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13 Finger-Licking Fried Foods From Around the World

Friendly advice: Get some napkins before reading this one.

Erica Silverstein · 8 months ago

  • travel
  • cooking
Mandazi

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Connoisseurs of corn dogs and devotees of deep-fried oreos don’t need to stick to county fairs to get their fill of deep-fried fun. Cultures from every corner of the world have discovered the joys of dropping dough into vats of oil and devouring the results. Whether you like ‘em sweet or savory, here are 13 finger-licking, family-friendly fried foods from around the world that might need to make an appearance in your home kitchen.

1. Chicken Kaarage (Japan)

Karaage

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No, USA, you haven’t cornered the market on chicken nuggets. Japan’s chicken kaarage — bite-size pieces of chicken thighs marinated, coated, then fried — are popular with Asian kids (and adults). Japanese moms will make them for dinner, you can order them in a bento shop or restaurant, or you can try them at home.

2. Churros Con Chocolate (Spain)

Churros con Chocolate

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What could be better than fried strips of dough rolled in cinnamon-sugar? Taking the dough and dipping it into a cup of thick, hot, molten chocolate. The Spanish got it right with churros con chocolate, and they have no shame in devouring these delectable treats for breakfast.

3. Falafel (Middle East)

Falafel

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The origins of falafel are hotly debated and lost to time. Though Israel may claim it as a national dish, and other Middle Eastern nations protest they invented the tasty chickpea fritters, historians generally accept that falafel originated in Egypt, where they’re actually made with fava beans. Either way, you’ll want to eat yours with pita or flatbread, hummus or tahini, and topped with tomatoes, cucumber, red cabbage, or — if you dare — pickled veggies, such as pink pickled turnips

4. Banh Ran and Banh Cam (Vietnam)

Banh Ran and Banh Cam

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The Vietnamese fried sweet of choice is called banh ran in the north or banh cam in the south. Both are fried sesame balls, with a sweet bean filling covered in rice dough and rolled in sesame seeds. Northern Vietnamese might skip the sesame seeds in favor of a sugary coating, while Southerners add shredded coconuts to their filling.

5. Pommes Frites (Belgium)

Pommes Frites

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French fries actually come from Belgium. Did we just blow your mind? Credit some mapless American soldiers during WWI for the mix-up. Pommes frites a.k.a. Belgium fried potatoes are always fried twice and served with mayonnaise. If you’re in Belgium and looking for a fried snack, look for the ubiquitous frituur — fast food stands selling frites and other munchies.

6. Fried Bananas and Plantains (Worldwide)

Tostones

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If you’ve been churning out endless batches of banana bread this year, guess what: The rest of the world has been busy frying up those sweet yellow fruits. In the Caribbean, you can toss back tostones, or fried green plantains. In Indonesia, order pisang goreng to taste bananas dredged in batter and deep fried, or head to Thailand for kluay tod, bananas dipped in a mix of rice flour, dried coconut, and sesame before they’re plunged into that hot oil bath. Over in Ghana, call for kelewele when you want spiced fried plantains. Whichever country’s recipe you choose, your family is guaranteed to go bananas for these fried fruity treats.

7. Shrimp crackers (Indonesia)

Krupuk

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The Indonesian alternative to potato chips are shrimp crackers, called krupuk. You can buy packs of the ready-made crackers in local supermarkets, like you would Lays or Pringles, or make your own from shrimp, tapioca flour, and water. Krupuk has become popular across Asia and at Asian restaurants abroad, but Indonesia gets bragging rights for coming up with the idea first.

8. Mandazi (East Africa)

Mandazi

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Seems like every culture has its own take on fried dough. The people of the East African countries of Kenya and Tanzania have a version they call mandazi. It uses a yeasted donut dough, and is flavored with cardamom and coconut, but isn’t as sticky sweet as an American donut. As with all fried dough, mandazi tastes best immediately out of the pan; wash them down with a cup of tea. In Ghana or Nigeria, the similar-yet-different West African fried dough equivalents are known as puff puff, bofrot, or togbei.

9. Flautas (Mexico)

Flautas

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Put down that box of taquitos in the Trader Joe’s freezer aisle, and get yourself some authentic Mexican flautas. Flautas are tortillas that are filled, rolled up, and fried. Typical fillings include chicken, beef, or potatoes; top with pico de gallo, queso fresco, salsa verde, or jalapenos for a kick. Flautas hail from the Sinoloa region in northern Mexico, and are a hit on either side of the border.

10. Samosas (India)

Samosas

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Samosas are my favorite things to order in Indian restaurants, and my crazy kids won’t eat them. They’re in the minority — these triangular-shaped filled fried dough pockets have variations around the world, but India lays claim to the most popular version. Indian samosas are filled with potatoes and peas and plenty of spices. Top them with cilantro chutney if you like it hot or tamarind chutney if you want to sweeten up your snack.

11. Zalabia (Lebanon)

Zalabia

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Lebanon’s fried dough treat is zalabia, and like a donut, it straddles the line between breakfast food and sweet dessert. Its Lebanese flair comes from anise seed, a Middle Eastern spice that gives this fried food a mild licorice flavor. For an authentic snack, eat your zalabia with labneh (a cheese made from straining yogurt) and a cup of tea.

12. Arancini (Sicily)

Arancini

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Arancini is a tasty Sicilian snack that’s a crowd-pleaser and a kid-pleaser in one tiny little package. Arancini are deep-fried rice balls, usually shaped like oranges (hence the name, meaning “little oranges”). Inside, a melty cheesy mix of tomato or meat sauce, peas, and mozzarella are waiting to bust out when you take a bite. Arancini are ideal to make when you’ve got leftover risotto in the fridge looking for a new lease on life.

13. Coxinha (Brazil)

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Let’s finish where we started, with another international version of fried chicken. This time it’s coxinha, a Brazilian street eat that’s essentially a chicken croquette. Shredded chicken and cheese spread are combined into a filling, wrapped in a teardrop-shaped dough ball, breaded, and then fried until crisp. Yup, it’s a cheesy, doughy chicken nugget — sure to bring all the kids from the soccer pitch to the table.