheese, salami, and often a fried egg. For Manuel, mangu reminds him of the great weather and vibrant culture of the Dominican Republic.

Pepperpot: A Guyanese Christmas Tradition

Selena Singh’s comfort food is pepperpot, a stew made with cassareep and spices, usually containing beef. This dish originated with the Amerindian people of Guyana and is often enjoyed during the Christmas season, reminding Selena of quality family time and Guyanese culture.

Congee: A Chinese Rice Porridge

Samantha Lee’s comfort food is congee, a savory Chinese rice porridge. Growing up, her mom would make this for her, especially when she was sick and couldn’t keep down solid foods. The process of making congee and eating it now reminds Samantha of her mom’s love, dedication, and patience.

Tamales: A Mexican American Christmas Tradition

For Isabella Paoletto, who is Mexican American, tamales are a beloved comfort food. Every Christmas Eve, her grandma and aunts gather to make tamales filled with shredded pork in a red chili sauce with green olives. This tradition of family bonding and passing down the recipe is what makes tamales so special to Isabella.

Marmite on Toast: A British Childhood Favorite

Harry Kersh’s comfort food is Marmite on toast. The rich, savory, and salty spread has a unique flavor that Harry remembers craving, especially when he was feeling unwell as a child. He has vivid memories of requesting Marmite on toast after a surgery when he was 3 years old.

Kuay Teaw: Customizable Thai Noodle Soup

Nisha Stickles’ comfort food is kuay teaw, or Thai noodle soup. For Nisha, this dish is the Thai equivalent of a New Yorker’s deli sandwich – it can be customized to your liking. Her go-to order is duck noodle soup with thin rice noodles, which she can only find at one specific noodle shop that makes it just right.

Colombian Arepas: A Family Tradition

Jennifer Hernandez’s favorite comfort food is Colombian arepas, which are cornmeal patties. As a child, Jennifer’s dad would come home late, but on weekends they would make arepas together, which was their special family time. Learning to make arepas with her dad is a cherished memory that makes this dish so comforting for Jennifer.

Puerto Rican Pasteles de Yuca: A Laborious but Rewarding Tradition

Cory Villegas’ comfort food is Puerto Rican pasteles de yuca, a dish made with a dough of yuca and various fillings. Cory remembers his aunts and mom gathering to make these in bulk, which would take two to three days. The process of making pasteles together and the connection to his Puerto Rican culture is what makes this dish so comforting for Cory.

Lahmajun: A Middle Eastern Flatbread

Caroline Aghajanian’s comfort food is lahmajun, a thin Middle Eastern flatbread topped with beef or lamb, vegetables, and spices. Caroline’s family often buys these from Armenian bakeries or grocery stores in Los Angeles, as they make them particularly delicious. The familiarity and taste of lahmajun provide Caroline with a sense of comfort.

Aji de Gallina: A Peruvian Chicken Curry

Arturo Valenzuela’s comfort food is aji de gallina, a spicy Peruvian chicken curry made with aji amarillo peppers, onions, chicken broth, milk, and shredded chicken. This dish reminds Arturo of his grandmother’s cooking and the fresh chickens she would use from his grandfather’s farm in Peru.

Aloo Ki Tarkari: A British Pakistani Potato Curry

Ruqayyah Moynihan, who is British Pakistani, finds comfort in aloo ki tarkari, a potato curry. This dish is very flavorful, with spices like panch phoron, and has a hearty, carb-heavy texture. Ruqayyah associates this curry with cooking with her mom and grandmother, who passed away, making it a comforting connection to her family.

Cheese Bread and Feijoada: Brazilian Favorites

Barbara Corbellini Duarte’s two favorite Brazilian comfort foods are cheese bread and feijoada. Cheese bread is a snack she craves at any time of day, while feijoada, a black bean soup, is an iconic Brazilian dish she grew up eating. Both of these foods remind Barbara of the comforts of home and her Brazilian heritage.

Ful: An Egyptian Fava Bean Dish

Aynour Elkasaby’s favorite comfort food is ful, a dish of fava beans. This simple but flavorful dish, often served with pita bread, reminds Aynour of her grandfather making it for breakfast during the summer when she was young. The familiarity and memories associated with ful make it a comforting food for Aynour.

As we navigate these challenging times of social distancing, finding comfort in familiar and nostalgic foods can provide a sense of joy and connection. Whether it’s the savory spices of Nigerian amala, the warm embrace of Trinidadian bake and saltfish, or the childhood memories evoked by Marmite on toast, these comfort foods from around the world offer a taste of home and a moment of solace.

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